Cultural Baggage / August 22, 2010
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
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.
Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We’ve got a busy show for you. We’re going to hear from Russ Bellville about the forthcoming conference in Portland on the behalf of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. We’re going to hear from Neil Franklin, who reports on the fact that the Black Police Association has now come out in support of legalizing marijuana. We’ll also hear from Mr. Brendan Kiley who talks about the fact that 70% of the cocaine in America is cut with a dog dewormer.
I recently got a chance to Radical Russ Bellville who works for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In an interesting twist we recorded our interview for the Drug Truth Network at the same time he was doing his on-line radio show.
Russ Bellville: Well currently, I am the Outreach Coordinator for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In that job, I foster the chapters that currently exist nationwide and recruit to form new chapters. I also am the host of our daily live talk radio stream called, NORML Show Live, that’s on at 1PM Pacific, every weekday at live.normal.org.
As far as my history, I got involved in drug law reform in 2005, when I attended my first Global Marijuana March in Portland, Oregon. I met with the leaders of Oregon NORML and got joined up with them. Within a couple of years, I was Associate Director of Oregon NORML before I got hired at National NORML.
Dean Becker: Russ, you have the tag of “Radical Russ” but you – as I like to delve into – the fact is that talking about reform, talking about changing these marijuana laws and heck, looking at the whole of the Drug War is not as radical as it once was, is it?
Russ Bellville: Yeah, I know, I’m going to have to change my nickname to “Regular Expected Russ” instead of Radical Russ. The nickname really comes from my background of living in Idaho. Living in Idaho, let me assure you, talking about marijuana law reform is quite radical. Living here in Portland, Oregon though now, I’m not that radical compared to the Portlanders. I still drive an SUV and eat meat. I’m practically a Right Winger out here.
Dean Becker: Yeah, I hear you. One of the reasons I wanted to call here, in just a couple of weeks the National NORML is going to hold a convention right there in your current hometown right?
Russ Bellville: Oh yeah, we are so looking forward to it September 9th through 11th, here in Portland ,Oregon at the Governor Hotel, which is this beautiful and opulent hotel in downtown Portland. We’ve sold it out and we actually have overflow now at The Red Lion, that’s filling up as well and it may be sold out. So, it’s looking to be a great time. It’s a three-day conference, Thursday through Saturday.
Saturday is a Medical Camp and it’s only [during the] day. Thursday and Friday is our regular NORML conference. We talk about legalization and health aspects and sports and culture. Steve Bloom will be there with his new book, Reefer Movie Madness, giving us a look at reefer in the movies. We’ve git Congressman Earl Blumenauer will be appearing. The Governor – New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson will be there. We’ve got a possible commitment of a former New Orleans Saint, who’s going to be coming out, saying that he used cannabis, even as he was winning the Super Bowl last year. So, it’s going to be really exciting.
The other thing that’s really nice about it too is that it’s scheduled in the same weekend as the Portland Hempstock, which is Oregon’s largest outdoor hemp festival, it’s on Saturday and Sunday. So you could do Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the conference. You could do Saturday and Sunday at Hempstock and make it a four-day weekend.
Dean Becker: Speaking of pro footballers that use marijuana, one of the ling-term directors I think it is, with NORML, Mark Stepnoski, said that it was a great boon to him. It helped alleviate his pain after game day and didn’t require him to take the harder prescription pills and such, right?
Russ Bellville: Right. We had Mark Stepnoski, he’s a former Dallas Cowboy, I believe, at our conference last year on a sports panel along with a mixed martial artist by the name of Toby Tigerheart Greer and pro wrestler, Rob Van Dam.
All three basically said the same thing, that as an athlete it helped them with the aches and pains that you get after competitions. It helped their recovery. It helped them with pain and some of the mental stress that’s involved with being a pro athlete.
Dean Becker: You know Russ, over the last two or three years in particular and – Jesus – we’re in the year 2010. The focus is being brought to bear more and more and marijuana, medical marijuana. It’s in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post and nearly every paper across the country. Broadcasters of every stripe have focused their attention on it as well.
What is the tipping point? We’re nearing it, I think. Ethan Nadelmann said something, “There’s something on the distance that looks a whole lot like a tipping point”. We’re approaching something, are we not?
Russ Bellville: I believe so. I think we’ve already reached one tipping point and that is that between the ages of eighteen and fifty, more than half of the people have smoked marijuana in their lifetime, right? So, we are over a majority of people fifty and younger. When it comes to the Baby Boomers – fifty and older, that’s the fastest growing demographic. They’ve gone from 18% who’d used it in their lifetime to something like 33% or 1/3.
So we’ve reached the tipping point of “you can’t lie to us about pot anymore” because flip a coin, either you’ve smoked pot or you know someone who has. The next tipping point is where we see enough political support for it that it can be brought up in legislatures and legalization can be passed.
We’re seeing that already in California in 2010. They’re already ahead of the curve but statistician Nate Silver writing in 538.com, a political website that looks at polling, has suggested that the support for marijuana legalization has risen 1% since 1992, every year and that in 2020 we should reach 60% support for legalization, which he describes as a tipping point politically, where we could actually see this happening in a majority of US states.
Dean Becker: Well Russ, as you know, I’m a medical marijuana user. I’m a recreational user. I am a minister. I am a sacramental user but I fight for the legalization of all drugs.
From my perspective, what I want to do is take away the cash cow from these barbarous cartels in Mexico. I want to eliminate the reason for most of these violent gangs to be prowling our neighborhoods. Even that is starting to gain traction as well in many of those same media outlets I as talking about, right?
Russ Bellville: Oh sure, especially when we’re talking to people in the southern states that border Mexico. They definitely, they have a handle on this idea that these Mexican drug traffickers and organizations are spilling blood of innocent Mexicans, twenty eight thousand Mexicans since Felipe Calderón began the crackdown down there.
Secretary of State Clinton has stated that if the majority, the 60% of their funds come from the trafficking of marijuana. Marijuana here in the United States that we’d be proud to grow by ourselves, just like we did back in the colonial days and like we’ve done for hundreds and hundreds of years. We’d be glad to take that market away from Mexican murders.
This also, you mention spiritual use, sacramental use, medial use, NORML as an organization, we believe that every adult has the right to choose whether or not they want to use cannabis. It doesn’t matter to use if you’re using it for a medical purpose, a spiritual purpose or just because you are bored on a Friday night. You have that right, so we’ll keep fighting for that.
Dean Becker: What we really need though, Russ, is the support and the involvement of those people out there listening, those people that know this truth, right?
Russ Bellville: Oh yeah, one of the toughest things – this is the quandary of drug law reformers everywhere – is that in order to come out in this movement, you have to brand yourself a criminal. Other social justice movements, we talked about Blacks marching in Selma, back in the sixties in the civil rights movement stuff.
It wasn’t illegal to be Black. It was illegal to be Black in certain places. It was illegal to be Black and do certain things but just being Black wasn’t illegal but being a pot smoker is illegal, just by definition. By coming out as a pot smoker and standing up and joining NORMAL or some other group or going to a parade or whatever, you face the possibility of your boss seeing your picture in the paper or your name written somewhere on a website in support of marijuana, you could lose your job. You could lose your kids. You could lose you license. There’s so much to lose and for a lot of people not a lot to gain by coming out for marijuana law reform.
It sets up this weird kind of iceberg, as I call it. At the tip of the iceberg are the people who can come out, either they are independently wealthy or well to do enough that they don’t have to worry about their own boss, like I am or they’re the people that have nothing to lose like the typical hippies that you would think of or Tie-dyes or Stoners or whatever you want to call it, who don’t care if people think that they use pot.
Yet, below the surface is this huge mass of the iceberg which are everyday Americans who go to work and take care of their kids and go to church and cannot come out. They can’t come above that surface lest they lose the all those things they worked so hard for.
Dean Becker: Alright, once again, we’re speaking with currently Not-So-Radical Russ Bellville of NORML. Russ, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you was to encourage folks to come to that conference in Portland. Give them the dates and maybe a better sketch of how they can get involved and how they can participate.
Russ Bellville: Sure, the dates are between September 9th through the 11th of 2010, of course, next month, in Portland Oregon, that’s a Thursday through a Saturday. The Wednesday night on the 8th, we’re having a reception party, which will take place at the Oregon NORMAL world famous Cannabis Café. So, folks that have heard about that in the news and want to see the new location, Wednesday night will be your chance for that.
Thursday day, we’ll have all sorts of plenary and breakout sessions, speeches and press conferences with Cingressman Blumenauer and others. During the evening there will be the social events that we always have, the fun. I think the Thursday night is the High Times Awards that we give out for activists and so on.
Friday day, more social – more plenary sessions and breakouts. Friday night, the NORMAL chapter leaders party, which will be in downtown Portland, probably up on a rooftop with live music from Chief Greenbud and Los Marijuanos.
Saturday, the medical cannabis only day and then Saturday night, we’ll all be heading out to Hempstock to enjoy the free festival. So, there’s plenty to do. Portland Organ is a great city where you don’t even have to rent a car when you get here. When you land at the airport, we’ve got trains. We’ve got buses. We’ve got a great metro rail line that will get you right to the downtown hotels where everything’s happening. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff to do in Portland Organ that will make it a lot of fun. I encourage everyone to come out.
Plus, you don’t have to register for all three days. I understand for some folks that might be a little spendy, you can register for just Thursday/Friday. You can register for just Saturday and then take the rest of the time to enjoy Hempstock or the other sights and sounds of Portland, Oregon.
Dean Becker: Alright Russ, now over the years, the decade or so that I have been attended the NORML conferences that ¾ of the time has been in the San Francisco area, where the dispensaries are available for the medical patients. It won’t be quite so easy in Portland for those from out-of-state to acquire their medical needs, right?
Russ Bellville: Right, the Oregon system of getting a medical marijuana card and getting medical marijuana are a lot more strict than they are in California. First of all, in Oregon, you have to have one of the nine qualifying conditions that are required by law and you have to have one of nine qualifying conditions required by law and you have to have the medical records to back that up.
So, it’s not like California where you can walk into the doctor and say, Doctor, I have insomnia”, and the doctor says, “Oh, try some marijuana” and boom, you’re done and you’re walking into the dispensaries and buying medicine.
It doesn’t work that way in Oregon. You have to actually get your medical records together, have a visit with an Oregon doctor. The good news now is that out-of-state patents can get their medical card in Oregon. Your out-of-state medical card doesn’t work but you can get an Oregon card. For that I’d encourage anyone to get in touch with me, email@example.com because I can put you in touch with clinics and you can start faxing your medical paperwork now. By the time you came out to Portland, we could set you up with an appointment with a doctor and get you your medical marijuana card. The other side of it is, we don’t have dispensaries.
We do have a measure on the ballot this November to create dispensaries but as of now we do not have them. However, your medical marijuana card, once you have your Oregon card, entitles you to go to the Cannabis Café or other non-profits here in Oregon and receive free, donated medicine. We can’t actually sell it here in Oregon but we can give away as much as the law allows, which is twenty-four ounces or a pound and a half. So, if you come here for a NORML conference and work to get your medical marijuana card, I’m sure you’ll be taken care of.
Dean Becker: Alright, one again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Russ Bellville. He’s the NORML National Outreach Coordinator. Russ, I’ve got just a couple of minutes left here and I want to kind of turn it over to you because I see your writings. I hear your broadcasts. I know you get this, that you have honed your focus and you’re ready to go to battle to end this madness. So, tell the people out there why they should get involved.
Russ Bellville: Well, it’s obvious to the people who are cannabis smokers why they should get involved. You should be fighting to not be a criminal. You should be fighting to not end up with a drug conviction that prevents you from getting student loans or takes away your kids or can cost you your home or your job. That’s obvious. It’s in your best interest to get involved.
For the people who aren’t cannabis smokers though, those are the ones that I’m always trying to convince, to show them that marijuana prohibition, number one, doesn’t work.
We’ve got 22 million, 22-26 million people in America that will smoke pot this year. Anybody who wants to get a hold of it, can get a hold of it. We’re not checking any kid’s IDs. We’re spending $15 billion dollars a year on the Drug War.
We’re getting 28 thousand Mexicans killed south of our border, all over a simple innocuous, non-addictive, very low risk of harm weed that we could easily grow here and it would be far less trouble than alcohol or tobacco. That’s the people I try to convince, the non-cannabis consumers to show them that prohibition is hurting them and they need to get involved in changing it.
Dean Becker: Alright Russ and one more time, the dates of the conference and where folks learn how they can get involved.
Russ Bellville: Sure, NORML Nationel Conference, September 9th-11th 2010 at the Governor Hotel in Portland Oregon. Check out norml.org/conference or you can just check out more details on our show, NORML Show Live, every weekday, 1PM Pacific time at live.norml.org
(Music from Sloshtown)
Pot stinks up your car
Pot lingers, enticing NARCs
Pot stinks, a lot
It’s why you might get caught
It takes a lot of pot
It takes a lot of pot
So much pot
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By It’s Side Effects
Swelling of the tongue, decreased bone marrow, fever chills, infection, nervous system degeneration, confusion, loss of consciousness, fatigue, memory loss, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, seizures, speech disorders, cancer and death.
The answer: Levamisole. A dog dewormer that has become America’s number one cutting agent for cocaine.
In the last few years, you’ve heard us report here on the Drug Truth Network that cocaine was being cut with a substance called Levamisole and here to inform us more fully about that is an author of a great story that came out in The Stranger up in Seattle, it’s titled The Mystery of the Tainted Cocaine and with that I want to welcome Mr. Brendan Kiley. Hello, sir.
Brendan Kiley: Hello, thanks very much for having me on the show.
Dean Becker: Yeah, Brendan, I had heard the stories that some portion of the cocaine being distributed in the US had this Levamisole in it. It seemed like a preposterous cut, if you will, but your story tell us that it’s not as unlikely as I might have thought. DO you want to explain why they’re doing it?
Brendan Kiley: There’s really four kind of mysteries about the cut. One, it’s not the cheapest cut you can get. Two, it makes some people, very, very sick with a condition called Agranulocytosis, which is basically an immune system crash, which has hospital several people and a few people have died.
It’s being cut into the cocaine before it reaches the United States. Which is also very unusual because typically, you want to ship it as the purest product possible to reduce your bulk, to reduce your chance of detection.
A fourth thing that’s odd about it is that the cocaine producers down in Colombia and Peru. After the break up of the Mediene and the Cali Cartels one of the unintended consequences of the Drug War was after breaking up these two big producers that you have hundreds of small shops that jumped in to fill the void. Some of these are just small family owned operations.
So, the DEA estimates that over 70% of the cocaine in the United States is cut with Levamisole. So, it’s odd that you have so many hundreds of production shops, independently deciding to use the same cut which has these other three problems. It’s expensive. It makes people sick, etc.
Law enforcement and epidemiologists and the CDC, no one seems to really know what’s going on but my best guess is that Levamisole has a bunch of small benefits that make it good for cutting. One is that it may potentate the cocaine or maybe even have a stimulant effect all by itself. There needs to be more research on that.
I should add that there had been some research on human beings. Use of Levamisole to potentiate cancer drugs and to treat autoimmune disorders but those studies were suspended because around 10% of the people in the human trials were coming down with this condition, Agranulocytosis. Their immune systems were crashing, so they suspended the human trials.
So, there’s a lot of research that hasn’t been done yet, but in horses, in mice, in dogs, Levamisole can cause mood elevation and some sort of amphetamine like effects. So, there’s a possibility that it does the same for human beings. So, that’s one.
Two, is that Levamisole might be a bulking agent for crack cocaine. Making crack involves washing out the purities from cocaine. Levamisole for it’s own chemical reasons, slips through the process along with the cocaine. So you can make more volume of crack with less volume of raw, pure cocaine.
Third is that Levamisole passes the bleach test, which is a common street test. Different kinds of cuts will turn different colors when suspended in bleach. Cocaine tends to dissolve pretty clean and clear. Well, Levamisole does as well.
Fourth, with Levamisole, it ‘s a possibility that something about its chemical structure allows it to help cocaine keep that sort of iridescent fish scale sheen of pure cocaine. Other cutting agents like mannitol and other stuff, will dull that color.
So, what you could have is producers in South America who are passing off bricks of “pure” cocaine that’s cut with Levamisole that maybe even the smugglers, whether it’s Colombians or Mexican gangs, think is pure cocaine. So, for that reason the producers make more money because they get to cut something cheaper into the cocaine instead of pure cocaine itself, yet passing it off as pure cocaine.
Dean Becker: That’s a pretty good summary of the situation. Once again, we’re talking with Brendan Kiley, a journalist with The Stranger, up in Seattle.
Brendan, I wanted to also point out that in essence, this is a dewormer, most often used by veterinarians, right?
Brendan Kiley: That is true, yeah, it turned out to have – they stopped using it for human beings but they continued to use it for animals for deworming, precisely. One of the cases in which they found that Levamisole had amphetamine-like properties was in the horseracing world several years ago.
There was a scandal because a lot of – there was a string of very distinguished trainers, they were very highly respected, who were suspected of doping their horses because an amphetamine like substance was found in the horse’s urine. The trainers protested their innocence and accusations flew and there were a group of scientists that came in to investigate and found out that the horses had been injected with Levamisole, just for deworming purposes.
Somehow, the horse’s bodies had metabolized Levamisole to into this amphetamine like substance, so that’s another clue as to the possibilities of Levamisole having stimulant like properties in human beings.
Dean Becker: Once again, this is a form of, well, non-harm reduction. This is a situation where we insist these drugs are made by, well, untrained chemists for the most part and then cut with all kinds of cutting agents, including this potential cancer-causing agent. Any closing thoughts, Mr. Brendan Kiley?
Brendan Kiley: Well, I think that Levamisole is just one tiny example of how the drug laws, our own drug laws and internationally, really work to make drugs more dangerous.
Again, one of the unintended consequences of the Drug War was to break up these large producers who relied on consistency of product and long-term business relationships. So, you have much less accountability and much less consistency of product and in South America.
In North America, we’re working to develop a test kit that can test for the presence of Levamisole. Under many state laws, that test kit would actually be illegal because it would be used to test the “purity” of a drug.
So, on one hand you have the incentives to cut more dangerous poisons of cocaine on the production end and on the user end, you make it impossible for people to find out whether their drugs are cut with a substance that could potentially kill them.
Cocaine has its own dangers, of course but this is an additional danger. So, the law was set up to make things more dangerous, not less dangerous.
The following is part of a discussion I had with Neil Franklin. He’s the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Dean Becker: Tell me about this situation where the National Black Police Officers Association has endorsed, in essence, marijuana legalization. Your thoughts, please?
Neil Franklin: We’re out here in Sacramento, at their national conference this week and they’ve had a couple of events out here and workshops. One was a discussion yesterday with Michelle Alexander with a book titled, The New Jim Crow, which is incredible and talks about mass incarceration and African Americans being either intentionally or unintentionally targeted, as it relates to the enforcement of drug policies in this country.
We also had another workshop today, which dealt with contemporary criminal justice issues. Once again, this issue came up regarding the great disparity as it relates to African Americans being a smaller population in this country but yet tend to end up in prison at a much higher rate than Whites that use marijuana at relatively the same rate.
So, the National Black Police Officers Association recognizing this, in partnership with the NAACP’s Alice Huffman out here in California have taken a very huge step here and have come out in support of Alice Huffman and Proposition 19 because they understand that the time is now to move.
Number one, stop what is occurring and then number two, to try and repair what has happened. You need to get the right people together to figure out what that repair looks like. The most important thing is to stop the current influx of people of color, going into prison for minor drug offenses and those offenses that have populated our prisons over the past few decades.
Dean Becker: Alright, once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Neil Franklin, Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Neal, I guess you’re out there attending the National Conference of the National Black Police Officers Association, how are you being received?
Neil Franklin: Quite well because people always recognize the fact that when we try to move forward in areas like this, it tends to be law enforcement that comes out in opposition of change, of needed change.
What people need to realize, is that law enforcement, once you share the facts, as with anyone else, once you see the numbers, once you see that over the last three or four decades, where we thought we were moving forward with good policy, effective policy, that’s what we initially thought at the beginning of this war. Most of us did in law enforcement.
Yet now that time has passed and the results are in, you see that the policy was not just ineffective but in a sense, destructive in a way. As you can see, police officers are now learning to make reasonable decisions. They’re going to do what it is right and that’s what’s happening here.
You have a group of officers – police officers that have now been informed and they have made the decision to do what is right. They understand that there is a big drug problem in this country but now they also understand that drug prohibition was not the answer to our drug abuse problem. It’s quite clear.
We’re doing some things – some other things in California. We have the “Just say now” campaign, where we are trying to educate more people outside of the law enforcement realm as to what the facts are, as to what the numbers are over the past few decades and get people to see the truth.
And get away from the propagation that has been fed to us as a nation over the past few years and start moving forward with needed change and through that campaign we’re trying to get our legislatures, our leaders, our so-called leaders, to see this and do what is right, to get out in front by having the appropriate discussion on what post-prohibition would look like.
It’s time to now move towards post-prohibition. We now have to do it. Seventy something percent of the people in this country have already said that our policies are a failure. So now we know we have to move, so let’s get off the stick and start moving forward with some good discussion, like you said at the beginning of this thing.
What does the solution – what does the repair to this country look like? That’s where we should be moving.
Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Neil Franklin, the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Check him out on the web at leap.cc.
Business is so good in the Drug War; we’re out of time. Be sure to check out the forthcoming Century of Lies program, which features Clarence Walker, from the Trillion Dollar Drug War Industry. We’ll also hear from Dominic Holden and Bob Newland, who’s been gagged for the past year by a judge.
As always, I remind you, because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.
Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.