12/02/12 Julie Netherland

Century of Lies

Harm Reduction IV: Julie Netherland, Mark Cooke, Nathan Messer & Shilo Murphy, Movie Trailer for Breaking the Taboo, Reporter: Doug McVay

Audio file


Century of Lies / December 2, 2012


DEAN BECKER: 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.



DEAN BECKER: Darth Drug Czar…you’re a coward, a liar, demon and thief. Seems you can’t face the truth for just one hour…too busy looking at peeeee…

Dean Becker, DrugTruth.net


DEAN BECKER: You know with each passing day the truth of that little diddy becomes more evident, doesn’t it?

Thanks to Doug McVay of Drug War Facts and Common Sense for Drug Policy and his attendance and reporting from the Harm Reduction Conference in Portland, Oregon we’ve got one more show for you talking about how we can quit harming ourselves so badly with this drug war.


JULIE NETHERLAND: Hi my name is Julie Netherland. I’m with the Drug Policy Alliance. I’m the Deputy State Director for our New York State office.

DOUG McVAY: Could you tell me something about some of the work you are doing?

JULIE NETHERLAND: I’d be happy to. We have several campaigns going on in New York State. The one I’m most involved with it trying to bring medical marijuana to the state. The bill passed our assembly in the last session and we’re hoping to get it through our senate this year and become the 19th state with Massachusetts having passed their initiative to have medical marijuana.

We’re also working on marijuana decriminalization bill to sort of fix the problem we’ve been having with the NYPD arresting mostly young people of color for having marijuana in public view. The legislation that we’re working on there would make possession of marijuana in public view also a violation instead of a misdemeanor and hopefully stop the arrest of lots of young people. About 50,000 people each year are arrested on these charges in New York City alone.

We’re also working on implementing the Good Sam 911 bill that was passed in 2011. We are very happy that our Department of Health and our Substance Abuse Agencies have agreed to help us brand and print and disseminate materials to educate people about that law to make sure know that it’s not a crime to call 911 in case of an overdose.

So those are the big issues that we are working on. We’re also looking to do more work on youth prevention.

DOUG McVAY: Fantastic. Tell me about your experience down here at the Harm Reduction Coalition Conference. What do you think of the event? How’s it gone?

JULIE NETHERLAND: It’s been a great conference. It’s very exciting to see such a diverse array of people and it’s always good to have an opportunity to connect with people on the front lines of doing the harm reduction work. It’s been an incredible 3 days, an array of panels and presentations.

Personally I found it incredibly moving in particular to hear about people talk about their experience with overdose and the reminder of how many people are lost by overdose but also by the War on Drugs more broadly in terms of incarceration.

It’s been a really powerful reminder of why it’s so important to keep doing this work.

DOUG McVAY: Tell me something about the state of office-based opioid treatment and about buprenorphine. I know that’s something that people aren’t as aware of.

JULIE NETHERLAND: buprenorphine also known as Suboxone is an office-based treatment for folks who are addicted to heroin or prescription opiates. What’s remarkable to me about buprenorphine is that unlike Methadone it can be prescribed in the privacy of a doctor’s office which affords people a certain amount of privacy and also, I think, brings the medical mainstream more into the issues of addiction and offers people another access to treatment.

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ve seen the widespread adoption of buprenorphine that people had hoped would happen when it became available in the early 2000s. San Francisco has a great city program where they distribute buprenorphine to folks but for the most part it’s been relatively slow.

There’s also some concern and some research coming out of New York that shows that we may see sort of two tiers of treatment where more affluent, predominantly white people are accessing buprenorphine but other folks are still being referred to the methadone system. This is not to say anything bad about methadone which has helped thousands and thousands of people but everybody should have the choice about where they get their treatment.

The other thing we’re seeing with Suboxone is more and more reports of it being diverted. That’s an area that I think is interesting because Suboxone when it’s diverted on the street…the research I did talking to people who use heroin suggested that they were using it to detox, to treat withdrawal symptoms, to sort of take … when they wanted a break from using heroin.

So you can think about it also as a harm reduction technique even if someone is not taking it as a maintenance therapy. It will be interesting to see what happens as there is more sort of a moral panic around Suboxone being diverted. It will be interesting to have more research on how it’s being used on the street.

I guess my only other comment is it’s a really exciting time to be working in this field with the recent elections and the initiatives in Colorado and Washington and the passage of medical marijuana in Massachusetts and Arkansas came so close to passing medical marijuana. I don’t think anyone thought that that was going to so close.

It’s an important and exciting time. There’s been a lot of media coverage not just about the legalization of marijuana but what this means for the end of the drug war. People are asking the question now if this is the end of the drug war.

It’s an exciting time. I’m thrilled to be a part of the movement and very happy to be here at the Harm Reduction Conference with sort of fellow comrades and trying to end this struggle.

DOUG McVAY: Julie, Thank you so much.


MARK COOKE: My name is Mark Cooke. I’m a policy advocate with the ACLU of Washington that’s based in Seattle.

DOUG McVAY: Tell me about some of the work you have been doing.

MARK COOKE: The ACLU of Washington has a full-time drug policy project and we work on a variety of different drug policy issues. Probably most notable is we were a big supporter and endorser of Initiative 502 which was the initiative that recently passed in Washington State that legalizes, taxes and regulates marijuana for adults age 21 and over.

We’re extremely excited that that passed and we’re going to now be working to implement that fully and fairly in the spirit of what the voters wanted and passed in Washington State.

We also work on some other criminal justice issues and drug policy issues. One that we’re very involved with is called the LEAD which is Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion which is a unique collaboration in Seattle in King County. A pilot program is being operated where low-level drug and prostitution offenders are being arrested but immediately diverted into services before they’re even booked into jail.

This is a very novel program where people are getting services and not just kind of generic treatment. It’s really wrap around services for whatever the client might need – whether it be housing, medical attention, job training – and keeping them out of the criminal justice system which is very exciting.

DOUG McVAY: Tell me about some of the stuff you’ve been talking about here at the conference.

MARK COOKE: I’ve had the good fortune to talk about a few things. We got to do a presentation on the LEAD program that I mentioned. That one was very fun because a couple of our criminal justice partners came along with us to present.

Assistant Chief of Police for Seattle, Jim Pugel, came as well as a deputy prosecutor for King County came and we got to give a presentation. At the Harm Reduction Conference I think it was really fun to have law enforcement interact with the service providers and harm reduction folks.

I also gave a talk yesterday about how we might go about implementing Portugal’s style of decriminalization in the United States. I think there is a lot of excitement about what Portugal has done in terms of drug policy but there hasn’t been much thought in terms of how we really go about implementing that type of program in the United States.

So kind of brainstorming on some ways of getting that type of policy implemented as a state, local and, hopefully, federal level and really thinking creatively about using ideas like prosecutorial discretion and how far will law enforcement be willing to use their own discretionary power to try to help people as well as kind of statutory reform and how we actually really change the law so that possession and use of drugs will no longer be a crime. At the same time we can divert resources into services versus the criminal justice system.

DOUG McVAY: The new national report on the drug situation in Portugal was released just a couple of days ago so fresh, new evidence of the success of their program.

So what do you think of the conference so far? What’s been your impression here at the Harm Reduction Coalition Conference?

MARK COOKE: I love coming to the Harm Reduction Conference. I think it’s an amazing opportunity to interact with people who are really on the ground working with drug users, drug users themselves and the people that are really doing the work.

As a policy person we kind of are on the edge of that so to speak so it’s really just wonderful to engage with people who are doing the work.

I think my biggest take away from this has been a lot of the panels on the treatment industry and what the best type of treatment really is. As drug policy reformers we frequently say, “Well, we should be investing in the criminal justice system. We should be investing in treatment.”

Which is true but, at the same time, I think we need to take a hard look at what treatment really looks like now and is it really effective. Is abstinence only coerced treatment really the best option for people or do we need kind of a more pragmatic holistic approach that embodies harm reduction principles.

At a policy level I think we need to be having that kind of conversation as well.

DOUG McVAY: Back up in Washington aside from implementing I 502 what other kinds of projects do you have that …what’s next up?

MARK COOKE: I 502 is wonderful and amazing but I think it is going to take quite a bit of effort to implement that fully and fairly. There’s going to be a year-long rule making process that’s going to set up the regulatory apparatus for the market place. That’s going to take a lot of work as well as being prepared for any type of litigation that may come out of it. Additionally educating the public on what the law does and doesn’t do.

It’s really a C change in policy to have a regulated marijuana marketplace so we’re really going to be dedicated to making sure the law gets implemented as intended.


NATHAN MESSER: My name is Nathan Messer. I’m the president of Dance Safe. We’re a peer-led harm reduction organization that focuses on recreational drug users in the rave and sort of night club communities.

DOUG McVAY: Tell me about some of the different work you are doing and some of the projects you have coming up.

NATHAN MESSER: Our basic goals are to provide drug user and drug use information to sort of naïve drug users – new kids coming into…first getting exposed to drugs so that we can keep them safe while they’re experimenting until they choose one way or another what they’re going to do.

One of the big projects that we’re doing right now is a conference at the end of May – May 28 th in 2013. It will be in San Francisco. It’s called Club Health 2013. It’s the 8 th such conference but the first on in North America.

We’re bringing experts from around the world in various fields such as alcohol-fueled violence prevention, transit policies around night life districts, policies to prevent drug driving accidents, over drinking, drug checking organizations such as Dance Safe and similar organizations in Europe that go to clubs and festivals and test drugs to weed out the adulterants that are more and more common and being sold as legal drugs now.

We’ll also have experts on crowd safety and providing emergency services to temporary, large gatherings. Adam Winstock who’s doing the Global Drug Survey is finding out youth and club settings are using drugs and what drugs they are using.

It’s going to be a wide-ranging conferencing but focusing mostly on night life issues and substance use issues around night life.

DOUG McVAY: Dealing with night life I guess you would deal with a lot of alcohol-related concerns.

NATHAN MESSER: Alcohol is the drug of choice for most of the western world - especially night life settings. That’s what clubs do – they provide alcohol. From a harm reduction perspective how do we encourage celebratory behavior and revelry and recreation in night life settings while trying to mitigate the harms that even legal drugs like alcohol to reduce the incidences of alcohol-fueled sexual violence and alcohol violence in general. How do we prevent sort of mob behavior and that sort of thing while not dampening the celebratory spirit that we’re all trying to shoot for.

DOUG McVAY: Do you have any thoughts, feeling about the conference and how things are going?

NATHAN MESSER: I really enjoy the conference. The best thing about the conference is meeting other activists in the field that I don’t normally get to see in my day to day life other than in my own particularly area of interest. Here I get to see activists organizing into social justice issues to really detailed Naloxone treatment, heroin maintenance therapy and that sort of stuff.

It’s really interesting to get some cross pollination of ideas and just get a deeper knowledge of how other people are doing harm reduction work. Personally I didn’t make it to a lot of panels. Some people have said that a lot of the work is done at the hotel bar where you get the networking and that sort of thing.

I had a Dance Safe panel that focused on that issue. We also went into depth about how we do our own work at parties. I gave a presentation of emerging drug trends especially in regards to the internet. We talked about synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathanones, the bath salts and a lot of the other drugs and hallucinogens that are sold online and what that means for the drug-using population especially in night life, recreational settings.

DOUG McVAY: I first became familiar with Dance Safe because of the testing of the drugs at Raves. I’m dating myself now. Do you still do that?

NATHAN MESSER: We still do that. We sell testing kits online so that we can get them to more people than we would just see at the events that we can get to. We have about 9 chapters and also do booths and events as a national organization.

We still do pill testing at events. It’s a bit of a combination of providing the testing kits to the general populace via our website to people who may not necessarily be in our communities or may not have access to us in other ways we can still provide this harm reduction service so people can conduct quality control on the drug market themselves.

We test people’s pills at campout festivals so that we can keep the presence of adulterated pills and powders low at these events which generally makes the events safer.

DOUG McVAY: Has the problem of adulterants and mis-categorized substances gotten worse or better now with all the new synthetics that are coming out?

NATHAN MESSER: I would say it’s worse. There’s more choice for drug users in what they want to use and there’s a lot of new things for people who are novelty seekers to try out and go find and try interesting, new things but at the same time a lot of these drugs have similar affects to current illegal drugs and so many of these being quasi-legal are available for cheap online are being resold as LSD or MDMA or cocaine.

So there’s even more need for pill testing and quality control and lab testing to try to weed out these adulterants in the festival scene. It’s very bad in the festival scene because the chances for anonymity is greater. So you can show up to a festival of 50,000 people, sell a whole bunch of stuff and leave before people start having negative side effects or realize they’ve been ripped off or that it’s not what they wanted. Then they can’t find you again because you’re just lost in the crowd.

It’s those sorts of events where we are seeing these drugs being sold as something else more so than in existing drug user networks because they tend to be safer and know what they’re doing.

DOUG McVAY: And, once again, your website in case people want to get in touch?

NATHAN MESSER: http://dancesafe.org


SHILO MURPHY: My name is Shilo Murphy. I am with two organizations. I am the executive director of the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance which is the user-run needle exchange in Seattle, Washington. We give syringes 4 days a week. We also give out crack pipes, wound care kits, Naloxone. We essentially do whatever the participants ask us to do. 51% of all our staff and all of our board are active participants.

I also am the president of the Urban Survivors Union which is the drug user union within Seattle, Washington. Our latest project is we are going to do a lobby day this spring so drug users from all the districts of Washington can go and lobby their state congress to better serve them.

DOUG McVAY: That’s fantastic. Tell me something more about the Drug User Union and organizing. That’s been discussed a lot here at the conference.

SHILO MURPHY: I believe that within any community you have to…each community has to decide their own needs and wants. As drug users we have our own needs and wants and our country has declared war on us through the drug war. They have abused us, treated us incredibly poorly and I essentially got tired of being a second class citizen. I got tired of people saying how shocked they were that an executive director could use drugs and how shocked they were that I got paperwork in on time that I wanted to do something about it.

I believe really strongly for a long time about how we should own our own services but in the end lobbying public health departments to do better services is a lot of work and usually doesn’t go anywhere because they are going to listen to their bosses which is the government. When you lobby the government to change the laws then you can achieve some great change.

DOUG McVAY: How have your efforts been going up in Seattle, obviously, but also down here. I know you’ve been trying to encourage folks to organize in their own communities.

SHILO MURPHY: We had a pre-conference for and by drug users so drug users organized the conference, drug users came and put on most of the input and all of the conference. We have multiple drug users organizations in this country. Some Canadian drug user groups came.

We wanted to discuss what is a step forward? Are we always going to be in our communities doing this work where there is only a handful of groups doing this or are we going to expand and how do we expand? What are the difficulties?

We had many discussions about racism within the drug war, sexism, homophobia. We talked about the difficulties in organizing. We talked about the oppression and discrimination and stigma that people have on groups. We also talked about how allies can be a strong part of our movement.

I love the Harm Reduction Conference. There are very few conferences that will let drug users head to a pre-conference. They said they would put no input, “This is all you. This is all your organization. We believe in you to do this.” And they gave us the pre-conference.

They’ve also been very supportive of groups and organizing. They’ve been very supportive of us working in the needle exchange field and other programs. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Paul Santiago and Alan Clear who bend over backwards to make our lives better.

DOUG McVAY: Fantastic. Backing up a bit, you also run the syringe exchange up there. How busy and active is your syringe exchange up there? Do you have any numbers? How many people you serve and the like?

SHILO MURPHY: We give out about 2 and one-half syringes a year. We have about 7,000 contacts a year. If you think about this we are a 4 day a week needle exchange and we are doing such amazing business. We also do a delivery service in the suburbs. Because we are user-run we are able to move and grow and change. I really feel like as a program you have to be able to evolve and you have to be able to morph into whatever is needed.

For example we had a suburb that had no access to syringes. We could make the fight and spend a couple years and get physical sites in there or today we could just start handing out syringes through delivery services with drug users who we knew. As we meet more drug users they connect us to more drug users and we do deliveries to them.

We can do deliveries every three months to every week. It becomes this really empowering thing because we can start educating people right then and there to safer practices and they can start putting it throughout their community.

When we started this needle exchange we went need-based so it was as needles as you could get. We started seeing more and more people. We started having the process of creating more and more programs. Someone said, “We needed wound programs because health care wasn’t treating them. We need something for a day or two between the times we go to the hospital.”

People wanted Naloxone because their friends were dying. So we started handing out Naloxone. A person came up to me and said, “Hey, I want you to know that you hand out clean syringes but you don’t care about my community. You don’t care about the community that smokes crack. Don’t we have needs? Don’t we deserve to have our own health prevention?”

I said, “Yes, you are right. I did screw up. What can I do to help you, to make this service right?”

He showed me everything I needed to know about handing out clean supplies for cocaine smokers. We started handing out kits. That’s the power of being peer-run. Within 24 hours you can change a policy and you are now handing out clean crack supplies. I can’t tell you the power of having it.

As an organization we have active drug users on our board of directors and they make the decisions. The reason we have that isn’t because it’s nice. It isn’t because it’s cute. It’s because we want the best and the brightest, the people who the most knowledge about the drug using community and those are going to be drug users.

I’d rather say that anyone who feels discriminated and oppressed through this drug war do something about it. Fight. There can be a meeting of just three people to start a union. If you’re three people who have never used drugs and find this to be unfair you can organize and work with other drug users. Work with needle exchange programs. Work with crack distribution programs. Work with methadone clinics. Work with whoever you can because this is a large fight and to be perfectly honest most of America uses drugs. We’ve just decided that some drugs are good drugs and some drugs are bad drugs.

I find that it’s a little discriminating when we decide that it’s not about what drugs you do it’s about how you put them into your body. If we drink our drugs we are OK. If we smoke our drugs there’s something wrong and if you inject your drugs you’re sub-human but they are the same drugs being used in all levels.

So please wake up and fight back.


DEAN BECKER: Well, that’s about it from the Harm Reduction Conference for this year. I want to thank Doug McVay for his fine reporting. I urge you to visit the websites he represents. That is http://drugwarfacts.org and http://csdp.org (Common Sense for Drug Policy). Thanks, Doug.

So to close us out today we have the following:

This is from Breaking the Taboo, a trailer for a movie premiering December 7 th, narrated by Morgan Freeman.


RICHARD NIXON: We must wage what I have called total war against public enemy number one in the United States – the problem of dangerous drugs.

MORGAN FREEMAN: Since 1971 2.5 trillion dollars have been spent on the War on Drugs.

RONALD REAGAN: When we say no to drugs it will be clear that we mean it – absolutely none!

GEORGE H. W. BUSH: Some think there won’t be room for them in jail – we’ll make room.

MORGAN FREEMAN: But today illegal narcotics are purer, cheaper and more available than ever before.

SPEAKER A: I think we totally misunderstand cocaine.

SPEAKER B: If you can’t control drugs in a maximum security prison how can you control drugs in society?

MORGAN FREEMAN: It’s a business worth 320 billion dollars worldwide. Whole nations have been brought to their knees by the War on Drugs. In Mexico alone 47,000 drug-related murders in the last 6 years.

SPEAKER C: These problems are far more important than some futile goal of creating a drug-free society.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Most politicians, their afraid of being accused of being soft on drugs.

MORGAN FREEMAN: But now the ones who have had the guts to change their minds are ready to tell the truth.

BILL CLINTON: If all you do is try to find a police, a military solution to the problem a lot of people die and it doesn’t solve the problem.

SPEAKER D: You cannot make a war against drugs without making a war against people. You cannot make a war against drugs without making a war against people.

MORGAN FREEMAN: It’s time to break the taboo.

BILL CLINTON: Stop the War on Drugs. It hasn’t worked.


DEAN BECKER: You know folks it’s pretty cool when you hear Morgan Freeman echoing the words you’ve been saying for the last decade and more.

I hope that movie gets wide distribution. I’ll be sure to update you to the towns where it will be showing.

You know this outro because you’re living it. There is no justice in this drug war. 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.

Drug Truth programs archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org