02/17/13 Steph Sherrer

Steph Sherrer Dir of Americans for Safe Access re forthcoming Conf in DC, Israel TV clip on Med MJ, Rev Pat Robertson decries drug war, VA AG for MJ

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Guest: 
Steph Sherrer
Organization: 
Americans for Safe Access
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / February 17, 2013

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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!”

DEAN BECKER: 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.

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DEAN BECKER: Like shooting fish in a barrel after you’ve drained the water and the fish are dead laying there on the bottom of the barrel. That’s how easy it is to report on the drug war.

This is Dean Becker and this is Cultural Baggage. Listen up.

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DEAN BECKER: One of my oldest friends in drug reform is Steph Sherer. I met her about 10 years ago. She was then helping to form a new organization to bring respect and common sense to the subject of cannabis and its use. With that I want to welcome Steph Sherer. How are you doing?

STEPH SHERER: I’m doing great, Dean. Thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: As I was saying you helped found ASA. I don’t know the exact hierarchy but you were very instrumental in bringing it to the fore were you not?

STEPH SHERER: Yes. I’m the founder and executive director. We’ve been around for 10 years and it will be 11 in April.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve seen the organization grow. I’ve even been there for a couple of the counter-DEA demonstrations that ASA helps put together. I’ve seen the growth and the respect for your organization over those same 10 years. It’s amazing the progress isn’t it?

STEPH SHERER: Thank you. When you’re in the trenches day to day you don’t always get to appreciate how far we’ve come. Having the 10 year anniversary this year gave me some time to pause and really remember what things were like 10 years ago. Yet we’re still trying to end this federal conflict. It seems like there’s so many raids and people going to prison.

I think if you put that in perspective of when you started ASA there were only about 30,000 Americans that were legal medical marijuana patients. There were only 11 distribution centers in the entire country and they were all in the Bay Area of California. Move forward 10 years and a bunch of grey hairs and we have 18 states with medical marijuana laws. You’ve got the District of Colombia<?> with medical cannabis. There’s over 1 million Americans that are using legal medical cannabis at the state level.

Every day we hear more and more great news. We’re turning a corner of mainstream America. We also have a lot of work to do.

DEAN BECKER: Yes we do but I wanted to, for my own curiosity, you mentioned 11 distribution centers in the Bay Area and now we’re up to thousands across America.

STEPH SHERER: That’s right.

DEAN BECKER: You said we have a lot of work to do and indeed we do. There are still those few recaulitent bastards saying we need to lock them up and all of this madness over a plant that’s never killed anybody. Those people are fewer and fewer as time passes right?

STEPH SHERER: Something that I think that medical cannabis advocates forget about is how much an individual can do to change these laws. Often we sit around and we think about these big conspiracy theories against us. I’m not saying that we don’t – we definitely do. I think that our biggest enemy is that individuals don’t get involved.

When I first opened our office here in D.C. in 2006 I spent some time going around to all of the offices of members of congress that represented medical marijuana states and something I heard time and time again was, “We’re just not hearing about this from our constituents.”

My first reaction was that they were lying to me but then I started incorporating into my public speaking to ask people if they’ve met with their members of congress or their senators or if they’ve even reached out to them and I am always shocked to find that about 1% of the room raises their hands. These are people that …if they’re coming to hear me speak they’re obviously pretty committed to medical cannabis.

I think that our message of Americans for Safe Access is - here I’m leaving for this conference next weekend – it’s up to us. Our representatives aren’t elected to represent the laws of the land. If that were true all of the congressmen of Rhode Island would be protecting laws about not having ice cream cones in your back pocket.

The reality is the elected officials are in Washington and they’re representing their constituents. If you think about everything that’s happening in this country right now and all of the people that they are hearing from they’re not going to just jump on medical cannabis unless their constituents ask them to.

DEAN BECKER: In tandem with that thought is when these laws are up for review or the discussion comes about one of the main players that steps forward and thinks it’s their business to put forward their opinion is law enforcement and prosecutors. They’re just supposed to represent the law not craft the law. Your response?

STEPH SHERER: We definitely see law enforcement lining up for opposition against medical cannabis and I think the thing that we need to remember is yes, law enforcement and everyone involved in the prison industrial complex is there to carry out the laws of the land. It isn’t their job to create policy. I’m definitely always frustrated to see how active they are but the truth is if an elected official heard from a patient as often as they heard from law enforcement they would be hearing another side of the story.

It’s easy for us (especially those of us who aren’t in Washington, D. C.) to think that the DEA, law enforcement and Partnership for Drug Free America are constantly walking the halls of congress lobbying against us. Someone who has been in D.C. for over 6 years now it’s just not the case.

What’s really happening on the 101 basis is that these agencies are meeting with our elected officials on a regular basis and when medical cannabis comes up they definitely say their opinions to the elected officials. The optimism I have after 10 years of trying to push a compromise between the feds and the states is that we haven’t all done our part.

If just a percentage of the 80% of Americans that believe that patients should have access to medical cannabis called their members of congress and told them that they wanted them to change the federal laws we would be having a much different dialogue with the federal government.

I know that there is definitely an opposition mounted against us and I know that there is often severe discrimination for those of us who use medical cannabis but no one else is going to do this for us. There may be a couple billionaires that will help pass a law but in each one of these states where the laws have changed it’s patient advocates that are implementing these laws, that are making sure that regulations get passed and working with city government.

I would just encourage anyone that’s listening that cares about medical cannabis and wants to see safe access for every American to really think about what they can do to help that change happen. For me I always say I can complain as much as I do.

If I’m out there I get some latitude to be able to complain about things not changing. If you’re just sitting around with friends and talking about how things aren’t changing know that part of that is because you are not being active and being a part of that change.

DEAN BECKER: The evidence is becoming more evident, more glaring, more obvious to many people including major members of the press, broadcasters, newspapers that are starting to embrace the truth that ASA and I have been putting over these past 10 or 12 years and it has, I hope, given the viewers and the readers the ability to quote, to utilize that information and put it in a letter to their congressman and stand with some authority in stating their opinion that this all needs to change.

The point I’m wanting to get at is the evidence is out there. If these listeners want to write that letter please do. Quote somebody important. Impress your congressman with the truth that’s out there.

Recently I ran across a couple of videos of a young girl (7-years-old) with cancer undergoing chemotherapy but she uses cannabis. In this video she had just finished a bout of chemotherapy and she was sitting there eating french fries and seemed happy as could be and she said it was because her cannabis medicine. It was Russ Belleville who asked her if people should be afraid. She responded, “No, don’t be afraid. It’s not dangerous.”

This coming from a 7-year-old. Your response, Steph?

STEPH SHERER: Other countries know this well. In Israel oncologists work very closely with their patients no matter what their age is and make sure that cannabis is part of their therapy. I think that for medical cannabis advocates…we’re working up against a long-term war against this plant and even though that war definitely has some major players in it the reality is individuals in this country have also had bad experiences with marijuana.

It’s really up to individuals to get the science and experience to the people and explain that just because your teenage son was using marijuana and dropped out of high school it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be able to have it for medical use. The more that we see these stories of these brave patients I think it touching America. I think that people are seeing that the current marijuana policies are not going to work for everyone.

DEAN BECKER: If folks wanted to learn more about this forthcoming conference tell them where they need to go on the web, please.

STEPH SHERER: You can visit our website, http://americansforsafeaccess.org You can click on the conference logo on the home page. It’s a 4 day conference starting February 22nd through the 25th. We have advocates coming from all over the country. We have people registered from 32 different states.

Everyone who comes to the conference will be networking, doing training. If you’ve never met with your elected official and you’re nervous we’re going to have training sessions to prepare you to meet with your elected official.

If you register for the conference we’re setting up meetings for you with your members of congress and your senators. You get an opportunity, in many cases, to meet with your congressman directly but sometimes with their senior staff who are actually the ones who do all the day to day work.

It’s an amazing opportunity for us to bring our collective voices to Washington. You can check out the agenda. I think there is something for everyone at this conference. Again it’s http://americansforsafeaccess.org

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[music]

DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy JN1, Israeli television.

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REPORTER: Israeli medical marijuana patients say that the growth and sale of the drug which is now allowed by Israelis Ministry of Health for patients with a doctor’s prescription stamped by the state is helping relieve severe pain.

DISPENSARY EMPLOYEE: We’re allowed to give them an amount that is set in their prescription and license. We’re allowed to sell them this amount once in every calendar month.

REPORTER: Reefka Halope, an 85-year-old who has suffered from arthritis for many years, said the pains he used to experience was unbearable. She says the 2 capsules of highly concentrated cannabinoid, a major constituent of the marijuana plant, which she takes medicinally three times per day has drastically improved her situation.

The medical marijuana taken by patients like Halope is grown in one of the nation’s largest marijuana raising houses in Northern Israel. Researchers say that through cross breeding they’ve successfully created 12 strains of marijuana with increased levels of CBD – a chemical substance said to fight inflammation - and significantly reduce the levels of THC – the plants psychoactive effects.

Some have accused big pharmaceutical firms of trying to block medical marijuana from gaining respect in the medical community but the plant is slowly making its way into medicine cabinets. Israeli health authorities are now analyzing its export potential.

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(Game show music)

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

Loss of personal freedom, family and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mind set in a dangerous world. This drug’s peaceful, easy feeling can be habit forming.

(((gong)))

Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa.

Made by God. Prohibited by man.

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DEAN BECKER: Thanks to CBN this is the Reverend Pat Robertson along with some sound bites from Grover Norquist and some other former drug warriors.

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PAT ROBERTSON: We here in America make up 5% of the world’s population but we make up 25% of jailed prisoners. Even though these prisoners may have been sentenced by some court for some offense – should they be behind bars?

Here’s the thing. We have now over 3,000 – the number must be much higher than that – but over 3,000 federal crimes and every time the liberals pass a bill I don’t care what it involves they stick criminal sanctions on it. They don’t feel that there’s any way that people are going to keep a wall unless they can put them in jail and so we have the jails filled with people that are white collar criminals.

I became sort of the hero of the hippie culture when I said I think we ought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana. I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and then they get turned into hard core criminals because they have a possession of a very small amount of a controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy.

We’ve said that we’re conservatives. We’re tough on crime. That’s baloney. It’s costing us billions and billions of dollars. California is spending more money on prisons than it spends on schools. There is something wrong about that equation, you know?! There’s something wrong.

I think we need to scrub the federal code and the state code and take away these criminal penalties. There’s restitution. There’s all kinds of fines. There’s all kinds of things you could do but putting people in jail at a huge expense to the population is insanity.

Well, Paul Strand tells us about a coalition that seems to be agreeing with me on this one. Paul…

PAUL STRAND: Only about 30% of America’s prisoners are considered dangerous to be a threat to society.

MALE: 2.5 million people in prison with 62% there for soft, non-offensive drug convictions.

PAUL STRAND: That combined with a price tag close to 300 billion dollars to capture, convict and jail those prisoners has folks from both the left and the right questioning if there’s a better, smarter way.

Few issues in these devisive times can bring liberals and conservatives together but who we choose to punish and how has such a high cost to individual and society’s pocketbook that it has brought liberals and conservatives together in the new joint effort at prison reform.

PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton Professor Cornell West want to reform a system they believe sweeps far too many poor folks and people of color behind bars while doing little to educate them.

CORNELL WEST: It’s more priorities – prisons over education.

TAVIS SMILEY: We have to do something about these persons who need help as opposed to being locked up.

PAUL STRAND: Groups from across the political spectrum are joining with them to push for radically changing who America imprisons.

MALE: How much do we spend on incarceration? Are we getting our money’s worth? What is the cost-benefit analysis when somebody gets sentenced to prison.

PAUL STRAND: Both sides agree it wastes tons of tax payer dollars plus human capital as it imprisons and warps people who could otherwise still contribute to society.

MALE: The skills they learn to survive inside our violent prisons make them more dangerous when they get out so we’re undercutting public safety by sending low-risk offenders to prison.

MALE: It is time to switch. It is time to stop being tough and stupid. It is time to be smart and safe.

MALE: We have prisons for people we are afraid of but we have been filling them with folks we’re just mad at.

PAUL STRAND: Two of the gentlemen that fit in that category that we’re not afraid of but just mad at are here at Prison Fellowship. One of them was a Whitehouse official in prison for one of the most famous scandals of the 20th century – Watergate.

Lawyer Chuck Colson played the role of ruthless operative in Richard Nixon’s Whitehouse becoming a convict after Watergate humbled him and he surrendered his life to Christ.

CHUCK COLSON: I was in prison running the washing machine next door to the former director of the American Medical Association. He’s running the dryer.

PAUL STRAND: Colson said they lost their freedom and society lost a lot too as they did nothing but wash and dry clothes.

CHUCK COLSON: It’s ridiculous. I could have been helping inmates who are poor and needed legal services or former inmates. He could have been delivering babies in the city. There’s all kinds of alternatives.

PAUL STRAND: The Prison Fellowship founder believes crime has to be punished.

CHUCK COLSON: The taxpayers don’t have to be punished in the process. When you put a guy like me in prison you end up spending $40,000 per year to support that person. He’s not doing a thing. He could be producing things and paying back his victims.

PAUL STRAND: Prison Fellowship Vice President Pat Nolan once led the Republicans in the California Assembly before pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge and going to prison. He says non-violent offenders like he was can still be useful if they are punished out in the community.

PAT NOLAN: They can support their family. They can keep a job. They can pay taxes.

CHUCK COLSON: So some states with tough on crime Texas taking the lead are working to turn things around. The goal – imprison only the truly dangerous while punishing and rehabilitating everyone else on the outside.

MALE: Texas is really ground zero for cooperation between Tea Party activist and NAACP activist on these issues.

MALE: They are able to take 3 prisons off the table that they had in the budget and use that money for drug treatment programs and mental health facilities for people in the community- a third of it went to that and two thirds of it went to help solve their budget problems.

PAUL STRAND: This coalition of left and right points out these states are saving money. They are also seeing their crime rates drop lower than the states who keep building more prisons. The fact that these reforms have brought left and right together still raises eyebrows like those of a legislator who once cornered Colson.

LEGISLATOR: He said, “I thought you were conservative.” I said I am. He said, “Aren’t you for lock ‘em up?” I said not when they’re not doing any danger to me. I just want to lock up dangerous people.

PAUL STRAND: Paul Strand for CBN News reporting from Prison Fellowship from Landsdown, Virginia.

PAT ROBERTSON: I sat on a task force on victims of violent crime. We heard testimony all over the country of things that are happening. One testimony in Washington struck us. As I recall this person said there are about 560 really violent people here in the district and if we locked them up everything else would be fine.

You would have crime but there wouldn’t be the terrible loss of life and the things that are happening if you concentrated on these really violent people. That’s what is needed.

We had a tremendous Prison Ministry here at CBN. I was down in Rayford and spoke to the maximum security people and saw those people. Folks we’ve got to do something about this. We’ve just got to change the laws. We cannot allow this to continue. It is sapping our vitality.

Think of this great land of freedom but we have the highest rate of incarceration of any nation on the face of the earth. That’s a shocking statistic and what is we are doing? We are turning a bunch of liberals loose writing laws and it seems like there’s this punitive spirit. They always want to punish people. Well, you can do that with restitution. One of the nicest things that we found is that if a person hurts someone then let that person confront the one that they have injured and then work to restore what has been taken away.

If that person has been injured then let the offender work to earn the money to pay the hospital bill. One of my associates on this says it’s like the lilies in Jesus’s parable that they need to toil do they spin. They don’t do anything. They just sit around these prisons. They do nothing.

It’s time for change.

FEMALE: That statistics are clear. Something has to be done and needs to be done quickly. It’s been like this for a long time.

PAT ROBERTSON: More and more prisons, more and more crime – it’s just shocking especially this business about drug offenses. It’s time we stop locking up people for possession of marijuana. We just can’t do it anymore.

FEMALE: We can’t just pick and choose our drugs of choice.

PAT ROBERTSON: That’s right. You don’t lock ‘em up for boozin’ unless they kill someone on the highway.

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This is the Abolitionists Moment.

Just over one hundred years old, the drug war give no pretense of ultimate success. Deaths, from both contaminated drugs and turf battles, are on the rise. More lives are being ruined by AIDS and Hep. C. Terrorists are thriving. Cartels continue reaping their bloody harvest and the US gangs afford their high powered weaponry, by selling dubious concoctions to addict our children. Surely there must be a better way.

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DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy NBC

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ANCHOR: Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is raising eyebrows tonight saying he may support legalizing pot. Ryan Nobles is here with more with the man who hopes to be Virginia’s next governor told the class of college students, some politically-aware students…

RYAN NOBLES: There’s no doubt about that Sabrina. Cuccinelli was speaking to Larry Sabinole’s political science students at UVA and he told the students that he was open to the idea of making marijuana legal.

It may have caught the students at the University of Virginia by surprise. The conservative Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, open to the idea of legalizing marijuana. He’s answer came after a student asked what he thought about the drug being made legal in Colorado and Washington.

“I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing.” Said Cuccinelli. “I think that’s the role of states.”

Larry Sabito who invited Cuccinelli to speak couldn’t believe what he’d heard.

LARRY SABITO: Frankly if people hear that whole answer it may change his image somewhat. It was not “stick in the mud” – that’s for sure. It was suggestive of a willingness to change marijuana policies in Virginia eventually.

RYAN NOBLES: While Cuccinelli holds personal conservative convictions on any number of issues he almost always prefers states to make the final call. Another example – gay marriage.

In 2011 the candidate for governor told me that he’s personally opposed to same sex marriage but believes save for a constitutional amendment it shouldn’t be banned by the federal government.

KEN CUCCINELLI: Frankly I believe that it’s worth some consideration for things that aren’t reached by the federal constitution to just leave it to each state.

RYAN NOBLES: So in a race where both candidates are well known it is clear that we have so much to learn.

ANCHOR: And Cuccinelli comments have drawn quite a reaction. Tell us what you think about his willingness to consider legalization of pot by going to facebook.com/nbc12news.

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MALE: It is the safest thing in the world. That is a quote. It is not mine. It is the Drug Czar’s via his advertisement.

REPORTER: SAFER now has the quote on a billboard and the Drug Czar speaking in Denver today says it is misleading and dishonest.

GIL KERLIKOWSKE: I never said that. What I said to you today is what I tried to say to fill that point. Marijuana is the single biggest cause of social substance abuse problems among illegal drugs in the United States today.

MALE: The ads that they were running telling how dangerous marijuana was were not having any effect and now the Drug Czar has simply resorted to acknowledging it’s a relatively benign substance but you’re a loser if you use that drug.

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DEAN BECKER: I want to thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I will be reporting next week from the Americans for Safe Access conference. Again, that website if you want to attend is http://americansforsafeaccess.org

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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DEAN BECKER: 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… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org