06/30/17 Debby Goldsberry

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Debby Goldsberry, author of "Starting and Running a Marijuana Business" + Houston Mayor & Police Chief re Fentynal & Paul Armentano of NORML re cannabis Vs opiods

Audio file


JUNE 30, 2017


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Ah yes, thank you. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, your host. Well, our guest for today has written a new book, Starting And Running A Marijuana Business. It's listed under the Idiot's Guide: As Easy As It Gets, and it's written by the owner, director, of the Magnolia Wellness Center in Oakland / Berkeley, California, a frequent guest on the Cultural Baggage program, Debby Goldsberry. Hello, Debby.

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Hello. Hello, everyone.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for being with us. Debby, I think you're one of those people who has the experience, the knowledge, and the ability to truly explain how in the world one goes about starting and running a marijuana business. Give us, if you will, a little summation, I'll have specific questions, but, what's this book going to do for the reader?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Well, I've been involved in the cannabis industry all the way since I was in college, 1986 I first got involved, and pretty early on I realized that most of the people who are providing marijuana and medical marijuana to people who are using it either for adult personal use or for their medical benefit, those people hadn't gone to business schools, they were busy in the trenches growing marijuana, really trying to stay out of sight, or driving marijuana around town in a clandestine manner, and other people at the same time were going to business school, in fact.

And now we see kind of this confluence of both sides, people who are very experienced in business getting into the cannabis industry for the first time, and our own supporters who've been with us for 30 years, you know, sometimes less, but for a long time doing the work in the trenches, don't have all the skills that they need to compete yet in business.

There's a big learning curve there. So my thought was, let's hit both markets. Let's educate the new entrepreneurs just entering in, to tell them about the cannabis movement, about the hard work we've done all this time, about ten thousand years of cannabis use that led to a prohibition of about a hundred years, about people like Jack Herer, author of the Emperor Wears No Clothes, who really introduced us all to hemp for the first time, about Dennis Peron, who started the modern medical marijuana movement.

Let's give them some institutional education. Make sure that people understand the laws, that this is still federally illegal, that city by city and county by county, you can either get in trouble or you can supply and grow and provide medical marijuana, and then, at the same time, let's take our own people and provide them with a simple path to running a good, solid business. How to incorporate, how to pick your board of directors, how to write your business plan, how to get your funding, and how to go into business.

Maybe at the end we'll have a socially conscious marijuana industry that helps end prohibition, where all of us are employed with a single earner wages, raising our families, using marijuana if we want, and providing medical marijuana to people who need it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again we're speaking with Debby Goldsberry, she's author of Starting And Running A Marijuana Business. Now, Debby, I've had the opportunity to tour a couple of the facilities you've worked at, what was it, Berkeley Patients Group?


DEAN BECKER: And then more recently your Magnolia Wellness, and I've got to say that the way you have, I don't know, designed and presented and, you know, just made it customer friendly, you know, certainly appeals to me, but, I, you know, I'm here in Texas. We have a lot of people that want to move to Colorado or California and, you know, they think it would be a slam dunk to just open a cannabis dispensary, but there's a lot of details, a lot of hoops to jump through, isn't there?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Yes, a very competitive market, and cannabis dispensary permits always have this kind of request for application process through the city government, and you have to compete -- most of these competitive processes, for every one dispensary that's available in the city or county, there's fifteen solid competitors. So you've really got to work hard to win, and have enough money to battle a protracted -- you know, battle for your permit with a lot of competitors.

So it's not easy to get into the dispensary market per se. Sometimes it's easier to get into the ancillary markets, creating the products that supply the dispensaries, which often aren't as heavily -- the numbers that can be in business aren't as heavily regulated. So for example, in Oakland, we've just created a system for an unlimited number of manufacturing permits. There's green zones and the businesses can only operate in certain parts of town, we're not going to flood Oakland with marijuana businesses, but if you're manufacturing, making edibles, cultivating cannabis, having a cannabis lab, we want as many people to flourish in those businesses as possible.

But for dispensaries, the store front looking business, there's only eight, and the city's going to put out eight more, but there's going to be a fierce competition for those eight. So, yeah, it's a tricky time to get into the industry, it's not that hard to get the permits, you have to be -- really know your business, and you have to be pretty well funded at this point to get into a cannabis business.

DEAN BECKER: You know, a few minutes ago, you mentioned a couple of names, Jack Herer and Dennis Peron, and, they were pioneers. They were willing to face down this toothless lying well before most of us had the courage, and I'm looking at your chapter two here. The public needs to be educated, that's part of what Jack and Dennis were doing, through their actions as well, right?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Yeah, that's right. You know, when I first got involved, back in the day, there was no knowledge about the fact that marijuana was even medicine. It had been scrubbed from university libraries, it had certainly been taken out of the curriculum at all the medical schools. Doctors were not aware that cannabis even had any kind of medical benefit. Nobody knew that hemp, the cannabis plant could be used for paper.

We had to get that information out to the people, through alternative methods. We didn't have the internet back then, you know, we had to hit the road, take information from place to place, show people that cannabis was medicine. We had to bring along Elvy Mussika, a lot of times, she was one of the beneficiaries of the federal medical marijuana program, receiving 300 joints a month from the federal Compassionate IND Program, you know, the federal government grows marijuana, contracted at the University of Mississippi, and provides that to a few recipients.

So, yeah, Dennis and Jack were the first people that got out there and in the face of prohibition, during the Reagan years, when Just Say No was on everybody's mind, Jack and Dennis fearlessly educated people about medical marijuana, in Dennis's case, and hemp for all of its many uses in Jack's case. They're absolute heroes, and they still are. Jack Herer has passed away since then, so we honor his memory by making sure people still know, you know. It's a famous strain of medical marijuana, Jack Herer, he had a strain named after him. And the strain is so potent, and so, such a great medicine, that it's one of the more popular strains of cannabis right now, available at medical marijuana dispensaries.

But a lot of people don't realize Jack Herer was really the founder of the modern hemp movement, educating people often for the very first time about the uses of cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: He certainly kick started my learning, my activism, I'll tell you that. I was lucky enough to interview him fifteen years ago, I guess it -- I think it was my first NORML conference, and he really lit a fire under me with the information he shared, and I guess that's the half of it. You know, you guys out there in Oakland, and California, and Colorado, you've had the opportunity, years in advance of states like Texas, where I live, to educate the public, to open their door a little wider, to make these things possible. Your thought there, Debby.

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: In California, you know, people never really stopped using marijuana. Sure, there was a prohibition, and it got real scary and people had to go underground, but cannabis use has been in California as long as there's probably been a California. Cannabis made its way over to our part of the world, ten, fifteen thousand years ago, and people started using it. Then it got to California, and eventually some of the best strains on earth were found here in northern California, because humans picked the plants up, they liked it, they liked to consume it, and so they bred it for specific uses and for specific purposes, and, you know, by the time the hippie era came around, northern California was a haven for cannabis.

We never lost the institutional knowledge here in cannabis. We always knew that cannabis was medicine, that it was good for people, that if you used it you felt better. You know, we all had to hide out in closets for a number of years, because the war on drugs was very targeted, coming after people who looked like they used marijuana, and so people are scared, and kind of the movement went underground for a number of years.

But people always knew that marijuana was important, an important part of our culture, an important part -- a plant, a plant on earth that was good for people, and so we kept using it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again, we're speaking with Debby Goldsberry, she's author of Starting And Running A Marijuana Business: The Idiot's Guide. It's good stuff, folks. You know, Debby, while I was out there touring your union shop, Magnolia Wellness, I was able to look at some, not all, because there are so many, of the marijuana products. Now that's not something that an individual dispensary would usually be able to produce by themselves. You've got to kind of farm those purchases out to other vendors, right?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Yeah, well, in California, even though we passed the medical marijuana law a little bit over twenty years ago now, that law was for individuals to grow their own marijuana and to get it from their friends, who acted as their marijuana providing caregiver. But what's happened over the years is the evolution of the program. That's just sort of practical. So, storefront marijuana dispensaries, Oakland and city by city and eventually the state legalized them.

And we never did the same for cultivation. We never made regulations for cultivators to get licenses, at least not in very many places. And we never licensed our medical marijuana producers who were making, say, the edibles. So it's only now that the state has made regulations that we're going to have good state laws that allow those businesses to exist. So all this time, we've been supplied, getting our medical supplies from our own members, who are making the cannabis bravely on their own private property, or in a quiet way in business properties, and bringing the medicine into us.

So we're really excited about the change in the law, where the production, manufacturing, and cultivation of marijuana will finally be out of the closet in California. It will be licensed, we can watch it as it grows, know that the cannabis is pure when it gets to us. I think we're going to see a real jump forward in the quality of the cannabis, in the purity of the cannabis, and in the price of products that we can secure for our dispensary.

But there are so many products available, the competition to get your products into a dispensary is very fierce, and I'll tell you that edible producers still have a long way to go, we need better packaging, we need better labeling, we need shelf life. We tried to hire a food scientist, for example, for our Berkeley Patients Group back in the day, in, six, seven years ago, and people in the food science industry just weren't ready to work with medical marijuana yet, because it was so against the law.

So, I think we're going to have a lot of innovations happening over the next short period of time, when California's new law kicks in, which happens on January -- January of next year, January First.

DEAN BECKER: Well friends, we're interviewing Debby Goldsberry. She's the author of Starting And Running A Marijuana Business. Debby, you know, the, I don't know, the impetus, the movement, around the country, is growing. As I understand it, tomorrow, July First, Nevada's going to legalize outright as well. It's, it's sweeping the nation, isn't it?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Absolutely. People understand that prohibition was the wrong idea. It didn't work. It was a complete fail. Just Say No, that doesn't work. People like marijuana. Marijuana is medicine. And they want access, legal or not. So, yeah, across the nation, people are putting in intelligent policies that end the war on cannabis, that allow people to use medical marijuana in safe conditions, that regulate the cultivation of marijuana, the licensed manufacturing of marijuana, and provide a means for people to purchase marijuana in a safe environment.

I mean, it kind of gives us a way to see who, you know, who's fake and who's not. We need this, we need laws so that we can bring marijuana industry out of the dark ages and into regulations.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I saw, I don't know, I was on Facebook today, and I saw this meme of this lady who had smoked some of that synthetic marijuana, some kush or whatever they call that crap. It was a horrible thing to witness, the twitches and the -- oh, I can't describe it. But, what we have done, over the years, is to create scenarios where, you know, the black market tended to come up with more dangerous and deadly drugs to entice kids to get involved, and marijuana's just not the threat it was ever -- whoa -- the threat it was ever purported to be, is it?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Yeah, I mean, the thing is is that with the illicit market, and we know this, when -- it used to be when you'd go buy your marijuana, the dealer would have other things, it's as simple as that. And some things sold for more money, some things were addictive, and as an old school dealer, you know, you might find yourself supplied with a number of different kinds of things, or at least shown the wares.

So, it's -- marijuana doesn't belong in that basket. It's not a part of that. Marijuana's a plant that comes out of the earth, it's a natural plant, it's a medicine that's been proven to be used for ten thousand years. It's not synthetic, it's not dangerous, and it's actually healthy, especially when it's grown in a regulated manner by people who take time to make pure products and supply them through a regulated market. It's very safe.

DEAN BECKER: Right. You know, Debby, I'm looking at, where am I at here, Chapter Twelve. I'm looking at, you know, the types of cultivation. Tissue culture, I don't know that we need to get into that, it sounds very difficult. But, you know, there's indoor, there's greenhouse, there's hydroponic, and I used to do what I used to call guerrilla gardening, I would plant in a vacant lot behind a 7-11 or something, not knowing what was in the soil, you know, using fertilizer that -- not knowing what was in it. It's become more of a scientific process these days, hasn't it?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Yeah, it really has. I mean, the good news is, is whatever people were putting in the marijuana, or whatever, however marijuana grows, marijuana hasn't been shown to cause cancer or any kind of serious side effects at all. It's actually the most studied plant on the planet, there's no plant on the planet that has had more research, and has more scientific evidence about its efficacy, and it just simply doesn't cause cancer. So, the benefit is, is that now we're going to know, by using a regulated market, people who have to -- people will have to report what they're putting on their plants.

It's just like with anything, when you're in a regulated market, you plant your plant, you note the day you planted it, you note the day you water it, you note the day put your pesticides and fertilizers on it, and there's testing that proves at the end that the stuff is safe for human consumption.

Marijuana deserves that treatment. Medical marijuana patients need that medicine that's provably safe. You know, we tried to self-regulate medical marijuana years ago, when we couldn't get the government to do it, we were demanding regulations. Regulate it, we want to know our medicine's safe. They wouldn't do it. So we started a group called the Medical Cannabis Safety Council, and we came up with self-regulating mechanisms for marijuana.

But it's always the same, it always starts with the cultivators, using the right pesticides and fertilizers that are safe for human consumption in the beginning, and if we couldn't get into the grow rooms to inspect them, we couldn't find out if people were telling the truth when they presented the medicine.

Our testing labs aren't regulated, and they're still not as sophisticated as we need them to be, so I also think there's going to be a leap forward in the testing mechanisms, so that we can test for cannabis and make sure that it's pure when we provide it to our patients. So, ending prohibition is just a gigantic win, because we can see what's going on in the grow room, we can see that people are using safe fertilizers, and we can know that the end product is going to be safe for people. Not that cannabis has ever caused any problems, but just, we want this for our medicine.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, there you go, folks. There is no better expert, I don't think, to prepare such a book. I urge you to get a copy. Starting And Running A Marijuana Business, written by Debby Goldsberry. Debby, thirty seconds, any closing thoughts, maybe a website?

DEBBY GOLDSBERRY: Well, I'm on Facebook, Debby Goldsberry, with an S in between the gold and berry. I'm very active there, and like to talk to people, so if you have any questions, you can go there, I'm generally logged in, and we can chat, if you want to start a marijuana business I'm happy to help. I really want to see as many socially conscious marijuana businesses as we can form. And our dispensary is MagnoliaOakland.org, so check it out.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Nausea, heart burn, development of bleeding ulcers, vomiting, swelling of the brain, extensive liver damage, difficulty with mental functioning, Reye's syndrome, and death. Time's up! The answer: aspirin. Another FDA-approved product.

Fentanyl and carfentanyl are becoming major problems around the US and it seems it just reached critical mass here in the city of Houston. Here is the mayor, Sylvester Turner:

SYLVESTER TURNER: Houston's crime lab, the Houston Forensic Science Center, has confirmed a seizure of carfentanyl. This drug has been under the radar, but the new seizure raises the opioid crisis in Houston to a new level not yet encountered in our city.

PETER STOUT, PHD: I'm Doctor Peter Stout with Houston Forensic Science Center. Last week we confirmed that a case that came into us on June Seventh was in fact carfentanyl. The sample came to us as methamphetamine, and almost all of the cases that we get that we ultimately identify as fentanyl, or one of the fentanyl relatives, comes into us as either cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. So it's a serious problem for first responders, that they don't necessarily understand that these drugs are what they're handling. So just to give you a perspective, this is sugar, I didn't bring the real stuff with me, but this is sugar.

DEAN BECKER: Doctor Stout held up a tiny package with about a quarter gram of sugar.

PETER STOUT, PHD: So what we received was 80 milligrams of carfentanyl, just this much. That much right there is enough for four thousand lethal doses. This is why we're so worried about it, is because of the potency of this particular drug. All of the fentanyls have a really high potency, but a lethal dose of this, you can't even see. So if you had it on your fingers, and you touched your mouth, or you were in such a place where it could absorb through your skin, you could get a lethal dose and not even realize that you'd come into contact with it.

We've seen these come in as pills that are clandestinely manufactured to look like Vicodin, or Xanax, it's very difficult for people to understand what it is that they're handling. We've taken precautions in the laboratory of increasing personal protective equipment, we've taken -- reorganized how we allow access into the laboratory to limit traffic, so that somebody that comes into the laboratory that's not aware of what we're handling in there doesn't risk exposure. And we're working with HPD and the mayor's office about how we can help with first responders. And how we package these things going back to the evidence room.

DEAN BECKER: Next up, Houston's police chief, Art Acevedo.

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO: I want to just warn folks that the reason we're here is because of public -- obviously, first responder safety. If we're this -- about first responder safety and you saw what the doctor held up, that can kill four thousand folks, you can imagine people that are playing Russian roulette with their lives, taking drugs that they're not getting from a prescription at a pharmacy, taking drugs that they have no idea. And this issue's close and near and dear to my heart because I -- one of my dearest friends in Austin lost his son, right out of college, to an opiate like this, and so, word to the wise, this is not a time, when they putting this stuff in these pills that can kill you so easily, with the opiate crisis in our country, to be experimenting and taking your life in your own hands like that.

DEAN BECKER: Well, we just heard from the Houston police chief and the mayor, some doctors, talking about the rise, if you will, of fentanyl, carfentanyl, the manufacturing of counterfeit pills, et cetera. Well, we have a gentleman who can, maybe not give a counterpoint, but certainly give us a different point of view. He's the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He just had an op-ed appear in the Santa Fe New Mexican, quote, "Ample scientific evidence supporting the contention that cannabis mitigates opioid abuse, dependency, hospitalizations, and mortality," and with that I want to welcome Mister Paul Armentano. Hello, Paul.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Hi Dean. Good to be here.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Paul, fentanyl, carfentanyl, that's a major problem, it is affecting our country, is it not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, it's clear, and it's been clear for quite some time, that there has been a rise in the use of opioids in recent years, and therefore there's also been a concurrent rise in the abuse of opioids, and those that are suffering from the adverse effects of opioid abuse. One of those of course being mortality, and now every year we're seeing somewhere around 19,000 inadvertent opioid overdose deaths. One discussion that should be on the table, and often isn't on the table, is the reality that we see a reduction in opioid use, abuse, and mortality, in those jurisdictions where medical cannabis is a legal option.

DEAN BECKER: States, it's just easier to, just set up these counterfeit pills, the counterfeit powders, and people just don't know what they're buying, do they?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, as the black market often does, it leads to a more potent product, and it leads to a product that is provided by unlicensed regulators. So, you're correct, the consumer does not know what they are getting, and there is a very strong likelihood that they may be getting a very strong potent product, a more -- a stronger and more potent product, than they were anticipating, and that's often what leads to inadvertent overdose. In addition to using these products with other controlled substances, and suffering the adverse consequences of a synergistic effect.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and what most people don't know, have not been taught, don't realize, is that when you use these opioids, especially with alcohol, it compounds the possibility of death, does it not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Exactly. Both of those substances are central nervous system depressants. So when they are used in combination, there is going to be a greater affect. Cannabis is not a central nervous system depressant. It is not acting on the opioid receptors. That is one of the reasons why cannabis is incapable of causing lethal overdose.

DEAN BECKER: Well, let's come back to what you were mentioning earlier, that in Colorado, and other states, where marijuana has been outright legalized and people are able to, if you will, substitute or diminish their cravings, or in many cases able to lose their addiction to these opioids, marijuana has been proven to make that possible. Am I right?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, we see a strong year over year association between the availability of cannabis, and a reduction in deaths due to opioids. Now, to be clear, this is all opioid related mortality. We are not just talking about a reduction in deaths due to the use of prescription opiates, we're also talking about a reduction in deaths due to the use of illicit opioid based drugs, like heroin, and these reductions become stronger over time.

What that means is, the longer medical cannabis access is in effect, the greater the reduction annually in opioid related mortality. It's a strong association, it's a consistent association, and we've seen now this association in a number of different studies. So there does appear to be a strong, positive relationship between providing legal cannabis access and the general population reducing their overall use of opioids and therefore we see a reduction in the potential harms associated with the use of opioids.

DEAN BECKER: I commend my mayor and police chief and those for coming out and giving a warning to, you know, local residents about the dangers of these opioids, but, my thought, sir, is, there is a better option, if we were brave enough to consider actually regulating these drugs. Your thought there, please.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, obviously opioids to some degree are already regulated. But, in many instances, they were somewhat poorly regulated. The sort of checks and balances that were in place, somewhat failed the system. And there's a number of different, sort of responsible parties we can point to.

We can point to the DEA, who year after year kept upping their quota of the number of opioids that were allowed to be produced. We can point our fingers at Purdue Pharma and some of these other big opioid manufacturers that were exponentially increasing their use of opiate -- their production of opioids, knowing that a significant portion of that increased production was finding its way into the illicit market. We can point our fingers at the medical community, and physicians, that were over prescribing or maybe were perhaps too quick to prescribe these very strong, potent painkillers, to patients who may not have needed it.

And we can point their fingers again at sort of the politics, of this entire issue, because pain mitigation is a serious problem in this country, and the fact is that we now have conclusive evidence, to use the National Academy of Sciences language, with regard to the fact that cannabis can mitigate pain, that cannabis is an effective analgesic remedy, particularly for neuropathic pain, a hard to treat type of pain that opioids typically make little difference in treating. Yet, again, the politics of the day have really prevented the more widespread use and understanding of cannabis, and because of that, physicians have largely turned to opiates, rather than some of these other potential alternatives.

DEAN BECKER: That's some strong and powerful useful information from Mister Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, out there on the web at NORML.org.

Well folks, that's all I can squeeze in for this week. Again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.