06/01/14 Dean Becker

After US House vote on medical marijuana, Teleconference with Members of Congress, Medical Marijuana Patients and Advocates. Featuring Congressman Sam Farr Lead Sponsor, Steve Cohen Co-Sponsor, Barbara Lee Co-Sponsor

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, June 1, 2014
Guest: 
Dean Becker
Organization: 
Drug Truth Network
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Cultural Baggage / June 1, 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: Alright it’s certainly not a done deal and it’s like mile 3 of a 300 mile journey to legalize drugs but some good things are happening. Here to kick start our show is Drug Truth Network reporter Doug McVay.

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DOUG McVAY: On Thursday, May 29th in the House of Representatives this happened. The first voice is Republican John Fleming of Louisiana, the second Republican Dana Rohrbacher of California.

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JOHN FLEMING: If we want to make a statement, a principle on the 10th amendment fine but don’t do it on the backs of our kids and our grandkids. This is dangerous to them. How do we know this? The health risks, brain development, schizophrenia, increased risk of stroke.

A study at Northwestern University recently showed profound changes in the brain just in casual marijuana users. Heart palpitations – three times normal in such users – and recent studies show, as I said, not only damage in certain structures in the brain but the same structures that attend to motivation which, again, underlines the amotivational syndrome that we’ve all heard about.

Again, it set a law the Supreme Court has already spoken on the constitutionality of this. It is settled when it comes to medicine. We hear anecdotal stories but there is no widespread accepted use of marijuana, medicinal marijuana and so forth. There is no acceptance of this by the medical community. It is not evidence based. Fine if you want to do research on it but this will take away the ability of the Department of Justice to protect our young people.

With that I yield back.

DANA ROHRBACHER: This is the most incredible debate we’ve had. Over half the states have already gone through every argument that was presented and decided against what you just heard. There are doctors at every one of those states that participated in a long debate over this and found exactly the opposite of what we’ve heard today.

Some people are suffering and if a doctor feels that he needs to prescribe something to alleviate that suffering it is immoral for this government to get in the way and that is what is happening.

The state governments have recognized that a doctor has a right to treat his patient anyway...

FRANK WOLF: The gentleman’s time has expired.

DANA ROHRBACHER: ...and so did our founding fathers. I ask for support for my amendment.

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DOUG McVAY: Later that night the House approved the Rohrbacher amendment forbidding the DEA from going after state medical facilities by a vote of 219 to 189.

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

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DEAN BECKER: Thank you Doug and you know for the past month or so Doug has been producing the Century of Lies program for us. It may be that you only get this program on your station but many stations carry Century of Lies as well. Some carry just Century of Lies but I thought it important to share part of this week’s Century of Lies. It is very powerful and if you don’t get it on your station ask your program director, “Why not?”

You can always tune in at http://drugtruth.net

The day after this vote the Drug Policy Alliance held a teleconference featuring a couple of the congressmen involved, some doctors and nurses as well. It was led by Mr. Bill Piper.

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BILL PIPER: Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance and I’ll be moderating today’s call.

History was made in a series of historic votes. The US House voted to let states set their own marijuana policies without federal interference. The House approved a bipartisan measure prohibiting the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws. The amendment passed 219 yes votes including 170 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

I should note that a number of amendment supporters (perhaps a dozen or so) were not able to make the vote so the vote is actually greater than 219 in contrast to a similar amendment received 165 yes votes in 2012 so this is quite the swing.

Two amendments prohibiting the DEA from undermining state hemp laws also passed.

Each of these votes represented a major victory for those seeing more sensible marijuana policies. Taken together they represent an unprecedented change in the course of the war on drugs. For years state after state has reformed the drug laws. Now there is a bipartisan consensus in congress in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies.

It’s clear that the old drug war consensus in favor of punitive drug war policy is collapsing and is being replaced by a new consensus based on compassion, health, science, human rights. This is only the beginning.

How did we get here and what does this all mean? That’s a subject of this tele-press conference. I’m going to introduce each speaker one by one. We’re going to give remarks for up to 3 or 4 minutes.

We’re going to begin with Congressman Sam Farr who was the lead Democratic sponsor of the medical marijuana amendment.

SAM FARR: Thank you very much, Bill, for calling this press conference and the Drug Policy Alliance did a yeoman’s job of delivering the votes particularly on the Republican side.

I think it was a surprise vote. It was a welcomed vote. It has been ten years in the making. I think it demonstrated that congress is beginning to notice that the states and local governments of this country are the laboratories of democracy. When states and local governments decide that there ought to be new ways of handling doctor/patient relations with controversial issues and step in and find ways to regulate that congress ought not to stop them from doing that.

I think there were all kinds of reasons for the votes last night. It was 49 Republicans - a remarkable number of new people putting their vote on the line. The Democrats have been pretty steady on this throughout the years so it really was with this new Republican surge that we were able to go over the top.

BILL PIPER: Thank you, Congressman.

I believe Congressman Cohen has called in.

STEVE COHEN: Yes, I am here. It’s a pleasure to be with everybody today at this press briefing.

I think when I first came to congress Maury Henchy was the leader on this particular proposal and I joined with him and it was a moment and a great honor for me to stand up for what I thought was a state’s right in the laboratories of democracy but sane drug policy. We usually got about 175/180 votes or something was tops.

Ron Paul was always with us. Barney Frank was with us. They were leaders. Yesterday Dana Rohrbacher and Sam Farr both did a phenomenal job. Dana handled the questions extremely well and the fact is I think he exposed...if everybody watched the videos of the debates we had on the floor and the committee issues that the Republican opposition is just coming up with the same arguments that were made in the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s just insanity.

Some of the things said were scary. I think it was so Neanderthal about marijuana and how addictive it is and the children getting it and getting in the medicine cabinet and all of those things. But there are a new breed of Republicans up here, some Libertarians. Mostly it’s younger people and younger people have been exposed to marijuana, know people who smoke marijuana, know people who benefit from its medicinal qualities and/or have seen people who smoke it recreationally on the weekends and get up and go to work and run businesses and lead communities and are productive citizens.

I think it was a great vote in congress and I think that “the times they are a changin’” and with appropriate attribution to Country Joe and the Fish...marijuana.

BARBARA LEE: Hi, this is Barbara Lee. I just wanted to let you know that I’m on the phone.

BILL PIPER: This is a perfect time actually I think for you to talk, Congresswoman.

BARBARA LEE: I just wanted to thank Congressman Cohen and all the members who really have been very bold and brave over the years to continue to push for what took place last night. I come, of course, from California and I’ve witnessed first of all the benefits of medical marijuana by my constituents and I think this so humane and how people who need this pipe with medicine are treated...people with Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer.

People deserve better and I think last night really was a signal to value people’s lives and their health and well-being.

Secondly, democracy works as it has in the past and the people have spoken why in the world would the federal government go in and try to undermine the will of the people? I know in my own area in Oakland and Berkeley we’ve seen raids – all kinds of very terrible acts against the businesses which provide jobs. They are legitimate. They run safe, secure businesses.

This amendment which passed gives us a heck of a lot of hope and says to the public the federal government finally...and I’ve talked with the people of Oakland over and over again but what we’re seeing now is the same thing we’ve been talking about. People are complying with state laws and are doing the right thing so let’s all fix this up and carry the vibe forward to minimally give the rights to the people of our country that they have been heard.

SAM FARR: Bill, this is Sam Farr and I’m a Democrat from the 20 th district in California. I just want to say that this was a historical moment last night with the passage of this. The appropriations bill is a bill that is only good for one year so this isn’t a permanent law.

It really is a significant signal that congress is listening to the communities and to the people in this country that they want changes in policy that deals with medical marijuana. That doesn’t mean that everybody embraces use of marijuana and all that and it really relatively restrictive to the issues of medical use. That’s all it would curtail the federal government from doing.

I think there’s [inaudible] behind us as a need for a more humane approach to our drug policy in this country. It’s an issue that our neighbors in South America and Canada are looking at. It’s countries that are looking at whether there ought to be different policies by those countries and I think it is really significant that the House of Representatives has made a statement that it’s time for a change and a change in attitude about this policy and I hope that it will begin a serious discussion, a legitimate discussion on medical use of cannabis and that doesn’t mean that we’re loosening any anti-smoking laws or anything like that. It doesn’t change any laws that are on the street or on the books. It just says that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) cannot go and bust those patients, doctors and support systems that are in states that have already legalized.

You have to recognize state law in this case and the federal government has to respect state law on this matter. I think it’s a giant move forward.

BILL PIPER: Our next speaker, Toni Miller, is a registered nurse working with Compassionate Care New York to pass a medical marijuana bill in that state and she also works at the Drug Policy Alliance on helping us build support for the medical marijuana movement and the amendment that passed the House last night.

TONI MILLER: I am so encouraged that this vote may actually be the tipping point for getting our medical marijuana bill through. It’s passed the House but it passed the House by a ton so it gets getting stuck in the Senate mostly because they won’t even bring it to a vote. Part of that is because of the legalities of going against the DEA and federal policy so with this shift it could actually make the difference. We are so excited.

Last year 13 children died from a seizure disorder that medical marijuana is so effective in treating – so much more effective than benzodiazepines and opioids which are not only toxic but destroy their organs. It’s a terrible solution when the answer is so simple and yet the kids here in New York 13 have died in the past year and others are going to Colorado for treatment.

I am so hopeful that this will make a difference to the New York bill. As someone who has friends and family who have MS, cancer and arthritis and seizures I am so excited that my family might actually get the help that they need.

My father died of cancer. He was a doctor and he didn’t die from cancer he died from the chemotherapy. I’m hoping that soon we will have options.

BILL PIPER: Thank you. That’s a really good point that there are a lot of states that are still considering medical marijuana but have been hesitant because they fear federal intervention. The vote last night I think is going to send them a clear signal that we are living in a new world.

Our next speaker is Dr. Malik Burnett. He is a policy manager here at the Drug Policy Alliance.

MALIK BURNETT: Thank you, Bill. As a physician I just wanted to applaud the House of Representatives. This amendment really goes a long way in ensuring that the practice of medicine stays between the doctor and the patient. Additionally this amendment should reassure physicians in medical marijuana states who are reluctant to get involved in fear of losing their DEA prescriber number as well as help relieve the tremendous regulatory burden in which has slowed down a lot of the research here in the US on the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.

Finally as Congressman Barr mentioned the amendments which were passed last night serve as the first steps in reframing US drug policy from a criminal justice framework to a public health framework where it belongs.

We definitely look forward to the US Senate picking this up and carrying it across the line.

BILL PIPER: We’ll move on to our last speaker, Sandy Faola, registered New Jersey marijuana patient who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. She is one of the millions of patients that will be protected from arrest and prosecution under this House amendment.

SANDY FAOLA: I’m thrilled about this. It really takes a load off my mind. It’s hard enough to have to deal with these kind of diseases on a daily basis and then have to have stress on your mind that you might be arrested because you are taking your medicine to have a better quality of life. It never made any sense to me.

I’ve had MS since 1988. I’ve been on every kind of drug you can think of. Right now I suffer from MS and the complications of MS and I’m on two prescription drugs right now which are heroin. One is...I have to have my liver and my kidney tested every month to make sure they haven’t failed and I that I haven’t acquired cancer from them yet.

I also suffer from insomnia and nausea from the MS. It is the type of nausea...I’ve never had chemotherapy yet, thank God, but I’ve heard told that it’s comparable to it. The marijuana helps with the insomnia and with the nausea every day. Just those two things alone give me tremendous quality of life.

I’m thrilled with this. I hope we continue to go forward in this kind of correction that we’re making and hope to see the hospitals catching on. I’d love to see the doctors ease up a little bit now that this has passed.

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DEAN BECKER: At this point the teleconference switched to Q&A with the various reporters tuning in. I’ll not steal their stories.

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(Game show music)

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

[water pipe sounds]

Gotta sneak up on this stuff....

[inhaling sound]

rather harsh...

[exhale...coughing]

(gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: K2, spice, or JWH-018 – the non-urine testable synthetic version of marijuana. Surely after it’s prohibition no one will want to sell it at $50 per gram

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[music]

What gives the drug war life?

Is it the cartels?

Maybe it’s the Baptist...the bankers....the gangs or the cops.

Who’s in charge?

Which politicians? Peasant farmers? Big Pharma?

Is it the street corner vendor?

Is it you? Is it me?

It is fear that gives the drug war life.

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ANCHOR: Nearly 5 months after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana it is now music to the ears of a struggling symphony. Gary Peterson takes us inside their first ever pot-themed fundraiser.

[music]

BARRY PETERSON: This was an “only in Colorado” party from Bach to Pot.

In the one state where you can buy marijuana for recreational use the Colorado Symphony decided this new era could get them new supporters so people were free to BYOP (Bring Your Own Pot).

FEMALE: We saw this and it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to support the symphony and show that we supported in light of the recent legalization.

BARRY PETERSON: Now Shaun Coleman can be a smoker and a supporter.

SHAUN COLEMAN: Let me tell you a secret. This is not the first time that I’ve been at a symphony and had cannabis involved.

BARRY PETERSON: This is the first of three marijuana symphony fundraisers.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m a fan of this so whenever I get the chance I like to come. Then I thought this is historic.

BARRY PETERSON: Did you come here to smoke pot?

Party organizer Jane West has been planning corporate events for 18 years.

JANE WEST: It’s a good cause, a good buzz.

BARRY PETERSON: Now her company, Edible Events, throws cannabis themed parties.

JANE WEST: There’s a lot of misconceptions about what a cannabis consumer looks like and we’re just breaking those here tonight.

BARRY PETERSON: The symphony bills this event as “Classically Cannabis” but before they could even hit their first high note the city of Denver almost killed the buzz. It sent a letter urging them to cancel claiming that selling tickets to anyone was allowing people to smoke in public which is against the law so the symphony made access by invitation only and the city gave it’s OK.

OBY AIRIS: At least people are speaking about the symphony and it is creating awareness about our orchestra.

BARRY PETERSON: Obie Airis is the symphony’s director of development.

[in interview]

Do you worry that you might turn some people off by doing this?

OBY AIRIS: Absolutely. We’ve heard from people and we absolutely respect and acknowledge everybody’s opinions.

BARRY PETERSON: At $100 per person and extra donations from sponsors in marijuana business the symphony raised a cool $50,000.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I honestly couldn’t be happier.

BARRY PETERSON: Do you think you’ll be giving money to the symphony saying, “Do it again sometime?”

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Absolutely, yeah.

On this night “high society” successfully met “High Times”. In Colorado marijuana means more Mozart. For CBS This Morning Barry Peterson, Denver.
ANCHOR: Channel 11 – a good cause and a good buzz.

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[music]

This pot’s so good that when I smoke it the government freaks out...

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DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy CBS News.

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DOUG SOVERN: There are dozens of grey-haired heads waiting in line for the Purple Train Wreck and Lavender Skunk at Harborside Health Center in east Oakland - the largest medical cannabis outfit in the country. Executive director Steve DeAngelo says senior citizens have grown from 5% of his business to about 30% now.

STEVE DeANGELO: Once they see cannabis presented as a wellness product, once they understand the effects that they can have on them they try it and once they try it there is no going back.

DOUG SOVERN: Robert Fornia, 68, suffering chronic hip and back pain ever since he was shot down in Viet Nam says switching to medical cannabis has saved his life.

ROBERT FORNIA: I’m completely off medical prescriptions from the VA or from Kaiser or from all those people – cold turkey, all done.

DOUG SOVERN: Sue Taylor is 66 and when her son suggested she try medical cannabis for her disabling back pain the retired Catholic school principal was stunned.

SUE TAYLOR: I still had the stigma of it being a hard core drug.

DOUG SOVERN: But she discovered she could take cannabis gummy bears which ease her pain without getting her high. Now this member of the Alameda County Commission on Aging preaches the medical pot gospel at senior centers all around the bay.

SUE TAYLOR: I am 66-years-old. I have more time behind me than I have in front of me and I have made a solid commitment that because I lived I will make this place, Earth, a better place. This is one of the avenues.

DOUG SOVERN: In Oakland, Doug Sovern, CBS.

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DEAN BECKER: The following discussion is with Shaun McAlister, the Executive Director of DFW NORML.

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DEAN BECKER: Shaun, there’s been some amazing news happen this past week. Congress finally decided to get off its high horse and do something about the Drug Enforcement Administration. Your thoughts?

SHAUN McALISTER: I think it’s a gut check to the DEA and to people who are opposing compassionate legislation. I think that this is a huge victory for the marijuana movement. I think it’s a huge victory for people who believe in smaller government and I’m just really excited. I can’t even overstate my excitement. It is just so thrilling to have something like this happen right before the big event that we’re having in Dallas/Fort Worth.

DEAN BECKER: Speaking of that that is why I called you. We don’t have any medical marijuana laws as of yet but we have great people working in that regard and this coming week you and your associates are going to be in Fort Worth doing something about it. Tell us what is going to go on there.

SHAUN McALISTER: We’re hosting another 3 day conference. This is a conference where we are going to be flying in experts on marijuana policy. We’ve got radical Russ Belville who is going to be giving a presentation, Jodie Emery (wife of Marc Emery) as well as Kinky Friedman.

We’ve got 2 full days of speakers as well as 3 parties. It’s going to be a full 3 day conference that hopefully will empower Texans to really kind of grab this puppy by the horn. We feel marijuana prohibition is sort of circling the drain on a national level. Even though we’re kind of behind here in Texas I do think we are going be looking at some very rapid steps as the momentum continues to build.

This conference is really going to be something to prepare Texans to prepare not only the activists but also the patients for what could be coming in a legal marijuana market in the state of Texas. It could be preparing them for what’s going to come in a medical marijuana market and it’s really going to prepare them for the steps between now and those ideal medical possibilities for marijuana and legalization.

We’re going to give a lot of information and tools and perspectives to people that I think is going to not only empower them but encourage them to step up their activism and be even better activists than they have been in the past and really make Texas bring this up and home with a strong finish.

DEAN BECKER: Please, provide the dates and the details where they can learn more.

SHAUN McALISTER: The conference is June 6, 7 and 8th in Fort Worth. The conference itself is on the 7th and 8th – those are the two days of speakers. We got a kickoff party on the 6th. The kickoff party is at Froggy’s Boathouse in Fort Worth. The conference itself is at Norris Conference Center on Houston Street. The after-party for Saturday night is at the Red Goose Saloon which is literally next door to Norris. Sunday night our final party which we’re calling “Reggae Madness” which will feature all local reggae bands will be at Shipping & Receiving.

All these are in Fort Worth. All the details can be found at http://dfwnorml.org/con2014

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DEAN BECKER: I hope you’ll check out this week’s Century of Lies show with Doug McVay which features much of the happenings in congress.

What led to this hopeful change in law? It’s really up to you, my friends, to do your part.

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