02/12/17 Jodi James

This week, we talk with Jodi James, Executive Director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network, about implementation of medical marijuana in Florida and the legislature's attempts to hobble that program before it gets off the ground, and we hear from Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) about his new bill, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act.

Century of Lies
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Jodi James
Florida Cannabis Action Network
Download: Audio icon col021217.mp3



FEBRUARY 12, 2017


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.

JODI JAMES: My name is Jodi James. I'm with the Florida Cannabis Action Network, I'm actually their executive director, and I am here in Tallahassee at the capitol.

We're at the very beginning of our committee week right now, here in Florida. We actually have a 60-day session that starts in March, but the bills are being introduced right now, and early committee hearings are already happening.

DOUG MCVAY: As usual, if people wait until the legislature actually starts its official session, whoops, too late, all the bills that they're going to really consider were discussed a month or two beforehand. They do that in Oregon, so not surprised they do it there. What is -- people should know that in 2016, Florida adopted a medical marijuana initiative. It had failed the year before, but you by gosh overwhelmingly passed one this time.

Now, some of what you're looking at in this session is going to be changes to that, and implementing, or, what's happening down there?

JODI JAMES: Well, Florida is a hotbed of activity. The hearing I sat in this morning, actually, bars people who are using temporary cash assistance programs from purchasing lawfully recommended medical marijuana. So yes, implementation of the Amendment Two is certainly on the table. We're expecting to have a hemp bill, which is going to allow for private and public partnerships, so we can actually get some hemp seeds in the ground this year.

And also of concern to my constituency is changing the felony threshold for people who are not medical users, but who are simply recreational consumers. And all of those issues are on the plate this year.

DOUG MCVAY: Wow, now let's back up to that first one, because that's -- I mean, for years we've been trying to make people understand that drug testing people receiving the TANF or other forms of assistance, that basically you're just penalizing people for being poor, that it, they're money losing programs, they never find people because these aren't people who are actually using drugs illegally. Now they're actually, forget about testing, we just don't want to let people with medical marijuana have food stamps? Is that, I mean, seriously, the Florida legislature's -- there's someone in the Florida Legislature that's that evil?

JODI JAMES: Well, and that's what I said in an email last night, to the sponsor of the amendment. I said, you know, we've made medical marijuana as complicated as possible in the state of Florida. We are not California, where anyone can go in and get a recommendation for just about anything. They have prohibited all smokeable forms of marijuana, so you're not even -- we're not even confident at this point if we're going to be able to go into a medical marijuana treatment center and even walk out with buds. It is quite possible that the only thing you'll be able to get under Florida's medical marijuana program is going to be prepacked cups for a vaporizer, or extracts in the forms of pills, tinctures, or salves.

DOUG MCVAY: So people who already have the money that they could go out and they could buy their shatter, and their concentrates, and buy their expensive vaporizers and all that, people who have the money, they're going to be fine.

JODI JAMES: And they're going to continue to stay on the black market, Doug. There's just, there is so little incentive in Florida right now, for people to get in under this new program. Now, we are at the early stages of implementation, and everything is subject to change, but if they don't change the process that we have right now in Florida, you will have to see a doctor who has taken a course in recommending medical marijuana, they will have spent a $1,000 before they can even get the privilege of recommending marijuana to you as a medicine.

If they have gone through the process of getting that approval from the state that they can do it to begin with, they're going to have additional scrutiny from the Board of Medicine, they've already made that very clear. The Board of Medicine is attempting to disallow the use of telemedicine in the recommendation of cannabis, so if you want to talk about how it's going to affect people who don't have a lot of money, right now, in order to get on the medical marijuana registry in the state of Florida, you have to have been with a doctor for 90 days, and you have to see that physician and get your recommendation renewed every 45 days.

DOUG MCVAY: You know, when I was finishing my cancer treatment, I went back to see my doctor every few months, every six months for my blood tests for a few years, and I did that because I had to. Every 45 days? My god.

JODI JAMES: Which is, actually, even more often than you'd have to see a physician for a Schedule Two drug. So, you know, what's happening in Florida is really something that the nation needs to be paying attention to. Why legislators in Florida are trying to come up with a place for the Schedule One drug? And that's how they think of it. So they're actually imposing structure and strict guidelines that reflect its Schedule One status.

Now, anybody who's been following this issue for any length of time recognizes that the federal Controlled Substance Act, where cannabis is a Schedule One drug, is absolutely ridiculous, it's been mis-scheduled from the very get-go. But that Schedule One designation is wreaking havoc with patients getting access here in Florida.

DOUG MCVAY: It just underlines the whole point that it's not enough to just pass a bill that sounds good, you really have to keep at it and you really have to fight. Just because we win one of these things doesn't mean we've won anything significant, it just means we've taken a step forward. I mean, thank heaven you're there. A lot of people will think, oh -- oh, let's get real political. It's like back in 2008, a lot of people thought, oh goodness gracious, fantastic, America has improved, we've overcome racial inequality because we finally elected an African American to high office, and so a lot of people decided we can just coast for a few years now, and look where we are as a result.

So, in other states, you know, oh, we passed something, it's going to be great, until a few years later down the road when you realize that the legislature has destroyed it. And it's that kind of, oh, just keep calm, people, you just stay back and let the professionals handle it kind of thing, that -- well, that is how we got into this screwed position in the first place. Thank goodness you're down there, because you're one of the ones who's diligent enough, and smart enough, to not fall for the -- that stuff. Almost used a bad word there.

So, what can people do? I mean, what can people in Florida do, but what can people anywhere do that are concerned with this stuff?

JODI JAMES: Well, continue to put pressure on the federal government to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act. The green, leafy matter has no business in the Controlled Substances Act. The plant itself should never have been controlled the way that it is. Certainly if you want to make extracts, and you want to make potions, that are going to be available through a pharmaceutical model, those kind of potions need to, if you're going to say that it is a medicine, we have rules for that.

But the green leafy matter certainly doesn't belong in the Controlled Substances Act. And I'd say that's probably first and foremost.

If you are in an illegal state, find an organization like Florida Cannabis Action Network. It may be called something else, but there are already serious people at work in all 50 states. Make sure that you're careful who you align yourself with, and that the information that you get is factual. I tell people there are very few sites that I would recommend, in terms of where to go and get your information. DrugPolicy.org is certainly one of them. But, you know, there's a lot of misinformation about marijuana and marijuana policy, and what we're doing in this country out there. We want to make sure that you get the best possible information.

If you're in Florida, follow Florida Cannabis Action Network. We're the only marijuana reform organization that has a constant presence in the legislature, from the beginning of the first committee session to the last day, when we sine die. We're here from the beginning and we're here to the end, because we believe everyone should have safe, legal access to cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, now, tell people the -- gosh, if only there was a site where people could get all kinds of facts about lots of different aspects of the drug war. Have you heard about any of those? And also, does Florida Cannabis Action Network have a website? Do both of those, please.

JODI JAMES: We do. We do, and certainly, Drug War Facts has always been an important part of what we do. Drug War Facts is a website, it's DrugWarFacts.org, that has been updated for the last 16, 17 years that I know about, maybe longer. But you can always count on the most recent studies to be at your fingertips.

And that becomes important when you're writing a letter to your lawmaker, when you're writing a letter to the editor, when you're getting ready to speak at a public meeting. The worst thing that we can do is perpetuate the Cheech & Chong image. The best thing we can do is educate our friends and neighbors about the truth about cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, and that's the one thing we put -- that I -- thank for that, I was fishing for that, thank you for grabbing at the hook, and just to continue that thought for a moment because we do add links to the original source materials. We want people to be able to go and check the source. Use the source. Because that's the only way that they're going to be able to convince people that no, I'm not just getting this off the internet, this is what this paper really says, here's the paper, and that's important. You work with these people down at the legislature all the time, so you know that, you know, it's one thing to just, oh anybody can say something, but, yeah, here's the source. You got questions? We got answers.

JODI JAMES: Well, absolutely. This past weekend, at the association of counties, Florida Association of Counties, so, this is the meeting where all of the county regulators, county commissioners, all get together, this is kind of their affiliate group, and one of the gentleman that was there, there were two people speaking. One was the former drug czar of Colorado, and he talked about youth use being down, results being up, favorable outcomes, and then a gentleman who was a law enforcement officer got up, and said, well, I've got a totally different set of facts.

So, you know, making sure that your source is impeccable is going to help if we come to those, you know, I want my facts and you want your facts, but at the end of the day, the body of research is in, the people have spoken, overwhelmingly we have said that we want safe legal access to cannabis as medicine. Overwhelmingly people have said that they no longer want to see taxpayer resources used to incarcerate people for cannabis. And over fifty percent say that they think it should be available to responsible adults.

You know, in a democracy, we've gotten what we're supposed to get, and now it's time for our lawmakers to catch up with us. The problem is that legislatures move slowly. I was in a meeting one time, and the gentleman was talking about this great, big, ocean whale, and I don't remember which whale it was, but he said, this whale is so big that for it to turn course, for it to take a left, it has to go almost a half mile before it can take that left. If you take a school of sardines that's as big as this whale, if three of them take a left, the entire school will turn left, and they can turn on a dime.

We're more like a whale than we are like a school of sardines, and I assure you that what we are doing is taking a very long time. It's terrible for patients, who are caught in the crossfire, but that's what people like myself and the giants whose shoulder I stand on have been doing for a very long time, and that's trying to make sure that we can get the patients out of the crossfire in the war on drugs.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, Jodi, I'm just, I am just grateful to heaven that the people of Florida have you there, because, I mean, like I say, you know, it's true, people can make a difference, and, people make a difference, and you're one of those people who proves how much impact an individual can have, by just being there and being persistent and being consistent, and just sticking with the work. You know? It's just --

JODI JAMES: That's right. Just keep showing up.

DOUG MCVAY: Exactly. Keep showing up, and keep having your facts right, and keep, and just -- you do it well. I mean, it is important that you do it well, too, I will throw that in. But, yeah.

JODI JAMES: Well, we do do it well. Your listeners can check out what we're doing right now at www.FLCAN.org, FLCAN.org. Right up front you can get on our email list. We're in the process of launching a new website, so I would encourage people to get in there and take a look at it now, and be excited about the changes that are coming. You know, it's a brave new world for marijuana in Florida, and our new website will reflect some of those changes.

But for right now, FLCAN.org is a great place for your listeners to stay informed. If they get on our email alerts, they'll be hearing about session once a month in our newsletter, and they'll be getting regular action alerts, so that they can be an active voice in the process as we implement Amendment Two, expand our hemp project program, and move towards a space where adults are no longer criminalized for marijuana.

DOUG MCVAY: You -- I've taken a lot of your time, and you are, I can, I mean, I know you're in the middle of a lot of hearings and meetings and I'm so grateful to you. And, next time I talk to you I want to find out more about your hemp project, because that's major important. That's majorly important, but we're practically out of time for the show. So, if you can give me some final thoughts, and once again, just to make sure folks got the website, that is Florida CAN at FLCAN.org. That's FLCAN, as in Network, dot org. Executive Director of Florida Cannabis Action Network Jodi James, any closing thoughts for the listeners?

JODI JAMES: Keep showing up. Keep showing up. The work's not done until every person who needs access, wants access, can have access. And as long as you're showing up, we're going to continue to have forward progress. And that means one more person is going to be saved today that we couldn't save yesterday, and that's a good day.

DOUG MCVAY: And let's, you know, and even when we think, okeh I guess that's it, there's always got to be somebody there to check, and to watch, and to make sure that things don't roll backward, and, well yeah, thank god we've got people like you there.

JODI JAMES: Thanks, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: Well, I appreciate your time. We're going to get back at it, and we'll check in with your show pretty regularly throughout this session, so that your listeners can find out exactly what's happening in Florida.

DOUG MCVAY: I'll hold you to that, you've got time on this show in perpetuity, as long as I'm around, Jodi.

JODI JAMES: Well, we are certainly glad you beat the cancer, Doug, because we want to keep you around for a very long time.

DOUG MCVAY: Ah, thank you. All right, Jodi James, you keep fighting the good fight. Bless you, and thanks.



JODI JAMES: Bye, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of Lies, 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.

From the states we turn to the feds. On February Seventh, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican Representative from California, introduced a piece of legislation that he's sponsoring. The title of the bill is the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. Here's Dana Rohrabacher talking about that bill, from the floor of the House on February Seventh.

REPRESENTATIVE DANA ROHRABACHER (R-CA): Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to ask my colleagues to join me in the legislation that I have submitted today, which is the Respect State Marijuana Laws.

For too long, Washington's decisionmakers have pursued the same policies over a whole range of issues without regard, or not, whether those policies are actually beneficial to the American people. In fact, policies that have utterly failed, they continue to support, as -- many of these things -- because the intent sounds so good.

So, over and over again, we see failed policies remain in place, wasting money. Rather than evaluating the reason for the policy failures and ultimately deciding to change course in Washington, the habit has been simply doubling down on regulations, personnel, and tax dollars spent, believing that that will have and bring a different outcome.

Last November, the American people registered their dissatisfaction with this way of thinking by electing Donald Trump to the Presidency.

President Trump's statements on the campaign trail loudly and aggressively challenged the status quo. And we haven't had someone here shaking up the status quo for a long time. But he did so by promising to revisit a whole host of failed federal policies that have been crying out for attention for years and, in some cases, decades.

One such failed policy has been the US Government spending billions of dollars and wasting the time of federal employees -- hundreds of thousands, if not maybe tens of thousands of federal employees – in order to prevent adults from smoking a weed, marijuana.

Candidate Trump told the voters this was an issue to be left up to the states, especially when it comes to medical marijuana. At a 2015 rally in Sparks, Nevada, then-Candidate Trump said, and I quote: Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should be happen, yes – right? We don't -- Don't we agree? I mean, I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states. It should be a state situation, I think, in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state. End of quote.

I could not agree more with the President, and indeed, it is the very approach that I have advocated for several years. In this vein, I have reintroduced today, as I said, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, earlier today, along with Republican colleagues Tom McClintock, Ted Yoho, Don Young, Duncan Hunter, Justin Amash, and Tom Massie, as well as Democratic colleagues Steve Cohen, Mark Pocan, Earl Blumenauer, Dina Titus, Jared Polis, and Barbara Lee.

My bill, which has not received a designation yet, but is entitled the Respect State Marijuana Laws, will permit residents to participate within the confines of a state's medical and recreational marijuana program without running afoul of federal law.

Admittedly, my personal preference would be to lift the federal government's prohibition on marijuana entirely. However, I understand that this approach would be a nonstarter for many of my colleagues, which is why I have promoted an approach that simply gives the States and their residents the room they need to take a different approach to this issue, should they choose to take that different approach.

Under my proposal, if a resident or business acts outside the boundaries set by a particular state, or if the state has chosen not to allow medical or recreational use of marijuana by their residents, the federal government would still be empowered to enforce federal law in those instances, if that's what the people of the state want it to be illegal, the federal government can still get involved.

Of course, the number of States that have resisted the shift in national opinion on this issue is small. To date, 44 States, including DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico, have enacted laws that allow, to a varying degree, the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. For those states and territories that have discarded strict marijuana prohibition, my bill would align Federal policy accordingly.

Now, this is to those states and the people of those States who have decided they don't want the marijuana prohibition. My bill would then make sure that Federal law is aligned with that state's, and the people in those states, desires so that the residents and businesses wouldn't have to worry about Federal prosecution. For those few states that have thus far maintained a policy of strict prohibition, my bill would change nothing.

I think that this is a reasonable compromise that places the primary responsibility of police powers back in the states and the local communities that are most directly affected.

Over the past few years, the disparity between state and federal marijuana policies has confused and stifled banking, proper taxation, research, natural resources development, law enforcement, and related activities. A plethora of bills, many of which I have happily cosponsored, have been introduced in the House to tackle these problems on an issue-by-issue basis. However, my bill is the only one that would solve all these problems in one fell swoop.

Indeed, my bill is short, straightforward, and easy to understand. It amends the Controlled Substances Act to add a new rule that reads as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marijuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, or administration or delivery of marijuana.”

The major difficulties that landlords, dispensaries, banks, and others find themselves in in those states where the majority of people -- maybe the vast majority of people – have voted to make marijuana legal in their borders stems from the fact that the Federal Government law considers that activity still illegal.

By explicitly stating that as long as these folks are following the state law, their actions are, by definition, not illegal to the federal government, if we do that, many of these obstacles, many of these confusions that people have to deal with in those states, in the states where people have voted to make sure they don't want marijuana illegal, well, their problems and the complications, the banking rules and everything else would be solved immediately.

I would ask my Republican colleagues to join me in supporting the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. It presents us with a unique opportunity to support legislation that responds to our constituent demands because across America, people are understanding the reality of this.

They don't want to put people in jail, they don't want to have Federal law strike forces in their community just to prevent adults from consuming a weed in their backyard. Makes no sense at all. They know that people, once they are arrested for just smoking a weed that is not hurting anybody else, they end up, their lives are damaged and it is harder for them to become a decent citizen.

Well, we Americans are concerned about each other, and we know we can't just leave it up to the government to control our lives. So with that said, I would hope that my colleagues support this legislation and support Congressman Blumenauer and myself and others in the Cannabis Caucus that is being established in order to be consistent with the goals and ideals of American liberty, and to make sure that we have limited government and unlimited freedom in this country, and that's what America was supposed to be all about. And with that said, I yield back the balance of my time.

DOUG MCVAY: That again was Representative Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican, part of the Cannabis Caucus on Capitol Hill, talking about new legislation that he is introducing, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act. I was on a panel with Dana Rohrabacher at Seattle Hempfest a couple of years ago. We don't agree politically on a number of things. Real grateful to him for the work that he's doing on marijuana legalization.

REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN MAST (R-FL): Does the gentleman from California have a motion?

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: I, here, I move that we here, do, adjourn.

DOUG MCVAY: And well folks, that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies. We're 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. The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. Remember: knowledge is power. 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.