02/09/18 Laura Thomas

Diane Goldstein new Chair of LEAP, Laura Thomas of DPA, CNN examines Jeff Sessions, RCMP Drug Squad Rpt, Tony Papa re Louisiana travesty, Jimmy Kimmel & Sessions, Tessie Castillo of NC Harm Reduction, Kate Bell of Marijuana Policy Project, Philip Blanton busted in TX roasted for a year & CBS Dallas re 6 year old hemp patient

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, February 9, 2018
Laura Thomas
Drug Policy Alliance



FEBRUARY 9, 2018


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.

All right, friends, put your ears on, this is Dean Becker, this is Cultural Baggage, and we have one hell of a show for you today.

I recently learned that the new chair of the board for Law Enforcement Action Partnership, my band of brothers and sisters, has elected a new chair, my good friend, Diane Goldstein. Hello, Diane.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Hey, Dean, thank you so much, and it's such an honor to have been voted in as the chair of the board of directors. And I really appreciate the congratulations.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Diane, I consider it to be quite an honor. We've become a massive organization with a lot of clout, a lot of respect, and you are deserving of that respect as well. Please tell the folks about your time wearing the badge.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: So, I was hired as a police officer in 1983, for the Redondo Beach Police Department, and I retired in 2004, the first female lieutenant commander in our organization.

During that time, I worked primarily operational assignments, which included everything from starting a school resource officer program to running a special investigations unit, which was a narcotics unit, and then working and running gang units in multijurisdictional type of fashion. So I had kind of this really broad law enforcement experience.

And, what I think's most interesting for the work that I do right now is I really saw the change in law enforcement, because when I started was really the ramping up of the drug war by Ronald Reagan, and then into 2004, I saw how the drug war impacted not just our communities, but the nation as a whole, and with what occurred relative to undermining American civil liberties among so many other issues.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that's so true, I mean, it's one thing to just be involved, pell mell, working your row to hoe, so to speak, and then to take and lift your head up and look around and see what's really going on around you, what the process is creating. Am I right.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: No, absolutely, you know, it is one of the big focuses of LEAP right now, is continuing to tackle the link between the drug war and how it impacts all American civil liberties, and so let's talk about civil asset forfeiture as a start.

When I first got promoted, or several years after I got promoted into being a sergeant, I went over to our special investigations unit, and our civil asset forfeiture accounting, and transparency, was really horrific, and so I really took it to heart when we started processing paperwork, and how we went to the courts to say, yes, this was clearly linked with a criminal conviction, and so I felt good that, you know, is we had supported due process.

But what I saw is as we expanded the drug war and our work is that, you know, a lot of city managers, you know, chiefs and other law enforcement professionals, really viewed civil asset forfeiture as a way to pad their budgets or buy toys.

You know, in fact, I was just told that my former agency just bought a boat to do marine enforcement by Redondo Beach police officers, from civil asset forfeiture money, and it struck me because we've always had access to law enforcement type boats or fire department boats in order to do the job that we need to do. And so, was that a necessary expenditure of taxpayer funds, and shouldn't it have gone to something else that maybe would return more value to the taxpayers?

DEAN BECKER: No, I'm with you, and that's the whole point of it. How many tanks and, you know, armored vehicles, and as you say, boats, when there's probably plenty of other agencies and means by which the police could search the water, so to speak.


DEAN BECKER: And I guess it, you know, this also ties into the way we've abused confidential informants, snitches, setting them up for failure, you know, allowing the police to more or less have an easy task in making a bust, and setting these people up for potential failure and even assassination, should they be determined to be informants by those they're going after. It's, the drug war is unwinnable, and yet, it has been deemed to be necessary for eternity. Some closing thoughts there, Diane.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, you know how, as we look around today, the state of the drug war is, we need to continue to work hard to protect any gains that we've made, because they're under attack, not just by, you know, the Department of Justice and the federal government, but by state and local law enforcement agencies that don't like to see the rollback, not just of the drug war but of the criminal justice system, largely.

But, I want to end it with, you know, today, I believe that I saw a budget announcement that $6 billion is going to specifically to the opioids, an issue that's going on in our country, but I don't know how much of that money's going to law enforcement, and I think we need to be cognizant and not apathetic to the issues of holding our federal government accountable, to ensure that that money actually gets to people that are in need of treatment on demand, you know, we need to use that money to put naloxone in the hands of all public safety officials and grassroots, I mean, let's not spend the money on the things that we've been spending it on, which have not helped us to really stop this opioid issue.

You know, we continue to throw bad money after good, instead of taking a step back and seeing the progress that we've made. I mean, in this last week, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and I believe New York, now is talking about opening up safe consumption sites. You know, so let's use that money and let's think out of the box, you know, and I think that's the issue. It's time to think out of the box, and our government continues to stay in this groupthink mentality when it comes to the issue of drugs.

DEAN BECKER: So, so spot on. I'm going to try to get some interviews this week with some of those folks, pushing for safe injection facilities in San Francisco and other towns. Again, we've been speaking with Diane Goldstein, she's the new, she's the new chair of the board of directors of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, out there on the web at LEAP.cc.

We're going to hear plenty of advice from our next speaker here, US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III: And we're going to see more marijuana use. It's not going to be good. I mean, we need grown ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be, uh, minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger.

DEAN BECKER: If you listened to Cultural Baggage over the last several months, maybe even approaching a year, you've heard my thoughts that it's time for America to recognize the benefit of safe injection facilities, a place where drug users can safely use their drugs and not OD in an alley, and that sort to thing to happen.

The city of Ithaca, New York, Seattle, Washington, Philadelphia, even my fair city of Houston, has some thought in that regard, the folks at the Baker Institute as well as a few local ministers, that it would be a good idea to have one here in our fair city. But it seems that San Francisco is going to wind up leading the way.

A recent headline in the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Safe Injection Sites Expected to be First in Nation and Open Around July First. Now, we have with us today someone who's been very much involved, interested in this situation. She is the California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, and with that I want to welcome to the show Laura Thomas. Hello, Laura.

LAURA THOMAS: Thank you, thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Laura, it's, I see a quote from you, "Make no doubt about it, this will save a lot of lives." That's at the heart of this issue, is it not?

LAURA THOMAS: Yes, it is. We've lost too many people waiting for the US to catch up with the rest of the world on actually opening these programs and starting these interventions.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I had the opportunity to tour Insite, which is a safe injection facility up there in Vancouver. And I was very, very much impressed by the facility and by the accomplishments of said facility. Let's talk about what it can do for America to allow for these type facilities.

LAURA THOMAS: Well, right now, we're in a really unprecedented overdose crisis in this country. Accidental drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for people under 50 in this country, and it's just ridiculous that we've let it go this far. We should be throwing absolutely everything that we can at the overdose crisis, and, you know, the supervised injection sites, safe injection facilities, whatever you want to call them, there's an incredibly strong evidence base behind them, that they will work to prevent overdose deaths.

DEAN BECKER: And, it shouldn't be overlooked that not only do they help prevent deaths, because there's a nurse or a medical technician there on site in case they happen to take too large a dose of these street drugs, and let's face it, nobody knows what's in these street drugs, they're concoctions made by untrained chemists, but they also -- they also provide facilities to fight diseases, infections, and keep people from shooting up drain water out of -- in an alleyway. Your thought there, Laura.

LAURA THOMAS: Absolutely. And, you know, it's one of the really interesting things that they've been able to do in places like Insite, is test the drugs that people are bringing in. They can do that kind of immediate drug checking. They've got one of these, like mass spectrometer machines now in Vancouver that can tell people immediately if there's fentanyl in their opioids, for example, which people are very interested in knowing, for exactly the reasons you just said, right? These are, you know, possibly untrained chemists mixing up these drugs.

It gives -- it allows people who use drugs to access those sorts of services. They can, you know, talk to a staff person about entering detox or going into treatment, if that's what they want. They can talk about, you know, seeing a nurse about getting an abscess treated, they can talk about a, you know, domestic violence situation they're in and how to get out of it.

There are any number of interactions that people can have once they're in one of these sites, because overall, what these sites are about is treating people with compassion and respect, and keeping them safe. Right? And sending this message: we want you to be safe, we want you to stay alive.

And so there's a vast range of benefits that can come from having these sites in your neighborhood, in your community, that extend beyond just the overdose death prevention, exactly.

DEAN BECKER: Right, Laura, I thank you for that. And, you know, Laura, and it occurs to me, you know, over the decades of this drug war, drug users have been vilified, have been demonized, have been in essence cast aside by criminal justice and even the medical community, in many cases. And we're starting to walk away from that concept, from that demonization, are we not?

LAURA THOMAS: Yeah, you know, the reality is, like, I've worked in harm reduction for a long time, I've been at DPA for ten years, you know, most of the best, most effective harm reduction interventions that we have were developed by and for drug users. So syringe access, needle exchange, right? That was first created by people who inject drugs.

Peer naloxone distribution, you know, which is saving hundreds and hundreds of lives by making sure that people who are at -- present at the scene of an overdose have naloxone on them, and people who use drugs are more likely to be at the scene of an overdose.

So, you know, those are interventions that were created by and for people who use drugs, and they're incredibly effective, so, you know, people who use drugs have been carrying the rest of us on this issue for a long time, and it's time for us to respect their contributions and sort of back them up and say, yes, we've got your back, you know, keep doing what you're doing to save your lives and save lives in your community.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, ma'am. Now, you know, another comparison, proximity, I'm not sure of the word, here, but it is medical marijuana. It was through the courage of good folks like Dennis Peron, who left us just not that long ago, but his commitment to save those with AIDS and other maladies from misery and suffering, and it has now expanded around the country, hell, it's going around the world, the fact that marijuana has medical benefits, and so many states have now legalized medical and are even moving towards recreational upon finding there's very little harm through the use of medical. Your thought in that regard, Laura Thomas.

LAURA THOMAS: You know, I think we owe Dennis Peron such a huge debt. He really started the modern medical marijuana movement in this country, and he did it because he was a gay man and his partner had AIDS and he saw how he benefited and he saw how other gay men who were living with AIDS here in San Francisco were able to benefit from it, so, you know, and the adult use came from medical, so, you know, for all of your listeners who are out there enjoying the benefits of legalized cannabis, they have gay men with AIDS to thank for making that happen.

I mean, obviously it's been a huge movement, a lot of us have done a lot along the way, but Dennis Peron and the people around him really got something started, and, you know, he was arrested multiple times, he was shot by the police, he was raided by the DEA, he was, you know, he was in jail a bunch of times, and he still managed to do all of this, so, yeah, you know, it's -- it's kind of ironic.

I spent a lot of time working on the Prop 64 campaign, and Dennis was not a fan of Prop 64, primarily because it didn't go far enough for him, and, you know, so I've got to have respect for him staying true to we need even better legalization than this, and so hopefully, you know, the next initiative and the ones after that will continue to, to really improve and be the kind of marijuana legalization that Dennis Peron and others have dreamed of.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And again, Laura, I want to come back to the thought that it was through the success, or the reversal, of our previous concept of marijuana, that it was changed and found to be of benefit, and I think the same proximity can now be used in regards to these safe injection facilities, other harm reduction methods, that are proving themselves.

LAURA THOMAS: Yeah. You know, and I know you know this, but, you know, the most significant harms that come to people who use drugs doesn't come from the drugs themselves, whether it's, you know, heroin or Oxycontin or marijuana or, you know, it comes from criminalization and it comes from, you know, the harms that criminalization creates, whether that's, you know, people misusing drugs because they don't know what's in it, having to rush, having to hide, the stigma, and just the upfront criminalization and, you know, being arrested, being incarcerated, all of the consequences that come from having a drug offense conviction on your record in terms of not being able to get housing, education, you know, families being torn apart.

You know, all of that really comes from prohibition and from criminalization, and it's, you know, it's great to feel like the country is finally starting to shift and recognize that so many of those problems come from criminalization and from prohibition, rather than from the substances themselves.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right. Well, friends, once again, we're speaking with Laura Thomas, the California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. Now, as I understand, Laura, there was a vote being considered in the San Francisco Health Commission to, perhaps, approving a measure to allow this safe injection facility to move forward there. How is that progressing?

LAURA THOMAS: Yes, yes, that happened yesterday. And it was unanimous. The Health Commission voted five to zero to approve a resolution. They endorsed the state bill that's currently moving that would allow this to happen, and they provided support for the health department moving forward and establishing several sites in San Francisco.

So it was -- it was a really powerful hearing. We had, there's a San Francisco Drug Users Union here in San Francisco that's been doing a lot of organizing, and so several of their members came out and spoke about what this would mean to them as people who use drugs.

We had doctors speaking, researchers, people who run substance use treatment programs, all speaking in support, and then they voted unanimously for it. So it was -- it was a really great day.

DEAN BECKER: I would say so. Yeah, I -- reading some of the literature from the DPA, they're saying -- they say there's approximately 120 of these safe injection sites providing -- operating in over 65 cities in the world and 12 countries, but none in the US, and they bring forward a point here that shows the recognition of viability of this concept, that in the past two years alone, Canada has grown from two to an authorized number of 30. This is a sign that it is a success, is it not, Laura?

LAURA THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely, and you know, Canada's going through an overdose epidemic that is as bad as it is in the US. It's different, it's sort of created by some different reasons, but, they're struggling with a really significant crisis, and both with the change in government in Canada and a different federal government that was much more focused on science and evidence and, you know, good public health practice, they moved from having just two authorized ones in Vancouver to, they're now opening up all over Canada.

Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton is opening one, there are several, I think, Victoria, they're really opening up across the country. And so, that's been a really significant change, so that once the political will changed at the federal level in Canada, the communities that have wanted them have been able to move forward and open them.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, and, as we're wrapping up here, I want to address something that, that really concerns me. There are tens of millions of marijuana smokers here in these United States. They, they are fairly cohesive group, for, considering how many of them are still hiding, so to speak.

But, they need to understand that marijuana will never truly be that legal until we get rid of the idea that prohibition is a worthwhile endeavor, because prohibition creates, and ensures, billions for terrorist cartels, gangs, and does nothing to eliminate overdose deaths, children's access, or any of the things that the prohibitionists seem to embrace so tightly. Would you address that thought for me, Laura?

LAURA THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it is really clear that decriminalizing all drugs will provide much more substantial health and safety benefits to all of us, to individuals, to families, communities, to the whole country, than what we're doing now with drug prohibition and, you know, I think you're exactly right. We have to get rid of prohibition and criminalization.

You know, sort of how we manage drugs and access to them, in that state, you know, we're learning a lot of lessons about how to move marijuana, cannabis, from prohibition to legalization and we've got a lot of work ahead of us. But, even that work is still worth it, because what we're doing right now, criminalizing drug use, is clearly producing vast harms to vast sections of the country and to our communities, especially to communities of color. And we need to undo that.

We need to repair the harms that have been done to communities, especially to communities of color, and we need to roll all of this back and start doing something different.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, as we wrap it up here, I want to remind folks once again we've been speaking with Laura Thomas, she's the California State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. I know that website is DrugPolicy.org. Laura, is there any other closing thoughts that you might want to share with the listeners.

LAURA THOMAS: Yeah, just, thank you for continuing to do the work that you do and education all of your listeners. I know you've been doing this work even longer than I have, and, you know, it's been so gratifying to see the change that's happened, even just over the past few years in this country around this issue, and so, you know, I'm grateful for all the folks who've been continuing to bang on the drum and keep getting the truth out there, so thank you.

DEAN BECKER: I admire you. I want you to kick more ass out there. Come on, we need you to show Houston and Philadelphia and everybody else that it can be done and that it works. So --

LAURA THOMAS: Will do. Yep, I'll do that.

DEAN BECKER: All right.

Opening up a can of worms, and going fishing for truth, this is the Drug Truth Network, DrugTruth.net.

The following courtesy CNN, that's a discussion about US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III's marijuana policy.

UNKNOWN: I think it's primarily optics. It appears to be something that's motivated by personal animus on the part of the attorney general, and interestingly, you know, we've seen, or it appears to be at odds with previous statements that the president made while on the campaign trail, and it's clearly out of touch with what the American people want.

Support for legalized cannabis is at an all time high. Over 9 out of 10 Americans support access to medical cannabis, I mean, that kind of support for any issue is virtually unheard of. But, at the end of the day, you know, we think that federal prosecutors in the 90-some odd districts across the US are essentially going to be -- continue to be guided by the tenets of the Cole memo because it's -- frankly, it's just good policy.

And whether it's formally in place or not, we feel like that's going to be the guiding light for enforcement decisions. And so at the end of the day, we don't think much is going to change, especially when you look at --


UNKNOWN: -- the, the existing markets. I mean, the fact is, regulated cannabis works. We're taking money away from criminal enterprises, we're freeing up law enforcement resources, we're generating tax revenue, and we're creating jobs. And so, it just, it's good policy.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, headache, malaise, fatal disturbance in brain function, imbalanced electrolytes, over-dilution of sodium in the blood plasma, osmotic shift in pressure ruptures, cerebral edema, seizures, coma, and death. Time's up! The answer: And before I give you the answer, let me tell you a little bit more about this product.

It's found in baby food. It's a major component of the explosives used by the terrorists, and it's freely available in the hallways and used in the classrooms of every school in our nation. Prolonged exposure causes severe tissue damage. Inhalation of even a slight amount can be deadly. Dihydrogen monoxide is a killer. Otherwise known as water.

I think I've got some robot news coming to us out of Canada [sic: Canada's Global News website features ReadSpeaker text to speech software].

GLOBAL NEWS: In another sign the legalization of marijuana is spurring a seismic shift in Canadian society, the former head of the RCMP drug squad now runs a pot company. A man who spent years policing the illegal drug trade is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs poised to cash in when pot becomes legal in July.

But Derek Ogden, president of National Access Cannabis, doesnÔÇÖt see his career change as a 180. His policing experience put him in an ideal position to understand the marijuana business, he says. For the last five years of his 27-year career with the Mounties, he was in charge of drug enforcement and organized crime for RCMP across Canada, rising to the rank of chief superintendent.

HeÔÇÖs seen the marketing and selling of pot up close. ÔÇ£From the organized-crime standpoint, cannabis did play a large role. ÔÇ£So we did see a number of groups across the country that were very, very involved in the cannabis industry and they generated a lot of revenue.ÔÇØ

NACÔÇÖs newest clinic is on the corner of EdmontonÔÇÖs Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail, where a largely young and urban crowd comes to shop, stroll, and party. The location is high-profile, high-traffic and high-visibility.

Like the governmentÔÇÖs marijuana regulations, the outlet is still under construction. In the past, the building has been an upscale grocery market, several bars and, long ago, a bank. The vaults are still in the basement.

OgdenÔÇÖs company is one of hundreds of Canadian businesses working to gain a foothold in the legalized marijuana market. For now, NAC helps consumers navigate the medical marijuana system, with locations stretching from Victoria to PEI.

The next steps are medical clinics and recreational dispensaries, once all legislative hurdles have been cleared. ÔÇ£We think the recreational market will probably be about 60 to 65 per cent of the overall market. But medicinal is growing very quickly. ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs growing about 15 per cent a month and we expect it will continue to grow that much, if not more.ÔÇØ

The Canadian government is setting the gold standard for the cannabis market, he adds, leading to international growth potential ├ö├ç├ and challenges. Ogden predicts his former RCMP colleagues will be busy on the cannabis file for a long time. ├ö├ç┬úIt will be a real challenge to pull people from the black market to the legal, regulated market. There will still be certainly organized crime involvement in the black market cannabis but eventually, hopefully, we├ö├ç├ûll see those resources be diverted from that to other areas.├ö├ç├ÿ

The governmentÔÇÖs execution will be key, he says. ÔÇ£If done properly, I think that the legal market has an excellent opportunity to take a really large share of black market.ÔÇØ

DEAN BECKER: Seems every day America's beginning to better recognize the futility and the failure of our drug war. We have a story I'd like to share with you from Mister Tony Papa, who works for the Drug Policy Alliance, about a situation in Louisiana. I'm going to let him explain it for you listeners. Tony, tell us about what happened down there with Mister Noble.

TONY PAPA: Yeah. An individual who is a father of seven children, seven years ago, about eight years ago, actually, was riding his bike on the wrong way up a one way street, and he got stopped by police. They searched him, they found two marijuana cigarettes, two joints, and basically through a series of events he was arrested and convicted, and was sentenced to 13 years in prison for two joints.

This is an outrageous case that shows the futility of the government's zero tolerance on the war on drugs. It's a case where an individual, for two marijuana cigarettes, is put away for 13 years, separated from his family and seven children. Activist fought for many years to try to help him get home from this sentence, and the day before yesterday, he finally made parole, after serving eight years in prison.

So it was a victory for a bunch of individuals. The Drug Policy Alliance, the organization I work for, was involved in the case. They wrote a friend of the court brief. The Louisiana Supreme Court in 2014 called for judicial relief but the appeal was denied. Then in 2015, the Board of Pardons and Parole rejected Noble's petition for clemency, and the reason for this is because, their excuse was that under Louisiana law, you have to have served ten years or more in prison to be eligible, even eligible to be granted clemency.

Bernard's case is a prime example of the draconian nature of the marijuana laws in many states across the country, and one in which attorney general Jeff Sessions advocates for. Sessions, as you know, recently called for turning back the clock and addressing the issues of the drug war they way they were addressed in the '70s and '80s, lock them up kind of throw away the key mentality that existed then.

It was a big failure, a waste of money, and human lives. It was proven to be a failure and a big mistake. For Sessions, mandatory minimum sentencing laws, to go back to that extreme view of the war on drugs. And so Bernard's case was a victory for activists who were advocating for legalization of marijuana, decriminalization of marijuana, and hopefully, you know, he'll be home soon and be reunited with his family.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, there you have it. We've been speaking with Mister Tony Papa, he's manager of media and artist relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.

The following courtesy Jimmy Kimmel.

JIMMY KIMMEL: Here's another coincidence I find interesting. It's Girl Scout Cookie season right now. Every year, three days after we've resolved to lose weight, Girl Scout Cookie season comes, so, stay with me on this.

The Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, today announced that he has rescinded something called the Cole Memo. This was a policy from the Obama administration that discouraged federal prosecutors from pursuing charges against the sale of marijuana in states where the sale of marijuana is legal.

The states make it legal, the FBI leaves them alone. Jeff Sessions is getting rid of that now, so the feds will be prosecuting in states where marijuana is legal again. And no one could figure out why he's doing this, and with all that's going on, is this like locking someone up for retransmitting baseball game without the consent of Major League Baseball?

It's very minor, but something about it seemed fishy to me, and I want to connect the dots for you, so I can tell you what's really going on here. Okeh? Here, follow me over here.

All right. Now, up on the wall, fact: Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, wants to jail marijuana users. What do people get when they smoke marijuana? The munchies. And what is the best snack when you have the munchies? Cookies.

Now. Who makes the best cookies? The Girl Scouts. And when does Girl Scout Cookie season start? January, which based on my research, is the same month we're in right now.

So Jeff Sessions wants to stop people from smoking pot in January, which will result in fewer people eating Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Dosey-Dos, the shortbread cookies everyone hates, which hurts the Girl Scouts, and who profits from hurting the Girl Scout? Big cookie profits. Big cookie, which is made up of companies like Keebler. And why would Jeff Sessions want to hurt the Girl Scouts and help Keebler? Because Jeff Sessions is a dirty little Keebler elf. That's why.

And Jeff, if you're listening with those pointy little ears from that hollowed out tree you live in, know this: we are onto you, and we will smoke you out of that tree if we have to.

TESSIE CASTILLO: I'm Tessie Castillo, I'm the Advocacy and Communications Coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition. And we work with people who are impacted by drug use. We try to reduce disease, mortality, and help empower them to make healthy choices.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, ma'am. Now, you had an article recently featured in TheFix.com, it's titled "Opioid Use in Appalachia: How to Reduce Stigma So People Seek Help." That's a very important issue. Let's talk about that, Tessie.

TESSIE CASTILLO: Yeah. I mean, in a lot of ways, stigma prevents people from talking about the fact that they have a problem in the first place, and being willing to seek treatment. It prevents entire families or communities sometimes from admitting there's a problem and helping someone seek treatment. It prevents people from understanding what addiction is.

Stigma can cause people to think, oh, why can't you just stop using drugs? It should be easy. And you're a weak person or a bad person because you're not able to do that, when in fact, addiction is much more complicated than that, and treating addiction is much more complicated than that. And there would be more education if there was less stigma about the disease.

Also, as far as resources go, since there is so much stigma against people who use drugs, we see that it is not often treated as a medical issue or a public health issue as it should be, but it's more treated as a criminal issue.

So we see the criminal justice system stepping in, and basically cleaning up where we should be having public health centers available, we should have dollars allocated for treatment. There should be a robust system for people to go through who have an addiction problem, just like there would be for diabetes or cancer or anything else.

But there's not, and instead, most people are treated or not treated but just sort of housed within the criminal justice system, and that has a lot to do with stigma, and people not wanting to prioritize funding to treat a stigmatized disease.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, right, and it kind of ties back into the demonization. Why can't you fix it yourself, why do you need the state, and even at job hirings or discovery that you had a problem, then your job firing, you're just discriminated because you once were a drug user. Correct?


DEAN BECKER: Well, Tessie, I want to thank you for this. You know, this is an example of how bassackwards our whole process is in regards to this drug war, that rather than build solutions, we just complicate people's lives even further.

Well, I'll tell you what, Tessie, I'm going to be following your work, and I hope you folks there in North Carolina have more success in this regard in opening the discussion. Any closing thoughts you might want to relay?

TESSIE CASTILLO: I think that stigma is ultimately going to be the issue that we have to tackle in regards to any addictions to drugs or opioids or other drugs. I think if we can get to that one, we're going to see a lot more political will going to treating addiction as it should be treated, as a disease.

And some of these other mechanisms where we're trying to fix the little aspects of the problem, like try to deal just with opioids, or try to deal just with a little bit more funding in one area, they all sort of come to naught if we don't tackle the stigma issue, which is the underlying problem in all of it.

KATE BELL: My name's Kate Bell, I'm Legislative Counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project. We're the convening organization of the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition. And, the lobby day and the press conference today was in support of an effort to let the people of Maryland decide how marijuana policy should move forward, or not.

And unfortunately, in Maryland, we don't have citizen initiated referendums, so we can't write an initiative, have people collect signatures, put it on the ballot, as an effort from the people, which a lot of states have. So the only way something can get on the ballot in Maryland is if the lawmakers themselves pass legislation to put it there.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Your situation is exactly like here in Texas, we can't do that either, get it on the ballot. But you do have some people with knowledge and expertise, including my good friend, the director of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Major Neill Franklin. Please tell us how it went, how you were received, you know, how the presentation went.

KATE BELL: Sure. Yeah, it was great. Neill, as you probably know, is a 34 year veteran of Maryland law enforcement. So it's great to hear his perspective as someone who actually used to arrest people for marijuana offenses, and now is trying to end those arrests.

And we also heard from several lawmakers about why they're sponsoring this bill, and, you know, the benefits of allowing people to vote on this. The citizens do appreciate having that opportunity to weigh in, and, you know, you see that from an increase in turnout when there are issues placed on the ballot.

And, you know, there was also a discussion of the racial disparities in the enforcement of these laws. Maryland did pass a decriminalization measure, but unfortunately we're still seeing around 5,000 people a year still criminally charged just for possession as well as obviously other related offenses.

And so we're hoping that, like the other states have done, successfully getting this into the regulated market, you know, off the streets and away from the gangs and cartels would help reduce those racially disparate arrests as well as improve public safety.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I want to commend you for the effort and I wish you god's speed in getting it done, but, it really boils down to, there are several states that are in the New England area who are now considering or moving or have moved in that direction. What do you think are your chances?

KATE BELL: You know, I hesitate to predict anything in politics, but I'm very optimistic that Maryland is going to follow the nine other states that have done so, and legalize the possession of marijuana. I think it's really just a question of when. And certainly we're hopeful that it will be this year.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we've been speaking with Kate Bell, she's with the Marijuana Policy Project, trying to swing the cat towards legal cannabis up there in the state of Maryland. Any closing thoughts you'd like to share with the listeners, Kate?

KATE BELL: Well, I'd just like folks to know, if anyone is in Maryland or they have friends or family members in Maryland, you can get more information, the Coalition website is MarylandCannabisPolicy.org. Also our website, MPP.org, we have information on all 50 states, what's going on in marijuana policy, if you want to find out more or get involved in the effort.

DEAN BECKER: All right. As promised, here's more from Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Ladies and gentleman, the US attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III.

JEFFERSON BEAUREGARD SESSIONS III: And we're not going to pretend that there's not a law against marijuana. There is a law, federal law, against marijuana. And we're not going to pretend marijuana's good for you, either. I don't think it is.

So we're honoring a directive that attorney general Meese first made as attorney general by ending regulation by litigation. The sue and settle abuse. You know that tactic.

We have a duty to defend the laws that Congress has written, and not have, concede definitions to plaintiff groups improperly. We don't think illegal drug use is recreation. Lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric, and the media have undermined the essential need to say no to drug use.

Don't start. That's what president Trump said to us the other day in a meeting. Don't start. What did Nancy Reagan say? Just say no. Don't start. Just stop. I talked to a member of the administration, I remember, yesterday, he was telling me his son had a heroin problem. He's a white collar businessman, twice he's been in treatment.

I read if you saw Admiral Winnefeld, I think he's vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Winnefeld, poignant story about his son. Twice they've put him in expensive, the best treatment, and took him off to college and not long, he was gone. Overdose death. Sixty-four thousand a year are dying of overdose. These addictions are so powerful.

You didn't just, oh, I'm going to go walk over here and have treatment. Most of you probably know people who've tried it, just not that very effective, and we have a right as a nation to take action against that kind of activity.

And we're identifying a lot of pill mill doctors that are prescribing incredibly high numbers of pills that do lead to addiction and even later heroin addiction. We've taken many other steps to reduce the rule of law in the Department. But I know we have much to do, and there have been some criticisms of the Department of Justice, I take that very seriously, I love the Department of Justice.

I don't know anything else to do than to be open, sunlight I think is a disinfectant. We're not going to ignore our problems or hide our hands -- heads in the sand. Much of what we're doing is behind the scenes, as you can imagine, and I'm sure you understand how some of that works. But we will make sure that all our employees are treated fairly, and we will try to make sure that the American people can know with an absolute certainty that the Department of Justice does its business fairly and objectively and without politics or bias.

So, I work hard every day to be worthy of the great trust I've been given. I know enough about the attorney general job to know it's important -- it's an important job, I don't want to mess it up, and, and I tried to do that in 1981, when I became United States Attorney, and will try to do it again today.

So, our purpose every day is to ensure that we remain true to the fundamental mission of the Department of Justice, of enforcing the law and protecting the safety of Americans with integrity and fairness and to earn the confidence of the American people. That's our goal, and that's what we intend to do. Thank you all, and god bless.

DEAN BECKER: Jeff Sessions is the most blatant, obvious, and far ignorant piece of ** that I've ever heard.

If you're a long time listener to Cultural Baggage, you're aware of a couple of interviews I did back just over a year ago, a gentleman came from California, he was bringing some cannabis medicine for his grandaughter, Makayla, who was in the Houston Methodist Hospital for cancer. But something happened along the way, and I'm going to let him explain what happened and what is still happening. Let's welcome Mister Phillip Blanton. Hey, Phil, how are you doing?

PHILLIP BLANTON: Hi, Dean, good to talk to you again.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Phil, explain that situation. What happened on your journey to help your grandaughter?

PHILLIP BLANTON: Well, I was coming into Texas out of Abilene, coming south on the 287 through Wise County, and when I went through the little city of Decatur, beautiful town there, some patrolman pulled me over, said I was speeding, and that I had California license plates, and most of the time California means drug contraband coming into Texas, so they pull people over from California all the time.

Well, I just told him that I didn't have any contraband with me. I'm on my way to see my sick granddaughter that is fighting for her life with cancer in Houston, and please let me go so I can go help her.

DEAN BECKER: What transpired then, Phil?

PHILLIP BLANTON: Well, he put me in his car and he kept me there and he questioned me, and he drilled me, and he pressured me, and he'd get out of the car, come back into the car, kept pressuring me, you're, you must have something. The next thing I know, you know, he's searching my car, and finds my medical marijuana, which was not hid, it was packed in the back with the rest of my luggage. Nothing hid underneath anything, trying to sneak anything in.

And he goes, well, I'm locking you up now as you've got two felonies, and I had my guns with me Dean, that were loaded, carrying, because I'm a concealed carry weapons carrier here in California. I've been cleared by the Department of Justice background check, all of that, I'm not a criminal, I have no record.

And, but he didn't get me for the guns, because those are allowed in Texas, but the pot, the medical pot, is not allowed in Texas, so he arrested me with two felonies, well, one felony for four ounces of pot and for four hundred grams of pot cookies. So I got two felonies that I'm fighting in Texas.

And I've been back twice already, and I've got to go back again. It's like every month I've got to go back now, went in January, I went the first part, in February, and now I've got to go back again the 26th.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Phillip, that's designed to just cow you, to make you just accept whatever they're going to dish out. That's just typical enough quote "justice" here in Texas, or hell all across these United States, truthfully. You're coming from a state where everything you were doing was legal, but once you crossed that border into Texas, you became a felon. And this is a classic example of the drug war run amok, of its insanity, of its lack of logic or reason or understanding in any fashion whatsoever.

I know you brought your guitar, you sang songs for your granddaughter. I understand she's in remission now, is that correct, sir?

PHILLIP BLANTON: Yes, she is, cancer free right now.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and we featured you singing to her there in the Methodist Hospital last time I think we had you on air. And, what they're doing is just trying to just make you bow before their quote "logic." Because they know it makes no sense whatsoever. They know that it's a profit center for their little town, and, I'm just sorry to hear this continues on.

Phil, is there any closing thoughts you might want to relay to others considering driving through Texas?

PHILLIP BLANTON: Yeah, if you are going through Texas, don't take your medical marijuana with you, because Texas does not have any mercy and compassion for a legal patient that is suffering from chronic diseases, and needs their medication. You just have to go without it. So when I go to court, I eat a cookie when I leave San Francisco Airport, and by the time I get to Dallas, Texas, I am under the influence of my medicine.

And I go to court the next morning, and I get on the plane, come home, and soon as I get off the plane I eat another cookie.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I admire you for your perseverance. I hope you have an eventual excellent outcome from this. It was nice to meet you, it was nice to provide you with some cookies while you were here, and to know that you didn't suffer as badly as these law enforcement officials wanted you to.

PHILLIP BLANTON: Wanted me to, absolutely, it's a hypocritical war going on there, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, but you know, we're fighting the good fight, we're making progress. And the best part, Phil, there's not one person in this state that wants to come on this program and defend this policy, because they all know it cannot be done. They're a bunch of hypocrites, liars, and thieves.

PHILLIP BLANTON: I love what you're doing, I love you standing tall and firm and fighting against this crazy, hypocritical drug war. Thank you Dean for what you do for us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Phil, let me know next time they're making you come back, we'll, let's talk about it again.

PHILLIP BLANTON: I sure will. I've got a good team of lawyers, and we're going to do everything we can to get me free.

DEAN BECKER: Well, best of luck to you, sir.

PHILLIP BLANTON: Thank you, sir.

DEAN BECKER: All right.

PHILLIP BLANTON: Nice talking to you, Dean.




Texas now has the least useful medical marijuana law on the books

GILMA AVALOS: Today, a six year old girl in central Texas became the first in the state to legally access medical marijuana, two and a half years after Texas passed a law allowing it. New at 10, Andrea Lucia met tonight with another young girl credited for inspiring the state's legislation. She's live in Rockwall.

ANDREA LUCIA: Yes, State Representative Stephanie Klick out of North Richland Hills is widely credited for pushing through the current law, but she wasn't always in favor of any form of medical marijuana, and she credits a family here in Rockwall with changing her perspective.

ELISSA HOWARD: Two, three.

ANDREA LUCIA: Seven year old Elissa Howard has about thirty seizures every day.


I can't really find a word to describe how helpless and hopeless it feels. Every single day, it can strike at any point, at any time, and you just are constantly on edge about that.

ANDREA LUCIA: Searching for a solution, her parents looked into marijuana, and tried CBD hemp oil, which is derived from cannabis.

LYNNE HOWARD: Shockingly, she immediately was almost seizure free.

ANDREA LUCIA: It worked for three months, motivating them to lobby lawmakers.

ELLIOTT HOWARD: What we're pushing for is a very highly regulated form of medical marijuana.


ANDREA LUCIA: State Representative Stephanie Klick knows Elissa's grandmother. When she heard cannabis could help, she started doing research, and looking at medical marijuana in a very different light.

REPRESENTATIVE STEPHANIE KLICK: It personalized it. I knew that they were not drug abusers.

ANDREA LUCIA: Klick succeeded in passing a law that today allowed the first sale of state sanctioned cannabis oil to a six year old girl, who like Elissa, suffers from epilepsy.

LYNNE HOWARD: So, today is a huge victory, in my mind.

ANDREA LUCIA: Now in a clinical trial for another drug, Elissa isn't yet enrolled in the state compassionate use registry she helped inspire, but her parents say she may be soon, and they're happy to know her story made a difference.

LYNNE HOWARD: We're very proud to be a part of it, but we are just a small part of it.

ANDREA LUCIA: Well, the CBD oil that the Howards initially tried has low enough levels of THC, marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, that it qualifies as hemp, and it is not regulated. The cannabis oil now being sold in Texas meanwhile is highly regulated, it has slightly higher levels of that THC, but it's only available to patients with intractable epilepsy. That is one reason that many advocates remain highly critical of the law. They argue it still doesn't go far enough. Reporting live here in Rockwall, Andrea Lucia, CBS Eleven News.

DEAN BECKER: That is the sound of the s**t hitting the fan, from New York Times: DEA Launders Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels.

Do you ever stay up late at night wondering just how much s**t has to hit the fan before American citizens begin to smell there's something rotten in this drug war? Well, I sure do. I want to ask you to please visit our website, DrugTruth.net, and again I remind you, because of prohibition, you donÔÇÖt know whatÔÇÖs in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge an abyss.