06/07/15 Doug McVay

This week we talk with Dale Sky Jones of Oaksterdam University, and former NORML national director Professor Jon Gettman of Shenandoah University.

Century of Lies
Sunday, June 7, 2015
Doug McVay
Download: Audio icon COL060715.mp3



JUNE 7, 2015


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization. Legalization. The end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network and is supported by the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you. And now, on with the show.

The state of California and legalization efforts are in the news. It's time to take a look at what could be happening in 2016. I say could be, because nothing is a given. It's a presidential election year. There are two kinds of strategies, one is get out the vote, where you encourage more people to get to the ballot box, the other is called voter suppression. Voter suppression, negative advertising and the like, is to try and discourage people, of course particularly your opponent's supporters, from going to the ballot box.

Voter suppression strategies would include keeping a marijuana initiative off the ballot, because as we've learned, marijuana initiatives bring out voters, especially younger voters. So will there be something on the ballot in California in 2016? We'll find out in the next few months. Right now, we're going to find out about what's happening in California and a few other things. This is part of a conversation that I had recently with Dale Sky Jones. She's the chancellor at Oaksterdam University, and is also an activist in California working on legalization issues. She's a leader in drug policy, and I was very fortunate to have a few minutes of her time. So let's listen to that.

Having too much fun so we should start talking.

DALE SKY JONES: Sound check. Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam University, Chairwoman of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, coming at ya.

DOUG MCVAY: Dale Sky Jones is my guest today, and I thank you so much for doing this. Brilliant, dedicated, and fierce. Dale, tell us about, okeh, some of the different groups that you work with, I know it's the California Coalition for -- oh heck, you tell it because I'll get the name all mixed up.

DALE SKY JONES: No worries. We're the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, otherwise known as Reform CA. And you can find us at ReformCA.com. But the day job is Oaksterdam University, I've been with them since almost the beginning, and had the pleasure of taking over in 2012, when Richard was unfortunately forcibly retired by our federal government. But I'm blessed to be at the helm of Oaksterdam, and we've managed to not only right the ship but go sailing across the country, we've managed to hit the east coast and we're coming soon to Washington, DC, and Las Vegas.

DOUG MCVAY: Wow. Okeh, I want to find out about the expansion plans and Oaksterdam in a moment, but let's go back to California because I know that that's what really a lot of listeners are going to want to know about. 2016 is fast approaching, and the Coalition is one of the groups that's working to try and, not just put an initiative together, but also try and get people together to work on that initiative. Again, you tell me about this stuff.

DALE SKY JONES: Well, we've learned a lot of lessons from Prop 19, and one of the most important has been really just involving the stakeholder community. So we've gone up and down the state, visited all four corners of California from up into the redwoods down to San Diego and into the Inland Empire. We're about to visit the central valley and central coast, because you know that center of California, especially the farmers, are extremely important to talk to about this issue. And so it's really just a matter of bringing together consensus, these thoughts and ideas from folks that didn't feel part of the process before, or just simply have something to add to the process now.

It's time to really work towards one unified effort, and that's what Reform California is all about. Not just with the cannabis stakeholders, the medical patients, the dispensaries, the folks that are already in business and ancillary businesses, but also the rest of California. And that's why we also involve the NAACP, Latino Voters Leagues, hemp industries, cops, and moms.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, of course, your initiative effort is going to be informed by the attempts in some of the other states. What are some of the lessons that you think we can be drawing from Colorado and Washington and Oregon as they've been implementing their adult use programs?

DALE SKY JONES: Well, I think it's important to note that the decriminalization is going to be a natural part of the process of regulation, and so we really need to get the regulation right when it comes to establishing a new economy, a new industry. Last year's report showed 86 percent of our nation's economy was driven by small business, and there's no reason that the cannabis industry should be any different. We have to make sure that we have small or low barriers for entry, meaning availability for minorities, women, people that have had previous issues with cannabis legally, are actually the best suited to go into the industry now as professionals. We shouldn't be barring access by either making it impossible or illegal to participate, or just simply making it too expensive to participate.

This is our opportunity to create jobs, competition, and thereby really simply improving it across California by adding taxes to schools, having law enforcement refocus their priorities, and it's really just having that conversation about how. It's no longer if, it's a little bit when, but now it's mostly how. With elected officials that previously wanted nothing to do with the conversation, we've found there's finally a mandate for medical, and that means in 2016 we can drive the process by regulating medical, that's what the voters want to see. They're not as interested in setting up an adult marketplace until they see the medical marketplace function. In California, there is very little credibility to the current system, and it's unfortunate because it's been working rather well. You don't see a lot of major problems, other than the imaginary ones concocted by opposition.

So it's beautiful to look at Colorado and Washington, to see the unintended consequences have not actually come to light. The sky hasn't fallen, cats are not sleeping with dogs, in fact we're seeing health benefits. It's important to change the conversation from societal cost to societal benefit. We're seeing a reduction in DUIs, we're seeing a reduction in domestic violence, we're seeing a reduction in overdose deaths by 25 percent. That's one in four, in just two years. Those are the numbers we can finally point to.

I think another important lesson to learn is, we don't have to over-regulate for fear. When you look to the way Colorado ran the initiative versus the way Washington ran their initiative, a lot of the Washington components were to appease fear, and still continue to treat cannabis in a way that it is considered quite dangerous. I think Colorado had a better example of how to approach both setting up the industry, allowing for civil liberties, and still producing tax revenues for the state, in fact so high that they had to return some.

DOUG MCVAY: Indeed. And the same thing in Oregon, of course, we had our ballot measure, it was much less restrictive than Washington state's, although it was still somewhat restrictive, but they didn't go overboard, and got about 57 percent of the voters, which, you know, not too shabby, not too shabby.

I don't want to -- just because the effort is about to start, if you have any other thoughts about the California initiative, but otherwise I want to shift over to a couple of other things.

DALE SKY JONES: Well, I'd just like to point out that California is going to affect what happens after 2016 for the rest of the nation. We represent one sixth of the United States' economy, and like it or not we will affect the way other states decide to regulate or not regulate, depending on how well we do here in 2016. So whether or not you live here, you need to care about what happens here, and that's why I would invite you to be part of the process and go to ReformCA.com, add your voice, get the emails. And also best practices. We're having this conversation nationwide, and someone in Mississippi or Florida or Alaska can take some of this knowledge to their neck of the woods and advocate for the someone that they love.

DOUG MCVAY: Knowledge is a good segue. Tell us something about, I'm sure a lot of our listeners have heard of Oaksterdam University. It's, I mean, it's internationally famous, but having heard of something doesn't mean they really know too much about it. Could you give us the, the capsule version about Oaksterdam and the work that you're doing there?

DALE SKY JONES: Well, I particularly enjoy pleasantly surprising people with what they didn't expect. I think that folks that come to Oaksterdam just realize that there's something for everyone, whether you are an expert who's been doing this for years, and we're finding ways to enhance your best practices, make it a little better or reduce your cost, or just simply introduce you to all the folks you hadn't met before so that you can improve and increase your business lines.

But also, just simply for understanding who you are and why you're there. It's important to us that we teach you what you need to know. Not just what you want to know, and since 2007 we've been very careful to navigate the risk and help you mitigate it, whether it be social risk, political risk, or most importantly, legal risk. That we'll teach you what you need to know. Not just how to grow, but how to have a successful law enforcement with an officer, or how to convince your dear aunt Betty that this is actually medicine. So whether you're a patient or an entrepreneur, I assure you that quality training for the cannabis industry with Oaksterdam, we've been here since 2007, will prepare you for success.

DOUG MCVAY: That's terrific, and now -- well I guess, let's get that website out of the way too, so people can find you. Where is Oaksterdam?

DALE SKY JONES: Oaksterdam University is located in Oakland, California, although we are taking the show on the road, so it's even better if you email us, get some friends and we might just go to a city near you next. Go to OaksterdamUniversity.com, OaksterdamUniversity.com.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. Now, oh, you know, one has to ask these questions, they're almost pro forma, and, and, you know, it's the usual thing. The movement and the way that it looks, and the composition, and you're of course very active and involved and you've been a leader and a symbol, but how do you think we can -- how do you think we can do, what do you think we can do to try and get more red-headed people into the marijuana movement? And, and also maybe even getting more women involved in the movement too? I mean, either or both questions.

DALE SKY JONES: Red-headed women? Yes, we're a, we are a small demographic although I am excited to say that there's at least three of us at this conference, so -- we are improving the numbers and that's red-headed women by the way, not just women. No, it's really exciting to see especially in the last two years the demographics start to shift more towards women, and that was vital, because honestly mothers don't care what white guys have to say. It does not apply to them. They need another mom talking to them about why they should care about this issue, and once you connect the dots, that this is not about legalizing pot, this is about what's most important to you, where the resources go, educating your children and preparing them for college instead of prison.

So, connecting those dots by women for women is, I think, what's really shifted the zeitgeist from four years ago to today, is we finally captured the women and the women are finally, well, coming out of the closet. What I need to see more of is color. We have such an opportunity in communities of color, but we've failed to reach out to them, and that's why it's so important to just continue that work. I recently worked on an article with someone in the bay area, and I think the number one thing just after this Mother's Day, if you know your momma loves you, come out. It might just help her, too.

DOUG MCVAY: Hey, it's true, I think that's what -- it's like they say, it's not the, it's not that fact that was the problem, it was the lie. It's like, all right, then stop lying. You're -- I couldn't agree more. Okeh, from the sound of it the break is about to end and it's going to start again and you've got a lot of stuff to do, but any thoughts, anything you want to throw out to the listeners here?

DALE SKY JONES: I just want to keep encouraging folks to have the conversation. More times than not, whoever you're talking to actually agrees with you, but you're both afraid to bring it up, and here in California -- I'm sorry, here in Florida, the last vote was 58 and a half percent, in the most purple state in our nation. And that should tell you something. In the 8 years I've personally been working on this, and talking to people about it, because the previous half of my life I was in the closet. I kept waiting to be attacked, I kept waiting for someone to just go after me for what I was trying to do, and the worst I've gotten is, wow, I don't really agree with that, but I'm glad someone's working on it.

And then that opens the door for the conversation, and oftentimes that person becomes the best advocate, because they realize how they have been wronged by the very lie that you're trying to change for people, and they join you. So just come out, this is our gay marriage moment, and if we just come out of the closet and realize that normal, intelligent, well-producing people are also cannabis consumers, it's not that scary guy over in the corner anymore, it's your best friend, your son, your daughter, your mother, your cousin, and that's what makes this okeh, just like gay. It's what makes it okeh, is it's someone they love and care about, and that's the conversation we need to start having. Thank you so much for your time and attention, I really enjoyed this conversation.

DOUG MCVAY: Dale, thank you so much, it is so great to see you here, and, yeah, you do such incredible work, just keep it up, and, yeah, just keep 'em flying. Oh you know, before I forget, last tag, too, this is Sunday the twenty, what 23rd? No, Saturday the 23rd. Heard a, saw a news report this morning, the Republic of Ireland has just voted to approve gay marriage, civil unions, same-sex unions.

DALE SKY JONES: Wow. Right on. It's, this is really about civil rights, and I think it's about finally allowing humans the ability to, well just like it says in our own Constitution, just to seek happiness, to live to the fullest, with the opportunity for quality of life, and to deny that to anyone, to take a child from a nursing mom over a choice in medicine, we can do so much better. But we have to do it together, and we have to do it regardless of whether or not we agree on any other issue, and that's how we get this done.

DOUG MCVAY: Dale Sky Jones, from Oaksterdam University, thank you so much. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay.

That was an interview I had with Dale Sky Jones from Oaksterdam University and California reform efforts. She was at the Patients Out of Time conference last May down in West Palm Beach, Florida. That's where I caught up with her and we managed to get that interview. This is Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

While I was there at Patients Out of Time, we managed to talk with a few old friends and got some interviews with them. One of those people was Jon Gettman. Folks are aware of Jon Gettman because of his research on marijuana arrests, which has been supported by High Times Magazine the last several years, and of course he used to produce a crop estimate every year when he was the director of NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. It was while he was working at NORML that I first met Jon, and then a few years after that, he hired me to come out to DC and be part of the NORML staff, one of only three or four people on staff back in those days.

Professor Jon Gettman. Jon, it's good to see you. Now, you just gave one of the opening speeches here at Patients Out of Time. I didn't get a chance to record it, so could you tell my listeners what you had to say here to the crowd?

JON GETTMAN: Well, hi Doug, great to be with you. First of all I reviewed the history of different efforts to have marijuana rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act, and NORML was involved in that for 22 years, I've been involved with that for probably another, I don't know, 15, 20, I've lost count. And the gist of my presentation was that scheduling is obsolete, it doesn't fit cannabis, it's not the right regulatory framework for marijuana these days, and that we need to really think about marijuana in terms of what Lester Grinspoon laid down decades ago. It ought to be widely available and inexpensive, it ought to be like aspirin, it ought to be out there for people to use, and we can use the more complicated regulatory structures, that are made up for drugs and pharmaceuticals, for drugs and pharmaceuticals but that marijuana's really, what I'm calling it now is, the phrase of the day is an elegant botanical compound and again, Lester nailed it decades ago. Widely available, inexpensive, just like aspirin.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. The, this rescheduling thing, it's a nice idea, 20 years ago that would have been really brilliant, but this is the 21st century and we have kind of moved on from there. What do you think about the CARERS [sic] Act, the idea of rescheduling down to Schedule Two?

JON GETTMAN: Well, the -- you know, if you read the fine print of the CARER Act, it's really a very well-crafted piece of legislation and what it really does is that it exempts states from the Controlled Substances Act. If you look at if carefully, nothing in federal legislation would supersede state law. You know, we talk about, we talk about the federal supremacy clause but what the CARER Act does is, it says okeh, here's the federal law for states that don't have medical marijuana legislation, but if a state passes medical marijuana legislation, medical marijuana statutes, then the federal law doesn't matter anymore. And so in that respect, I was suspicious at first because again, I'm against scheduling. Scheduling actually -- the way the schedules are today and the regulations that flow from them, it would be more stringent, more restrictive, than what states provide now, and so I'm not at all in favor of using the CSA to roll back some of the provisions in states that have medical marijuana laws.

So when I heard about the CARER Act, I went to read it, I was like, wait a minute, it's not going to work, scheduling's not going to work. But no, it's actually, it states very explicitly that, you know, if a state has their own law, that's what governs the use of medical cannabis, and so in that respect it's a very well-crafted legislation -- piece of legislation. And it's very practical, it's very supportive of this, this federalist experiment we have of experimenting in different states with different types of frameworks for making medical cannabis available.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, it might have potential, I'll certainly -- you know, we'll be following to see how it goes. The -- I want to find out about some of the stuff that you're doing now. I mean, we're at the Patients Out of Time conference and so medical cannabis is the main theme, but I know you're doing a lot of work on other stuff, and well, my show's about drug policy, not just about marijuana. But just to backtrack for a minute, when I met you back in 1983, working there, you were at national NORML, then I -- you hired me to come out to DC and do that, we were, we were doing this stuff back in the Reagan era when frankly it took a little bit of guts to say the words "legalize marijuana," and my gosh, things have changed a little bit since those days. What do you think about, what do you think about the state of the movement, and this sort of, the general, the general politics of stuff?

JON GETTMAN: Well, thank you. I think that, I think the most important thing we did in the 80s, and it's one of the reasons that you were hired, was to really focus on activist development, and to get more and more people involved, and more and more people involved in the local level. And that has transcended NORML. NORML's been a stalwart, a great resource and catalyst for getting people involved, for getting information to them, for hooking people up and creating networks. We're so into social networking these days, with the software and the technology, but you know, doing this in a real person-to-person fashion, we sort of re-oriented NORML into that sort of approach to activism in the 80s. Some of it was necessity, some of it was creativity, some of it was just taking advantage of all the people who wanted to do something and trying to find something to do with them.

But I think that's what's changed the issue over time. A lot of the people who are active in the movement today, somehow started out with NORML in one fashion or another, or somehow started with the intellectual and academic network that surrounded NORML. I remember Arnold Trebach, before he founded Drug Policy -- Foundation, yeah, I'm trying to remember all the lingos now. But he was a professor at American University and I had the good fortune to go study under him later. But, you know, he was engaged in this issue as a civil rights issue, and he was in touch with NORML about some common concerns and themes, and then as he learned more about the issue he got more active, wrote some books, started sort of DPF and moved on from there, and that eventually became the Drug Policy Alliance of today.

Patients Out of Time, Mary Lynn Mathre came to work with us at NORML and the Council on Marijuana and Health, Rob Kampia who founded Marijuana Policy also served on the NORML staff, and -- I mean, you know, a lot -- you can look at this two ways. In some respects, a lot of people worked for NORML and found there were limits to what the organization can do and they found that frustrating, and they went off and did other things, and these things have all added to the movement, and have been quite successful in their own right.

So the flow of things over the last twenty years has been, more and more people getting involved, that's the first thing. I'm into business management studies these days, and it's something else that I do professionally, and there's this concept of entrepreneurship, and without getting too fancy, it's new combinations of goods and services. And that's what innovation is all about, and that's what's happened in this movement, people put together new networks of people, new approaches to the issues, new proposals for the public. Proposition 215, the initiative project. You know, I met you when you were working for the Oregon Marijuana Initiative. That one never passed, that created a model that showed that, you know, really you could do something with the initiative process in many states.

You know, I was extremely skeptical when MPP, Marijuana Policy Project, first promoted a legalization initiative in Arizona, I even wrote some very critical and snarky comments about it at the time, which I totally retract. Because they were right and I was wrong. I didn't think the feds would let states get away with legalizing marijuana. Well, look what happened in Colorado and Washington. So we get these new combinations, we get these things that some of us never even conceived of, but by getting all these, all these people involved, all these new ideas, all these fresh perspectives, that's how you attack a complex problem, you get lots of different brains on it. You know, some things are too big for a single brain. We get lots of brains on it. It's a bit of a tacky thing to say but you know, two heads are better than one. Well, you know, a thousand heads, ten thousand heads, a hundred thousand heads, when you're talking about people who want marijuana reform, it's a cheesy reference, but that's what's happened, we've got a lot of creativity applied to this.

I've been working on racial disparities in marijuana arrests for a long time, still working on that kind of data, and I'm getting now into regulatory frameworks and really promoting why we need an open market for marijuana for the future. I think that holds, that goes back to my comments about medical marijuana: widely available, lots of innovation, lots of participation, a wide open market, make marijuana cheap and widely available.

Well, I have, I have two websites now, and I confess I don't take very good care of them but I'm trying to get better at that. Number one, DrugScience.org, is where all the information about the old rescheduling petitions and some older reports I have on the size of the marijuana crop, and on arrest data through about 2007. I have new site I'm working on with the sponsorship of TransHigh, the publishers of High Times. It's called RegulatingCannabis.com, and you'll see there a white paper on why there should be an open market in cannabis, a free market in cannabis, and there's some information there about some other things related to this theme that I'm developing with TransHigh's support, of pushing for free competitive markets in cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview I did with Jon Gettman. He is a professor and a scholar, and a writer, and a good friend. We ran into each other at the Patients Out of Time conference in Florida last month. That's really all the time we have today. I want to thank you for listening. This is Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. We come to you once a week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and the fight to end it.

Century Of Lies is heard on 420Radio.org on Mondays at 11am and 11pm, Saturdays at 4am, all times are pacific. We're heard on time4hemp.com on Wednesdays between 1 and 2pm pacific along with our sister program Cultural Baggage. And we're on The Detour Talk Network at thedetour.us on Tuesdays at 8:30pm.

A shout-out to some of the stations out there carrying Century Of Lies include: WERU 89.9 FM in Blue Hill, Maine; WPRR 1680 am 95.3 fm in Grand Rapids, Michigan; WIEC 102.7 FM in Eau Claire, Wisconsin; WGOT-LP 94.7 FM in Gainesville, Florida; KRFP 90.3 FM in Moscow, Idaho; Valley Free Radio WXOJ-LP 103.3 FM in Northampton, Massachusetts, KOWA-LP 106.5 FM in Olympia, Washington, and Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.3 fm in Santa Cruz California. To all our listeners and supporters: Thank you.

Recordings of this show and past shows are available as a free download from the website DrugTruth.net. While you're there, listen to our other programs and subscribe to our podcasts. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DrugPolicyFacts and of course also @DougMcVay. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, be sure to give its page a Like. Drug War Facts is on facebook too, please give it a like and share it with friends.

We'll be back next week with more news and commentary on the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

DEAN BECKER: For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.