08/02/18 Dana Larsen

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Dana Larsen

Dana Larsen of British Colombia Canada is an author and activist who wants to legalize all drugs + Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno Exec Dir of Drug Policy Alliance

Audio file


AUGUST 2, 2018


DEAN BECKER: During this time of eternal war, I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is zero.

Hello, folks. This is the High Reverend Dean Becker, and this is Cultural Baggage. We've got a great show, most of it coming to you from Canada. But first, I want to get something out of the way.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, severe blistering, bruising, tingling, numbness, pain, weakness, bleeding, dark urine, clay colored stools, jaundice, and death. Time's up! The answer: Nuvigil, a medication that promotes wakefulness.

And let us begin.

You know, it's been a few years since I talked to our next guest, but he's been busy the whole time, I can guarantee you that. He works up in Canada, I think he's based in British Columbia, but he's been one of British Columbia's most outspoken advocates for marijuana reform, and I applaud him. I'm glad to hear that he's also been talking about decriminalizing the personal possession of hard drugs including cocaine and heroin. With that, I want to welcome Mister Dana Larsen. Hello, Dana.

DANA LARSEN: Hey, hello, thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Dana, you know, you heard what I said, I'm a LEAP speaker. I think we have bigger fish to fry than just cannabis these days. Would you agree with that thought, sir?

DANA LARSEN: Well, the opioid overdose crisis is pretty extreme, especially here in Vancouver, BC, where we've had about four deaths a day now from opioid overdoses, and I'd call it -- I'd say it's not a drug crisis, it's a prohibition crisis, and these overdoses and deaths are caused almost entirely by the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right. I don't know how often you might hear my show, but I close the Cultural Baggage show with the thought that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag and I urge folks to please be careful, and that is the point. Nobody knows what they're buying these days. Supposed heroin is being replaced by fentanyl and carfentanyl, in the main. Your thought, please.

DANA LARSEN: Well, you know, if you look back historically, the exact same thing was happening during alcohol prohibition, where, in Canada and the US, many thousands of people were blinded or killed by drinking alcohol that was poorly made or wood grain alcohol, and if alcohol prohibition had lasted until now, we would see the same thing, where the number of deaths goes up every decade.

Every decade since we banned opioids in Canada, we've seen more overdose deaths than the decade before, and actually back in the 1990s, when there was one overdose death a day in British Columbia, that was considered a crisis, and we had a big -- hearings, and discussions, and the government talked about changing things, and eventually they didn't do anything and they just decided one death a day was the new normal.

Now that it's up to four deaths a day, everyone's freaking out again. I really hope they don't decide in a year or two that, oh, four deaths a day isn't so bad actually, and just wait till it gets to ten deaths a day before they get concerned again.

We need to realize that the prohibition is the root cause here, and ending prohibition is the solution to the drug overdose crisis.

DEAN BECKER: You know, in recent weeks, here in my city, Houston, we had a couple of instances where cops thought they encountered fentanyl or carfentanyl, gave themselves naloxone treatment to prevent, I guess, ODing or dying, but the fact of the matter is that stuff is deadly, but it's not as deadly as is often indicated, that you can't absorb it through your skin and immediately, you know, fall over dead, it's another means to just frighten us into believing, I don't know, this drug war is worthwhile. Your thought there, Dana.

DANA LARSEN: Well, yeah, I mean, fentanyl and carfentanyl are certainly dangerous, but they don't absorb into your skin if you touch them like that, that's really a myth and I think that the police are spreading paranoia and misinformation about this, which doesn't really help the situation at all.

And, you know, people, they want clean, safe opiates, and we need to provide a clean, safe source of drugs. And people say to me, I don't want to pay for any addicts drugs, that's not fair. Well, then charge them, because it's very, very cheap, producing these drugs is incredibly cheap. You can get, you know, heroin tablets or other forms of opiates for like a dollar a dose.

The only reason it's so expensive for street drugs is because of prohibition, and, you know, in Switzerland they have programs where they allow opiate users to buy opiates, at cost, it doesn't cost taxpayers anything, but there's no profit being made either. And it works very, very well.

And in Portugal, where they've decriminalized possession of all drugs and are treating drug use like a health issue, they've also seen remarkable success, and many American states have also decriminalized possession as well. You know, Oregon, I believe, has a thing in place where there's a limited amount of any drug you can possess, and you won't be charged. And I think we have to stop looking at drug use as a crime, or as a moral failing, and just look on it as a health issue, and people need help, we should be helping them.

But, the main thing these people need is clean, safe drugs, in knowable doses, in safe amounts, and to not allow that to happen, really, it's tantamount to murder, in my opinion.

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you there, sir. I was privileged, earlier this spring, I went to Switzerland there, I got a chance to interview Doctor Christoph Buerki. He was the designer of the Swiss heroin injection program. I had a chance to tour their facility, learned how, you know, people come in twice a day, they do their heroin there, and that, in the approximate twenty years, I don't remember exactly, of this program, no one has died.

It's -- it's -- the fear of these drugs is more deadly than the drugs, am I right?

DANA LARSEN: Well, we've had a hundred years, or more than a hundred years, of demonization, of paranoia, of fear and attacks against primarily opiates, but also cannabis and cocaine and many other substances as well.

And, you know, these substances, in their original, natural forms, they're not deadly. People who smoke opium or drink opium tea, they don't overdose and die. And before we banned opiates, that was how opiate users used it, they primarily smoked opium. And I think we need to go beyond a supervised injection site, and offer opiate users a safer alternative. Sure, if you need to inject, okeh, there's a safe place you can do it, here's some safe drugs.

But, maybe you'd prefer a cup of opium tea? Maybe you'd prefer to smoke some opium, and I think a large number of current opiate injectors would switch to milder, safer forms if they had the alternative.

And we saw this again with alcohol prohibition, where during alcohol prohibition, smugglers don't want to smuggle beer and wine, they smuggled a hundred percent pure alcohol, the strongest stuff they can get, and then they dilute it down on the other end, after it's been smuggled. And that also caused countless health problems, deaths, overdoses from alcohol.

And when you ban a drug, you make it stronger. Not because users necessarily want stronger drugs, because that's what's easier to smuggle, and more profitable, and prohibition makes drugs stronger. And legalization makes drugs weaker, and safer, and people really want more moderate doses for their use.

And so, you know, people say we've got a drug problem or an overdose problem, and I always say, it's a prohibition problem. Prohibition is what is causing this to happen. And you know, in my opinion, the war on drugs is really a genocide against poor people, marginalized people, indigenous people, and we need to recognize that, and that politicians who support prohibition are ultimately supporting death, misery, and genocide, in North America and around the world.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. You nailed it, Dana, that's exactly my feelings. This is -- this is a deviation from reality, it's, I call it a quasi-religion, this belief in prohibition. Doesn't need any data, just the belief.

You know, you guys have, in British Columbia in particular, had safe injection sites, Insite there, where folks can come in and use their drugs under medical supervision, and I think in, I don't know, over a decade that it's been in play there hasn't been one death that has occurred there, though there have been those who overdosed, and were able to recover thanks to the medical personnel on staff.

And we have down here in the US now, San Francisco, Seattle, Ithaca, New York, New York City, a couple of other cities I'm leaving out, are considering making use of safe injection facilities for their cities. What would you say to those politicians considering making that move?

DANA LARSEN: Well, I support supervised injection sites very, very much. They reduce disease, they reduce overdose, they also can act as a facility for people who do want help or to want to stop using opiates, that they can get information and contacts and work to end their opiate use there. So I think they're a good start.

But, also, in the long run, I feel that it -- supervised injection sites aren't really the final solution to anything, you know? They definitely save lives and prevent people from overdosing, but in my opinion it's a little bit odd to say well, we're going to give you a clean needle and -- to put your dirty street drugs in, and then if you overdose we're going to be here to stop your overdose and to give you some Narcan to -- or naloxone to reverse your overdose.

But, really we should be giving them some clean drugs to put in their needle as well. So, I think that, and we should also offer them alternatives that are non-injectable and perhaps safer. So I definitely think that supervised injection sites are a good first step, and that they save lives, and that people who oppose them ultimately believe that drug users should die as punishment for being a drug user.

But I think we've got to go beyond supervised injection sites, ultimately. They're a first step of many steps towards really ending prohibition altogether.

DEAN BECKER: Well -- well said. Dana, I think about, you know, you guys have had a medical marijuana law in place for many years now, and it has worked out pretty good, as best I understand it, but you're legalizing October Twelfth or something, I believe, there's a new set of laws going to be in play. But from my perspective down here in Texas, it really seems kind of creepy, the way it's all set up. Your response to that thought, please.

DANA LARSEN: Yeah, the legalization is going to come into play in Canada on October Seventeenth, although it's going to be ultimately a multi-year, maybe a multi-decade process of really sort of ending the stigma and attacks on cannabis users.

The laws they've put in place, I mean, I support what we're doing in Canada because I think it is a step forward, but the way they're treating cannabis, the -- we want to see an end to prohibition that includes an apology from the government, a recognition that prohibition was wrong, and based in racism and bigotry and ignorance and was never well-intentioned and never accomplished anything good.

But the route they're going is to say, well, we're going to punish cannabis, if you violate any of these rules we're going to punish you far out of proportion to what it would be with alcohol. And they've put in rules that are far more restrictive than alcohol, in every way, and far more punitive, even though cannabis is the much safer choice than alcohol.

So there's all kinds of things in this legislation that really need to be looked at in Canada, and ultimately will need to be changed over the next ten or twenty years, as we continue moving forward on this.

There's lots of examples, you know, for instance in Canada, an adult parent can share alcohol with their minor child if they choose to do so at home. So you want to give your kid a half glass of wine with dinner or something, that's not a crime. But an adult parent who shares cannabis with their teenage child can face very severe penalties and jail time.

And, it's like that all the way down the line, where every aspect of these cannabis laws are still maintaining the idea that cannabis is incredibly dangerous, and that cannabis users can't be trusted, and that it's better if we all just drink alcohol instead of using cannabis, and so it's created a system I think that is still unduly restricted, unduly controlled, and there's still going to be even arrests for cannabis possession in Canada after it's legalized.

If you possess cannabis, which they call illicit cannabis, so you didn't buy it at the right place or grow it yourself, that's a crime, and you can go to jail for that, with quite severe penalties. And we just don't treat alcohol or tobacco or anything else that's legal like that, so, there's still a lot of work to do, but, you know, in a planet where prohibition is the dominant policy in pretty much every country on earth, I think Canada is still making some significant steps forward, even though it's not really giving us everything that we want when it comes to ending cannabis prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Look, I have to agree with you, Dana, but -- progress is progress, and embrace it and move forward, but, it just seems that there was a reach back to reefer madness, to just hang onto it, to carry it forward into this new era, and that's what's kind of creepy to me, is that it's obvious. Cannabis is not the threat it was once purported to be, and why the heck are we so afraid.

DANA LARSEN: Yeah, I feel that the decisions being made by Canada's liberal government about -- and the rhetoric around legalization is really designed not to do the right thing, but to thwart attacks from the right. So they're framing legalization as a way of fighting, you know, the bad guys who are the organized crime and the gangsters who are selling cannabis now.

They're framing legalization as a way of protecting young people from the harms of cannabis, rather than framing it as cannabis is pretty good, actually, and prohibition is wrong, and we never should have banned it in the first place. And so because they're taking that angle and that approach, it really kinks the way that legalization is going to look in Canada.

And, we have a very strange situation in Canada, much like the situation in Amsterdam right now, where cannabis is illegal federally, but many cities have got cannabis shops in them operating quite openly, in Vancouver, in Victoria, and other cities that these dispensaries have been granted business licenses and mainstream acceptance, even though they're still against federal law.

And the legalization we're getting is actually being accompanied by threats to crack down on the dispensaries, and to shut down and punish even more severely the current industry.

I was in Amsterdam a few months ago, and the Dutch coffee shop owners were like, hey, congratulations, they're going to legalize in Canada, and I told them, well, yeah, thanks for the good sentiment, but it's like if the Dutch government said we're going to open three government run cannabis shops in Amsterdam and then we're going to raid and shut down every single coffee shop that's here and throw all you guys in jail. And they were like, oh, that's not a good idea. And I'm like yeah, it's not.

It's not really like a system that's open for those who are already in the industry, and who have been the pioneers moving things forward, and challenging the law. They're still seeing those people, like myself, as criminals who deserve to be punished and flushed out of the way so that we can be replaced by a limited selection of corporatized government cannabis, and I think that's just not the way to go.

There needs to be a liberation of the industry, and not trying to replace and demonize the current cannabis industry, and replace it with this government monopoly, that's not really going to work in Canada. I think it's going to lead to many more years of conflict, arrests, confusion, and stigmatization of cannabis users.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, earlier you spoke of the fact that these harder drugs really cost just pennies to make, that the -- it is the prohibition that inflates that price to where it is today on the street. And the same can pretty much be true for cannabis. I realize there's rent for the warehouses where this stuff is grown, but, you know, you can grow some pretty good stuff outdoors that basically costs nothing but time and a little sunshine.

And I guess what I'm leading to here, Dana, is, we have a situation where cannabis has been way over priced for decades, and the price is not going down that much through your new government policy. The black market's still going to be out there, it's still going to be kind of thwarting the efforts of the government. Am I right?

DANA LARSEN: Oh, absolutely, and you know, I always say, if they want to shut down every dispensary in Canada and get rid of the black market, it's easy to do. Just have legal cannabis be higher quality, better selection, and lower prices than what's out there now.

And if they do that, well then my dispensary can't compete, and we would have to shut down, which I would consider kind of a victory. But they want to tax it a dollar a gram, regardless of how much that gram costs, it's going to be a dollar tax on it, plus seven percent GST federally, plus provincial taxes, plus probably a provincial fee as well. So we're looking at, you know, around a two dollar a gram tax on this plant.

They're not going to be able to compete with the current industry if they don't lower those taxes and produce more quality. And another thing maybe people don't realize is that the legalization we're getting in Canada only is for dried buds. No extracts, no edibles, no hash, no concentrates, no cookies, no brownies, no suppositories, no capsules, none of those things are going to be legal in Canada.

Only raw, dried buds for smoking will be available in these government run shops when we legalize. And they say they're going to bring in the extracts and the edibles in a year or so, I expect that will be more like two or three years before they really get that figured out and in place.

But -- but ultimately, I mean, I'm all for smoking dried buds, but especially for medical users, the real value medicinally comes from the extracts and the edibles and things like that, that have a higher concentration and more ability to help with medical issues.

And so, you know, as a Canadian citizen, I say, well, get on this right away and legalize it all, and as someone who runs a dispensary I say, hey, take your time. We've got this covered, and the longer they take to get their stuff in place, the longer we can continue serving our members and providing those products to those who need them.


DANA LARSEN: So, it's going to be a long, slow process in Canada until we get to where we need to be.

DEAN BECKER: Maybe I had heard those details, that they weren't allowing for extracts and edibles, but that just -- that just seems ridiculous. Some folks can't smoke anything, their lungs will not handle it. It's -- it just seems outrageous to me.

Again, folks, we're speaking with Mister Dana Larsen, he's a drug policy activist up there in Canada, based in British Columbia. Dana, as we're wrapping it up here, I want to come back to, you mentioned they're trying to deny you and good folks like Jody and Marc Emery the right to open a dispensary, to be providers, that many of those that are taking over the distribution of these drugs are former cops and district attorneys, and others who used to prosecute folks who sold cannabis.

And that to me is part of what, you know, was creepy to me about what's going on up there. Would you address that for us, please?

DANA LARSEN: Oh, absolutely. That's an issue, and you know what? It's one thing if a police officer, you know, I'm glad to see cops, you know, growing cannabis or moving into the cannabis industry in some ways, but not when they're going to continue to demonize cannabis users.

You know, now they're saying, well, don't buy it from those gangsters who've been selling it all along, buy it from me, I'm a cop, you can trust me, or I'm a big former politician, you can trust me, buy it from me, and these people often were angry and pushy opponents against legalization. They demonized cannabis, they attacked Trudeau for wanting to legalize, and then now as soon as it's legal and they see the money, they suddenly see dollar signs in their eyes and they decide they want to be the ones to sell it to everybody.

And, I just think that that's wrong, you know, it -- people in the cannabis industry should not be the same people that have been fighting to destroy the cannabis industry, who continue to demonize cannabis users and cannabis growers and the cannabis culture.

I don't want to buy my cannabis from those people. And I think that most cannabis users don't want to buy it from them either. And so, we've really got a system in Canada that is difficult for the average person to get involved in, and participate in.

And I will say it's sort of heading in the right direction in some ways, but that they're opening that up a little bit, they're creating what they're calling microgrow licenses and things like that, for smaller growers, but, it's such a slow, slow process, and so restricted, and ultimately you really need millions of dollars to sort of get involved in the legal industry. And I think that kind of restriction is going the wrong way.

I like what I'm seeing in some cities like Oakland and a few American states where they're actually making an effort to set aside licenses or include people that have personally been affected by cannabis prohibition, or from communities that have been marginalized and hurt by cannabis prohibition, and trying to prioritize them to get the licenses and to be part of the legal industry.

And I think we need to have that kind of approach in Canada, but that's not what we're getting. We're getting the opposite, where it's the elite, the people who are already millionaires, who want to become billionaires on the cannabis industry, and I think that's just the wrong way.

And ultimately, legalization should mean that cannabis is a lot cheaper, and more available, and higher quality than it is now. And if that's not happening, then it's not really legalization, it's more just kind of a sideways move on prohibition in some ways.

So, yeah, we have a lot of problems with our legalization, but, at the same time, I'm glad that we're moving in this direction and we're having these discussions, and you know, hopefully it's not another ten or twenty years before we create a system that's really dot the end of cannabis prohibition as we want to see it happening in Canada.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I thank you for that, Dana. I have one more question here. I came to Canada, I don't know, I'm guessing ten years ago, I was up there to visit Marc and Jody and to tour the Insite facility. And as I came across the border, they found where I had been busted thirty five years ago, now it's probably 45 years ago, I was just a kid.

And they almost didn't let me in the country. It was for robbing a drug store. I didn't rob it, but I pled guilty and I took the five years probation rather than twenty behind bars. We're going to have a situation at the border where folks in Canada will not be able to come to America because they're pot smokers, much the same as pot smokers can now, are being denied coming into Canada for the same reason. Your thought in that regard.

DANA LARSEN: Well, I -- we do restrict people coming into Canada, but I think America's more strict in how they deal with people coming across the border the other direction.

And we're actually starting to see this happen in Canada now. It used to be just sort of regular people or poor people with criminal records that were getting stopped, and wealthier people could find a way around it, but we've recently seen a few prominent Canadians who are big money investors in the cannabis industry getting turned back at the border.

And in a way, I think that's kind of good, because it needs to affect the rich and powerful people before they'll do anything about it. And I'm seeing these folks saying, I can't believe it, I'm shocked that I was turned back at the border because I happen to own a cannabis company.

And of course, that's not just, but I hope that these people in these positions of power will then try to pressure the US government to change those laws, because we're going to have thousands and thousands of Canadians who, whether or not they use cannabis, they're going to be working in a legal government regulated cannabis shop, and if they get -- if the US customs, you know, finds out where they work, they're going to get banned from entering into the US, and this is going to affect a lot of Canadians.

And so I hope that we could put pressure on the American government. I don't know how responsive Trump is going to be to wanting to make those changes, but hopefully, if you guys still have a democracy and a president in a few years, that your next president might actually work to change some of these things, because it's going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of people, and it's going to impact trade across the border quite severely as well.

And in British Columbia especially, we look to the north, and there's legal cannabis in Alaska, and we look to the south, and there's legal cannabis in Washington and Oregon, and yet if you -- and there's going to be legal cannabis in British Columbia, but if you're a legal cannabis user crossing from British Columbia into Washington or Alaska, you're going to get turned back because the federal government still hates cannabis as official policy.

So, it's going to be a strange situation, and it's certainly the punishment, the stigmatization, and the harassment and the arrests of cannabis users and cannabis growers, and those in the cannabis industry. It's going to continue for a long time to come.

And what's happening here in Canada's really is just the first small step in a long journey towards really ending cannabis prohibition and recognizing that cannabis was never the problem, that cannabis is the solution, and prohibition is the problem.

DEAN BECKER: Right on the money, sir. Thank you for that. Friends, we've been speaking with Mister Dana Larsen, he's an activist extraordinaire up there in British Columbia. And, a closing thought to share with you, Dana. The lady at the border, I said, do you see any problems other than that 35 years ago charge, and she said no, I don't. And then she said, I tell you what, Mister Becker, we'll let you in this time. And she let me in the country, in a very, in my opinion, very Canadian perspective. Closing thoughts from you, Dana.

DANA LARSEN: Ah, well, just that I think we have to keep up this effort and we have to keep pushing to really end the stigma around cannabis, and for me, like we've been saying, it's much more than just cannabis, it's the whole war on drugs, and you know I've been thinking maybe it's time to open a medicinal mushroom dispensary in Vancouver, and start providing psilocybin mushrooms and other beneficial entheogens and psychedelics in a medical fashion to those who need it.

There's a lot of research and experience showing that these kind of entheogenic substances can really help people deal with addictive behaviors, and help them sometimes stop using opiates. And that's one of the many hypocrisies of the war on drugs, that some of the drugs that can help you get off opiates are also banned under prohibition, even though these things are incredibly useful, psychologically beneficial.

So, for me, I want to continue pushing to end the whole war on drugs, the war really on many of the world's most beneficial and useful and culturally relevant plants. And so, in many ways, this journey towards ending prohibition is really just beginning, and we still have a very long, long way to go.

DEAN BECKER: We close this out with a quick injection of thought in support of Mister Dana Larsen. Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno.

MARIA MCFARLAND SANCHEZ-MORENO: The US has used the war on drugs and criminalization as its main approach to problematic drug use, or all drug use, for decades, and it got us here, where, at this time when tens of thousands of people are dying of overdose every year. It's time for the US to look, take a hard look, at these failed policies, and explore new alternatives that have been proven to work elsewhere.

DEAN BECKER: Maria is the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,

This is Dean Becker, urging you to visit our website and check out our seven thousand radio segments, that's all available at

And again, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

06/17/18 Malik Burnett

Century of Lies
Malik Burnett
Tim Pate

This week: Dr. Malik Burnett speaking about the social determinants of health, stigma, cultural competency, and medical cannabis; plus Tim Pate performs "Let's All Be Farmers".

Audio file



JUNE 17, 2018

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: Welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

Well on June Twelfth, UN Secretary General António Guterres opened the discussion at the United Nations on implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, at the General Assembly's 94th Plenary Meeting. Let's hear Secretary General Guterres.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: We are at the halfway point to the 2020 fast track commitments agreed by the General Assembly in 2016. The world is making good progress towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

More people have access to HIV testing and treatment. Access to anti-retroviral therapy has expanded by more than 20 million people since 1990. As mother-to-child transmission continues to decline, and fewer children are living with HIV, we are moving closer to bringing about an AIDS-free generation.

But progress is uneven and fragile. On all continents, key populations at higher risk of infection continue to be left further and further behind, and young women remain unacceptably vulnerable where prevalence is high. We must empower young people to protect themselves from HIV.

This includes providing a full range of sexual and reproductive health services and rights, harm reduction for people who use drugs, and access to anti-retroviral treatment for young people living with HIV.

Prevention is the key to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission. The Prevention 2020 Roadmap focuses explicitly on adolescent girls, young women, and key populations at risk.

This sharpened focus on human rights, key populations, and gender equality, is essential. Greater leadership and investment must follow suit to remove the social and political barriers that keep so many beyond the reach of necessary services.

The 2020 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for an integrated approach to development challenges, and our efforts to end HIV are connected to other areas, such as malaria, tuberculosis, access to medicines, and the increasing threat of anti-microbial resistance.

Success will require us to strengthen links across these areas and build resilient and sustainable systems for health, underpinned by principles of human rights and equity.

This year's high level meetings of the General Assembly on tuberculosis and noncommunicable diseases, as the President just mentioned, are key opportunities to inform a new way of thinking and working that moves beyond disease-specific silos of yesterday.

Let us also look ahead to the 2019 high level meeting on universal healthcare to build coherence across the global health landscape on financing, programming, and accountability.

The progress towards ending this epidemic would not have been possible with forceful advocacy, solidarity, and the spirit of shared responsibility. We must maintain this spirit.

This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of one of the more significant commitments to ending the AIDS epidemic, the US President's emergency plan for AIDS relief, or PEPFAR, and we commend the United States of America for its steadfast and generous commitment.

Next month, scientists and advocates from around the world, many of whom are with us today, will gather in Amsterdam for the 22nd International AIDS Conference. From the beginning of the global response, this intersection of science and advocacy has helped to shape policy and expand access to rights-based treatment and support for million around the world.

At this pivotal moment, we must renew our focus and shared commitment to a world free of AIDS. The pandemic is not over, but it can be, and we must all do our part.

Let us move forwards in the bold, new spirit of partnership to overcome the cycle of HIV transmission and delivery health and wellbeing for all. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was His Excellency António Guterres, United Nations Secretary General, on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, speaking before the UN General Assembly. Also speaking at that event was the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Laj?ák.

MIROSLAV LAJ?ÁK: Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our General Assembly hall. This is our annual debate on HIV and AIDS. It is an opportunity to hear about progress being made, and also about the hurdles we still face in eradicating AIDS from our world.

And I'll make three brief points before handing the floor over to others.

First, I want to say that HIV is still a huge challenge. Yes, there have been success stories, and there has been progress. We have developed better anti-retroviral therapy. HIV positive people now live longer and healthier lives. We have seen less and less mothers die during pregnancy or transmit the virus to their babies, and overall, there has been a 40 percent decline in new infections between 2000 and 2016.

But we need to be clear: we cannot afford to slow down. This virus still has a destructive and deadly impact on people around the world. In 2016, one million people lost their lives to AIDS-related illnesses, and the new drugs and treatments are not available to everyone.

In fact, only 53 percent of people have access to anti-retroviral therapy. That's why we need to work even harder. That's why we have committed to ending the epidemic of AIDS by 2030, and that's why we are here today.

As my second point, I want to say that we can use today's meeting to explore opportunities for even more action, and I want to point two of them in particular.

One is the high level meeting on tuberculosis, which will be held on September 26. This will be the first meeting of its kind, and it will make a big impact on the work we are doing here. People infected with HIV are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active tuberculosis, and this makes a lethal combination. Without proper treatment, nearly all HIV positive people with tuberculosis will die.

Also in September, the General Assembly will hold its third high level meeting on noncommunicable diseases, and this is another major opportunity because people with HIV have a much higher risk of suffering from NCDs, which is why we need a more integrated approach than ever.

We must use these and other events and platforms to push ahead with our goal of eradication by 2030.

Finally, we cannot forget that what we are doing today ties into our other goals and objectives, and that's my third point. We cannot just think about HIV and AIDS. It is not just about the virus. We also have to look at the context around it, because the fact is, we are not on an even playing field.

It is not the case that everyone has the same chance of contracting HIV. It is not the case that everyone has the same chance of surviving it. And this is not the way things should be.

We cannot continue to leave people behind, and universal healthcare can help to give everyone a chance. It can level the field. We all know that healthcare is crucial to sustainable development. That's why it has its own goal in our Sustainable Development Agenda, SDG Three.

And that's why, as part of it, we are committed to achieving universal health coverage. This will be on the General Assembly's agenda in 2019, and it could accelerate our drive to eradicate AIDS once and for all.

Excellencies, dear colleagues, we are on the -- and so we should be hopeful, but never complacent, so let's keep going. Let's keep fighting this virus, and the stigma that comes with it. Let's speak up louder, in memory of those who have died and in support of those who are living with HIV and AIDS today. I thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Miroslav Laj?ák, General Assembly President, on the implementation of the Declaration of Commitment on HIV AIDS and the Political Declarations on HIV AIDS, speaking before the UN's General Assembly at its 94th Plenary Meeting, 72nd Session, on June 12.

You are listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

Well May 10 through 12, Patients Out of Time held its National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Jersey City, New Jersey. The first day of that conference was devoted to an examination of social policy. One of the speakers was Dr. Malik Burnett. He is from DC and Maryland, he is a physician, also has an MBA, and he's very active in medical cannabis. Let's give a listen.

MALIK BURNETT, MD, MBA: For those who are not familiar with the social determinants of health, the social determinants of health are the conditions of health, or the places where people work, grow, live, born -- live, born, and age, and this includes the health system.

And, all these conditions are shaped by the distribution of money, power, resources at the global, national, and local levels, which are influenced by our policy decisions.

You know, they're -- the social determinants of health, and why I want to bring this concept to you all are -- to encourage to think about cannabis policy reform in this context, is because social determinants of health are largely responsible for, you know, a lot of the health inequalities that we have in society today.

So, I want to deconstruct this a little bit, and unfortunately this slide is not projecting very well on there, but I can talk through it pretty well, so, within the social determinants of health there are two major, major buckets.

You know, there are structural determinants and then there are intermediary determinants, and so, when you're defining intermediary determinants, those are the softer sort of life experiences, at the individual and at the family level.

So, you know, your marital circumstances, your behavioral and biological factors, like how your daily life is impacted on a day to day basis, you know, whether or not you're dealing with psychological issues, or if you have, you know, a very tough home environment, you know, and a tough family life, or really good family life and a really privileged and improved sort of home condition. Those are all what are defined as intermediary determinants.

And there's -- there's much more structural and tangible sorts of social determinants, and where we are going to focus broadly in this conversation is on what's defined as socioeconomic and political context, and so this is largely your annals of power, the governance, your policy decisions, your policy makers, all of those sort of buckets are all influential in the overall lives of people day to day.

So, whatever policy decisions that the government is making have direct impact on your day to day lives, and those are all very, very part of the structure that we all define in our livelihood.

Then, you know, there's also the fact of money. Right? So, socioeconomic position in life influences your outcomes, and so your ability to seek an education, your ability to sustain a job, and use the income that you have to better your situation, are all factors that affect your life outcomes, and all play a critical role in what we're defining as the social determinants of health.

So, that's a very sort of, you know, unpacking of the concept, but the real key takeaway here is that, you know, really understanding, you know, health inequalities and poor health outcomes in life, in communities, largely relates to the social and economic factors of education, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety.

And while all those things seem like broad topics, they're all intimately related to cannabis policy.

So, I want to show you guys New Jersey here by the numbers, because the point that I want to make here is that generally, what we have in the state of New Jersey, and in the United States and globally writ large, is a poor distribution of resources. So, within this -- a lot of these numbers are taken from the ACLU report "The War On Marijuana In Black And White" -- right now, this -- these numbers are taken from 2010, but I'm very much sure that they have not changed since then.

Right now, in the state of New Jersey, you are three times more likely to be incarcerated as an African American than you are as a white person in spite of the fact that use is equal across race. As you guys are much more intimately familiar with New Jersey than I am, you can see the counties highlighted in blue here, those counties are the counties where there's disproportion -- the disproportionate impact is greater than three times.

If you look at the second box, the state of New Jersey in 2010 alone spent 127 million dollars on enforcing marijuana possession laws. So, you ask yourself the question, 127 million dollars is a lot of money, and I want to turn your attention to the third slide. In that -- 127 million dollars is actually more money than five counties spent on the total amount of education in the year 2010.

So, for marijuana possession laws, the state of New Jersey spent more money than they allocated to five counties for the education of all of the students in that county for K through 12.

This is a direct sort of concept that is highlighting what I'm trying to identify in cannabis policy and in drug policy writ large, which is the inappropriate distribution of resources.

And so, what we're doing right now, broadly, is spending an overwhelmingly large amount of money on law enforcement and criminal justice in certain communities, in communities of color predominantly, and under-resourcing those same communities with things that would actually improve the life outcomes of the people in the community: education, social services, the like.

So that -- that's one concept. Then the second concept that's intimately related to the social determinants of health, and very much related to some conversations that we're going to have here, is the concept of stigma, and you know, there are some stigmas -- there are a lot of stigmas in cannabis, and some of them are, you know, quasi-funny, like, you know, cannabis, labeling -- this breaks, this first graph breaks down stigma into four buckets: labeling, stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.

You know, in cannabis, labeling people, you know, say, cannabis users are stoners, or, you know, in a stereotyping way, cannabis users are, you know, lazy and, you know, or they have the munchies, or, you know, a whole host of different sort of labels and stereotypes that get applied to cannabis.

And, you know, if you look at the lower half of that slide there, there are more pernicious sorts of stigmas that are associated with cannabis as well. So, you are -- you do get prejudice and discrimination as soon as you are incarcerated for cannabis, and the collateral consequences of your incarceration are what lead to prejudice and discrimination relative to your life outcomes, so you are then looked at in a negative way for employment, and a whole host of issues.

And I know one of our other panelists are going to talk about all of the relevant collateral consequences around education, employment, social services, and the like, so I just wanted to show you that as a -- and ask you to put a pin in that because I know one of the other panelists is going to talk in greater detail about that. But it's all very much intimately related.

So, that is the, you know, the downside, and so the question becomes in -- from a policy context, how exactly do we use cannabis policy to improve the social determinants for individuals, and, you know, it is best captured around the idea of cultural competency and, you know, as it says on the slide here, cultural competency is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies, that come together in a system, agency, or amongst professionals, and enables that system, agency, or those professionals to work effectively across cross-cultural situations.

And so, you know, what we're looking to do now, as we move forward in creating effective cannabis policy, is to, you know, create policy that actually has cultural competency, and so, that's a very, you know, broad sort of definition, but you're actively looking in here, I've highlighted in blue, actively looking to dismantle systematic and institutionalized policies, methods, and frameworks that contradict the ability for effective cross cultural situations to occur.

And, you know, that's a very technical sort of thing, but, it all exists across the continuum, and so, cultural competency as a context, there's grades -- there's levels to it, if you will, to use a common euphemism for today.

There's, you know, cultural destructiveness, which is kind of at the bottom end of the cultural competency spectrum. Then, incapacity and blindness, which is further along. Then you're at the stage where you're kind of pre-culturally competent, culturally competent, and cultural proficient, and all those are the continuum, and what I'm about to do is kind of show you how cannabis policy fits into this cultural competency continuum.

So, we can all agree that cannabis prohibition leads to cultural destructiveness, it divides families, it, you know, creates, you know, subjugation under certain rules and correctional control. It ultimately, you know, undermines the cultural ethos of, particularly, communities of color.

So, we can all agree, what that policy decision leads to the outcome of as it relates to culture.

The second, and most cannabis policy writ large actually falls into a bucket between cultural blindness and cultural incapacity, and so, you know, most cannabis policy falls -- is not considerate at all, which is what it means to be culturally blind. Not considerate of the historical impacts as it relates to what cannabis prohibition has caused in the past, and is trying to superimpose a new system without taking into account all of the previous policy that has occurred in the past.

And so its defined as culturally blind, or, it in fact is cultural incapacity. So there are provisions that are included like, you know, prohibiting those individuals who have had previous, you know, criminal records, from being able to participate in the new cannabis industry because of their previous drug convictions. So, like, you know, barring out things that you are now making -- barring individuals who have committed crimes when things were illegal from participating in things that you're now deeming legal.

A lot of states have policies around that, and that in and of itself is by definition cultural incapacity, or cultural blindness, where there's no consideration for these issues at all.

I would say social equity programs are at a stage of, you know, cultural pre-competence, right, so they are largely, if you look at the meat and potatoes of the policy, issue -- policy strategies that, you know, begin to take note of the diversity inside of the industry, and require companies to report on diversity, and, you know, encourage people to hire individuals who are a diverse background.

And so they're beginning to explore the issues in a very superficial level, and, you know, basically the jury is still out on the effectiveness of social equity programs, because, as you know, or as you all are well aware, it is very much possible to, you know, game the system relative to what you're defining as social equity in certain groups that may not actually be as disadvantaged are able to fall under the definitions of what you're looking for from a participation standpoint in terms of your programs, as it relates to cannabis.

But, you know, what we're looking to do, restorative justice policy, is where you actually move into the, you know, cultural competence and cultural proficiency realm. And so, what is restorative justice policy? Restorative justice policy is, you know, beyond the brick and mortar policy that sets up cannabis programs and creates dispensaries, cultivation centers, and production facilities.

This is, you know, being intentional about using the tax revenue that you're generating from the economic activity here, and siphoning it, or channeling it, into those same communities that are harmed by the war on drugs. This is, you know, being active in requiring companies to have diversity plans in hiring individuals, or significant numbers of individuals who have previous criminal records around drug policy to be able to participate in the industry.

This is being intentional about seeking out those individuals who are actively participating in the gray market and finding ways for them to be brought into the new legalized system. You know, it's a very much more intentional sort of approach to the policy, which is what you're actively recognizing the historical harms that have been done, and then choosing as a matter of policy to correct them when you're bringing on cannabis legalization.

And so, I will stop there, and I'm sure that my fellow panelists will dig in greater depth into all of the things that I have highlighted here, and so, thank you guys for your time.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Doctor Malik Burnett speaking at the Patients Out of Time National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics on May Tenth in Jersey City, New Jersey. Full disclosure: I do work with Patients Out of Time doing social media and website development.

Now, while we have time, coming up August 17, 18, and 19, it's Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest protestival. It's happening right up there in Seattle, Washington, along the Sound, Myrtle Edwards Park. Every year, my good friend Tim Pate opens the Seattle Hempfest by performing his song "Let's All Be Farmers" from main stage, there at the Hempfest. Let's give a listen.

TIM PATE: [MUSIC: "Let's All Be Farmers"]

DOUG MCVAY: That was my good friend Timothy Pate, he is a musician, and an entrepreneur, and a lot of stuff, a political activist, a good friend, he is a long time social justice activist and hemp activist, marijuana legalizer, working with Hempfest in core crew for many years. He opens the main stage each year with that anthem, Let's All Be Farmers. That audio came to us courtesy of Hempfest.

And that's it 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 I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

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

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the drug war. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

DOUG MCVAY: 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.

05/13/18 Riley Cote

Century of Lies
Riley Cote

This week we come to you live from the Patients Out of Time Twelfth National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, and hear from Riley Cote, a retired professional hockey player who's a medical cannabis activist and co-founder of Athletes for Care.

Audio file



MAY 13, 2018

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: Welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, and we're coming to you live from the Patients Out of Time conference in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Coming to you live from the Patients Out of Time conference in Jersey City, New Jersey. Full disclosure: I work for Patients Out of Time doing web and social media. Now that that's out of the way, I'm standing here with their chief operating officer, Laramie Silber. She's also the convention manager, and she's taken a couple of seconds just to chat with me for a second.

Laramie, how's the conference going?

LARAMIE SILBER: Hi Doug. It's going really great. This is our last day, we had some walk-in registrations at the desk, people who had just heard about it and were excited to come, share information.

And Melanie Dreher actually just walked in the door, who is going to be on our last panel today, talking about how healthcare professionals need to really step up and advocate for their patients, so I'm excited for that one, we're going to end on a real high note -- no puns intended.

DOUG MCVAY: I'm glad to hear that Doctor Dreher showed up, I'm hoping I can get an interview with her before the end of the day, she's so cool, and many years she spent at Iowa, where I'm from.

So, what's been the highlight for you, I know it's the last day so there's still some stuff to come, but so far, what's been the highlight?

LARAMIE SILBER: That's really hard to pick. The Thursday policy workshop was, I think, the best we've ever put on. New Jersey is in a real transition moment, going from an unsupportive administration to full 180 and we want to make sure we do it right here. And Patients Out of Time is pleased to be supporting the legislators and advocates in knowing what's been going on in other states.

DOUG MCVAY: Terrific. I know that you -- yeah, okeh, enough people are trying to get your attention now, I think I need to thank you for being on the show, and good luck with the rest of the conference.

LARAMIE SILBER: Thank you, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: The other thing I've got to say is that, I do know enough about hockey and about sports to know that you were a -- you were a really good professional, and what you're doing now is, I think, exceptional, because you're using that stature, you're using that, that position, I mean, we -- we hold athletes on a real pedestal, and, for you to come forward and speak out about something that's controversial, and, yet, is ….

It's controversial and yet it's benign, I mean, medical cannabis is such a, is such an obvious thing, there should not be a reason for it to be controversial, and yet it is, and it has -- I've been doing this for a long time, and people told me that it took guts to speak out, back in those days, and, whatever, I was just a kid, and nowadays, it's, you know, it's less so, but it is still. And yet it still take guts to do that kind of stuff.

And, I mean, you could be -- you could be in retirement selling insurance, selling cars, selling any -- selling houses, doing any kind of thing that fame would allow you to do, and instead, you're using your fame, and your stature, you're using that to promote some good work. And I think that is just exceptional, I think that's tremendous.

It is an absolute pleasure to be sitting here and speaking with you. And, listeners, the gentleman with me here is Riley Cote, he is a retired hockey player, you were with the Philadelphia Flyers?


DOUG MCVAY: For a time? I lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a while, so, hey, Philly. Right on. And, so, tell me about yourself.

RILEY COTE: Yeah, well, I'm from Winnipeg, Manitoba, grew up, born and raised in Winnipeg. Played, you know, my youth hockey in Winnipeg, was able to move on to the junior ranks, and moved away when I was 16 years old to the Western Hockey League.

I was never drafted, so when I turned pro at the age of 20, I decided to take on a different type of role within the hockey game, and that was the enforcer role, actually being more of a physical presence, being -- getting on the body, but ultimately, you know, answering the bell and fighting, within the hockey game. Everyone kind of knows hockey for its hockey fights, and, you know, I was one of those guys, fighting 30, 35 times a year, so, that was, you know, the direction I chose, because I thought it was the easiest way for me to really carve out an identity, and find, you know, my niche and just kind of find myself within the team.

You know, I was going up against the best goal scorers in the world. I put up some decent numbers in junior, but, again, I wasn't a highly offensive guy in the grand scheme of the best players in the world, so, you know, the path I chose was fighting.

And, you know, I had been introduced to cannabis at a young age, you know, 15, in very recreational settings, but it wasn't until I really turned pro, when I started fighting on a regular basis, that the, you know, the daily anxieties increased, because now I was getting paid to play hockey, the, you know, performance anxiety, but then on top of that, the anxiety of fighting, you know, was cranked to the roof, so, you know, cannabis ended up being a huge therapeutic tool for me.

You know, not only just for the anxiety, but for the pain post-game, and the, you know, the inflammation, and I learned about the science in the back end of it, but the anti-inflammatory properties just, you know, the state of relaxation and calming the nervous system and promoting rest.

So that was huge for me, and, you know, every team in every league I played in, there was always a group of guys that, you know, would consume cannabis. Obviously quietly, amongst a, you know, a small group, you know, we didn't really talk about it in the locker room.

So, whether I was in the Central Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, American Hockey League, or ultimately when I ended up making the NHL, there's always a group of guys, and there was always guys doing it, so I, you know, I ended up using that as an ally, and a, you know, as a healing tool, not knowing, you know, how much of a healing tool, you know, that it was at the time, because I was still, you know, still recreationally drinking, and probably drinking, you know, too much.

But it wasn't until I made the NHL, when I started traveling via plane, when I started, you know, leaving my cannabis behind, because of obvious reasons of losing my job, I didn't want to screw around with the border. It was then when I kind of got swallowed up in the, you know, toxic cycle of just managing, you know, your aches and pains with opioids, and sleeping pills, and, you know, kind of managing the recovery process unsustainably.

So, at the age of 27, you know, the physical body was starting to break down, and I was averaging about a surgery a year, and, you know, at the age of 28 I ended up retiring. I had one more year in my NHL contract, my physical body was completely, you know, mangled, my performance had dropped, you know, again, I really attribute that to just, you know, managing everything unsustainably.

I ended up having a job -- offered a job coaching the Philadelphia Flyers minor league team, so I, you know hopped on that opportunity because it gave me an opportunity to kind of escape the physical abuse I was putting my body through, but, you know, also to give myself an opportunity to find myself and find a healing state.

It was that last year, when I started kind of transitioning my diet and my way of life, but mainly my diet, from, you know, from high amounts of animal protein. You know, we're consumed with the idea of consuming protein, and a lot of it was whey protein, which is an isolate, basically the remnants of the cheese industry that's ground up into powder and we're consuming this thinking that we're, you know, gaining muscle and increasing performance.

Well, I learned that not to be true, and started finding digestible protein sources like hemp seeds, and started learning about the cannabis plant as a whole, you know, starting from a food source, and started learning about other non-psychoactive cannabinoids, the other ones you consume with the, you know, not just the THC molecule, but learning the properties of, you know, these other cannabinoids, and learning the, you know, about the neuroprotective properties of some of these cannabinoids.

And, you know, looking back on my career and seeing I've been punched in the face over a thousand times, been in over 250 pro fights, and, you know, maybe the cannabis use was, you know, protecting my brain and helping with the mental health long term. And I started, you know, now I started ingesting cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp consciously, you know, full spectrum CBD, just to kind of get, you know, get -- just activate the endocannabinoid system a little bit more consciously.

And, you know, making it part of my daily regiminen. You know, I look at cannabis as a preventative tool. It should be a daily dietary essential, and that was when I really started having this passion for cannabis as a whole. And so it's much bigger than just, like, everyone just wants to call it medicine, and I think it's much bigger than that, you know. I think we don't need to get in some of these disease states that we're in, and currently facing, to have or to seek cannabis. I think it should be part of our diets already, small, small dosages.

If you don't even want to get into the THC, you don't have to. I mean, there's all kinds of benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, but, my point being, it's just really taking ownership of our health, and just getting back to basics and getting back to mother nature. And, you know, the hemp and cannabis thing has been a huge, huge part of my life. I coached seven years in the minor leagues, and I put myself out there enough publicly where I lost my job because of it.

But, I needed that to happen, because I was so, so passionate about this, and, you know, have so much fire, you know, with getting this message out there. But, now I just really try and mainstream cannabinoids, cannabinoids usage, preventative medicine through cannabinoids, through sports.

And I know a ton of guys that I played with and against that struggle with substance abuse, addiction, alcohol and opioid, lack of purpose and identity, and, you know, I just want to help them find themselves, introduce them to a healing tool, like cannabis and hemp derived cannabinoids, but also, you know, giving them, and introducing them to a possible new sector of their life, and identity, giving these guys an opportunity, something to grab onto. It's about giving back, and paying it forward.

So I think giving back to the community, and telling your story, and connecting with people, you know, it's very real stuff. And a lot of these guys, again, the ego has been their driver their whole life. They've been an athlete, everyone's known them for their job, but not necessarily about who they are inside, and I think once you retire from a sport, it's very challenging for a lot of guys, because they don't know who they are. Do you know what I mean?

So I think cannabis is a connector plant, and it offers not only, you know, healing, physical healing, mental health healing, but, you know, connection, and community, and giving back and, you know, spreading the good word, and all that good stuff.

So Athletes For Care is an organization I helped co-found, and really, again, just normalizing cannabinoids through sports. But it's not selfishly just worrying about athletes. it's really trying to, you know, normalize the message with guys putting themselves out there talking about their experiences, backing them up with science, and then, you know, people can relate to the stories a lot more, you know, when it's backed up in the name of medicine and the medical field.

So, that's where I'm at today, and that's why I'm here today, is just to kind of talk about my story a little bit, and how cannabis saved my life.

DOUG MCVAY: Right on. And of course, we are here at the Patients Out of Time 2018, the Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Cannabis: Relieves Pain, Treats Addiction, and I need to mention that, for full disclosure, that I do work for Patients Out of Time doing web and social media.

And, you said selfish, because, you know, it's centered on athletes, and obviously it affects other people, but, athletes -- we demand so much. We -- you're our entertainers, you're the people who, I mean, you know, you go out into the coliseum and you fight, you know, and the bears and the lions and the tigers and the -- other sports team names, but, you know -- interesting sidenote: gladiators were vegan. Interesting stuff. [sic: prior to the start of the recording, Doug had been making a comparison between professional athletes and Roman gladiators.]

But, I mean, we make you, we demand so much, we demand, oh, hurt yourselves more, we want to see something break, and it's messed up. But you guys, you guys do this thing, and you hurt yourselves on a daily basis, and, I mean, I don't know, started going off track there.

But, I think it's great that you're doing this, because, we push you guys to hurt yourselves badly, and then we have rules that say you have to use dangerous chemicals to try and make yourself healthy, and to get back out there and to keep hurting yourselves again, and, you know, I think it's great. I think it's quite noble. I mean, you're right, the whole population can learn from this stuff, but, you're an elite group of people, and, you know, it's messed up what we do. I think it's messed up what we do to you.

It's -- so anyway. Athletes For Care. Tell me a little more about that, because that's a, I've seen some of the stuff, I follow several of you folks on Twitter, and we've, you know, we've been talking about this because cannabis and the healing properties, especially with the concussions and all that that people are getting. But, tell me about Athletes For Care for a minute.

RILEY COTE: Yeah, just to build off what I was talking about earlier is, is Athletes For Care was designed to be a platform, kind of like a players association, in a sense, for alternative medicine and alternative healing, so, giving guys the resources that they're not being given by their teams, or the players associations, so cannabis being the obvious one, you know, the cat's out of the bag, it's a healing tool, it's a recovery tool, it's almost a god-send from an athlete's perspective.

But, you know, giving guys the education and guys, you know, opening the door to these alternatives. Again, a lot of these guys are well versed in, say, just, you know, mainstream cannabis, but a lot of these guys are not well versed, you know what I mean? There's a lot of old thinking that, you know, cannabis is this schedule one, and well it is, that it's lumped in there with all these other hard drugs, and people can't wrap their heads around the fact that it could be different.

So, you know, changing public perception with these, some of these alumni guys, but really just trying to give these guys a tool, again not only for their physical pain, because a lot of these guys leave the game with a surgery, and they leave the game with, you know, with a banged up physical body, and on top of that, a lot of these guys leave the game with some sort of mental health issue.

Again, they're -- they pound the alcohol, they're left with prescription drugs, opioids and sleeping pills and the rest of it, and then they're sitting at home trying to figure themselves out. Where do I fit in? What am I? What is my identity, what is my purpose, and I think that's -- those are tough questions to ask a very, you know, ego-driven human being that's been, you know, glorified for their entertainment value on the ice.

And going back to what you were saying earlier, is, just to kind of get off the topic just a little bit here, is that, you know, the fans -- the fans pay for our, you know, basically pay our contracts. They deserve, and they're expecting, entertainment. And no one forced me to go out there and fight the lion and the bear. I chose that, it was a dream of mine to play in the NHL, it just happened to be that I -- that was the only way I could make the NHL, was to fight the lion and the bear.

I mean, you know, at the time, you're a mindless warrior, and then, you realize along the way that what you're doing is very unsustainable, and there's a price to pay. But again, that's ego. You know what I mean? It was, I mean, for me, that was ego. And, but you live and you learn, and then you come back to me retiring at the age of 28, I had a lot of questions.

So, you know, the Athletes For Care program is really being a platform for the transition, the transitioning out of the game, and transitioning out with sustainable tools, and cannabis, and normalizing cannabis through sports, and you know, having this conversation.

We really got into it on these panel discussions at these types of events. Four years ago, with a bunch of other athletes, and it was always the same thing, just, a different story, you know? A football player, a UFC fighter, and a hockey player, and it's like, well, you have your cannabis story, I have my cannabis story. We needed to make a routine of this, and create panels and go around almost like a tour, and have, you know, a scientific backed approach to it, with a medical doctor or researcher, and make a thing of it.

So that was what we decided to do. We kind of went on tour, and started preaching the good word, and it's kind of grown legs and momentum, and, you know what I mean? Again, you say, for whatever reason, people look up to the athlete as the new age gladiator, in a sense, especially, you know, contact sports, and people demand entertainment, they pay a lot of money to watch these sports, so, they look up to athletes.

And, you know, when you listen to a real message, and it's about pain, it's about anxiety, and it's about drug abuse and substance abuse and all this stuff, the average person connects with it, because what I've learned in this space is that, no matter where you are on the map, everyone suffers from the same emotions. Anxiety's anxiety, whether it's self-inflicted or not. Pain is pain. A sleep issue's a sleep issue. You know?

So everyone is struggling, and everyone needs a sustainable tool to manage these things, and cannabis is that tool. I've lived it, I can assure you of that, and, you know, the science is just overwhelmingly backing up my belief system, so I can stand firm on my, you know, my belief system with, you know, Athletes For Care, and stand proud when I talk about cannabinoids in sports.

You know, we're getting into some research, some CTE stuff [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy], you know, the brain, I mean, it's a huge, huge, huge topic right now. But just, you know, mainstreaming and normalizing science through sports and using some of these alumni players as, I don't want to call them guinea pigs, but, yeah, I mean, get these guys on some, you know, cannabis, in different delivery methods, and get them on -- get some data collected. You know what I mean? Get in them in part of these clinical trials that some of these states are trying to implement, and that's the plan, you know.

I mean it's slow, it's slow moving, but, we're moving, and things are changing. And, you know, the cat's out of the bag, but now it's just trying to mainstream it, you know, and cannabis in sports was once an oxymoron, but now, all the science connects them both together, like, so perfectly.

Because cannabis is recovery, and if you want to use the word recovery or you just want to use healing, it's all the same. Everyone's got to calm the nervous system, everyone's got to manage their stressors and anxiety, everyone's got to manage pain sustainably, and everyone's got to sleep.

If you do those things right, you wake up in the morning feeling pretty damn good. But if you screw around with that cycle, especially the sleep, the pain's enhanced, the inflammation's enhanced, the anxiety's enhanced. And then depression kicks in, and then mental health kicks in, and it's hard to keep up, and then we're over-consuming caffeine, and we're over-consuming alcohol, and we're just medicating unsustainably.

So I think there's the cycle and the culture of life, and society, and, you know, specifically in hockey, it's just about, you know, managing your pain unsustainably. It's alcohol, you know, alcohol and opioids and sleeping pills, so it's just -- you can't go very long doing that. You know what I mean?

In this business of sports, especially from a management standpoint, depending on how long you sign your player for, but you're only expecting him to be the best that he can be for that short amount of period. After that, they don't give two rat's asses about you. You know what I mean? You're on your own, out of sight out of mind. You don't have to worry about those health issues anymore.

So, again, in sports, it's not taught to manage everything sustainably. But that's what we're trying to teach with Athletes For Care, and just giving these guys a sustainable tool, a non-addictive tool, and, above and beyond that, introducing them to meditation and yoga, and, you know, diet, you know, nutritional healing, stuff like that, a lot of stuff they've never been taught.

Again, going back to the ego, a lot of these guys are egomaniacs, and now, they're connection is severed because no one cares who they are or what they're doing, because they're not in the limelight. So you have to find yourself, you have to reconnect, and meditation is a huge connection tool, yoga, you know, for the physical body, you know, just kind of reversing the tense, tight muscles that we've, you know, created over the years, but, again, breathing, meditative state of yoga, that whole bit, and just connection.

I mean, it's all about connection, purpose, and identity. That's what Athletes For Care offers, you know, for all the players.

DOUG MCVAY: I think you're doing great work, and as I say, it's -- you could be out there trying to sell, you could use the fame, you could use the background to sell any number of things. I mean, that's what we do -- that's what professional athletes do, is, you know, we expect them, okeh, now, you're no longer entertaining us on the field, so you're entertaining us on our TV sets with the commercials, or maybe in the newspapers or the tabloids with the parties and that stuff, because we, you know, you're not out there killing yourself on the field anymore, so we need you out there killing yourself in the public eye.

And, that's, yeah, not exactly -- it's -- we're a messed up society. We really are, we really are. So, yeah. This thing's getting ready to start up again, and you should -- and I've been monopolizing your time for quite a while, I'm enjoying it. Well, thank you. So, yeah, this is for a show Century of Lies, which, I may as well mention:

You're listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network on the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.Net. I'm your host Doug McVay, and I'm speaking with Riley Cote, a retired hockey player, NHL, Philadelphia Flyers, and a co-founder of a group called Athletes For Care.

This conference was held at the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theater, which is a magnificent movie palace that was constructed one month before the stock market crash in 1929. It is a beautiful, beautiful theater that is being restored to its original glory. Massive marble columns, very ornate drapes and decorations.

Standing here in the middle of the lobby, it is just a thrill. The theater is a nonprofit. They do have a website, which I hope folks will check out: That's

And again, folks, I'm speaking with Riley Cote -- Riley Cote. I can talk. It's been a long day. And, as you can probably hear from the sound in the background, the Patients Out of Time conference is about to begin its reception. You'll be speaking in a few minutes at this thing, I guess, you're saying something somewhere. Here.

RILEY COTE: Hopefully I didn't use all my ammo here.

DOUG MCVAY: This was just a warm-up.

RILEY COTE: Yeah, yeah, exactly, get me on my soapbox, here, getting going. So, no, it should be good, yeah, I'm going to be kind of regurgitating the same kind of story I'm telling you here, so, just, you know, my experience, you know, growing up, introduced to cannabis at a young age, and how it's, you know, the mindset's evolved from a, you know, recreational setting type of thing to a very therapeutic healing thing, and then fast forward post-career like really understanding the science behind it, and kind of connecting all the dots and making this thing a full package, you know, full package for me to promote and to stand behind, you know, from an advocacy standpoint, but also from a business standpoint.

I mean, if you can integrate passion and business together, to me, it doesn't seem like it's going to be a lot of work in my life, and it's work as work, but it's a different type of work when you love what you do, and helping people, and healing people. I call myself a healer, not that I'm, you know, not that I'm a shaman or doctor by any means, but I think I have a good understanding of mother nature and introducing people to mother nature, where, you know, you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink it.

The true healer is the individual, it's not the healer themselves, you know what I mean? And so, I think what I've learned is that I have a knack at putting things into perspective for people, where, again, you plant seeds with people.

You plant seeds with people, some people aren't ready for this information, some people aren't ready in their lives to make change, but eventually they will, and maybe eventually they're ready for it, and then they resort back to this conversation that we once had, and they'll be like oh, I get what he was saying now, it makes sense, and now I'm ready. You know what I mean?

And I think that's it, and everyone's at a different point in their lives, and everyone's seeking answers, but some people just aren't ready for this information, and whatever information it is, whether it's cannabis related or not, health related, because it requires -- because once you know, now you're accountable.

People resist change, they don't want to hear it, and they don't -- until they're forced to, when something happens, something negative happens, and then it's like, wow. Better pull my boots up and get going here now, and, you know, until it's, you know, that's just the way it is. That's the way humans seem to be designed right now.

So, you know, all we can do is teach, educate, plant seeds, you know, the healer's job is to provide information, but not provide information, material information outside of us, but to really help people connect themselves, find themselves, and once you find yourself, you become a healer. You heal. You know what I mean? No one else is doing it for you but yourself.

And that's what you have to, I mean, you have to use the natural tools around you, but, you have to be the one conscious enough and knowledgeable enough to seek that, too. I mean, that's -- where I was going back, earlier, is when I was talking about blind faith and just praying that some magical power's going to come over and heal you of your ailments, that you've caused over your lifetime, no one else has caused, without having to do anything on the back end of it.

So, again, I always say, ownership, it is ownership, it's just taking your health back. You know, like, it's about self-preservation in this world, and it's about health. Health is wealth, and, you know, I think the sooner we understand that, the sooner you take ownership and believe in that, you change the way you live and change the way you view the world.

No one's getting out of this life alive, I get it, right? We're all dying. It's how you die. It's how you live and how you die. I mean, you want to die -- you want to live with spirit and you want to die with spirit. You don't want to be a slave and have your knees chopped out left and right, and be de-spirited, and, you know, live your last five, ten years, fifteen years, like in and out of this, you know, doctor's office, and whatever, on all these different pills and whatnot. So that's not the way to live.

You know, we've got to live spirited lives, that's what we're designed to do, and get rid of the fluff. Get back to basics. Stop worshiping outside materialistic things. You know, suppress the ego, increase the spirit. I mean, there's all kinds of things. There's a lot to this, outside of cannabis.

Cannabis is a tool in the toolbox, it's a great tool, but it needs to be integrated with a lot of these other tools as well, and that's, you know, nutrition, diet, overall lifestyle, environment, people you're with, I mean, that whole bit, I mean, you are what you think, you are what you eat, and you are what you surround with. You know what I mean?

That's who you are. So, again, this is where the shift -- we just have to shift the way we think all around.

DOUG MCVAY: So, yeah, they are really going to try and start this thing, so, let's close this thing out. Any closing thoughts for my listeners, and Athletes For Care, does it have a website?

RILEY COTE: It does,, and I think I rambled enough, so I think I covered everything I needed to cover today.

DOUG MCVAY: And one last thing, which is, what's your twitter? I follow you.

RILEY COTE: Yeah, @RileyCoyote. And then same on Instagram.

DOUG MCVAY: Fantastic. Riley, thank you so much.

RILEY COTE: No problem, thanks for having me.

DOUG MCVAY: All right folks, that's it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. I want to thank my guest, Riley Cote, from Athletes For Care, and of course, Laramie Silber. Again, this is coming to you live from the Patients Out of Time Twelfth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in Jersey City, New Jersey. We'll have more from this conference next week.

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 I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

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

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the drug war. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

DOUG MCVAY: 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.