04/28/13 Robert Raich

Century of Lies

Robert Raich Atty who took cannabis cases to US Supreme Court, Gavin Newsom Lt Gov of CA, CBS & Wash Post lean to cannabis solution, song "War on Drugs is a Failure"

Audio file


Century of Lies / April 28, 2013


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: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Century of Lies. This week we’ve got a report from the Washington Post, Supreme Court Attorney Robert Raich, a little bit from the Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsome, and a segment from CBS News – all designed to rip your heart out, put it back together and put you to work ending the drug war.


DEAN BECKER: This segment courtesy of the Washington Post.


BROOK SILVA-BRAGA: There are few things harder for a parent than a sick child and there are few conditions crueler than epilepsy which, at its worse, can cause hundreds of seizures a day. It’s kind of a race against time for parents because each seizure chips away at the chances of their child ever living a normal life.

Today there are thousands of adults with the mental capacity of small children all because nothing could stop their constant seizures.

So how far would you go to combat epilepsy in your own child? Producer Gabe Silverman introduces us to two families whose desperation has led them to an unlikely answer.

JOE ROLLINS: In high school I had a dream that I had a disabled daughter and she was in a wheelchair and I took her up on the roof top and I was showing her all the stars and it was a very intimate moment with me and my daughter.

She had dark hair and she was in a wheelchair – that was the two most distinct things.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: This is Emily – the girl of Joe’s dreams. Here she is at her best – smiling and playing with her father. And this is Emily at her darkest moments – her body convulsing and jackknifing with uncontrollable seizures.

The months after Emily’s birth seemed relatively normal. She seemed to be a healthy baby but all that changed when Erica and Joe Rollins brought Emily to the doctor for a routine checkup.

ERICA ROLLINS: She did one of her little jerky spells for the pediatrician and he knew immediately what it was. He was very calm but you could see the panic in his eyes. He stuck his head outside the door and told his nurses to call 911.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Emily was diagnosed with infantile spasms – a condition that can cause dozens even hundreds of seizures a day.

ERICA ROLLINS: We kept a daily journal and we would just do little dash marks for her seizures. On the worst days would be 3 to 400 seizures a day easily. On those days we would have to flip the page and start a new page for one day.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Erica and Joe say it’s a race against time. Without controlling her seizures Emily’s development can be set back even further. She’s already bound to a wheelchair and although she has strong limbs she can’t even hold up her own head.

ERICA ROLLINS: She gets these both twice a day. It doesn’t help much.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: The Rollins’ have tried more than a dozen different treatments. None seem to work long-term and each came with a significant price tag. Along with doctor bills and medical equipment the cost to treat Emily became too much.

ERICA ROLLINS: We went from being the picture-perfect family minus the picket fence to having to be on food stamps and needing to file bankruptcy. It’s all because of this diagnosis.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Joe and Erica were at their wits end when they heard about a controversial yet seemingly effective drug that helps children control their seizures – medical marijuana.

HEATHER JACKSON: Statistically after you fail 2 anti-seizure medications you have about a 12% chance of finding a medication that will work. After 4 the statistic is .8% that you’ll find an anti-seizure medication and we’ve been through 17 different treatments.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Heather Jackson intimately understands the desperation Joe and Erica feel. Her son Zaki also suffers from a rare seizure disorder called Dosa Syndrome.

HEATHER JACKSON: Anything within reason we would have tried to stop the seizures. It really is a battle and it’s not to be melodramatic but Zaki meets 8 of the 10 related risk factors for SUDEP death which is Sudden Unexplained Death in epilepsy.

We were really against the clock to get the seizures to stop.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: With seemingly no options left Heather turned to marijuana. The plant contains hundreds of compounds but the doctors are focusing on one group in particular called cannabidiol or CBD for short.

HEATHER JACKSON: The night before we started CBD he had about 200 seizures. The night we started CBD we didn’t feel any seizures at all. On October 3 rd was Zaki’s last seizure so we’ve been over 5 months seizure free right now.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: This isn’t the longest Zaki’s gone seizure free. He was able to control them for 8 months using a regiment of steroids but it came with a significant toll on his body. One Heather believed was too much for her son.

HEATHER JACKSON: When he started steroids he was 29 pounds. When he finished his course he was 66 pounds. He does have cataracts which is a side effect of long-term steroid use.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Zaki takes about 100 mg of cannabis crushed up in an oil. According to Heather each batch is lab tested to ensure that CBD levels are high and the amount of psychoactive chemicals is very low.

To see where Zaki’s treatment is cultivated we drove about an hour west into the mountains to meet the growers.

JOSH STANLEY: We’re helping about 30 kids right now with epilepsy with a waiting list of probably about 200 and more and more added every day.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: For decades growers have tried raising the level of THC. It’s the recreational chemical that the drug is known for but now growers like Josh Stanley are trying to breed up the cannabidiol compound while limiting the plant’s psychoactive potency.

JOSH STANLEY: What we’re really doing is we’re taking cannabidiol or CBD and we’re flipping the switch on it. Instead of focusing on the high THC we’re turning it around and focusing on high CBD and focusing on the medical values and medical benefits with non-psychoactive effects which means that not even enough to get an ant stoned.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Josh Stanley and his brothers are one of the many growers in Colorado taking advantage of what’s been called the “green rush” and while they have many dispensaries they also operate Realm of Caring - an organization that tries to help children like Zaki and Emily by breeding plants tailored to their needs. It’s a practice that is time consuming and not terribly exact.

JOSH STANLEY: Do we do clinical studies? Is this all tested in a FDA/DEA- approved laboratory? The answer to that is sadly no. We with is were. We wish we had those capabilities. We wish we knew why it worked so well but we don’t. This is all anecdotal evidence but I would say it’s pretty strong anecdotal evidence.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Doctors and growers seem to be stumped as to why CBD works. Some research suggests that using CBD controls seizures. The U.S. government even holds a patent that calls CBD a neuroprotectant but the hard science to explain why it works is still a mystery.

ALAN SHACKELFORD: We know that CBD is not psychoactive. We know that it is apparently remarkable in its ability to act as a neurostabalizer. We know that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Dr. Shackelford has used cannabis to treat a handful of children with severe seizure disorders. He’s the physician that the Rollins’ turned to to help guide them through the process.

ALAN SHACKELFORD: In Colorado anyone under 18 requires 2 physicians to evaluate them.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Of all the patients Dr. Schackelford has treated with medical cannabis he says the results with children with seizures has been most surprising.

ALAN SHACKELFORD: The effects that I’m seeing are dramatic enough that I’m beginning to think that it could be potentially a first line or maybe second line treatment option.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: For marijuana to become a widely-used first line of defense it must overcome several societal hurdles. It is still illegal at the federal level and considered a Schedule I drug. The majority of states haven’t legalized medical cannabis and even in states that have there is still skepticism.

A recent study done in Colorado showed that the majority of family physicians feel marijuana poses serious mental and physical health risks.

Even if it becomes a first line of defense for future patients in some ways it’s too late for Zaki. Developmentally the 10-year-old is closer to 4. Zaki will never fully recover but Heather says it’s the small victories that matter.

HEATHER JACKSON: The concepts that he did know would come and go so he may know his colors one week and then the next week they’re gone. He may know how to write his name one week and then the next week it’s gone so we’ve been dealing with that and re-teaching and re-teaching his whole life and know that he wasn’t toilet trained prior to starting so we had a 9-year-old who is still in Pullups all the time and trying to teach him his colors and trying to teach him his name.

Now he is toileting while he’s awake. He knows his colors. He knows how to write his name. He’s having some letter recognition and some number recognition so the future is really bright.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: But that hasn’t stopped Heather from asking “What if?” What if there wasn’t a stigma surrounding the drug and what if they had tried it sooner?

HEATHER JACKSON: If we could have stopped them sooner – 500,000 seizures ago – his life would look totally different.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Colorado has seen a boom in the medical use of cannabis. Of the 100,000 plus patients under 40 of them are minors but that number is said to tick up higher as parents move to Colorado to treat their children.

ERICA ROLLINS: We don’t want to do anything illegally so to do it legally and through the right channels we had to move 1,100 miles from home and leave everything that we’ve ever known.

GABRIEL SILVERMAN: Joe and Erica are originally from Indiana where medical marijuana is still against the law.

ERICA ROLLINS: We left every bit of it behind just on a whim to try to save our daughter.

JOE ROLLINS: About 6 months ago before we came out here I had another dream that my daughter was cured by something that was natural.


REPORTER: You are by talking to us in this way potentially putting yourself in legal jeopardy.

WOMAN: This was a very difficult decision to make – coming out on camera and talking to your audience and saying I use medicinal marijuana.

REPORTER: If somebody said to you 7 years ago you’re going to be a prominent advocate for medicinal marijuana….

WOMAN: Nobody thinks they’re going to do this and nobody wants to be doing this. I hope nobody ever has to do this again.

REPORTER: Fanning is using the time she has left on her family and her cause.

WOMAN: I know I’m going to die. But I know that while I can still do this I can make a difference.

REPORTER: Fanning, the mother of two, has also been parenting daughters of her college sweetheart. They married Saturday night but postponed their honeymoon so that she could testify at a hearing to initiate the creation of a legal path for the distribute marijuana to eligible patients in Connecticut.

I’m Jeff Glore, CBS News.


DEAN BECKER: The following segment recorded at the California Democratic Convention. The speaker is California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome.


GAVIN NEWSOME: I think it’s time for politicians of all stripes to come out of the closet. I think it’s time to decriminalize, to tax and regulate marijuana. It’s time.

[crowd cheering loudly]

It’s time to own up to the fact that our drug laws have done more harm than good. The War on Drugs is an abject failure.

In 2011 alone in this country three-quarters of a million people in the United States were arrested for marijuana law violations with 87% for simple possessions. Listen to me closely on this – African American children are 10 times more likely to get arrested for drug crimes than their white counterparts even though white children are more likely to abuse drugs. Those are the facts.

We send (you can’t make this up) we send a higher percentage of African-American males to prison and jail in this country than we do to college and universities in California. You can’t make this up.

I hope you’re with me. After 42 years of failure this is a time we need to concede that if we continue to do what we’ve done we will continue to receive what we have. We and you all deserve better.

It’s about standing up on principle. It’s about having the courage of our convictions. It’s about saying publically what all too often we say privately just as we did in 2004 in San Francisco.

We now stand on the prefaces of history with a Supreme Court just months away from deciding the fate of DOMA and proposition 8. As early as this summer we will right the wrong of DOMA and allow loving couple regardless of their sexual orientation to live their lives out loud and to say those 2 magical words, “I do.”

Just months away. Let me say this, Democrats, that court decision is a reminder that the future is not just in front of us it’s inside of every single one of you. It’s a reminder we don’t have to accept existing conditions we can make decisions that will determine our fate in the future. Decisions that can bend the arc of history as Doctor King so eloquently asserted towards justice.

Thank you all very, very much.


ROBERT RAICH: My name is Robert Raich. I’m a lawyer. I work primarily in medical cannabis. That’s a brand new area of law. It’s a little specialty that didn’t even exist 17 years ago until Prop 215 was passed here in California in 1996.

Gradually my practice expanded and over time that’s become virtually all I do. I’m the lawyer who, among other things, took both of the cannabis cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.

DEAN BECKER: Robert, you’re former wife, Angel, and Diane Monson did indeed take their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. We had a recent ruling from the FDA first circuit or some court that said they are not going to look at medical marijuana. Help me out here – you know what I’m talking about.

ROBERT RAICH: It’s absolute craziness. The idea that if you are a medical researcher and want to work with medical cannabis to try to find what benefits it may have for patients is practically impossible in the United States. It’s ironically harder to do medical research with cannabis – a natural plant that grows out of the ground – than it is with any number of other Schedule I Controlled Substances that might really be dangerous drugs.

I could name some but if you want to do research with them it will be easier to than with cannabis even though cannabis is widely available – practically any high school student can get his hands on it yet if you, as an actual medical researcher, want to work with it to do bona fide scientific studies you won’t be able to.

The reason is because the federal government has a unique requirement for marijuana research that you have to obtain the supply of the medicine from NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). NIDA requirement if you want to do research on MDMA, LSD, any other drug – not required. NIDA will not provide you with its cannabis that it has a monopoly on if you’re planning on doing research that has in any way show a potential benefit of the medicine.

They’ll be happy to let you do research if you’re study is designed to show problems with cannabis but not if it might prove beneficial.

As a result of that researchers have wanted there to be an alternate resource for the supply of this substance which is widely available and the Court of Appeals just said that they don’t care about that. They will still allow NIDA to keep its monopoly and will not allow a bona fide medical researcher at the University of Massachusetts to have another supply of marijuana that would be available to other researchers in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: You talk about the 3 monkeys – deaf, dumb and blind – and I think that could kind of stand in for the government. Not only do they not want research done but the Drug Czar is mandated when he signs his contract to avoid any discussion or debate which might reveal positive aspects to drugs and especially marijuana. Your response there, Robert?

ROBERT RAICH: I think our official government response to drugs in general, marijuana in particular, is absolutely dysfunctional. The fact that science, medicine, facts in general might get in the way of their preconceived idea of the way they want things has really set us back and over decades, frankly, has caused untold suffering to people in the United States.

We’ve known for decades that cannabis can really provide benefits to people with cancer as just one example. Cancer, which has killed hundreds of thousands of patients in the United States during that time, wouldn’t it be nice if some simple medicine, natural medicine could be made available?!

Yeah, if you’re a patient that is suffering…not so much if you’re a drug warrior and you need to keep control, keep people in your jails. Not so much if you’re a pharmaceutical company who is looking for artificial medicines that they can patent. But that’s not good policy for the people of the United States.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the policy makers are co-opted by interests that would try to keep Americans in pain and disease rather than letting people have access to this natural substance. It has a mild psychoactive effect. That’s a shame but that is the state of affairs in the United States now.

DEAN BECKER: You are in California. You have seen many astounding changes to the public attitudes, perceptions and implementation of medical cannabis laws and we have still…the federal government is still chomping at the heels of anybody who “makes profit.” That’s the big sledge hammer these days isn’t it?

ROBERT RAICH: The idea about profit is curious to me. Here we have these supposed conservatives or capitalist who are happy to let there be profit in any other industry you can imagine, are happy to privatize things that might otherwise be public but when it comes to our particular industry involving medical cannabis which is legal in 18 states and the District of Columbia, for some reason profit is something they don’t want which is odd.

If we want to promote innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, provide benefits under our capitalist system of economy you’d think that promoting the profit motive would actually be beneficial for the way we do things in the United States.

Let me give you a couple of examples. In Colorado, for example, most of their business in the medical cannabis industry is LLC. There’s no pretext in Colorado that you’re not supposed to operate for profit. By most accounts it’s been a fairly successful program in Colorado relative to other cannabis states.

On the other hand in California there’s a widely held misconception, in my opinion, that profit is not allowed under state law for medical cannabis participants and, in a lot of ways, we don’t have an optimal system. Seeing a backlash created in certain areas of the states – in particular Southern California, Los Angeles – because there is just a proliferation of medical cannabis businesses that are not operating in a discreet manner.

This, despite that it is supposedly profit is not allowed in a lot of people’s minds. I think if we had a better, more reasonable regulatory system in California it would be better for everybody – the patients who need the medicine as well as people who don’t want to quite see it happen so much.

That’s happening despite this issue about profit but what surprises me about our system when it comes to our specific industry somehow they think it would be better for everybody if profit were not allowed yet every other industry there is no pretext about profit.

DEAN BECKER: I hear grumblings within reform talking about that despite our best efforts to implement laws that would tax and control that politicians keep stepping in trying to reconfigure how the law is to be worked and what pitfalls may accompany it and that certain reformers are saying that the next vote should just be legalize. Your thought there.

ROBERT RAICH: We have seen real sea change in recent months. Public opinion supports legalization of marijuana in a way that we’ve never seen before – at least since the 1930s when marijuana was made illegal in the first place under the federal level.

In fact when the word marijuana was coined at all it was meant to be a racist term, quite frankly, to demonize what otherwise had been recognized as a beneficial substance called cannabis medically or hemp industrially – the people were familiar with and had been for centuries.

Since then we’ve only now recently seen a critical mass of the population recognizing that it would be better to come to grips with this relatively benign, natural substance, a plant and let it be available to people who need it, realizing that our own current system of dealing with this is creating more harm than good. Certainly it’s not more beneficial for somebody to have a criminal record and go to jail for possessing a plant than whatever harm may be caused by the plant itself.

The plant is fairly benign as I mentioned. It has never killed anybody from overdose in the history of the world.

I think that when people think, in general, of legalization it’s a little different than when they are ready to vote for a specific initiative or a specific bill. The two states that, as of this moment, have legalized marijuana (Colorado and Washington State) have done so through the initiative process.

When it comes to drug policy reform the people are way out ahead of the politicians. It’s much harder to see state legislators willing to go out on a limb and support good policy on this issue than voters in the privacy of a voting booth.

So while I think it’s important that we’re now seeing a majority nationwide support this as in so many issues the vested interest of politicians still are not ready to do what the voters are willing to recognize as the best thing.

One thing that we need to do as reformers is keep that pressure up so that we will inevitably have a much more saner policy sooner rather than later. We’re optimistic now but still a whole lot of work is yet to be done.


DEAN BECKER: Next segment courtesy of the New York Times - Ron Paul, Chris Christie, Governor Cuomo and many others…we have a great new song sweeping the nation, “The War on Drugs is a Failure.”




We need to repeal the whole War on Drugs. It isn’t working. We don’t have to have more courts and more prisons. This has to change.

Prohibition didn’t work. Prohibition on drugs doesn’t work. We have spent over 400 billion dollars.

It’s a waste of money.

We need to come to our senses.

Let’s put down the guns.

We need to come to our senses. We don’t treat alcoholics like this. We need to come to our senses.

We don’t treat alcoholics like this.

Too many people doing time. When did recreation become a crime?

These bright-eyed kids were sent into prison. They go in super heroes and come out super villains. Take out a dealer and 10 more appear so let’s pay with cure and cancer and pay within a year.

We need to come to our senses.

Of 50,000 arrests 82% are black and Hispanic. These arrests stigmatize, criminalize making it harder to find a job, making it harder to get into school, making it harder to turn their lives around. It must end and it must end now.

The War on Drugs while well-intentioned has been a failure. We’re warehousing people every day in state prisons without treatment, sending them back onto the street and wondering why they don’t get better, why they commit crimes again.

The War on Drugs is a failure. We don’t treat alcoholics like this. The War on Drugs is a failure. We don’t treat alcoholics like this.


DEAN BECKER: Question for you…how long should the drug war last? I say that’s too long. In closing I remind you that there is no legitimacy to this drug war. It’s a fabrication of men who died long ago. 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: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org