02/09/14 Doug McVay

Doug McVay report on Rep Cohen blasting the Deputy Drug Czar, Penny Howard uses Amazon hemp oil to treat seizures, Paul Armentano re Obama's options with cannabis, McGruff the crime dog busted

Century of Lies
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Doug McVay
Common Sense Drug Policy
Download: Audio icon COL020914.mp3



Century of Lies February 9, 2014


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: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news this week but I’m ecstatic. The drug war is showing itself to be a complete failure.

We’ve got some great segments to share with you and let’s just get to it.


DOUG McVAY: This next item was originally written and recorded for the Drug Policy Facts podcasts sponsored by Common Sense For Drug Policy and is being shared with my good friend and radio mentor, Dean Becker.

Dean does a lot of great work. You should check out his programming over at http://drugtruth.net.

I contribute an audio segment each week to Dean’s Drug Truth Network and have done for quite a few years now. His support and encouragement led me to produce my own Drug Policy Facts podcast.

By the way you can subscribe to and download the Drug Policy Facts podcast from http://podcastgarden.com/podcast/drugwarfacts. There is also a link on the Drug War Facts site.

On Tuesday, February 4th, the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on marijuana policy. The sole witness was Michael Botticelli, the Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The first congressional hearing I ever saw on marijuana policy was in 1988 when I was the activist and project coordinator for national NORML in D.C. Let’s just say it was a lot different. This time the administration was on the defensive from start to finish.

I listened as members of congress made...well, the same arguments that I’ve been making for the past 30 years – arguments that I’ve laid down in a piece I wrote for a text book back in 1991. You can try to find it online. The title of my essay was, “Marijuana Legalization: The time is now.”

Well, it’s taken 23 years but it does look like some in congress have definitely caught up. Selecting portions of this hearing was difficult because it was all quite good however I’ve got 2 segments here which I think listeners will enjoy.

First here’s Oregon Democrat Congressman Earl Blumenauer in an exchange with Deputy Director Botticelli.

EARL BLUMENAUER: Botticelli, how many marijuana overdose deaths were there in the most recent year you have available?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: To my knowledge I don’t know if there have been instances of specific overdose-related...

EARL BLUMENAUER: You talked about marijuana deaths so I want to be clear...I’m not trying to trap you. How many marijuana deaths have there been in the last 5 years?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: If you’re referring to overdoses I’m not sure of those numbers. If you’re referring to...

EARL BLUMENAUER: OK then I would like to have you supply us with how many overdose deaths there were because I have heard from experts whose judgment I respect that they don’t know of any so that would be really important for you to provide at least to me if not to the committee.

What is more dangerous and addictive – methamphetamines and cocaine or marijuana?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: So I don’t think anyone would dispute the fact that there’s relative toxicity related to those drugs but I’m afraid...

EARL BLUMENAUER: What is more dangerous and what is more addictive –cocaine and meth or marijuana? Pretty simple...

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: I think that conversation minimizes the harm...

EARL BLUMENAUER: No, I’m not trying to minimize the harm. I want to know which is more dangerous and addictive.

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: You know, again, I go back...

EARL BLUMENAUER: You don’t know?!

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: I go back as a public health person...you know one of the things that we look at is not what’s the relative risk of one drug over another...

EARL BLUMENAUER: OK, let me just say that I think your equivocation right there – being unable to answer something clearly and definitely when there is unquestioned evidence to the contrary – is why young people don’t believe the propaganda. Why they think it’s benign.

If a professional like you cannot answer clearly that meth is more dangerous than marijuana which every kid on the street knows, which every parent knows – if you can’t answer that maybe that’s why we’re failing to educate people about the dangers.

I don’t want kids smoking marijuana. I agree with the chairman but if the Deputy Director of the Office of Drug Policy can’t answer that question how do you expect high school kids to take you seriously?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: So Representative I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and I didn’t mean to indicate that there is not different degrees of toxicity associated with ...

EARL BLUMENAUER: I asked what was more dangerous and you couldn’t answer it. I just want to say that you, sir, represent what’s part of the problem.

Let me go a little further...

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: So sorry that is not what I am saying...

EARL BLUMENAUER: What kills more people – tobacco or marijuana?

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: I...you know there’s been a fair amount of tobacco-associated deaths. My challenge and the reason I’m hesitating about answering the questions as it relates to relative risks is I think many times that conversation gets distorted...

EARL BLUMENAUER: I’m not trying to trap you...

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: No, no, no but this is why, Representative, I don’t want to be disrespectful.

EARL BLUMENAUER: Let me suggest that your inability to answer me whether tobacco or marijuana is more dangerous, again, is part of the problem.

Mr. Connolly documented very clearly that we have been able to drop dramatically tobacco use and it kills more people than marijuana if you don’t know that. But we’ve been able to drop that without locking people up, without arresting...I think this administration has seen 3 to 4 million people arrested for marijuana since it’s been in office and yet we’ve been able to drop tobacco use without being coercive. We’ve been using fact-based advertising and we’ve focused our efforts on things that matter rather than things that don’t work.

I respectfully suggest that you and the department take a step back. If you’re concerned that somehow people think marijuana is benign that part of the reason is that drug professionals can’t communicate in ways that the rest of America does.

I appreciate your being here and I welcome any written follow up to my questions. I’m not trying to trap you but I am very discouraged by your inability to answer the question.

MICHAEL BOTTICELLI: So let me tell you this morning I spent the bulk of my morning with a number of parents from across the country who are doing everything they can do to prevent drug use and particularly prescription drug use. Many of them have kids who have died of overdose.

I ask them what more can the federal government be doing in terms of preventing substance use and preventing the tragedies...They told me they cannot understand why states are moving to medical marijuana and legal marijuana. They cannot understand it because they understand from a very acute level the message that legalization sends them.

This is not from a bureaucrat in Washington. These are from parents who struggle on a daily basis and have been devastated by addiction in their kids and they understand in a very dramatic and real way that legalizing marijuana sends the absolute wrong message to our youth.


DOUG McVAY: Next let’s hear from Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings.


ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Thank you very much Mr. Connolly and to you Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you both for holding this hearing.

You are absolutely right Mr. Chairman this is a very complex and difficult issue. I want to also thank Deputy Director Botticelli for testifying before this subcommittee.

This is also a quickly changing issue. The positions of conservatives and progressives alike are evolving as we learn from experiences of states with legalization initiatives.

According to a Gallup Poll taken in October 58% of the American people favor the legalization of marijuana. Over the past 8 years 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws permitting the use of marijuana for medical conditions. In 2012 Colorado and Washington chose to legalize, tax and regulate limited amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

I believe the purpose of today’s hearing is worthwhile to review the position of federal agencies with respect to states that are legalizing marijuana both for medicinal purposes and recreational uses.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy serves a very critical role in balancing our nation’s drug control efforts by coordinating government health and safety initiatives that address drug use and its consequences in our communities.

In addition the Department of Justice is charged with enforcing the federal Controlled Substance Act and it issued guidance to prosecutors in August on marijuana enforcement.

Mr. Chairman I’m thankful that ONDCP is here today but, as you know, I believe that this hearing would have been more informative with the justice department saying that “I know our offices work together to try to find a mutually acceptable date.”

Your decision to move forward today with ONDCP alone is not your prerogative. I hope we continue to work together in a bipartisan way as we have in the past to get the viewpoints of the other agencies involved.

Personally I share your concerns about the negative health effects of marijuana particularly on the youth in my district and across the country. Even when it is used for medicinal purposes people should understand very clearly that smoking marijuana is dangerous to their lungs and to their hearts and results in a wide range of negative health effects.

Apart from health concerns I also have serious questions about the disparate impact of the federal government’s enforcement policy on minorities. After reviewing the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and state databases one article found, and I quote, “Police arrest blacks for marijuana possession at a higher rate than whites in every state and nearly every state, city and county despite the two races using marijuana at equal rates.”

My home state of Maryland has similar disparities in enforcement. In October the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report finding, and I quote, “Police arrest blacks for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites in every county in Maryland.”

Accounting for 58% of arrests for marijuana possession. These disparities have a real impact on people’s lives, their families and their communities. An arrest for even the smallest amount of marijuana can disqualify a person for public housing, student financial aid or even employment for life. These are the exact opportunities that so many low-income individuals need to lift themselves out of poverty.

I think the President was exactly right with what he said last week. Middleclass kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot. Poor kids do. African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and support to avoid unduly harsh penalties. I would add to that criminal records that remain with them for a lifetime.

For these reasons Maryland has chosen to decrease penalties to 90 days for possession of marijuana in small amounts. It also requires the courts consider the defendant’s use of medical marijuana as an affirmative defense and, if permitted, research on medical marijuana.

Mr. Chairman, I previously served as the ranking member of the subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Drug Policy so I understand that there are various components to this debate but one thing does concern me greatly how in some states one can purchase marijuana and the people in my state and my district are getting arrested and serving sentences. It just seems to me that something is not right about that. I’m hoping that you will address that Mr. Botticelli because these are serious consequences.

It’s one thing when you have equal enforcement but it’s another thing when some people are engaged in purchasing marijuana in the streets and other ones in the suites.

What happens is that you have unequal enforcement and you have many African-American young men as you well know spending long sentences sitting in prison while others law enforcement don’t even touch.

Those are the kinds of concerns that I have Mr. Chairman and I’m hoping that we will get to some of that today.

With that I yield back.


DOUG McVAY: A video of the entire proceedings currently available online through the committee’s website.

It is something that everyone who is concerned with marijuana or drug policy should hear.

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


DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Doug. I know reports like that...it’s a pleasure. It’s an honor to put together. Thank you, sir.

Same holds true for this next report. I would hope that by this time most of you out there have seen those stories on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and elsewhere about the young kids that need medical marijuana in order to survive or at least to thrive. Here’s a discussion I had with the mother of one such child.


PENNY HOWARD: My name is Penny Howard. I’m mom to Harper Howard. He is three and one-half and has CDKL5 disorder – that’s cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5. It’s very rare. There is about 5, 600 people worldwide that have that disorder. The biggest symptom that we battle for her on a daily basis is seizures that are not controlled by any current anti-epileptic drug on the market today.

DEAN BECKER: The thing is I keep seeing these stories and the major broadcasters talking about the kids in Colorado getting access to this more refined drug called Charlotte’s Web. Where do you live?

PENNY HOWARD: I live in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: So you don’t have access to Charlotte’s Web so you’re taking the next best medicine you can find, right?

PENNY HOWARD: Yes, sir, and I know people are moving to Colorado to gain access to Charlotte’s Web. There was a couple of reasons that we chose not to do that and it is not a viable option for us.

One is that it uproots our family away from our support system. Even if Harper were to take Charlotte’s Web and it were to reduce her seizures or even stop them we still have a child that requires intense medical needs and we need our family around to help us so we can’t really uproot ourselves away from them.

The other reason is that it kind of traps us in the state of Colorado. We would be unable to travel to anywhere with her. We have some doctors that are out of state and we don’t want Harper to be trapped within a state.

So staying in Texas near our support system and introducing her to industrial hemp oil allowed us to get help and seizure reduction and better quality of life without confining her to a certain area.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for that. I find it astounding, aggravating. I don’t have the word necessarily. Given your situation you are just doing the best that you can. You mentioned the use of the industrial hemp oil and as I understand it Charlotte’s Web is more akin to hemp than perhaps the more powerful or THC-laden marijuana. But you are able to get this from Whole Foods or on the web, correct?

PENNY HOWARD: You cannot get it in a store but you can purchase it online. We get ours directly from the company itself. You can purchase it on various websites such as Amazon and things like that.

Essentially I am able to purchase it online and have it shipped directly to me. I am also able to travel with it. We just recently got back from a trip to Florida. I took it with me through airport security with no problem. I fixed her medication on the plane and I didn’t have any issues because what I am giving her is 100% legal anywhere in the U.S.

DEAN BECKER: As I understand it from what I’ve heard through the use of the Charlotte’s Web medicine that they are able to reduce seizures from one girl I think it was 1,000 per month is down to maybe 1 per month. Can you give us some parameters on how that’s affecting your child, Harper?

PENNY HOWARD: Prior to starting industrial hemp she had 54 visible seizures. I say visible because those are the only ones that we were able to see but she has background seizures that are detectable through EEG. She had 54 visible seizures and now she is having on average 10 to 15 seizures per week with the use of industrial hemp oil.

DEAN BECKER: I think the government politicians that deny this medicine someday need to be held accountable. Any closing thoughts?

PENNY HOWARD: I do believe that the product should be available for all to try. I don’t think that it is a miracle cure. I do think that it is a huge improvement and I think that is all many of us parents or individuals suffering with any kind of special needs be it that we’re trying to help with cancer or trying to help with seizure reductions for the children it’s improvement. Some it may actually stop permanently but with Harper we’ve seen not only seizure reduction but increased alertness, awareness, interaction. I’m able to find out her personality for the first time with the use of this product.

To be denied that is really just not ...I think that’s taking away her rights to live a productive life.


DEAN BECKER: I don’t know if you got to see it but President Obama was waffling and hedging and fudging around when they were talking about his ability to overturn our irrational marijuana laws.


PAUL ARMENTANO: I am Paul Armentano the Deputy Director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

DEAN BECKER: I just saw from CNN and they asked President Obama about changing the stature, the status of the marijuana laws and he seemed a bit confused and through his confusion maybe he confused me. What is the status there? Can he change the law? Move it on the Controlled Substance Act? How would that happen?

PAUL ARMENTANO: The Controlled Substances Act was passed by congress in 1970 allows for the rescheduling of certain substances when and if science comes to light that calls for the rescheduling of such substances and under the act as it was initially passed the power to reschedule lies primarily with the United States Attorney General.

In practice the Attorney General has headed out that authority to two specific agencies; the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In recent decades those have been the agencies that have largely been in control of scheduling new illicit substances and licit substances as well as rescheduling such substances.

Certainly the president has the power by executive order if he wished to to engage in rescheduling and also congress has that authority if they wished to utilize it but, in practice, it has been HHS and DEA that has utilized the authority.

Keep in mind that the time the Controlled Substance Act was passed the DEA did not even exist as an agency. What happened is that over time the Attorney General deferred that authority to HHS and the DEA under the assumption that those agencies would have greater expertise in the issue of scheduling and rescheduling substances.

DEAN BECKER: Well this brings to mind that 25 years ago the Schaffer Commission recommended that marijuana be changed, that the ruling was “arbitrary and capricious” and yet one of those gatekeepers, the DEA, just said hell no. Am I right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Yes, in fact, it was not the Schaffer Commission that determined marijuana prohibition to be “arbitrary and capricious” it was, in fact, the DEA’s own administrative law judge in administrative law ruling in 1988. You are correct that the DEA as an agency set aside that ruling and refused to reschedule marijuana as their own law judge had advised them to do. That decision by DEA, the agency, was upheld in 1994.

This is hardly the first time the DEA as an agency has used its authority to reject calls for rescheduling controlled substances. Not only did they reject an administrative ruling from their own law judge to reschedule marijuana they rejected a similar ruling from a DEA administrative law judge to reschedule MDMA some years prior so there is certainly precedence for it and it is clear that the DEA as an administrative agency had the authority to reject those rescheduling requests and, again, in practice they have been the agency that is largely allowed to make these decisions although there are, of course, other authorities like congress, like the president, like the Attorney General that if they wished to utilize and wield that power could do so as well.

DEAN BECKER: This brings to mind that one of the top dogs in the DEA, Michelle Leonhart, comes across as if she truly believes in “Reefer Madness”. Is that what runs the DEA?

PAUL ARMENTANO: You don’t escalate to the highest level of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration if you are in anyway sympathetic toward reforming United States drug laws. It is clear by her statements and by her recent actions of slamming this administration that Michelle Leonhart is not in any way morally or ideologically aligned with how the President’s more recent statements on marijuana and marijuana reform and its relative harms.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we’ve been speaking with the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. They are out there on the web at http://norml.org. Please check them out.

Please get involved. It’s time to end this madness.


DEAN BECKER: I hope some of you listeners are old enough to remember McGruff the Crime Dog, the anti-drug guy. It turns out he just got busted down in Galveston and convicted for growing 1,000 marijuana plants.

This is McGruff, the crime dog.


never try
don't try it at all
its a lie
its like beating your head on a wall
say no way
marijuanas a fast way to fall
you will pay
because its doing you no good at all

and you know
if you gamble with life you can lose it
gotta grow
because your life is a gift don't abuse it


DEAN BECKER: McGruff plead guilty and still got sentenced to 16 years.

That’s about it for this week. We’re going to close things out with White Witch singing, “It’s so nice to be stoned.”

There is no truth, justice, scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. We have been duped.

Prohibido istac evilesco!


It's so nice to be stoned, It's so nice to be stoned
It's so nice to be stoned, It's so nice to be stoned

A proclamation was issued today
By the government of the USA
Up to ninety-nine years in jail
For illegal possession or sale
How can they think they're right when they're wrong
I guess they've never been stoned

It's so nice to be stoned, It's so nice to be stoned
It's so nice to be stoned, It's so nice to be stoned


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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

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