10/20/13 Mikki Norris

Mikki Norris and Chris Conrad of the new online news service TheLeafOnline.com + Clay Jones changes Houston commissioners minds on minor pot charges + Doug McVay with Drug War Facts on overdoses and Nalaxone

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Guest: 
Mikki Norris
Organization: 
The Leaf Online
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / October 20, 2013

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[music]

DEAN BECKER: 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: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m glad you could be with us. You know the drug war is showing its scars, showing its wounds – if you will. There are a lot of folks that are speaking more boldly, more often about this need for change. It’s happening all around the United States and where it’s happening first and foremost is in regards to marijuana.

I would like to bring in our guests. I think we have two of them online now - Mr. Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris of the organization The Leaf. With that I want to welcome you guys. How are you doing?

CHRIS CONRAD: I’m doing good.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, that’s Chris Conrad.

Chris, you guys had the print version for quite some time of the West Coast Leaf – I think it was called, right?

CHRIS CONRAD: That’s correct.

DEAN BECKER: Due to the ramifications of I think law enforcement there was a little hiatus there and you guys have now just this week kicked it back online, correct?

MIKKI NORRIS: Hi Dean. This is Mikki. Just one correction. We were not harassed by law enforcement. That was not the part of our decision to stop the print of the publication.

CHRIS CONRAD: Actually, it was almost quite to the contrary because of Obama’s claim that they were going to start going after publications we were kind of winding down when he said that and so we didn’t want it to look like we were caving in to that because we consider it to be a bullying move on his part. That was just kind of unfortunate timing.

The fact of the matter is we had originally agreed to do this for 5 years to try to improve the quality of news coverage on the issue. We felt we had accomplished a lot of that. Also we were victims of our own success more than anything else I would say.

I don’t know if you get this on your program because you don’t have the same distribution cost but for us we had so many people who wanted to get the newspaper that we couldn’t afford to send out as many copies as people wanted to get. We grew so big and so fast and had so much demand that we thought the only way that we could meet that demand was online at this stage.

DEAN BECKER: Well, OK. I’m sorry about my confusion on that. It’s hard to monitor what goes on out in Oakland or San Francisco...

CHRIS CONRAD: Actually, I’m glad you gave us the opportunity to bring that up because a lot of people have thought different things like related to the raid in Oaksterdam and everything.

The fact of the matter it was just an unfortunate coincident that those things happened around the same time.

DEAN BECKER: The raid at Oaksterdam, the Blue Sky, the Oaksterdam college that was a rending of trust, I think. It was a slap in the face, was it not?

CHRIS CONRAD: In a sense I would say, “Yeah” because the whole purpose of Oaksterdam University has always been to educate people how to work within the system and follow the rules and avoid problems. I think this is a classic example of the way the drug war approaches things.

We were actually preventing problems all over the country by people coming to the university. This is a way the feds could then create problems is to go after Oaksterdam. We said there were ways that you can do things properly and they said, “We don’t care what you do. We’re going after you anyway.”

Which is more or less the message. I think that this is a very good thing that you brought up because a lot of people think that Oaksterdam University was closed down and the fact of the matter is Oaksterdam University is still going. We’re still teaching people the same great information about cultivating marijuana, the history, how to use it in different medical purposes and how to organize politically.

A lot of the news media was very excited about that one day that we were closed down but they didn’t cover the fact that the very next day we had classes going again.

DEAN BECKER: It brings to mind you were talking about the noise and confusion that led the DEA to raid Oaksterdam because they felt they weren’t following the rules and, lo and behold, Eric Holder and his DEA henchmen are now saying for Colorado and Washington State, “Follow the rules and we’ll leave you alone.”

Quite a change isn’t it?

CHRIS CONRAD: Yeah, that whole year of 2010 was a big black eye on the Obama administration I believe. That was the year they arrested Roger Christie for the religious use of marijuana. He’d been practicing his religion under the Clinton and Bush administration unharrassed but under Obama they went after him.

That was the year that he came out and threatened journalist...his administration I should say – he didn’t personally do it. They threatened city and state officials who would try to implement Proposition 19 had it been passed. They had this huge number of arrests in Montana. More people arrested in one year in Montana than in the entirety of the Bush administration in the entire United States for medical marijuana.

That was a very ugly year for Obama and I think that when he came into the 2012 election he realized that he had suffered a lot of support from young people who believe in legalization of marijuana. He slapped us around pretty badly so when it came to the Colorado and Washington elections he was much more quieter. He didn’t give those same threats. They slowed down on the arrests and prosecutions.

They haven’t stopped it and they are still pressing people through the courts. I think that what Obama did that year was so aggressive that he found out the push back he got in public perception, polls, through the legislature, etc. I think it made him rethink how he would approach the issue.

A lot of the stuff we’ve heard from Holder since then has been sounded more like what we wished we would have had in 2010. I have to say in terms of Richard Lee that he felt very (and he still does) hurt by this whole thing. He had worked so hard to support Obama so when the administration came in against Oaksterdam it set him back quite a bit as you can understand. He’s been very quiet since then but obviously his heart is still in the movement and he’s still a champion to me personally.

MIKKI NORRIS: Right and the attack on Oaksterdam was really an attack on Richard. Richard has a lot things going on in Oakland and not just the University and that really wasn’t the target of raid. He had a coffee shop (actually a dispensary I should say) but it was called a coffee shop.

It was a medical marijuana dispensary that was permitted by the city of Oakland. He had various other things going on there and they thought that he was good for a lot of money there. Apparently after they raided him they realized that he didn’t have big money like they thought he had because he was able to support the Prop 19 initiative effort in 2010.

CHRIS CONRAD: Also because of the millions of dollars he was paying in taxes to the city of Oakland which is why Oakland has supported him so strongly.

DEAN BECKER: Right and, of course, the feds got their hundreds of thousands as well.

Richard’s a hero in my book. I’ll just say that.

MIKKI NORRIS: Exactly and in ours, too.

DEAN BECKER: I want to come back to your new online publication, http://theleafonline.com. It is a rather astounding compilation of information. You’ve run the gamut. I just checked out the front page. You talk about hemp, remediation for Japan, Mexico City is considering cannabis legalization and so forth.

The drug war news is everywhere these days and especially regarding marijuana. Am I right?

CHRIS CONRAD: Yeah, in fact that kind of creates a little bit of an issue to us in that one of the reasons we had formed the West Coast Leaf and before the Oaksterdam News was to stimulate this discussion and then the rest of the media, of course, jumps in. Not strictly because of us but because of the change in times and so forth.

One of the things you can’t help but notice is the Drug War Chronicle is an excellent source of information, likewise your program and other programs and sources out there. So we wanted to have something that does things a little differently.

One of the things is to create a news service where other people who are interested in starting their own newspapers or magazines have a source of information that we are allowing them to subscribe or print our articles in order to get that high quality news out there in front of people because we know not everyone is online. We’re hoping that other print publications will seize the opportunity that is available as a result of not only closing the West Coast Leaf but as a result of having a free news service for them online.

DEAN BECKER: I want to interrupt here for just a second and remind folks we are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio on the Drug Truth Network. Our guests are Mr. Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris. They are co-founders, I guess, publishers of http://theleafonline.com – a great gathering of information.

I urge you to check it out. I urge you to educate and embolden yourself. I urge you to do your part to end the stupidity of this drug war. It’s really just waiting on you. Politicians now know the truth. They sometimes speak the truth. They just don’t want to move too quickly without your support. I urge you to please do so.

I want to come back to Mikki for a second. I see lots and lots more women these days stepping forward, getting involved in drug reform activism. Your thought there?

MIKKI NORRIS: Yes and a lot of women are organizing their own groups united against the drug war. Women are finding their voices finally with this whole thing. I think there’s a lot more opportunities for women to present their perspective of what’s going on in the drug war.

We have a unique opportunity as women, as mothers, as sisters from the perspective we’ll help end prohibition as they did in alcohol prohibition. We care about our communities. We care about our families, our husbands and everybody.

In a sense we can bring more of a human aspect into the discussion. There are many stories out there and many people who are being victimized by this drug war who feel like we can’t afford these kinds of social cost anymore along with the financial cost.

I’m very excited there’s new publications as well like Ladybud Magazine that’s launched by women as well. I very excited there’s a NORML Women’s Alliance. We, ourselves, will ultimately be launching a project called “Tell Michelle” where we want to aim our message towards Michelle Obama from a woman’s perspective of how this drug war is operating, how prohibition is affecting women and our families and our kids who are also victims of the harms of prohibition.

I’m very excited that women are finally taking more of a role in the forefront of this issue.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. We’re going to take a little break here. By contract I gotta do “Name that drug by its side effect”. Then I’m going to have a comment from a Houstonian, a Texan about a change here – one of the many changes taking place across America. We’ll be right back with Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris.

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(Game show music)

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

Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilled science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in abeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels.

$550 billion a year can be very addicting.

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CLAYTON JONES: I’m Clayton Jones. I live here in Houston, Texas. I’ve been a member of Houston NORML for about 10/12 years. I’ve been a part of Drug Policy Forum of Texas for the last 10/12 years.

DEAN BECKER: Clay, even in Houston things are beginning to change the perspective about our marijuana laws. Tell us what you encountered at our county commissioners this week.

CLAYTON JONES: That went actually very good but let me give you a little lead up to it. In 2007 our house here in Texas and our senate approved a bill that was called H.R. 2391. With that bill municipalities and counties are allowed to have a citation court which allows them not to arrest somebody who has ties to the community.

It’s for certain different crimes – low-level crimes, graffiti under $500, a bag check under $500 and marijuana possession up to 4 ounces. These people could be given a written citation, not end up in the jail, not losing a job, possibly losing their insurance and hurting their family situation.

This year I went up there and I thought it was a hearing on our mill rate and it ended up being a 7.3% tax increase. I went up there and asked them about this same house resolution and every single one of our commissioners and the judge told me that they’re very much behind this and they are working on trying to institute it with Mrs. Anderson, our new District Attorney.

DEAN BECKER: Again, folks, we’re talking about Houston, Texas here. It’s moving across the country – Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island – you name it each and every state seems to be taking a new look at this. Here in Texas my good friend, Clay Jones, has struck a nerve and maybe made some difference.

Closing thoughts, Clay?

CLAYTON JONES: My closing thoughts is that 2 years from now when our new house has a new legislative session that they can just legalize it right from the very beginning. Let’s set it up the way it needs to be done so that children will be kept away from it. It can be regulated, taxed. If everybody can grow it and use their own then there’s no need for the gangs or cartels or black markets. That’s what I think it’s all leading to.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright Chris, Mikki I hope you were able to hear that. It’s a situation where since that law was passed we’ve arrested well over 150,000 people here in Houston for under 4 ounces of weed when we didn’t need to. We threw them in jail when we didn’t need to. Your response, please.

CHRIS CONRAD: I wish that idea would come out stronger here with our legislation in California. We’ve been under this federal oversight with the fact that we have more people in prison than we have prison space for them. They are trying to talk about different ways to get people out of prison so they are talking about low-level offenders. A lot of times these people are property criminals – people who are breaking into cars, writing bad checks and stuff like that - but when you bring up the subject about what about the marijuana users you can’t get through to them...especially with 65% of the population wanting marijuana legalized the legislature...or the governor I should say does not seem willing to take a look at that maybe getting the marijuana offenders out of there instead of releasing property criminals.

It’s kind interesting that you have more of an enlightened approach in Texas. We kind of feel like there’s no conservative liberal on the drug war. You are either right about it or you’re wrong about it. If you’re wrong about it you like people in prison and if you’re right about it you understand that the whole drug war itself is wrong.

We have this right wing government in Israel which is more liberal on marijuana than Obama who is supposedly so liberal and we have Texas which is a conservative state talking about taking a better look at the marijuana situation than we do here in California.

The one thing we do have in California is the legislature already did pass the infraction rather than misdemeanor for marijuana. Right now the Lt. Governor who is the most likely candidate to run for governor after Jerry Brown is out of office (which I hope is soon) will be Gavin Newsome and he’s putting together a blue ribbon panel to look at legalizing marijuana here in California.

Even in the way back in California we’re making some progress on this issue and we’re glad to hear that Texas is actually leading the way on some of these issues.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris of the http://theleafonline.com

Chris, what’s your thoughts? The progress is in front of us. It seems tangible and real. What do you see for the future?

CHRIS CONRAD: I see things continuing to improve. I see it as a boomerang whereas we had this lofty goal of what legalization would be like – complete legalization for adults and so forth. What we’re seeing in the way the laws are being passed is that they are going to come in restrictive and then over time when people are more comfortable with the issue we’re going to get more freedom over time.

I think it’s going to come up that way but we’re going to know a lot better after the Drug Policy Alliance Conference this coming weekend. We’re going to be sending out live updates from the events there on our Twitter account, @theleafonline, as well as posting stuff on our website, http://theleafonline.com.

We’re getting a better idea every day. I didn’t expect Uraguay to do what it did in terms of legalization this year. I’m looking forward to a lot of surprises like that happening.

DEAN BECKER: I was going to say there is still the retrograders out there. I hear that the Denver city council is considering it illegal to smoke in your own house, to be seen through your front window smoking - seems rather backwards to me. Your thoughts?

MIKKI NORRIS: It’s totally backwards. There is something about the privacy of our homes that should be respected as well and it’s a ridiculous thing. The next step is to create public spaces where people can consume socially like they have cigar clubs and clubs where people can use alcohol responsibly.

That’s going to be the next step. They shouldn’t be trying to restrict people in their own homes. In California, as well, they are trying to extend some bans in multi-unit housing where people can’t use marijuana at all. I also find that offensive especially for the medical marijuana patients although some jurisdictions had the foresight to exempt medical marijuana from the smoking bans as they realized it’s people’s medicine and they rely on that to relieve their conditions. They shouldn’t have to go somewhere else outside of their home.

There’s a lot of things. This is such a big issue and the smell issue is a whole other thing, a whole other topic. I don’t think we want, as a society, to go down that road to be offended by people barbequing if you’re a vegetarian and people are barbequing their meat next door we can apply to get them to stop doing that because we find that offensive.

We have to get some respect and basic recognition for cannabis as people’s medicine. In these places where it’s going to be legalized and, hopefully in this country before too long nationally, that we’re going to have to find a way to accommodate things that we just don’t like about what other people do. It’s called tolerance and we need to start thinking about adopting more of that attitude and more of that as a policy.

I think they are, in Washington State at least, they are doing that. We went to the Seattle Hempfest this year and the cops gave out chips with messages about the laws and said that their policy is now going to be leniency because they realize this is what people want.

I think that ultimately that some aspects that we are going to have to be working on and taking into consideration the bigger picture of how we can live together as a community with respect for other people as equals.

CHRIS CONRAD: If I could just throw in a couple more thoughts. One is how do they know what you’re smoking in the privacy of your own home – that could be tobacco. The other thing is why are they still worried about people smoking in the privacy of their own home when you compare any problem caused by smoking marijuana (which appears to be none) compared to a car that is driving down the street in front of their house which is putting out all sorts of poisons into the air and what’s the city doing about that?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I was going to say a couple of other things come to mind. Mikki was saying there are cigar bars and there’s alcohol bars. It brought to mind the other day I was watching a show where they talk about a bar room brawl and I can’t imagine a cannabis room brawl.

Another thought was a few weeks back someone came up with a new philosophy standard and that is “Don’t ask. Don’t smell.”

[laughter from Chris and Mikki]

You also mentioned Washington State’s attitude. I was in love with the gentleman, the Sheriff of King County, who went before the U.S. Senate and spoke like he was a lifetime member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Those people get it.

CHRIS CONRAD: Yeah, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is one of the most valuable tools that we have to point out the hysteria and the hypocrisy of the failures of the drug war. I totally respect those guys.

DEAN BECKER: We’re going to have to wrap it up. Gonna give you a minute here to kind of tell folks more about http://theleafonline.com and how they can reach out there and gather information.

CHRIS CONRAD: The Twitter feed is @theleafonline. The website is http://theleafonline.com. We’re looking for people who want to contribute articles, people who want to advertise, people who want to subscribe and contact us through that.

For people who are particularly interested in contacting us directly our email is news@westcoastleaf.com

Thank you so much, Dean. You are a fantastic resource and I look forward to seeing you in November.

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[PSA, to the tune of Mean Mr. Grinch]

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 pee…

Dean Becker, drugtruth.net

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DOUG McVAY: According to the Centers for Disease Control and public health experts, drug overdose deaths related to prescription opiates have been on the increase for about the last decade. In some areas, authorities have simply clamped down on prescribing – leaving aside the question of whether police and prosecutors are capable of determining when a prescription is appropriate, in many cases these clampdowns on prescribing have led to increases in illegal opiate use, including heroin. In all likelihood there are real medical issues for which these people are self-medicating, but that too is a question we'll leave for another time, for now, let's talk overdose deaths.

The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals describes opioid overdose thus, quote:

“The main toxic effect is decreased respiratory rate and depth, which can progress to apnea. Other complications (eg, pulmonary edema, which usually develops within minutes to a few hours after opioid overdose) and death result primarily from hypoxia.” End quote.

Hypoxia. That's oxygen deprivation. It's a slow way to die. There is time for a life-saving intervention. If there was a simple way reverse an opioid overdose, that would be great. Well, there is. It's a generic drug called Naloxone, also sold under the brand name Narcan. A few drops of naloxone in an overdose victim's nose or injected intramuscularly, and opiate overdose effects are immediately reversed. As Phillip Coffin and Sean Sullivan put it in their article in the Annals of Internal Medicine in early 2013, quote:

“Naloxone distribution to heroin users would be expected to reduce mortality and be cost-effective even under markedly conservative assumptions of use, effectiveness, and cost. Although the absence of randomized trial data on naloxone distribution and reliance on epidemiologic data increase the uncertainty of results, there are few or no scenarios in which naloxone would not be expected to increase QALYs [Quality-Adjusted Life-Years] at a cost much less than the standard threshold for cost-effective health care interventions. Ecological data, in fact, suggest that naloxone distribution may have far greater benefits than those forecast in this model: Reductions in community-level overdose mortality from 37% to 90% have been seen concordant with expanded naloxone distribution in Massachusetts (7), New York City (11), Chicago (10), San Francisco (9, 67, 68), and Scotland (69). Such a result is approached in this model only by maximizing the likelihood of naloxone use or by assuming that naloxone distribution reduces the risk for any overdose.” End quote.

Obviously for Naloxone to work, the victim or someone nearby has to have it and has to be ready to use it. The good news is, many states are moving to amend their laws to make this drug more widely available. In April 2013 for example, North Carolina passed a law allowing broader naloxone access, so that opioid users or their loved ones can move quickly and save lives.

You can learn more about overdoses, overdose prevention, and naloxone, at Drug War Facts dot org.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

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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.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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