09/01/17 George Karandinos

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

George Karandinos article on opiod crisis in Guardian, Deborah Small of Break the Chains, Neill Franklin Dir of LEAP, Josh Drayton re Anaheim Cannabis Conf Sept 21-22, Bill Piper Dep Dir of DPA, song Eternal War NOTE: For those airing half hour CB, 29:00 mark on this hour program designed to fit exactly. Next week, one hour only show.

Audio file




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.

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker. You are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. Our goal here is to educate, embolden, and motivate you to do your part to end this stupid drug war. Great show lined up, let's get started.

Our next guest is a medical student, a PhD candidate in anthropology at Harvard University. He's co-authoring a book entitled "Cornered: Drawing On Four Years Of Resident Ethnographic Research On A Heroin And Cocaine Selling Corner In Philadelphia." He recently had an article published in The Guardian titled How The War On Drugs Fueled The Fentanyl Crisis. With that, I want to welcome our guest, George Karandinos. Hello, sir.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Well, George, your article just caught my attention. You have cut right to the heart of this issue. Please tell us about that article, sir.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Right. So, this article was inspired by the increasing attention being paid, and rightly so, being paid to Fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid, about a hundred times more powerful than street heroin. And, the reason why it's been getting so much attention is because Fentantyl is increasingly present in the street supply of drugs that people who inject heroin are accessing, and because it's so much more powerful it's leading to higher rates of overdose.

And so, I wanted to try and put the increasing presence of Fentanyl in a historical context, and argue that in fact the war on drugs has repeatedly led to the introduction of stronger drugs to replace weaker drugs, primarily because of two dynamics. One being that more powerful drugs are far easier to smuggle, just by volume. So the more concentrated the substance, the easier it is to transport.

And so, I draw parallels between what is happening now with Fentanyl to what happened during alcohol prohibition, where you saw a decrease in the consumption of alcoholic beverages that were low in alcohol concentration, such as beer, and an increase in hard alcohol consumption, as it was easier to pack distilled spirits into trucks to smuggle across into the United States.

And then, a similar dynamic happened when marijuana smuggling routes were transformed into cocaine smuggling routes, again, the amount of money that could be made off of any volume of drugs smuggled was much higher, and so under the pressure of increased interdiction, the cost benefit ratio of smuggling changed in a way that there was intense pressure to smuggle more expensive drugs.

And then the other dynamic that I cite is the pressure to create synthetic drugs as opposed to drugs that need to be grown, so heroin depends on the cultivation of acres and acres and acres of poppies to eventually concentrate down into heroin, and so there's been vigorous poppy eradication campaigns throughout South America under the pressure of the United States. What has happened is there has been a displacement to factory based drug production, and the labs that are now in existence have increasingly supplanted the agricultural production.

And so what you have is a tendency towards increased industrialization of chemicals. And so I thought it was really important to not mystify the fact that Fentanyl is increasingly present and causing the damage that it's causing, and really understand it as just the way this turn and trend that we've seen repeatedly.

DEAN BECKER: Well, George, thank you for that. Now, this brings to mind, we have this situation, well, let's reach back, what was it, a hundred, hundred and twenty years ago, the predominant use of opioids was opium itself. It was used --


DEAN BECKER: -- it was smoked, it was used in laudanum, I think was the product that it was mixed into, I think a mixture of alcohol and opium. And, the problem that we've created through prohibition, as you've indicated, sir, is that we've made it where people make a more powerful and in truth a more deadly product, distributed around the country, and which leads to greater peril for the user and, hell, for our nation. Your thought, please.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Absolutely. I think I'd say that's exactly the case, and prohibition of course pushes all drug use underground, it pushes people who are dependent on opioids, who could meet their dependence with any of the opioids, essentially, including opioid pills, or substances that are well known and controlled, to instead purchase drugs from the street, of totally unknown concentration and purity levels, and again, the problem with Fentanyl is because it's so powerful at a small dose, even minor variations can be fatal.


GEORGE KARANDINOS: And so the stakes of each injection has increased so much because of that, and it's really, it's not a result of the substance itself. It's a result of how people are forced to use this substance under the conditions of prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, you talk about, in your article, the illicitly manufactured Fentanyl, a fully synthetic opioid, one hundred times more potent than heroin, and then you go on to talk about this toll will only worsen because Carfentanyl, another synthetic opioid, is one hundred times more powerful than Fentanyl. So if I'm hearing this right, this is ten thousand times more powerful than heroin itself. That's crazy.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: It is crazy, it is crazy, and it's, from a purely economic standpoint, from the perspective of smugglers, the incentive is to produce the most potent possible drug, so that when you're smuggling, either from China or from South America, you have the biggest bang for the risk that you take to bring the drugs over, and then once it gets to the United States, and there is the attempt to dilute it for street use, the closer you get to the street, the less sophisticated the processing is, and the dilutions are more difficult to do because the concentration is higher and so the, these minor variances prove completely fatal.

And in fact, you know, something that I've personally found ironic from talking to people who use opioids and who inject heroin and opioids, is that many drug users subjectively do not like the high of Fentanyl, and they would much rather use heroin, but in places like Boston, the heroin supply is becoming increasingly totally replaced by Fentanyl.

DEAN BECKER: That's --

GEORGE KARANDINOS: And so people would actually prefer to use less potent, less, comparatively less deadly, while, although still very, very risky, drugs, but are being forced because of their addiction and dependence on opiates to use what is available on the street.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you, I saw, let's see if I can find it now, smugglers can earn the same money as kilograms of heroin with just a few grams of Fentanyl. And I guess that would be one tenth of a gram of Carfentanyl. It's, it's no wonder they're smuggling that into the country, you could probably fit a million dollars in your pocket. What's your --

GEORGE KARANDINOS: That's, that's right, and so it's just -- it's purely the result of supply side pressures that are in line with how prohibition has been conducted over decades now. And, this is something that we've not just seen in the opiate class of drugs, like my article states, it's something we saw during alcohol prohibition, and with cocaine, as well.

DEAN BECKER: Well, folks, we're speaking with Mister George Karandinos. He's an author, he's also a medical student, PhD candidate at Harvard in anthropology, and George, I want to talk about perception, if you will. The fact of the matter is, our elected officials, the Drug Czar, the head of the ONDCP, FDA, all of them people, they are bound to know the reason why we have so many overdoses. Why do you suppose it is they can't talk about actually controlling these so-called controlled substances? Your thought, please.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Yeah, it's an interesting question. I think the war on drugs, for many decades, has been politically very useful for politicians who have run on law and order platforms to great political benefit. And, I have a suspicion that that plays into the dynamic strongly, and you see this, you know, kind of starting with Nixon, but really picking up steam in the Reagan era, and subsequent to that, and also with Democrats as much as with Republicans.

The kind of exploitation of fear, both of drug use and of crime, in similar ways, and that has led to the passage of legislation that appears to be tough on drugs and tough on crime, which has been to great political benefit and to little cost to the politicians in any real way. And so I think we're still living very much in that shadow, even if you look at some of the comments more recently by President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, indicating that we've been too soft on drugs and too soft on crime.

And with recently proposed legislation that would hold drug dealers responsible for the deaths of any drug user who they could trace back to that original sale, basically sending them to prison for murder if somebody dies using their drugs. So I think this is definitely a component of the issue.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I'm looking on the same page, I'm looking at your story on the Guardian website, and on the side there it says, what is Fentanyl? The little known but deadly drug that killed Prince. And what a lot of people don't know is that Prince was trying his best to buy legitimate Oxy pills, and he bought some Oxy pills that looked very legitimate but it turned out it had Fentanyl in it. It doesn't matter if it's in a bag or in a pill, they're going to fool us and in essence they're going to kill us. Your thought please.

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Absolutely, and this, this really brings up a really critical piece of the puzzle. We're living -- a new wave of opiate addiction if you will, and a younger group of initiates into heroin use in the last ten, fifteen years. There was a wave of younger people who started using these drugs, primarily in origin, first using pills, like Prince, and so, the origin of those pills was the medical field, or outright corrupt pill mills, which essentially sold prescriptions for money, that went on for long enough that it created a huge population of people who were addicted first to medicinal opioids and because of the attention to this issue from the mounting death toll, there's been a crackdown again on the supply side.

Pill mills have been closed down, as they should be, prescribing practices have been interrogated and reformed, and yet, what has happened is that people who are already dependent on opioids have been suddenly cut off from their supply, and the inevitable transition to street heroin use has occurred because the compounds are extremely similar and so somebody who is addicted to an opioid painkiller can avoid very, very painful and uncomfortable withdrawal by taking street heroin, which is in any case much cheaper than the opioid pills, especially as there's been a crackdown.

And so to have this massive supply side crackdown without a equally, if not larger, investment in treatment to accompany that, was a recipe for disaster and has proven to be so, and was frankly quite predictable. I would definitely never argue that pill mills should be allowed to continue into existence but if there was going to be this vigorous policing of the supply side to not provide adequate treatment and support to people who are already dependent on these drugs, led us without any surprise to this situation that we currently face.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. George, it's, you know, you were talking about, you know, politicians treating this as a third rail, they just don't want to get into it, and I've often brought forward the thought, if I could run for office, I would run on the thought that I want to stop funding the terrorists, disallow them to grow flowers and make money to kill our soldiers, you know, want to get rid of these barbarous cartels, I want to take away the reason for all these gangs, I want to basically eliminate drug overdose in these United States. Respond to that. Isn't that a winning platform for an election?

GEORGE KARANDINOS: Yeah, I, one would think. I think it's easy for people to not see those connections internationally. We have such a hard time tracing the connections within our own borders, what you, what you're citing is actually extremely important, the reverberations across the globe are tremendous, not just because of the very high demand for drugs that the United States has, but also the imposition of a militarized response to drug production in other countries, which has led to organized crime becoming more powerful than the state governments in many places, the, you know, the creation of what some people call a narco-state, or places that verge on becoming narco-states.

And if you look at Afghanistan and Mexico and, you know, Colombia in the past, especially, you have exactly that situation happening and you have the insane things, you know, these insane instances of people like Pablo Escobar in the '80s offering to pay off the Colombian national debt if they would just leave him alone. And it's opportunities for income generation would be totally impossible without drug prohibition. And that same -- you know the profits are extraordinary, and so it's corrupting and it's corrupting also within the US borders, and, you know, we could look back at the '70s with a classic Serpico situation but continuing all the way up until, you know, in Philadelphia, where the narcotics officers were robbing drug dealers and pocketing their money and their drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Well, in Chicago, they've got caught on video in the past couple of weeks, planting drugs and then busting people for those same drugs. Turns out they had, their police cams were running when they didn't think they were. They caught themselves. But, you know, the fact is they were caught but, you know, is that the only two times it's ever happened? Well, we'll never know, but this drug war corrupts, corrupts immensely worldwide, does it not?

GEORGE KARANDINOS: That's absolutely true, and it has done so for a long time and will continue to do so as long as we push the profit margins to the dizzyingly high rates that they are, simply because of prohibition. And honestly, it reverberates throughout society in so many ways that part of the poisoning of the relationship between the police and many of the communities that they police, especially communities of color and urban settings, is a result of this punitive militarization, where the police have to fight a war that they're never going to win, and that I think even many of them are increasingly coming to hate, if they don't already.

DEAN BECKER: No, I would agree, it's, it's not something you can warmly embrace anymore, it doesn't have much logic, if any, attached to it. Well, George, I want to thank you for your time and for this great article. We've been speaking with George Karandinos, medical student, PhD candidate in anthropology at Harvard, and he's co-authoring a book entitled "Cornered," it's drawing on four years of resident ethnographic research on heroin and cocaine selling corners in Philadelphia. You spent four years doing that, right George?

GEORGE KARANDINOS: That's right, I moved there while I was still a college student, and I lived there full time for four and a half years, and I spent my time interviewing the people who sold heroin and crack and cocaine on our block, and their family members, and our other neighbors, and the people who bought and used drugs there.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, "Cornered." I think that pretty well describes the situation for those who've been busted, can't get a job, not too many people hiring other than the black market, right?

GEORGE KARANDINOS: That's right. There's this really tragic phrase that I think really captures it well, as well, and it's kind of the other side of the coin that unfortunately I think is getting less attention now, but, the idea that the drug economy is the only equal opportunity employer of young men of color.

And so one thing that does give me a little bit of pause in the narrative that we're seeing emerge, which, you know, is a slightly more sensitive narrative than we've seen in the past towards drug use, because of just the massive amount of death and also the deaths spreading beyond the confines of the poor and the communities of color, to affect even middle class white individuals increasingly, but what we're not seeing is a concurrent analysis of the conditions that have led to drug markets being concentrated in communities of color and the drug dealers on the other side of that exchange, and for those individuals there remains incredibly low levels of sympathy and understanding and really the dynamic is totally interrelated, and I worry that our current way of understanding of the heroin and opioid epidemic is splitting those populations again along lines of race and class, as has always happened.

And you see it really powerfully with legislation, like I mentioned earlier, that would send drug dealers to prison for life. I think there needs to be a concurrent analysis of both sides of what's happening.

DEAN BECKER: Well, all right, George, is there a website that you'd to share, maybe a closing thought?

GEORGE KARANDINOS: As I tried to argue in the article, there is absolutely no way that we're going to solve this problem by increasing our punitive response. We need to transfer our resources to a public health approach and maximize every opportunity for treatment and support individuals who aren't interested in quitting right now, and make sure that they don't die, and that they don't suffer needlessly while they use. And that means pursuing harm reduction.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Physical stimulation, appetite suppression, the prevention of altitude sickness through increased oxygen supply. Time's up! The answer, as is so obvious in the lives of millions of Bolivians: coca. Mother coca.

The following is from a recent teleconference put together by the Drug Policy Alliance. We'll hear the words of Mister Bill Piper, Deputy Director of the DPA. He's speaking in regards to the opium crisis, opium emergency if you will.

BILL PIPER: Let me start by first making clear what will not work. For decades, the response from Washington when it comes to drugs has been generally more money for law enforcement and longer sentences for drug offenders. But despite, you know, the incarceration of tens of millions of Americans and more than a trillion dollars being spent on the war on drugs, illegal drugs remain cheap and widely available, you know, in every community.

Drug control strategies that seek to interrupt the supply at its source have failed, over and over again, for virtually every drug to which they have been applied. As long as there's a demand for opiates and other drugs, there will be a supply. A supply side approach, including a wall on the southern border, which the Trump administration's advocating for, you know, no matter how big that wall is, it's not going to work. People can get drugs in prisons, walls don't stop anything.

We've been concerned about the aggressive escalation of the drug war by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, because we can't, you know, if we've learned anything over the last several decades it's that we can't incarcerate our way out of drug problems.

That's why I was pleasantly surprised when the Trump administration's opioid commission released its recommendations [sic: the commission at the time of this recording has only released a draft interim report] because they -- on what to do about opioids, because it was, you know, they're mostly focused on health and demand oriented stuff, and they stand in kind of sharp contrast actually to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing, and even what the president often talks about, and passing those recommendations would be a good start, a good downpayment on real reform.

And I think there's a lot of good recommendations in there, but there's two that stand out that I want to quickly highlight. One, the commission called for immediately establishing and funding a federal incentive to enhance access to medication assisted treatment, such as buprenorphine and methadone, and requiring that licensed treatment facilities offer replacement therapy, and that those decisions be based on what is best for the patient. That would be pretty groundbreaking by itself.

Secondly, the commission called for providing model legislation for states to allow naloxone dispensing via standing orders, as well as prescribing naloxone whenever high risk opioid prescriptions are prescribed. Naloxone is the, basically an antidote to an opiate or heroin overdose, and really should be getting those in the hands of as many people as possible. And so model legislation for states to make it easier for people to have access to naloxone would be pretty good.

Both these recommendations would save a lot of lives, they're good places for Congress to start. Perhaps most importantly, Congress should protect and stabilize the Affordable Care Act, which has made drug treatment and mental health services available to millions of Americans. The ACA has been the most effective federal drug policy of the last fifty years. It's a shame that the Trump administration tried to repeal it. We're glad that that failed, and we're hopeful that, you know, Congress will come up with some bipartisan solutions to stabilize it.

But, you know, increasing access to replacement therapy, increasing access to naloxone, and, you know, continuing the Affordable Care Act, are three really good places for Congress to begin treating opiate and heroin misuse as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: The thoughts of Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance would tend to indicate that, yeah, we have been shooting ourselves in the foot with a machine gun for nigh unto a hundred years. It's about time to stop doing that, don't you think?

MUSIC ["Eternal War" by Adult Users]: Pfizer and Merck kill more of us
Than the cartels crap ever could.
They thank us for our silence,
Each year’s hundred billion dollars,
And the chance to do it forever more.
Drugs, the first eternal war.

Cut me loose,
Set me free,
Judge what I do
Not what’s inside of me.
Why do you pick my pocket?
Just let me light my rocket.
Who made you the boss of me?
Get out of my life,
Let me be.

If they stop Afghanistan from growing opium,
And they cut down the Colombian cocaine,
When Mexico runs out of marijuana,
They think that we’ll quit getting high.
But Walgreens is always standing by.

Cut me loose,
Set me free,
Judge what I do
Not what’s inside of me.
Why do you pick my pocket?
Just let me light my rocket.
Who made you the boss of me?
Get out of my life,
Let me be.

Are we just peasants in the field?
Let’s stand for truth or forever kneel.
Every 16 seconds we hear the slamming door,
And we owe it all to eternal war,
The first eternal war.

["Eternal War" performed by Adult Users: Randy Wall on keyboards & producer, Roger Tausz on Bass & editor/mixer, James Reese is on guitar. Written and produced by Dean Becker at Bong Island Sound studio.]

DEAN BECKER: That's a little ditty I wrote and produced a few years back and of course it's called "Eternal War." I think you get its drift. Let's get on with Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth about the drug war.

Over the past couple of weeks, when we started this one hour Cultural Baggage program, we tried to bring a lot of focus to bear on the fact that the drug war is bigoted. It has racial implications, it started with racial implications, and it has escalated over the years through this racial discrimination, this bigotry. And here to help fill us in more in that regard is the director of Break The Chains, one of my associates through the Drug Policy Alliance, a good friend, a true expert in this regard, I want to welcome Deborah Small. Hello, Deborah.

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Hi Dean. Happy to be with you today.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Deborah, I mean, the truth of this matter is starting to kind of bubble up over the past few months, the past couple of years, that the drug war is a racial policy, it has proved itself that way over the decades, has it not?

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Yes, it has. And yet, I think that it has in both the message of law enforcement, the way in which sentences are handed down, the cultural and political complications around drugs, which has very much been a racialized conversation. But I think that because of that frame, and because it's talked about as primarily a problem of inner cities and minority communities, that most white communities have been oblivious to the ways in which the drug war has hurt them substantially, too.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I agree with that, in principle, but I'd also like to submit that of late, with this new opioid, you know, explosion, and the fact that more and more white people are being shown to be involved in using these drugs, that it has, if you will, opened the discussion. What's your thought there, please?

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Well, I agree with you, but I'd say that the discussion about why the opioid crisis in white communities continues like, you know, I would point to the recent studies that have demonstrated the increasing mortality rate among blue collar whites with less than a college degree, and that the principle reason for that rise in mortality rates has been suicide, alcoholism, and drug abuse. And I submit to you that in order to have data showing an increase in mortality, the particular phenomenon that you're talking about has to have been occurring over a long period of time.

It just is not something that happens overnight. So, in a way, white America is just now waking up to an opioid crisis that has been in their communities for more than a decade, and the reason I say that the drug war hurts them is that because of the racialized conversation about drugs, white people could not acknowledge that they had a significant problem with drug abuse in their communities, that their family members were dying of overdoses, that their elderly were having significant problems with drugs, because that's something that happens to other people. It wasn't until the overdose death rate got to be so high that it could no longer be ignored, that people are now responding and saying, oh we've got a crisis. But this is not a new crisis, this is a crisis that's been occurring in those communities for quite a long time.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and just was not recognized or given the focus that it deserved, right?

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Right. And what I would say is this: because of that, I say that we've been half-conducting in this country what is an undistinguished national experiment about the role of law enforcement in addressing a drug epidemic. So you've had a drug epidemic around opioids going on in poor white communities, and you've had a simultaneous drug epidemic for argument's purposes around cocaine, and to some degree heroin, in poor black communities. Both communities have suffered from high rates of addiction, high rates of drug related diseases, overdose deaths, unemployment, family dissolution, all kinds of problems that come with addiction.

But only one of those groups or communities has had the additional problem of law enforcement, and everything that that brings in terms of over-criminalization, over-incarceration, people being away for long periods of time, and being unable to get jobs or housing and basic facts, and what I would say is that that undistinguished experiment has shown us clearly that law enforcement doesn't add anything good.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with that. Deborah, you know, a couple of weeks back I was talking to Eric Sterling, and I was, you know, trying to focus on the modern escalation of the drug war, talking about, you know, the mandatory minimums and the three strikes laws, and so forth, and he pointed me back, he said it was with the, well, how should I say it, the de-escalation of the Jim Crow scenario that they started these drug laws, and it was with the implementation or the start of the Civil Rights Act and all of those things that it was escalated again, and it's been a series of implementation and escalation, and it always seems to revolve around the rights or the lives of the black community. Your thought in that regard, please.

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Well, I think that's true. I think that when we think about the modern drug war, we tend to date it back to Richard Nixon, but that's actually not true. I think that if you really want to look at when law enforcement was encouraged by government to focus on drugs, as a way of policing black communities, it happened all the way back in the '50s, with the Dobbs Act, which was the first drug mandatory minimum. And they were prompted by Harry Dobbs of Louisiana, who was a noted segregationist.

But what's interesting to me about that history is that almost all of the experiments in new policing, et cetera, that were going to proliferate in black communities, were first done in DC, which was the area that Congress had control over. So the first focus on drug law enforcement was actually an initiative that began in DC, that was started by southern Congressmen who wanted to see how it would work, and once they were able to sort of figure out how to do this, how to encourage police to engage in focusing on drug law enforcement, which they did by giving them monetary incentives and other kinds of incentives, it then got replicated in other big cities, like Chicago and Philadelphia and New York.

But, you know, DC has been Congress's favorite testing ground for figuring out new ways of oppressing and repressing black people, which is one of the many reasons why the District has still not gotten home rule. And it's one of the reasons why you see the experiments around school voucher programs, decentralization, the failure to approve needle exchange, the unwillingness to allow funding for contraceptives and abortion services, all of those things are things that Congress was able to impose restrictions on DC.

So if you want to get a clue about the new things that they're thinking up to go after black and brown people, look and see what they're trying to implement in the District, which happens to be primarily liberal, Democratic, and minority. And so they oppose it. But Congress, because they control the purse strings, has been able to override their opposition on a number of key issues.

DEAN BECKER: Deborah, it occurs to me that we have Trump as our president, we've got Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General, and they want to return us to the golden days of yesteryear insofar as the drug war. Your thought in that regard, please.

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: So, this is the thing, and, you know, it's hard for me to acknowledge this, but I don't see Trump or Sessions as being the principal problem. I see the principal problem as being the American voters that put them in there, knowing who they were and what they were about. Jeff Sessions has been opposed to every major civil rights, criminal justice, reproductive rights advance that has been proposed in the Senate for the more than twenty years that he's been there. And Donald Trump has been a conman and a racist and a misogynist for the entire time that he's been in public life.

So, I have to sit here and ask myself what does this say about America, that enough people were willing to vote him into the highest office of the land? And that many of them continue to support him in spite of his demonstrable incompetence on a daily basis?

DEAN BECKER: Well, I, which brings to mind something that I've been focused on, and not able to completely address, and that is this, that racism exists, it is, it's like woven into the fabric of this country, and it's so hard for many folks, especially white folks, to see it for what it is. Your thought there, please.

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: I think we need to have a different conversation about that. So to me, I don't have the frame as being a conversation about racism, I have it as a conversation about white-ism, which is a slightly different conversation, because, you know, the truth is that whiteness as a topic's something we don't talk about in America. The value, economically, psychologically, social and politically, that people have attached to whiteness. I don't think the majority of the people, American people, dislike or hate black people, but I do think that the majority of white people have an economic, political, and social stake in maintaining their condition of superiority over black, brown, and other people, and that what they see at stake is that condition of superiority.

It's the additional value that they've been able to claim that's attached to whiteness, which is something that we don't talk about because it's been the standard.


DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: And to me, that's a different conversation than talking about racism. Because one is about protecting something, and the other is about attacking somebody else. And I think the majority of the people in this country are trying to protect what they feel that they have, which is a value to them in a world in which all the things that they have seem to be declining in value daily.

DEAN BECKER: Well put, well put. Well, friends, we've been talking with Deborah Small, drug reformer extraordinaire, someone I depend on to help develop my own perspectives. Deborah, I want to thank you. Is there a website you might want to share, some closing thoughts?

DEBORAH PETERSON SMALL: Well, I would encourage your listeners to really make an effort to come to the DPA's Reform Conference in October. I think it's going to be an important opportunity for people to come together and really think about how we're going to address the escalation of the war on drugs. I mean, I'm very concerned, I had hoped we'd be able to talk about all the undocumented people in Houston who are currently having to seek services from a government that talks them to death.

Outside of LA and New York, Houston has the largest population of undocumented people, and this administration has pretty much declared war on them, and so I can't imagine how awful it has been already for people to live under the constant threat of surveillance and deportation, only now to have added to it being flooded out of their homes, having lost everything they own, and having to turn to a government who they know is trying to get rid of them, for the very basic needs. And you know the thing that I've missed in the media is any real conversation about the impact of the flood, and the hurricane, on Houston's undocumented population.

DEAN BECKER: I told Deborah that I would talk to local officials and try to get her an answer for next week.

You know, several times a year I try to tour around the country, hell, around the world when I get the chance to learn more about this drug war, to learn more about the progress being made. Later this month, I'll be going to Anaheim, California, to attend the California Cannabis Business Conference, and here to fill us in on some of the details and maybe reasons why you should attend, is the deputy director of the California Cannabis Industry Association, the deputy director, Mister Josh Drayton. Hello, Josh, how are you doing?

JOSH DRAYTON: I'm doing great, Dean, thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Josh, this is going to be a major change for California. Tell us what's happening, fixing to happen out there, please.

JOSH DRAYTON: Well, you know, it's been quite a journey for us, you know, in California, we passed medical cannabis in 1996. What we didn't do is, the state legislature did not put regulations forward for the industry. That took almost 20 years, so in 2015, the California state legislature passed what was known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. So, that put forth the regulations for medical cannabis, that put the regulations for brick and mortar dispensaries, delivery service, you know, manufacturing of edibles, all sorts of things.

Very quickly, you know, here this past year in 2016, California passed what is known as Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would make it legal for adults 21 years and older to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes. Or for adult use. So, what we've been doing this last year is we have been reconciling the two regulatory structures, between medical and adult use, and so what we're going to see is come January Second, we will see the rollout and the launch of adult use of cannabis in the state of California.

So it's been a lot of work and a lot of preparations to get to this point, we're still in the state legislature right now working through -- with the trailer bill, and are awaiting the emergency regulations that are due out in the coming weeks, if not the next month or so, that will let us know what the regulatory structure is going to look like for all different sects of the industry.

So that's going to be the main topic of conversation in Anaheim. We'll be discussing what we do know, what we are seeing within regulations, and then we will be discussing what's coming down the pipeline, and we'll have, you know, folks like Lori Ajax, the director of the Bureau of Cannabis Regulations, to talk about that. We will have Cat Packer, Cat has recently been named the executive director for the Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulations, and then professionals from all different parts of the industry.

DEAN BECKER: Josh, the list of presenters, if you will, and they're going to be talking about, my gosh, so many of the aspects. It's not like the old days, you grow some weed and sell it to your friends, these days it's got to be certified, and passed through channels, and, you know, got to track the distribution, you guys are having panels on manufacturing and processing, cultivation, the list just goes on. This is a comprehensive learning conference, isn't it?

JOSH DRAYTON: Very much so, and this is meant for, you know, professionals already involved in the industry. It might be a little overwhelming to some newcomers, but those who, you know, have kind of had established businesses, who have been following the regulations, who are trying to get a better understanding, and an education on, you know, how to get their businesses into compliance, what they need to be paying attention to that will change on January Second as opposed to, you know, regulations that will change in July.

You know, this is a really big lift, you know, the education for the industry is pretty huge, not only do we need to, you know, educate all the cannabis industry stakeholders, you know, we're also trying to educate consumers, educate regulators, you know. I think for the last few years in California we've kind of felt like we're trying to build the plane while flying it, you know, and so, we're finally at a good point where, you know, for the California Cannabis Industry Association, you know, we represent about 350, you know, cannabis business operators throughout the state. And that's every different sect of the industry.

You know, from testing labs to those involved in commercial real estate, to those that own brick and mortar dispensaries, or that do extraction, and everybody's, you know, needs have been different along the way, and all their concerns are valid, you know, so, we're doing the best as a state and as an association to, you know, bring that education, that targeted education to each of these different groups, and, you know, get ourselves as prepared as possible, because, you know, we can compare ourselves to other states, and, you know, other countries that have gone forward with adult use, but, you know, the fact of the matter is, you know, the population of Los Angeles is, you know, almost double the size of the entire, you know, state of Colorado.

So we don't quite know exactly what it's all going to look like, and we don't know what, you know, hurdles we're going to come across. There are going to be, you know, many fixes over the next couple of years, once we see how this has launched, but, you know, right now our priority is education.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, you know, Josh, I'm looking here again at all of the people that are going to be speaking, everything from labor relations, responsible advertising, the future of delivery services. How many people will be presenting, sir?

JOSH DRAYTON: Well, you know, we have two days of packed panels the whole way through, so when all is said and done, I believe we will have over one hundred presenters, including, you know, all the different panelists, moderators, and keynotes throughout the entire conference.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I'd be remiss if I didn't allow folks to learn more about when this will be, and how they can get involved. Fill them in please, Josh.

JOSH DRAYTON: Yeah, absolutely. The conference is going to be September 21st and 22nd, in Anaheim, California. You can go to the California Cannabis Industry Association's site, or you can go to the National Cannabis Industry Association's site, or you can go directly to the California Cannabis Business Conference, or CCBC. You can look at the panels and, yeah, find that content that might be, you know, most relevant to you.

DEAN BECKER: I want to thank you for your time, Josh, and, you know, you guys are going to set the example, not just for California, but for the rest of the US.

JOSH DRAYTON: Well, thank you very much Dean for having me. This is a very big lift, you know, we look forward to this rollout, and, you know, to seeing this happen, you know, on the federal level.

DEAN BECKER: Proud to say that one of my, oh, compadres in Law Enforcement Action Partnership has put together a petition in support of Senator Cory Booker's bill, his plan to diminish the onerous affects of this drug war, and here to talk about that petition and the need for that petition is the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Mister Neill Franklin. Hey, Neill, how are you doing?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Good, Dean. Good, Dean, I'm glad to hear that you're doing okeh down there in Houston, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all the friends and neighbors down there in Houston and what they're going through right now, so, just hang in there, guys.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you for that thought. But Neill, coming back to this thought of the petition. This is, you know, we have lots of folks around the country working to change and do less damage with our drug laws.

NEILL FRANKLIN: We need law change. You know, we don't need executive orders and policy changes, we need law change. And that's what this is about. We, yeah, and the Cole Memo was good, you know, for those states that wanted to move forward with legalizing cannabis for adult use, but that can be changed or rescinded by any administration, and we're, you know, we're still on very shaky ground until the law changes. And that's what this is about, that's what Cory Booker's trying to do with this bill, and we definitely want to support it and make sure that we can do that, so that, number one, we can get marijuana and cannabis out of the scheduling system that it's currently in.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and what people overlook, or fail to focus upon, is the fact that at one time, the barbarous cartels in Mexico were making literally billions of dollars. It's hard to estimate how much we have diminished that income for them. But it has certainly made a huge difference insofar as their financial bonanza, hasn't it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Oh, it has, it's made so much of a difference that the farmers that we know in northern Mexico have just pretty much stopped growing marijuana. It's just not worth it anymore. And that's the significance of this, and we haven't even begun to do what needs to be done here in the United States, from state to state to state just like in Texas, you know, obviously Texas needs to be one added to the growing list.


NEILL FRANKLIN: Ending the prohibition of cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and I keep seeing stories of, you know, more fear and loathing that, oh my gosh, Colorado has too much marijuana, California has too much marijuana, and the black market is exporting it to other states. And the truth be told, they have a much better chance of selling that stuff because they tend it a lot better, it's a more potent product than what the Mexicans are willing to bring northward. Your thought there, please.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, that's true. From what I've seen and understand, the United States, and not just recently, but has for a long time, has been growing and producing the better quality cannabis when compared to Mexico and other places. But there's something very important about that, because of the time and the expertise and just the thoughtfulness behind it being produced here in the United States, and moving into this legal market, we now have regulations that govern the quality of what's being produced. You know, insecticides, and molds, and insects, and other contaminants. This is what happens when you move it into a legal, regulated market.

You can't trust what's coming out of Mexico. You'd have no idea what that stuff is being grown with and what it's being mixed with.

DEAN BECKER: I remember in years past we could find dirt, we could find insect mess, you'd, you never knew what was going to be in that bag when it came from Mexico. I think we ought to focus on this petition, it was put together by the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, it is petitioning the US Senate, it's called Pass the Marijuana Justice Act, and it's out there on Change.org. I'll post a link on my website where folks can easily access the site to where they can sign in support.

Once again, we've been speaking with Mister Neill Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership. That website, LEAP.cc.

VOICEOVER: When you've grown marijuana since 1873, you learn a few things about pride. About standards. About only growing the highest quality plants. Watered by pure Rocky Mountain streams. Some say Americans can't grow good marijuana anymore. We say, where you been, rabbi? Kush, the banquet weed.

DEAN BECKER: That was a TV commercial for the new television program Disjointed, starring Cathy Bates. I don't like it so far. Thanks for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage, and as my discussion with George Karandinos indicated, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.