Cultural Baggage / September 12, 2010
Reporting on the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference in Portland, Oregon from the World Famous Cannabis Café, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth about the Drug War.
We’re outside of the World Famous Cannabis Café in Portland, Oregon. I’m here with one of the directors. Will you introduced yourself and tell us about the work you do, Madelyn?
Madelyn Martinez: Well, I’m Madelyn Martinez and I’m Executive Director of Oregon NORML. I‘m on the board of NORML and I’m also the owner and founder of the Cannabis Café.
Dean Becker: A lot of folks from around the country to see how it’s done in Oregon. Tell us about the pluses and minuses. How is this working out for you?
Madelyn Martinez: It’s working out quite nicely. I’ve always wanted a place out of public view for our patients to medicate so they wouldn’t be isolated. One of the problems of being a disabled person is that, many times, you live in isolation, especially if you’re a medical marijuana patient. It’s not publicly accepted and you can’t medicate in public view. So, we needed a place of our own.
Dean Becker: Now, it’s not that similar, really, to the situation in California with the dispensary model, if you will. Here it works quite differently. Would you describe it for us real briefly for us please?
Madelyn Martinez: For us here it is never an exchange for consideration. We do charge a door fee. It’s an everyday use fee of $5. If you want to be a sponsor of the café, then you pay $20 a month plus the door fee of the $5. If you want to just have a day pass, with an OMNP card, you pay $10 at the door for a day pass.
What we do is we pay for our overhead. It’s quite expensive to lease this type of a building but we always give medicine away. We never exchange it for money.
Dean Becker: It seems to me that there were several folks that were trying some very powerful cannabis products, mixing and mingling. What dangers or what problems have arisen from that high use?
Madelyn Martinez: There really hasn’t been any problems. One gentleman, actually a patient, consumed a little too much cannabis so I felt he was impaired. We sent him home in a taxi and he was fine.
We don’t mix alcohol here. It’s straight cannabis. We have tincture, we have hash and we have medical.
Dean Becker: In general then, what you are saying is that on an ongoing basis, year in and year out, the problem is quite minor.
Madelyn Martinez: Oh, it is, definitely. We’ve had a dozen years of medical marijuana and there are no huge increases in problems that involve cannabis consumers at any level. More drunk driving seems to be an issue in the state of Oregon and unfortunately, even though that’s a regulated market, there’s so much danger with children and juveniles, drinking and driving and just people in general with DWIs all over the state.
Dean Becker: Once again, we’re here at the World Famous Cannabis Café with Madelyn Martinez. We’re talking to her about her establishment here, her organization’s establishment and the progress thereof. Now, I want to ask you a question that’s just bugging the crap out of me.
Madelyn Martinez: Sure.
Dean Becker: These politicians are now saying, “Well, you can’t legalize it and you can’t test for it. There’s no way to know if these people are high.” To me, that is the most preposterous framing of this issue that could possibly be. If you can’t tell that they’re high… well, anyway, you see where I’m going with that.
Madelyn Martinez: Yes, I do. Well, I think that’s it’s high time that we develop an impairment test and utilize that rather then the urinalysis that only shows that you are no longer impaired on cannabis an the science is there. The studies have been done. It’s just more bureaucracy and excuse my language, but more bullsh*t from the government because they want to continue the lie.
The corporations will not allow us to legalize marijuana because they are worried about hemp and the petrochemical companies. We know the argument. It just goes on and on and on. What we have to do is cut through all of that bullsh*t and just move forward. If people would just put the joint down and step away from their bong, just a little while and send a fax, make a phone call and send a letter or a postcard.
It’s 44¢ to allow someone to hear your opinion and – guess what? – your opinion matters becasue you do not have to sit home and take it. If you do, shame on you. We’re government, all of us. It takes all of us to and we should be electing people who are cannabis consumers. That’s what I’m telling people now.
I’m telling college kids, “Start your run for office now. Get ready. Get out there and let’s change this once and for all”
Dean Becker: Next, from the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, The Chairman of the Board of the National Reform of Marijuana Laws, Mr. Steve Dillan. Now, Steve, once again, It’s a day of enlightenment. It’s a day of movement. It’s a day of just saying “now”, isn’t it?
Steve Dillan: I agree with you. The momentum has shifted in this country and I’m trying to point out the fact that it just is the time – it is the time to say now, a time for action.
I mentioned that it’s like a big boulder on the edge of a big cliff and just it’s ready to be pushed over the edge but it’s going to take a little bit of action, a little bit of momentum and that’s what I’m urging people to do.
Take that extra step to get their congressman, their senator, their local representatives to get involved with this change is coming and I just never felt more likely that something good is going to happen with the marijuana movement in the near future.
Dean Becker: I like to call it the mashed potato moment, if you’ll bear with me, think of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind and they’re building representations of – what is it – Devil’s Peak out of mashed potatoes and landscapes in the living room and so forth. People see this on the horizon but it’s time to move towards our objective and work together, right?
Steve Dillan: Absolutely. You know, you can have a good idea but unless you take action on it, it doesn’t get anywhere. Eleanor Roosevelt talked about believing that peace was good and thinking about peace was good but unless you did something to make it happen, it really didn’t really mean anything. In religious training, in some religious they they talk about how you can have faith but if you don’t have any action with it, you don’t get anywhere, that faith without action is dead.
We talk about how if we want freedom, it’s not a gift from God. If you want freedom, you must work for it everyday. That’s what Simon Wiesenthal told us and all of these people are instructive and telling us that we have to take action. Margaret Mead pointed out that, a group – a small group of committed thoughtful people can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
Again, you have to be thoughtful, committed and take action. So, what I am urging people to do is that we can’t take this for granted. I think we’re at a very good moment in our history. The majority of the people in this country know that marijuana should be legal. The majority people in all age groups and races and political parties believe that there ought to be medical marijuana. The majority of the people in this country think it’s no longer feasible to spend our hundreds of billions, I guess now, it’s a trillion dollars to prosecute people on non-violent drug offenses in this country, when we have other financial needs. I just think the time is now for change and I believe it’s going to happen.
When I hear people like Representative Blumenauer this morning give a rousing speech for change in marijuana laws on a federal level, I’m encouraged. We’re going to hear from former Republican Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, tomorrow – or Friday. Here at our conference, a Republican, we have people from all parties coming together politically. I think the politicians are no longer afraid to feel like they won’t get re-elected if they talk about marijuana reform in many parts of this country.
I just think the time is now. Some of the people fighting Prop 19 and legalization of marijuana in California use racial fear, that somehow this would increase illegal immigration or increase violence and they try and play on people’s fears.
You know the facts have been shown by government studies and numerous other studies that the use of marijuana alone just never leads to increased violence. Now, trying to control, something that is uncontrollable leads to violence. So, that’s the prohibition we’re talking about.
The prohibition leads to violence. So, if we eliminate the prohibition against marijuana, if we legalize marijuana, a lot of this violence with gangs and Mexican stuff would subside to a great extent. They would lose a lot of profitability, if people could produce their own marijuana legally, cheaply and easily. In California, there wouldn’t need to be trafficking and organized gangs to grow marijuana. I think we would eliminate a lot of the violence by eliminating the prohibition.
The idea of driving under the influence of marijuana is interesting. I’ve been a lawyer for thirty-seven years. I’ve done thousands of drunk driving cases and I’ve always – there’s a standard.
There’s a difference in Indiana between drunk driving and driving under the influence of marijuana. THC metabolizes in your urine, which by law in Indiana means you’re impaired. Even if you smoked a joint once at the beginning of the month and you do a urine test at the end of the month and you test positive with five nanograms in your system. Under Indian law, you’re intoxicated or impaired and you lose your license for a minimum period of time. If they charge you with marijuana possession in your car, you lose your license for a minimum of six months and can’t drive.
A drunk driver in Indiana under alcohol can get their license within thirty days, to and from and during work which wouldn’t be possible for a marijuana possession conviction and the course measuring Delta 9 THC metabolized in your urine, weeks after you smoke is certainly no valid scientific or legal test for impairment, which is what you are trying to do to protect the public on the highways. So, the whole thing is ridiculous to me. Of course, in Indiana if you have a prior marijuana conviction from any time in your life, you face a felony and three years in prison on your second offense.
However, to be guilty of a felony drunk driving case they can only charge you within a five-year period. It’s just astounding the differences in just some of the laws are more lenient for alcohol, which is clearly dangerous, than marijuana, which is clearly not as dangerous.
Dean Becker: I’m with the Executive Director of the Harborside Health Center, based originally in Oakland, California. Mr. Steve DeAngelo, hello sir.
Steve DeAngelo: Hi, Dean. Nice to be with you again.
Dean Becker: Steve, I’m impressed. I’m thrilled and I’m hopeful of what I am seeing and hearing here at this NORML conference. Your response?
Steve DeAngelo: It’s always inspiring to me, to get together with my fellow activists to hear what’s been going on, to hear about their victories and to hear about their challenges. To hear about their lessons and to share the same with them and draw strength from each other’s example so this is no exception. From the moment you walk into the room it crackles with energy and the spirit of reunion and moving forward.
I think it’s a very hopeful time and I think it’s a great time for us all to be getting together.
Dean Becker: Yeah, there is much awareness, I think, much enhanced focus, however you want to say it. That people are looking at this whole policy of drug prohibition and to analyze the results, kind of find it lacking. Your thoughts?
Steve DeAngelo: We are seeing how change happens and it builds up frequently – the pressure for change builds up, unseen apparently, for a long time until you reach that critical tipping point and that’s where we are now. So, I think that we’ve shown that this movement can win and is winning and winning starts to generate it’s own sense of momentum and excitement and feed on itself.
There was a time when the cannabis reform movement was a very sexy and cool and glamorous movement to be a part of. For many, many years that wasn’t true but I think we’re seeing a resurrection of that kind of excitement and that kind of glamour. So, it’s a very welcome change.
Dean Becker: So, the Harborside Health Center, as I said, based originally in Oakland, California has grown a bit and has shown through safe procedures and by taking care of business under the law that there’s nothing to be feared from that expansion, right?
Steve DeAngelo: No, hopefully. The reason that we started in Harborside, we started almost four years ago now, was to demonstrate to both prospective and existing dispensary operators and our fellow citizens that cannabis could really be distributed in a way that was safe, seemly and responsible and in a way that brought positive community – positive benefits to communities rather than negative that harms communities and that’s what we set out to do. I think that in large part, we have accomplished what we set out to do. Hopefully in doing that we’ve made it more possible for people to open dispensaries in other places.
Hopefully, we have been able to establish in the public mind that there’s a right way and a right way – a right way and a wrong way to distribute cannabis and I think it makes it possible for people to go to their regulating authorities and advocate for that positive model.
Dean Becker: Earlier today, I spoke with Kris Krain, working with Can-B, kind of an offshoot, I’m guessing of the efforts of the Harborside to do just that, to bring better more better security and implementation of these marijuana laws, right?
Steve DeAngelo: Well, yeah, as Harborside grew and matured and it became clear that the model that we’d set to build, we had really accomplished and had resonated throughout the community. More and more people came to me asking for advice and asking for assistance in bringing the Harborside Model to their communities.
As I started thinking abut the different ways that I could take the Harborside model out to the wider world. I early on decided that I didn’t want to pursue a chain store model. I hate chain stores. I hate the way they treat their employees. I hate the way that they buy their products. I hate the way that they have their costumer experience. There’s nothing that I like about chain stores. So, that’s what I knew that I didn’t want to do.
I didn’t want to set up a hundred Harborsides all across the state. What I decided was the appropriate approach was to build an organization of the most talented medical cannabis professionals that I could find anywhere, that would go into local communities and help local folks implement the same type of best practices model that we’d pioneered.
So, I really believe in local ownership and local role and the role of Can-B is to help folks in their communities learn how to implement this best practices model.
Dean Becker: Steve, I come from Texas. We have no medical laws and no sensible drug laws whatsoever but the point of it is that even there, what goes on in California is resonating. Our papers, our broadcasters are carrying the thought that this Prop 19 stands a chance. I hear the polls are close, but what’s your thought? Is it something that will resonate? Will it draw enough young voters out? What is your sense for that ballot initiative?
Steve DeAngelo: My sense is that it’s close and what that means is that all of us need to pull together whatever our past differences may have been about Proposition 19. The entire community needs to pull together. We need to put all of our energy into making sure that it passes and that it passes by as large a margin of victory as possible. That means digging into our pocket books, that means volunteering for the campaign, that means that making sure that on Election Day we vote and all of our neighbors vote and all of our friends and all of our family votes. That’s what will get Prop 19 passed. We can do it but we need to be real about it and we need to start working hard.
Dean Becker: Well, folks if you’re out there listening and you want to more about a safe sensible and common sense way to deal with cannabis, I urge you to go to the website Harborside, that site sir?
Steve DeAngelo: It is harborsidehealthcenter.com
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By It’s Side Effects
Unexplained rapid weight gain, trouble breathing, unusual fatigue, fast pounding heartbeat, changes in menstrual cycle, dark urine, persistent nausea, vomiting, chills, cold sweats, dizziness, drowsiness, shaking and confusion and fruity breath odor.
The answer: Avandia for diabetics. Approved by the FDA.
Alright, I’m here at the NORML conference in Portland, Oragon. I’m here with David Bienenstock, editor of High Times magazine. I ran into a little flier sitting on the smoker’s table, if you will, Cannex, medical marijuana locator. Tell me about it, David.
David Bienenstock: This is a new app from High Times that, like it says, it will help you locate medical cannabis. It works with all the different smart phones so it, like many of the apps, it knows where you are. We have hundreds and hundreds of new ones every week of dispensaries and collectives, so you can find the medicine that’s close to you.
With a lot of them, you can look through their menu. You can see what strains are available. You can see at what prices and you can even read reviews of the various dispensaries. So, it’s really a tool that’s going to empower patients and also allow the dispensaries and the collectives to serve them better.
So, I think it’s going to be something that can help both ends. It’s at hightimes/app – hightimes.com/app and it’s totally free for the patient, so this is something you can get on your phone and you’ll never have to pay anything for and it can really, hopefully help people.
Dean Becker: Well, just a couple of days ago, Mr. Mark Emery was formally sentenced to five years for his attempt, as he says, “overgrow” the government and now, it’s up to the rest of us to do the same. To just show them legitimacy works.
David Bienenstock: Yeah and I think apps like this can only help to continue to legitimize this and can really – giving the patent the ability to comparison shop is a huge benefit to the patient who may know, “I want this specific kind of strain” or “I’m on this budget” or may not be aware of all the options that they have in their area. I think that it can only help to continue to legitimize this and so we’re very happy. It’s hightimes.com/app and it’s called “Cannex” and it’s free. So, I encourage you to check it out.
John Walker: Hi, I’m John Walker, I’m a writer for firedoglake.com. We are working with Students for Sensible Drug Policy on the “Just Say Now” campaign, which is a campaign to legalize marijuana, using manily direct democracy and things like ballot initiatives.
Dean Becker: Just last week, we did an interview with Mr. Aaron Houston from Students for Sensible Drug Policy. This is a sensitive issue which seems to be catching the nation’s if not the world’s attention, the potential for adults to use marijuana legally in California. Your thoughts and the response you’ve gotten so far from your involvement.
John Walker: The response – we are a progressive website mainly. The response from the community has been overwhelming. 97% of our readers support marijuana legalization. The support amongst Progressives is very high. The polling I’ve seen it’s something like 75-80%. It’s definitely an issue that gets completely ignored by mainly almost all the Democratic leaders and elected officials.
The actual base – the hardcore base – the people who do the volunteering, the fund raising, they all support it overwhelmingly. We’re now starting to see a real shift in dynamic and I think the debate has already spread from California to Mexico.
I think when we put it on the ballot in more states in 2012, we’ll start opening up a real national debate about it. I think that the more you talk about the issue, the more people who are at more of a default setting against marijuana legalization will realize that there just isn’t a good argument on the other side and there’s a great argument for legalizing it.
Dean Becker: It seems to me that we have seen an awakening of even certain programs on the FOX network. Their hosts are starting to sound like they are members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s gaining traction across the board, is it not?
John Walker: Oh yeah. It’s tough to run on sort of this Tea Party message of big government is trying to mess with you life and make you buy health insurance while the same time saying, “Oh, we’re going to throw you in prison for smoking a plant.”
It has sort of an intellectual disconnect and I think a lot of people on the right are concerned – in the Republican Party at least – that they’re going to wake up one day and just be a party of angry old white people and a bunch of young people are going to be like, “You don’t support gay marriage. You don’t support smoking marijuana. These are thing we care about and it just seems silly. Like why are you imposing this moralism on us?”
The economic argument is rising up against – in the Republican Party. The Libertarian low tax, low government argument is starting to become more prominent and the religious, moralist’s side is starting to get less prominent.
So, I think you’re starting to see more parts in the right, in the Libertarian wing of the party are supporting the legalization and are moving in that direction and sort of toying around with it. I think we just sort of have to have the floodwalls break. There sort of needs to be an “emperor has no clothes” moment. I think it’s coming within this decade, at least, if not sooner.
Dean Becker: There was the situation, after Obama was elected and the polls were conducted and people said that the main item that should be on the agenda of this new administration dealt with the subject of marijuana. Six out of the top ten questions said as much and then Obama laughed at it. Do you think the Democrats ignore this at their own peril?
John Walker: I think very much so, I think there is – Gary Johnson is sort of looking at a possible Republican run for President. IT would be – Personally, as a Progressive, I think it would be tragic for the Democrats to lose ground on this but there’s only what, maybe five members or Congress who are Democrats that actually support legalization, even though the base is probably 65% in support of it? There really is a great disconnect.
If they really don’t start coming around to it, at least a significant portion of them starts coming around to it, it could really do long term damage to them. I don’t know how Diane Feinstein is going to hope to turn out young people two years from now after leading – not just being against marijuana legalization but doing everything she can to crush Prop 19. I think it’s a huge tactical error on there part.
Hopefully, they’ll start coming around to it. I know the response we’ve gotten on the internet is great. When we write stories about Prop 19, about marijuana legalization, they just get so many more hits than the other stories that we write about in politics. There’s a lot of energy out there and to fight against it, it just seems like a politically bad idea.
Dean Becker: Ok, your website?
John Walker: Firedoglake.com and the campaign is “Just say now.” So, go to justsaynow.com
Dean Becker: I’m here with Steff Sherrer the Head of Americans for Safe Access and just all around expert on marijuana and how we might better protect ourselves and our children through regulation, right Steff?
Steff Sherrer: Absolutely. (laughs)
Dean Becker: Well, there we go. Interview’s over… No, now tell me why that’s true?
Steff Sherrer: Well, I think that our organization works exclusively on medical marijuana issues but obviously there’s overlaps between our two issues which are recreational use and the medical use and the biggest overlaps are common enemies. Meaning, those who want to see the Drug War in place.
I think that as activists we’re looking at changing the policies around the Drug War. Then you have to really explain to the American people what’s going to come in it’s place. How we are going to deal with the issue of drugs in this country?
I think the one thing that drug policy advocates often don’t get is that not everybody has a good experience with drugs. Many people, if you’re talking about marijuana, they saw their children starting using marijuana and they changed. Even though they were probably just becoming teenagers and changing. They have an emotional feeling about marijuana, about how it affects people.
People who had boyfriends in college that wouldn’t go get a job that smoked pot. They associate pot with that behavior. I think that it’s a real challenge for the legalization movement that they actually really need to address, where the nation is and how they feel about this drug and work on policies and campaigns to bring people to a new solution instead of just locking up millions of Americans.
Dean Becker: We see efforts all across this country to change their laws, to influence their politicians, to at least speak of the need for change. That’s starting to happen at a faster and faster rate, is it not?
Steff Sherrer: I think on the issue that I work on, medical marijuana, there are definitely dramatic changes, where we’ve actually I think, turned a corner. When I started ASA, we spent most of our time trying to convince people that marijuana is medicine. Now, most of the work we do is, figuring out how to regulate that medicine to get it to people, which is a huge, huge swing.
Dean Becker: Ok, once again we’re speaking to Steff Sherrer with Americans for Safe Access. Steff, point them to your website, please.
Steff Sherrer: Our website is: americansforsafeaccess.org
Tristan Reisfar: I’m Tristan Reisfar for station KPOV in Bend, Oregon. I have a show there called Citizen Alert and the things that we learned about early on in the radio station’s history is, I discovered the Drug Truth Networks, found little bits and pieces that I liked. I found that three minutes was just sweet for what we’re looking for. I started playing that and I wasn’t really sure exactly how people would take it at first. I think the very first comment I got was a negative comment from somebody and I just said, “Well, you don’t have to listen but we’re going to play it because it is something that people need to hear out there. We need to make this a conversation that’s comfortable for people.”
Pretty soon, people picked up on the fact that I was playing this little “Drug News” alternative bit every Thursday, Friday and Wednesday afternoons. Every once in a while I wouldn’t have time. I wasn’t paying attention to my live show time. It’s like, “Oh, we don’t have time to get the Drug Truth Network in today” and here was the lesson I learned.
People would call me up and say, “Tristan, why didn’t you play the 420 Drug War News today?” So, now, I’ve learned my lesson. It’s what our people want to hear. They want to hear this alternative and I ensure that we never miss a 420 Drug War News, if at all possible.
Dean Becker: Well, that’s about all we have time for. Please, be sure to check out this week’s Century of Lies, which features an interview with Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico. As I always, I remind you, because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
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.