06/19/15 Bill Martin

Rx for US Drug Policy: A New Paradigm, authors Prof. William Martin of the James A Baker Institute and Jerry Epstein Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas + report from Richard Lee founder of Oaksterdam University

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, June 19, 2015
Guest: 
Bill Martin
Organization: 
James A. Baker Inst. for Public Policy
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

JUNE 19, 2015

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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: 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.

All right. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. You know, I read the drug war news every day. It's getting better. A lot of people are starting to talk about the over-incarceration, the bigotry involved, the asset forfeiture, and in regards to marijuana, medical marijuana in particular, things are making progress all around the country. And just yesterday, the Senate in Delaware passed a new law, a decrim law, says under a thousand -- excuse me, under one ounce, you could be fined up to a hundred dollars, and, you know, maybe, and there would be no opportunity for a jail sentence.

But here locally, and I want to preface this with I am a board member of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, I am a contributing expert for the James A. Baker III Institute, and two top players within those organizations have put forward A Prescription for US Drug Policy: A New Paradigm. And we have joining us the authors of this new report, Professor William Martin of the Baker Institute as well as Jerry Epstein, who is the president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. And let's see if we can hear you both. Are you there?

PROFESSOR WILLIAM MARTIN: I'm here, this is Bill Martin.

DEAN BECKER: Hi Bill. You there, Jerry?

JERRY EPSTEIN: Yes, I am.

DEAN BECKER: Well, real good. I want to commend you two for this prescription for US drug policy. It is truly a new paradigm. It is a means whereby we can cut down on much of the blowback, much of the forfeiture of assets, and so forth, in regards to marijuana in particular. I tell you what, let's start by asking, let's start with you, Professor Martin. What compelled you to put this forward at this time?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, we would have put it forward before this if we had gotten it finished, so, Jerry and I have been working on this and talking about it for a good while, and it just, even though this thing even with all the footnotes is only about 20 pages long, it's not that long with the footnotes of course, but there's a tremendous amount of material that we have gone through and whittled away and tried to be as concise as possible. But, part of it I think is that we see that the climate is changing on drug policy, more on marijuana than other things, but the climate is definitely changing and we want to address the issue, not only if we, let's say we reduce the penalties for marijuana or even legalize marijuana, that doesn't take care of even most of the drug abuse problems in this country, the substance use disorders.

So we wanted to let people understand that there is more to drug policy reform than just reducing the penalties for marijuana, and that there is a lot more to drug abuse, or that one of the major issues in drug abuse is alcohol, and that we ought to put all drugs when we talk about reforming things, we need to have alcohol as a benchmark. At least, those are key issues that came up. But another thing is we have been convinced for a long time that we have a great deal of government data that does not support, not only does not support the war on drugs but in fact runs quite counter to it, and that we thought it's important to lay out these data, which are easily available to anyone with a computer, but which play very little role in public policy or in the popular media, or even the popular consciousness.

DEAN BECKER: And thank you, Professor Martin. Now, Jerry Epstein, the director, the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. You guys look back at this, you took a historical perspective to start this thing out, and --

JERRY EPSTEIN: Yes.

DEAN BECKER: -- and let's talk about how that's a component, a necessary component of this analysis.

JERRY EPSTEIN: Well, it was just the fact that many of the principles that Bill and I were able to identify had been discussed right at the beginning of the drug war, so-called, under Nixon. And so part of the legislation that came about when we established what is called the Controlled Substances Act actually at the same time, he was appointing a bipartisan national committee on marijuana and drug abuse to report back what he assumed would be support for his various policies, and it was dominated by Republicans and headed by a former Republican governor, Shaffer. And he, they issued their report and essentially what they said is we're on the wrong track. And they highlighted what Dr. Martin has already mentioned, which is the prevalence of alcohol and the problem, and that not only was alcohol our biggest drug problem, but the public had no awareness of that fact. So there was a communication block.

And I'll quote to you one sentence or two sentences from that report, which says "The individual and social consequences of drug use escalate with frequency and duration of use. American drug policy will never be coherent until it is founded on uniform principles such as these, which apply to all drugs." So, in essence, if you want to shorten a lot of that, you can say there's no real rationale for prohibition if it doesn't apply to alcohol, the principles are essentially the same. And they went on essentially to say, using prohibition just made the problem worse, although they were not specific on that, they lay it out, they lay out the case well. So that's the historical background that led them to also say, look, we will have to stop looking at this problem as a problem of individual drugs. You have to look at the user. You have to have a people-oriented process. And that's a process that basically is a public health orientation, and not a police and persecution.

DEAN BECKER: I want to reach back to the beginnings here for just a second. You're talking about Nixon's plan and they then had, the commission issued a report, Marijuana: Signal of Misunderstanding, and this was endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Public Health, National Education Association, and the National Council for Churches. We've just had our eyes closed to what's before our eyes, have we not, Professor Martin.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Exactly, and that's, this is, again, we, Jerry and I understand as with other people who are familiar with these data, we understand that our saying it is not going to cause everybody to say Oh well, let's change everything. However, it is important to say that these ideas have been around for a long time and as you just pointed out, endorsed by the highest levels of people concerned with individual and public health, and we have simply, they have simply been ignored in our policy to, and the result has been really a disastrous 40 years of that policy, and more of that, but certainly during the 40 plus years of the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now, Jerry, you have I have talked about this in the past. You've got some great graphs contained within this report, Prescription for US Drug Policy. And I was talking about it briefly last week, that about 70, maybe 75 percent of the problem of drug abuse, and that includes alcohol, is, stems from the use of alcohol and alcohol alone, that maybe 10 percent is alcohol mixed with hard drugs, and maybe another 15 to maybe even 20, doesn't look like it, percent is these quote recreational drugs, these illegal drugs. We have to get a better focus on what we're trying to help, do we not?

WILLIAM MARTIN: I'm getting some feedback, not feedback, but another radio program coming in, but it's gone now, so let's, let's go. Well, these figures that we have on these charts that on average, over 12 years, 13 years, we have 68 percent alcohol only, 14 percent alcohol and illicit drugs, only 18 percent involve illicit drugs only, and I think this is what you were saying while I was trying to sort it out. 80 to a little over 90 percent of people, up to 95 percent of people, who have a problem with any other illicit drug, have a current or earlier alcohol disorder. And we are not arguing for alcohol prohibition, or even abstinence. But we are just saying, to look at this you're going to have to face dealing with, that you are dealing with something that operates, with some things that operate essentially on the same principles that alcohol does, and we've got to face that, and then if we do that, perhaps we can do it a little more sensibly.

DEAN BECKER: Jerry, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, NSDUH, they interview approximately 70,000 people twelve years and older annually, and tell us what those findings are from those surveys.

JERRY EPSTEIN: Well, basically, Bill has given you the thumbnail, that these numbers are consistent, they're consistent we're dominated by alcohol, and because they're consistent from in this case, the entire length of the new system from 2002 to 2013, what it means is that recovery is normal, and what it means is that if you look at alcohol as one group and other drugs as a second group, that you are just as likely to be recovering regularly from the non-alcohol drugs as from alcohol, and this consistent relationship reoccurs over and over and over again.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Yeah, we need to make clear, you and I understand this, but they didn't make clear that these numbers stay stable over these years, even though new people have developed these disorders with alcohol and other drugs. But the numbers stay stable, so that means new people are being added but about the same number are passing out of having these difficulties. And so that's really, even though we hear things, we're in a big drug epidemic, it's really remarkably stable with a little bit over 22.1 million people with a substance use disorder each year over the thirteen years.

Another thing that these data show is that people passing in and out of problems with various drugs corresponds quite remarkably closely with their age, their vulnerability to substance use disorders rises through teens, through the teen years from 12 to 17, then peaks at ages 18 to 20, and then goes downward rather rapidly on through to 65 plus, so there's a very, not only is the number stable, there's quite a predictable decline after the peak at about age 20, and so what we have said is that we're arresting people often at the time when they're already in the process of a natural decline. And the data on this are just really extremely clear, it looks like an athletic shoe, just going up to a peak and then just slipping on down through the, along the life cycle.

DEAN BECKER: I can say that that certainly applied to me and my drug use, or cycle. Folks, once again you're listening to the Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio, we're speaking, you just heard Professor William Martin of the Baker Institute for Public Policy, and our other guest, Jerry Epstein, the director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Now, I want to talk about that, they're talking about, not everyone that enjoys a glass of wine is destined to become an alcoholic, and I guess these drugs, whether it be alcohol or, you know, methamphetamine, and I want to talk about that for a second. In my youth I used some meth, I had some friends that would shoot up meth, eat a hamburger, and go to sleep. So these drugs do not effect everybody the same. I was astounded by the guy who could do that, but I guess my point I'm getting at is that, there is no blanket to throw over drug use of any kind, whether it be legal or illegal. Jerry, do you want to respond to that?

JERRY EPSTEIN: Well, that's an extremely critical point. And it's that human behavior as we know is very complex, not everybody likes the same foods, not everybody likes the same car or whatever it may be. And drug addiction is not a thing, it is a very complex spectrum of things. Some people react completely differently at one end of the spectrum to other people at the other end of the spectrum. And what happens unfortunately is that the things that most make the headlines and most determine a lot of our attitudes are about the behavior of a tiny segment of people who are not typical, but exhibit the most disastrous, you know, reactions to the drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, and who may just accidentally or purposely get in trouble with the law for doing something stupid, robbing or whatever, get caught with the drugs, and I want to underscore that thought with, I've been busted 13 times, eleven of them for being drunk with drugs in my pocket. And I was never given a sentence for the alcohol symptoms or whatever, it was always for the drugs. And I guess the point I'm getting at here is that, for me, alcohol was my demon drug. It was the one that basically was about to ruin my life, once I quit drinking, I didn't have problems with either drugs, you know, alcohol or drugs, it was more in balance, so to speak. Do you want to respond?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Yes, absolutely, I mean, that is true of very many people. What we find is that everyone has, not everyone, over 90 percent of the people who are using drugs have this alcohol thing in their background, when they're in these vulnerable years they, there tends to be a lot of experimentation, there's a lot of use of illegal drugs, but, then as time emerges, they prefer alcohol.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

WILLIAM MARTIN: And so, it's not, you know, we have a chart showing how other drugs that we consider to be things like instantly addictive are in fact rejected by the vast majority of people who use them, they don't like them. So, one of our charts shows that the percentage of people -- we have a chart shows the percentage of people who used, who initiated use the year before last but didn't use it last year. I think that's one of the most striking charts on this, in this paper. Seventy percent of people who used heroin the year before last didn't use it last year, and other, oh, crack, 75 percent. So, we often think, well, look, these, we talk about these as instant addiction, well it's just, it's not true.

Another thing we're talking about the criminal, I taught criminology for 35 years, and I stressed over that period that yes, criminals, it's not so much that drugs cause crime, but criminals use drugs. It's part of a milieu, and often, you know, you hear somebody's done something and they'll say they found marijuana in his system, and I'm thinking, yes, and it had nothing to do with that particular crime you're talking. Marijuana doesn't cause people to steal, it doesn't cause people, it doesn't make people violent. But that's part of the -- again, that's part of the popular picture and part of the way the media displays things.

JERRY EPSTEIN: And, on that same wavelength, it's also true that we have data now from people who are given heroin by Swiss clinics, and so it turned out that as soon as they had a stable source of heroin, there was a dramatic reduction in criminal behavior.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Exactly. And even a significant reduction in heroin addiction, because when they got their lives, when they were being able to come in regularly within the presence of a nurse so there would be drugs there in case there was an overdose, sterile needles to reduce the exchange of blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, the diseases came down, people were able to conduct their lives in a more responsible way, and a number of them say, I don't want to do this anymore. And straighten out their, you know, they straighten out their lives.

Now while we're talking about heroin, too, right now we're getting a lot of attention because particularly in the midwest there's a rise in heroin use. But, and sometimes it's noted, but, it's like all of a sudden we have a lot of people using this dangerous drug, and if you look deeper at the stories, you see that one of the main causes of this is, these are not new people, these are not new users of opioids, of addictive opioid drugs, they are switching over from the prescription drugs, which have become a little bit harder to obtain, to a less, actually a less safe but a less, an uncontrolled drug that criminals are ready, are willing to provide. Not many people who use heroin have that as their first drug.

DEAN BECKER: Right. It starts with, for many of those people, with the oxycodone, oxycontin tablets, that Purdue Pharmacy [sic] was pushing for about a decade there. I'm reading a book right now, Dreamland, I can't remember the author, but they talk about the cost of those Oxycontin wound up being about a dollar per milligram or whatever it is, 80 bucks for a tablet sometimes, and then the Mexicans brought up cheap tar heroin to, you know, replace that at about one fourth the price and four times as strong, it's -- we're just letting the wrong people take control of this, I guess.

I wanted to say this: I tried cocaine back in my youth, and I didn't like it. I thought it was a lot of money for very little effect, but it was a good lure for women who liked cocaine, and therefore it, you know, occasionally I would buy it for them. But I guess it comes back to what Jerry was saying, that these drugs are not the same for everybody, and that, you know, the fears are just kind of nebulous. Your thought, there.

JERRY EPSTEIN: Well, that's, of course, true, Dean. I guess I want to get back to one of the things that, what I really want to stress, is that we discovered that the correlations with the most severe types of addiction were very much affected by what had happened, by the conditions present at birth. Okeh? So there were a lot of genetic contributions, there were a lot of atmosphere and family circumstances involved, and I'll just talk about a few of them.

DEAN BECKER: Jerry, Jerry, please do, but we've got about two minutes.

JERRY EPSTEIN: Oh, okeh, well, real quickly then, mental disorders or something that a person may be born with or susceptibility for mental disorders, and they're there before drug use. We're talking about child abuse, we're talking about children brought into chaotic homes, we need to change the focus of our programs to deal better with these things at a very, very early age.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for that. Bill, closing --

WILLIAM MARTIN: Be sure to tell people how to get hold, how to read this --

DEAN BECKER: I was going to ask you to please outline for them how they can access this report.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Okeh. Go to BakerInstitute.org/drug-policy-program, and that will bring you to the first page of our drug policy -- of the Baker Institute's drug policy program, and the top featured item there is Rx For US Drug Policy. And please, download it, read it, tell your friends, invite others, spread the word.

DEAN BECKER: I thank you for that, gentlemen. And, folks, if you want to learn more about the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, their website is DPFT.org. I want to thank Mr. Jerry Epstein, the director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, and Professor William Martin, who heads up the Drug Policy Program at the Baker Institute for Public Policy. Gentlemen, closing thoughts, ten seconds apiece.

JERRY EPSTEIN: I reiterate, read what we wrote, it's interesting.

WILLIAM MARTIN: We worked on it a long time, and we think we did a good job. Thank you for your interest and for publicizing this, and for your continuing work on drug policy reform, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, gentlemen, thank you. And I can't recommend this any higher, this just strips down the quote logic of the drug war, and presents as they say a new paradigm. Please check it out.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects: Intimate, for use during foreplay, vaginal sex, manual stimulation and masturbation, once topically applied in gentle massage onto the clitoris and labia during foreplay, the effects of genital application of this product is an enhanced pleasurable sensation especially for the female partner. Time's up! The answer: Zestra. Not intended for tasty oral sex.

One of the entrepreneurs, one of the pioneers in exposing the harms, the fraud of this drug war, of the war against marijuana especially, is coming to Houston to speak to the Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition as well as the Liberty Rocks group here in Houston. Mr. Richard Lee will be joining us and he's with us now. Hello, Richard.

RICHARD LEE: Hey Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Richard, you have the experience and you were truly a pioneer out there in Oakland, well, many years ago now. What, tell us about that experience, how it began, and sadly how it ended for you a couple of years back.

RICHARD LEE: Well, we started working with Jeff Jones and the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative in the late 90s, opening dispensaries in Oakland, California. We were the first city to permit and allow dispensaries, and that pushed things forward with Oaksterdam, a cannabis-friendly area of Oakland, and then opened up Oaksterdam University, which has had over 15,000 students, students come in from all over the country and even some from all over the world. And they take what they learned back and work on legalization, work on the politics back home, and so we're real proud that a lot of our students are the ones in the business now in Colorado and other states.

And then sadly, in 2012, the federal government couldn't take it anymore, and attacked us, raided us and seized everything, and so, I basically was forced to turn things over to other people, to let things continue.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Richard, I was proud and privileged to be able to visit the Bulldog Coffee Shop as well as the SR-71 dispensary when they were open and thriving, and it was a beautiful thing.

RICHARD LEE: Yeah, we go back to, like I said, the late 90s, is when the OCBC opened up in '96, and then a number of other dispensaries opened up after the federal government raided them in '98, so that was years before any other city in California actually began permitting and officially allowing dispensaries, and so we feel like we did a lot of good work there, pushing things forward.

DEAN BECKER: Mr. Richard Lee will be in Houston Thursday, June 25th, 7-9pm at Paul's Kitchen, 2502 Algerian Way.

All right, folks, thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Once again I want to thank Professor William Martin of the Baker Institute, and Jerry Epstein, the director of the Drug Policy Forum, author of this great report, you can find there on the Baker Institute website, Rx For US Drug Policy: A New Paradigm.

Here, I'm going to quote from it for a second. Jerry had talked about the preliminary report from 1972, A Signal of Misunderstanding, about marijuana. "Nixon angrily rejected the report and Congress declined to consider its recommendation, but the Shaffer Commission pressed on, and a year later issued a second, more comprehensive report, Drug Use In America: Problem In Perspective. Nixon also ignored that one, declaring his intention to ratchet up his attack on all fronts in an all-out war and just kick the hell out of it. He proposed and Congress approved the creation of the Drug Enforcement Administration, which merged existing anti-drug agencies into a single federal agency charged with coordinating government quote control actions. Forty years later, the DEA is one of the largest and most powerful agencies in the government, with a worldwide reach."

All right, folks, that's about it. Once again 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. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss...