05/25/14 William Martin

Prof William Martin of James Baker III Institute re his new Texas Monthly article War Without End re our Vets, PTSD and Med marijuana + Dr. Sunil Agerwal joining NIH, Alison Myrden speech to Canada's Parliament.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Guest: 
William Martin
Organization: 
James A. Baker Inst. for Public Policy
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / May 25, 2014

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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: Oh, yes, my friends, we’ve got a great show lined up for you here. In just a moment we are going to be hearing from one of my mentors, Professor William Martin of the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy. He is their senior fellow in religion and public policy and he has a great new article just published in Texas Monthly. Without any further introduction let’s just bring him on board.

Professor Martin, are you there?

WILLIAM MARTIN: I am, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you being with us. This is Memorial Day weekend and we’re talking about our veterans. You’re talking about veterans in this article and the situation revolving around Post-traumatic stress disorder. Correct, sir?

WILLIAM MARTIN: That’s correct and it is an appropriate weekend. It’s appropriate and fortuitous that the article has appeared not only around Memorial Day weekend but also around the flap that is going on about the VAs because the VA naturally figures into a story about veterans and their PTSD and their medical treatment or lack of it.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now we may come back to it but I just want to make note of the fact that this day the New York Times had a major editorial talking about “End Mass Incarceration Now” and the Houston Chronicle had one about the real drug dangers of these pharmaceutical drugs. That ties right into the situation with those who have PTSD. They are given a whole gauntlet of all kinds of pills to hopefully control their situation. Correct?

WILLIAM MARTIN: That’s correct. One person I interviewed...the story is about the use of cannabis by veterans to treat their PTSD often because if they’ve gone to the VA what the doctors have given them there have been a cocktail of antidepressants and opioids and sleeping pills that one veteran said, “They just hand them out like Skittles. It’s unbelievable.”

Several told me they were prescribed by the VA as many as 10 or 12 different drugs. Anybody that knows about these prescription drugs knows that is a recipe for disaster.

DEAN BECKER: Right and with so many of those psychoactive drugs and other drugs having the warnings that to quit using them as they may lead to suicide and to continue using them may lead to suicide. It’s a real conundrum isn’t it, Professor?

WILLIAM MARTIN: It is indeed where suicide is among veterans now. It is a terrible problem. We’ve read not too long ago a study came out that said 22 veterans are committing suicide every day. The authors of that acknowledged that their study had significant limitations. Texas and other states that contain 60% of the nation’s population and more than 8 million veterans were not included in that study so the actual number which stunned everybody is, no doubt, much higher.

DEAN BECKER: This is, again, Memorial Day weekend. We have a lot of folks in congress. The television program “Vice” is all produced by Bill Maher was focused on this same issue - the over-prescribing, the number of suicides. It’s a real national tragedy isn’t it?

WILLIAM MARTIN: It truly is.

DEAN BECKER: You have written on occasion for many newspapers. You’ve spoken in the past about the absolute need for needle exchange programs to cut down on death and disease and transmission of disease, right?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: What I’m wanting to ask you is I see a glimmer of hope. I was mentioning the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Austin American Statesman all today had major editorials talking about the need to address this drug war. It’s a major issue.

WILLIAM MARTIN: It has really come to the fore in a way that would have been very hard to believe 5 years ago or certainly even 1 year or so ago. This is justice bubbling up in a remarkable way. Part of it, of course, is that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana. Washington hasn’t gotten theirs going yet but Colorado has. The word that is coming out of there is that Colorado is not going to “hell in a hand basket” and, in fact, things may even be improving.

Also, of course, just the continuing recognition that we have way, way too many people in prison. I visited a federal prison near Beaumont yesterday and it’s something like 40% overbooked. As you know, of course, a very high percentage of that comes from people who are there for various drug offences. - nearly all of them or a high percentage of them for possession alone.

DEAN BECKER: Often it’s just for a bad urine test. You failed a urine test too many times you go back to prison. It’s really something.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Yes. It is a really truly major issue and a tragedy for so many people who are caught up in it.

DEAN BECKER: You and I have, through the Baker Institute, been able to do some outreach. You have, over the years and just more recently, brought in Doug Fine to talk about the need for the hemp industry. It would help us eliminate much of this plastics that’s clogging our oceans and everything else but for some reason...Well, I say it has been a problem...it is beginning to allow hemp seeds in to Kentucky. They may be growing it under university supervision but it is just part of that need for change. Am I right?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Of course, of course. I think some sense is coming into this. The hemp industry is responsible for a lot of money being made in the United States but it’s on hemp grown in Canada and elsewhere - not in the United States. Something positive about our economic system is if there is money to be made somebody is going to look into it pretty seriously.

DEAN BECKER: I want to get back to your article. Folks, this is in this month’s, brand new Texas Monthly. The article is titled, “War Without End.”

Bill, the fact of the matter is we hear the stories. We see the videos. We learn of the horrors that people are forced to endure in Iraq and Afghanistan...the IUDs and the bombs and all of that but there’s another aspect that creates this PTSD that effects our women soldiers and sailors, correct?

WILLIAM MARTIN: That’s correct. One of the people I interviewed, a woman whose name we’re using as “Mist” (a name she uses on her blog), she was not in combat but she served in the Navy for 4 years. She was raped by a visiting Iranian pilot in the 1970s when Iran was an ally. After that her own superiors....she said she was really a personal sex slave to her immediate superior, a first class petty officer. He told her, “Never tell anybody or I’ll see to it that your are court marshalled and who would believe you?”

She knew that he was a buddy with the division chief and a commanding officer and that was true. She went to a second...this is not in the article because we decided and the editors decided it was too much, too grim to include. At a second station she had two men that she said were kind of like a tag team who beat her, raped her, caused all sorts of injury to her – some of which is lasting. She was unable to do anything about it.

She’s part of a sizeable group of people who suffer from MST (Military Sexual Trauma). Some of the listeners can see through Netflix and other places “The Invisible War” about sexual abuse among military women. We talked about suicide. Studies have shown that women who have undergone rape in the military are 6 times more likely than men to commit suicide.

DEAN BECKER: I think about the situation this goes back to WWI where they called it “soldier’s disease” or something and...

WILLIAM MARTIN: battle shock, battle fatigue, combat stress...

DEAN BECKER: This dates back...we still have...I don’t know – not that many WWII veterans left. I don’t think there’s any WWI left but we have a lot of Viet Nam vets that still have this problem some 40 years later because of (I’m going to use this for a lack of a better word) the ineptitude of the VA to actually address this. They just throw a pile a pills and say, “Fix yourself.”

WILLIAM MARTIN: That certainly is what they were doing there. They are overburdened. There is no question about that. They are not set up to deal with it adequately which, of course, is ...if we are going to enter wars we ought to pay for them as we go and we ought to take care of the people that we ask to fight them and we have not done that.

DEAN BECKER: Right, right. I want to kind of turn it over to you for a second and, if you will, tell folks about the James A. Baker, III Institute and the Drug Policy division, what you guys do?

WILLIAM MARTIN: This is former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III. The Institute for Public Policy is now 20-years-old and it is ranked among the top 20 or maybe it’s 25 but, anyway, the top think tanks out of about 4,000. It’s in the top 15 of think tanks associated with universities in the world. This is really amazing. It is amazing to us that we’ve been able to be so successful in a relatively short time - just 20 years.

There are different programs. You mentioned early on that I direct the Religion and Public Policy program. Shortly after being at the Baker Institute I ask the director, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, if it would be OK to have a program in drug policy and his answer just really stunned me. He says, “Well, we know that eradication, interdiction and incarceration don’t work so where do we go from here?”

He had just named the three pillars of US drug policy and said those don’t work so let’s see what we can do. From the very beginning, the very first conversation and also with the support of Secretary Baker I’ve been able to build with limited resources but great freedom a program that I think now is having the...I’m very proud of what has been done and what others have done who worked with the program including you.

I think it’s important to point out that your many broadcasts are archived on the Baker Institute website and that we are delighted to have you as a non-resident research associate. Now with you book “To End the War on Drugs: A guide for politicians, the press and public” we are going to be publicizing that heavily just in the next few weeks because this is another thing that I think will help the Baker Institute publicize its program.

We’re also...I have a post doc works with it....I say I have him but he works for the program, Nathan Jones. He’s done a great job. We will be getting a new one coming in this year who is working on the different motivations that people use to change drug policy. She points out, for example, importantly, many of the decisions to change our drug policy are being done because it is just costing too much money. She said it is costing too much money but we need to make sure that the changes we make are not going to still leave the harms on the victims of these misbegotten problems.

So, anyway, we do a number of things. We have conferences. We have speakers. On June the 18th (for people in the Houston area) we are going to have a program which will talk about my article in the June issue of the Texas Monthly but we’ll also have a state representative who is Joan Huffman - a senator who is co-chair or vice chair of the Criminal Justice Committee. We’ll also have one of the veterans – a man named Dave – who is one of the key people in my story. I’ll be on the program and we are hoping to have a medical doctor who is very knowledgeable about these things.

It’s been a wonderful think - really encouraging for me to work on. Like you and some other people who have worked on this for a long time we do feel like we finally have the wind at our back instead of in our face.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, that was Professor William Martin of the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy out at Rice University.

Now, Bill, I know that you just completed my book. It’s not an easy read. I’ve talked to dozens of people who have had copies and it’s a slow go. There’s a lot in there to kind of absorb, isn’t there?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, there’s a lot in there to absorb but you said to me yesterday at a book signing that you know that it was slow going. I didn’t find it that way at all. I think that the fact that you have picked out excerpts from 115 people and they’re compact, they are well organized. Since they were done as interviews they read very well. I actually found it a fast read. I know I told you over a couple weeks I’m 39% through, I’m 59% through my kindle but that was because I was reading it in bite sized sections each night before I went to bed but those sections went rapidly.

I don’t think you want to scare people away by telling them it’s a slow read because I think it is well done. The parts that you have written for yourself I think are very moving and often eloquent. I just don’t think you ought to say it’s a slow read.

DEAN BECKER: OK.

WILLIAM MARTIN: It is important stuff but it is very clear and it’s quite comprehensive. I think I’m really deeply impressed by it, Dean. I know you didn’t bring me on here to plug your book but I’m going to because it’s really a great contribution.

DEAN BECKER: With that I want to bring forward that this summer, hopefully in July - I’m thinking Lunar Landing Day (July 20th) – I hope for you and me and Neill Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to have a reservation and a press conference there in Washington, D.C. where we’re going to give out copies to every US representative, every US senator, the president, his cabinet, the Supreme Court justices and, from there, mail 50 copies to every US governor with a request for a Fall debate series to talk about “the benefits of drug war.” What’s your thought there?

WILLIAM MARTIN: I think it’s really important to try to get the book and its message into the hands of our legislators. As far as the details...we’ve talked about this some and some of the things you just said there is the first that I’ve heard about. I need to think about my own response. That’s not a criticism.

DEAN BECKER: OK

WILLIAM MARTIN: I hadn’t thought about some of those details but I do think it’s really important to try to call attention of legislators and other public officials to this issue and I think your book offers a really concise way to do that.

All of us have to be aware that simply telling legislators, “By the way, we have the answer to your problems here.” is not necessarily going to convince them. We’ve got decades upon decades of resistance – some of it’s just propaganda and some of it having vested interest in keeping things the way they are.

One of the things that Michelle Alexander talks about in her book “The New Jim Crow” (and I know you’ve had her on the program) she says this is not going to go away just because it is wrong. There are too many people who are dependent upon it.

Yesterday when I was visiting the prison I was told there were 6,000 people who work for that prison and they make pretty good money. Many people don’t want those prisons to go away. They don’t want over-incarceration to fade away from the scene just because it may be unjust.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it’s how they make their mortgage payments. You’re right, sir. Bill, we’ve got just a minute or two left here. I want to give it back to you to point folks to the Baker website and some closing thoughts.

WILLIAM MARTIN: We certainly invite you to visit on a regular basis. Just go to http://bakerinstitute.org. Under “Centers and Programs” drop down and see “Drug Policy”. We’ve got a number of things going. We’ll have videos of our previous conferences and speakers and publications. We have what we call the “Viewpoint Series” in which 4 to 8 people will weigh in on a particular topic with about 800 to 1,000 words - sort of a debate there. Some of those are videoed as well. These are growing as people want to contribute to it. It’s becoming, I think, a valuable resource.

We’re actually very proud of what we are doing now and recognizing, of course, that we have so much further to go and we haven’t done anywhere near the kind of coverage of the various topics that you have but we are working with a limited number of people so we do what we can.

I invite you to visit that page – bookmark it and visit it often, http://bakerinstitute.org. Remember on June the 18th if you’re in the area....and If you’re not it will also...most of our events are live streamed and that one will be live streamed as well. So, wherever you are on June the 18th at 6 o’clock Central time please tune into http://bakerinstitute.org and watch our program. If you miss it then it will almost certainly be archived within a day or two.

DEAN BECKER: Bill Martin, I thank you, once again, and, again folks, please check out this article. It is well written. It’s got some great pictures to kind of inform you as to this problem. It’s “War Without End” by Professor William Martin. You can link to it there on the Baker Institute as well to read the full data set.

Professor Martin, thank you so much.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Thank you, Dean. I appreciate being on your program and I appreciate what you do.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir. Bye bye.

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(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects

Fever, sweats, chills, muscle aches, couch, shortness of breath, blood in your phlegm, weight loss, warm red painful sores on your body, diarrhea, stomach pain, burning when you urinate, tuberculosis, infection, cancer and death.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: from the Centocor Ortho Biotech Stelara for psoriasis.

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REPORTER: It’s not “if” but “when” - that’s what one of our country’s leading experts on medical cannabis says about marijuana laws changing in Oklahoma. This is the state where he grew up. He recently returned home and I met him at the airport for a Fox 23 exclusive.

[at airport]

Sunil Kumar Aggarwal and his wife were all smiles - greeted by family at Tulsa International. They were especially happy their baby boy, Ishaan, was sleeping peaceably after a bout with the stomach bug.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: It was the first time that we had a kind of scare like that. He was throwing up, not feeling that great.

REPORTER: It made him think about the estimated 1 million Americans including many children with uncontrolled epileptic seizures.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: My gosh, what it must be like for these parents like this is their daily is dealing with a sick kid.

REPORTER: The Epilepsy Foundation supports increased access to medical marijuana saying nothing should stand in the way of patients gaining access to potentially life-saving treatment but Oklahoma law does stand in the way.

MARIJUANA USER: The most dangerous thing about cannabis is getting caught.

REPORTER: This Oklahoma marijuana user risks being arrested every day because he has HIV. He says he needs this to sleep, to keep his weight. Some research shows cannabis may even be able to stop the spread of the disease.

MARIJUANA USER: That’s one of the reasons I thought my viral count was categorized as exceptionally low.

REPORTER: That brings us back to Dr. Aggarwal who explains compounds unique to marijuana interact with something in the human body actually named after cannabis – the endocannabinoid system.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: When you look at the distribution of those receptors in the brain, nervous system, immune cells that’s why it has an effect on inflammation. That’s why it has pain reducing effects. That’s why it has reductions in muscle spasms, seizure activity because it is involved in the circuits in the body that govern those things.

REPORTER: It is no small irony the doctor who is pushing for relaxed marijuana laws is from Muskogee.

[music]

MERLE HAGGARD: We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.

REPORTER: Yes, the place where Merle Haggard sang people don’t smoke marijuana in is where Sunil Aggarwal was born and raised. He was among the top chemistry students at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. Now he is a senior resident at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.

Just this month he spoke at the New York Academy of Medicines Conference examining marijuana and drug policies.

SUNIL AGGARWAL: Cannabis medicine was in the US pharmacopeia for over 100 years. It’s not like it this radical, new thing.

REPORTER: This “Okie from Muskogee” is now about to take his passion for cannabis medicine to the National Institutes of Health.

[in interview]

How does a doctor who is so outspoken against a federal policy move on to the NIH?

SUNIL AGGARWAL: [laughing] I know. It just goes to show you that this is not a monolithic entity - there’s real human beings there. They were very enthusiastic about my application. I think they said to me, “If something works we’re all for it.”

REPORTER: But federal law and Oklahoma law are still against it which turns Oklahomans like this into outlaws even though he’s just fighting a disease.

MARIJUANA USER: What I’ve already extracted I can now use on here to concentrate further.

REPORTER: His extraction of cannabis concentrates he uses to make the capsules he takes once per day could send him to prison for decades.

MARIJUANA USER: You can’t talk to anybody. You can’t do anything. You can’t help other people unless you can trust them and that’s very, very hard to do whenever you’re looking at 2 to life for extraction.

SUNIL AGGARWAL:: Prison is not the right kind of place for these people. These people need to be under the care of their doctor in the community that supports them.

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ALISON MYRDEN: An open letter to Prime Minister Harper and to all Canadian members of parliament. My name is Alison Myrden. I have been asked to speak to you today on behalf of the approximately 40,000 medical cannabis patients across Canada who are licensed who choose to grow their own medicine and/or have someone we love grow and tend it for us.

All of the patients here today and across this country should be applauded for standing up and fighting alongside of us to maintain our constitutional right to take care of ourselves and those we love.

These rights have not been easily obtainable for many. This has to change. I suffer from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis and the worse pain known to medicine in my face and head. I’ve had that for the last 26 years. It’s associated with multiple sclerosis and it’s called Tic Douloureaux.

I am out of my electric wheelchair and walking today because of natural therapies such as cannabis. My great-grandfather, Peter McPherson, also suffered from this excruciating pain. Doctors treated him with hot, liquid gold injections in his face. I feared someone else in my family will also one day be afflicted.

We need your help. On Friday, March 21st, 2014 cannabis patients across Canada won an injunction to halt the newly proposed Marijuana for Medical Purpose regulations in its tracks. Patients in Canada will continue to grow our own cannabis as long as our health and the constitution dictate although as a retired corrections officer I deeply fear arrest.

I don’t think any of us understand why we have to keep fighting for a God-given right. Our government should take care of Canadian who need medical marijuana not make us go through the courts.

Thank you.

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DEAN BECKER: That was Alison Myrden – one of my “band of brothers and sisters” in law enforcement. She’s up in Canada, of course, and they have their own madness around reefer.

Once again, we had Mr. William Martin, author of “War Without End” – please check that out in the latest Texas Monthly or via http://bakerinstitute.org.

A quick read from today’s New York Times,

“For more than a decade researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now 40-year-old experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. If there is anything remaining in disagreement about the destructiveness of this experiment it mirrors the so-called debate over climate change.”

Please, folks, do your part to help end this madness. I appreciate you giving us a listen.

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