03/13/15 Corey Booker

Washington DC Conf with Senators, Rand Paul, Corey Booker and Kirsten Gillbrand call for legal Med Cannabis. Asha Bandele of DPA with the Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, Senior Pastor Friendship-West Baptist Church. Mike Trace, Dir International Drug Policy Consortium, from plenary session at the UN in Vienna on March 11.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, March 13, 2015
Guest: 
Corey Booker
Organization: 
Senator
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MARCH 13, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: 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.

Hi, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. You know, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: winning drug war battles is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, after you drain the water. First up today we feature part of a press conference in Washington, DC, featuring three US senators: Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gilibrand. They filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana at the federal level.

Also this week, Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance put together an online telephone town hall with the Reverend Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III. He's the world-renowned senior pastor of the 12,000-member congregation Friendship West Baptist Church. And courtesy of Doug McVay, who produces the Century Of Lies program, we have a segment from his show this week featuring Mike Trace, who heads up the International Drug Policy Consortium, who spoke during a plenary session at the UN in Vienna on March 11th. The times are indeed changing, but we could use your help. First up, Senator Cory Booker.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: This bill that we are introducing seeks to right decades of wrong and end unnecessary marijuana laws. Currently right now, our veterans are prohibited from getting the medical treatment they so desperately need to relieve their pain and suffering. Parents are unable to get the medical treatment their children need to relieve their pain and suffering. High trained officials in our country – doctors and scientists, medical personnel – are unable to prescribe and recommend drugs that could alleviate the pain and suffering of their patients.

Otherwise law-abiding Americans – bankers, businesspeople, veterans, families – are fearful of unnecessary, expensive, life-disrupting investigations and prosecutions. Today, we join together to say enough is enough. Our federal government has long overstepped the boundaries of common sense, fiscal prudence, and compassion with its marijuana laws. These laws must change.

I feel very fortunate today to be standing with two senators who are my partners in this effort to end marijuana laws as they exist and adversely effect our citizens when it comes to their medical needs, and I want to thank from the bottom of my heart the partnership and leadership really of Senator Kirsten Gilibrand, she has been extraordinary on this issue. And I also want to thank my partner on this issue and others, Senator Rand Paul. Both of their leadership and courage on this issue is a reason we are here today.

But I want to look, have you look to our left and right, and you can see more importantly what compels us to the podium today and to introduce this legislation. I'd like to now ask Senator Paul to come up and give some brief remarks.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Thank you Senator Booker, and thank you Senator Gilibrand for coming today, and all of you. We as a society are changing our opinions on restricting people's choices as far as medical treatments, and there are thousands of people in our country, probably tens of thousands of people in our country, that have diseases that are incurable and that would like to seek palliative treatment. Many people have been finding relief, but some people are prevented from having that.

The laws aren't uniform. There are still federal laws that prevent states, even states that have legalized medical marijuana. A little over 20 states have medical marijuana, yet there are still federal rules that make it difficult. I just came back from Colorado, and the biggest thing they were asking me is, we want banking to be legal. We're legitimate enterprises now, we want to be able to put our money in a bank. My guess is that even more tax money will be paid if they're allowed to keep their money in banks and not brown bags.

So I think there's every reason to try to give more ease to people in the states that want this, more freedom to states and individuals. Doctors who want to prescribe this, it's very difficult because it's schedule one. We want to take it down to schedule 2 so doctors can prescribe this more easily. We don't want doctors to be punished for simply trying to help people I'm glad to part of this effort.

I think that there's great potential for research in this as well, research has been prevented somewhat by this also. When it's schedule one it's virtually impossible to research. Is the proof always there? We don't know because we can't do the research, but I'm in favor of allowing the research to occur. We know of lots of many instances where people have gotten palliative help from this, and I'm glad to be part of this effort, and we've, I've done a lot of effort across the aisle with Senator Booker and Kirsten Gilibrand, and I think this is an example of how Washington can work, and I'd like to right now introduce my friend Senator Kirsten Gilibrand.

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILIBRAND: I'm very grateful to be here with my colleagues, Senator Booker and Senator Paul, are extraordinary advocates on this and other issues. I'm really here to talk about some families, some families in New York that I met. One of them's here, Kate, Kate Hince and her daughter Morgan. You can see Morgan, and she is a little girl who has a very serious disease, and many children in my state have similar afflictions, and they feel the real pain of the current federal laws as it relates to medicine that their doctors have prescribed.

Kate, our mom, she is not a fulltime political advocate. She's a full-time mom, trying to do the right thing and to help her child get the medicine that would ease her chronic pain. Kate and Morgan sacrificed a lot to be here, it is not easy to get here, and they are simply asking Congress to do its job: to take care of America's kids. Across the country, state lawmakers have already recognized what medical research is showing us, that cannabis can treat a variety of illnesses, from MS to cancer to epilepsy to seizures.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, plus the District of Columbia. 12 other states have laws permitting the use of cannabidiol, which is CBD. It's a strain of medical marijuana that has almost no THC, and doesn't cause a high. This is the medicine that so many parents have been prescribed for their children who have these seizures, daily seizures, hundreds of seizures, that actually prevent these children's brains from developing fully, and living the fullest life they can. Instead, the federal laws threaten prosecution of the patients, of the doctors, of the providers who participate in medical marijuana programs.

And these laws, as Senator Paul said, severely restrict the scientific research of medical marijuana. They prevent the transparent financing for medical marijuana dispensaries, forcing providers to rely on dangerous cash-only businesses. These laws ignore the health benefits of medical marijuana. This is clearly a case of ideology getting in the way of scientific progress. The government should not prevent doctors from prescribing medicine that has shown to be, to work, and the government should not block families from accessing treatment that would ease their children's suffering.

Under current law, patients and doctors are forced to either forego necessary care, which Morgan has to do, or use alternatives that often have severe side effects. And those who do obtain medical marijuana risk arrest from federal authorities, even if they're in compliance with state laws. As the families told me when I visited them in New York, they aren't just afraid of prosecution, they're afraid of a knock on the door from child services, coming to take their children away all because they chose to give their children the medicine that doctors have prescribed.

Senator Booker and Paul and I are introducing this new bill, the CARERS Act, which would recognize that marijuana has accepted medical uses, and would recognize the will of voters in 23 states that have decided that denying families access is wrong. The bipartisan bill would finally allow patients and families, including veterans, in those 23 states, to access medical care without fear of prosecution.

It also reschedules marijuana to a schedule 2 drug instead of a schedule 1 drug, which is what, as Senator Paul said, would allow more research. It would also lift bureaucratic restraints so that this research can be conducted across the country and by CDC. We need to modernize our laws, and there are too many stories, like the ones I heard just a few weeks ago.

An eight year old boy named Donny who has since died, died of brain cancer, instead of being allowed to take small doses of medical marijuana which would have provided relief and reduced anxiety more effectively, he was stuck taking powerful opiates, which weren't always effective and left her unaware of her surroundings.

Or Oliver, who I just met, a little boy whose life is interrupted by over a hundred seizures a day. Those seizures impair his life, and impair his cognitive development. If he was allowed to have small doses of medical marijuana, it would stop his seizures and allow Oliver to live his life more fully. Instead, he has to take powerful barbiturates, which are addictive and not always effective.

Now Morgan, Kate's daughter here, she has Dravett, which is a syndrome that has a very rare form of epilepsy that has no known cure. I've met several children that have this disease. Even though there is a growing consensus that medical marijuana actually helps control these seizures, Morgan's mother would have to violate laws and risk arrest just to give her daughter the medicine she needs.

So these stories are not, they're not the only ones, and I urge my colleagues to support the CARERS Act. It gives the parents the ability and option to treat these diseases more effectively, and to ease their children's pain more effectively. Now I'd like to introduce Kate Hince, and she's one of our best advocates on this issue. Come on over, Kate.

KATE HINCE: Good afternoon. My name is Kate Hince. This is my daughter Morgan. We live in North Salem, New York. As you can see, we don't travel very far or go for very long without Morgan having a seizure. She just had a very mild one while Senator Gilibrand was speaking.

So I am very happy to be here today supporting this bill. I am a stay-at-home mom from New York, not an advocate, so to speak, as you mentioned. We've been advocating for access to medical marijuana for almost two years now. Morgan is 4 years old, and she suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet's Syndrome. She has seizures almost every single day.

Her seizures started at nine weeks old. Upon her first admission to the hospital, she was started on an anti-convulsant medication. Within ten days, we had added a second. Within a month, they had added a third, and I was forced to watch as Morgan became lifeless from sedation. What doctors didn't tell us is that over 30 percent of epilepsy patients have seizures that cannot be controlled with treatment.

Morgan depends on a feeding tube because she cannot eat or take her medicines by mouth. She cannot sit, stand, or crawl independently. She does not speak, and requires constant supervision from a nurse. She has trialed and failed over ten different anti-seizure medications, yet at best, Morgan has only ever gone four weeks seizure-free. At this point, we will never know what has affected her more, her uncontroled seizures, or the mountains of medications she has taken in her short life.

There are thousands of families in the US living under similar circumstances, some patients having one seizure a day, and some having hundreds. But some of these families are living in states with existing medical marijuana programs. And because they too had trialed almost every available medication, they decided to try something new. Medical marijuana that is selectively grown for specific cannabidiol profiles, are proving to be a safe and effective treatment in treatment-resistant epilepsies.

So promising are the results, most of the leading children's hospitals in the US are involved with some sort of clinical trial. This news spread like wildfire through the epilepsy community. The momentum to gain access has been unprecedented. Many families instantly picked up their belongings and headed to Colorado, and are now dubbed marijuana refugees. Other families have quietly begun to travel back and forth, transporting medication across state lines to their children and loved ones, and thus committing a federal crime.

Some families like mine turn to our state government for help, and although a few states have successfully passed medical marijuana bills, most of them are fragmented, over-thought, and over-regulated, because they have no guidance on a federal level. Today, with the introduction of this bill, that can change.

Individual state programs will never succeed until they are supported on the federal level. Across the country, advocates have been waiting to see who would take the first step, who would listen to our stories, our struggles, our confusion, and realize that enough is enough. And today we have our answer. Senators Paul, Gilibrand, and Booker, from the millions of epilepsy patients living in the US, thank you for ignoring the stigma and instead focusing on finding us a solution. Thank you.

KIRSTEN GILIBRAND: Very well said.

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilted science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.

Time’s up! The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War. All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in obeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels. $550 billion a year can be very addicting.

To dream the American dream, to lie still and hope with both of your eyes closed,
To ignore the nightmare that surrounds you,
Just to try, try to reach the American dream,

Next up, thanks to Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance, we have our telephone town hall featuring the Reverend Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, pastor of the massive congregation, Friendship West Baptist Church.

ASHA BANDELE: In the last three years, you know, especially, there has been an exponential movement on marijuana law reform. And from this week's bipartisan announcement on capitol hill calling for federal legislation to legalize marijuana for medical use, to outright legalization in four states, with California poised to be the fifth state to legalize it in 2016. We know that marijuana arrests across the board disproportionately impact black communities, with African-Americans being detained at sometimes as much as ten times more than their white counterparts again despite similar or even less rates of usage.

So those convictions and arrests lead to serious life interruptions. Not just incarceration, but far more frequently, and this is where we begin to drill down on Alexander's points on the new Jim Crow, to mass criminalization, long-term or permanent relegation to second-class citizenry, what with the loss of the right to vote, loss of access to federal loans for secondary schooling, public housing, or food for those most in need. So we are saying that we refuse to help even the least of these. So if you could direct a policy on marijuana, if you could, on marijuana, that all faith leaders would assume, what would that be, and why?

DR. FREDERICK D. HAYNES III: Well, first of all I think that states like Colorado and Washington, what California is about to do, what DC has done, they are providing us with a model in terms of legalizing marijuana. We know that by way of the enforcement of law, that we have disproportionately been impacted, as long as we allow the law to be used in an unjust fashion. The sad reality is – and even, let's just go there for the sake of argument, for those who say, why would you as a faith leader, as a pastor, talk about legalizing drugs?

Well let me just say this: If someone has a drug habit, are you suggesting that locking up a habit is going to deliver them from that habit? When I have gone to our nation's prisons and seen black bodies wearing those orange outfits or white outfits, my heart has been broken because the sad reality is, there is nothing in the prison system that is going to, if their abuse of any kind of drug is a problem, there is nothing in that particular prison that is going to heal them from that.

So my thing is, even if you are on the extreme, the rightwing extreme of talking about how bad marijuana is, and you do not believe in it for its medicinal benefits, then at least go with me and understand that as far as I'm concerned, locking up the problem does not solve the problem. The person, if anything, they need healing, they need counseling, and the like. I'm suggesting that in terms of marijuana, and the debate still goes on about that, but I am of the persuasion that locking up persons who smoke marijuana is not an answer.

So as a consequence, I am down with the idea of the legalization of marijuana across the country. I think that when you look at the harmful effects of alcohol, we saw with prohibition how that miserably failed, yet with alcohol, every study will come back and let you know it's much more harmful than marijuana has proven to be, and yet alcohol has been legalized but marijuana has not. So as far as I'm concerned again to answer your question, there's no way that we can continue morally as a country to lock people up for possession, for selling of marijuana, or for smoking marijuana. I think that that is immoral and it is something we need to stand against by way of policy.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was the Reverend Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III. Next up, as promised, courtesy of Doug McVay and the Century Of Lies, we have a segment featuring Mike Trace of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who spoke to a UN plenary session in Vienna this week.

MIKE TRACE: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and thank you Mr. Chairman for giving me the space in this interactive debate to speak to delegates. And also to the CND bureau and secretariat for the generally improved arrangements for civil society to contribute to the debates at this CND. We are particularly gratified at the decision to run these interactive workshops with equal access of all participants to make interventions in the debate. And we commend the secretariat and each of the chairpersons for ensuring broad civil society input.

In the coming days, there will be much discussion and negotiation on the procedures for the UNGASS on drugs, and the issues that can be discussed, and it is clear that member states are divided on some key issues. Most fundamentally, while some member states want to use this UNGASS as an opportunity to reform and modernize the international drug control system, some others are equally determined to ensure that no meaningful reform takes place.

International Drug Policy Consortium is a global network of over 130 NGOs and professional networks that exists to promote open and constructive debate on how to make drug policies and programs more humane and effective. Accordingly, it is no surprise that we have consistently called for this UNGASS to be a setting for open and comprehensive debate on past achievements and failures, current challenges, and future options. And we want the UNGASS to produce some real outcomes that help us all deal with the diversifying and fast-moving challenges we will be facing in the coming years.

Our traditional strategies have not been conspicuously successful in the past, and without adjustment and modernization, they have little prospect of succeeding in the future, with patterns of production, distribution, and consumption of illicit drugs diversifying rapidly. We are concerned therefore at any attempts to limit or stifle this debate, for example by restricting discussions within the framework of the objectives set out in the 2009 political declaration, or avoiding any discussion of activities already implemented in many countries that may challenge the current – the traditional strategies or the current treaty framework.

I have been coming here long enough to remember many examples of CND heated debates around and strong resistance to new approaches that have now become established and effective parts of national and international drug control strategies. Countries that reduced or removed criminal penalties for drug consumption were warned that their drug use rates would increase, they would suffer from mass drug tourism, and their actions would undermine international cooperation. This never happened, and we see now depenalization and decriminalization is now working effectively in dozens of counties, saving significant public expenditures and recognized by the UNODC and INCB as fully compliant with the conventions.

Similarly, countries that introduced needle exchanges and low-threshold access to substitution treatment, were for decades castigated for being too tolerant of illegal behavior, and warned that their policies would increase drug use and health problems, and would undermine effective drug control that was based on zero tolerance. Once again, these problems never happened and these strategies are now recognized by all serious analysts as being essential elements of global strategies for the prevention of drug-related infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

We now see many other new drug problems emerging: widespread synthetic production of new psychoactive substances, web-based distribution systems, and an increasingly large, lucrative, and diverse consumer market. Accordingly, we also see new policy approaches that challenge the assumptions in our traditional strategies and the flexibility or limits to latitude of the conventions themselves.

We have seen one recent withdrawal and re-accession to the treaties. We have many countries operating consumption rooms, health facilities in which the use of illicit drugs is facilitated by health authorities in safe surroundings. And we have several current initiatives to administer state-regulated markets for substances under international control, and there are more sure to follow in the coming years.

Many of these policies and activities have been declared by the INCB to be not in compliance with the drug control treaties. It would therefore be absurd if the treaty-mandated forum, this CND, and the highest level review for the last 18 years, the UNGASS, were not able to examine in detail the tensions between our current agreements and what is happening on the ground.

So let us approach this UNGASS process in a spirit of inquiry and openness, and constantly reminding ourselves that, whatever the pressures and sensitivities within these rooms, the outside world will not be impressed if all we achieve in 2016 is a restatement of previous declarations. Thank you for your attention.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Mike Trace, who does head up the International Drug Policy Consortium. He's also former UN drug official and high UK drug official as well. Kinda hard to ignore him, isn't it?

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.

DEAN BECKER: Albert Einstein, 1932.

WINSTON FRANCIS: If we end the drug war now, all of our efforts are for nothing. Victory cannot come from admitting defeat. Lives lost, families, ruined, billions spent, all for nothing. Almost a century, generations of fighting, all for nothing. Giving up is the only true path to failure. We must continue to fight, to spend, and jail, and kill, to honor the memory of those who fought before us. It is what we know, so it is what we must do. Follow the leader. Do not falter. Your path has been chosen for you.

DEAN BECKER: An oldie but a goodie. Thank you, Winston Francis. The unvarnished truth: drugtruth.net. And damn it, we're out of time. Well folks, I want you to do your part to end the madness of drug war. It's really easy. You'll be seen as a hero by your friends, family, and co-workers. And as always I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.

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

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.