12/16/12 Sam Sabzehzar

Sam Sabsehzar of Medical Marijuana 411, Obama re marijuana, Ethan Nadelmann of DPA, CNN report on MJ + Bourbon & Shwartz song "Pee In A Cup"

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Guest: 
Sam Sabzehzar
Organization: 
Medical Marijuana 411
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / December 16, 2012

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ANNOUNCER: The following message is brought to you by the U.S. Ministry of Homeland Security.

[music: sung to Deck the Halls]

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.
Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.

Never forget fear…and hatred…and lies…or deception.

Big brother says the war on terror will last forever.

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DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in a couple of guests to recap the year, recap the Caravan for Peace – the only scenario in which I produced 10 shows in a row in regards to this caravan carrying families of victims from the Mexican part of this U.S. drug war.

I think we have online Mr. Sam Sabsehzar. I’ll have him pronounce that correctly for you. I’ve tried like heck to get it right. He runs a great website, a good informational site where you can get yourself prepared to do your part to end this madness of drug war.

Sam is the co-pilot, if you will, for the LEAP mobile. He and I were driving that thing across America – about 7,000 miles. I’ll let him come on board now and tell us more about his organization, Marijuana 411.

Hey Sam.

SAM SABSEHZAR: Hey Dean. Can you hear me OK?

DEAN BECKER: I hear you good, buddy. Tell them about Marijuana 411.

SAM SABSEHZAR: First of all it’s a pleasure to be on with you. It’s great to hear your voice again. You and I were on the caravan the entire time. It was a wonderful experience. I was brought in from LEAP. They brought Medical Marijuana 411 to help capture on video and get video diaries and work on a film which I’m slowly putting together working with Steve Downing – an amazing LEAP speaker and he is on the board of directors.

DEAN BECKER: Don’t cut yourself short, Sam. You have put together some really good 8 and 12 minute videos that are already up on YouTube, right?

SAM SABSEHZAR: That is correct. You can find them on http://medicalmarijuana411.com and on YouTube and I’ll share them with your audience on your site as well.

DEAN BECKER: You mentioned Steve Downing who is a former Deputy Police Chief of Los Angeles. He traveled with us I think a few thousand miles himself. What should be pointed out is the assistance you’re getting from him is quite valid, powerful because he was the creator and writer for several network TV shows including one of my favorites of all time – MacGyver, correct?

SAM SABSEHZAR: Yes, he wrote a lot of episodes of MacGyver and was one of the producers on it, executive producer. Was phenomenal, of course, to travel with him. He is untiring. He is a LAPD Deputy Chief. I encourage all of your audience to check out an amazing interview that you did with him while we were on the Caravan for Peace. I believe you recorded him while we were in Louisville.

He was with us in L.A. and in San Diego and we met back up with him in Atlanta and he stayed with us for the entire rest of the trip – all the way to Washington, D.C.

DEAN BECKER: Right which was up through Chicago and several places. Hold on a minute, Sam, we’re going to bring in our other traveler from the Caravan for Peace, Mr. Jamie Hoss – a man with a lot of law enforcement experience and a speaker for our band of brothers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Hey Jamie. How are you?

JAMIE HOSS: I’m doing good, Dean. Thanks for having me on the show. How are you doing, Sam?

SAM SABSEHZAR: Good to hear your voice, Jamie.

DEAN BECKER: All I can say no matter how aggravated you may get it’s a family show so let’s just keep that in mind.

Now, Jamie, tell us a bit about your law enforcement experience.

Jamie?

SAM SABSEHZAR: Did we lose Jamie? He has some amazing stories with immigration. We need to get him back on the line.

DEAN BECKER: We did lose Jamie. We’ll get him back.

Sam, let’s talk again about Medical Marijuana 411. It’s not just video from the caravan. This is a news distribution site. It’s a place where you can let people stay in touch with what’s going on, right?

SAM SABSEHZAR: Absolutely. I started http://medicalmarijuana411.com with a friend of mine back in 2009. We started building content. We wanted to take the scientific information that was available and be able to network and spread that information around so people could find out if medical marijuana might be appropriate for an individual with their condition.

I’ll put a video camera in front of somebody and they can share their personal story and how they have a better quality of life now that they’ve found medical marijuana to help treat their condition or the symptoms of their condition. It’s been able to open up an entire dialog for people that would never have tried marijuana as a medicinal regiment.

I feel very blessed to be part of…at the forefront of an emerging science that will slowly come down. I go to a lot of conferences where doctors and nurses attend. They get continuing education credits and continue to learn what the scientists and researchers are saying. I go as a journalist and help capture these moments in real time and to share that with a greater audience.

I want to be able to put it in somewhat of layman’s terms. If someone is dealing with cancer that person can watch a patient’s story of someone else who looks like them, has the same condition as them, sounds like them and shares the same concerns as them. If that person has just found medical marijuana to help them then the person at the other end of the computer carrying that personal story can be one step closer to asking their doctor is medical marijuana might be right for them.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Sam, I wanted to kind of jump to kind of a generic question. We want to sum up the year, to sum up the experience, to sum up the changes that have happened over this past year. Part of it hinges on what you were just talking about and that is providing this information, gleaning it as best you can, making it available has helped to educate and embolden our fellow citizens - to make the progress which I think has become evident this year.

I was wondering if you would kind of talk about that evolution of general consciousness if you will.

SAM SABSEHZAR: Part of what I created http://medicalmarijuana411.com for was to help educate. 411 is for information. We wanted to educate the general public and dispel some of the rumors and lies and misinformation that has been floating around for decades. So when someone goes into a ballot box they’re more educated to cast a vote regarding cannabis policy, medical marijuana, or as we saw this past November when 2 states made very smart decisions to legalize cannabis and end marijuana prohibition in their community.

DEAN BECKER: I’m in Texas. You’re out there in Long Beach, right?

SAM SABSEHZAR: That’s right.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is I see people in California unafraid. Basically what I mean by that is just walking around with a little white convenience store bag full of weed and not giving a rat’s patoot about it. The fact of the matter is in a similar situation in Texas a person could go to prison for years. The consciousness that I was speaking about, the general consciousness is that even in Texas politicians are beginning to recognize that they can’t go down that same failed path forever.

Your response, Sam.

SAM SABSEHZAR: The cost of prohibition is becoming more and more clear everywhere we look whether it’s the prison industrial complex, whether it’s your one square block in your own community. Somebody in your community has been affected by the War on Drugs.

What safe access means to one person in California means something entirely different to your listeners in Texas. One of the things that we are doing is ending prohibition with steps by a thousand cuts in states like Washington and Colorado for recreational purposes and in the 18.5 states for medical marijuana.

Slowly as someone here in a battle state … the people that voted in Washington that represented their constituents in Texas talk to the people that are representing constituents in medical cannabis or cannabis-friendly state. Doctors go to conferences where they hear that other doctors in medical cannabis states are providing an alternative medicine that’s having greater and greater results.

The conversation is becoming more widespread, more mainstream…

DEAN BECKER: …less taboo. Is that right? It’s becoming less taboo right Sam? I mean that’s the point. I wanted to talk about our journey, if you will, across the U.S. I think back on it and it’s pretty amazing. We were in essence glued together there for a month and we made it through alive. We had a minor argument or two but nothing really to…I don’t even remember.

I guess the point I wanted to bring up is that one of the things that we talked about a lot was my theory, my idea that this incrementalism is a killer but I also agreed with you that it’s all we got. Your thought there?

SAM SABSEHZAR: I’d love to be able to see Obama make one executive order that ends drug prohibition and treats everything from the perspective of harm reduction but we also want to have our fights in the War on Drugs, as we fight back, be of a multi-pronged approach. As we create ballot initiatives and lobby legislators and work at the state and the federal level and at the municipal level we are also trying to end the rescheduling of cannabis in Schedule I at the federal level which is a non-incremental approach because in one fell swoop ends the entire house of cards that their arguments are resting on which is, you know, federal enforcing marijuana law because it’s a federal law even though the law is not just.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

Sam, I look at it like this. We have, here in the U.S., done something that no one has ever done before and that is to legalize marijuana in a couple of states. That has enormous ramifications, created waves around the world. Your response in that regard – how it’s impacting us globally.

SAM SABSEHZAR: There’s been a lot of global leaders who have called for an end to the War on Drugs. Unfortunately our politicians in the United States are going to be the slowest to sort of buy that change and be the last to join the global leaders.

I think we have had President Clinton, former President Carter…a few well-spoken dignitaries speak out against the War on Drugs, recognizing that it is a failed policy. I also think that when we do out of one side of our mouth say that federally marijuana is illegal and has no medicinal value everybody knows that’s a joke. Everybody knows that’s a lie. So when states go about saying it and Obama went this past week while speaking to Barbara Walters and said they’re not going to waste their time enforcing people who consume recreational cannabis there still is a long way to go even in those states regarding safe supply - a safe chain of supply from the seller to the consumer.

We have a federal tax code that we have to change. There is a lot of changes that we still have to make and when the rest of the world sees us do that and de-escalate our War on Drugs you’re also going to see a global prison population being reduced because in essence everybody else, the global drug policy is a mirror of our own.

DEAN BECKER: Right, yeah, yeah. Sam, we have lost Jamie. I don’t know what happened to him. I’ll tell you what we’re going to take just another couple minutes. I want you to first off give your website to the listeners. Tell them where they can get better informed.

SAM SABSEHZAR: I appreciate that. http://medicalmarijuana411.com Your listeners can find medical marijuana-related information, patient stories. If they have a condition that they think medical cannabis can help or they know a friend or a loved one that they want to encourage to use medical cannabis.

http://medicalmarijuana411.com is a great resource to share with those who are unfamiliar with this terrain. There’s so many useful benefits to the cannabis plant. As we put it in our body we have a body system that mirrors the plant chemically so when we put the plant in our body it binds to each other like many locks and many keys and it starts our healing process whatever our condition is.

There’s so much more information available on http://medical marijuana411.com where your viewers can see if a medical cannabis regiment is right for them or a loved one.

DEAN BECKER: Real good. Sam, once again, very good to talk with you. That trip across America is something to tell the grandkids someday, isn’t it?

SAM SABSEHZAR: It was an honor to be by your side the whole way. It was a life’s honor to be a part of such an amazing and unique and special moment in time. It really is something to tell the grandkids.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Sam, say your last name for us.

SAM SABSEHZAR: You said it perfectly – Sabsehzar. After 27 cities and 30 days you finally got it.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Once again, Sam Sabsehzar of http://medicalmarijuana411.com

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(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Dehuminization, solitiude, degradation, deprivation, dehydration, starvation, injury, humiliation, torture, suffocation, untimely teenage deaths…

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: The answer is not a drug. It is drug treatment - tough love

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[Dragnet type music]

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first-hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition.

Please visit http://leap.cc

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DEAN BECKER: Courtesy of ABC.

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BARBARA WALTERS: But we also asked the President a very important question about the legalization of marijuana because there are 2 states in which it is legal.

REPORTER: Washington and Colorado. Let’s take a look.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?

BARACK OBAMA: I wouldn’t go that far but what I think is that at this point in Washington and Colorado you’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. As it is the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal.

REPORTER: That’s interesting. So the President doesn’t want a conflict with the states on that even if it’s the Attorney General’s final decision.

BARBARA WALTERS: I asked him about the fact that when he was younger that he smoked marijuana and what does he tell his girls. He says what a lot of parents say, “Don’t make the mistakes that I did.”

REPORTER: The only thing that he can say.

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ETHAN NADELMANN: I’m Ethan Nadelmann. I’m founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: Ethan, today you had a post on the Huffington Post that kind of responds to what President Obama has been saying in regards to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. What was your thought there?

ETHAN NADELMANN: I generally thought his comments were a tentative step in the right direction. Obama could have said, “Look, there’s no discussion here. It’s all illegal under federal law.”

But instead he said that we’re confronting a dilemma. We have to figure out what to do in terms of resolving federal and state law subsequent to Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana and we need, as he said, a conversation.

That I saw as something of an opening. I have to say that I was also encouraged that when he was asked about his thoughts about legalization he said he doesn’t support “at this point” which reminded me a lot of how he responded to questions about his support for gay marriage during the first year of his administration. He’s essentially indicating that he’s not closed to it. Maybe he’s sympathetic as he’s indicating to some people in private but that this is not an issue on which he is going to provide any leadership or extend any political capital.

I will say what does concern me a bit is when he says we need a conversation it’s not clear who is invited to that conversation. Right? You had Attorney General Holder a few days ago up in Boston saying that the Justice Department is about to announce its perspective on the Washington and Colorado initiatives and I haven’t heard about them having a conversation really with people outside of the Justice Department or even outside of the Whitehouse.

So that is some cause for concern as is the fact that the Drug Czar and the people around him appear to have nothing positive whatsoever to say about these developments. It’s all the same kind of rhetoric that we heard from the Bush administration and the Clinton administration in years past.

So if this conversation is just about within the administration, within the Justice Department that’s cause for concern.

Now on the other hand and again the fact that Senator Leahy (who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee) decided to write a letter to the Drug Czar last week and say, “We’re going to hold a hearing on this issue and we think that there is a way to resolve the conflict between federal and state law and can you provide any assurances that local officials in Washington and Colorado will not be prosecuted for implementing the new laws?” Well, all of that was especially encouraging given the fact that neither Senator Leahy nor any of the other 35 Senators representing the 18 states that have legalized medical marijuana has stepped out much at all over the last decade and more.

DEAN BECKER: Ethan, you pointed out that it depends on who’s involved in the conversation as to where and how this moves forward. It brings to mind that there are so many people with understanding and knowledge and science that should be brought into this conversation. Let’s just hope that happens, right?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well I think that’s right. Also what was significant about the Colorado and Washington votes was not just that they became the first 2 states in the country and the first 2 political jurisdictions anywhere to endorse legally regulating marijuana but it’s also by doing so they catapulted the national conversation about marijuana policy to a new level of urgency and political significance.

Obama when asked questions about legalization a couple of years ago would kind of jokingly dismiss it and now he’s got to take these questions very seriously because voters can actually change state laws. It means that conversation is not just about the law it’s also now about politics. It’s about unless a leader is being called out to step up and do the right thing. That’s the position that Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado and Governor Gregoire in Washington State – both of whom I think opposed the initiative – they now have to represent the interest of the public here.

I think we’re at a new ball game right now and things are evolving quickly. I just don’t see federal marijuana policy evolving quickly.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends we’ve been speaking with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann. He’s the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Please check them out at http://drugpolicy.org

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy of CNN

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REPORTER: Celebrations over legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington may prove to be short-lived. The Obama administration is signaling it may step in and actively enforce federal drug laws which still outlaw smoking marijuana. That could create a very tricky political balancing act for President Obama himself.

John Avlon is out front on this story right now. This really is a tightrope for the President, isn’t it?

JOHN AVLON: It really is, Tom, and it’s fascinating. A brand new poll illustrates just what a tough political situation this is. For the first time a narrow majority of Americans, 51%, support legalizing marijuana but here’s where it gets politically interesting. When you break it down by party ID 58% of Democrats and Independents support legalizing marijuana – a clear majority. Only 31% of Republicans do, however.

It’s a fascinating shift where liberals and independents are saying, “Look, state’s rights at least on this issue more individual liberty.” And Republicans are being more traditionalist about their attitudes.

Final point that this poll makes very clear – it’s a generational shift. Just a second ago you were talking about the evolution of this issue of same-sex marriage – same thing with marijuana legalization. Clear majorities of Americans under age 44 supporting legalization but only 35%, however, of senior citizens supporting legalization so a generational trend that is fueling this debate.

REPORTER: Let me ask you a practical question. Here’s a statement from the U.S. Attorney in Seattle. He put this out Wednesday – the day before the law took effect in Washington State. He said, “Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on December 6th in Washington State, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.”

That was what the U.S. Attorney in Seattle said. How are they going to enforce this because you have the Seattle police basically saying, “We’re not going to get involved with that.” Or, at least, hinting they won’t. How would the feds do anything about this?

JOHN AVLON: Tom, this is a huge conflict on the horizon. The Justice Department reasserting that federal law supersedes state law and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 is still in effect. That lists marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic along with heroin, cocaine and LSD.

They’re saying, “Look, congress decided this in 1970. It’s out of our hands.” The Obama administration, the Justice Department have an obligation to enforce the law as it stands and that right now is in direct conflict with 2 states – Washington and Colorado – let alone with the states who have medical marijuana in place which is over 18. One of the criteria for being a Schedule I narcotic, Tom, is that there is no medical use demonstrated.

It is a fascinating conflict between the feds and state’s rights with people voting in these states increasingly to legalize at least medical marijuana.

REPORTER: Is there any sort of spill-over effect that you can see into other laws like immigration issues or gay marriage or anything else like that because I would think that the Whitehouse would not want to be seen as picking and choosing where it decides the federal government is supposed to be in charge.

JOHN AVLON: You’re right but, again, we’re seeing a generational shift on many very contentious cultural issues. In the last segment, same-sex marriage, a generational shift being fought on a state by state level. In marijuana legalization that same generational shift so it’s up to the federal government to reconcile. The President, for example in same-sex marriage – supports state’s rights. Here, too, there is a contradiction.

It’s one of the things that to reconcile this that maybe the courts can do or maybe congress can do is to actually address the fact that Schedule I narcotics do, in this case, may have medical use and at least 18 states have done so. Members of congress like Gerald Polis of Colorado we called him out front on this issue pushing by saying that the Justice Department really has an obligation to try to say that enforcement against individuals in these states will not be a number one priority.

There are so many contradictions which is why this is such a fascinating, still evolving issue – fundamental contradiction between state’s rights and the federal government with President Obama at the helm.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, I want to thank Sam Sabsehzar, http://medicalmarijuana411.com I want to thank Jamie Hoss of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We had some sort of technical difficulties going on. I want to wish everybody happy holidays. Next week we’ll have Steve Downing the creator of MacGyver as our guest. He’s also on the board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Here in just a minute we’re going to close out with a brand new, “Pee in a cup.” This is a song put out by Billy Bourbon and Guy Shwartz formally with the New Jack Hippies. Maybe still is. I don’t know. But it’s a good song. It kind of talks about what we do to one another in the name of drug war and asks what in the hell are we doing.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

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[music]

They want me to pee in a cup.
They want me to pee in a cup.
Well, they want me to pee in a cup just to see if I get high.

They want me to pee in a cup.
They want me to pee in a cup.
Well, they want me to pee in a cup just to see if I get high.

Well, being high I’ve won a war.
Well, being high I’m saved three lives.
Being high I got married – to both my wives.

Worked for the government for 20 years
Back in the good ‘ol days
They never asked me to pee in a cup but I was high
Every single day

Now they want me to pee in a cup.
They want me to pee in a cup.
Well, they want me to pee in a cup just to see if I get high.

They want me to pee in a cup.
They want me to pee in a cup.
Well, they want me to pee in a cup just to see if I get high.

Well now I’m getting old and need a job
I need insurance, too
What I don’t understand is what kind of job they think it is that I can’t do.

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Transcript provided by Jo-D Harrison, http://drugsense.org