12/06/09 - Bruce Mirken

Bruce Mirken, outgoing director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project re his 8 years serving drug reform + Jack Cole, Dir of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Guest: 
Bruce Mirken
Organization: 
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
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Century of Lies, December 6, 2009

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more, now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.
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Alright my friends, welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m so glad you could be with us today. It promises to be a great show. It’s going to be kind of a… I don’t know, taking a bow for our good friend. The man we have depended on over the years from the Marijuana Policy Project, the director of communications, Mr. Bruce Mirken. He’s moving to a different pasture. We’ll get him to tell us a little bit about that and let’s just go ahead and welcome him to the show. Mr. Bruce Mirken, are you with us?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Indeed I am. Or perhaps, it’s my evil twin. You may never be able to tell, for sure.

Dean Becker: {chuckling} That’s what I’ve enjoyed over the year’s, too. His sense of humor and his perceptions of this drug war. His way of analyzing what’s before our very eyes.

Bruce, you began a few years back. When did you start with the Marijuana Policy Project?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Actually, almost exactly eight years ago.

Dean Becker: Wow.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Maybe I get time off for good behaviour. {chuckling}

Dean Becker: Well, maybe that’s it but, that’s quite a coincidence because over eight years ago, I began the broadcast portion of the Drug Truth Network. So we’ve been at this, kind of, the same amount of time.

Bruce, let’s go back to the beginning. What were some of the first jobs you took on, when you became Director of Communications?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, back then, we were doing a lot of work on two things. One, that we’re still doing, is trying to get medical marijuana laws passed in states that don’t have them. The other was trying to call attention to the, then emerging and really outrageous, Bush Administration policies toward the whole issue.

What’s interesting though is, while many of the battle will stay the same, the attitude’s towards them has changed remarkably. Not just in the public, but in the main-stream media, you know and God bless you guys, that there’s places like KPFT and the alternative media. But there’s a lot of folks who, unfortunately, never listen to those outlets. They get their news from commercial TV, radio, etc.

Back in early 2002, the first time I called CNN to try and pitch a story to them, they literally laughed at me. I called. I said, “Hello. This is Bruce Mirken with the Marijuana Policy Project,” and the woman who’d answered the phone burst out laughing… at the mention of the name of the organization. Put the phone down, put me on hold for a minute while she composed herself, I guess, came back on the line and said, “OK, Mr. Marijuana. What can I do for you?”

Needless to say, we didn’t get very far. This year, they’re calling us… and that is a remarkable change.

Dean Becker: …and they have removed their tongue firmly from their cheek, if I’m phrasing that right. They don’t snicker and point fingers. They’re starting to share truthful and scientific information now, right?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, it’s increasingly getting that way. It’s a constant struggle and the educational process is going to go on and will need to go on, because there’s still in the main-stream media particularly, way too much depends on it’s unofficial sources and most of the stuff that you hear from official sources, on the subject of marijuana and drug policy, is garbage. But they are beginning to accept the fact that there are other points of view and information that the government may not want to tell you. So, it’s getting better.

Dean Becker: I want to kind of throw this in, that they’re beginning to do a little bit of digging, if you will. They’ve relied upon the ONDCP and the propaganda arm of the government, for their facts. They’re starting to actually look at some of the scientific journals and get a different perspective, right?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, they are and I have to say that I don’t want to pat my own back, too much, but in part, it’s because some of us have kept after them, again and again and tried to get them to look at the science. Pointed it out to them and from time to time, criticize them publicly, when they didn’t. I’d like to think that that had some effect.

Dean Becker: I would sure think so. The fact is Bruce, I see a lot of stories, major publications, or even broadcast media quoting you; of doing interviews with you and daring to examine the full set of data, right?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, it’s been happening more and more, particularly this year and it’s very heartening. I do think that this is some of the reason that you’re seeing this steady evolution in poll numbers, with increasing numbers of American rejecting the policy of prohibition and saying, “…that maybe we need to do something really different, with marijuana.”

Dean Becker: You know the situation in Mexico with the smuggling… let’s just talk about marijuana, for a minute. I hear that’s sixty to seventy percent of where these cartels make their profits anyway. But people are starting to realize that this situation doesn’t have to continue; that we fund, if you will, our enemies through this policy and yet the government officials steer clear of that conversation. At least insofar as they can be ‘grilled’ on the subject, right?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Yes, certainly. With the exception of a few members of Congress, here and there, who’ve spoken up with a fair amount of clarity. But they’re few and far between and in the executive branch, pretty much you still see the prohibition party line being followed.

You know the drug czar, Gill Kerlikowske, keeps saying, “Legalization isn’t in my vocabulary, or the President’s.” Well, alright. Let’s try another word. Let’s talk about ’regulation’ now.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Talk about common sense. ’Cause I’ve always been a big believer in the famous line attributed to Einstein. That, ‘The definition of insanity is, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’

Dean Becker: Right. It’s like a bad gambler. Just got to get that seven again and it’s just not happening and they bet the farm and the family on it.

We’re speaking to Mr. Bruce Mirken, outgoing Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Bruce, walk me through it. Who’s going to take your space and how’re we going to proceed?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, I do believe that you will survive without me, Dean. I…

Dean Becker: Well, I’ll miss you, my friend. But, go ahead.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: I appreciate that. But this isn’t something I want to spend a whole lot of time dwelling on but, because of things within the organization. I’ve just come to the decision, after eight years it’s time for me to move on. I’ve got a couple of other irons in the fire that, some of which the details are still being worked out, so I can’t talk in a great deal of detail. But I am certainly hoping to keep at least some connection to this move, more that the effort to change our insane drug laws.

My successor, who actually starts next week although he’s going to be training for awhile and won’t really be fully be taking over till around the middle of December. He’s a fellow by the name of Curt Gardenier. I’m hoping I’m pronouncing his last name right, ’cause I haven’t actually heard him say it.

Dean Becker: Alright.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: So Curt, if you’re listening, I’m apologize if I just mangled it, who comes to us from MSNBC and I’m sure once he get’s up and rolling, you can have him on and I’ll let him speak for himself, about what brought him here and why he thinks this is important.

Dean Becker: OK. That’s kind of encouraging. MSNBC has done some rather positive stories over the years. I think it was Al Roker Productions who put it together, dealing with the subject of marijuana and actually controlling this so-called controlled substance. Right?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Yeah. Al Roker did a pretty good hour long documentary that was on MSNBC and they’ve done some other things too. I was on the Rachel Maddow show earlier this year when
Kerlikowske was appointed as drug czar and we had a very good conversation. It’s clear that she’s in our corner. So again, there’re folks out there beginning to pay attention and it’s very gratifying.

Dean Becker: Bruce, when you kind of look at the total of the number of changes, over the eight years that you’ve been with the Marijuana Policy Project, do you find greater acceptance; more willingness of the press or even people you meet in public, to discuss the full truth? That they’re not afraid of this topic anymore?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Yeah. I think there is an increasing open mindedness and an increasing willingness to look beyond the typical law enforcement sound bites. Some of it still goes on. Some of it make me crazy, you know, for years down the line, I’m sure. But certainly, in the case of the reporters I interact with, I’m seeing more and more people willing to look honestly and somewhat skeptically, at the claims coming from all sides.

I don’t want them to give us a free ride. I don’t want them to not ask the hard questions. All I ask is that they give us a fair chance and not accept the government propaganda as, if it was revealed truth and that’s beginning to happen. It’s happening in a much larger way.

Dean Becker: Bruce, I’ve been a big fan of your blogs, a big fan of the MPP blogs and some of the more recent blogs concern the fact that, they’ve been finding benefit of medical marijuana in the use of things like Multiple Sclerosis and other very debilitating diseases. You want to talk about that?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, you know, there’s a lot of really interesting research coming out all the time and ninety percent of it never get’s any significant press and it’s a constant source of frustration to me and we’ve used a blog, as you say and by all means, every one come take a look at it. You can go to our home page, mpp.org and it’s right there.

There’ve been a number of really interesting things. The MS study that you referred to was actually what’s called a meta analysis, of a bunch of studies. That basically when you put them all together, point in the direction of marijuana being useful for some MS symptoms.

There was one a few weeks ago, suggesting that marijuana may actually prevent some of the damage caused by binge drinking. Now there’s something really interesting. That one, we managed to get a little bit of media attention to, but had we not done it, I don’t think anyone would have.

But here’s a substance that’s been demonized for all these decades, ‘It’s something that’s going to destroy your brain.’ In fact, it may help protect it from a much worse drug, alcohol - that happens to be legal.

Dean Becker: Well, that kind of expounds upon a couple of other studies that have shown, after a head injury; after a stroke, that it can be of benefit to prevent brain swelling; to help control that damage that occurs following such a head injury, and we have to stop this ongoing prohibition. As the American Medical Association indicated, just a few weeks back. We have to do some very serious studies to see where the benefits are and to make use of them. Right, Bruce?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Oh, absolutely and what’s frustrating, is a lot of the studies that exist on many of these really interesting area’s, are either very small pilot studies or not even studies in people at all. They’re laboratory test tube or animal studies, which can point you in some interesting directions, but…

For example, this has been one of my pet peeve’s for years. There is data going back to the mid 1970’s showing that THC and some of the other chemical’s, called cannabinoids - that are unique to marijuana, are relatively potent anti-cancer drugs. There has been in all that time, a grand total of one very small human study, which involved terminal brain cancer patients - ten of them, in which they injected THC into the tumors. It seemed to show some benefit in a few of the patients.

But we’ve know that there is a reason to study this further, to try it in people, for literally decades and it hasn’t happened because, “This is a bad drug. We can’t find anything good about it.”

Dean Becker: Well, and weren’t they paying people specifically to look for bad things, for decades?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, yeah. The biggest source of funding, for research on marijuana, is the US government agency known as the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s far larger than any other organization. It funds research on illegal drugs and they are explicitly, as the name of the group suggests, focused on abuse. Focused on drugs as bad things.

In fact, years ago, when Donald Abrams, of San Francisco General Hospital, was trying to get permission to do a study looking at benefits of medical marijuana in AIDS patients, the then head of NIDA, Alan Leshner, said to him, “Donald, we’re the National Institute on Drug Abuse, not the National Institute for Drug Abuse.”

Dean Becker: You bring up that name NIDA, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Just last week, I was interviewing Mr. Irv Rosenfeld, a gentleman who is supplied with three hundred marijuana cigarettes every month. That’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Administration. What hypocrisy! Right, Bruce?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: It’s just insane. He is one of four people from this old program that was closed to new patients back in 1992, who continues to receive their medical marijuana from the Federal government. All of whom clearly seem to be benefiting from it and have shown no harm. Here’s the other thing that annoys me about this. That program was officially a research program and yet, the government has never studied these patients. The only study ever published of them, which Irv probably told you, was privately funded and privately put together.

Dean Becker: It’s just quite aggravating. We’re speaking with Mr. Bruce Mirken. The outgoing Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. We’re going to open up the phone lines now. If you have a question or concern relative to our discussion, please give us a call at 1(877) 9-420-420. Toll free anywhere in North America. We’d love to hear from you.

Bruce, I want to, kind of, look at this from… I’ve been at this eight years and for me, it has really changed. Even here in the city of Houston, the gulag filling station of planet Earth, people are willing to talk about it now. The DA candidates behind closed doors. The police chief, the head of the crime lab, behind closed doors, they all agree, ‘Something needs to be done.’ But I would surmise, they’re waiting for enough of their constituents to say, “It’s all right to talk about it.” Your thoughts, Bruce?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, my very jaded take on all of this is that, politicians in general are frightened little children. They live in terror of the next thirty second attack ad that’s going to be deployed against them and their fear, in this case, is going to be, “Senator so-and-so voted to make drugs more available to your children.” They live in real terror of that and I think the public is already several steps ahead of them but they’re not… the politicians, by and large. There are exceptions. I realize I’m generalizing here. But by and large, the politicians are several steps behind the public and aren’t convinced that it’s safe.

We had a situation in the state of New Hampshire, where they unfortunately just recently failed to override the Governors veto of a medical marijuana bill and one of the legislators, I won’t mention his name, but was running for another office and what he told our lobbyist was, if this is before the election, I can’t vote for it.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: He was with us, but he was scared of the politics…

Dean Becker: Frightened little children.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: …and wrongly so, I think. There’s no evidence that it would have hurt him, but sometimes it’s very had to tell these people that.

Dean Becker: I talk to the local politicians, including some who’s election is ongoing, as we speak. I told him that, ’You can be the candidate who wants to eliminate the reason for most of these violent gangs. You can be the one who wants to gut the barber’s cartels south of our border‘, and yet chief of staff says, ‘Yeah. Good idea,’ but when it comes down to rubber meeting the road, they don‘t quite have the courage. Frightened little children, as you say.

OK. We have a couple of callers on line. Let’s go to A.K. You have a question for Mr. Bruce Mirken?

A.K.: Yeah. Hi, how are you?

Dean Becker: I’m well. Your thoughts?

A.K.: Alright. I somehow… I’ve quite a few times have heard about… you guys talking about medical marijuana. But I don’t know if you guys have seen or dealt with people who have abuse marijuana in younger generations, especially teenagers and have seen the effect on them. What they go through in their lifetime.

Dean Becker: Bruce, I give you first go at that. Bruce, your thoughts about teenage use?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Well, I think we need to be careful of what we’re talking about. Our position in general, is that marijuana is not for kids. Certainly not as a recreational drug or toy. Like alcohol, it should be used responsibly by adults. Now on the other hand, tragically, sometimes kids get terrible illnesses. Kids get cancer and if a young person can benefit from medical marijuana, because of the chemotherapy, they’re vomiting and can’t eat, that’s a decision that should be made by Doctor’s and patients and parents, in the case of a young person.

Dean Becker: OK. I agree with that. I would also like to talk about the fact that sometimes is available and useful for children with ADD. There have been some studies that show, in some instances, that it can be of benefit. Let’s go to Don, he’s held the longest, on line two. Question for Bruce Mirken?

Don: Yes, sir. Good evening gentlemen. I’ve got a question for you that has been thrown around for awhile as far as, why? Do you know the reason for the original prohibition drive? I think it was back in the twenties? As to why it became illegal?

Dean Becker: OK, Bruce. Go ahead.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: Ohhh, have you got a few hours? {ha-ha} It’s a long and complicated story and there are some theories about it that some people dispute. What I think is indisputable is that, it was based in large part, on propaganda; exaggerations; scare stories…

Dean Becker: Bigotry.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: …and I was just about to say, some just shockingly over racism.

Don: Sir? Do you know if it has anything to do with DuPont?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: …and when Texas was considering it’s state level ban on…

{Dean interrupts as both Don and Bruce are talking at same time} {Bruce continues}

Mr. Bruce Mirken: OK Sorry about that. During the debate in the Texas state legislature, when the state of Texas was considering banning marijuana, back in the early part of the last century, a Texas state senator stood on the floor of the Texas senate and said, “All Mexican’s are crazy and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”

So there was a lot of stuff that was really unfortunate. I think part of the push then, in the thirties, frankly came from some of the people who use to be enforcing prohibition who needed jobs - prohibition of alcohol.

Dean Becker: Yeah. I tell you what, we’ve got time for one more call. Can we go to AK? Quick question. We got to bail here in a second. Go ahead.

A.K.: OK. I would recommend one thing else. There are a lot of free society all across the world. Do you study to see the real effect of marijuana? What really is there at an open end society where you can go walk into a shop and buy marijuana?

For example India, where marijuana is extensively used and where people go, it’s one of the shops that opens early in the morning and is one of the last shops closed at night and not everybody is using marijuana. Just because you are locating marijuana use.

But I want to give you perspective on what really happens when it’s used in younger generations and what happens if we leave it open for all of society to use, it’s not readily abused.

Dean Becker: I hear you. AK. AK, we’re really going to have to cut it short, here. Thank you for your question. Bruce, quickly sir. Your response?

Mr. Bruce Mirken: I think that’s a valid point and there are certainly a lot of countries and cultures around the world, where attitudes are a little bit different than ours. Even though the laws may be strict to abide by international treaty.

Dean Becker: Right, right and again, prohibition doesn’t stop the flow of any drugs, let alone marijuana. Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. I want to thank you for your years in supporting or helping the Drug Truth Network. Please, your website, before we sign off.

Mr. Bruce Mirken: It is mpp.org and please, check it out, sign up for our email alerts.

Dean Becker: Alright. Mr. Bruce Mirken, we got a couple of messages for you.
________________

Never forget fear.
…and hatred or lies.
Or deception.
Big brother says, ’The war of terror will last forever.’
Merry Christmas.
________________

It’s so rare that I get a chance to speak with the man I consider to be one of the world’s foremost experts dealing with the war on drugs. The director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a man with fourteen years experience as an undercover narcotics officer. A man who now calls for the end of this madness, Mr. Jack Cole. Tell us, sir, your understanding; your observations; your recognition of where we’re at, in changing these horrible laws.

Mr. Jack Cole: Well, your right. They are horrible laws. They are the worst laws that we’ve come by in perhaps, since slavery. We definitely need to change them and I am so excited about the possibility of changing these laws, because we’re growing. We’re growing everyday.

We started LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in 2002 and now it’s seven years later and we’ve got well over fifteen thousand members in seventy-six countries. We’re composed of police, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, even DA and FBI agents and others who want to end the war on drugs. We want to legalize all drugs.

Because we look at this from the viewpoint of law enforcement, we know that when we ended alcohol prohibition in 1933, Al Capone and all his smuggling buddies were out of business the next day. They were off our streets. They were no longer out there killing each other to control that very lucrative market. They were no longer killing us cops, charged with fighting that useless war and they were no longer killing our children, caught in cross fire and drive-by shootings. All the things we experience today, with this new prohibition.

So we know we could end the violence, by legalizing drugs. Then, when we regulate the drugs, and of course you can’t regulate or control anything while it’s illegal. So we legalize it, then we regulate it and by regulating it, we can end overdose deaths. Nobody has to die from an overdose of drugs. That’s the saddest thing about these things.

People don’t die of an overdose because they shoot more and more dope. As Dean just said, I’ve spent fourteen years living in the street with these folks, undercover and I can tell you, the reason they die from an overdose, is because they don’t know how much of that tiny package of powder they’re purchasing is really the drug and how much is the cutting agent.

You get too much drug in that package, you’re dead and in an illegal unregulated market, they will never know what’s in that package. We can also affect these horrible diseases. AIDS and hepatitis. According to the Center for Disease Control, half of all new cases can be traced directly back to drug users sharing needles.

Well, if drug were legal, they wouldn’t have to that and we could prevent half of all the potential cases of these terrible diseases. Think of the lives we’d save.
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Alright. Think of the lives we would save. Think about the fact that we don’t have to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We don’t have to keep proving Albert Einstein was right. We can do something different.

I urge you to tune to this weeks Cultural Baggage show. Our guest was Mason Tvert. Co-author of, Marijuana’s Safer - Why Are We Driving People to Drink? We have… Now I think we’re approaching a thousand of our half hour shows available online at drugtruth.net.

We’re really waiting on you. When you have the full set of ammunition; when your quiver is full, you will set to work and you will fix this, and as always, I remind you that there is no truth, justice, logic, no reason for this drug war to exist. Please visit our website, endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org