02/13/15 Bob Lee

*Tribute to Bob Lee* Mark Stepnoski, former center for Cowboys re NFL & Medical marijuana, "Stinky Steve" author Maggie Valpo, US reports on cannabis

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, February 13, 2015
Bob Lee



FEBRUARY 13, 2015


DEAN BECKER: This is Cultural Baggage, I am Dean Becker. The show will start here in just a moment, but I have some sad news to report. You know, over the years I've reported the deaths of many notables within drug reform, and it seems we have one very close to home right here in Houston this week. The father of Richard Lee, the man who tried to legalize marijuana back in 2010 with Prop 19, well, his father has been long active in drug reform, therefore I want to talk about the passing of one Bob Lee with the director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Mr. Jerry Epstein. Let's talk about Bob, he was just a hell of a guy, wasn't he?

JERRY EPSTEIN: He was, and, uh, I worked with him for 30 years. He worked tirelessly on behalf of drug reform. And, you know, he was a staunch Republican, very conservative, and he was convinced that prohibition was bad, against Republican values as he saw them, and he worked constantly to get us, to help get where we are now, close to achieving the goals he set for himself.

DEAN BECKER: Bob was 90 years old, his health had been kind of deteriorating for a while and I guess it wasn't that big of a surprise, but, when you lose such a long-term ally and, just, supporter, it hits you right in the heart, doesn't it?

JERRY EPSTEIN: Oh, it certainly does, and we – you know, we used his home a lot of times just as an informal meeting place, and I can't talk about Bob without talking about his wife, Ann, how they were just an inseparable, loving pair.

DEAN BECKER: They started a national effort that is taking hold, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, RAMP, is really going these days, correct?

JERRY EPSTEIN: I was talking to Ann. It's like leaving a legacy to the younger generation. And she's been so excited about younger Republicans coming in to form RAMP and to carry it towards – Bob, he will be so deeply missed. He showed courage. He himself was, had a lot of health problem, and he just endured them with a smile on his face, and all those years with a lot of pain from previous things, but he never complained, and is just a wonderful person who left a wonderful family. I've always – he'll be deeply missed.

DEAN BECKER: In 2010 I went to Oakland, California, to attend Oaksterdam University. Bob was my classmate. He was out there to assist in the effort to legalize marijuana in 2010. Mr. Robert Crayford Lee, so worthy of our respect.

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: 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. Hello. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. My name is Dean Becker and it is my privilege to bring you the unvarnished truth about the drug war.

Well, today's guest is a former football player in the NFL. He was a professional from 1989 through I think about 2001. Spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, spent some time with the Houston Oilers. He's got five Pro Bowl selections and he wears two Super Bowl rings. I want to introduce the former center, Mr. Mark Stepnoski. How you doing, sir?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Oh, I'm great, Dean, nice to be talking with you today.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mark, you are now up there in BC, is that correct?

MARK STEPNOSKI: That's right.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Now, the fact of the matter is, I think of that old movie, the, what was it, The North Dallas Forty or something, where they kind of showed all the shenanigans that were going on in the NFL decades ago. You've seen that right?




DEAN BECKER: Okeh, you're not going to comment on it, that's all right.

MARK STEPNOSKI: Oh no, I mean, that's – yeah, that, I greatly enjoyed that movie. I watched that movie when I was younger, and, yeah, I've seen it again, you know, since. I've seen it a few times, I've, I always liked it, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Was there any truth to that in the NFL back when you were there?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Oh I believe so, sure. You know, like any good story, there's some truth to it, but obviously, you know, the Hollywood technique is to somewhat embellish things, you know, for the sake of, you know, telling a better story or a more entertaining story. But I think if any, you know, any current or former professional football player, especially former, since that movie's a little bit older, would watch that movie, I'm sure they would see several things that they can relate to, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Now, of course, they've, I guess, gotten rid of the steroids, or forced people to newer versions of steroids, I don't know, but, the fact of the matter is the, there's a lot of pain involved, isn't there, Mark?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Yeah, that's just part of the deal. Yeah. It's interesting that you brought up the steroid issue. Steroid testing began in the NFL the year that I was drafted into the league, which was 1989. And I kind of felt that that was a nice coincidence because obviously those performance-enhancing drugs, if you're going to be competing in the league you don't want guys to have an unfair advantage.

And that's kind of funny because that's somewhat of an issue I guess nowadays, I became aware of the fact, just as an aside, from the cannabis issue in the NFL, that somehow it got tied in with HGH, human growth hormone. And apparently, there's been some negotiation between the players association and the NFL owners over the drug testing issue, and that's obviously the union's responsibility. I think there has been some talk about no longer drug testing players for cannabis. And I think that one thing that the owners would like to go along with that, is to have players submit to random testing for HGH, human growth hormone.


MARK STEPNOSKI: So that's kind of just as an aside, that's something that I became aware of last year that was in relation to the cannabis issue in the NFL. And to be honest with you, I was actually kind of shocked that the NFL didn't already have drug testing for HGH. HGH was a product that was around, that was available to guys when I was finishing my career, around 2001. And, you know, it's surprising, I'm sure it's only become more prevalent, and more available, and I'm just surprised at this point there wasn't already random testing in place for that, since it is a performance-enhancing drug.

DEAN BECKER: Now, uh, we're speaking with Mr. Mark Stepnoski, five time Pro Bowl participant, couple of Super Bowl rings on his fingers. Now Mark, I want to mention a couple of names here. I think you played with at least some of these guys. Marvin Washington, he was, you know, talking about the concussion situation that goes on so often, as well as Brendon, excuse me here, Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita.


DEAN BECKER: And they came out around the Super Bowl talking about the need to allow for medical marijuana to help with those head injuries and the pain, and to avoid the pills and such. Your thought there, sir.

MARK STEPNOSKI: Yeah, I was aware of the statement those guys made, and actually, you know, read that at the time, and, yeah, I thought all those guys had well-thought-out statements. I thought that, you know, their reasoning was pretty sound. I think that's kind of, kind of the point we're reaching, you know, with the league, as things change overall in society as far as the medicinal status of cannabis, or its legal or recreational status. You know, the policies of the professional sports leagues are actually going to have to go along with that, you know, especially considering that you have teams in states where it's a legal product now. So, I think those guys made a legitimate attempt to give an educated opinion and to try and clear up some of the gray area that currently exists with that right now.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, you know, and here's another player I know you played with. I hear that Mr. Tony Dorsett is in a battle with that concussion syndrome and the residual effects there. Do you get in touch with other players in this regard, do you hear other stories about that situation?

MARK STEPNOSKI: They seem to become more and more prevalent, and the further ahead you go in time, obviously, the more older guys are going to suffer those afflictions. It's always tragic. You know, I went to the University of Pittsburgh, as did Tony Dorsett. And, you know, while we were never teammates in college or in the Dallas Cowboys, I did get the chance to meet him over the years, and he was always a great guy. It's always just a very sad thing to hear about something like that happening to a guy like that, at a relatively young age.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, Mark, you were talking about the human growth hormone kind of, I don't know, taking over from the steroids so to speak. But, I don't anticipate that you were using, you were considered to be one of the smallest centers in the league, and yet it was the effort and just motivation that kept you there for well over a decade, right?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Yeah, I was kind of on the small side when I came out of college, and then by the time I was finished playing I was really on the small side, because guys throughout my 13-year career, guys just kept getting bigger and heavier, and I kind of stayed the same, so, you know, something that was – you know, when I came into the league in 1989, every team had a handful of guys that were around 300 pounds, you know. There'd be a few guys, offensive and defensive linemen that would be 300-pounders.

And by the time I retired, you know, after the 2001 season, the average size of an interior lineman, offensive or defensive in the NFL, was about 6'4” 305.


MARK STEPNOSKI: And that was, like I said, that was over a dozen years ago. I'm sure it's only gone up. So yeah, now you're looking at a guy, you know, you're looking at a 6'4” 310 pound guy, that's your average lineman. And, you know, when guys are that kind of size, and, you know, everybody is going to look for any kind of competitive advantage they can find, and you know, if there's one out there, I mean when you consider the average salary in that league is seven figures, and that the average career is roughly three seasons, you know, guys are going to do – some guys are going to do whatever they can to maximize their earning potential. And, you know, that's why I think it should be incumbent on the league to test for something like HGH, which is a performance-enhancing drug.

DEAN BECKER: Well, indeed. Now, Mark, you've been up there in Canada for about 10, 11 years now?


DEAN BECKER: And, you know, it seems that the US and Canada kind of trade positions and stances and outlooks in regards to marijuana in particular. And, you know, Canada, and BC I understand, is kind of wide open, nearly like Colorado, and then the rest of the country is not so, what should we say, positively aligned towards the product. What's your thought there, sir?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Yeah, it's kind of similar to the US, you know, it's a big country geographically, you know, a lot of different provinces have a lot of different policies to it. Yeah, I've been to Colorado briefly since the change in the laws there, and I have to say what's happened here gradually over time, basically what happened here is, the local police came out and said they're no longer going to enforce the law against walk-in medicinal cannabis shops, and since that was made public they have proliferated here.

And so yeah, in that respect, there's kind of a quasi-legality to it here in Vancouver, which is kind of unique for Canada, like you said, but you know, in some ways mimics what's going on the United States in certain areas. And it hasn't – you know it's been a relatively short time since the police department made those statements, but I think, you know, since that occurred, I believe last year, there's been really no negative repercussions, and that's also been the case in the areas in the United States where cannabis has been made legal for recreational or medicinal use, they've really seen for the most part only positive fringe benefits from it.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly, now –

MARK STEPNOSKI: Economically and law enforcement wise, and, you know, right down the line.

DEAN BECKER: Mark, we're going to have to wrap it up here, but I'm assuming you saw the last Super Bowl?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Most of it, yes.

DEAN BECKER: And, I was wondering if you would help me figure out this question. Why the hell didn't they hand the ball to Lynch? What's your thoughts?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Ha! Oh, yeah, it's hard to say, hard to say. Easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, you know? But I guess, you know, you've got a Pro Bowl quarterback, nothing wrong with giving him a chance to win the game, you know? I, you know, Russell Wilson is, he's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, he's always got a high rating, he's a Pro Bowl talent. You can't really argue with letting him, you know, putting the ball in his hands for the chance to win the game.

I think also sometimes – I believe that play was on second down, and I think sometimes offensive coordinators think that, okeh, we have a down to work with, so let's try this first, and if this doesn't work, then we have third down to go back to our bread and butter. But you know, those guys explained that that's, what it boils down to is, you know, anywhere you're at on the field, you kind of have to take what the defense gives you, and, you know, they lined up the way they did.

And I think rather than people criticizing the call, instead they should be recognizing what a great job the defensive player did. He made an outstanding play on that play, you know, so much so that he made it look like a bad call. I don't think it was necessarily a bad call, I think that that guy was just maybe so well-coached or well-prepared for it and made such a great play, that, uh, that's really the thing that should be recognized.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Good point. I just, I saw what Lynch was just, he was unstoppable it seemed, but just the same, yeah, you're right. Okeh folks, once again we've been speaking with Mr. Mark Stepnoski, five time Pro Bowl winner, he's wearing two Super Bowl rings, and a good friend of cannabis reform. Mark, is there a website you'd like to share, some closing thoughts?

MARK STEPNOSKI: Oh, I would just, you know, anybody who's interested in looking into anything regarding this issue, either educationally or otherwise, I would always recommend NORML, I still have a very positive affiliation with them. Another couple of other organizations that people should look to support, there is one called LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former law enforcement personnel who speak in favor of ending drug prohibition. And along those lines there's an organization our good friend Howard Wooldridge runs, COP, which is Citizens Opposing Prohibition. So those are all very capable, worthwhile organizations to go to for any kind of information.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Mark, thank you so much for your time, and hope to see you down the line here somewhere.

MARK STEPNOSKI: Same to you, Dean, always a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards, and wardens. They have seen firsthand the utter futility of our policy, and now work together to end drug prohibition. Please visit LEAP.cc.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: In an ESPN2 broadcast of the Washington Oregon men's basketball game, Bill Walton went on a rant about the war on drugs. The conversation stemmed from Washington center Robert Upshaw, who was dismissed from the team for unspecified reasons. But Walton made sure to voice his pro-marijuana opinion.

BILL WALTON: This whole war on drugs has been an absolute failure across the board. Somebody's got to step forward, and we're looking for Obama to step up and say, why are we punishing folks for things that are legal? Why are people languishing in jail over things that are legal? Look at the front page of the Register-Guard right here in Eugene today, suggesting that same exact point.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Ventricular fibrillation, vasoconstriction, inhibition of the ATPase pump, increased concentration of calcium in sarcoplasm of cardiac cell, a positive inotropic effect that is caused by digitalis. Time’s up! The answer MEODMT, piedra, lovestone, Jamaican stone or chinese rock from Bufo alvarius, skin of the toad. The doctors say the safest and surest way is not to eat it or lick it, and sure as hell not to smoke it, but simply to sniff it. Otherwise, you could wind up dead.

Every day, the truth about the drug war, particularly cannabis, is growing exponentially, and it seems we're going to have to deal with this new situation, in particular how maybe we explain it all to our children. And here to talk about a brand new book, just hitting the shelves, is the author of “Stinky Steve.” It explains casual cannabis, and, it's written by Maggie Volpo. Now, do you think that's a fair summation of what this book's trying to do, is take a new approach to how we educate our kids about the use of cannabis?

MAGGIE VOLPO: Absolutely. The whole point of this is to put what has been done in programs like DARE on its head. Instead of presenting children with a lot of fear tactics and hyperbole, Stinky Steve is trying to talk to them, on their level, honestly and openly about cannabis, so that they understand it should be respected, and hopefully so that we can deter early adolescent and childhood use, you know, for recreational purposes. If we teach children to respect it, in theory, without lying to them, they'll be more likely to do so.

DEAN BECKER: Well this book's illustrated by Mauricio J. Flores, and it's beautiful, I mean, it really is. If you'll allow me, I'm going to read a little extract here.

“I'm your friend Stinky Steve, I've got answers galore about cannabis and why people use it and more! Yes, kids, your loved ones are doing what you think, but now that it's legal, it's safer than a drink!” Now, this is a very profound point that really just needs to be drummed home everywhere, doesn't it?

MAGGIE VOLPO: Absolutely. Alcohol, especially in the scenario, domestic situation, can be a very dangerous substance. Not only does it pose a risk of poisoning to minors if they get their hands on it, but it can exacerbate psychological and emotional issues in their parents, making them more likely to be exposed to abuse. Our culture embraces alcohol with open arms, and children are still being told that cannabis is illegal or wrong, in places where it isn't illegal there's still a strong sense that it's immoral or bad to do.

So it's, I think, important to counter that cultural attitude by giving kids the truth, you know? That alcohol can in fact be more dangerous than cannabis, and is, in cases of car accidents, domestic violence, poisonings.

DEAN BECKER: We're speaking with the author, Maggie Volpo, author of “Stinky Steve Explains Casual Cannabis.” Maggie, is there a website where folks can learn more about this book?

MAGGIE VOLPO: StinkySteve.com is our website, and we are also on Facebook, Stinky Steve Cannabuddy.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment was recorded in the chambers of the Washington, DC city council. They're speaking to the DC police chief Lanier.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: I'd like to, I'd like to ask you about the legalization of marijuana. I think a lot of officials in the District, including probably your new boss, the mayor, Muriel Bowser, believe that legalization's upon us because a referendum was held and the citizens spoke. We also know how things work, where laws that are approved in the District go to the Hill for approval, and it's clear from many leaders on the Hill that the language they inserted into the, into recent legislation blocks the District from doing what it would like to do. How do you handle this thicket?

CHIEF CATHY LANIER: It's uh, well right now we're kind of in a holding pattern. I know it has been sent up to the Hill for final approval. The people of the District have voted, they have spoken, the, they clearly expressed what they wanted in the laws here in the District, and, you know, I'm hoping with the mayor and the city council, they can get some clarification and get this resolved. It wouldn't have become active enforceable law anyway until probably late spring, early summer, so we have a little bit of time but pretty soon we're going to need some answers here so we can have something – there's a lot of unanswered questions and there has to be clarification on all that stuff.

What we currently have is the decriminalization, that is still in play, so what is on hold now is Initiative 71, which would be legalization of possession of certain amounts of marijuana, it's a larger quantity, legal cultivation or growing certain amounts inside the home, but even with that initiative there still has to be some clarification, it doesn't, it's not all spelled out in the law. So right now, that is what is on hold.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Has, has, has – have these changes, and I want to ask about the changes that might come, has there been an impact on policing, or has there been an impact on your work, just with the changes that are agreed upon, if you will?

CATHY LANIER: Well, you know, marijuana possession has never been, you know, a big arrest category. It's typically a secondary – I mean, if you're arrested for possession of marijuana, typically we get it because there's some other charge and then we find the marijuana in a search upon arrest. So, the average officer for the past 20 years has avoided possession of marijuana arrests because they've not been prosecuted for many many years, I mean they're – kind of de facto not prosecuted, so it was a waste of time for the officer to make a possession of marijuana arrest, even back when I was an officer. So really, no big impact on us. I mean, it saves from having to charge someone for small amounts of marijuana now, because it never really was productive to begin with. So yes, now it's a little bit easier for us, actually.

DEAN BECKER: The following was recorded last week at a Washington DC city council meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: This is my first time so bear with me, I don't have a written testimony, but I have a heart testimony. I've listened to these two, they go to my church, the Five Way Church. I was a member of Five Way years ago and I left, but what drew me back to Five Way was I heard them say on the radio that Bishop Williams' daughter Pearl started this thing about, against this marijuana, so then I went back. Now, I'm back in the church, back in Five Way Church, I've always been in church.

But what gets me about that marijuana, marijuana is addictive. The reason I, I have two sons, one is 59 years old, the other one is 55. Both of them were on drugs, started with marijuana. Now they going to tell me that “Oh mom, marijuana's not dangerous,” I say yes it is too, that's how you got on it. One got on in college, the other got on in the military. So I'm here to ask you, I see there's only four of you on there, I don't know how many council members you have. Please, don't legalize marijuana. Behind marijuana came PCP, and all that, all that, this time, please don't take us through that again. I turned 80 years old last Wednesday, and we don't need to go through all that, I've got great grandchildren now, and I wouldn't want them to get on drugs, that's all I've got to say. Please give it some consideration, think what we went through.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment comes to us out of Washington state, courtesy CNBC.

JANE WELLS: They've got too much pot here. It's an unbelievable situation, he's not sure he's going to be able to hang on long enough to get these seedlings in the ground. How can this be? Because Washington is different than Colorado, for example in Washington growers and retailers are kept separate, they're taxed separately, the total tax is really high. Medical marijuana here isn't taxed at all so why would people want to switch over. And Lauerman also says Washington isn't getting the same amount of out-of-state tourists that Colorado is, because there's already so much pot in nearby Oregon and California.

TOM LAUERMAN: In the early days we were able to get like 17 to 2,200 dollars a pound.

JANE WELLS: Wholesale?

TOM LAUERMAN: Yeah, wholesale. Now, it's like $700-$800 a pound.

JANE WELLS: Is that still profitable?

TOM LAUERMAN: No, it's not profitable at all. I've got most of my stuff stashed away for later. There's 45,000 extra pounds floating around out there with no home right now. So right now we're facing bankruptcy, and our farm is up for foreclosure.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, the drug war is ending, slow, ugly, and bloody as I've said many times before. Won't you please help in a mercy killing of this horrendous beast called drug prohibition. As always I remind you because of drug prohibition you don't know what's in that bag so please be careful. 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.