Cultural Baggage June 6, 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.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we're going to do something a bit unusual. I guess we've done it before. But we've invited Dr. Tom O'Connell. He's a Board Certified Thoracic Surgeon, based in California and he's also one of, what he self describes as one of the 'Pot Doctors' out in California.

There's much to talk about. The news about Medical Marijuana is sweeping the Nation, today. There's a major story, five full pages in the New York Times. I'm talking about Word Document pages. But still, a lot of words, a couple of thousand and we have much to talk about the failure of the medical industry to deal with the subject of drug war.

But to kind of open the attitude, my attitude today anyway, let's go ahead and play this little piece that we got, courtesy of the Star-Ledger, up in New Jersey...

Medical Marijuana Patient: This is literally the difference between life and death for me and to force people to have to go on the streets and buy it illegally, because that's the only place that they have access, is a crime in itself.

It's illegal! {Sound of fist punching ???}, to illegal. Shove it!

Alright, I think that's a good bit of advice for us all. Let's go ahead and do track ten and we'll have Dr. Tom O'Connell here, in just a moment.

Hi. My name is Marc-Boris St-Maurice. All my friends call me Boris and I am the Director of the Montreal Compassion Center. That's a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, here in Montreal. I'm also a Marijuana Activist. I do all sorts of stuff with NORML Canada and, well I could go on but I won't.

Dean Becker: There was a recent situation where several Cannabis Clubs were raided. Would you elaborate on that for us?

Mr. Boris St-Maurice: A lot of dispensaries up here in Canada. But the big, big surprise on Thursday was the Police raided simultaneously, all five Medical Marijuana dispensaries in the Province of Quebec. So in one day they took them all out. So as of Friday morning, there's nowhere for people to get Medical Marijuana.

Dean Becker: If I understand it right, they did this because they said, “The only legitimate Medical Marijuana was through the Prairie Plant Systems.“ Correct?

Mr. Boris St-Maurice: That's the excuse they use, that none of the places were distributing to people who had Health Canada Licenses. It's been really complicated to get the news. Because many media's reported different things. There's a lot of confusion in Canada, over Medical Marijuana Regulations. Regardless, it's a dark day in Quebec for Medical Marijuana users.

Dean Becker: Here in the U S where numerous states are going to have on their ballot this coming Fall, the opportunity, if you will, to provide for Medical Marijuana. Here in the states, each state has their own guidelines, regulations, etc.

Mr. Boris St-Maurice: In the United States, all of the Medical Marijuana advances have been done at State level. However in Canada, the Medical Marijuana Access Regulation is a Federal program and that's a big difference between the U S and Canada.

Although it's a lot more complicated to get access to the Canadian Federal program than say, the United States getting access locally to marijuana, it has been useful in the Courts. Because when you come with a Federally issued license and you say you need Medical Marijuana, while a judge who wonders whether you just want to get 'high' or not and sees a federally issued license has to respect that, 'Yes, there are legitimate medical marijuana uses.' That's the first hurdle. Now on a more political level of who's going to distribute it, where and how and patients' rights, the good thing is you have your foot in the door and the next step is to keep on kicking.

In Canada, the price of it - the black market or the compassion centers - it all tends to level out based on supply and demand. Sometimes compassion clubs have a lower price that the street. Prairie Plant System actually has a lower price than the street.

Thanks for having me on. Got to go. Take care, Dean.

Dean Becker: OK. Your website?

Mr. Boris St-Maurice: ( Check it out.

OK. That was Boris St-Maurice up there in Canada, talking about five clubs in Quebec got raided and it's a continuing jihad, by these drug warriors if you will. Internationally, worldwide.

We do have with us not, back online, Dr. Tom O'Connell. Can you hear me, sir?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: {with the hint of a smile in his voice} I can't, Dean.

Dean Becker: Hi, Doc. I appreciate you being with us. Now folks, the thing is that today Dr. O'Connell and I are going to do this first half hour, Cultural Baggage and if you have the chance, follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network stations, the Century of Lies show. We're going to take your calls, so please hang with us. Tom if you will, tell us about your history. Your work as a doctor.

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Well, I'm in my late seventies. I was a retired Thoracic Surgeon in 1995 and I have always disliked the Drug War 'cause I thought it was stupid, didn't work. But I didn't know much about it. I went to a convention down in Santa Monica, October '95.

What I learned at that convention sort of radicalized me and that coincided with buying my first computer and getting online. I ended up within a year, editing a newsletter and that was my education in the Drug War. It was pretty intense. I edited that newsletter for four years.

Dean Becker: It's amazing what just delving into the subject can do to your opinion of what it's all about or supposedly about. Right, Tom? The thing is that there's just no legitimacy to it. I mean, we're going to deal with Medical Marijuana today, but there's no legitimacy to any of it. It makes no sense at any point, does it?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: There never has been. Either the prohibition of alcohol or the prohibition of drugs, that's a word the Federal Government doesn't like to use, because it reminds them of the failure of Alcohol Prohibition. Which was the dismal fourteen years as an amendment that had to be repealed. Drug Prohibition fails for exactly the same reasons. It creates illegal markets which resort to violence, a struggle for monopoly and it becomes the 'cops and robbers' game. With both sides corrupted by all that money.

Dean Becker: Exactly. We're speaking with Dr. Tom O'Connell, Board Certified Thoracic Surgeon, based in California. Tom, you spent some time in the service during the Vietnam era as a chest cutter, I suppose. Right?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: I entered the Army right of internship in 1957, because it was a place where you could get training in surgery and still get paid. By that time, we didn't know it, we were starting the baby boom. We were right into the baby boom, which started in 1946, the year my oldest daughter was born, was the peak year of the baby boom. So we were participants without realizing it at the time.

I ended up in El Paso in a dispensary for a year and then moved across the freeway to William Beaumont General Hospital and did a four year general surgery residency there. Which it put me on the Mexican border for five years and I can tell you that the atmosphere there and then, was a lot different than it must be now. I have no desire to go back to El Paso or Juarez, while the Drug War's going on.

Dean Becker: I was in Ciudad Juarez last November and multiple machine guns on every corner, by Federalies and local police. They were everywhere and it still hasn't stopped the violence. Tom, I wanted to play this second clip for you. This is also from the Star-Ledger up in New Jersey. It's a little short piece. I want to share it with you, Tom. Then I want to get your reactions.

Star-Ledger: One medical condition New Mexico recently added is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. DTSD is not on New Jersey's list, but Garden State native and former Marine, Paul Culkin grows his own pot in his New Mexico home and says it works for him.

Mr. Paul Culkin: I know a lot of the sleeping medications that the VA's are trying to use. Some of them are really addictive and I think when you mix Ambien with guys with PTSD, there's nothing like getting called from one of your buddy's wives saying, 'Hey look, he's got a shot gun and he's in the living room and I don't know if he's sleepwalking or not. Can you come over here?”

That's the sort of thing that's really scary and that's what guys with PTSD are dealing with, nowadays and to have something like Medical Cannabis that is a real safer alternative to some of the other medications out there. It would be a great thing, I think, for the State of New Jersey.

Dean Becker: Tom, there are various states and municipalities across the country that are going to be considering Medical Marijuana on their ballot this coming Fall. But the VA continues to deny, or disallow the use of Medical Marijuana. Your thoughts on Medical Marijuana and PTSD?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Back in WWI it was called 'shellshock' and during WWII and Korea, we called it 'Battle Fatigue' and now it's known as PTSD, which is probably a more apt term. The Vietnam Veterans who had PTSD, I think it was the eighty's before the condition was more or less officially recognized by psychiatry. It's very characteristic and it responds well to Cannabis. No question about it.

This policy of making marijuana illegal is about as dumb a policy as any government can do and they stubbornly resist the evidence of their own failure. There's evidence all around them and they absolutely refuse to look at it and the poor military people are trapped, because their healthcare is through the VA and the VA's a Federal Agency and they're prevented from even mentioning the best treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dean Becker: Yeah Tom, I see the ads on television. They're talking about all the hypnotic effects and you may go on gambling sprees and unprotected sex and all of these things on some of these drugs, and that just seems preposterous to me, that those type of drugs be recommended and used by these people who are still carrying all that burden of the Post Traumatic Stress. Your thoughts on what the benefits that marijuana provides and the comparison?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Well, to give a little perspective, I knew very little about pot, when I began to screen people who wanted to become legal pot smokers; medical users in California. November 2001, it was about two months after 9-11and I had been recruited to do this because I had an active medical license and I was in favor of Drug Policy Reform.

But the thing I probably knew the least about from a practical standpoint, was marijuana. The reason for that is very simple and understandable, once you understand the dynamics of the marijuana market that developed, starting in the mid sixties. The first pot smokers in large numbers, were Baby Boomers, who were then in high school, that were young adults of college age.

Their flirtation with marijuana began rather abruptly in 1965, just as the Vietnam War was about to heat up and it surged very rapidly through the next several years. So that probably by 1971 or 1972, fifty percent of all American Jr. high and High school kids between the ages of twelve and eighteen, were trying marijuana. Trying to get high and they've been doing that ever since. So marijuana quickly became the third most frequently tried drug.

How do we know that? We know from University of Michigan surveys, which have been analyzed by the Federal Government since 1975. So this is the mechanism that maintains the illegal marijuana market. It's trial of marijuana initiation, by the same kids who try alcohol and tobacco.

Dean Becker: We are speaking with Dr. Tom O'Connell. He's based in California. He's best known of late for the way he goes about recommending marijuana. He doesn't bring you in his office, fill out some paperwork and then just sign the recommendation. He takes time to do physicals, to interview his patients, to record that data, so that it might be of use.

Now Tom, you're one of the few, if I dare say, that take that time, that make use of that data. Let's talk about, you were telling me the other day that the fly-by-night operations that are now out there in California. You want to talk about the different between the two methods?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Well, I could make one correction on what you said, that I do physicals. I basically don't do physicals except unless there's something to see. A scar, a deformity , an old fracture. Because ninty-nine percent of the time, this decision can be made by history. The best way to make the decision, is by history. It's a fairly careful history of previous drug use, including alcohol and tobacco and cannabis, other drugs tried, family structure and school experiences.

Because these fit into patterns that are easily recognizable and are internally consistant. In other words, people that really don't know what each other have told me, but I know what everybody said. I'm in a position on a clearinghouse for information. So I'm in a position to put all these common factors together, so that they can be analyzed. As far as I know, I'm the only pot-doc who's been doing that consistently over, I extened to them. I hate to say that. But if anyone else has been doing it, they haven't published their results.

Dean Becker: You have had your results published as well and recognized for several determinations; several observations, that you've been able to gather from those visits. Correct?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: I've been recognized as a pain-in-the-ass, because I'm telling people things they don't want to hear. {chuckling in-studio} That's one way to become unpopular in the United States.

Dean Becker: Let's talk about some of those things that folks did not want to hear.

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Well, as I said. Pot smoking began with the Boomers and the boom began in 1946. Ninty-six percent of all the people I see were born 1946 or later. Just as a point of reference, Bubba and W. were born in the Summer of 1946. They were the first 'stoop-over' presidents and when you look at the timeline, you see the timeline for the illegal market.

They were Boomers and their sons, daughters and grandsons. We've now had forty years of pot smoking. It was when the Boomers began to come of age. Mid sixties, till I came to San Francisco from the far East in 1967. I didn't recognize the city because it was covered with the Drug Culture. The counter culture, was a happening place and of course nobody understood it. This was the biggest generation in history.

They were feeling their oats and they were frankly disgusted with what was going on. Because they were graduating in June and going through Basic and being shot at in October and November and I had taken care of quite a few of them in Japan, between sixty-five and sixty-seven. This was a draftee army. All eighteen, nineteen, twenty year olds.

One year in Vietnam, eighty percent of the American soldiers in Vietnam were not in much danger. Twenty percent were dropped. They were walking Point in the Search and Destroy Missions, riding helecopters that were targets. Much like the people in Bagdad and Afghanistan today. Especially that Urban Gorilla War, Bagdad. Where they're riding around buttoned up in Humvee's waiting to be blown up. I can't think of anymore heroine duty than that.

Dean Becker: No.

Dr. Tom O'Connell: This is a group that was not allowed to try pot. Not allowed to use it. So their favorite drugs have been alcohol and tobacco. That's why I would expect a lot of trouble. When they come back, they go to the VA and they're given the usual mix of official FDA approved inadequate therapy.

Dean Becker: Tom, this brings to mind, I want to address this, that for those that don't know. A little over a week ago my girlfriend Pam had a heart attack and we went to a local for-profit hospital. It was the second time we went there and they failed to act upon what they thought might be going on and we woulnd up checking out.

We went to Ben Taup, the Charity Hospital and there we had teams of doctors and technicians and people that delved into it and... I guess what I'm leading up to here Doctor, is that, 'Is it safe for people who've had heart attacks to maybe smoke a little Cannabis? Let's talk about what the impact might be for those with other serious maladies.

Dr. Tom O'Connell: Well, one of the things that the Government has been all over them like white on rice is the fact that, 'Oh, Cannabis can't be medicine because it has to be smoked.' As it turns out, that's nonsense. A number of studies, including the most recent one by a pulmonary physician named Tashkin, has failed to find any connection between lung cancer and COPD and use of Cannabis.

As a former Toracic Surgeon, I saw a lot of COPD and literally, once you've got a little experience, you cam recognise it from across the room. You can hear the wet cough and see the body habbit of changes that chronic puro bronchitis or emphysema make in the body. They're very obvious. You don't see this in pot smokers. I've seen nothing but pot smokers, for the last eight and a half years and I can't think of a case of ... Pot smokers have tired cigarettes aggressively. Ninty-six percent of them, drug.

Dean Becker: We're speaking with Dr. Tom O'Connell. He's a pot doctor if you will, out in California. Dr. Tom, I want to address this piece. It came out of today's New York Times. I want to read just a little bit from it. This gentleman Kevin Reed, operates a sleek, efficient marijuana delivery service, out in San Francisco. He's got five drivers delivering the product. Glistening, green buds, they say and he went through the process. He got a permit to do this, a laborious three month process.

He's now watching the proliferation of rival pot delivery services. He says, “I have to compete with a guy who has two thousand plants in a field behind his house and is selling his pot for $200 an ounce, in the newspaper, delivery fee included and not paying Uncle Sam a dime.” Dr. Tom, there're a lot of folks in California who want to be taxed, regulated and to control this distribution, do they not?

Dr. Tom O'Connell: What we had in California was a slow start and then after about five years the number of clubs suddenly proliferated. Because we developed enough doctors to give recommendations; sell recommendations, if you will. It's been a growth industry ever since then and as the police have found out, they can't really arrest their way out of this problem and they're sort of giving up. Not with very good grace.

So it varies from one town to another, one county to another. But they're not arresting people. Not nearly as aggressively as they use to, five or six years ago. That said, there's still the average highway patrolman or policeman in California, doesn't like pot smokers. Just looking for a chance to bust them still and the counties are still investing good money in their prosecution. Which in this economy seems ridiculous to me. But that's what's happening.

Now the delivery services are just another way around a lot of municipalities trying to block marijuana distribution by refusing to grant business licences to new clubs. So that started a competition between clubs to get business licences and it varied enormously from one community to another.

Dean Becker: Dr. Tom, we'll delve into this a little further. We're going to take our break here and again, for those of you listening on at least certain of the Drug Truth Network shows, we're going to follow this immediately with the Century of Lies program, where you can call in your questions to Dr. Tom O'Connell.

It's time to play: "Name That Drug - By It's Side Effects!"

Loss of personal freedom, family and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mind set in a dangerous world. This drug's peaceful, easy feeling can be habit forming.


Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa.

Made by God. Prohibited by man.

Place twelve monkeys in a room. Place a ladder in the middle of the room. Hang a bunch of bananas from the ceiling over the ladder. Leave the room and watch through a two-way mirror.

When the first monkey starts climbing the ladder seeking bananas, whack the monkey with a broomstick. Whack additional monkeys as necessary, to prevent them from reaching the bananas. Continue this effort until the monkeys begin stopping one another from climbing the ladder.

Remove one of the original twelve monkeys and replace with a monkey who has never been whacked with a broom. Watch as the original monkeys keep the newbie from climbing the ladder.

Replace the original monkeys one by one. Watch as a roomful of un-whacked monkeys keep one another from the ladder and the bananas, even though none of them know the original reason to refrain.

Observe the perfect example of the mechanisms of drug war in action. ~whack~

(sung to the Bee Gees: How can you mend this broken heart?)

How can you stop drug users from using?
How can you stop the sun from growing weed?
How can you end drug prohibition?

It makes the world go round.

Yep. Me and the Bee Gees. We're tight. We're just like that, you know? OK, my friends. We're going to be talking with Dr. Tom O'Connell on this weeks Century of Lies show. I hope you'll join us for that and I want to say this, that there is news breaking all across this country. You can't hardly watch television for a couple of hours, a news segment. You can't hardly open a newspaper, you can't go without the drug war news in your face.

It's time for you to stand up. It's time for you to do your part. It's time for you to contact your local officials and let them know it's time to end the madness of drug war. It's just that simple. They're waiting on you. I've been talking to the DA and the Sheriff and other folks here in this hell-hole of Harris County and they want to hear from you.

They want to know that it's ok to end this madness. That you're aware of it's failure and that you're willing to step up and bring it to an end. So I urge you to do that, please. Pick up the phone. Write that email or letter. Do your part and as always, I remind you that 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.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of