Cultural Baggage, April 30, 2008
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
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 phamaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I'm glad you could be with us. Today we're going to pay respects to a man of honor, the discoverer of LSD, Dr. Albert Hoffman. We'll also hear from Phil Smith who is in Mexico looking for drug barons and drug grow sites. We'll also hear from a gentleman in North Dakota, Mr. Ken Rau, who has been arrested and indicted for possession of salvia.
But first, let's hear from the man himself who just passed from this Earth, Dr. Albert Hoffman.
This courtesy of BBC:
Dr. Hoffman: Being a cautious man, I thought I would start with the smallest, smallest quantity which even it could have any effect, namely I started with 0.25 mg and I had the intention to increase the dosage to see what would happen. But this very small dose, the first dose of my experiments I planned was very, very strong
I myself and also, of course, the medical department immediately realized it was a very potent agent which could be used in psychiatry and its research.
BBC narrator: Sandoz distributed LSD to psychiatric hospitals as an experimental drug called Delycid. No one really knew what medical use LSD might have but this extraordinary substance deserved further study.
Dean Becker: Next, we hear from a good friend and associate of Dr. Hoffman, Dr. Rick Doblin, President of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, MAPS.Org.
Rick, today we note the passing of great man, Dr. Albert Hoffman. Tell us some of your impressions of the man.
Dr. Doblin: Well, I think Albert is as amazing as LSD and we're so lucky that it was Albert that discovered LSD because we was just up to the challenge, in a way, he was an incredibly dignified, responsible, mystical person who understood the full potential of LSD and was, you know, it's no accident that for the first time in 35 years LSD psychotherapy is taking place in Switzerland instead of anywhere else.
Dean Becker: Right. And he is so respected in that nation and around the world, truthfully, but the respect given to that study says a lot about the man himself, right?
Dr. Doblin: Yeah, well, he's also developed other major pharmaceutical medicines, some of which, Hydergine in particular, has sold hundreds of millions of dollars for Sandoz, so he's seen as a major contributor to the pharmaceutical business in Switzerland for things other than LSD. And it's out of respect for Albert, I think, that the regulators in Switzerland were willing to go ahead and be the first in the world to approve LSD for psychotherapy research.
Albert's just very gracious, very dignified, and, I think, a very loving man and many people have sort of attributed his survival to LSD but I really think, it started dawning on me a while ago, that it had more to do with his love affair with his wife, Anita. And she just died in December and a few months later he died, seventy plus years or so they were married.
Dean Becker: He was 102 years old this past January, right?
Dr. Doblin: Yeah, I was fortunate enough to be with him and a few other people on his birthday.
Dean Becker: And it has been a cause for major celebration, each of, well, numerous years but certainly from 100 years on, right?
Dr. Doblin: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Dean Becker: We are speaking with Doctor Rick Doblin. He's president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Rick, you are fortunate, I think, in getting to meet Dr. Hoffman and over the years you have worked with him and enabled some of this study for other psychedelics to take place in other countries around the world, right?
Dr. Doblin: Yeah, we were also fortunate enough that Albert permitted us to republish “LSD: My Problem Child.” So we brought out a new edition of that in English and he just wrote a new introduction, dated on his 102nd birthday, for Stan Grof's “LSD Psychotherapy” and I think it was one of the greatest satisfactions of working for MAPS that we are able to get LSD psychotherapy research approved while both Anita and Albert could see it with their own eyes. And I think Albert died a lot more peacefully knowing that LSD was on its way back into medicine.
Dean Becker: And let's talk about the benefits that can be derived from using LSD as a medicine.
Dr. Doblin: Well, Stan Grof has said it really the best. He said that what a microscope is to biology and the telescope is to astronomy, LSD is to the study of the mind, to the unconscious. And so I think that the tool LSD is just, it offers incredible insights into the mind and the unconscious and any number of things can come from that including, well, the study that's been approved is LSD assisted psychotherapy for subjects with anxiety associated with end of life issues.
And there was a lot of research in the late 60s and early 70s, early sixties actually, with LSD with cancer patients. LSD has been really helpful in the treatment of alcoholism and heroin addiction. LSD can really stimulate people's mystical and spiritual experiences...
Dean Becker: And it also can be used for those who have lost a loved one, suffering bereavement as well, right?
Dr. Doblin: Yeah, I mean LSD can be helpful in all aspects of psychotherapy and there are certain lines we are following, both because of prior research and also because people are especially sympathetic, people who are dying in fear and in pain, LSD can be helpful in that way.
LSD can be useful for people with cluster headaches, all sorts of things. Rites of passage, there's just an enormous potential and there's also some risk and I think that's what's happened is that our society has sort of overreacted to the sort of emergence in the 60s and 70s, I mean, the 50s and 60s really with the LSD research, is that society kind of had this backlash.
But in the 50s and 60s, before the controversy started, there was just an enormous sense of potential of LSD even for helping understand the serotonin system of the brain. So basic brain function---now the FDA has approved LSD research in the United States. Not psychotherapy research but sort of basic study of the mind so that we're going to see LSD returning to the research labs and I think the promise of LSD will become more manifest over the next decade or so as scientists are permitted again to study it in humans.
Dean Becker: As part of our continuing investigation of what's going on south of the border, down Mexico way, I'm glad that we have with us today Mr. Phil Smith of Stop The Drug War and the Drug War Chronicles who has stepped into the fray. He's now in Mexico and fixing to tour some of the drug growing areas of Mexico. Phil, how are you sir?
Phil Smith: I'm fine and dandy, Dean. Right now I'm sitting in Mexico City where I've been meeting with various people on different stories that I can work out of this trip. You know, there is an awful lot going on in Mexico when it comes to drugs and drug policy and I'm trying to get my hands around as much of it as I can.
This week in Mexico City, among other things, I've been talking to a parliamentarian, Representative Elsa Conde who has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, or as they call it, depenalize marijuana possession in Mexico. Shortly she is going to introduce a medical marijuana bill.
So I've been talking with her and some of her advisors about the prospects for this which, frankly, don't look good in the short term but, as the Deputy says, it's an educational process and you got to start somewhere.
I will be meeting again with these folks. They are part of a group called Grupo Cañamo, or the cannabis group, which is an effort to broaden the discussion on marijuana policy in Mexico. It includes some political people, some academics, some activists including people from AMECA, which is the, basically, the Mexican version of NORML.
Those are the folks who hold the annual Million Marijuana Marches in Mexico City, which I've decided I will stay in Mexico long enough to see on May 3. I look forward to that.
I've also been very interested in some of the cultural manifestations of drug use, or some of the counter-cultures related to drug use in Mexico City. Last weekend I went to the Tianguis del Chopo which is an outdoor market that occurs every Friday and Saturday near the old Buenavista train station, just north of the historic center, where Mexico Cities counter-cultures come to see what's going on, to listen to the latest music, to sell goods of various sorts.
It's quite a show. You've got your goths, or as they call them here, the darketos. You've got your hippies, you've got your punkys, you've got your skatos, those are the fans of ska music, you've got your dread-locked Rastafarian types, you've got your metaleros.
Now, some of this is only tangentially related to drug culture and drug policy but some of it is not so tangential. For instance, I talked to some of the, I guess you would call them acolytes of Bob Marley, the Mexico City Rastafarians. The people who sell marijuana leaves and things like that.
It was just interesting to me to see how global these counter-cultures are and particularly their strength in Mexico City. I mean there were thousands of people at this market last weekend.
Another thing I'm tracking down while I'm in Mexico City is this sect called Santa Muerte. Again, relationship with drugs and drug policy is not necessarily direct but there is some because it appears that most of the adherents of this sect, which by the way the Catholic Church is very unhappy about, are what you would call lumpenproletarians: the poor classes, criminals, hard-core drug users. I don't know that much about Santa Muerte but I'm digging into it and I want to find out more.
Interestingly, to give you just a little taste of life in Mexico City, I was scheduled to go to this barrio, this neighborhood called Tepito which is quite notorious, it's been the historic birthplace of dozens of famous Mexican boxers.
I was supposed to go there yesterday but the gentleman who was going to accompany me was frightened off because the night before there had been a major conflict between police and residents of the barrio, Tepito, who tried to clean up contraband, not drugs but contraband perfume.
They were met by hundreds of youths that Mexico City officials say are actually members of retail drug dealing gangs. And these youths fought the police all night long: burnt some vehicles, damaged some police vehicles, injured some cops. So my friend didn't want to go to Tepito yesterday. But I'll make it one of these days.
One of the other things I've been doing is looking at drug use in Mexico City and how Mexico responds to it. I've been talking to some of the people who pioneered drug treatment programs here. It's actually pretty bleak, from what I can gather.
The treatment, the modes of treatment are pretty old fashioned and have a good Catholic dose of punishment involved with them. So it will be interesting to see more, to find out more about how that's working.
I'm also hearing from these experts who work with drug users in the city about how crack has been sweeping the poor neighborhoods of the city. Of course there's cocaine in the rich neighborhoods but that doesn't seem to bother people as much as the crack in the poor neighborhoods.
As well as an increase in methamphetamine addiction in recent years. So Mexico may be behind the U.S. in many ways and apparently the rate at which drug epidemics occur is one of them. They're about twenty years behind us when it comes to crack.
Now, I'm going to leave Mexico City in a couple of days and fly to Culiacan, Sinaloa, a state on the Pacific northwest coast. It is also traditionally a hotbed of drug trafficking and the drug cartels, one of the most powerful cartels now is the Sinaloa Cartel. It's kind of a dangerous place.
I'm a little bit nervous about going there. One of the people I'm going to meet is a human rights worker named Mercedes Murillo. She and her brother helped found the Sinaloa Civic Front which is a human rights organization.
Her brother is no longer with us. He was assassinated last year by people unknown and Mrs. Murillo has her suspicions, particularly about the Mexican Army because her organization had been highly critical of the army. Especially surrounding one incident last year where soldiers at a road block shot up a vehicle claiming that they had been fired upon by drug traffickers.
Well, it turned out to be two dead teachers and their three dead children. So I'm headed to Sinaloa into all of that. Sinaloa is also one of the hotbeds of the narcocorrido. Corridos are the Mexican ballads that, in the good old days, they used to be about the Mexican Revolution and about banditos and all that stuff.
Now they are, this new version of the corridos sing about the exploits of the narco-traffickers. You might call it the Mexican equivalent of gangster rap in that sense. But there are also issues around the narcocorridos.
Some of those singers are being killed in drug related violence. Or perhaps it isn't drug related violence. I had a couple of people here, in Mexico City, suggest to me today that some of these narcocorrido singers are getting killed because they're eyeing the wrong women, the girlfriends of some of the narcos. I'm not sure exactly what's going on with that but some of these singers are being killed, meanwhile their songs sell millions and they fill up stadiums with tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border. So, I look forward to checking that out as well.
Now, I'm going to try to get up into the drug growing areas in Sinaloa. I don't know if that's possible or not. I'll do my best and try to come back alive.
Dean Becker: You mentioned Santa Muerta and you didn't tell the folks that that's 'Saint Death' and you...
Phil Smith: That's correct. Sorry about that folks. It is Saint Death. Now, according to my understanding, there actually was a Saint Death in the Catholic pantheon, back in the middle ages. It is being revived now, for the last few years, here in Mexico City.
The Catholic Church is very upset about this, doesn't recognize this. I've seen reports saying there are two million people in Mexico who are adherents to this sect and I've seen reports that there are chapels to Saint Death all over Los Angeles, as well. I didn't know that. So I'm very curious about this phenomenon and I'll see what I can find out about it.
Dean Becker: Well, Phil, you know we respect and admire your courage going down there to Mexico to do this reporting but you keep your head down, will you sir?
Phil Smith: Well, I'll do my best. You know people do worry about me when I go to places like this and as I told people in the 1980s when I was heading down to Central America to cover the civil wars: 'At least I'm not going to Houston.'
Dean Becker: (hearty laughter) All right, I think we'll leave it right there, my friend.
Dean Becker: All right. I want to thank Phil Smith for that report from Mexico and I caught a story recently in the Drug War Chronicles about a situation up in North Dakota where a gentleman has been arrested and perhaps going to trial for possession of the new-quote-controlled substance, the salvia plant, a mint plant. And the gentleman's name is Kenneth Rau, are you with us Ken?
Kenneth Rau: Yes, I am. Thank you.
Dean Becker: Ken, if you would, tell us a bit about this situation regarding the-quote-possession charge for salvia.
Kenneth Rau: Well, they're claiming I had eight ounces in my apartment and they're charging me with a Class A felony with a maximum of twenty years imprisonment.
Dean Becker: Now, salvia, that's that, as I mentioned earlier, kind of a mint, minty plant that gives a short term-quote-hallucination I guess it is?
Kenneth Rau: Yeah. It actually depends on how you use it. If you smoke it, I've never smoked it, but they claim you get five or ten minutes and if you chew it you can get an affect for an hour to two hours.
Dean Becker: This was not something that was brought up from Mexico or smuggled in from Afghanistan. Where did you get this?
Kenneth Rau: Well, it's available on Ebay. Ounces, four ounces, pounds...whatever you want on there I guess.
Dean Becker: Now, this product is legal in most states but in North Dakota it is a felony, right?
Kenneth Rau: Yes. They went from, well, up until August they were selling it in some of the stores in town and they just passed a law that went into effect in August, I guess.
Dean Becker: So people are still selling this legally on Ebay?
Kenneth Rau: Yes. Sellers must not be aware of this. They're shipping it.
Dean Becker: And people in states that, oh perhaps, did you know there was a law in North Dakota?
Kenneth Rau: No, I wasn't aware of it. Everything I'd read, I did a little bit of research on it, but all the articles referred to it as totally legal, the 'legal high.'
Dean Becker: The situation for you has had its implications since your arrest. You haven't been convicted but tell us...you're not even living in the same residence, right?
Kenneth Rau: Well, I'm just moving out at the end of the month. They brought an eviction, kicked me out, so I'm going to be--I've been kind of busy trying to prepare my defense, find a lawyer, and also moving makes it hard.
Dean Becker: And, again, this is without a conviction. This is just the landlord arbitrarily saying 'You got to go,' huh?
Kenneth Rau: Yeah. And he said 'There's drug activity going on here and I want you out.' Oh well, you know, one thing, I had some depression, in fact I was bi-polar for a while as a result of taking some steroid nasal inhaler that was supposed to be harmless.
And I went through some tough times with that and they put me on Paxil which made me pretty sick and I was finally able to get off that, that stuff is very addictive, I mean probably the sickest I've ever been was trying to get off Paxil.
And I tried St. John's wort, valerian, stuff like that, but then I started reading that salvia helped and people report that it's also an anti-depressant type of effect.
Dean Becker: Now, as I understand it, North Dakota's one of the few states to pass an anti-salvia law and this was done because of third-hand accounts that some youngster who had used it in the past wound up committing suicide. Is that...?
Kenneth Rau: Yeah. I did a little research into that and it appears that the parents had pressed for that to be listed as a contributing cause. I understand the young man was also involved with other substances and was consuming alcohol also, which is a known depressant. So that's kind of suspect to pin that on salvia when most people indicate that it has the opposite effect, it's anti-depressant.
Dean Becker: And when you stop and think about the depressive effects of alcohol and it's impact on the suicide numbers across this country as well as the multiple prescription drugs that are handed out daily and that wind up causing many people to have those suicidal thoughts.
It bears little resemblance to justice, especially when you consider that even the Drug Enforcement Administration has not added salvia to the federal Controlled Substances Act. Your thoughts on that?
Kenneth Rau: Well, it looks like what happened is they tried to get it scheduled by the federal government but it didn't meet any of their criteria, among which are, it has to be addictive or toxic or cause medical or legal problems. It apparently hasn't been causing any of those things to happen.
Dean Becker: Well, your situation in North Dakota is perhaps tenuous. I guess this is the first such case to be brought to trial?
Kenneth Rau: Yes. As I understand it, in North Dakota, for sure, and maybe even across the country.
Dean Becker: And, as you said, as yet you do not have a lawyer given your circumstance. How do you think you'll proceed with this?
Kenneth Rau: Well, I'm kind of leaving the options open. I've been trying to contact attorneys from public interest, anti-drug war organizations to see if anybody wants to get involved with it. I think this could be a good test case, maybe this will establish a precedent depending on which way it goes, good or bad.
Dean Becker: We're speaking, again, with Mr. Kenneth Rau up in North Dakota. It's Bismark, right?
Kenneth Rau: Yes, uh-huh.
Dean Becker: Well, Ken, if folks would like to get in touch with you about your situation would you like to share your email?
Kenneth Rau: Yeah, I would like to receive people's thoughts on it and if anybody has any suggestions or assistance or ideas for me, my email address is KennethAAAA@Yahoo.Com.
It's time to play 'Name That Drug by its Side Effects.'
(horrible side-effects including including death)
The answer, Peanut Butter. It's not a drug but it certainly proves the point. It kills about one hundred people each year here in America. Marijuana, however, the one drug that's never killed anybody is illegal
[CSDP PSA] Five times as many people die from alcohol each year from illicit drugs and the misuse of pharmaceuticals. Fifteen times as many people die each year from poor diet and activity patterns. Twenty times as many people die from tobacco. Why arrest 1.9 million people a year for drugs? Does jailing drug users make more sense than jailing over-weight people and smokers? Let's keep America's drug problem in perspective. Common Sense for Drug Policy, www.CSDP.Org.
Poppygate: Bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway.
Glenn Greenway: This week's full deployment of 3,200 U.S. Marines to Afghanistan brings the total of U.S. troops in the country to 32,500, the most since the 2001 invasion. Their orders specify that they are to avoid the country's opium poppy fields.
And folks, that's what Poppygate is all about. Year after year, since the American so-called liberation, the country's economy has devolved into utter dependency on the black market, the completely illegal narcotics trade. Exponentially increasing each year of American occupation, the fruit of Afghan's poppies now fills the syringes of nineteen of twenty of the world's injecting heroin consumers.
And year after year, American troops are warned to tiptoe through the tulips, so to speak, so as not to disturb the livelihoods of locals. In other words, our brave servicemen and women operate under orders by the Commander in Chief to protect the black market drug trade.
But, of course, black market agriculture is dependent not only on hard work, prohibition subsidies, and the blind eyes of occupation forces. Mother Nature smiles or frowns on all farmers and the opium producers of Afghanistan are no exception.
An extraordinarily cold winter followed by a very wet spring have caused germination failure of many of this year's plantings. Predictably, self-serving officials have already hailed the success of eradication efforts rather than the wicked weather's work.
In other news, the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, survived his third assassination attempt on Saturday while the price of flour in Afghanistan has doubled so far this year, triggering riots and looting.
Elsewhere in the region, Iran has announced it will be making syringes available in vending machines in order to pragmatically cope with the disease risk associated with shared needles.
This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.
Dean Becker: All right, my friends. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage and that you'll take time to visit the website of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. That's on the web at MAPS.Org. Learn more about LSD and its inventor, Dr. Albert Hoffman.
Be sure to check out this week's Century of Lies Program. Out guest was U.S. Representative Barney Frank talking about some new bills before the U.S. Congress in regards to marijuana. And check us out next week on Cultural Baggage. Our guest will be Clarence Bradford, former Police Chief of Houston, who's now running for District Attorney. And as always I remind you that, because of drug prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag so please be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, on behalf of engineer Phillip Guffy, 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.
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