05/27/09 - David Rosenbloom

David Rosenbloom the new president and CEO of CASA - the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse + Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy & Abolitionist Moment

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
David Rosenbloom


Cultural Baggage, May 27, 2009

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 promises to be a great show. Here in a little while we'll bring in Mr. Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy. But, first up I want to welcome David Rosenbloom. He is the new president and CEO of CASA - the Substance Abuse Information Center, I guess, if you want to call it that. He's been director of Join Together since it was founded in 1991. There is much we need to talk about. Let's just go ahead and welcome Mr. David Rosenbloom. Hello sir.

David Rosenbloom: Thank you, it's nice to be here.

Dean Becker: Well, thank you so much. It's an honor for you to come here, sir. You know, I have tried over the years to get all kinds of officials to come on this show, and you are one of the few with the stature you have to do so and I want to thank you for that, sir.

Mr. Rosenbloom, let's talk first about your involvement with Join Together. Is it being absorbed by CASA?

David Rosenbloom: Join Together and CASA merged on May 1st of this year. We continue to provide all of the news, advocacy and continuing education programs of Join Together online as part of CASA. So, we believe that this is a very exciting merger that significantly strengthens our capacity to provide information and leadership to communities around the country on issues of drugs and alcohol prevention and treatment.

Dean Becker: Wonderful news. Will it still be kinda the open forum fashion? Will drug reformers like Mr. Paul Armatano have the chance to speak on CASA like they did on Join Together?

David Rosenbloom: Join Together's editorial policy is going to remain exactly the same as it has always been. We believe that it is important to report the broad spectrum of views on drug and alcohol prevention, treatment and policy and we also believe that it is very important to provide the evidence, the scientific evidence behind various arguments. So, we both report the news as it occurs. We report the broad spectrum of views as the occur and we rely on the scientific evidence to promote advocacy for policies which we think the scientific evidence provides sound basis for.

Dean Becker: Wonderful. Now, this is great news, sir. I appreciate it. Now, it's been my experience - I am a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We want to basically end this policy of drug prohibition and actually control these so-called controlled substances.

I am wondering if you guys will report the fact - well, you have on Join Together - there are some hundred and twenty plus studies that have been conducted on just marijuana this millennium, if you will, and yet we have politicians and police chiefs and other officials saying, "Well, we are going to wait until there is a study. We're going to wait until there is actual data -" - when there is plenty of data out there, is there not?

David Rosenbloom: I think that on marijuana, I have always been amused that - first of all i have been amused about what different advocacy positions on marijuana call evidence. Second, it has always struck me that nobody in the marijuana debate seems to really want independent, neutral evidence about the various positions with respect to marijuana. I think that it is a debate which is, from my perspective, kinda devoid of real evidence. Lot's of argument, but pretty weak evidence.

Pretty weak evidence that the uses of marijuana, which are promoted as medical marijuana, pretty weak evidence that it really is an effective medication, in its smoked form, lot's of anecdotes, but very little evidence. I think that neither side really wants to do the controlled, clinical trials that would be required to treat this like a medicine, like all other medicines get tested. I just don't see any of that going on, any place.

Dean Becker: Now, I want to kind of argue the point. I don't have sufficient data, but I want to [permit] that you don't necessarily either, that there are organizations, like the Multi-disciplinary Organization for Psychedelic Studies and they have been working with the University of Massachusetts to try to get permission to grow, I think ten grams of marijuana, if I am not mistaken, a small amount. Yet, the DEA has blocked them every step of the way. I wonder if there isn't a need for more full reporting of that situation by CASA?

David Rosenbloom: I think that Join Together Online has covered the controversy with respect to the University of Massachusetts application to grow marijuana for scientific purposes. So, I think that there is information about that and I think we have reported it.

I think that the federal government actually supports a farm that grows marijuana for testing and research and whether that is enough is an open question. But, there is no question but that the request by the University of Massachusetts has run into all sorts of fire and I think we have reported it.

Dean Becker: OK, OK. I'll back down on that one. I want to talk about the fact that David, I respect everything I have heard from you, everything I have read about you. I am hoping that CASA can climb some new heights under your leadership, but I have a problem with CASA of the past... and NIDA, SAMSA, even the FDA and HHS... and what it is is silence.

We have a ten mile long freight train going about a hundred miles an hour. It has jumped the tracks, it's destroying the futures of about two million Americans per year because of the plant products in their pocket. This is the prison industrial machine and the silence I am talking about is from the scientists, the doctors and the researchers who know that the US, being the world's leading jailer is not the answer to our drug problem - yet most of them remain silent. Your response, sir.

David Rosenbloom: I don't think that there is silence on that. I think that there is significant public debate about the waste of sending people to jail who are sick. I think that if somebody is addicted to alcohol or marijuana, and you can become addicted to marijuana or any other drug, licit or illicit, and you send them to jail solely because they are taking those substances and then don't provide treatment for them, i think that's just a total waste of money.

I think that there is a pretty broad debate about that at the moment. Even in the New York state legislature, for example, which had some of the strictest mandatory minimum sentences, that created a huge prison industry in New York. Even in New York the legislature has - after many, many years - adopted significant changes. The voters in a number of places have spoken quite loudly that they would prefer treatment rather than incarceration.

There is an important experiment that is going on in the state of Hawaii where instead of sending people who are addicted to drugs to jail, they are releasing the with the certainty of consequences if they test positive. That is proving in experimental studies to be a pretty positive way of helping people get off and stay off of drugs.

I don't think that there is silence. I think that there isn't as rapid movement as might make sense to provide treatment in lieu of incarceration for non-violent offenses, but I don't think there is silence.

I think that I see debate in lot's of state legislatures. It may be debate for the wrong reasons, from your perspective, because the debate is occurring, frankly, because many of these states are finding they can't afford the jails anymore.

Whatever the reason is, i think the debate is under way and I think we are beginning to see some crack in all of this. It is true that in some states, the prisons have become an industry all by themselves and I think that is an impediment to change.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir. Once again, my friends, we are speaking with Mr. David Rosenbloom. He is the new head of CASA, the Center on Addiction Substance Abuse, Columbia University. Mr. Rosenbloom, when we, I don't know - look at the blowback - the ramifications of this drug war. Again, this is not your forte - but the cartels are thriving, the terrorists are prospering, the gangs are growing.

One of the main features, the reasons for the existence of this drug war I have always heard is to protect the children. The fact is we have a situation where these drugs are made, recreational drugs are made by untrained chemists and are cut with everything from laxatives to lavamasol, which is an animal de-wormer, that destroys the immune system. Do you ever look at that blowback? Do you include it, the fallout from these contaminated drugs in your studies about deaths and addiction?

David Rosenbloom: The fastest way to reduce demand for these illegal drugs is to provide effective treatment for people who are addicted to them. That is the fastest, most effective way to reduce the demand for illicit drugs. We looked pretty hard at that. The most effective way to protect young people from the consequences of drugs made by amateur pharmacists, is to help them understand not to use them.

I think that the notion that you could regulate this market - legalize and regulate the market for what you call plant goods - is naive. You could no more regulate the use of marijuana than you can regulate the growth of grass.

In fact, when the federal government first proposed making marijuana illegal, the guy who was then the chief of the bureau of narcotics said, "You want me to control a weed." So I think that it is naive to think that mere legalization is going to actually solve any of the problems that you are worried about. It will make them worse.

Dean Becker: OK. Well, I have talked to several scientists about the fact that it is the contaminants and the hotshot - the lack of knowledge about the contents and quality of the bag that leads to most overdose deaths. Would you disagree with that?

David Rosenbloom: Oh, I don't think that there is much evidence that that's true. I don't think there is much evidence that it's false, there's not much evidence that it's true. I think there is pretty good evidence that overdoses of the active ingredient in heroin can kill somebody, so I think that you know, the... What the stuff is mixed with is not good for you, and the stuff itself is not good for you.

Dean Becker: I consider it somewhat akin to sex education - abstinence versus, you know, true education. I have one last question for you, sir. In that, as I eluded to earlier, this policy of drug prohibition empowers the terrorists, the gangs and the cartels. It leads to alot of death and disease when people can't get - have to share needles... and it, again - the hotshot...

David Rosenbloom: It's not the prohibition that empowers these guys, it's the demand for their product. The demand for their product is in part created by their marketing the drugs illegally or legally. So, reducing the demand for drugs is what is going to put these guys out of business.

Dean Becker: Alright, sir, a little bit of follow on there. We have hundreds of millions of drug users world-wide, tens of millions of growers of coca, opium and marijuana and millions of traffickers. We're gonna stop all of that? That's the solution?

David Rosenbloom: The fastest way to stop it is to reduce the demand for the product. If there wasn't a demand for the product, then those guys would - the drug business would decline.

Dean Becker: Well, David, once again, I want to thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate your courage and your intellect. I am hoping that I haven't screwed the pooch here. I am hoping that you will come back on with us.

[laughter in the background]

I am hoping that you will come back on with us as your tenure unfolds.

David Rosenbloom: It's a pleasure to talk to you, Dean. You know, I think that you would like to see less damage from illicit drugs. I'd like to see less damage from illicit drugs. I think it is naive to think that making them legal is going to reduce the damage in health and lives ruined, and I guess we are just going to disagree about that.

Dean Becker: OK, but still consider my offer. And, David, thank you so much.

David Rosenbloom: Thank you very much.

Dean Becker: Thank you, sir. OK, we are going to take a little quick break here. We're going to be back with Mr. Kevin Zeese, Common Sense for Drug Policy.

It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Side effects may include next day drowsiness, dizziness and headache. Sleepwalking and eating or driving while not fully awake with amnesia for the event have been reported. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur.
Time's up!
The answer: [rooster crows] Two-layer Ambien CR

This is the Abolitionist's Moment.

Fear engendered by any mechanism possible is what gives the drug war life. The biggest fear of all is the unknown. The minority report's opinion is that if drugs were made legal for adults, that children would have easier access. The christian right's thought is that if drugs were made by Pfizer or Merck that more overdoses would occur.

The cops are concerned that if syringes were made freely available to addicts that nobody would quit using. The state department thinks that if they push harder against the drug smuggling and raise the price of cocaine, that the cartels will crumble. Fear gives life to the black market which thrives by selling contaminated drugs to our children.

The cartels suffer from selling their drugs at high prices, just as Chevron suffered when selling their gasoline for $4 a gallon. America is the lead horse pulling this drug war wagon and encouraging the rest of the world via their silver or lead approach. Those who stand for drug war are the best friends the drug lords could ever hope for.

Pulling the plug on the prison industrial complex... ...drugtruth.net

Dean Becker: Alright, my friends, you are listening to the Cultural Baggage Show on the Drug Truth Network. My name is Dean Becker and we have with us on line now the President of Common Sense for Drug Policy, Mr. Kevin Zeese. Hello, sir.

Kevin Zeese: Hi, how are you doing? Thanks for having me on, Dean.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Kevin. I hope you got a chance to hear my discussion with Mr. Rosenbloom.

Kevin Zeese: I did.

Dean Becker: And it was good? Bad? What's your thoughts?

Kevin Zeese: Pretty much the same old lines from CASA and it is interesting that they are merging with Join Together. I guess that's a sign, maybe, of the economic times and the struggles they are going through. It seems to me that they are pretty much advocating for the status quo.

There has been a lot of money already spent on solutions they have suggested and it has just not worked and I think this is a time of change. We need to be looking fresh at current drug policy and decide whether the drug war approach is the right approach. They seem to be continuing on the side of all steam ahead with the current strategy.

Dean Becker: Yeah, I tried to walk a fine line there with him because I am hoping that he will come back with us. I also tried to present, I thought some compelling evidence, or counterpoints to what they have been up to. What was your thought on his response to, you know the cartels, the gangs, et cetera, thriving.

Kevin Zeese: Well, the idea that are going to control demand has been one that they have been talking about for about forty years now. I think people have to recognize that there is always going to be a demand for these drugs, and large demand, and the reason why there is because these drugs work.

Marijuana is a drug that is widely popular and will stay widely popular. It's not going to be marginally, it will only change marginally either up or down, either way a few points, but it is pretty much going to stay the same. That's pretty much the way it has been with all the illegal drugs. Occasional spikes of, you know, of cocaine or heroin but generally there is a strong baseline of use.

So, if you really want to take the profits out of the terrorists and the gangs, you have got to figure out a way to control these drugs in a different kind off market. I think that a market that is regulated and controlled, is the way to go.

It was interesting to hear him quote you know, way back when marijuana was made illegal, an unnamed person - I am not sure who he was talking about there - saying, "You want me to control a weed? You want me to prohibit a weed?"

Well, it was pretty much a silly idea then and it's a silly idea now. Marijuana is a weed that you can grow in your closet and produce a plant material that is worth hundreds of dollars per ounce. So, you can grow it in your closet and worth hundreds of dollars per ounce; pretty tough to control that. I don't think that is something that is realistic.

Dean Becker: But the gentleman he was talking about with that weed comment was Harry J. Anslinger, right after...

Kevin Zeese: I assumed that.

Dean Becker: ...after they passed the 1937 act and he was standing on the banks of the Potomac looking at the miles and miles of marijuana growing right there in our nation's capitol.

Kevin Zeese: I think it was interesting he didn't mention Anslinger's name. I think he knows that Anslinger is kind of a figure in history that is not looked on as well by many people. I think avoiding that name was part of his strategy.

Dean Becker: Well, like I heard a comment on Fox the other day talking about the man who rann the country after 9/11. They didn't want to mention his name.

Kevin Zeese: Yeah.

Dean Becker: Let's talk a bit about Common Sense for Drug Policy. Tell us what you guys are about.

Kevin Zeese: Well, I think that what we are about is giving out accurate information to the public, or particularly getting out accurate information to reform activists. People who want to get the best information available should go to our project, Drug War Facts. It's drugwarfacts.org. It is constantly updated and constantly renewed.

We are not only focusing on the United States, we are focusing on the world. We are putting more and more effort into Canada, where there is a real movement growing that can really have a big impact. I expect that the conservative government that is in power now will not be in power a year from now. Who knows what the possibilities will be in Canada.

We are also looking at Europe there is a lot of potential for movement. It has been interesting to watch in the United States where we weren't sure what to expect from Obama. It is pretty mixed - I mean, his rhetoric sometimes is good.

His appointment of the Seattle police chief has its positives. His talk about needle exchange and medical marijuana has been on the correct side. He has kind of made fun of the issue of legalization of marijuana, even though it was a very popular issue among the people being brought up.

I think things are really changing. The polls are showing levels of support for regulating marijuana at higher than they have ever been. If we really had some leadership in the congress and the white house talking honestly about this topic, we could really make advances. But I don't see that happening so I think it is going to take a grass roots movement.

We need to constantly being educating and organizing our friends and neighbors and colleagues and family to get involved in this issue. Having 800,000 marijuana arrests is an incredible waste. I was just in court the other day for a health care advocacy arrest that I had when I was protesting in the Senate and I was amazed at how we still see the vast majority of people coming before the courts are marijuana offenders. It is just an incredible waste of resources.

When you think back that in the Nixon administration, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended unanimously that we should decriminalize marijuana possession and cultivation and non-profit transfers and here we are years and years later. Tens of millions of people have been arrested since the experts said it shouldn't be a crime. The crime really is continuing marijuana prohibition.

Dean Becker: You are absolutely right. You know, back at that same time-frame, when that US study came out, they did - I can't remember the name of the study - in Amsterdam, and they followed those recommendations. I read just the other day, that they are now closing 8 of their prisons because they don't have enough criminals. What a contrast...

Kevin Zeese: What a contrast and they also half the marijuana use rate. Their biggest problem with marijuana are Germans and Americans coming in and across the borders and abusing because they are in Amsterdam for the first time and just feel free and don't know how to handle it. You know, so it is a great contrast.

Two countries start at the same point, both had expert commissions, both commissions reached the same results. One country followed the commissions' advice, one didn't. Here we are decades later. the country that followed the experts' advice is much better off.

If you want to see, read about the Nixon era, we have in CSDP website - the Common Sense Drug Policy - CSDP.org website - we have some excerpts from the tapes of Nixon discussing the National Commission in the White House and it's sadly hilarious to listen to his racism, his anti-semitism his anti-education perspective.

At one point he says to Bob Haldeman, "What the hell is wrong with those Jews, Bob? Jesus Christ, it's like they are all psychiatrists and maybe that's the problem. " It's like, oh my goodness, this guy has in - that's the guy who lead the effort to create this drug war, marijuana war policy and we're still stuck in that knot.

Dean Becker: I want to agree with you and to help underline my depression about this. I want to play you a little clip from our new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske.

Gil Kerlikowske: ...tell you that if you look at what's killing people now and what is addicting people in this country - legalized pharmaceuticals - pharmaceuticals that are manufactured - pharmaceuticals that are under the control of physicians. Pharmaceuticals that go through prescriptions, et cetera.

So those are legalized drugs and the addiction level from the hydrocodones, the oxycontin, et cetera, are huge and the overdose deaths are significant. So, I think that legalization is waving the white flag saying, "Gee, our policy doesn't work. Our policies aren't as successful as we want them to be therefore we should end it and I don't agree with that.

Dean Becker: Kevin, I thin of it like these are legal drugs that people are having a problem with, but for lack of education, for lack of adequate controls, by parents, perhaps, but prohibition didn't prevent that. Prohibition doesn't prevent anything, does it?

Kevin Zeese: It doesn't and it is disappointing to hear the drug czar talk like that although it is not surprising. When he was police chief of Seattle, he put in place - after the citizens voted for it - making marijuana lowest enforcement priority. Marijuana arrests started going down, crime started going down and the police could start to focus their resources on more serious crimes so he saw it work.

He saw that making marijuana lowest enforcement priority - essentially decriminalizing it - did not result in the city falling apart or more increases in marijuana use or any of those kind of negative things that people often put out there.

So, he should know better. I understand that politics makes it hard for him to be honest, but I think he does know better and just can't say it. So, we have to build the base of support to push these people to put in place the policies that make sense.

Dean Becker: Exactly, exactly. I want to put in my two cents here. Folks, we have approaching a thousand of our half-hour shows available out there at drugtruth.net featuring the words of scientists, doctors, politicians, cops, wardens, you name it - broad cross-section of people who have analyzed this problem of drugs and have come up with a different solution.

We are speaking to Mr. Kevin Zeese. He is the president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, a long-time guest on the Drug Truth Network. Kevin, I just want to turn it over to you. I mean, you ran for governor, you stand for environmental concerns and voter's rights but it is time for us to take back our country, isn't it?

Kevin Zeese: It is time for us to take back our country on a lot issues and I think that they key thing we have to do is break the grip of the status quo. The status quo is people who are so, you know, involved with making profit from the current situation. Those are the folks that we need to break the grip of.

They pretty much are controlling the congress with their campaign donations. They take their profits from the mistaken policies - whether its health care or climate or environment or war or drug policy. They take their profits, make donations and keep power. That is the grip we have to break and it's going to take people being organized and people making demands.

That is our job as activists. this is one of the issues I work on, drug policy, and it is an important one. It has a gigantic effect on our urban communities, on minority communities, and on all Americans because we are all footing the bill for having 25% of the world's prisoners in our...

Dean Becker: Kevin, I've got to interrupt, we are flat out of time. The website Common Sense, csdp.org. I remind you once again, 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.