by Dean Becker
by Philip Guffy
Richard Evans, Texas Cancer Center
Frank Smith, 80-year-old
(Audio Track) Intro – My name is Dean Becker; I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Dean: Good evening. I want to start tonight with a bit of a somber note. This past weekend, the author of Dark Alliance, Mr. Gary Webb, was found a victim of suicide. He wrote extensively about the connection between the CIA the Contras, and cocaine’s enormous growth here in America, and we’ll miss his reporting. Tonight, our guests include the Director of the Texas Cancer Center, Dr. Richard Evans; and at 80 years old, Mr. Frank Smith, the oldest drug reformer that I know. And next up, we’ll hear from three Drug Truth Network reporters. First up, Winston dons the hat of Harry J. Anslinger, our first drug czar, with the “official government truth.”
Winston: “Let’s talk seriously about the drug war. Drug legalization advocates would have you believe that its purpose is to fill the prisons with Pink Floyd and Bob Marley fans. The truth is that the government must enforce drug laws because it is obligated to act in the interest of the common good. Every year we see report after report of citizens suing tobacco companies when their health begins to deteriorate. Tobacco continues to stay on the open market because it is part of our national heritage and embedded well within our culture. What rationalization will we use to excuse the deaths and disabilities caused by allowing potent unregulated narcotics with addictive qualities to be readily available to the public? We fight the drug war not because we want to, but because we have to. And that is the official government “truth.” (Laughter)
Dean: Poppygate – bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin featuring Glenn Greenway:
Greenway: “Last week, Hamid Karzai was inaugurated as Afghanistan’s first president and promptly declared jihad against poppies. However, a new confidential military assessment by Lieutenant General David Barnell, the top American commander in Afghanistan, warns that Afghan opium production and cultivation will continue to increase. Representative Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, said Monday that al Qaeda is reaping 28 million dollars a year from Afghan heroin sales. A Pentagon advisor on drug policy confirmed Representative Kirk’s assertion, and added that the U.S. knows individuals in Afghanistan who are responsible. Also on Monday in Mansfield, Ohio, crime lab director Anthony Tambasco spoke of the explosion of heroin use in his community. In the year 2000, he processed 2 heroin cases; but has processed 148 in the first 9 months of this year. On Friday, Pentagon officials announced that drug testing of U.S. forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq is to be increased. This is Glenn Greenway, reporting for the Drug Truth Network.”
Dean: Ever get a bee in your bonnet or a thorn in your side? Here with this week’s investigation into the obvious truths about the drug war is Steve Nolin with Steve’s Peeves:
Nolin: “It is time to get the wounded off the drug war battlefield. The government is waging its pot offensive in the Supreme Court with Angel Raich being the dissident in front of the Chinese tank in Tienamen Square. Troops like NORML and MPP have been scapegoated into just wanting to legalize pot so they can get high. If that is so, then let the patients who have a medical use for cannabis get the relief they need and lets go toe to toe, no holds barred. I choose the weapon in this battle of morality, and it is the truth. I’ve always said if you want to find out who is behind something to follow the money. Our government has chosen to allow Vioxx, Viagra, and other supposedly safe drugs into the marketplace to fill the pockets of the drug companies, while banning the use of a plant that could be grown by the patient. Yes, there is Marinol available to patients in need and while this is a good start, it is not the best medicine, as it does not provide the full benefit of the whole plant. Sativex is a step in the right direction for non-smoked medical marijuana. It is the whole plant extract spray that can bring relief almost as quick as smoked marijuana. Hopefully, the FDA will approve this product quicker than it did FenFen, Neurontin, and others. Rob Campias said it best while debating Andrea Barthwell. It would be like saying that vitamin C is good for you but an orange is not. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not just be lessons in history class. It should be a way of life. Visit our website at drugtruth.net for archives of the 4:20 Drug War News and also the award-winning, international program, Cultural Baggage.”
Dean: All right. You are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network. We do have in studio with us tonight, Frank Smith and Dr. Richard Evans. Welcome, gentlemen.
Both: Glad to be here.
Dean: Thank you so much. Perhaps we could start with that editorial that Steve Nolin was doing there. It’s time to get the patients off the battlefield, and in particular for medical marijuana. Let’s start with that. Dr. Evans, the Texas Cancer Center has come out and looked at the issue of medical marijuana. What have you found?
Evans: Well, there is no question that marijuana is a safe and effective medicine to use for a wide variety of ailments. In the cancer arena, it is most effective for patients who are undergoing chemotherapy for the nausea that they often experience. It helps to reverse that nausea. Also the cachexia, or the wasting, the loss of appetite that can sometimes occur with patients who have advanced disease. It can help stimulate their appetite. It works for cancer patients as well as AIDS patients and others.
Dean: Well, thank you. Frank Smith, the anniversary, if you will, of the Harrison Narcotics Act is coming up here real soon. December 17th will mark 90 years of drug war. There is hardly anyone around who can remember what things were like before. But you have seen some changes over the years. Tell us how you – where you see us headed with this drug war.
Smith: Oh, I think we are making fast progress just within the last few – almost months. It was a long time coming, but just within a few months now, we have not only seen the Supreme Court take up the question, but I have here in my hand one of my favorite magazines, Scientific American, which I have been subscribing to for more than 50 years. Scientific American, for those of you who may not know, is the most widely respected scientific magazine in the country, and has been published for more than 150 years. This last month, actually the December issue, calls for research on medical uses of marijuana and says that it is long overdue. That’s an editorial in a very significant place. I think that, plus the Supreme Court, says that we are making progress.
Dean: I would agree; and Dr. Evans, if I may ask, there is always the call for more studies. There is always the need by the legislators to learn more, and yet if we reach back just a what – 70 years, it was still on the U.S. pharmacopeia. It has been in use and the standards set by the U.S. government. Is there any reason we couldn’t return to a similar situation?
Evans: There is no question it was widely used by doctors back in the 1800s and in the early part of the 1900s. Back in 1976, in fact, the then Department of HEW – Health, Education, and Welfare – published a book that summarized much of the literature on the research that had been done. That book – I didn’t count all the references, but it looked to me like there were over 600 references in that book published almost 30 years ago by our own government with the research that had already been done. We keep hearing this over and over again, that we need to have research. We’ve already had research. We have had a huge amount of research.
Dean: Thank you for that. Frank Smith, you also brought in a recent Houston Chronicle story that indicates that even here in what I think of as a primitive state in regards to drug reform, of Texas, that even here, 75% percent of people are calling for medical marijuana. What are your thoughts there, Frank?
Smith: Oh, I think at least 75% of the people nowadays realize that marijuana should not be classified as a schedule I drug. Seems like to me that 99% of people know that it has medical uses; and as far as that is concerned, it has other non-medical uses which ought to be perfectly legal, just like alcohol.
Dean: Well, I recently was trying to get some folks, Cal Venafay from the Drug-Free America Organization, to do an interview and apparently they stiffed me. I haven’t heard back. But what I found on their website. They had a poll – Is marijuana harmless? Is it a good drug? Is it neutral? And a couple of other things. But 82% of those responding said it was either harmless or a beneficial drug. Even on the Drug Free America’s website. Dr. Evans, let me ask you this: within the medical community, I know it is hard to speak out, but, you know, locker room session – what would you think is the rate of awareness of marijuana’s properties as medicine within the medical community?
Evans: Let me go back to the issue of harm. I think that is an important fact, and that is that there has never been a documented case of a person dying from an overdose of marijuana. So that is just almost unheard of among the various drugs that we have available. It’s a remarkably safe drug, remarkably safe. Now, back to what other doctors are saying. There is no question that the organizations like the American Medical Association as well as here the Texas Medical Association have increasingly within the last 5, 7, 8 years begun to take this issue very seriously and have worked hard to put together a sound policy. They haven’t gone quite as far as I would like to see us go, or you would like to see us go, but there is no question that they do call that doctors should be able to discuss this with their patients without being threatened. That’s what the Federal government was doing, do you remember that, Dean? The Federal government was telling those doctors in California if you even talk to the patients about marijuana, we are going to pull your DEA license. You won’t get any more medicare patients. So the AMA is certainly against that, as well as the Texas Medical Association. They both are calling for some more research.
Dean: If you had the ear of a legislator right now, what would you tell them?
Evens: Well, of course, we know there is a good effort underway in Austin right now. An organization known as Texans for Medical Marijuana, and we have two ladies up there – Karen Heikkala as well as Noelle Davis – and they are pretty much full time working with the legislators trying to craft a bill that would make medical marijuana available to Texans. I think we have already said the important information, and that it is a safe drug, an effective drug. It’s good for other diseases which I could go on and enumerate, but hopefully that’s the main message we want to carry to the legislators.
Dean: All right. Frank Smith, you were telling us some tales about the early days of Houston, and you can probably remember a few horse and buggies back in the beginning, am I right?
Smith: Well, I haven’t really thought about going back to horses and buggies –
Dean: No, no, but I want to make a point, sir, that throughout the history of the drug war, you’ve seen it ramped up; and it doesn’t get any better, does it? I mean, have you seen any success whatsoever?
Smith: I haven’t seen the legal profession show any improvement over this period of time. The government, as usual, is far behind the populace in understanding the situation; but I will say that I do have a friend in the legislature, Scott Hochberg, who has assured me that he will help any way he can to get medical marijuana legalized in Texas.
Dean: Wonderful. That’s great. You know, it only takes a few people because, as I say so often, there is nobody on the other side willing to debate this. They hide from the fact because they have persecuted us for too long and just don’t know how to answer the current scientific fact which Frank was talking about earlier. We are going to take a quick little break and we will be right back.
Q - Okay, maybe a little of the money I spend on marijuana winds up in the bad guys hands?
A - Correct.
Q - And that’s because marijuana is illegal?
A - Exactly.
Q - When I buy a beer, that doesn’t support terror because it is legal, right?
A - Now you got it!
Q - So you are saying if we make marijuana legal, and regulate it like beer, it wouldn’t support violence?
A – Did I say that?
Contact the Marijuana Policy Project, mpp.org.
It’s time to play “Name That Drug By Its Side Effects”: Severe headache, dizziness, blurred vision, restlessness, insomnia, an allergic reaction, difficulty breathing, closing of the throat, an irregular heartbeat, very high blood pressure, abnormal behavior, confusion, and hallucinations. Time’s up. The answer: methamphetamines. Speed. Another FDA-approved product.
Dean: Prohibition creates more harm than drugs. Activists live and die to advance truth. Truth becomes public consciousness. Reform is sought on every continent. We will decide. Gather at the commons, a beautiful day, the end of drug war. Media heeds call for human rights. Governments embrace the truth. Worldwide jubilation. Civilization blossoms.
Please visit drugtruth.net. Okay, you are listening to Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth about the drug war. This is on the Drug Truth Network. We have with us in studio, Mr. Frank Smith and Dr. Richard Evans, Director of the Texas Cancer Center. During the break, Richard, we were talking a little bit about the fact that there is something going on that most people may not be aware of in regards to the Federal government supplying some people.
Evans: That’s correct, Dean. Back in the early 1990s, about 15 years ago or so, the Federal government looked into the effectiveness of medical marijuana and decided that it was effective and, in fact, they established a program to evaluate patients and to provide medical marijuana for selected patients. In fact, there were over a dozen. I’m not sure the exact number, but about 15, maybe 19 patients whose cases were each individually, thoroughly evaluated and were approved for medical marijuana – and they were provided this by the Federal government. To this day, there are still seven of these patients who every month receive in the mail a tin of marijuana cigarettes, marijuana grown on the Federal government’s own property in Mississippi. So the Federal government has already said that marijuana is effective. This idea that we need more research and all that, that is just – of course, we can always use more research to improve the quality and whatnot. I’m not saying we don’t need research, but we certainly don’t need anymore to start putting it in the hands of more people.
Dean: To create that “benchmark,” if you will – the benchmark has been set.
Evans: We passed that benchmark.
Dean: If you will, you told me earlier that you have a couple of sons that you have kind of observed the machinations, if you will, of youth and how they tend to be occasionally drawn towards marijuana and how perhaps the propaganda of the U.S. government helps to move that forward. You want to talk on that?
Smith: I don’t think there is any question about that. It’s the fact that marijuana is forbidden that makes it so attractive. That works in a lot of other areas. But we do know that when you tell somebody he can’t have something, that makes him want it and it certainly worked for my children. But I think they grew out of it. I think they would have grown out of it normally, as I did during my youth, when the government took absolutely no interest in it. I never heard that the government cared one way or another whether I had marijuana when I was a boy. And I actually was interested in finding some because I had read about it in that great book The Count of Monte Cristo; but I never could find any, so managed to survive without any problems. Nowadays, the heavy hand of the government makes it great deal harder, in my opinion, for young people to grow up without serious harm from their drug experimentation.
Dean: As I recall, in my youth it was Look and Life magazines and their “lurid” stories about what was happening in San Francisco and so forth that compelled me to go to Mexico. Because like you said, I couldn’t find any marijuana; and I knew they had some down there. But, Dr. Evans, if you will, tell us about your experience with the patients who have benefited or that could benefit from marijuana, some of those maladies.
Evans: I like to tell the story of the young man, a Houstonian actually raised here in Houston, a good friend of Frank and mine – was very seriously injured in an accident. He had injury to his spinal cord and ended up being paralyzed from the waist down. And had a lot of muscle spasm in his legs – even though they were paralyzed, the muscles themselves, because of the abnormal lack of innervation, were actually going into spasticity and caused him a great deal of discomfort. And he found that marijuana was effective for this. I will say that it is also effective for a lot of other muscle spasticity neurological conditions. Anyway, in the case of this young man, he ended up about probably 6 years or so ago, moving out to the San Francisco Bay area so that he could have easier access to the medication.
Dean: These people who are not a threat to anyone are forced to ofttimes go to the black market or to go to great measures to alleviate their pain, and it just seems so atrocious. Frank, let me ask you this – I’ll be candid about this. We’ve talked about one of the things you would really like to do before you pass on, and hopefully it is some long way future date, is to legalize or to regulate – somehow change these crazy laws for marijuana. Talk on that subject, please.
Smith: Well, it seems so simple to me. I can’t understand, frankly, why it hasn’t happened, but I’ll speculate a little bit. It only took 13 years after alcohol was made illegal for the country to come to its senses and abolish alcohol prohibition. I don’t understand why we have now had – what is it? – seven decades of marijuana prohibition, something like that. And we’re still not close to legalizing it for recreational purposes the way alcohol is used. It seems to me that it would work perfectly well for marijuana to be available under exactly the same limitations that apply to alcohol. A grown person with a responsible attitude towards life ought to be allowed to grow marijuana in his own basement and smoke it in his own living room, and I simply cannot understand why that is not perfectly legal.
Dean: I mean, we arrest 755,000 of our fellow citizens every year for having baggies, for whatever reason. And they say that these people don’t go to prison, but they certainly suffer from government measures preventing them from getting loans, credit, jobs, etc., etc. It’s not right. Dr. Evans, if you will, tell us a bit about how you became aware of medical marijuana. I mean, how does that happen to a doctor?
Evans: Well, like Frank, I have been interested in the broad drug war for a long time. I first read about it in the journal Science. An article by Ethan Nadelmann, just published, and it was like most Science articles, pretty in-depth, about 12 pages long. And each paragraph just jumped out of the page at me for its clear, logical method showing that so much of what we are doing in this prohibition effort just simply isn’t working. It’s doing more harm than good, and so medical marijuana is, of course, an important facet of this overall problem.
Dean: Indeed it is. Three of four of you out there listening are for making a change. Three out of four of you are aware of the need for change. It’s okay to talk about it. That’s what we are here doing, that’s what we’re here showing you. It is possible. Again, anyone who refutes you, I will make them a guest on this radio show. Anybody who thinks that the war on medical marijuana is a good thing, you have got a seat right here next to me on the next show. There is no one willing to do that. In closing, let me ask you this – is there a website that you might want to lead my listeners to, Dick?
Evans: Well, there is a group called the Drug Policy Forum of Texas which has a website dpft.org. It’s a good website, and also has links to a lot of the other major organizations in this area.
Dean: Very good.
Evans: I should repeat it, maybe – dpft.org.
Dean: Gentlemen, I want to thank you for being here with us tonight. Frank, before we go – you know, I think we are going to make your goal. It’s such a – how to put it? It’s hypocrisy brought to life, this war on medical marijuana patients. I know that you folks out there, if you will write a letter to your congressman, if you will make a call to the local paper, if you will do what is necessary to just bring the subject up. It’s only when we talk about it will we make that change. I guess in closing, I want to once again thank you. We had with us tonight on Cultural Baggage, Dr. Richard Evans, the Director of the Texas Cancer Center. We had Frank Smith, who at 80 years old is the oldest and one of the bravest drug reformers I know. You should have seen him out in front of the DEA headquarters when we were doing our protest there. Gentlemen, thank you so much.
Evans: Thank you, Dean.
Smith: You are welcome.
Dean: All right, we are going to do a little bit of an editorial tonight, again, to celebrate 90 years of drug war:
I want to stop the U.S. from funding Osama bin Laden’s terrorists. I seek to reduce crime in the U.S. by 50% in one year. Let us eliminate the reason for which most violent street gangs exist. We must be brave, and immediately destroy the drug cartels. I seek the end of accidental drug overdose deaths. May we please redirect hundreds of billions of our precious tax dollars away from persecuting nonviolent Americans to more worthwhile endeavors like arresting the criminals and the terrorists that mean us harm? Milton Friedman, Nobel Laureate, in a letter to William Bennett, the one-time drug czar, perhaps said it best: “In Oliver Cromwell’s eloquent words, I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken about the course you and President Bush urge us to adopt to fight drugs. The path you propose of more police, of more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish.” December 17, 2004, marks 90 years of drug war. Ninety years since the signing of the Harrison Narcotics Act, a trillion U.S. tax dollars have been poured into the whirlpool of drug prohibition. What else have we wrought? Tens of millions of our fellow citizens arrested. They and their families rejected, thwarted from progress by government mandate, their future progress made dependent on perfection. 1.6 million Americans are arrested each year for controlled substances, for nonviolent offenses, yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available than ever before. A majority now sees this drug war for what it truly is: the largest fraud ever perpetrated on the people of Earth. Some government hero’s face may someday be sculpted on Mount Rushmore, recognized as the one who exposed the fraud of drug prohibition. There is a new silent majority growing each day, which sees drug prohibition as a real threat to our nation. For an example of how to fool some of the people all of the time, one need look no further than the government officials who so willingly serve the needs of drug traffickers. Former CIA Director William Colby died in a canoeing accident a few months after he stated “the Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe is possible. They are calling the shots at all levels of government.” “Now having had my say, I admit that I do feel better and will feel better as I set about exposing all those in power who continue to play their part in supporting criminality, insanity, and death.” And that quote is attributed to Harry J. Anslinger. I do hope I have given the listeners out there some ideas. Write that letter. Call your congressman, etc. Here is the toll-free number to reach your congressman: 1-800-839-5276. That’s 1-800-839-5276. And you can also reach them going on the web to www.senate.gov or to www.house.gov. It’s up to you. You are silent too long. Three out of four of you know there is a need for change, and I urge you to please do something about it.
A couple of quick program notes. We have three new stations this week. Thank you so much. We have KSFR, Santa Fe, New Mexico; KRBS, Oroville, California; and Radio Free, Santa Cruz, They are playing one or both of our programs. And next week our guest will be Daniel MacPherson, the drug policy coordinator of British Columbia. They have injection sites up there. They give away crack pipes. They give away educational materials, and they have nurses and doctors on staff to help take care of these people. And as always, because of drug prohibition, I must remind you – you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.
For the Drug Truth Network, and our affiliates in the U.S. and Canada, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth. This show is produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston. Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.