12/25/19 Marsha Rosenbaum

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Marsha Rosenbaum
Drug Policy Alliance

Marsha Rosenbaum of DPA author Safety First school curriculum, Nurse Ken Wolski LTE in Trentonian + Debbie Churgain Dir of Americans for Safe Access

Audio file



DECEMBER 25, 2019

DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world and this is Cultural Baggage.

DEAN BECKER: Hi folks this is Dean Becker the Reverend Most High this is Cultural Baggage with one of our holiday special programs. Today we’ll hear about our forthcoming conference, I hope you will attend. We’ll hear from Nurse Ken Wolski about what is going on in New Jersey but first we are still here at the Drug Policy Alliance gathering in St. Louis it has been quite an event. Last night we had the awards presentation with a lot of good folks as well as journalists and so forth got their awards and for her work in preparing information to better protect our children from the potential harms of the drug war, we have Marsha Rosenbaum with us to talk about her Safety First endeavor and the progress being made in that regard. How are you doing, Marsha?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: I am fine, Dean. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm really good, Marsha. It has got to be heartening to know that this kind of progress is taking place right?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: It is. It feels a little bit like coming full circle from 25 years ago just starting to think about how to deal with teenagers and drugs and really working on parent education about drugs and offering the harm reduction approach that is where the term Safety First got started. I have been writing about it and reaching out to parents - lots of parents and all of the country really mostly in California and there are two questions that have come up in workshops and online and two main questions that parents have asked one of them is advise me on how to talk to my kids about drugs and should I tell them about my own past drug use that question comes up all the time. The other question was what you have for the kids? The parent education is fine but what about the kids, what about them and what are they getting? It took about 20 years but we finally at DPA have created a curriculum that is for teenagers. It was developed from its partnership between those of us at DPA who knew about drugs themselves and the substance of what the curriculum would be but we needed to partner with educators, administrators, teachers who actually knew how to create a curriculum. We did not. So that is what we did. We have partnered with educators and just released last month a curriculum that you that you can get online for free and it’s for ninth and tenth graders. It has 15 lessons and it's called Safety First Real Drug Education for Teens. So the combination of that and the booklet that I've been writing which is now in the seventh edition. The 2019 version came out last spring. Between that kind of parent education and the curriculum for kids, it feels like completion to me.

DEAN BECKER: Like all the good folks here at DPA, I congratulate you. I am happy for you, for drug policy alliance, and for our kids because for too many years - decades in fact we've had been cracking the egg in the frying pan and this is your brain on drugs, etc. and kids know better and to just try to fool them that has not worked out very well has it?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: No. Abstinence only drug education has attempted to get the kids just not to use substances but a significant proportion of them do anyway and so as I always have said a wanted it for my kids. I think it's Plan A – abstinence but what do you do when you have teenagers not necessarily getting in trouble with drugs but using them, experimenting. That word is so weird, it sounds like a science project but they do. So what have you got for them? How do they know how to be safe if they are going to persist in using? So the Safety First approach was our Plan B for parents.
DEAN BECKER: I figure that the pamphlets that you have got are in the Seventh Edition now. Over the years it has been distributed and absorbed perhaps by some of these educators and now with this new curriculum they have some knowledge. Some would say that this might work out for the best, right?

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Yeah. My booklet has been distributed to at least a half million people over the years and so I think that it by itself has made an impact and still will. But it was written in a different way, it was written by a parent (me) and four other parents. Now what we did was I wanted to get parent education out into the world and so setting aside the curriculum itself starting 18 years ago we began to partner with the million member California State PTA, which is the second largest parent organization in the world, because the largest parent organization is the National PTA, which includes California which of the PTAs in the country, it's the largest with a million members. So that was the goal was to partner with them so that they could let their membership know of this resource, which they did. I go to their convention every year and I have a plenary or a workshop or something there. To be clear though getting this information across is not that easy because most of America still of a certain age still embraces the DARE mentality, the abstinence only. They still embrace Just Say No. They have parades, they have Red Ribbon Week, all of that. As I said last night I feel like I've been tap dancing for 18 years. It feels like auditions and I am just constantly having to reassure worried parents that our program is not promoting drug us; it to promoting safety.

DEAN BECKER: Safety First.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Yes, Safety First. That's pretty much where we are now and I'm hoping that the booklet that is already out in the world will help. I am feeling confident about that although I'd love your listeners to go online to www.drugpolicy.org under Resources and order copies of that booklet. We have thousands of them there and they are available for free. All you have to do is say you’d like some. They will send them off to you.
DEAN BECKER: Hand them out to your PTA or to your neighborhood.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Absolutely. If you are part of a PTA or you know people with teenagers, or you know people worried about teenagers the booklet is for them. It's very short and it has all kinds of references. It's backed up by research and science so that would be my goal is to get it out there and if you have listeners who are teachers or administrators they can also go online and look at the curriculum. It is offered online, we just released it a month ago you can download it for free, so that's another resource that we have. So we have parent education and then we have education for high schools. www.drugpolicy.org/resources.

Dean Becker: It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effects. Nausea, heartburn, development of bleeding ulcer, vomiting, swelling of the brain, extensive liver damage, difficulty with mental functioning, Reye’s syndrome, and death. Times Up! The answer: Aspirin. Another FDA approved product.

DEAN BECKER: You know the more things change the more they stay the same. There was a recent article in the Trentonian newspaper up there in New Jersey talking about the supposed problems of marijuana the portended horrors that may befall us if people were to use it but my good friend who is a nurse, Mr. Ken Wolski read that and was able to put forward a letter to the editor that thoroughly debunked what was put forward and with that I want to welcome my friend, Mr. Ken Wolski. Hello, Ken.

KEN WOLSKI: Hi, Dean. Thanks so much for having me again on your show. It is always a pleasure to speak with you.

DEAN BECKER: Same here, Ken. Now if you will tell the folks a little bit about the letter that prompted your response, please.

KEN WOLSKI: Sure. There is a prohibitionist who produces an amazing amount of misinformation about marijuana from time to time in a local newspaper called The Trentonian here in Trenton, New Jersey and each time he does it I do respond to these letters, Dean. I think it is very important not to let the prohibitionists have the last word or to let them say untruths that remain unchallenged so the important thing is to challenge it and typically a letter to the editor is about 250 – 300 words but the article I was responding to was about 700 – 800 words so the Trentonian allowed me to send a letter that was almost 600 words and I was very pleased that they did that. They also told me after I published it that that they were looking for more information about marijuana from my perspective. So I was very pleased to not only have this letter published but also to establish an ongoing relationship with this local newspaper. Dave Neese’s original column talked about medical marijuana as snake oil. So here is a man who doesn’t even believe the medical benefits of marijuana and he calls it a fake. So I did respond to it but I wasn’t able to respond to everything he said because so many of the prohibitionists throw one thing after another and hope that something sticks and has people support the continued prohibition of marijuana but I did attack the notion that marijuana caused mental illness and that it led to an increase in violence here in America. These are outrageous statements that needed to be addressed and I think that I did address them in the letter.

DEAN BECKER: You were able to thoroughly refute what has been the standard for nearly a hundred years now that marijuana leads to an static and criminality and death and as if that hasn't been broken by just millions of users daily use are ready to go it can now insanity, criminality, and death as if that hasn’t been proven by millions of users daily use already but go ahead, Ken.

KEN WOLSKI: Right. 110,000,000 Americans have used marijuana so to try to convince them that marijuana use leads to insanity and violence that is a tough bar to reach. The original prohibition in 1937 was a result of propaganda by the federal government and especially by Harry Ainslinger and people associated with him that said that marijuana was associated with insanity, criminality, and death and they did it in the exact same way that this resurgence of prohibitionists are doing it by taking anecdotal information about individuals who may have used marijuana and did some terrible crime and trying to make that association evidence of causality the evidence that the marijuana caused the violence, caused the mental illness and really nothing could be further from the truth. Even in 1937 we knew that marijuana did not cause insanity. It has really been one of the most studied issues of all about marijuana. The India Hemp Drug Commission in the late 1800s had a very thorough examination of the issue of marijuana and how it related to both physical and mental diseases and also how it related to activities. The findings of the India Hemp Drug Commission was that marijuana was not a cause for mental or physical disease and it there was no difference in people’s achievements or intelligence of those who used marijuana versus those who did not use marijuana and the only real difference between the people who used marijuana and the people who did not use marijuana was the use of marijuana. That was the final analysis of the India Hemp Drug Commission, and that was a very good scientific review for the day. Of course marijuana at the time was a recognized medicine here in the United States. It was used from about 1840 to 1940. It was in the U.S. Pharmacopeia as a medicine for about a hundred different conditions and people cite Mr. Berenson’s book, The Truth about Marijuana, and that it somehow causes mental illness and violence but I cited the letter that was written in response to Mr. Berenson’s book by over a hundred scholars and clinicians that signed this letter that refute the inaccurate claims in Berenson’s book and the letter said, “Berenson irresponsibly and dangerously claims a causal link between marijuana use and increases in rates of psychosis and schizophrenia”. So I did my own research on this, Dean, and I said that you don’t have to rely on studies just use your common sense and you can see that this is not true because if you look at the worldwide rate of schizophrenia it is remarkably stable at about two percent. About two percent of the population in the entire world is schizophrenic regardless of what country they live in and regardless of how much marijuana is used in that country. So a country like Canada that has a very high rate of marijuana use has the same rate of schizophrenia as a country like Japan that has a very, very low rate of marijuana use. Even here in the 1960s in America there was an explosion of marijuana use and the mental health rate of psychosis and schizophrenia stayed stable. To try to manipulate the statistics to show now that marijuana use is causing mental illness is just completely wrong.

DEAN BECKER: Well I got that right about Berenson but I do want to bring forward a sentence you put within your letter to the editor. It goes like this, “even the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) acknowledged in the federal register back in July of 2011 that “extensive research and data do not suggest a causative link between marijuana use and the development of psychosis”. If the DEA has got it wrong or I should say if the DEA has it right where the heck does this author/opinion writer get off proclaiming what he thinks he knows?

KEN WOLSKI: Exactly. When the DEA published that in relation to turning down the petition to reschedule marijuana. So obviously marijuana has been a Schedule 1 drug since 1970 when the Marijuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional Congress rushed through this Controlled Substances Act in 1970, and they made marijuana a Schedule 1 drug. That has been very controversial since then. A Schedule 1 drug has no accepted medical uses in the United States and it is unsafe for use even under medical supervision and it has a high potential for abuse. I was a sophomore in college when that happened and I remember the outrage in the American community when marijuana was put in the same schedule with heroin. We knew that that was not true. We knew that even back in 1970 that there were valid scientific uses and medical uses for marijuana. In the oncology wards in hospitals the nurses would allow patients to use marijuana back in the 60s right in the hospital they would allow them to smoke it because they could see how much it helped these oncology patients who were undergoing chemotherapy. Not to mention the entire thousand year history or so of marijuana as a medicine but the DEA has insisted since 1970 that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and they do the same kind of cherry picked research. They look at the only research associated with harms but they did acknowledge in the federal register in 2011 that marijuana does not cause psychosis and they also mention that marijuana was not a gateway drug. We really need to review this carefully and even though they acknowledge it doesn’t cause psychosis and that it’s not a gateway drug, they still said it is a Schedule 1 drug because enough tests haven’t been done to prove otherwise but the DEA are the very ones who are stopping the tests from being done that would prove otherwise. It really is kind of an Alice and Wonderland world that we live in when we allow federal police to guard and monitor our scientific and medical borders, Dean. We really need to resolve this as a nation to stop this from happening and to allow and never let it happen again. To let science and medicine research proceed unfettered by federal handcuffs on which tests can be done.

DEAN BECKER: You know it. Well friends we have been speaking with Nurse Ken Wolski, my friend up there in New Jersey. He is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana. Is there a website or another link you might want to share with the listeners?

KEN WOLSKI: Sure, Dean. We are the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and our website is: www.cmmj.org, we are also active on Facebook at The Friends of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.

DEAN BECKER: Its a few months away but I wanted to alert you to an event that sadly I haven’t been able to attend the last couple of years but I think it's very important. It’s a means for people to educate their elected officials. It’s a means for up many of our youngsters going to college to band together to work toward a very positive development and by that I'm talking about an organization called Safe Access Now we have with us their interim director, Debbie Churgain. Hello, Debbie.


DEAN BECKER: Thank you for being with us. For those who don’t know, tell them what Safe Access Now is all about. I think it is an important organization.

DEBBIE CHURGAIN: Sure. Americans for Safe Access has been around since 2002, and we have been working to change legislation across the country but we also like to educate patients, medical professionals, legislators, and the community about cannabis as an option for therapeutic use and research and we really want to help ensure safe and legal access to cannabis across the country.

DEAN BECKER: Was I correct in stating that it is in many cases college chapters, youngsters who are educated and motivated that are moving this forward?

DEBBIE CHURGAIN: We don’t have college chapters but we do have chapters all around the country in different states and because we are a national organization we are located in Washington, D.C. so that we can go to Capitol Hill almost every week and talk face to face with legislators but because we care so much about these state issues we have chapters all across the country and we really rely on those chapters to get the state legislation pushed forward.

DEAN BECKER: Debbie, as I indicated in the beginning there is a conference that is coming up in about three months as we speak, but I like to buy my tickets early and make sure I get the discount and get myself set up to be there on time. Tell us about that forthcoming conference, please.

DEBBIE CHURGAIN: Yes, I appreciate it. This is actually our Eighth Annual National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference. We have been having this for eight years. This year our theme is called Campaigning for Cannabis – Making Policies Work for Patients. Because 2020 is an election year, we are really going to be focusing on the importance of voting and making our voices heard as patients for our needs for making cannabis legal but also making it accessible for patients because there are now 37 states with cannabis programs it doesn’t mean that patients are still getting that access so our conference is different from other conferences in that it is actually for patients and about patients. We actually have a scholarship program thanks to our sponsors – and we are still looking for sponsors. We usually have about 100 scholarship recipients that we bring in from all across the country and every single participant of our conference we schedule a face to face meeting with their legislator and usually people go in groups depending on your state. We have one day where we lobby on Capitol Hill together and then we have all of these meeting with patients and their legislators and not just patients. They can be researchers, doctors, lawyers, or just concerned citizens. Then we have one day of educational panels and all of the panels are about patient issues so we know this is the only time that patients can usually go to conferences and learn about what is going on around the country and internationally regarding patient access to medical cannabis. The conference is March 25 – 28, 2020 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., and we are also going to have two days of workshops as well. We have a lot going on this year for the conference.
DEAN BECKER: Yes you do, Debbie. If you would please share your website where folks can tune in and get hooked up to attend.

DEBBIE CHURGAIN: Thanks. Yes it is: www.asaunity.org, you can also find a link to the conference on our website which is: www.safeaccessnow.org. Our organizational website has a ton of free information for patients which includes reports, educational information, and state legal information all free for patients. We encourage people to use it and share it with others. You can also get a link to the conference that way as well.

DEAN BECKER: And the hope is that I will be attending that conference in D.C. coming up in March and reporting on it to you good folks listening here on the Drug Truth Network. I want to thank you for the 18+ years of your listenership. I want to wish you a safe and happy holiday season.
Again, I remind you that because of prohibition you do not know what is in that bag of black market commodities. Please be careful.

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