01/23/19 Ngaio Bealum

Century of Lies
Ngaio Bealum

This week on Century of Lies, I'm joined by Ngaio Bealum as we discuss marijuana in California and his new YouTube show; we hear from UNODC's Angela Me as she addresses the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; and we hear the results from the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey of young people.

Audio file



JANUARY 23, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Well, coming up later in the show, we're going to hear my interview with Ngaio Bealum, a comedian, an activist, a journalist, and a genius. A genius. A genius, remember that word. That will be coming up later in the show.

We're also going to hear some words from Angela Me, she is the chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She spoke at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting, which occurred on January Sixteenth.

But first, on December Eighteenth, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Institute for Social Research released the results of the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey. They held a news conference to discuss those results, so we're going to hear some parts of that now.

The speakers will include Richard Miech, PhD, he's Principal Investigator at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan; Lloyd Johnston, PhD, he's the Angus Campbell Collegiate Research Professor, the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan; and the first speaker, the next voice you hear, will be that of Nora Volkow, MD. She is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

NORA VOLKOW, MD: I’d like to start with good news, which is actually we are continuing to see some of the lowest rates of illicit substance use among teenagers in our country as well as some of the lowest rates of licit substance use, that is nicotine and alcohol, among teenagers.

And some of those reductions are particularly dramatic in the light of the fact that we are amidst an opioid crisis where the use and consumption of opioids is continuing to increase and yet we’re seeing some of the lowest rates of consumption of prescription opioids as well as heroin that we have seen since the survey was initiated. So that’s quite important.

Item number two though is what are the areas of concern, and you will hear further from the principle investigators the main area of concern is how rapidly teenagers have embraced the use of vaping devices to actually administer different types of drugs.

And some of these increases are actually quite dramatic. Whereas in 2017 most of the teenagers reported that they were vaping for the use of just the flavor, this year we see that most of the teenagers are reporting that they are using of nicotine.

So how large are these increases? Well in some instances they are actually more than double the -- or more than double actually the consumption of substances through these devices.

We are seeing teenagers reporting to operators that 30 percent of them in the past year have vaped nicotine which is of course of great concern, due to the fact that many of the advances that have been done towards decreasing smoking among teenagers may now be --- there is concern that some of them may be lost, as teenagers become addicted to nicotine, they may then transition into combustible tobacco.

Similarly these vaping devices are -- there’s been increased use for the consumption of 9-THC, which is the active ingredient of marijuana. So more teenagers are seeing -- though not as dramatic as for nicotine but 30 percent increases in consumption of cannabis through these devices. And this is a new technology that may in the future also be utilized to administer other types of drugs.

And then the third notable aspect about -- in this new data is that despite also significant increases in marijuana consumption across all ages, we’re not seeing it in adolescents. And in fact the prevalence rate of smoking marijuana has been very, very stable, and this year for regular marijuana is close to 6 percent. And it has been at that level for the past four or five years.

So even though the rest of the illicit substances are going down, we’re not seeing decreases in marijuana, but we are not seeing increases. And so there is something going on that appears to be protecting teenagers against the use of drugs, which brings me to my last point.

I mentioned that it was notable that we are seeing very low rates of opioid prescription and heroin use among teenagers. Yet if we look at the epidemiology of the utilization of these drugs in young adults, we see the highest rates of opioid utilization among those that are 18 to 24 years of age.

So we see this transition of where there’s a very low rate of use of opioids among teenagers. And then as they transition into young adulthood, those rates goes up, highlighting the transition from adolescence into young adulthood as one of vulnerability for opioid experimentation, misuse and also unfortunately overdoses.

So there is good news. There are worrisome news with the vaping that you will hear more details. And then there’s the recognition that while there may be something that is providing resilience on teenagers, this appears to be lost as they transition into young adulthood.

RICHARD MIECH, PHD: So perhaps the main finding this year has been the startling increase in nicotine vaping. So as Nora mentioned it’s doubled in 12th grade from 11 percent to 21 percent. So that may not mean much to many people, so there’s other ways to look at that same increase.

One way to look at it is that Monitoring the Future has been in business for 43 years -- 44 years, excuse me. We’ve reported increases for 43 of those years. We couldn’t report an increase the first year because there was no comparison year.

We have reported more than a thousand increases over the past 43 years on the various drugs that we survey. And this is by far the largest we’ve ever seen out of these thousand increases that we've reported for past 30-day use. In fact, the second largest increase was only half as large as what we saw in nicotine vaping this year.

The second largest increase was in marijuana use from 1975 to 1976. So this is a really big increase. It’s -- well, it’s historic shift actually. It’s one of the largest we’ve ever seen in the past 43 years. So I wanted to emphasize the size, the magnitude of this increase.

Also, we found that -- as Nora pointed out -- there was also a significant increase in marijuana vaping. So to date, marijuana vaping has been pretty rare. Maybe 4 or 5 percent of adolescents report that they did that in the past 30 days.

But that increased 50 percent in 10th grade and 12th grade to about 7 percent, and 8th grade is a little bit smaller. And it’s part of a general pattern where pretty much all illegal drug use among adolescents has been increasing or staying steady except if you can vape it. Anything that can be vaped -- it doesn’t matter -- it goes up.

So nicotine vaping went up. Marijuana vaping went up. We asked kids if they vaped just flavoring. That went up too. So something about this delivery device of vaping seems to really appeal to kids. Of course, there’s the flavors I think are a large part of that, as well the concealibility.

Some of these vaping devices are shaped like flash drives and can be kept in your pocket. And you just suck on them and they start up. There’s no on and off switch. They’re very convenient. You can just use them whenever you want.

So given the ease and the concealibility and the flavors, these all seem to be contributing to great popularity of vaping among adolescents today.

LLOYD JOHNSTON, PHD: As you heard from Professor Miech, the key finding this year is in vaping. But there’s been some other interesting things going on. Doctor Volkow has alluded to some of those. I want to go into them a little bit.

One is that we have seen in the -- since the mid '90s a dramatic decline in cigarette smoking by adolescents. Thirty-day prevalence and daily prevalence of smoking in all three grades is down by 80 to 90 percent.

That means that we’re going to have cohorts of young people who will have longer lives, less disease, and it’s going to hopefully transfer to future cohorts that are coming through.

Because this has happened so incrementally, I’m not sure that really the public knows about this. But we’ve made so much progress on cigarettes. Of course, that’s one of the reasons we’re concerned about vaping, because it has the potential to reverse that tremendous accomplishment.

We know that all other forms of tobacco that we’re tracking – and there are many – have edged lower this year. Most of them are down significantly over recent years but not in 2018.

But despite this, there was a considerable increase in the proportion of 12th graders who were using nicotine in the past 30 days. And that’s up as Doctor Volkow mentioned about five percentage points. So that’s almost all due to the vaping because the other drug -- the tobacco products are all in decline.

DOUG MCVAY: That was part of a news conference announcing the results of the 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey.

You just heard Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Richard Miech, PhD, principal investigator at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan; and Lloyd Johnston, PhD, Angus Campbell Collegiate Research Professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

Now, from the national to the international, let's go to Angela Me. She's the chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch, stationed in Vienna, Austria. She was speaking at a Commission on Narcotic Drugs intersessional meeting January Sixteenth.

The CND held a series of meetings that week. The only part of that which was webcast was the meeting on January Sixteenth. Again, those are only webcast live, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs works hard to maintain the opacity of the international drug control apparatus, and as a result, there is no archive of Commission on Narcotic Drugs meetings. None of their proceedings.

The 62nd annual session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is coming up in March. This set of intersessional meetings were to prepare for what's coming up in March. Here's Angela Me.

ANGELA ME: Thank you. Yes, very short, I have just three, maybe, updates, because I'm not sure if any of you has any other questions, or whatever you would like to know or discuss.

So, one, just an update on where we are with the work on responding to the CND resolution in reviewing the existing data collection. So, we are planning on July 8 to 10, July, an expert consultation to follow the expert consultation that we had last year.

Basically, the idea is to invite national experts to now take their recommendations, that were made in the first expert consultation, and to see how completely these recommendations could translate in terms of the concrete capacity building activities that were, the expert consultation also was, had kind of a two main agenda item.

One was on the capacity building, and the other one on their review, and, so to have in preparation of that expert consultation, we were working, UNODC, to prepare and draft that on these two different agenda items, that reflects, basically, take on board and implement the recommendations made at the first expert consultation.

The other, just, piece of information is that, at UNODC we have submitted a paper to the UN statistical commission on drug statistics, and the item should be for discussion at the statistical commission. The paper should be out soon after the editing in the UN statistical commission website.

But basically, it's, we, in the paper, we recall all what happened in Vienna, in the CND. We mention that, you know, importance of receiving 2018, and basically is for the statistical commission to discuss how the statistical commission can support the CND with their statistical expertise on addressing the, both the CND resolution and the, that then was also reflected in the General Assembly resolution on how to go about.

For example, one of the suggestions is that in the expert consultation that we are going to have in July, whether the statistical commission was, you know, the experts, national experts, from the statistical commission, would like also to be included again to benefit from the statistical expertise.

The other piece of information is that, as you know, we have heard a lot, also many countries discussing the relevance of SDG [Sustainable Development Goals] Indicators for the drugs, and so what we have been doing for the, from UNODC, is to try and promote that agencies that collect the SDG, they are responsible for the reporting of, the global reporting of SDG indicators that are relevant to drug use.

For example, you know, issues like employment, education, would be good, that they could disaggregate the data also by drug use. Because, so, this, to complement also the work that we're doing with ARQ, because, in the spirit of many member states of course are saying that we should avoid duplication in data reporting, et cetera.

We're not going, now, in UNODC now, to start collecting indicators on employment, or educational attainment, or those kinds of things, because these are the responsibility of other agencies.

So, the group that oversees all the global reporting of SDG indicators has a subgroup on disaggregation, and they have recently made a call to agencies to submit proposals for considering the disaggregation of SDG indicators.

So, as UNODC, we have submitted a proposal for this group that, for certain SDG indicators that are relevant for the drug problem, that they can consider the disaggregation of, you know, people, drug -- that use drugs, or they don't use drugs, so that to have this complementary data collection system within the UN, that also deals with drugs.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Angela Me, director of research at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She was speaking at an intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. The CND holds its next annual session March 18 through 22 of this year.

You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with my friend Ngaio Bealum, the comedian, the journalist, and the genius -- the genius, the word is genius, you'll understand. Just -- let's just hear that interview.

And, so I can say that I'm on the line now with my good friend, the comedian, the writer, the genius, the activist, and all that good stuff --

NGAIO BEALUM: The jankiest?

DOUG MCVAY: Never. Never, never, never.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'm here with the jankiest, Ngaio Bealum. The Dank Diplomat. The Weed Whisperer. I got all kinds of nicknames these days.

DOUG MCVAY: You've got all that stuff, and you're, you know, an activist as well as being an entertainer, as well as being a celeb, a, well, you're just a cool person. And --

NGAIO BEALUM: Weed-lebrity. I'm well known.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And a political activist and a thinker, too. People tend to forget that some of the best comedians are, you know, have a political side, a political edge.

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, it's -- the court jester gets away with saying all kinds of crazy s*** and couches it in a joke.

DOUG MCVAY: Absolutely, absolutely. The comedian, the jester, those are the people who can speak truth to power, and that's one of the reasons for getting someone like you on, because we need people to speak truth once in a while.

NGAIO BEALUM: Well, let's see how it goes.

DOUG MCVAY: Ay, hey.

NGAIO BEALUM: I will try to be truthful.

DOUG MCVAY: So I have -- I've got you on the line, I've got to ask just a few things. Obviously California's marijuana is the big news topic. You've got the newest final set of regulations that have come out from the state, replacing the last set of final regulations that had come out from the state, and, which I think replaced the one before that.

You've got counties all over where people can't get weed, you've got places where -- what's going on down there?

NGAIO BEALUM: You know, it's just one of those things, where the people who hate weed are always going to hate weed, at least for now. It takes a long time, I think, to fight more than almost a hundred years of propaganda. Right?

So, we have dry counties and wet counties. It's like booze, in some ways, but the challenge is, of course, people who had businesses under Prop 215, under the medical marijuana law, where maybe you could have a business in Fresno, you know, you could still grow weed in Modesto, or Placerville, and still have a business.

Those guys are kind ass-out right now. Right? Because you can't get a license from that county, or from that city, and there's, I think last time I read something it was like 65, 75 percent of the counties in California allow any sort of cannabis business. And so that's creating a lot of challenges for the people who have been in the game for a long time, and aren't getting a chance to take advantage.

Also, let's see if I can remember what I was going to say, the state is trying to take steps, right, so they're allowing delivery, even in counties and cities where cannabis businesses aren't allowed. If you're in Oakland or Alameda County, and you want to deliver out to Contra Costa County, that's fine.

Contra Costa County is trying to fight that, but, that's okeh, and that's good, because it doesn't make any sense. A friend of mine said once, you know, when you create regulations for cannabis, you're only creating regulations for legal cannabis. You're not doing jack-all about the underground market, or the gray market, or as I like to call it now, the traditional market.

And so if California is serious about having, just, people just buy weed from clubs and from delivery services, and from dispensaries, then they're going to have to do more to create more opportunities for the old school growers, create lower prices, create lower taxes.

The taxes on weed up here are 25, thirty percent. The weedman's not charging you tax. Right? You can get weed from the weed man for thirty, forty dollars an eighth, no taxes, and when you go to the club it's forty, fifty dollars an eighth plus another twenty percent tax.

And so they're kind of shooting themselves in the foot. You know, the challenge, of course, is you maybe don't want to end up like Oregon, where you can buy an ounce of weed for forty dollars, which is really, really cheap, and it makes it harder for the smaller growers to compete.

I mean, what was it, they have a million pounds of weed left over from last year, that they haven't had a chance to finish, or nobody's going to get, really, a chance to smoke, in Oregon? And that's a different -- I mean, but, I would prefer that. I would prefer more of a free for all, and everybody getting a chance to get into the business, then this prohibition through over-regulation, which is what's happening in California.

DOUG MCVAY: For what it's worth, the forty dollar ounces in Oregon, they're not that good. I mean, if you want decent weed, you still are going to have to pay a couple hundred, at any of these shops. Having said that --

NGAIO BEALUM: As opposed to five hundred dollars an ounce in California.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, exactly, it's -- yeah, it's only a couple hundred.

NGAIO BEALUM: You're still -- listen, it's probably cheaper for me to drive to Oregon and buy a s***-ton of weed, and come back and smoke it, than to buy weed at a dispensary in California, and I live seven hours, or six hours and change, from the Oregon border.

DOUG MCVAY: Far be it from me to encourage you to violate a federal law by crossing state lines.

NGAIO BEALUM: I would never, I would never violate a federal law by crossing a state line with cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Heavens no. Heavens no, heavens no, that's back in the old days.

NGAIO BEALUM: Heaven -- god forfend, sir.

DOUG MCVAY: We were just talking about that, this thing, on Twitter, there's the whole thing, Aaron Sorkin being -- he got, you know, guy gets busted back in 2001 carrying shrooms and ecstasy in his carry-on bag, and it's like, dude, no one was getting searched, I mean, we didn't have body scanners. Small amounts, just body pack it, for god's sake. Nobody ever got busted, people do stuff like that.


DOUG MCVAY: It's either special stupid, or just --

NGAIO BEALUM: You do just what you do. I mean, listen, I know people, I carried weed. I mean, not like a pound and a half, or an ounce, or whatever. But a personal amount of weed at the airport, they're not going to sweat you. Now, a personal amount of mushrooms and ecstasy, those are felonies. Those aren't misdemeanors. It's a whole different ball of wax.

DOUG MCVAY: But back in --

NGAIO BEALUM: Right? Be careful what laws you're breaking.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh absolutely. Thing is, back in the, before the body scanner days, body packing was, I mean, you know, just plastic -- as long as you, it -- it was going to smell like crotch, but, you know.

NGAIO BEALUM: I used to have a whole set of jokes about, who was it? It was Damon Stoudamire, former Portland Trailblazer, got arrested in Arizona for wrapping his weed in foil when he went through the metal detector. And I was like, man, you've got to be dumb. It's a metal detector. The whole point of it is to detect metal. It wasn't a weed detector. They didn't detect the weed. They detected the metal you had it wrapped in.

Everybody knows, you put it in a plastic bag, tuck it under your junk, and you get on the plane. It's a very simple concept.

DOUG MCVAY: You know? Exactly. Exactly.

NGAIO BEALUM: Exactly. Exactly. The old [inaudible] and fly.

DOUG MCVAY: Yeah, the old days. Well, I mean, well, so. Okeh, there's California out of the way. You've got stuff to get to, so I'm going to ask you the more important part right now. Tell me, you've got a new show on YouTube. What's going on?

NGAIO BEALUM: We just started a new show on YouTube, me and my good friend Olivia Monahan. It's called Stay High, and every week we're going to bring you different strain reviews, and we'll probably do a few dab reviews or two as well.

And we'll show off some fancy gear, and all that good stuff. And each episode's only like four minutes and twenty seconds long, or something like that, so it's really easy, and fun to watch.

And, we stare at the weed, we smell it, discuss flavor profiles, and taste and effects. And it's very funny, and it's a good time, and you can find one on my YouTube channel right now, ngaio420, you can find the pilot we shot.

And we're shooting a bunch more today, and so we're going to start releasing them once a week in February. We'll get them all chopped and screwed, as they say.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool. I saw the first, I saw your first one, the pilot, and it's great, and I'm looking forward to the -- yeah, now, you had the Cooking On High, which --


DOUG MCVAY: Which was the Netflix show.


DOUG MCVAY: And, I don't know. I just, I -- how can I say this? Ditch the pretty boy. Okeh? I mean, host -- look, he could read his lines fine off the autocue, but, eh. Put you in as host. Put you in as host, have people banter.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'm not the producer or the director of that show.

DOUG MCVAY: Then this is for -- then I'm speaking to the producer and the director: Put Ngaio in as host, get rid of the pretty boy, this is not, I mean, no, you just, you're just missing the point with, they're just missing it. They're just missing -- yeah. That's. Want a good show? Put you in as host. Boom.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thank you. Thank you very much.

DOUG MCVAY: That's just -- that wasn't, I'm not even at the compliment stage yet, that's just common sense. My god.

NGAIO BEALUM: Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: Nah, you need somebody who knows what they're talking about, and is interesting and lively, as opposed to, you know, male models, eh. God, that's so 2005.

NGAIO BEALUM: It's produced in LA. These things happen.

DOUG MCVAY: Oh, that's true. Everything is 2005 in LA.


DOUG MCVAY: So, you've got some shows to go and produce, you've got some acting to do.

NGAIO BEALUM: Taping shows right now, I've got to get my outfits and the weed together, and we're going to be doing that all day today, shoot like four episodes, so I expect to be pretty tired around seven o'clock tonight. And, but feeling pretty good.

DOUG MCVAY: Very cool.

NGAIO BEALUM: Yeah, so, everybody watch that. Follow me on all the social medias, @Ngaio420 is the handle, Ngaio420, and if you live in California, I've got a new line of pre-rolls coming out in about a month.

DOUG MCVAY: Most excellent. Any closing thoughts for the listeners?

NGAIO BEALUM: I would quote Bill and Ted when I say be excellent to each other, and, I would also like to say don't let the bastards get you down. And I would also like to say, it is my fervent wish and hope that the cannabis growers of Oregon get to sell their excess weed to Germany and Canada.

DOUG MCVAY: And on that excellent note, Ngaio420 -- Ngaio Bealum, thank you so much. @Ngaio420, yeah, that's your handle. Ngaio Bealum, thank you so very much.

NGAIO BEALUM: There's 419 other Ngaios, is why I had to put down Ngaio420.

DOUG MCVAY: It's a long line, but --

NGAIO BEALUM: Thanks, Doug. Have a wonderful day, man.

DOUG MCVAY: You too, brother.

NGAIO BEALUM: I'll talk to you later. Bye.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with the genius who is Ngaio Bealum. Comedian, journalist, activist, and a good friend.

And that’s the time we have for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs, including this show, Century of Lies, as well as the flagship show of the Drug Truth Network, Cultural Baggage, and of course our daily 420 Drug War News segments, are all available by podcast. The URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. 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.