08/14/16 Rick Doblin

Century of Lies

We talk with Rick Doblin from MAPS about the DEA's new rules on cultivating marijuana for research purposes, and we talk with Lorenzo Jones of the Katal Center about police in the community and effective community policing.

Audio file


AUGUST 14, 2016


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

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

I'm on the phoneline with Rick Doblin, he's the Executive Director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

RICK DOBLIN: Well, it's tremendous news. We actually started this effort in 1999, to end the NIDA monopoly, and to try to get a license from DEA for our own marijuana production facility. And, it's been an, you know, almost 17 years now effort, and finally, the DEA has agreed that they will end the NIDA monopoly, because as long as the NIDA monopoly existed, there was no way to make marijuana into an FDA-approved prescription medicine. And that's what's been so frustrating, that, on the one hand, the federal government has said there's not enough evidence to reschedule marijuana, but on the other hand, they've blocked the ability to get the evidence. And so now that DEA has said that they'll end the NIDA monopoly, that evidence can be gathered.

But it's going to take four to six years, it could be fifteen to $25 million to gather it, but at least it's possible now, whereas before it was not possible.

DOUG MCVAY: So, 17 years, you've been trying to get this for 17 years, they've been stonewalling, they fought you in court. And they've sudden -- why do you think they've suddenly rolled over?

RICK DOBLIN: Well, I wouldn't say it's so suddenly. I mean, this monopoly, federal monopoly on the supply of federally legal marijuana, has been in existence since 1968. So it's a 48 year process, really, that has been overturned by the ruling yesterday. And I think the reason that they finally said yes is because the world has changed. There's marijuana legalization states, there's medical marijuana states, the public is in favor of medical marijuana research, we've had multiple senators who've been trying to influence the DEA to encourage them to end the NIDA monopoly. There's been enormous cultural changes, and also the DEA itself, I believe, is under pressure from the Obama administration. You know, the Democratic political platform calls for moving towards the legalization of marijuana. So there was actually no reason that the DEA could still use to justify keeping the NIDA monopoly going.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, as I said, there was bad news as well from DEA this week. At the same time that they're expanding the ability to cultivate for research purposes, they rejected two separate petitions calling for rescheduling. Could you comment on those for a moment?

RICK DOBLIN: Well, I don't think that that's bad news, because they never were going to do that, it was a total fantasy that we could force the DEA through the legal system to go ahead and reschedule. It just wasn't going to happen. So -- and the reason that it was possible, you know, for people to delude themselves, is there is a lot of evidence to suggest that marijuana has medical benefits, but there's not evidence from Phase III studies, which is what is legally required to reschedule. And, that gets us back to the monopoly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, that had the monopoly, can legally provide marijuana for research, but they cannot provide marijuana as a legal prescription medicine for sale as a business. And the FDA requires the Phase III studies be conducted with the exact same drug that the sponsor of the research is trying to market. So as long as the NIDA monopoly was in existence, FDA would never accept its marijuana for use in Phase III, and we could never get data that was necessary to reschedule.

So, the fix was in, and there was -- really, anybody realistically looking at this would know that the value of those petitions were to raise the issue in public consciousness, but they were never going to succeed. And they did raise the public consciousness, and they did help, and they just increased the pressure on DEA, and part of that now we see is that the NIDA monopoly is going to be ending. And it will be possible to generate the data for Phase III. But it's going to take a long time, and it's going to take a lot of money, but it now can be done, whereas before, it could not be done. So, I don't see it as really bad news, because I never thought that it would happen in the first place, and I think the petitions have achieved an important objective, which is they've eliminated the fundamental obstruction to getting the Phase III data to rescheduling marijuana.

DOUG MCVAY: I must say, I agree, I never -- I never took the prospect of their making a decision to change very seriously. Now, several outlets, some of the mainstream news outlets I've seen, have been calling it a defeat for the marijuana legalizers, a defeat for reformers. Do you think that's just spin, like sort of a Kevin Sabet spin, oh look I've won kind of thing, or what do you, where are they getting that?

RICK DOBLIN: Well, I think not everybody realized that there was no hope that these petitions would actually succeed. And they didn't understand that it was just part of an effort to pressure the federal government, and to educate the public, about these limitations, and then the change in public support that has influenced the politicians to pressure the DEA. So, I think on the face of it, you could say, oh yeah, now it looks like a defeat, but really, it's a tremendous success in that it pressured the DEA -- it was one of the many things that helped pressure the DEA to end the monopoly.

DOUG MCVAY: Rick, do you have any closing thoughts for the listeners, and where can people find out more about the work you're doing? Give us your website, that kind of stuff.

RICK DOBLIN: Okeh, the website is MAPS.org, like maps of the world, MAPS.org. And I just want to briefly mention that we have a $2.1 million grant from the state of Colorado to study marijuana for post traumatic stress disorder in 76 US veterans. And we are using NIDA marijuana for that, because at the moment there's no alternative. But the MAPS study will take place at Johns Hopkins and also in Phoenix, Arizona, and it will take us a couple of years to get the data but we're very hopeful that we'll have promising data, and then we're going to in the meantime try to get a new source of marijuana other than NIDA so that we can move into Phase III studies in a couple of years, and actually make marijuana into an FDA approved prescription medicine.

DOUG MCVAY: My heavens, thank you for reminding me, that, I -- now that's the study you're doing with Sue Sisley, right? Are you folks recruiting people for that, research subjects for that yet?

RICK DOBLIN: We're not quite yet, we're waiting on -- we've ordered the marijuana, NIDA will be sending the marijuana fairly soon. It's not exactly the marijuana that we requested, which is another reason that DEA has agreed to end the NIDA monopoly, because NIDA was not able to provide what was really needed. One of the strains will be 12 percent THC, with virtually no CBD. Another will be 12 percent CBD and virtually no THC. And we asked for a 12 percent THC, 12 percent CBD combination, but the most that they can provide us with was a 9 percent THC, 9 percent CBD. So, and then the other is going to be a placebo.

So, for people that might want to volunteer for the study, they will need to live either in the Baltimore area or in Phoenix, Arizona, and they will -- the best thing to do is to actually keep in touch with our website, and we will have information there on how people can apply. So you just go to the research section and look at marijuana and the information about the study, and about how to apply to enroll will be there once we finally have the marijuana and are ready to start, which should be hopefully in a couple of weeks.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, it sounds great. I realize you couldn't use it, but for what it's worth, I think the dispensary just down the street from me has weed with those percentages. Just saying.

RICK DOBLIN: Well, that's -- I mean, that's true, I mean, NIDA cannot provide what people need and what people need is available. I mean, the fact is the top THC from NIDA is 12 percent. That's pathetic. Compared to what's available in a lot of other places. So, it -- yeah, it's a really good step that's just taken place with DEA.

DOUG MCVAY: All right, well, I wish you all the best, and again, find out more information about all this folks by going to the MAPS website at MAPS.org. Rick, thanks so much.

RICK DOBLIN: Yeah, thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network, on the web at DrugTruth.Net. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

On the phone now with my friend Lorenzo Jones. He is a community activist and organizer, formerly the executive director of A Better Way Foundation up in Connecticut. Lorenzo, you have a new project now, the Katal Center. Could you tell us about that?

LORENZO JONES: Yes, how you doing? So, I am the co-director, co-executive director with my co-director Gabriel Sayegh, of the Katal Center For Health, Equity, And Justice. We just launched this year, February, got a really, like -- lot of work on our plate. So, we're working around three specific areas. The first would be, we're working with Just Leadership, Glenn Martin and Just Leadership, around their efforts to close Rikers prison, helping to train some organizers and make sure that campaign has some support.

We're also working with the national LEAD support bureau, which is headed up by Kris Nyrop and Lisa Daugard, from the Public Defenders Association. We're working with them from the -- at Katal to pull together a project that would help municipalities look at bringing LEAD type diversion programs. And I should back off of diversion, but, you know, we don't want to be tricky with language, so what we're saying is that we want -- groups that are looking for states and cities, municipalities specifically looking for different ways to do, you know, front end diversion, where people are being moved into the public health system as opposed to being moved deeper or into the criminal justice system, and in a more proactive way looking at places where public health, healthcare, law enforcement, and criminal justice kind of intersect in the world and in the new world of the Affordable Care Act, looking at those new intersections and how we can give front-end diversion on the ground in cities and keep people from going into the system by partnering with, you know, public health providers and professionals to divert people on the front end, for lack of a better word.

So, that's the second, and that's a pretty significant project, and something we're taking really seriously. And we think it's going to give us an opportunity to do some pretty significant and intimate community organizing on the ground in spaces where people may not be looking for new programs, but are looking for new public health strategies. They're not looking for necessarily new, you know, a LEAD program, or looking for a diversion program, as much as they're looking for new public health strategies across the board, period. How can services be delivered better to people who are directly impacted, that have been, and families and communities have been directly impacted by systemic oppression in the drug war.

DOUG MCVAY: This is really terrific news. The LEAD program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, is -- has had tremendous success in Washington state, up in Seattle area, where it was originated. And, you may be coming to Portland soon, if you're doing work on LEAD, because our Multnomah County District Attorney has recently been talking about wanting to create a LEAD program here in Portland.

LORENZO JONES: Yeah. I mean, we're looking at -- there are a number of places, we're still working out the different jurisdictions, but there are a number of places looking at LEAD and LEAD type programs. And again, right, you know, the LEAD stuff is important to us, obviously. We believe in it. We've seen it work, we know it can work. We've also seen some other difficulties, you know, like any other program, but what we believe the LEAD program allows to do, it enables us to kind of get into communities and actually talk to people about their direct interest in systemic change. Right? And talking about something like healthcare and public health, especially among and with people who are formerly incarcerated, directly impacted, and in a number of other ways impacted by the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and a number of other issues.

We believe that the LEAD program, because it focuses on public health, it actually allows us to get beneath a lot of other problems and get to some core issues that people want to see addressed, like the actual delivery of services. Like, can we measure whether or not services are being delivered in our community, and do have an expectation of what those services should be? So, for instance, in the LEAD program, we try to explain to people that it's not about working with the police, albeit that will be a positive thing for communities, right, and for police. But that's -- LEAD is not a fix-all to that, but LEAD is a way of allowing people to measure whether or not the police and these new intersections of public health and healthcare and law enforcement, criminal justice reform, whether these new intersections are actually producing things that are acceptable to the community.

So, if we -- we can measure that by counting diversions that take place, we can measure that by counting diversions that don't take place. We can measure that by laying -- the same we used to count hot spots and problem buildings, well, we can count neighborhoods where we'll find concentrated populations of people who've been negatively impacted by the war on drugs and mass incarceration. We can find people in those places, concentrated in those places, try to deal with and navigate this system. LEAD gives us -- I believe that we can use LEAD to help people to know and learn how to engage the system, and learn how to then draw down from the system expectations around those services.

DOUG MCVAY: It's going to take a culture change within law enforcement, within the criminal justice system generally, to bring about some of this. I mean, here in Multnomah County as I say, our district attorney is -- our county attorney's interested in LEAD, we've always had a progressive county attorney here in Multnomah County. Some parts of Oregon, not so much. In other parts of the country, not so much. We talk about community policing. What other kinds of approaches should we be doing to really have effective community policing?

LORENZO JONES: So, early in my career, late '90s, mid to late '90s, I actually worked as an organizer doing what at that time was called community policing. And so, I've got really -- I've got a really instant take on it, because the way we did community policing in Connecticut under, this is under the Clinton administration and attorney general Janet Reno. Everything that's wrong with community policing, it's true it's wrong with it. So, like this increased contact with people, that's some -- let me back out of this a little bit and say it better. So, in order for community policing to work, you have to believe and there has to actually be a reality of a relationship between the community and the police.

So, most times community policing gets rolled out, it is rolled out in a way that makes the assumption that the relationship is good, or the relationship is going to be improved because of community policing. The problem with that, I guess, is that, if we're going to -- it's like, obviously the power dynamic is completely off. When you look in those same communities where you have concentrated folks who have negative relationships and negative interactions, and do not have a positive relationship with the system, that includes the police. Okeh? So, community policing done in a place where the relationship between the police and the community is positive, transparent, and accountable: game over, you've got Mayberry. Community policing in a community where that relationship is not there, and worse, that relationship is in the negative, right, you have an occupying force, that then every day, every shift, is deployed on a community of people who are going to respond to this external strategy called community policing either by complying, or not participating.

So, what we've seen in community policing, we've seen community policing work as a tagline and not work in places where those relationships are not solid. And those are not just relations -- those are not just communities and spaces where it's about race. Those are in spaces where it's about gender, it's about immigration, it's about economics, it's about class, so, the general moniker, or the general statement, community policing is good, is incomplete, because community policing is good in communities where the people and the police have a relationship that includes accountability. Absence of accountability, right, the only people in that situation with power are the police. And it actually, it really becomes community policing, it becomes the policing of the community.

DOUG MCVAY: Exactly. I heard people talk about the -- you know, that police need to realize they are part of the community themselves, it's not a question of being an occupying army. This is, you know, we're all in the thing together, and that's a -- and when you don't have that, you get LA, you get cities where it's very much a them and us kind of situation.

LORENZO JONES: I don't think you "get" cities like that. Well, we have to get to a place where we understand that we *have* cities like that. What's happening here between the police, relations between the police and the community, it didn't get like this. It's always been like this in those communities. When you read and you talk to people -- and I'm not saying, I'm saying it's always been like that in Mayberry, and it's always been like that in the north end of Hartford. In that same time, the late '90s, doing community policing, it was commonly talked about among the Hartford Police Department that North Hartford was the training ground. The black area of Hartford, black communities in Hartford, black including West Indian, Caribbean, right, and diverse, that is Latino, right, poor whites, that that's the training ground. So if you were a cop in Hartford, you had to do so much time in North Hartford before you got certain other things inside the police department.

Now, community policing made information like that available to us because we were meeting with and talking to the police at that time, and inevitably relationships were formed. Those relationships translated into that kind of inside information, but it did not translate into a better relationship with the people who were being trained on. So it didn't get like this. It's been like this. Community policing was a response to it being like this. But community policing has not worked.

DOUG MCVAY: You're absolutely right, in fact, and I should know better, I should know better, I've said the same thing when people talk about the drug war, it's like oh yes, all these problems that are directly the cause -- if we didn't the drug war all these problems would go away, it's like, no no no, the problems, whether it's racism, sexism, and classism, pre, you know, existed before the drug war started. There were there before, the law enforcement was never the nice friendly guy on the corner who was there to help, it was always there to essentially oppress and, you know, keep down the population groups that were disenfranchised and marginalized. It was always there to support the power structure. It's only been lately that we've been trying to remake it into that friendly guy on the corner who's there to help and protect and serve. Yeah. I know that. I do know that.

LORENZO JONES: Well, in a completely strange, odd way, right, we, as well as we know that who know it, there are legitimately people who don't know that. If you lived in Mayberry, you would be like, hey, community policing's great. Why would you not? So a lot of times, like, we lean into people, or into places, because of legitimate ignorance. Like, if you lived in Mayberry, why would you have a negative opinion of community policing? You might have -- you could have a negative opinion of the police in Mayberry and still dig community policing. The difference here is that, while community policing does not work, which I think I want to retract that a little bit -- I'm not going to retract that, I'll add to it: Community policing does not work without accountability. If the police, and more importantly the city, municipality, is not going to be and cannot be held accountable, then community policing will not work.

Right? And so, what we see, what we look at are ways that we can change the system, and we can re-route the system in some ways, sometimes interrupt the system, disrupt this process, in ways that are -- that effectively produce what the damned demand. And that's going to run contrary to a system that's primarily in place to protect itself.

And it's easy to go down the road of, like, this is a nefarious, sinister plot, and this is like, you know, it's been like this since 1620. And it has. But -- not but, and since it's been like this since 1620, well, maybe 2020 we're talking about something else, we're doing something else, and then in 3120, they'll be doing whatever they're doing. So, we don't have to have a solution. We just have to have an effective response to this situation right now in our era of advocacy.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. Because it is an evolution. The culture has to change, and then the laws can change, but they do change, that's the thing.

LORENZO JONES: They'll change, we change it. That's that interruption, that responsible disruption, of advocates, organizers and activists, that the question is, well, is community policing good or is community policing bad? That's the question that's asked, and then everybody kind of gravitates and works around that question. But the real question is, what's good for people in communities? Policing is only one thing in that community, there's sewage, there's water services, there's licensing and inspection, there's crossing guards, there's libraries. There's a bunch of things that the people in that community should be answering that question. Instead, what have done? Community policing has taken all of that and put it in a nice little ball, and, you know, our midget football team got funded through the police department. Our police department, at one point a police officer was employee of the month at the Hartford Board of Education. Like, how did that happen? How is a community service officer the employee of the month at the Hartford Board of Education. This was years, a decade or so ago, but it gives you an idea of where we were back then. Right?

So to me, 2020's got to be different than 1620. I don't know that if we have any more responsibility than that, and I don't know if that includes community policing or not. I do know it includes community. And the community should determine what kind of policing they're dealing with.

DOUG MCVAY: Lorenzo, any closing thoughts for the listeners, and thank you for your time, by the way. Closing thoughts for the listeners, and also where can people find out more about the work that you're doing? A website and all that stuff.

LORENZO JONES: People can find more about us at KatalCenter.org, KatalCenter.org. Myself and my co-director, both of us are available to meet with folks, talk with folks. We're working with people across the country and just trying to have a really indepth conversation around where we are right now, and where we want to be. Not necessarily where we're going, but where we want to be. I thank you for the time today.

DOUG MCVAY: This year's Hempfest is August 19, 20, and 21 in Seattle, Washington. Information, maps, schedule, and a lot more at their website Hempfest.org.

And well, that's all the time we have today. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies, we're a production of the Drug Truth Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay 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 Public Policy.