09/03/17 Doug McVay

Live from Seattle, Washington, it's part three of our Hempfest 2017 Special Coverage! This week, we feature audio from a panel at the Ric Smith Hemposium Stage on Privilege and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry, with: Betty Aldworth, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Rene Gagnon, founder and CEO of Cannabis Centre, Inc.; Jerry Whiting, founder and CEO of LeBlanc CNE; and Ophelia Chong, an artist and journalist who's founder and CEO of Stock Pot Images LLC. Plus, an update on the #DisownStone campaign #JustSayNoToHate

Century of Lies
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon col090317.mp3





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.

Today is part three of our Seattle Hempfest 2017 special coverage. The Ric Smith Hemposium Stage at Hempfest is where they have panel discussions, keynote speeches, and a lot of the really meaty content, the kind of thing people would expect at one of the drug policy conferences. It's really impressive.

Today, we're going to have some audio from one of those panel discussions. "This one is on Privilege and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry." The speakers were Betty Aldworth, the Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Rene Gagnon, from Cannabis Centre, Inc.; Jerry Whiting, the CEO of LeBlanc CNE, cannabis genetics; and Ophelia Chong, founder and CEO of StockPot Images LLC. Chris Conrad, the hemp activist and expert, is the moderator of the panel. They'll tell you a bit more about themselves. First voice you hear will be Betty Aldworth.

BETTY ALDWORTH: Yeah, I'm actually really delighted to have the opportunity to work with young people. As you can imagine, young people fighting to end the war on drugs, as young people tend to do, are well ahead of their time in thinking about questions of privilege and inclusion, and the systemic pull of how privilege and white supremacy impact the day to day of how we do business.

So, the students at SSDP have a particularly insightful view on these issues, because they've been brought up in a world where critical analysis around the power of privilege and the power of oppression might impact us in the day to day. Oftentimes people are critical of analysis of things like micro-aggressions, right? And might be critical of things like safe spaces, but with our -- with my constituents specifically, they recognize that expressions of marginalization, othering, are really an expression of a systemic pull that leads to consequences that are very real in people's lives.

So it's an incredibly exciting thing to be working with these young people, who are demanding that we do a better job in the cannabis business, and they think, and I agree with them entirely, that a cannabis industry -- many of them, I shouldn't say all, but the vast majority of them believe that a cannabis industry that doesn't work to repair the harms of the war on drugs actively and intentionally is not a cannabis industry worth participating in.

So they're really pushing, you know. If there's somebody in your realm who's really pushing around those questions, who's really asking those tough questions in your staff meetings, or, you know, challenging assumptions around representation in the cannabis space, or how we go about employing people or training people, or treating them in the workplace, odds are pretty good that that's an SSDPer, because they have been brought up in a community of people who really think about what those, all of the various implications there.

We lost Chris.

JERRY WHITING: We don't need Chris, just keep going.



JERRY WHITING: Break it down for us.


RENE GAGNON: Well, I've had a very unusual experience of being at the apex of privilege, being born a white male in North America, and then quote "trading that in" when I transitioned and experiencing the very direct and real implications of what that is, and luckily, I got to do this at the height of my career in an industry, and being one of the first federal licenses ever, it gave me a unique position and voice that I'm able to share.

And, so one of the things that I did was, when I re-entered the industry, I made sure that my company at least, we started with a mandate that the board of directors would be three fifths female, and that's even going forward into the public space, so at least we're setting a standard. And now if you don't do that in your company, guess what? I want someone to ask you why. Okeh? I want to be the uncomfortable example, because I can be.

And so this is where the privilege is useful, and I'm very aware of it, and I'm grateful for it. And so, my company, you know, when we founded it, it was also female backed, and funded, and we've sort of had a very deliberately pro-female hiring to create our super-group, and I got to hire a former vice president of Disney Records, who, she had been looking to enter the cannabis space somehow, and I knew I wanted her maturity and business insight and experience, and I could translate that.

And so, we've tried to figure out ways that we could translate what I accomplished, which was being a license holder, a federal holder, taking the company public, doing all those things which are the apex male activities in business, like, that's the stuff you gave your gold stars for. How do I share that experience with women entrepreneurs, who don't have access to that? If you don't know what goes on inside a board room, when you stand in front of venture capital trying to pitch your idea, you feel ill equipped to do so, and they treat you like you don't know what you're doing, but you know exactly what you're doing business-wise.

So part of what my goal has been at just my company, because I have to start with what I can personally force down other people's throats, because it's my money, my experience, and my company. And so this time I decided, so what? Let there be one example, and I went to my money and I said, we are an LGBTQ company that's female led. Do you have a problem with that? And they looked at the weed money and they went no, no, not at all.

Right? And so that's the other example I want to show you is do not be ashamed of who you are. They'll still do the deal, because there's weed money. Okeh?

OPHELIA CHONG: I'm Asian. Chinese, yes. I'm a Chinese Canadian, born in Toronto, Canada. Came here for school, California, never left. Got my citizenship in 2000 so I could vote against Bush. I tried, I really tried. So, I thought my one vote would push it over but it didn't, but I voted. So. I believe in this country, because I gave up my Canadian citizenship. So -- I know, every day, I just, I want to go back into that snow.

So, for me, coming up here, I bought this outfit. All right. It had all the Seahawk colors in it, it was tie-dye, I put it on before I came up here and I thought, no. That's not me. And, but when I thought about it, it's that I'm going -- people coming into this industry who are Asian don't try and fit in as what you think we should be. Just come in on your own, come in on your own strength and on your own skills, just like a woman, or a man, anyone coming here, do not try and play a part, because if you do, you'll be -- people will know. It's like, ah, that's not really you. Because if I had my tie-dye outfit on here, man, my skin would be trying to crawl off my body, because that's not me.

As you can tell, I wear two colors. Even my underwear is one color: black. Or beige. So there's two colors. Depends on what I'm wearing.

So, for Asian Americans coming in here, you know we're all ancillary. Right? Most of us don't touch the plant, because, everything we hear, I would say, is 85 percent from China. So we don't touch the plant, but every day, we're touching more and more of the plant in California. Right now we're probably about 5 percent of the population, but in cannabis, we're growing. Literally, too. There's a lot of Asians who are growing, a lot of Hmong who are moving into the plant, and leaving, not only touching ancillary but also touching it, so, we are coming to the table, we're just doing it in our own slow but sure, very quiet way.

But also, my last thing about this. Oh, well, Stock Pot Images. I started that to dispel the stereotypes of cannabis. We're the largest stock agency in the world, thank you, of cannabis. We're a partner with Adobe, and every image there, from seed to sale, every strain, we have the largest collection of strains. I have 200 photographers, actually more than that, around the world, and what we do with our portraits, they're all real people. They're not models.

You know, you ever see a stock image? And you see someone going like that? It looks like stock. We don't have that. Every one of those people signed a model release saying I acknowledge I'm holding a schedule one drug, and you can use my photo. Because I have to have that kind of model release.

So that's what Stock Pot Images is, is to bring images that we can be proud of, and not of the stoner guy on a couch with a bong blowing smoke into a cat's face. Which you will find on Getty, all right? And when Getty uses those keywords, if you look at them, it says "addict", "illegal", "convict", all these words that are stereotypical of the mainstream and how people see people who use cannabis. In my collection, we don't do any of that.

And also, what we don't do is we don't objectify women. I have no images of -- in there of half naked women with nugs between their boobs or bent over a car, because once I say that's okeh, then everyone thinks it's okeh.

Lastly, I want this to be the last diversity panel I ever sit on, because we -- you could be on any panel entrepreneur, you could be on an educational panel. All right? I could be on a media panel. But I'm on a diversity panel because hey, you got some color. All right? Here's a color. That, I don't want to be that. I don't want to be included because of what my skin tone is. So, hopefully, this is a great panel, but I -- this is going to be my last diversity panel ever. Because I want to be asked to be -- talk about something I'm good at, not just because I'm Asian. So, there.

JERRY WHITING: So, to me, this is a panel about a very political situation in America. Richard Milhouse Nixon, in an effort to battle the Black Panthers and the anti-war movement, launched the war on drugs. It was political control. Hence the idea that marijuana prisoners are political prisoners.

The irony is that in his pursuit of truth and science, he empanelled the Shafer Commission to give him facts for his propaganda. Problem is, the Shafer Commission came back and said boss, boss, not only is it not bad, it's really good, in fact, we've applied for a patent on CBD for breast cancer. So when they tell you it's a Schedule One drug because it has no medical use, call b------t.

And the reason the war on drugs was launched was part of the whole CoIntelPro, which was 60, 70 percent of the FBI's budget, targeted towards the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and the anti-war movement, especially SDS and Weather Underground. So the war on drugs is political.

As a result, it should be no surprise to anyone who thinks this through, that people of color have suffered disproportionately and are incarcerated at six times the rates of European Americans. That was the plan. This is no accident.

So, that's the historical context. Let's fast forward to today. Let's go back thirty years, when I began to work in high tech, and I'd walk into an office, a high tech office, I owned a software company, I was the president and CEO. I'm the only dark face in the room. Oftentimes I'd go to the front desk, and where do I sign? I'm not a messenger, I'm here to see your boss's boss. So in cannabis, less so in Seattle, but you walk around, and there are a disproportionate number of European Americans, often those with penises.

Now, in a political context, I have an idea that I shared last year, this panel's my idea, that the reason we have an ethnic breakdown in the cannabis business -- hi, hun -- is that when cannabis was illegal, a felony, where people did serious prison time, not jail, who did you trust? You trusted your homies, you trusted your family, you trusted the people you grew up with in the 'hood, whether that was an Italian neighborhood, an African American neighborhood, or anything else.

Criminals -- Italian businessmen, IBM, the Mafia -- criminal organizations tend to be ethnically based because you work with who you trust. So, while the war on drugs was launched against black people, leftists, and other progressives, the reaction when you were persecuted, as a felon, was to hang out with people who looked like you. So now we enter an era, post-civil rights, we've had a negro for president twice now, and we still have this disparity.

The other -- the third side of the coin, if you will, is that, when people move from black market medical to 502, Amendment 64, Oregon, Alaska, whatever, there's an issue with the banking system. There's an issue with access to capital. For the same med -- political reasons, people of color and women, LGBT, anyone marginalized who's not a one percenter or looks like one, is at a lower chance of getting access to money, whether First Interstate of Mom and Dad, or a bank, or a savings and loan, or whatever.

Because the number of African Americans and other people of color have a drug history, solution to the problem: there needs to be amnesty for those political prisoners who were imprisoned for nonviolent first time simple possession. State laws nationwide need to be changed so that those who apply for legal licenses to come into the light, become responsible citizens, hire people in their community, a previous drug felony -- excuse me, a previous drug conviction, no matter how old or where, can never be a disqualifying factor. It definitely impacts people of color.

So, I'm not looking for quotas or set-asides. What I'm looking for are systemic political changes, so that European American males aren't the power structure. Unfortunately, 45, the orange one, is our worst freaking nightmare on a number of -- and it's not just Sessions. This is the embodiment, I think that the pendulum has swung the other way and we're hopefully at the worst political context any of us will ever experience in this lifetime. What are you going to do? Get up and struggle, get up in the morning, feet hit the floor, do the hard work.

But the reason we're going to have, and to a disproportionate demographic, is that we change society. The good news is, we won the war on drugs. We were right, and we get to bring our culture with us. And if you look around Hempfest, you look around the canna family, we don't drink the kool-aid, we didn't eat the dog food. So you're going to see people of color, you're going to see a whole -- you're going to see Seattle 2017. You're going to see this wonderful Cascadian community, who happens to dovetail with the cannabis community.

We need to use Hempfest, we need to use our Women of Weed, or NORML Women -- whatever, as a political base from which we will bring systemic change that includes disproportionate representation of all Americans in the cannabis industry. Sorry, a little long winded.

DOUG MCVAY: That's a panel on "Privilege and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry" that was held at Seattle Hempfest in 2017. The voices you just heard are Betty Aldworth, the director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Rene Gagnon, the CEO of Cannabis Centre, Inc., from Canada; Jerry Whiting, an entrepreneur and the CEO of LeBlanc CNE, cannabis genetics, up in Seattle; and Ophelia Chong, founder and CEO of StockPot Images.

We'll be back with more of that in just a moment. You are 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.

Before we get back to that panel, a quick update. Loyal listeners will recall that we've been speaking recently about the #DisownStone #JustSayNoToHate campaign to have Roger Stone removed from his position as a keynote speaker in an upcoming cannabis world conference and business expo. Stone has been buddying up to various and sundry who are willing to be in the same room with him, in order to try and make his views seem more acceptable. They're not.

The #DisownStone campaign was started partly because his racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments over the last, well, years, were offensive, so much so that decent people did not want to be seen to support or even be in the same room as this individual.

The campaign seems to have gotten his attention, because Roger Stone did issue a very, very mediocre, mealy-mouthed apology for having offended people by being offensive. Roger Stone still doesn't get it. What's more important, this is about more than whether a man has a long career of spouting hateful nonsense and namecalling and belittling and hatred. This is also about a person who has gone over the edge to inciting violence and insurrection, and threatening the lives of members of Congress. That's Roger Stone.

After the events in Charlottesville, Stone was one of the only people anywhere who was still willing to defend our current president's remarks about the violence on both sides, in fact, blaming the counter demonstrators and the leftwing activists for the murder and the violence that occurred in Charlottesville. Stone has actually called the death of Heather Heyer a "false flag" operation by the left, claiming that it was all set up to make the nazis and the klansmen look bad. Stone has issues, shall we say.

When Stone was approached to ask his thoughts about the resistance that's growing, and there are even people calling for Trump's impeachment, Stone said that we would be looking at a civil war, and he said that Congressmen who supported that kind of thing, who supported impeaching the president, would be in fear of their lives. He's threatening the lives of members of Congress if they dare resist. He is threatening civil war if the resistance works, and the current president is removed from office.

That's incitement to insurrection, now I'm no lawyer, but that's a violation of federal law. And it's a very, very serious crime. Incitement to violence, the kind of hatred that Roger Stone is spewing, is unacceptable in a decent society. This is much more than whether some rightwing activist is an unreconstructed racist, misogynist, and homophobe. This is a man who is actually actively encouraging violence and spewing hate.

Roger Stone has no place in the marijuana movement, in the drug policy reform movement, he certainly has no place in the cannabis industry, and frankly, he has no place in decent society. The #DisownStone campaign #JustSayNoToHate will continue. The mealy-mouthed non-apology that Stone issued, that people may have been offended by his use of racial slurs or his belittling of people, is really not enough. Not even close.

No, Roger, you're not forgiven. You have a lot to apologize for. And so once again, folks, there is a petition at Change.org. Look for the #DisownStone. Please sign, please share. There's no room in the cannabis industry, there's no room in the drug policy reform movement, for hatred and for the venomous bile that people like that spew. We have to stand for something.

And now, let's get back to that panel on "Privilege and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry." The speakers are Betty Aldworth, Executive Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Rene Gagnon, the CEO and founder of Cannabis Centre, Inc., up in Canada; Jerry Whiting, an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of LeBlanc CNE, a Seattle company focused on medical cannabis genetics; and Ophelia Chong, founder and CEO of StockPot Images, LLC. Ophelia's also an artist and a writer. Let's get back to that.

CHRIS CONRAD: And, let me ask you a question, though, personally, which is that, one of the things that people often say about cannabis, it makes people more calm and so forth. Now as a transgender person, do you find that you have fewer barriers in the cannabis business, as opposed to maybe some other businesses, or do you find that that doesn't really translate the way that one would have expected?

RENE GAGNON: Ah, well, I transitioned six months before Caitlyn. Everyone at my company thought I was going nuts. Okeh? So, I've got a different perspective than most, but, one of the benefits that I've had is, how people have reacted to me has informed how I want to change things. The cool thing is, is that when you're born with a Y chromosome, you know that lovely sense of entitlement? I now have that I'm entitled to have equal rights. So, it's kind of a cool fuel. You can use it properly, right?

CHRIS CONRAD: And, do you find more tolerance though, I mean, or do you, do cannabis consumers --

RENE GAGNON: I have found cannabis to be a very lovely community. Industry-wise, when I came out six months later people were going, wow, it would be really cool to have a public company with a trans CEO. Yeah, it would have been. But, that wasn't the right time for it. But what it gave me a chance was to, when I connected with Women Grow, and became part of their organization, and I got to speak and share with thousands of women at these conferences, and help them with their businesses, and transfer this information that I gained from playing the game, the white guy way, I could give it away for free, and just explain it, and they're all like, oh, that's how you do it. Right? Yeah yeah yeah, that's how you do it. And --

JERRY WHITING: The white guy way.


JERRY WHITING: I hear you. I want the t-shirt.

RENE GAGNON: Yeah, exactly. And so, this is --

JERRY WHITING: You can work the white guy way.

CHRIS CONRAD: Okeh, the white guy way. Yeah, anyway, so, for Betty, now, it seems to me like when I was young, going to college, there was free tuition in California and stuff, and we had a lot of diversity. But it seems almost like the colleges are reverting to more white, more moneyed group of people. How is that affecting organizing in SSDP, and or is it, is that just a myth that I'm falling to?

BETTY ALDWORTH: No, it's certainly the case that education is less accessible, of poorer quality, and, like, less well understood, higher education, than ever before. Private universities, for-profit universities, which are, you know, locking people into crazy student loans, and, you know, are, and universities which really run on these networks of privilege that Jerry was talking about, you know, where there's a social capital, right? Like, Jared Kushner can't get into Harvard, we all know that to be true. Jared Kushner got into Harvard for two and a half million dollars, when his dad made that donation.

So, like, there's a lot about the way that university is structured, that requires privilege to fuel itself. Right? And that is simply true. We recognize, at SSDP, that attending university is a privilege. No matter what color you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what your past experience was, the fact that you get to go to college in America is a privilege.

And so, the first barrier to connection that we try to work with students to contend with is that privilege in and of itself. And, I mean, we were founded specifically to fight the Higher Education Act aid elimination penalty, which said that if you had a drug conviction on your record you couldn't have access to grants or loans. That is where we came from.

And, while that doesn't exist, the barriers to education that are rooted in the war on drugs, particularly for people of color, for, who experience incredibly disproportionate enforcement, and for many others who are users of drugs, the barriers to education are very real, and that's something that we work with.

Now when it comes to mobilizing people on campus, I think that, well, I'll say this. A third of our leadership identifies as women or trans, and a third of our leadership -- leadership, specifically, for both of these -- identify as people of color. And that is because we work super hard as an organization to make sure that we are operating from an anti-racist position, and that means that we're lifting up voices of non-dominant communities, that -- there are lots of different ways that we have to do that work, but that is the work that we have to do, and students who get that, flock to us.

DOUG MCVAY: Again, that was a panel from Seattle Hempfest 2017 on "Privilege and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry." It was moderated by Chris Conrad, the California hemp activist and advocate. The speakers were Betty Aldworth, director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; Rene Gagnon, the CEO of Cannabis Centre, Inc., up in Canada; Jerry Whiting, an entrepreneur and CEO of LeBlanc CNE, a Seattle company focused on medical cannabis genetics; and Ophelia Chong, the founder and CEO of StockPot Images, LLC.

And well, that's all the time we have. Thank you for joining us. You have been 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've been your host Doug McVay. The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are also available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more 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.