02/19/16 Jodi James

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Jodi James of Florida Cannabis Action Network, Paul Armentano Dep Dir of NORML, Prof William Martin of James A Baker Inst & MORE!

Audio file


FEBRUARY 19, 2016


LISA-MARIE JOHNSTON with LUKAS NELSON: [MUSIC] Well it’s sure been a long week,
But Friday's finally come.
Now standing before me
Is my 3 foot bong.

This weekend's about to fly by.
One thing that I know
Time Flies by when you're getting stoned

Some call it colitas, and some call it 'dro,
Some say that its all right, some say its wrong.
Based on empirical research, one thing I know,
Is time flies by when you're getting stoned….

DEAN BECKER: Time flies by, by Lisa-Marie Johnston and Lukas Nelson. This is Cultural Baggage, I'm your host Dean Becker, and this show's going to be about weed. You know, I've been at this nearly 15 years, and one of the first people I ever met who had the courage to stand up and speak up and do something about this stupid drug war was Miss Jodi James, and I'm proud to say she's with us here now. Hey, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: Hey Dean, thanks for having me on your show today.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jodi, I mean, the truth of the matter is, we met with the Journey for Justice, an event across Texas, about, I'm thinking 15 years ago now. And we made a difference, we kind of rattled the cage. We started a process here, but you're now based in Florida. I guess you always have been. But, you guys are carving out some space, are you not?

JODI JAMES: Well, I certainly think that we are, absolutely. Carving out space, that's a great way to put it, Dean, thanks for clarifying that for us. Yeah, absolutely. In Florida, we've made room for the discussion, and that's probably the first thing that had to happen. And we've continued to, we talk about being in the unbroken snow, when they're talking about giving us a little, we're talking about taking a lot. And I think that that's kind of giving people who are coming behind us the opportunity to really create some maybe decent policies before Florida does.

DEAN BECKER: And, Jodi, there are people involved in states all around this nation now, trying to parlay, trying to get their representatives to listen, to reexamine the evidence, to change their policy. Correct?

JODI JAMES: Absolutely. Absolutely. And definitely, this is a citizen -- this has been a citizen-led initiative. Now, that's changing, from the people like myself, Dean, and you, particularly as it relates to marijuana, because now the marijuana businesses are coming in, so my biggest fight in Florida today is not being here in Tallahassee or going around the state trying to provide for somebody's marijuana business. I want to make sure that we're protecting the actual consumers who are going to be using it, because, you know, business tends to take care of itself. Now, when we're talking about things like asset forfeiture, which we have a great bill here in Florida that's dealing not only with -- we actually have 15 pieces of legislation that we're working, 13 of them originally were about marijuana or marijuana policy, and then two of them were about asset forfeiture.

So, you know, when we're talking about asset forfeiture, the people who are losing are innocent people who get caught up in what was supposed to be a punishment for big profiteers, but what ends up being mom and pop who have a couple thousand dollars in the car and someone says they smell marijuana, and now they have taken their two thousand dollars. So, you know, we're really spending a lot of time standing up for constituency groups that don't necessarily have their own lobbyists, and I really am glad to see citizens standing up around the state, all around the country, doing the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: And, you know, you're talking about working on several component parts of your ideas. But the same holds true around the country, where, you know, sometimes it's the legislators, sometimes it's the citizenry, but people are presenting different ideas, different nuanced ways to handle, and most specifically with marijuana. Right?

JODI JAMES: Well, certainly marijuana policy is a brand new field, and the idea that in most states, it's a brand new, they consider it a brand new industry. Now in Florida, we're trying to remind them that marijuana is not a brand new industry. Regulating marijuana is kind of new. Taxing marijuana, that will be new, but there's an awful lot of people who are already getting marijuana, and therefore we have an industry. But when we talk about marijuana policy, and we're talking about the nuances of it, it's everything from, are we going to be drug testing welfare recipients, are we going to be have Medicaid pay for somebody's medical marijuana? If we have said now that marijuana is medicine, why are we allowing the federal government to maintain the Schedule One status? You know, the -- talk about the nuances, this is a job that may take another 15 years before we even get to the point where it seems like it's common sense.

But at least from my lawmakers, I know that the biggest problem we have is that they are trying to regulate something that is illegal, and they're trying to regulate something that is very, very benign, and even helpful, as though it were radioactive. And for me, that's the biggest problem that I'm seeing today, is just the over-regulation of what should be a very, very simple crop. I don't know if you're following Florida, of if many of your listeners are listening to what's happening in Florida, but we actually have approved a five grower monopoly in Florida, and these people are going to own the entire industry, at least for a little while. And you know, the argument that we're having today in the legislature is what kind of pesticides are we going to allow them to use for medicine? So, lots of nuances.

DEAN BECKER: What you were talking about with the politicians. You know, they've been paranoid and quite truthfully delusional about marijuana, because they are hearing the echoes from a hundred years ago without examining the current science and medicine. Am I correct?

JODI JAMES: Well, certainly we have a new generation of politicians in Florida who are starting to listen to reason. But that's absolutely been the hysteria that we've been dealing with for the last 15 years. You know, I have people who say, we know you've been doing this for 15 years, if you'd done a very good job, things would be done by now. But that's not really accurate, because the science caught up, so now the science caught up with what the anecdotal evidence always knew, and you know, that's the endocannabinoid system. We have seen the ill effects of doing things like criminalizing our young people for smoking a joint, because the reverb of that, you know, lasts them an entire lifetime.

But this new generation of lawmakers, at least that we have here in Florida, and I hope that for the rest of the states. I listened to a young representative Matt Gaetz, and I don't think he's 30. I listened to him say today in a committee hearing that we have been lied to for the last 30 years about marijuana. So that's a step in the right direction, and I firmly believe that if people, his neighbors, his constituents, his peers, the people that he likes, people that he knows and people just like you and I were 15 years ago when we were first getting started, it is those people agreeing to speak out and say something, even if it's in a quiet still room, when they have one of these guys' ears for just a minute, just those rightly placed words can make all the difference in the world. That one email, that one constituent visit, it's always worthwhile to make sure, because he may be sitting on the fence, your lawmaker may be sitting on the fence with this, because you know what, it really doesn't affect anybody that I know, it doesn't really affect anybody personally and you're going in and having that dialogue with them changes their vote. I've seen it time and time and time again.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Jodi, you talked about that representative who has opened his eyes so to speak, talked about, I think you said 30 years of hysteria, and we have here in Texas, we have US Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who wrote a book about ending the drug war, especially in regards to marijuana, before he got elected, right here in Texas. Things are changing.

JODI JAMES: Things are changing. And we know, people who have a passion for this, we're going to have to at some point say, you know what, a lot of issues are important to me, but I'm going to make this the number one issue that sways my vote. And until that happens, we're not going to see the monumental changes that we need to see. Even in a legal state, if your employer doesn't allow you to use cannabis, you don't use cannabis. Even in a legal state, if you have a government job, you don't use cannabis. Even in a legal state, you may have concerns, if you're raising children, do you use cannabis? So that's certainly not the kind of freedom to use cannabis that I'm looking for.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, so very true. Once again, we're speaking with Ms. Jodi James out of Florida, Florida CAN is the organization. Right?

JODI JAMES: Yes, Florida Cannabis Action Network.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Jodi, I think of the, I don't know, the 50 million people who've been arrested for drugs, the vast majority of them just for simple possession of minor amounts, and yet these politicians, you know, they don't realize or, I don't know, they made their bones through this policy, they cannot talk about the fact that they're empowering the cartels in Mexico, the tens of thousands of violent gangs that prowl our neighborhoods, and in essence, they're responsible for most of these overdose deaths, because people don't even know what's in that bag. Your response there, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: Well, you couldn't be more accurate on this. Now, I will tell you though that they're trying to fight a more compassionate war on drugs, and if I catch you with small amounts, I'm just going to force you into treatment, rather than send you to jail. So, you know, and -- and I'm really being facetious about that being a blessing, but that is really how lawmakers look at it. They're starting to recognize that the prisons are full, they're starting to recognize. Now, I don't have a lawmaker up here yet who is willing to say that as long as we continue these policies, that we are empowering cartels and that we are empowering gangland violence. I don't have one that will say that yet. Now, I would think that with you being in Texas and me being in Florida, that you might have -- make that an easier sell, but we're both incarceration, part of the incarceration nation, and my business, Florida businesses have pretty much said to the state that they don't want to pay for the creation of any more prisons, and so we're seeing a real, what I consider a positive, trend, in holding kind of the community of law enforcement accountable.

Here in Florida they're talking again about asset forfeiture, which has really been a boondoggle for law enforcement.

DEAN BECKER: Jodi, we've got just a few minutes left here, and I wanted to bring up a slightly different subject, if you will. We've got the political season for the candidates for president underway, and it seems the young people are latching onto Bernie Sanders. Now, he has a lot of wonderful ideas, but he's the only one who's talking about the need to change our marijuana laws, forthwith, at the federal level. What's your take on that, is it helping him garner votes?

JODI JAMES: Well, I would certainly think so. I haven't been paying as close attention to the Bernie/Hillary debate as maybe some of my other peers, we're right in the middle of legislative session here in Tallahassee, but, we'll see, is what is what is important to a lot of the voters in my community, and you know, as I mentioned, I think we're going to be in better shape if we can get more people who agree with us on drug policy to start making that their number one issue. And among young people, it does tend to be in their top three, so don't be surprised when you see that new generation of voters. The thing that the establishment is counting on is that those young voters won't come out and vote.

DEAN BECKER: Well, ain't that the case. Well, Jodi, I do appreciate your time, I'm glad to hear about the progress underway there in Florida. Would you please share your website?

JODI JAMES: Well, certainly. We're the Florida Cannabis Action Network, that's www.FLCAN.org.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! According to the BBC this drug has no known side effects. The drug contains a molecule 10,000 times as active as glucose. It goes to the mid-brain and makes those nerve cells fire as if you were full, but you have not eaten. Time’s up! The answer: P57, Hoodia. From a Kalahari desert cactus. Marketed by Pfizer. Look for the ads in your email.

A great event will happen on March 9th. The Baker Institute Drug Policy Program will present a panel on law enforcement perspectives on drug prohibition. Panelists will include Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson; Gary Hale, non-resident fellow in drug policy, former chief of intelligence, at the Houston office of the DEA; Howard Wooldridge, drug policy specialist, Citizens Opposing Prohibition, founding member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; Texas State Representative Gene Wu; the moderator will be yours truly, Dean Becker, contributing expert at the Baker Institute, producer and host of the Drug Truth Network, and a LEAP speaker. This event is on March 9 at the James A. Baker Hall at Rice University from 6:30-8:30pm. To RSVP and to learn more, please visit BakerInstitute.org.

The following is part of a speech given by my boss at the James A. Baker III Institute, Bill Martin, analyzing the political candidates in the war on drugs.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Like 77 percent of American adults, all the candidates are at least somewhat open to medical marijuana, but like fewer, slightly fewer than half, they are opposed or uncertain to recreational use.

Bernie Sanders does say, and is the only one, he does say he would vote for legalization in Vermont.

Dr. Ben Carson acknowledges that marijuana has proven to be helpful in at least some medical circumstances, but thinks it's a gateway to harder drugs and not something we want for our society, in part because it can make a person seem sleepy and listless.

Donald Trump favors medical marijuana, but opposes recreational use. As you know, he claims he does not drink, smoke, or use drugs, in keeping with his aesthetic nature.

Hillary Clinton appears to have been relatively aloof from the counterculture when she was younger. Her college friends do not remember her smoking dope, dropping acid, drinking to excess, or tearing her pantsuit off at concerts. She has said that marijuana should be available medicinally for people with extreme conditions, but she wants to wait and see for the evidence in states that are legalizing it for recreational use before taking a position.

Senator Rubio strongly opposes recreational use, and criticizes President Obama's decision not to enforce all aspects of the federal law in states such as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, which have chosen to legalize. And he also wants to dispel the myth that President Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing about this.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Connie Fiorina, and Rand Paul, all personally disapprove of legal recreational use, but they support the right of individual states to make their own decision. Even those who believe it ought to remain illegal for recreational use are open to some form of decriminalization. Keep it illegal, but lower the penalties. That does less harm to users, but it also lets criminals keep all the money. And Bernie Sanders points out that 90 percent of the income from drug trafficking goes to one percent of the cartel kingpins. It's rigged!

All of the candidates recognize the problems drug abuse can cause, particularly for adolescents. But enthusiasm is waning for continuing the war on drugs in the way it's been pursued, relying mainly on strategies of eradication, interdiction, and incarceration.

DEAN BECKER: Bill -- Professor William Martin will be our guest next week on Cultural Baggage.

Nobody can accuse me of not being fair during this presidential election cycle. This is Ted Cruz.

TED CRUZ: If liberals are so confident that the American people want unlimited abortion on demand, want religious liberty torn down, want the Second Amendment taken away, want veterans' memorials torn down, want the crosses and Stars of David sandblasted off of the tombstones of our fallen veterans, then go and make the case to the people.

DEAN BECKER: My main question is, in order to be a Christian, why do you have to be conservative?

LISA-MARIE JOHNSTON with LUKAS NELSON: [MUSIC] Time Flies by when you're getting stoned.

DEAN BECKER: From my perspective, it seems that over the last several months if not a year or more, that politicians are starting to step away from their prior stance. And here to talk about it, and much more, he's the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, I want to welcome Mr. Paul Armentano.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Thank you for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, what do you think of my thought, that things are progressing, that people are stepping away from their prior pronouncement?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, you were certainly correct, Dean, that a narrative is taking place in this country regarding marijuana and marijuana law reform, and among some parties, particularly elected officials at all levels of government, we're -- many of them, this is the first time that conversation is taking place. And that conversation is taking place because the voters essentially have demanded it. Many of these politicians are clearly not engaging in this conversation by choice, they are doing so because they literally have no choice. They must begin to have these conversations, and it's very important that the voters recognize the power that the hold to persuade these sort of conversations and to force them to take place, because politicians are not doing this by and large because they want to, they're doing it because they have to. And we need to hold their feet to the fire and keep them accountable.

It really is important to emphasize the strength in the results of these voter initiatives. Were it not for voters in Colorado and Washington, and then followed by voters in Alaska, and Oregon, and Washington, DC, to essentially override their own politicians, and move forward to enact legalization, when the politicians failed to act, we wouldn't be in the place we are now, we wouldn't be having these conversations. Those votes brought lawmakers to the table, when in the past, they refused to acknowledge this issue, they refused to acknowledge the public support, and again, now these same lawmakers realize, they have to talk about this issue, because if they don't talk about it now amongst themselves, then the voters are simply going to supersede them and move forward with their own level of reform.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, we had a gentleman, activist extraordinaire, he passed away last year, Mr. Vincent Lopez, and he opened his speeches with the one thought that canons of truth are upon you, and I think that's a very valid point, isn't it?

PAUL ARMENTANO: It is, it is, and again, I think it's important to recognize, and we see this narrative taking place, that maybe the politicians who are now for the first time engaging in this narrative, because they're not doing it by choice, because they've largely remained uneducated during this sort of cannabis evolution, in some cases the level of the dialogue that we're seeing is really not where we would want it to be. For instance, we've seen in this Republican presidential primary season, the notion among several of the candidates that marijuana is a gateway drug. For those of us that have been doing this work now for more than two decades, many of us would have liked to have thought that we've moved beyond discussions like this, that the science and the consensus among experts is clear that cannabis is not a gateway, and that we would not be hearing this fallacy reiterated from lawmakers in positions of power. But we are.

And that's because this is the first time these same lawmakers have had to engage in these conversations and they are using a playbook that is now well out of date, and that goes against the grain of public opinion, but they actually don't know any better so we're going to have to continue to maintain this education process to get some of these lawmakers up to speed.

DEAN BECKER: The information is readily available and I believe most of them cling to some sort of willful ignorance, but we do have younger, and I think more savvy, politicians coming forward. Paul Armentano, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, that's at NORML.org. Thank you, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Thank you again for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: The following message courtesy of the Cato Institute.

ILYA SHAPIRO: While legalizing marijuana as a matter of federal law would take an act of Congress, President Obama can decriminalize it. He can do this by moving it out of Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which is reserved for substances of no medical purpose and a high potential for abuse, and therefore have high criminal penalties attached to their mere possession.

Virtually all marijuana-­related arrests are handled by state and local law enforcement. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, simply lacks the resources to enforce the federal ban across all 50 states. That’s why the Justice Department decided not to fight the legalization of marijuana in the handful of states that have taken that step.

President Obama, without rewriting any laws or going outside of his constitutional authority, can direct the attorney general to start the process of reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule Four or Five substance, or declassifying it altogether.

Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule Three substance or lower would have significant benefits for the budding marijuana industry and individual users. For example: the Internal Revenue Code prohibits the deduction of business expenses that relate to Schedule One or Schedule Two trafficking? the Gun Control Act of 1968 prevents the sale of ammunition and firearms to the unlawful users of any controlled substance? a conviction for possessing a controlled substance can bar students from getting loans? and the rules are even stricter for public housing. Declassifying marijuana would solve all of these problems.

But even merely reclassifying it would make it easier for legal businesses to access the full economy and reduce violent crime. Marijuana deregulation sits squarely within the control of the executive. The president should use his executive powers to allow for intelligent enforcement of drug policy without eroding the rule of law.

DEAN BECKER: This report comes to us courtesy of ABC Denver.

MOLLY HENDRICKSON: The family of this newborn baby with life-threatening injuries is finding new hope tonight here in Colorado. Right now, little Amylea is in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital for treatments. Denver 7's Kyle Horan spoke to her family, who's from New Mexico, and relying on cannabis oil for treatment.

NICOLE NUNEZ: -- mainly, because it's a very difficult thing, just to sit there and watch your child go through seizures like that.

KYLE HORAN: When Nicole Nuñez heard from doctors that her baby girl was having seizures, it was devastating.

NICOLE NUNEZ: She was having up to about fifteen seizures a day. They were uncontrollable.

KYLE HORAN: This is most of the Nuñez family. Amylea is still in Children's Hospital. Nuñez says her daughter was taking multiple prescription drugs, but still having violent seizures. Doctors told her Amylea has something wrong with one of her chromosomes.

NICOLE NUNEZ: We came over here because it was our last option to save our daughter.

KYLE HORAN: The Nuñez family became interested in CBD oil after watching a documentary about Charlotte's Web, a high-cannabidiol content cannabis extract, with almost no THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Doctors were skeptical at first, but after weeks of persuasion, Nuñez says the doctors agreed to monitor Amylea as Nuñez administered CBD oil.

NICOLE NUNEZ: The case study is to see how children with epilepsy react to the CBD oil, as well as to see if there's any long term effects as they monitor them.

KYLE HORAN: That was three days ago.

NICOLE NUNEZ: She was looking at herself in the camera, because I had it on selfie, and she was really happy about looking at herself.

KYLE HORAN: Kyle Horan, Denver 7.

MOLLY HENDRICKSON: The family is considering moving here to Colorado to continue treatment. According to Children's Hospital, doctors in our state can't legally administer CBD oil to patients, however the study the family is participating in allows doctors to observe the effects of the oil on children and epilepsy patients.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, if you've never been around somebody with MS or epilepsy and seen the difference between before and after using cannabis products, it's a damn shame. You need to educate yourself, you need to understand, we have been lied to about this drug war for truly a hundred years. It's time to end the propaganda, time to end the madness of drug war. Again I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

LISA-MARIE JOHNSTON with LUKAS NELSON: [MUSIC] Time Flies by when you're getting stoned.
Smoke weed.