12/10/08 - Ethan Nadelmann

Martin Lee, author "Acid Dreams - The Complete Social History of LSD" + Ethan Nadelmann, dir of Drug Policy Alliance re Wall Street Op-Ed vs Czar Johan Walters

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Alliance


Cultural Baggage, December 10, 2008

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American….. ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’

My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. It’s so good to be with you. I had a frantic morning, forgot my phone calls. But, it’s good to be connected. I think we’re back on track.

Here in just a little bit, we’ll hear from Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of The Drug Policy Alliance. But we’re going to kick off the show first off with Mr. Martin A. Lee, co-author of a great book, "Acid Dreams - The Complete Social History of LSD; The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond.

With that, let’s go ahead and bring in, Mr. Martin Lee. Martin…

Martin Lee: …with you.

Dean Becker: Hey Sir, how’re you doing?

Martin Lee: I’m hanging in there.

Dean Becker: Ah yeah, frantic morning here but, we got it back on track and I’m glad to have you with us. Martin, your book is just so full of information so diverse so, at times, overwhelming the amount of information that you do provide. If you will, kind of give us a summery of your book, "Acid Dreams’.

Martin Lee: Well, ’Acid Dreams’ is essentially a social history of LSD and psychedelic drugs. It focuses a lot on the 60’s and accesses the impact of what the CIA and the US Army were doing with LSD in the 1950’s. What impact this had in terms of the 60’s generation.

So really, it looks at the whole story. Starting from when LSD first came to the United States in 1949, when the CIA picked up on 2 years later, what they were doing with it. What the Army was doing with it and how ultimately it spread into popular culture. It became involved with the social protests of the 1960’s.

Dean Becker: You’re probably aware and the audience should know that on this weeks Century of Lies we had your associate, Dr. Jim Ketchum, who helped the Army do their study but, lets talk, if you will, about the more general way that it wove it’s way into America.

I remember, I think it was about ’67/’68, went to see a show here in Houston; Grateful Dead, Poco, Jefferson Airplane and there was this rowdy crew in costumes that was winding their way through the crowd, pretty bizarre folks and I think, I have no way to prove this, but that it was Ken Kesey and crew.

Martin Lee: Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters possibly.

Dean Becker: Yes and perhaps there was an acid test going on I was unaware of but, that was one of the ways that it did kind of spread across the country, right?

Martin Lee: Yes. Certainly in the West Coast, Ken Kesey was instrumental. What happened was Haight-Ashbury, in 1967 the so-called summer-of-love and actually the couple years before that lead to that, was very instrumental in catalyzing sort of a national interest in LSD.

But LSD story actually starts a lot earlier and it begins when Dr. Albert Hoffman in Switzerland, working for Sando’s Pharmaceuticals, invented the drug, discovered it’s effects. That was in 1943. It made it’s way into the United States, as I mentioned, 6 years later and then the CIA, very quickly, picked up on it and began funding research into LSD, looking toward a scientist, who had some expertise in this area.

It was a very new area of science, in the early 1950’s in the United States, really the height of the Cold War then, who were investigating psychedelic drugs and the CIA got in on the ground floor and they began funding these scientists and began conducting their own in-house tests and this gave a kind of momentum to the whole situation where psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists of different sort began to embrace LSD as a tool for psychotherapy.

By the late 50’s it was quite a big deal in Hollywood. Many movie stars were speaking very highly of the experience, including Cary Grant. Then by the early 60’s you had Timothy Leary, at Harvard, created a big snafu. He got expelled from the University, because of his advocacy of LSD and by 1965 there was enough grass roots interest so that underground chemists began to supply large quantities of the drug from ‘65 onward.

Dean Becker: Let’s talk about that. It was established, It was recognized. It was a scientific method. Psychologists, psychiatrists were using it to help people overcome bereavement or other mental aberrations, if you will…

Martin Lee: Yes.

Dean Becker: …and it wasn’t a problem until such time as those, like Timothy Leary, kind of rattled the cage, right?

Martin Lee: Yes, you could say that, although people tend to blame Leary for his outspokenness, his hyperbole, his histrionics and so forth, that led to his expulsion from Harvard in 1963.

But when I examined the CIA’s documents, from that period and the US Army‘s documents, it struck me that, at that time, the CIA had a significant shift in it’s own research with respect to LSD and people like Leary, who was not working for the CIA, but those above ground researchers of the CIA had been funding, really were no longer necessary because the CIA had already been involved with this drug for 12 years, they had investigated thoroughly. They thought they had figured it out, for their own terms, how they could use it and did use it, in espionage operations.

So, they didn’t need that above ground research and I think Leary provided a convenient scapegoat in excuse, for the medical establishment which was certainly influenced by the CIA and the Army, to crack down on LSD research. So I wouldn’t blame it all on Leary. He played his role of course. But there are other factors that converge here that contributed to what happened.

Dean Becker: I don’t blame it on Leary, to be honest with you. I don’t blame it on anybody. But if we’re going to recognize the contributing factors, to the diversification, the universal recognition of it’s potential, you’ve got to look at Life magazine, Look magazine.

Because they were focused on it. They were actually the advertising, if you will, that influenced me to give it the first try. Your thoughts on that.

Martin Lee: It’s very true, what you said. When you look at Life magazine, for example. Henry Lewis was the publisher of the Time Life empire, the media empire in the 1950’s and he, himself took LSD. He was interested.

Because at that time, during that decade, it didn’t have the stigma that became associated with LSD in the 1960’s with it’s association with the anti-war movement and hippies and so forth. It acquired a negative stigma as a result in many people’s minds.

But during the 1950’s it didn’t have that reputation and when you look back and the magazine reports at the time, they were glowing about LSD. This is a drug that’s going to change psychiatry. This is going to revolutionize what we think about the mind.

It’s not singing the praises of the drug, certainly respecting the power of it and what it might contribute to science and understanding. Initially, LSD was used to research how the mind worked. That was in the early 1950’s. By the late ‘50’s everyone but therapists began to embrace it as an adjunct to healing the mind.

So, it does have this media evolution where things change quite drastically in the 1960’s. It becomes the mind drug that ‘went out of control.’ That’s how Life magazine headlined it.

So, what was something that was reported in glowing terms 10 years earlier, became this horrible thing later and had much to do with the fact that there was a social rebellion happening in the United States at the time and the drug, for good or ill, became associated, at least symbolically, with rebellion.

Dean Becker: Exactly right and that, I don’t know, with the implementation of the DEA and the ramping up of the whole drug war came about at that same time.

Folks, we’re speaking with Mr. Martin Lee, co-author of a great book, "Acid Dreams - The Complete Social History of LSD; The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond" Martin, you’re also nearing the end of another book, “Looking at Marijuana”?

Martin Lee: I wish I was.

Dean Becker: Well, you’re working on it, right?

Martin Lee: I’m in the midst of writing a social history of Cannabis, yes. Which is a story, to my mind, just as fascinating as LSD.

Dean Becker: It is indeed. Now there are, I think, thanks to the good folks at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, there are now more studies being conducted, even in the United States, for using LSD for again, those people facing bereavement or end of life crisis. Perhaps it’s coming full circle? Your thought?

Martin Lee: It’s correct, what you said. There has been, at least a slight recrudescence of research into psychedelic drugs that the government in the United States (and in other countries) has allowed. For many years, it wasn’t permitted at all. An aftermath of the 1960’s, you couldn’t do any kind of research, officially, with this substance.

The focus has been on investigating the therapeutic potential of LSD and related psychedelic drugs such as Ecstasy or MDMA. Looking at what implication or ways it might help people who are suffering either terminal diseases and facing end of life or Post Traumatic Stress.

Diseases of those sort or disorders of those sort, I wouldn’t say end of life is a disorder but, the fact that you have to come to grips with it and it’s difficult for people. They found, actually back in the 1950’s and are finding again today, that with the assistance of a seasoned therapists, a guide who understands the experience, that it can, in some cases, help people reconcile their fate, in that regard.

Dean Becker: I think it was ’67 when I first tried it, bought it in a parking lot. Apparently, it was a vitamin tablet that somebody had smeared, probably food coloring on it, it didn’t work. You know, there was nothing to it and that probably happened the first three times I purchased it.

It’d be a whole lot better if we could get it through a pharmacist, had a known quality and perhaps even a Guru available for people who might need it or want to try. Your thought on that, Martin?

Martin Lee: Well, I think it’s an ideal and certainly this is a substance that’s very powerful that shouldn’t be trifled with. That one shouldn’t just sort of blunder forward into it because the results are very unpredictable and to have people around who understand the experience, who’ve been through it, to help a person, if they go through some air turbulence on the trip, as it were, it would be essential.

The kind of scenario you suggested, having it available through a drug store, through some kind of official outlet for educational and healing purposes, is very much what, along the lines of what, Aldous Huxley described in his last novel, “Island”.

He described a society that integrated the experience of LSD into it’s day to day life, not that people were taking it everyday, all the time. But, they integrated the meaning of the experience and the society reflected that insight in knowledge. But unfortunately that society on the Island was crushed in the end by another society that wasn’t into those things.

But nonetheless, it was a thought provoking book and yes, we should keep in mind that these types of drugs have been used from time of memorial, before written history; Shamanistic setting and so called primitive cultures. We respected this experience quite a bit and saw it as essential to the way they went about organizing their society.

Dean Becker: Tell you what Martin, we’re going to have to wrap it up in about a minute but, I want to close this thought out with: I eventually ran onto legitimate LSD. I tried it about 400 times. I then went on to have a successful career as a project analyst, international auditor. Even the Beckley Foundation said it’s about the 14th most dangerous drug there is.

I want to commend you, Martin, for this book and for all your great writings. Do you have a website, some closing thoughts you’d like to relay to the audience?

Martin Lee: I don’t have a website up and running now. I will again, soon. But, closing thoughts is just, keep in mind that these things can be very wonderful but can also be very challenging and difficult.

It’s true, LSD does not pose a physical hazard to a person. One cannot overdoes on it. Just like one cannot overdose on marijuana and die. These drugs don’t work that way.

LSD does pose a, can pose certain kinds of dangers if one is not careful because it really is very powerful, it opens one up to a lot of things and sometimes those things can be difficult to deal with.

Dean Becker: Exactly, my friend. One must be very careful. That’s why I do recommend the Guru.

Alright. We’re going to be back in 45 seconds with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann.

It’s time to play, Name That Drug, by it’s Side Effects.

Short attention span, hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, diagnostic diseases, kidney failure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, tooth decay and death.


Time’s up. For the answer, look in everyone of those Christmas treats and in damn near every product we buy. Yep. It’s sugar.

The supreme drug czar of the planet, John Walters.

I’m going to tell people things that are grossly misleading. I’m going to say to everybody else who stands up against me, ‘You’re a cruel person who wants people, at end of life, to die in pain.’

OK. That was indeed our drug czar, John Walters and just last week on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal, our guest, Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, kind of went, mano a mano with the drug czar and with that, I want to welcome, the Executive Director of The Drug Policy Alliance. Hello Ethan.

Ethan Nadelmann: Hi Dean, thanks for having me on.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much, Sir. As I said in our discussion earlier this week, at times here I’m going to try to play the part of John Walters and let you respond to some of the things he said in his, I’ll just say it, ridiculous posturing in The Wall Street Journal.

Let’s talk about what you put forward there, just last week.

Ethan Nadelmann: Basically it was an opportunity to remind people about alcohol prohibition. It was the 75th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition and it was an opportunity to bring up one of the historical analogies, which we found most valuable in getting people to understand the harm that the drug war is doing in the United States and around the world.

One of the key points I made in that piece, Dean, was that American’s back in the late 20’s and early 30’s, made a fundamental distinction and that distinction was between the problems associated with the misuse of alcohol and the problems that stemmed from alcohol prohibition.

You can see cirrhosis and drunkenness and all the accidents are all about the alcohol itself, but Al Capone and organized crime and violence and corruption and overflowing jail cells and prison cells and court houses packed to the gills and widening disrespect for the law and even many of the overdoses and the fatalities from people drinking industrial alcohol. All of that stuff, people understood was not just about booze. In fact, it was really about a failed prohibitionist policy.

Now, jump forward to today. Same thing is true today. The problem is most American’s still fail to make that distinction. We have the problems of illicit drug use and licit drug use. We have the addiction, the disease and the suffering and the problems in families and for individuals in the workplace, what have you. But then, look at everything else.

Look at the half million people behind bars tonight, for drug law violation. Look at the almost two million drug arrests, each year. Look at, although the violence is not what it was in the late 80’s, still significant drug related violation in this country and dramatically, when you look abroad in places like Mexico or Central America or Afghanistan or Columbia or what have you.

Then you look at what’s going on, in terms of corruption and you look what’s going on in terms of disrespect for the law and you look in terms of what’s going on in diversion of judicial resources and you look at the overdose fatalities, from people using drugs in conditions which are more dangerous, because they’re illegal.

So, the analogy is very powerful and my punch line, it wasn’t so much to say, Let’s repeal drug prohibition the same way we did alcohol prohibition. In part because that’s not possible. You know, there is no 18th amendment of drug prohibition to repeal.

But it is to say, this is the moment to dramatically open up the debate. This is the moment where a serious conversation about treating marijuana like alcohol; taxing, regulating it, can in fact happen. This is the moment to really start looking much more rigorously and critically at the negative consequences of a prohibitionist policies. Both here and internationally.

Dean Becker: OK, now. Ethan, as I said, I’m reading from Walters post in The Wall Street Journal, “Our policy has been a success. Although that success is one of Washington’s best kept secrets.” Your thoughts?

Ethan Nadelmann: Well… it’s interesting. There’s normally this gain that goes on where by, whoever’s the drug czar, points to whatever indicator’s of adolescent drug use are declining goes, ‘Look. We’re winning, we’re winning.’ So if marijuana use has gone down last few years or if methamphetamine use peeked a couple of years ago, they’ll say, ‘Look, we’re winning right now.’

Of course, then he goes on to say that the price of cocaine has doubled or something and that shows success. That’s like saying that General Motors is a success because it’s stock price dropped like from 50 to 2 and it is now it’s 4. I mean, you have to look at this thing in historical perspective.

I think Jacob Sullum, who’s really the brilliant writer about drug issues for Reason Magazine and Reason Online, did a wonderful dissection of Walter’s claims.

I knew all, of course, the thing on Walter’s didn’t want to talk about, is that the biggest, fastest growing drug problem in America and many other countries today, has to do with pharmaceutical drugs. You know, drugs that are being prescribed appropriately and then used inappropriately or prescribed inappropriately or what have you and that’s an issue.

In fact, interestingly Dean, when I debate the drug czar folk, it’s the one where we land up being closest together. Simply because I think they recognize that the criminal justice system’s roll is inherently more limited in dealing with that drug problem.

Dean Becker: OK now, here again, quoting John Walters, “The number of work place tests that are positive for cocaine is down, sharply, to the lowest levels on record. Why do you think that is, Ethan?

Ethan Nadelmann: Well, cocaine had it’s heyday, back in the 80’s. So we’re not seeing a hell of a lot of use of cocaine, in the workplace. I think people have gotten savvier, if they’re going to use this stuff.

I’ve seen reports that cocaine has actually been increasing in the last few years. But people are getting savvier. They know you don’t use it on a, if you use cocaine on a Friday night, you’re not going to test positive on a Monday.

I think that’s part of it as well. I think also that there’s a greater variety of stimulants being used in our society. Cocaine has lost it’s special place in the echelon of stimulants being used by Americans.

I think we see a reduction in cocaine use but keep in mind, the use of cocaine in the workplace and by the middle and upper-middle class was never the really the major problem.

There were obviously people who got hurt and people who did stupid things and got addicted. But overwhelmingly, probably at least 90% of the people using cocaine at that echelon of society. We’re not creating problems. In fact, many of us people working, whether it was in the financial sector or in the sales, where cocaine was actually the thing they saw as making them, if not, more effective. Like keeping their energy levels up.

Now people age out of that and the fad and the fashion change. The real problem with cocaine, of course, has typically been among poor people. People who have less reason and less ability to keep their drug use under control. Who have less incentives to keep it all together and who, when they get in trouble with cocaine, have a harder time getting out of it.

Craig Reinarman, the professor at University of California, Santa Cruise, he did a wonderful book, years ago, with a couple of other authors called, “Cocaine Changes” with, I think, Dan Waldorf and Sheila Murphy.

What he found was that when you looked at that upper echelon of cocaine users, many of them got themselves a little bit of trouble but they also got themselves out of trouble, that they lived in a sector of society that where the addiction was not going to be as devastating.

So, if Walter’s right, is cocaine use and it problem’s down? Yes. But when you look at the bigger drug problem, when you look at rising overdose fatalities each year, when you look at the incarceration thing, I think his claims are a bit of a joke.

Dean Becker: I’d agree with you. It’s a complete joke. Now, let’s talk about marijuana and here I have the words of John Walters, himself, to share with you, Ethan. Here we go.

John Walters: “What’s the effect of marijuana allegedly? Well, it’s kind of a nebulous and people say, ‘When I smoke marijuana, if I’m depressed, if I have a headache, if I have pain, if I have writers block, some people. When I smoke marijuana, I feel better.’

Well, of course you do, it’s an intoxicant. You’d feel better if you smoked crack. You’d feel better if you took meth. You’d feel better if you took heroin. You’d feel better if you drank Jack Daniels is sufficient quantities. That doesn’t make any of those medicines and it’s a ludicrous argument that’s been made here.” {sounds of a woman screaming}

Dean Becker: That was recorded here at the James A. Baker Institute just about a month ago. But, your response, Ethan.

Ethan Nadelmann: The interesting thing about John Walters, I’ve known him for a very long time and we use to debate before he became the drug czar and he has been the single greatest failure as a drug czar. I mean, almost nobody in America knows his name. He will not engage in debate, because I think he knows the claims he making cannot be defended.

But the bottom line is, marijuana is broadly used and accepted as a medicine. That’s been true for many hundred of years. The evidence about it’s medical ethicasy is overwhelming and the fact that this medicine is consumed by some people in a form of smoking, or using vaporizers or whatever, may be unconventional and unusual.

But the bottom line of what defines a medicine is not that which goes through hundreds of millions of dollars in promotion by pharmaceutical companies. It’s the thing that alleviates pain or suffering that otherwise cures one’s ills and quite frankly, alcohol also plays an important roll.

Until prior to prohibition, alcohol was widely prescribed by doctors as a medication and there’s a lot of evidence now that drinking a daily dose of alcohol when you’re over the age of 50 has a very significant cardiovascular benefits. In fact, most of the drugs that are illegal.

I mean, cocaine has it’s medicinal uses, the stimulus the amphetamines have substantial medicinal uses. All the opioids, everything from morphine, Dilaudid, Demerol, Fentanyl, to diamorphine, the name of heroin. These all can be used recreationally. They all can create horrible problems of addiction and they all are used and recommended and prescribed medicinally.

So the distinction that Walter’s making is truly, truly absurd.

Dean Becker: Thank you. Once again, my friends, we’re talking with Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of Drug Policy Alliance.

Ethan, we’ve seen some changes over the years. I’ve been involved with this a few years. You’ve been involved quite a bit longer. But, we are making progress. What do you see on the horizon? Is this new administration going to make any difference?

Ethan Nadelmann: Well, I’m not foolishly optimistic, I think about the new Obama administration. But, I am optimistic. First of all, if you just look what he said on the campaign trail, on medical marijuana. I don’t know if he’s going to do anything bold there, but he did say he’s going to pull back on the federal raids and he also said that he sees this as a legitimate medicine.

He has made clear that he supports getting rid of the federal ban on funding for needle exchange. I mean, that is an international embarrassment in a day and age when not just Europe but Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Russia and Iran are all funding needle exchange programs to reduce AIDS.

I think perhaps most telling on the issue of changing the mandatory minimum sentencing laws and the crack/powder disparity, which has had such racially, unjust implications. The bill to get rid of disparity in the way that powder cocaine and crack cocaine are treated in federal law, was introduced by none other than Joe Biden, who for many years was much more than a drug war type.

But, he introduce that while he was running for president and among the six or seven senators who endorsed Biden’s bill, which was the most radical reform bill in the congress, the one that Drug Policy Alliance got behind and the other organizations. Two of those six or seven senators were Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Now that suggests to me, a major change from 2004, 2000 when almost anyone running for president would have run away from being associated with major sentencing reform.

But to now have the President-elect, the Vice President-elect and the Secretary of State-elect, all identified with the most far reaching drug sentencing reform that’s been proposed in the US Congress and taken seriously? I think that symbolizes a major change.

I’ll tell you Dean, I was at an event where Joe Biden spoke a few weeks before the election. I had a chance to shake his hand and I thanked him for introducing that bill and as I walk away, he shouts after me, “When I’m in the White House, we’re going to get that through.” So, we’ll see if he stands by that commitment.

Meanwhile people say, well look what happened. I mean, Clinton came in and his first few months in office in ‘93 with a bunch of good intentions, including, on this front and didn’t get anywhere and just abandoned it after 6 months and just told the justice department to act like the republicans, for all he cared.

Now, however, we’re not dealing in congress with Rostenkowski and Tom Foley and a whole range of other kind of backward thinking democrat. What we’re dealing with is Nancy Polsky from San Francisco and George Miller from Northern California and Henry Waxman and Barney Frank and John Conyers who’s on the honorary board of the Drug Policy Alliance.

You know, Dennis Kucinich is chairing a key appropriations sub-committee with oversight of the drug czar’s office and Bobby Scott from Virginia, who’s a major ally of ours, is chairing the house committee on crime.

In the US Senate you’ve got Lahey chairing the judiciary in all likelihood and Dick Durban from Illinois, who’s probably the most forward thinking member of the US senate on drug policy issues. He’s the number two guy after Harry Reid.

So I think that to the extent that Obama’s willing to move forward on these issues. By saying Obama, I don’t mean him personally, I mean his administration, to the extent he’s willing to point some good people. We, the Drug Policy reform movement, are going to have to access like never before.

There’s going to be a congress that’s more receptive then ever before and even when you accept the fact that this is going to be one of their lowest priorities, even when you accept the fact they’re all got to be nervous about the blue dog democrats and not losing democratic seats in fairly traditional conservative areas, I still think that we should not be underestimating the capacity for change on drug policy, over the next 4 years.

Dean Becker: Ethan, we got to cut it right there. Thank you, my friend. Please visit their website, drugpolicy.org I want to remind you, my friends, that you will make the difference. You’re the one who’s got to speak up and participate and…

I remind you that, because of 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.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org