01/16/19 Sunil Aggarwal

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunil Aggarwal

Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, co-founder of Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute in Seattle, potential AG Bill Barr & Jodie Emery of Cannabis Culture on CTV

Audio file


JANUARY 16, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am your host, Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Very packed show, let's get going.

Folks, as we are becoming more and more aware, marijuana is getting a better rating, if you will, a better perspective, even from politicians all around our United States. And what's helping in that regard is the science, is the perspective, is the medicine, that's showing that this actually is a legitimate product that's worthy of respect and worthy of use here in these United States.

I'm proud to have with us now an old friend, known him ten, twelve years, I imagine. He works up in Seattle for the AIMS Institute, which is the Advance Integrative Medical Science Institute. And he has a particular focus, and a great understanding of marijuana and its use for the human population.

With that, I want to welcome Doctor Sunil Aggarwal. How are you doing, Sunil?

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Oh, I'm doing very well, Dean. So good to hear -- be with you again.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, I appreciate you taking the time. You guys are very busy up there. You have a pretty strong practice, as I understand, because medical cannabis has been legal in your state of Washington, well, how long now?

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: I mean, before I moved here, so, I moved here in 2002, but I think the law passed in -- implemented in 1998 [sic: I-692 was approved in the November 1998 general election].

So that would be, you know, two, must be coming on twenty, 21 years.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Now, okeh, and, Doctor Aggarwal, tell us about AIMS Institute. What exactly are the functions of your group?

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Yes. Well, I started, I mean myself and my partner, Doctor Leanna Standish, we started AIMS Institute about, I would say, four months ago, and our goal was to do -- provide kind of cutting edge integrative medical care in the areas of oncology, psychiatry, neurology, rehabilitation, pain medicine, and palliative care.

We both have specializations and interests in these areas, and we wanted to set up a practice where we could serve as many people as possible, take all kinds of insurance, and provide cutting edge care.

So that means advanced botanical medicine therapy, which cannabis is part of that, but there's many other advanced botanical medicines which we can give. It involves the use of ketamine as a medicine to help with trauma, depression, anxiety, it involves psychotherapy, it involves naturopathic medicine, rehabilitation, we have a psychiatric nurse practitioner who's very involved in our work here, too.

So, we try to bring a kind of approach that involves medical cannabis, but as sort of just a normal part of, you know, an advanced integrative approach. And we have a medical cannabis education sister company that shares office space with us.

They're called SMJ Consulting, and I've -- I've been really impressed with their approach. They're led by a masters level education professional, and she really knows how to hold patients' hands, and help them dose, and follow their -- learn how to become their own best treaters, with whole plant cannabis medicine.

There's just -- cannabis is what we call a polytypic plant, so it's so many different types, so many different varieties, different methods and modes, and a lot of times, patients don't really know how to begin to even look at that process, or how to understand how to tailor the medicine to them, because everybody's going to have a different, you know, prescription, or a different need.

So, we're really proud to have her team as part of our group, so that we can offer that education service to patients, and that means they get better outcomes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you are one of the co-founders, as you indicated, and Doctor Aggarwal, I want to bring up this thought, it's been percolating in my brain, you've probably thought of it, lots of others have I'll imagine, but, the fact is that we, and by that I mean the American people, have one understanding of this cannabis plant, but there's this ancient set of hysteria and propaganda that keeps following the use of cannabis over the years, over the decades, hell, over the last century in fact, that says it's addicting, that it leads to hard drugs, that it's, you know, going to kill our children.

Whatever. But, please address that thought. The science is standing pretty proud these days, is it not, in regard -- ?

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Yeah. I don't even know if -- I don't know who really believes that, much of that anymore, aside from entrenched interests. We've gotten such a -- there's been such integration of cannabis. And almost every state in the country has changed their laws on cannabis since the -- since it was placed in Schedule One in '70.

So, we really haven't done -- and that's kind of a, I always call that a Nixonian classification.


SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Because it really was, it was a gift from Richard, you know, our previous, you know, disgraced president, and we just never changed that, and people kind of used that as a tool for social control and, you know, all kinds of nefarious things that really haven't -- we haven't really quite rid ourselves of.

But the states have, quite a bit, and I think maybe -- excepting a few holdouts, such as Idaho, and really, there may be, you may be able to count on one hand a few of the state holdouts, but it's really, people are now just kind of like, well, boy, I know this is all changing but I still got propagandized from a young age, so I feel kind of afraid, just because of what it used to be like.


SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: You know, and so, it's, there's a process of deconditioning that has to go on, just to get people, you know, out of the old reefer madness myths that, you know, this is, and not, it's not just reefer madness, it's also the fear of, you know, occupational or social consequences tied to use.

And there is still a drug war going on you chronicle every week, or regularly.


SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: So it's not -- some of those fears are not unfounded, but, so, I think it's, that the scientific standing of any of that stuff has become really, nobody really, you know, the Institute of Medicine, which is now called the National Academy of Medicine, which is our most august body of medical scientific review in the United States that's, you know, essentially Congress's medical consultant.

You know, they said that, you know, cannabis is effective for chronic pain in adults. That's full stop, there's no qualifications or, you know, maybe, or we think, or we need more research to answer the question of whether cannabis has medical use. There's no hemming and hawing about it, that's just a fact.

And that fact is accepted in the medical community. I think a lot of doctors are still, you know, looking over their shoulders in that same fear stuff, because of their concerns for their, you know, licensing boards or the hospitals they work for, and that kind of thing, because there's still kind of a, you know, we're all in this default mode, programming, that we have to urine test everybody, and check for cannabis in their urine as a function of, to tell us whether they're good workers or whether they can think critically, or whether they're to be trusted on the job.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. But, Doctor Aggarwal, let me interrupt you here, if you will. I look at it this day, I want to point out one thing that you indicated Idaho's maybe bassackwards in their perspective on this, and my state of Texas has moved incrementally, allowing for CBD use only for little kids with a certain, Dravet's Syndrome epilepsy only.

Three dispensaries growing plants and selling at an outrageous price, et cetera et cetera, and I guess what I'm leading to here is that even in Texas, there's rumblings of need for further change, and I guess what I'm wanting to bring up, sir, is that it's my understanding that Oklahoma, our neighbor just to the north, just legalized medical marijuana, has quickly put in play the permits and the growers and beginning distribution rather quickly.

And allowing for way beyond one select malady or situation that would allow you to access marijuana, in fact, I think it's more liberal than California's medical marijuana law was 15 years ago.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Well, yeah --

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead, please.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: I would say medically deferential. I don't, the, liberal and conservative on this is, you know, even, everybody wants, even liberals or conservatives, they want good medical care. They want their doctors to be able to do what they need for their health.

And, it's just that we, there's really no, there's really no liberal or conservative approach to medicine, it's just, well, do you defer to medical professionals, or do you restrict them? You know, and under some other schema.

Yes, I'm an Okie, I'm a born and raised Okie from Muskogee, and I have to tell you, it is one of the great things that I'm most proud of, to see the change that has come about in Oklahoma

Which did have, you know, it used to be, you know, more than Idaho, it had the more draconian marijuana sentencing laws and restrictions in place, and I just wrote an article in the Journal of Ethnobiology where I just described some of the conditioning that I experienced growing up there around marijuana and drugs, and things like that.

So I can tell you firsthand, it was pretty heavy. And, to see, in June, you know, there was a special election, it was in middle of last year, Fifty-six, 57 percent of the state voted, overwhelmingly, you know, it was a safe margin, to change the classification of cannabis in the state law from this sort of, you know, kryptonite, to a medicine that physicians can recommend for any condition.

And to produce the, you know, very, allowing patients who meet a medical, bona fide medical need, to be able to cultivate it, and to create a system that allows, you know, to democratize accessibility of this plant medicine, making it easier to get permits, to be involved in the medicine, plant medicine production, and distribution, and processing, and cultivation.

That whole system is kind of a -- shows you that Oklahomans, when they kind of get it, say yeah, this is medicine, and we really want, you know, and it's not a THC versus CBD thing at all.

I was on the advisory committee that helped to put the, you know, draft some of the language, or review it. It was -- I was very happy that we allowed that deferential system, because it's -- it gives you hope for the whole system.

If Oklahoma can go that way, Texas is definitely soon to follow, because, the other thing I know growing up is that Oklahoma and Texas are constant rivals, at least in football and, you know, Aggies and Sooners, and all that.

So, it's -- if Oklahomans are going to rise, go ahead of Texas in terms of medical cannabis, I'm sure Texans are going to try to one up them.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm sure they will. Friends, once again, we're speaking with Sunil Aggarwal, he's a medical doctor, he's co-founder, co-director, of the AIMS Institute, that's the Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute, up in Seattle, Washington.

Now, Sunil, it is my hope that that same competition you're speaking of there between Oklahoma and Texas will in fact drive the Texas legislators to do something more this go around. We are not blessed to have the situation they had in Oklahoma, whereby they can actually put a bill on the ballot, a referendum, that they can vote for.

We don't have that, it was back in '79, I think, that the Texas legislature took away that ability for fear that we would put a marijuana bill or referendum on the ballot. It's -- there's hope down here, there's a lot of folks going to be attending next month, I think it's going to be February Seventh, going to be a couple of busloads I think go to the capitol and try to influence our legislators.

But, I would like to ask you, you know, we've got a few minutes here. What could they gain, you know, what could the legislature, what could the state of Texas, what could we gain medically if we were to move towards legalization?

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Oh, this, the tremendous benefits of it are coming up from all the studies that have been done for these last couple of decades of medical marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: And, let me interrupt you right quick. We always hear there's not enough studies done, there's not enough information, it's just been, there's a glut of information, but please, go on.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Yeah, exactly, that's -- that's another old kind of propaganda talking point. As I said, the Institute -- the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has given us a definitive statement that cannabis is effective for chronic pain in adults, and that alone will tell you, okeh, whatever you're using for chronic pain in adults in the United States, by and large, is medicines that have a shorter -- a lower window of safety.

That's derivatives of the opium poppy, opioids, oxycodone, morphine, methadone, you know, hydrocodone, and dilaudid, hydromorphone, all these medicines, I have seen in my own patients and at the epidemiological level, and then in controlled studies, that people can lower their doses or eliminate it entirely, their reliance on opioids for chronic pain, if they have access to cannabis medicines.

And that's -- that in itself will have huge implications on the bottom line for overdose death rates, complications from opioids, which can be as mild as itching and constipation to as severe as lower, you know, gonad testosterone levels, to severe constipation requiring hospitalization because, you know, your bowels stop.

It's also effective for pain in serious maladies, like cancer, or neurodegenerative disorders, and that's a huge -- that will make huge differences in terms of hospitalizations. There's been studies that show reduced hospitalizations due to opioid morbidity in states that have medical cannabis, and actually have good systems to deliver that cannabis to patients, so, you can't just have a one or two dispensary, or no dispensary, system and expect to see these changes.

You can see reductions in overdose deaths. There's been some data that show lower suicide rates that have medical cannabis. I think it's, you know, the public health data is showing us that there's not, you know what everyone was worried, okeh, that it's going to be this epidemic of stoned drivers and children failing out of school, and people quitting their jobs, or, you know, workplace accidents.

It's not -- those things aren't being borne out. You're instead seeing these other public health benefits. And, I think that in itself should give people some reason to -- Texas can expect to see those benefits.

The other thing is Medicare, Medicaid prescribing data that's been analyzed by some professors at the, one of the Georgia public schools of economics and public health [Professor W. David Bradford at the University of Georgia], I've forgotten which one.

But, they published a couple of papers showing reductions in costs to CMS, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in DC, in states that have medical marijuana programs because they're just having to pay less for prescriptions like muscle relaxants, opioids, gabapentin, a number of classes of medicines that aren't being paid for by the taxpayer now because patients are using, you know, Medicare enrollees are using cannabis.

And, you know, oftentimes they pay that out of pocket, or they're cultivating themselves, but the costs can be lower, and of course the system has to allow that and not tax them so onerously that it becomes unaffordable.

But the state will end up spending less money on prescriptions. I think that's another fair bet when you're dealing with the budgets that, at least, Oklahoma has a huge budget shortfall and can't pay for teacher salaries.

These are very useful, you know, real dollars and sense changes. So not only improvements in quality of life, pain, reduction of suicides and overdose deaths, but also some cost savings in healthcare. And I know Colorado has taken a lot of that cost savings and started scholarship programs, they've invested in schools, and, you know, Oklahoma plans to do the same.

Washington has done the same. I think they've done a billion dollars of sale in Washington. Now, we have an adult use law as well, but, it's not -- it's going to be, there's really, what else would be holding them back? Okeh, they're worried about people losing their way, whatever. I just don't see that happening.

Instead, we're seeing improvement, and everybody, the folks who've been in favor of cannabis from the early '70s, when the original drug was placed in Schedule One, it was never a scientific agreement.

Nobody ever said, even, you know, the Health and Human Services secretaries, and the National Institute of Mental Health directors, none of them were in favor of the way that Nixon classified the drug to remove, you know, to make it so, seem so dangerous. Everybody knew it was a political tool.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, folks, we're speaking with Doctor Sunil Aggarwal. He's based up in Seattle, Washington, co-director of the AIMS Institute. You know, one thing that has always just puzzled the heck out of me, Sunil, we have a situation where cops and prosecutors I guess are trying to find ways to determine if somebody is high, if they're driving high on marijuana.


DEAN BECKER: And I've always thought, if you can't tell by looking at them or getting them to walk a line, or repeat the alphabet, or whatever, if you can't tell then why are you still looking? Your thought there, please.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: I want folks to know about this wonderful app on the phone called DRUID. You can download it for 99 cents on the app menu of these iPhone and the Android stores.

And it's made by a professor, I recently met him, social psychology retired professor from University of Massachusetts, and he has the statistical training and know to be able to create a two or three minute assessment on a phone that anybody can do to kind of check their coordination, reaction time, and even uses the phone's gravitometer and you can measure your own sway.

You can stand on one leg for thirty seconds and hold the phone in your hand, and it will measure how good you are at holding your balance, which is a really effective marker for impairment.

This tool, people should use it, get their baseline, and they should be, you know, if they ever, it's not just the police that have questions, oftentimes users, consumers, they want to know, not only for marijuana but, you know, either if they're drinking or they're tired or they're on other medicines, how functional are they, to drive or to do, you know, a specific task. Driving especially.

And that app, I think, will, as we move towards this era, I think these kind of tools will be really effective in helping people gauge their own abilities.

And if the police want to use something like that, I think the people should start to save that data, and they'll know, themselves, okeh, if they're not good to drive. You're right, there's really nothing impairment wise you feel, and you've tested yourself, then you're fine.

And we shouldn't be worrying about them. And I think the more we get out of this idea that there's a point oh eight specific level like there is with alcohol, even the 0.08 level blood alcohol, or, you know, when you blow a point eight, oh eight, it's not necessarily the same for everybody, because people have different body weights and metabolisms, but we just set a number.

With cannabinoids, it's going to be so variable, because of people's metabolisms and their need for these, as a medicine, and that kind of thing, and their tolerance. We're going to need something like that.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I've got to say, since I quit drinking 33 and a half years ago, I haven't had a ticket, an accident, any problem out on the roads, and I drive high nearly every day of the week. And I guess what I'm trying to say here is that there's just so much fear and propaganda that we've just to erase somehow. Closing thoughts, Doctor Aggarwal.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Yeah. In the CBD story, it's not, CBD needs, and a lot of people accepted that, and the federal Congress has allowed hemp now so it's legal in the United States. CBD is not the only player, and it sometimes needs THC to work, and we've got to get rid of this sort of THC phobia.

And I think that's going to require everybody to just kind of just sober up, and get assessment of where they're at when they're taking cannabis, and, it's just letting people know, hey, if you need to get your level tested in your blood so people understand exactly what you're at, so you know, that's what you should do, because it's, I think, the ideological war has really, we've gained major ground on that, and I'm happy to tell this to any legislator, and I hope anyone listening out there knows how to reach us at AIMS Institute,

And we offer services and education and consulting in this area. And I want to get this -- let's move on, so we can take care of our other public health crises.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, there you heard it. Please get in touch with the AIMS Institute if you have questions or concerns, or perhaps objectives that they can help you with. We've been speaking with the co-founder, co-director, Doctor Sunil Aggarwal. Thank you, Sunil.

SUNIL AGGARWAL, MD: Thank you, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Depression, hopelessness, hallucinations, suicide, seizures, fatal blood disorders, hypotension, fatal myocarditis, physical collapse, and cardiac arrest. Time's up! The answer, for schizophrenia: Clozaril, from Novartis Laboratories.

Got enough time to share some news coming out of the US, this from the new Attorney General [sic: nominee], features Senator Cory Booker

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: You know that about thirty plus states have legalized medical marijuana or adult use, you're aware of that, correct?


SENATOR CORY BOOKER: In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, which provided guidance to US Attorneys, that the federal marijuana prohibition should not be enforced in states that have legalized marijuana in one way or another. Do you believe it was the right decision to rescind the Cole Memorandum?

WILLIAM BARR: My approach to this would be not to upset settled expectations and the reliant interests that have arisen as a result of the Cole Memorandum, and investments have been made, and so there've been reliance on it, so I don't think it's appropriate to upset those interests.

However, I think the current situation is untenable and really has to be addressed. It's almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir, but how would you address that? Do you think it's appropriate use of federal resources to target, you know, marijuana businesses that are in compliance with state law?

WILLIAM BARR: No, I said that, that's, I said I'm not -- I'm not going to go after companies that have relied on the Cole Memorandum. However, we either should have a federal law that prohibits marijuana, everywhere, which I would support, myself, because I think it's a mistake to back off on marijuana. However, if we want a federal approach, if we want states to have their own laws, then let's get there and let's get there the right way.

DEAN BECKER: We're going to close it out with the following from Canada's CTV, featuring Jodie Emery.

CTV NEWS PERSON: So there's this new report from Stats Canada that says the price has been going up since legalization, that people are paying almost fifty percent more than they would be on the black market. Is that fueling the black market?

JODIE EMERY: Of course. I mean, prohibition prices, the government doesn't want to eliminate this industry. They want to cash in on it. So instead of allowing the existing industry to operate, they're trying to eliminate it and replace it with prohibition prices.

And it's pretty ironic when they talk about supply shortages, there's not enough cannabis, and we have to increase the price because there's not enough. Again, we have enough cannabis, we're here in Vancouver, British Columbia, we supplied cannabis to the country for decades. There is not a shortage of cannabis.

There's only a shortage of stock market pot. Government pot. Forty-five former government officials and police officers are running pot companies. They're making millions on the stock market, but when the government federally says restrict and limit access, they are doing that indeed.

But guess who benefits from restricted, limited access? People like the chief financial officer of the Liberal Party of Canada, who founded Canopy, and they're all cashing in big time. Meanwhile, they're asking for the rest of us to get eliminated.

I'm not saying stop Evergreen, stop Canopy, don't allow them to exist. Let's have free, fair opportunities for all, but those organizations are calling for us to be eliminated so they can cash in, and we created this industry, so, we should be first in line. But I would even accept an equal opportunity.

DEAN BECKER: So, objections, some conscientious objections, to the drug war. It empowers our terrorist enemies who grow the flowers that we forbid. It has no quality control, 72,000 plus US overdose deaths in 2017. The USA is now the world's leading jailer for all time.

I would urge you to please go to Objectors.Info to see the many reasons to end this madness. And again, I remind you, because of this prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.