03/04/20 David Duffield

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
David Duffield
Houston Harm Reduction Alliance

David Duffield President Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, Philly safe injection ups and downs, Doug McVay report: Oregon to decrim all drugs? + Bernie Vs Drug War & DTN Editorial

Audio file



MARCH 4, 2020

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

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High and this is Cultural Baggage. I have got a great, positive show lined up for you. Put your ears on and let’s go.

About 11 or 12 years ago I went up to Vancouver, Canada and I toured the InSite center up there, which is a needle exchange and a safe injection center where drug users could come in and use drugs safely with medical supervisors on staff and as I understand it, they have saved the lives of thousands of people over the years including those who overdose and in this age people don’t know what they are buying or what kind of drug is actually in the bag they package. Here in Texas we have had situations like Baer County in San Antonio which was given approval for a test site for a needle exchange program and the mayor objected to it. I don’t know how that has turned out, perhaps we will learn more in that regard as we get in to our interview today with Mr. David Duffield. He is with the Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, and I want to welcome him to the program. Hello, David.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Hello, thank you. That particular project was a pilot program for syringe access, not a consumption site. Bexar County picked it up but the city of San Antonio, which encompasses most of Bexar County refused it and so it was left to kind of mold. It was not picked up by anybody and they weren’t able to move on it, so nothing happened from that pilot program.

DEAN BECKER: We have a somewhat similar situation up in Philadelphia right now where a federal judge approved them starting a safe injection facility called Safe House, but I understand that in just the last couple of days there have been people saying not only “not in my backyard”, but “not in my city” and there have been huge numbers of protestors. Have you seen that news as well, David?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. It is a site that has actually been kind of operational but underground for a while and there are several sites like that in San Francisco and New York and they are all operating underground. The minute that site went aboveground, they zeroed in on it.

DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind that so many people think that needle exchange or safe consumption sites are attracting drug users and encouraging drug users. Nothing could be further from the truth. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Well it doesn’t encourage them but it does attract them because that is where they are going to go.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Yeah.

DAVID DUFFIELD: It doesn’t encourage any drug use – but we want them to go there. That is the whole point. It is a place that they can gather, collect supplies, take care of themselves, and go about their business of living while enjoying the dignity rights that goes with that. That said, it means that they have to gather at one spot, which makes them vulnerable to attack, protest, and being shut down.

DEAN BECKER: You and I have had a couple of brief discussions, and I think ideally we would like to encourage and motivate the legislature to allow for safe consumption facilities in Houston and around the state. Perhaps they could have six shopping center locations around this major city for the drug users in our town. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: That would be the best news possible, but my thoughts are that we have to step up for a syringe access pilot program and make that more of the focus and then go for a safe consumption spot but that’s me.

DEAN BECKER: I am a legalizer, you know that, David.


DEAN BECKER: I think incrementalism is stupid and a killer.



DEAN BECKER: Ideally that would be a good thing.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Of course. That is what we all want – a safe place for people to get supplies, get help, get in recovery if that is what they choose to do. We want to help them stay alive and have dignity in their choices. I would love to have a bunch of these facilities around but first I would like to have syringe access legal so that we can meet the people so they know what we are up to.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Let’s hone in on our city. Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, tell us about that organization, David?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Two of us started this when we were at Legacy Community Health and we saw that they had syringe boxes out on the counters where people could buy them. I knew that people would probably steal those so that they could have clean syringes so I offered to put some money down to pay for the ones that were stolen and they would not go after the people who were stealing them. It turns out that they were empty, but after that conversation started we realized that we had a shared thought as you said, that people have the right to be safe from disease and have a sense that they are a part of the world around them. Just because they are shooting dope doesn’t mean that they can’t be a part of the world around them and have all of those same rights, and to be safe from harm. We can present them some type of alternative. We also wanted a way to get fentanyl strips out to the dealers, narcan and naloxone out to the people that are shooting heroin, information to people that are shooting methamphetamine, information about safe sex, and safe syringe sharing. We put together a group of people in a grassroots way. There are several ways to do harm reduction and one is kind of anti-government, one is where we believe the system will help increase our exposure and get needle exchange legal in Houston. We chose to go with supporting the systems such as the universities and the police and try to work within those systems to bring around this change.

DEAN BECKER: How long have you been in play, so to speak?

DAVID DUFFIELD: We organized harm reduction almost two years ago. It took us about seven months to figure out exactly what we could do, who we needed to understand, and then tried to start identifying the neighborhoods or areas that we could do the work. We kept running in to liability issues so we were advised by the National Harm Reduction Coalition to perhaps separate our harm reduction and we called this second group Shape Shifters, which was going to be our underground name and it turned out that we really didn’t use it. So now we are just harm reduction doing syringe access.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about your compadres, your partners, those who are aware and in support of your work.

DAVID DUFFIELD: We have lawyers, teachers, social workers, LCDC, a lot of lived experienced people on our board. We have some that are not. I am lived experience with 25 years of shooting meth. Then we started working our way toward Legacy Community Health, which was guiding us. We started working on the HIV/HEP C prevention route and we used that as a way to get money towards our syringes. The syringes are like our candy and we use those syringes to engage with IV drug users because that is what they want and then we can expand on HIV prevention, blood bourn prevention and narcan overdose reversals. We started working with the University of Texas, and I have to tell you that they are a great supporter. They don’t have any compunction at all to help us and they do everything that they can to support us. There is a grant coming down the line that Dr. Scheck is suggesting that perhaps we can integrate a mobile unit with University of Texas. Dr. Mike Wilkerson who is also with UT has been a great supporter from the very beginning. He has been doing studies on methamphetamine in the gay community. We also work closely with the Health Department. I am part of the CPG, which is the Community Prevention Group and we try to reengage the Health Department. We have had HIV/HEP C and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) engage with us trying to support us a little bit. We have also been working a lot of the blood borne disease aspects of it just so that we can get funding for our syringes. We do HIV testing as well. We work with AAMA, which is the Association for Advancement of Mexican American’s on the east side of town.
We have engaged with Ed Gonzalez, the Sheriff as well as Art Acevedo. They are both very supportive, they are just waiting for laws to change. We are working with Texas Harm Reduction Alliance up in Austin to try to do a statewide initiative; they are doing policy work up there. We work with the Houston Viral Hepatitis Task Force, Giliad Compass helps us with funding, AIDS United has funded all of our syringes, and they are the only ones because we can’t buy syringes from any federal money. We also have the Culmer Family Foundation, which is a wonderful foundation that gave us our first large grant. We just got another large grant from AIDS United, which is all used to buy syringes and supplies. We worked hard to get the money from that angle.

DEAN BECKER: David, I want to say that I am impressed to be honest, almost astounded that you have gained that much support. It brings to mind that up in Philadelphia the mayor and the council, and the folks working in this arena did seek to open a compassion center and yet the populous, which from what I can tell is mostly a bunch of young people who should know better but they seem to be objecting to the very idea of saving lives. It astounds me. What is your response?

DAVID DUFFIELD: A lot of our participants that we give syringes, narcan, and naloxone are young people and I am kind of surprised about that, too. I would expect that it would be maybe that it is some sort of reverse shame. I don’t understand that one myself. We have talked about how we would try to go through perhaps – New Orleans did this for a while and they were pretty successful – by going through the city council we are kind of giving up on state for now. It is going to be another two to four years as Governor Abbott is against us on every level. The best way to angle in then is through the city council and go for local stuff. That is why Houston Harm Reduction is working harder with Harris County and Houston Health Department, and the local authorities. Mayor Sylvester Turner stands off but he is in support of us, as well as Judge Lena Hidalgo. We are moving towards a more localized setting just to get syringe pilot programs so that we are not arrested for doing the work that we do. Let me tell you, Dean. Nowhere have we heard the word “no”. Nobody has said “no way, not gonna happen, and not here”. They are all supportive but they are waiting for state legislation. Our great city is open and ready for it, we just have to keep waiting for the laws to change on that end. This is why we work the HIV, Hepatitis prevention angle, which is a very important angle. We can’t look at it as just a place to support people that inject drugs, which does need a lot of support.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I didn’t hear mention of our District Attorney, Kim Ogg. In my talks with her I think she would be very amenable to this. Your thought?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. From everything we hear, she is quite friendly and we are very happy about that. We just haven’t approached her because we weren’t ready yet. We wanted to make sure we had all of our ducks in a row, with an active outreach that we could show that we could do the work without disturbing the neighborhoods around us.

DEAN BECKER: She has done her homework and understands the failure and futility of the drug war itself and is ready to make changes wherever possible and wherever state law will allow. It has been an ambition of mine to do something in this regard. Hallelujah, you guys are already here doing this! I guess I just didn’t have the knowledge or the contacts, or the grapevine, so to speak, to be aware of what you guys are doing. My hat is off to you! Secondarily, I am willing to work with you to put this on the radio. My good friends at the Baker Institute and Dr. Richard Andrews as well are very supportive of this. Your talk of the city council and the county commissioners and perhaps local politicians need to be educated. We need to make it where they are as motivated as you are. Your thought there?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. I totally agree! We have got some support but they are waiting until they know Abbott is going to pass it on any level. We are still working for Good Samaritan Laws to be reversed, and the paraphernalia laws to be changed. At the same time, we are just continuing our work. The city’s Health Department has identified several parks that we can go and start doing some work. We are working out a plan to do a cleanup at the park so we can get the constables and some of the neighborhood people to see that we are there and then we can start working in those areas. That is how we do it. Our first outreach in Houston was in Montrose and the first thing we had to do was go to the local constable and told him what we were doing and we were able to give him some narcan for a family member that was suffering and he has been supportive. It touches everybody, Dean, you know that.

DEAN BECKER: I do. I am not going to name any names, but some of the police chiefs and some of the sheriffs in this town now or past have told me they have family members who benefit from medical marijuana and while this is a whole different subject, they are aware that the laws need a little change and that is almost universal. We just have these die hard politicians such as Abbott, who have built a brick wall. Somehow we have either got to knock it down, climb over it, or get rid of him. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: It is easy for them to debate what I always call the politics of sin, in that they can debate things like abortion, needle exchange, HIV and they equate that with male sex and they use that as something that they can throw out as red meat to debate and in the middle, people are dying. If they are not dying, they are suffering because they are disconnected from the world around them and they are isolated in some type of place where they are considered “less than”, and they are citizens who have every right to have the care, joy, and support of our city, our community members, and the systems that actually help pay taxes when they pay rent, buy food and gas. They are still paying their share.

DEAN BECKER: It is so true. Well friends, once again we have been speaking with Mr. David Duffield, he is with the Houston Harm Reduction Alliance. David, I want to give you a minute to point folks to your website and give us any closing thoughts to kick folks in the butt and get folks on board with this effort. What do you have to close us out with today?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Dean, we are trying our hardest to get syringe access moving. I think that is the best way. If you want to help us out, we have a Facebook page which is Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, you can join us there. We have a website: www.houstonharmreductionalliance.com, you can find information there. We have email where you can contact us if you have a family member that is in need of syringes, narcan, or naloxone. If you would like to volunteer and help with outreach, we would love all the support we can get. We are looking for nurses that may be able to help us with wound care. Please reach out. If you feel like you want to donate towards our cause, feel free to do that any time you want.

DEAN BECKER: A week ago a judge handed down a ruling that would let an organization called Safe House based in Philadelphia open a supervised injection site but they ran in to a lot of objections from the community. Immediately after, Safe House announced it would pause its plans to open their facility. The owner of Constitution Health Plaza on South Broad Street, which had been the slated location for the site, confirmed that plans for Safe House to be housed there had been canceled. This response came after a long day of community outrage and was just days after a federal judge issued a ruling that gave the nonprofit the go ahead to open what would be the nation’s first supervised injection facility. Following the judge’s ruling a press conference was held in Philadelphia to allow Safe House to discuss their plans, but they were interrupted perhaps semi-permanently by some protestors. You can hear their attitude, if nothing else.

FEMALE VOICE1: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stop saying anything. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you never came in to our communities and you never talked to us. You don’t come to our meetings. When we had a meeting about crime where were you to tell us about what was going on?

FEMALE VOICE2: We are happy to come to community meetings.

FEMALE VOICE1: You blindsided us! So tell everybody in South Philly, generations of families who have college degrees, who sit and stay in their community and raise their children there because for you, that is the street you go down when you go to an Eagles game and a Sixer’s game. You don’t sit there and live in that community. You don’t walk on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my husband and I do to pass Trunk Avenue. You don’t take your kids to the daycare like I do. What about the mothers who have to walk by and step over the bags to take their kids in to the daycare. Are you going to clean our outside? I don’t care about inside. I care about the evils outside. I care about bags sitting outside. I care about what my children have to see at six and ten years old that I have to explain hardened drug addiction. This is unacceptable, and you were a sneak about it. Look at us when we tell you, Mr. Rendell, you were a sneak. I will not call you Governor, because you are no longer Governor. You are a sneak. Now answer that!

DEAN BECKER: If I had been there, and if that lady would have allowed, I would have responded with the thought that it is because of prohibition that these people are in these desperate straits that they are using on sidewalks and leaving their bags and their syringes, and are being ostracized and driven from employment, credit, housing, and education. It is prohibition which gives individuals like the lady complaining the “moral superiority” to deny rights, freedoms, and life to drug users.

It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effects. Body odor, headaches, thinning hairline, increased sex drive, depression, mood disturbances, agitation, high blood pressure, severe anxiety and rage, kidney or liver disease, suicidal thoughts, rape, murder, and war. Where 50% of the Earth’s population produces large amounts of this drug and seeks to inject it in to the remaining population. Time’s up! The answer: testosterone, it’s in the bag.

Next up, the thoughts of a gentleman running for President of the United States, one Bernard Sanders.

BERNIE SANDERS: We have a criminal justice system today that is not only broken, it is racist. We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China and one of the reasons for that is a horrific war on drugs so I do believe that on Day One, we will change the Federal Controlled Substance Act, which if you can believe, now equates heroin with marijuana. That’s insane!
We are going to take marijuana out of that and effectively legalize marijuana in every state in the country. What we are also going to do is move to expunge the records of those people arrested for possession of marijuana, and I’ll tell you what else we are going to do; we are going to provide help to the African American, Latino, and Native American community to start businesses to sell legal marijuana, rather than let a few corporations control the legalized marijuana market.

DEAN BECKER: Next up, reporting from Portland, Oregon and for his main station, KBOO, is Drug Truth Network Reporter, Doug McVay, talking about Oregon’s bill put on the ballot to decriminalize up to four grams of any drug.

FEMALE VOICE: Hi, I am Haven Wheelock, I am a Chief Petitioner on IP44, which is an Initiative trying to move Substance Use Disorder out of the criminal justice system and put it in the hands of the health care profession.

DOUG MCVAY: Okay. Initiative Petition 44 is just starting out, you have a lot of signatures to go. This would be for the 2020 ballot?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. We are shooting to have it on the ballot for November of 2020, and we are very hopeful that we will make it to the ballot and get this past to change the way our state addresses substance use.

DOUG MCVAY: Specifically, what is going to happen? Is it something about possession charges? What’s the deal?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. What this Initiative is going to do is use existing marijuana tax revenue to fund drug treatment statewide. It is also going to move simple possession to the possession of small amounts of drugs. Currently it is a misdemeanor and this Initiative will move it to a violation that can be waived if you show up for a drug assessment.

DOUG MCVAY: What happens to people who have a misdemeanor arrest? Why is this important?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: It is important for a couple of major reasons. One, when you are arrested for substance use you are actually more likely to die in the first two weeks after you are released so not having people cycle in and out of jail where they are at increased risk of death is really important. Also, any criminalization causes stigmatization and we talk a lot about how stigmatized drug use and drug addiction is and if we are really trying to address that stigma, we need to stop criminalizing people across the board for symptoms of their disease.

DOUG MCVAY: The other side of this is there is a lot of marijuana tax revenue coming in and this would just move some of that tax revenue in to treatment?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. The idea is to take unallocated monies so that money that has already been allocated stays where it is at but any revenue about that would be moved in to substance use treatment across the state. When I say treatment, I am talking full-spectrum treatment so everything from harm reduction services like syringe exchange and overdose prevention, long term recovery support, housing, and legal clinics that are all very flexible so that jurisdictions can choose how to best support their community and what their biggest needs are.

DOUG MCVAY: How can people find out more and support this?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: If you want to get involved, please check out our website: www.yesonip44.com, where you can sign up to volunteer, you can sign up to host events, you can share your addiction story because it is so prevalent in our community. Sign on to the website and get involved as best you can – and don’t forget to vote!

DOUG MCVAY: I have been speaking with Haven Wheelock, she is a Portland area public health and harm reduction advocate, and one of the chief petitioner’s for Initiative Petition 44. Reporting for KBOO News, I’m Doug McVay.


It puzzles me that Republican’s ideas that benefit only themselves and their corporate masters ensures that they are forced to lie, weasel, manipulate, contort, gerrymander, and collude to maintain their power base. Now just as with the drug war, what I do not understand or perhaps appreciate is their words and desires being embraced without contemplation. It is their ability to say and do the same thing over and over again, and again and to do it so easily to be taken as fact with no proof being necessary in a land that is not filled with moneys or bright puppy dogs, but rather by supposedly intelligent human beings who I always thought could learn from experience; but with the constant criminality of the Red Hat Clan, now glommed on to dictatorial postulation and implementation, embracing a gentler nearly, but not quite Nazi-lite perspective. I can only assume that half of American citizens are either hypnotized, held for ransom, or just plain daft.

The insane are in charge of the asylum, the fox in charge of breeding the hens. The cartels need drug war to make their billions; oh what will it take to motivate, to examine the century of lies? What will it take to motivate you to speak of what’s before your eyes?

Closing it up today, but if anybody out there thinks my pronouncements poked you in the eye, I am sorry. I meant to poke you in the brain and again, because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listener’s around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the 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.

Please visit our website at: www.drugtruth.net.