Cultural Baggage, June 25, 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.
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Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we'll hear from Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre. She's one of the directors of a group called Patients Out of Time. We'll hear from Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We'll get our Drug War Facts from Doug McVay. And we'll get the Poppygate report from Glenn Greenway.

You know, we try very hard here at the Drug Truth Network to investigate this situation regarding cannabis in the United States and how it impacts actually millions of our citizens. And I'm glad to have with us today Mary Lynn Mathre. She's a nurse and one of the co-directors of medical cannabis and Patients Out of Time and with that introduction I'd like to welcome Mary Lynn Mathre.

Mary Lynn Mathre: Glad to be with you today.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. And for those who are not savvy, who aren't aware of the group Patients Out of Time, please tell us what that's all about.

Mary Lynn Mathre: Well, Patients Out Of Time is a non-profit. We started in 1995. Basically our mission is to educate health care professionals and the public about the therapeutic use of cannabis and we came about because, we've been working on the issue for a long time -- when I say 'we,' my husband and I -- and we've been working with the federal patients who, the patients who've gotten their marijuana from the federal government. And during that time, I'd say it was 1992 when the federal government completely closed access for any more patients getting cannabis through the federal government. By 1995 we had met some of the patients and some of those patients have died. And we were looking at the fact that the very few patients that were allowed medical marijuana would soon disappear. And they, in many ways, represented all of the patients out in the United States who should and could benefit from access to therapeutic cannabis who could not publicly say anything about their use. The name 'Patients Out of Time' came -- Al came up with that name -- the acronym, of course, being POT, but we really just wanted to get the message across that marijuana is safe enough, there is enough research to show that it does have therapeutic use and patients do not have the luxury of time to wait until further studies are done to allow them to use this medicine. So the name, really, is trying to wake up people to the fact that this medicine is remarkably safe compared to other medicines. And the evidence is out there, not only studies in the United States but throughout the world. Studies are showing how safe it is and health care professionals as well as the public, if they would know about this they would push even harder to get the laws changed.

Dean Becker: Now let's talk about some of those patients supplied by the federal government. As I understand it it's down to only four surviving patients. Is that correct?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Correct. Several years ago Bob Randall who was the very first patient to get access passed away and he was clearly the leader in this movement. He had started with his wife and partner Alice O'Leary the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics which really was the springboard from where we came from. And then just last year Courrine Millet died, she was a patient who lived in Nebraska who used it for glaucoma. But yeah, the numbers have dwindled down. There were five patients in 1987. By 1992 there were fifteen who had legal access when they closed that program and hundreds of applications waiting for it. But when they closed the program they only allowed those fifteen to get it. And, yeah, we're down to four patients. Elvy Musikka, George McMahon, Irv Rosenfeld and Barbara Douglass.

Dean Becker: And they get, again, this is marijuana grown by and for the U.S. government, distributed by, is it NIDA?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Yeah. Distributed by, sent out through NIDA. NIDA gets involved with the growing of it. The DEA gets involved with the security of it. And the FDA is involved in originally obtaining the protocol for the patient to use.

Dean Becker: And they get, on average, about three hundred pre-rolled joints per month delivered in a big tin can, is that right?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Right. It comes about three hundred to tin can and a lot of them might get around that a month. It varies a bit between them as far as how much they get but, yeah, that's correct. The sad part is, and I think it's interesting because I just caught something on the Internet today about a new compound. It's not a new compound but research that they found on one of the compounds in cannabis, beta-caryophyllene, and I encourage any of your listeners to go to the website ScienceNews.org and just click on 'curative leaf' but the point that they were noticing was researchers in Switzerland found that that compound containing cannabis has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Which of course is helpful for patients with problems such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease and it goes to our point saying that patients aren't wanting just the THC pill, they want the whole plant, the cannabis plant because it has much more than just THC in it and other cannabinoids. It has a lot of other compounds in it that working together can be very helpful. What I was thinking about is one of the points that they made is, it's valuable in fresh herbs. And the patients that took this medicine from the federal government, oftentimes it clearly is several years old but sometimes it's as much as ten years old, that they will get this freeze dried cannabis as medicine.

Now, no pharmacy in the United States would be selling any herbal medicine that's years old. All medicines that we get tend to have an expiration date because they lose their potency, so here they are, finding a new, another chemical in cannabis that's helpful but, of course, it has to be given fresh.

Dean Becker: Well, you know, I've heard a couple of the components are turpenoids and flavonoids and I don't know exactly what they do but they are part of the whole product and of benefit. You were talking about these patients have gotten free, if you will, marijuana from the government for well over a decade. Some have gotten as much as two hundred pounds of government supplied marijuana in that time frame. And they have yet, though -- the government -- has yet to study these patients, to see what effect it has on their health, right?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Exactly. Exactly. That's why, back in 2001, we did a study led by Dr. Ethan Russo -- we call it the 'Missoula' study because we had four of the patients go up to Missoula, Montana, where we could specifically look at them and what we did was look at almost every aspect of their health to see what kind of effects this has had on them. And the reason, of course, was, as you said, the government didn't do it. But here we have patients who were getting a known, were getting cannabis from a known source. You could trace back, what the THC, percentage of THC was in the cannabis, they've been doing this upwards from nine years or more, daily using it, so it's a perfect population to study.

It's obviously a small population but to be able to look at these people and to look at them very, very closely -- extensive neuro/psch testing, look at their lungs, pulmonary fuction testing, x-rays, blood tests -- all sorts of things to just get a really good look. Now if anyone does want to look more specifically at this on our website, MedicalCannabis.com, it's just a matter of clicking on the Missoula study and you can read the whole, full report. But, as we've guessed, they don't want to put out the study because what it showed of those patients is that they're all doing fine with it. There are no long term negative effects. And basically, if you looked at it, considering their disease problems, the reason that they have cannabis, they wouldn't have been doing this well without it. So no long term effects, clearly therapeutic benefits for them, and yet the government doesn't want anyone else to know that.

Dean Becker: We are speaking with Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre, one of the directors of Patients Out of Time, and we're talking about the medical marijuana situation here in the United States and, gosh heck, it impacts the situation around the world because it is the mandate of the U.S. to continue this drug war forever, I suppose. Mary Lynn, we see a constant barrage of 'studies' from other nations and from the United States indicating that marijuana is so much more powerful, dangerous, deadly, that it leads to addiction, that it leads to use of other drugs and so forth, and yet there have been hundreds of studies of this plant over the decades and, well perhaps there is a need for further study, but there's no real shortage of information, right?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Dean, these 'studies', or these comments, that come out quoting the dangers of this very strong cannabis and more and more problems are just so overstated and out of context. It is very frustrating to see that. If, in fact, people are getting a higher quality cannabis because some people have learned how to grow it well and separate the females from the male plants, get it stronger, the benefit there would be that then you take less. Many medicines come in various strengths and you just go for the appropriate dose with the different strengths. The problem, of course, if there is any problem that people would see is that because of prohibition people don't always know what they're getting if they're not growing it themselves. But, again, this drug has such a remarkable wide margin of safety, you know, if they get something much stronger it really isn't going to hurt them. It's not going to do any long term damage. So that's somewhat ridiculous.

And when you do talk about the studies all around I do want to do make mention that the conferences that we do put on, at this point in time, not that I think, we do have some from our past conferences up online and moving as quickly as we can -- we had a delay with the 2006 conference -- but those will soon be going online. The 2008 conference presentations will also soon be online. You'll hear from speakers such as Rafael Mechoulam, Esther Fride, Natalya Kogan from Israel. Mark Ware from Canada. Geoffrey Guy from England. Willem Scholten from the Netherlands.

The other thing, when you said something about the dependence, at our 2004 conference in Virginia we had Billy Martin come speak and he's one of NIDA's lead researchers. I should say was. The late Billy Martin, he passed away just this past month. But he's been an incredible researcher on looking at the dependency and, I think, comes across quite rational. Probably much to NIDA's dismay. But we try to put things more in perspective: how addictive is cannabis? And putting it in perspective is what has to happen when we're talking about the public being able to, adults being able to use alcohol and/or tobacco should they choose, you put something like this, cannabis, the risk of dependence in comparison to the rest of them and, you know, it makes sense that this should be available for adults to choose to use.

Dean Becker: You were talking about those notables who have attended your conferences for Patients Out of Time and whose videos are online or soon will be and I want to remind folks that I also attended the 2008 Patients Out of Time conference and I was lucky. I had a chance to sit down with Dr. Donald Tashkin, the NIDA scientist. You know I demonize these guys in general but I found him to be knowledgeable and willing to talk about the need for nuanced change to our sanctions, if you will, and willing to talk about the fact that, yes, there's been a lot of propaganda over the years, it's time to reexamine and take a fresh look at this situation. Your thoughts?

Mary Lynn Mafre: Well, specifically with Dr. Tashkin, it was great to have him back. He was at our very first conference in 2000 and then graciously agreed to come again in 2008. And I think he's been really frustrated because his work, many time pieces of it were taken out of context to be used by the federal government to go with their scare claims of how dangerous it is to the respiratory system. He comes from UCLA and as a physician his studies have been on the pulmonary effects of smoking cannabis. And he puts it into perspective in looking at long term use, with people who just use cannabis or just use tobacco or use both or use none and to be able to put that into perspective. And, yeah, I think he clearly has seen how he's been used and he was very happy to speak at the conference.

Our request to him was to say 'please, tell people what you've learned from your studies.' Not to tell us the good or only the bad but just what have you learned. And that's, as a scientist, that's what he and many of these scientists, they just want to be able to say what they've found out, what they've discovered, as opposed to the usual problem in the United States for people getting, to be able to be funded to do studies, in fact, cannabis, marijuana, to be able to be allowed to do those studies and to get the funding they actually have to submit some kind of proposal to say that they're going to find, explore this negative problem.

For any of those who try to put in a proposal that I want to see how effective it is in treating some kind of medical problem -- that would be ignored. But by golly, if they're going to, you know, look at something that's causing problems. So granted, he was able to get a lot of funding because he was looking at the pulmonary effects and certainly the government thought 'Oh good. We'll get more data to show people how dangerous this drug is.' And, of course, when he really did long term studies on that, it's not panning out.

Dean Becker: In many instances his studies found that marijuana does not affect the respiratory system other than, perhaps, getting bronchitis from overuse. Would that be a fair assumption of his summary?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Exactly. Yes.

Dean Becker: Once again, we're speaking with Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre, one of the directors of Patients Out of Time. Their website, MedicalCannabis.com. Mary Lynn, we've got just a minute or two left here. I was wondering if you would kind of summarize what you have observed over the years and I'm talking about the public reception of the information you guys provide?

Mary Lynn Mathre: Well, I think it's been slow progress which is frustrating but the good news is it's been progress. We find that whenever we get an audience and especially on a local level, trying to find people to talk to who are, so to speak, not already in the choir. But to talk to people who don't really know that much about the subject and actually answer their questions, provide them with information, they readily see that this should be available for patients. And so over the years it certainly would seem polls taken about the public, the public seems to understand and recognize that cannabis does have therapeutic effects, it should be available.

Slowly but surely health care professional organizations are coming on board. But to even get our website updated more, there are more organizations to add to our list that we have up there of organizations that support cannabis. You know, several years back we got the American Nurses Association which had followed the American Public Health Association. And now, more recently, the American College of Physicians is to be added to that list so health care professionals are feeling, at least by their organizations, the strength in numbers, that the science clearly is there.

This medicine needs to be available to patients because of its potential benefits so they're coming forth and putting out resolutions. I'm really being hopeful that maybe with the election coming up we might have a new look at this. Very happy to say that, being in the state of Virginia now, our senator, Webb, who is getting publicity in various aspects, certainly he's got his thoughts about the Iraq War, but he's also looking at the war on drugs and recognizes that it's a losing battle.

If there's a problem with substance abuse, treatment is the answer. And I have a feeling that more and more politicians are kind of feeling that it is a safer tact to take, so to speak, the research is there to support them. So very, very slow road but it's looking better. More and more health care professionals speak about it. It's not whispered as much as it used to be among health care professionals. They actually will engage in dialog and mainstream organizations such as the American Pain Society have had these topics at their conferences. The battle will hopefully soon be over. And I think, again, it's just more people who understand this information and who can spread the word, the federal government just can't maintain the lies that they have for so long.

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It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!

Horrible side effects including death.

Time's up: The answer! From Pfizer Laboratories--Caduet for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
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Doug McVay: Disingenuous, thy name is Sedgwick

Jeffrey Sedgwick, head of the Justice Department's statistical reporting unit, agrees with George Will that incarceration is a good thing. As Sedgwick wrote in the Washington Post, "Experience suggests that shortened sentences and reduced supervision of offenders released from prison carry a higher cost" unquote than they do savings. Let's break that down to show just how Sedgwick and his ilk are misleading the public.

It's important to note that he's not entirely lying strictly speaking. In fact Sedgwick could simply have said that reduced supervision of offenders released from prison carries a high cost. In that, he would not only have been correct, he would have been intellectually honest -- which might be a first for him, but it would be rude to speculate about that so I'll go on.

Offender re-entry programs are vital components to any rational justice system. These are not perks for perps, that sort of attitude is short-sighted to say the least. Rather, they are investments in public safety. We the people are safer in our homes and on the streets when people who have once offended -- who do eventually get released -- do not re-offend.

Largely through drug courts, mental health courts, and restorative justice approaches, in the past decade we have rebuilt part of the probation system which was dismantled in the Reagan era. As a result we are a safer country. The only way forward is to continue these reforms, make treatment and other social services more widely available, and institute proven effective violence and substance abuse reduction and prevention programs. Moving in the direction of Will and Sedgwick can only mean stepping backwards into a more violent, unsafe society.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay, editor of Drug War Facts dot org.

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Terry Nelson: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, speaking on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

I read an AP article in the Houston Chronicle last week about a program called 'Texas Hold'em.' This is a program that strips the drivers license from anyone convicted of smuggling. At first glance it seems like a good idea. However, let's take a look at it from a long range viewpoint because the mentality is punishment and prohibition new means to deter, like 'Texas Hold'em', continue to surface. The results of these thoughtless policy additions has serious consequences but not just to the person convicted. So the driver is convicted, sentenced and stripped of his or her license, fine. He will not need the license unless it's to drive the prison bread truck across the yard.

But what about when he gets out of prison after completing his sentence? 'Texas Hold'em' is not a temporary suspension. Unfortunately, in America it is essential to have a valid drivers license to function as a productive member of society. So now the state has taken his means of making of living, what is he to do? Let's see. If he tries to get a job as a driver he has a felony conviction on his record and no commercial drivers license so he can't get legal work but the smugglers don't ask about felony records or licenses so he can go back to work for them with no questions asked.

So the very thing the state is trying to stop actually contributes to a bigger problem and becomes yet another consequence of the drug war that may or may not be intentional. The reality of it is that drugs are going to be smuggled as long as they are illegal and profitable. Cocaine from South America sells here at almost a 5,000 percent markup from the leaf on the bush in Colombia, Peru, or Bolivia. Alchemists the world over have been trying to turn a worthless substance into gold without success, when our prohibition has turned a worthless weed into something far more valuable than gold.

We at LEAP call for a system of education, regulation and control rather versus arrests and incarceration. And 'Texas Hold'em.' We think it is a far more human approach to our drug problem. As current and former officers we know that legalization will drastically reduce the crime and violence surrounding drug smuggling. And we believe that if we attack our drug problem with credible education we can finally conclude the war on drugs. Let's spend the money on education and treatment instead of incarceration. We all want a better future for ourselves and our children.

This is Terry Nelson for LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, signing off.

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Dean Becker: Poppygate. Bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway.

Glenn Greenway: Today, police in Wilmington, North Carolina, announced a bust involving three ounces of pure heroin, said to be worth $140,000 dollars.

Using police figures on estimated street value is known to be somewhat less than reliable. However, using these figures it may be calculated that the total value of last year's Afghanistan's record smashing heroin harvest was more than one and a third trillion dollars. If, as the police reported, each ounce was expected to be broken up into 2,300 doses then last year Afghanistan produced about 70 billion individual hits of heroin, somewhat over ten hits for every man, woman and child on Earth.

One and a third trillion dollars is a huge amount of money but of this the poppy farmers of Afghanistan earn less than one penny on the dollar. Yet it is the Afghan poppy farmer who is conveniently used as the reason the U.S. effectively protects the production and sale of their narcotics. It is argued by Western policy makers that disrupting the illegal trade will send the poor farmers rushing to the embrace of the Taliban and other insurgent groups within the war-ravished country.

Reports continue to surface that debt-ridden Afghan poppy farmers are selling their often pre-adolescent daughters. The BBC this week offered a heart breaking story regarding a six-year-old sold to ease her father's debt.

In America's client narco-state where female literacy is only 10% and injecting drug use has become rampant it's truly terrifying that out of 122 female sex workers interviewed by the German aid group Ora International only one knew about AIDS or condoms.

This is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.

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Dean Becker: The following story comes to us courtesy of Newsday.

Western nations have told Iran that they could cut off any new help to Iran's anti-drug units unless the Islamic regime halts uranium enrichment which Washington and its allies worry could be used to develop nuclear arms. 'A heroin tsunami could hit Europe if the drug interdiction by Iran is weakened', warned Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Robert Arbitrio, head of the UN Drugs and Crime office in Iran said the war on drugs should be viewed as a 'non-political area of mutual interest.'

Be sure to check out this week's Century of Lies which features an interview with Warden Rich Watkins of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And as always I remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

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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.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net