01/27/13 Mitch Earleywine

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Dr. Mitch Earlywine re cannabis research, Atty Joe Elford of Americans for Safe Access to cannabis

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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / January 27, 2013

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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!”

DEAN BECKER: 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.

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DEAN BECKER: One century ago ignorant charlatans set in place a prohibition against certain plants and plant products. Since then more than 40 million U.S. citizens have been caged for minor amounts of drugs. More than 1 trillion dollars has been invested in trying to stop the flow of drugs. Over the same timeframe terrorists, barbarous Latin cartels and more than 30,000 violent U.S. gangs have reaped more than 10 trillion dollars in profits. Yet drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available to our children than ever before.

Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m Dean Becker and joining us now is a medical marijuana expert. I want to welcome Dr. Mitch Earlywine. Mitch, how are you doing?

MITCH EARLYWINE: Pleasure being on the show, Dean. Thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: It seems the battle is being won. It’s certainly not over but we’re certainly accumulating more personnel, more forces on our side every day, aren’t we?

MITCH EARLYWINE: Absolutely and it’s been a long, hard haul. The first medical laws in California in 96 seem an awful long time ago but to have 2 states that have voted for legalization in 2012 certainly feels like the momentum is going in the right direction. I just want to encourage everybody to get on board.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is newspapers across the country, broadcasters across the country, politicians across the country are starting to join forces with us. Are they not?

MITCH EARLYWINE: I think what’s happened, too, is it’s dawning on politicians that this is really safe. This is not the third rail that they once thought it was. This is a wonderful way to keep folks out of jail, to keep our clogged court systems from getting overwhelmed and to just treat each other like humanity ought to treat each other. That’s, I think, a step in the right direction.

DEAN BECKER: Yesterday or the day before the LA Times had an editorial that basically called the DEA childish children. They won’t recognize the science in regards to marijuana that’s been brought forward and then they deny any further studies into it. It’s a real conundrum isn’t it?

MITCH EARLYWINE: It’s kind of reminiscent of Mike Gray’s book, Drug Crazy, where once the cannabis laws change you start to realize the number of hard drug users in the United States isn’t all that large and then it’s kind of hard to justify an enormous budget for the DEA if, in truth, the magnitude of the drug problem isn’t as large as they say and that approach isn’t the way to go. We could imagine a wonderful world where all that money essentially went to treatment and suddenly we’re treating this as a health problem instead of kind of a legal way to put people we don’t like in jail.

DEAN BECKER: Recently I had a gentleman on to talk about the accumulation of more than 700 studies which have been conducted on medical marijuana and not one of them was all that negative, most of them quite positive. I guess what the DEA was demanding is that somebody invest…what does it cost to bring a drug to trial? 100 million?

MITCH EARLYWINE: It’s sad but true. It can approach that. When my book “Understanding Marijuana” came out in 2002 I had 550 studies. You’d think that would have been enough. Unfortunately no drug company is going to invest that or it’s extremely unlikely just because why would they do that when it’s a plant we can all be growing in our backyards.

So it’s this oddball “catch 22” where if you don’t have the data you can’t have the marijuana but if you don’t have anybody to invest in medical marijuana then you’ll never have the data.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’re speaking with Dr. Mitch Earlywine.

Mitch, the fact is there are major players who have gotten involved in the cannabis industry. I’m not talking about all the dispensaries and the food makers and all the folks out there on the West Coast. I’m talking about a major player aligned with Bayer Pharmaceuticals – one GW Pharmacy that has put out a product called Sativex which is half THC and half cannabinoids. Talk about that situation, Mitch.

MITCH EARLYWINE: GW Pharmaceuticals started over in the United Kingdom and they’re basically doing their best to make cannabinoid medicine as accessible as possible. They have a spray that essentially goes in a patient’s mouth. It has cannabidiol and THC in various concentrations. They have really compelling data that suggests that it’s superb for spasticity associated with MS and certain spinal cord injuries. It’s wonderful for insomnia. It seems to be ideal at the appropriate dosage for pain.

The funny thing is, though, all of these findings should generalize to the plant so in some ways it seems like they’re making as good an argument for medical marijuana as they are for the Sativex itself.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve heard it said that if THC…they have Marinol or the GW product Sativex. If that’s legal then it’s like comparing orange juice being legal and oranges being against the law. Your thoughts, sir.

MITCH EARLYWINE: I think that’s a reasonable way to think about it. In fact I know people are concerned about respiratory irritation that comes from smoking cannabis but 2 papers out of my lab show that with the vaporizer you can certainly use cannabis without any respiratory irritation. Those long-term data gathered by Tashkin out at UCLA suggests that there really is no elevated risk for lung cancer for folks who smoke cannabis and only smoke cannabis.

All in all there aren’t really any big concerns about this. The edibles created either through tincture or some of the notorious cookies and brownies and things like that actually have no respiratory effect whatsoever because there’s obviously nothing inhaled.

DEAN BECKER: I caught an extract the other day…I don’t know if it what audio or video. Somebody was talking about legal marijuana in one of the states. Gosh, there must be 6, 8 or 10 that are considering it at this point. One gentleman responded, “Legal marijuana. What’s next? Legal cocaine? Legal heroin?”

The fact of the matter is you substitute morphine instead of heroin there is legal cocaine. There is legal morphine. We’re just looking for a chance for a doctor to legitimately recommend or prescribe this to a patient, right?

MITCH EARLYWINE: This is hardly a big deal when you think about the things that are available for prescription now. So despite what everybody thinks cocaine is a Schedule II drug and marijuana is a Schedule I drug meaning cocaine has approved medical uses as part of eye surgery and a few other procedures so pharmaceutical cocaine is actually something that exists but pharmaceutical marijuana does not at the federal level?! That’s just absurd.

Obviously morphine is as strong an opiate as anything we’ve pretty much ever seen. Adderal which is prescribed to little bitty kids is basically speed. The fact that we can trust a physician and a patient to discuss drugs like this and not cannabis. The irony of that is just too painful.

DEAN BECKER: It brings to mind…let’s talk a little bit about Oxycontin and all the codienes and the Xanax and all these downer type pills that people take for anxiety, pain and what have you. The fact of the matter is it has been demonstrated time after time that if a person uses medical cannabis in combination with these other more dangerous, debilitating drugs it helps to cut down on the number of those pills with just a little bit of cannabis. Your thoughts, sir?

MITCH EARLYWINE: In fact it’s an ideal adjunct to these opiate drugs. So Oxycontin and Codeine and things like that where you really do develop tolerance very rapidly and they have some cumbersome side effects that people don’t like to talk about and the withdrawal from them is very genuine whereas combining that with cannabis means the dosage stays lower, the rate of toxin development is markedly lower and you don’t have these adversive side effects. Suddenly not only are you saving your HMO money but you’re saving human life. You’re really saving the quality of human life for these individuals who were often really suffering in ways that it’s hard to imagine if you’ve never experienced chronic pain.

DEAN BECKER: At the best I guess it’s the fulfillment of life that they have been denied through these pills which keeps them in their chair, in their bed at home whereas if they can cut down on the number of those more debilitating pills with a little bit of cannabis they can get out. They can visit friends. They can have a life, right?

MITCH EARLYWINE: In fact that quality of life is the key issue. It’s not that we just want to prolong someone’s life while they’re suffering. We really want to make the time…all of us are on earth as productive and as enjoyable as possible. Cannabis is not the cure to all that ails humanity. It is, however, really ideal for AIDS-related wasting, cancer chemotherapy-related nausea, any kind of appetite suppression problems and all these big issues with pain that we’ve been discussing.

So, by all means, let’s make sure that this is available in that armament of all the different tools we have in medicine.

DEAN BECKER: It’s always been an opportunity, if you will, to demonize a certain subset of the population and this is obviously true in the way that it has panned out in so far as who’s arrested, who’s jailed, who’s convicted and who’s sitting in prison. The black and Hispanic communities have been pounded by this perception, this way of going about things, haven’t they?

MITCH EARLYWINE: It’s sad but true. Harry Levine looked at some of the early arrest records from New York City and saw some really indefensible bias when it came to the rates of use versus the rates of arrests for people of color. It’s been really a stain on the soul of America. It’s really a kind of embarrassment that we have to look back on our history and see this. But this is our big chance to turn this around.

I want to emphasize, too, for folks who are considering supporting KPFT. It’s not like you’re asking for a million dollars here. If everybody would just call up and throw in a little it would do the trick.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed, indeed.

You were talking about New York a minute ago. New York City, in particular, may be doing unconstitutional things is what the latest news seems to indicate. They have arrested millions of people. They’ve stopped some 500,000 per year – stop and frisk and look for that little bag of weed so they can take them to Rikers Island for a couple days and the state can make some money. Your thought there, sir.

MITCH EARLYWINE: It’s sad but true. Harry Levine who’s in sociology down at Queens College interviewed these police officers and they were pretty candid about it. “If it’s the end of your shift and you want to get a couple hours of overtime you don’t necessarily want to bring in some homeless indigent person who’s going to smell bad, who might be dangerous, who might be carrying a knife or something like that when you can find someone who might have less than an eighth in a pocket, who’s obviously going to be well-behaved, certainly recently bathed and easy to drag down, fingerprint and basically burn a couple of hours.”

The irony is the prosecuting attorney is probably not even going to bother with that case so the city ends up spending all this money essentially for nothing. It’s really just a waste of our resources. Meanwhile that police officer is off the streets when he or she could be out there preventing some serious, realistic crime.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, stop a little bit of violence. Leave the peaceful pot heads alone.

We have a situation here. We just elected a new District Attorney who wants to return to the days of old. When they find empty bags in a room (I’m talking about cocaine or heroin where there’s a little bit in the corner) he wants to arrest those people. He wants to drag them to jail. He wants to drag them through the process. Maybe get them to plead guilty before the hearing which would show that there wasn’t enough there to test it in the first place. That’s going to take us back to the time when we were unconstitutionally overcrowded, where we’ve got busloads of prisoners moving every day from our jail to rented jails in Louisiana and elsewhere. It is such a squandering of our treasury isn’t it?

DEAN BECKER: It’s truly fiscally irresponsible. If you think about what you really want law enforcement out there doing this is not our target at all. I would be much safer, literally safer, if those law enforcement officers were taking those folks who are the most dangerous and really focusing on them instead of wondering if perhaps some baggy might or might not have had a certain amount of some illicit substance in it. It’s just a sad way to use what really is a limited resource.

DEAN BECKER: I can’t remember who it was. I think it was somebody in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who made a quote and I’ve used it and I’ve seen it elsewhere since that point and time. “If you believe in the drug war you don’t believe in public safety.”

We are speaking to Dr. Mitch Earlywine. Mitch, I don’t have my notes. What is the book that you wrote?

MITCH EARLYWINE: I wrote a book called “Understanding Marijuana.” It’s published by Oxford University Press. I have another one called “The Parent’s Guide to Marijuana” which is published by Trans High Corporation. As an aside I have a book called “Humor 101” which is not about the drug war but just about yukking it up and laughing.

DEAN BECKER: I’m trying to finish up my book. It’s going to be a 2-side one. One side is going to be called “Stoned Poker” and the other one is “Drug Induced Frenzy.” It’s going to be fun and games on one side and the other is hopefully a guide for politicians, the press and public on how to end this drug war.

MITCH EARLYWINE: I’m looking forward to that, Dean. That sounds great.

DEAN BECKER: We’re getting there. I wanted to report to you. I just came into this studio. I left the HMS TV studio today. We produced my first television program. It will be airing sometime this week. It will be a one hour, weekly show with the sole objective of reporting on the drug war.

MITCH EARLYWINE: The transition to video is always fun and I hope everybody will tune in just so they can finally put a face with the voices.

DEAN BECKER: Well…I got a face made for radio but let’s hope it works anyway.

Mitch, we’re going to have to wrap it up here in a few minutes. I wanted to ask you what are some hot buttons that maybe I haven’t touched on. What would you like to talk about?

MITCH EARLYWINE: Well, it’s interesting because we keep seeing the media perseverate on this idea that cannabis is somehow going to create mental illness in folks. I, of course, don’t say that it is a good idea to use cannabis if your brain hasn’t fully developed, you’re too young to really make good decisions on that sort of thing or if you’re suffering from a psychotic disorder cannabis is not the plant for you.

But this bell ringing and alarmist focus on the idea that marijuana produces schizophrenia in non-schizophrenics is just really inconsistent with the data and I hope folks when they read those types of newsletters or see things like that on the web really interpret them with a big grain of salt because it’s just not the case at all.

If you look at rates of schizophrenia across the United States across all of history they’re completely independent of what cannabis use was in the same eras and in eras previously. If you look across different countries the base rate of schizophrenia are pretty much all just a little under 1% whether it’s Jamaica or Singapore where people can go to jail forever for cannabis. I just want folks to really use their heads when they’re making those kinds of decisions.

This assumption that marijuana is going to produce lung cancer which I’m still hearing and still occasionally see in print. We now have one of the best long-term data sets ever by Don Tashkin at UCLA with over 20 years follow up now that shows that cannabis is clearly not creating lung cancer in folks who smoke cannabis and only cannabis. Bob Melamede actually walked through the pharmacology on that. It’s pretty obvious that THC is completely unlike nicotine when it comes to the creation of tumors in the lungs.

Then I thought this would have died by now but it just hasn’t and that’s this idea that marijuana is supposed to increase violence or aggression somehow. Anyone who has ever used it has to find that kind of laughable but it does seem to come up. The original studies were done back in the 70s. Folks who smoke placebo or real cannabis and then had some stooge come into the lab who was working with the experimenter try to irritate them. It was the folks in the placebo group who got more angry and hostile not the folks who used cannabis and I think they were just disappointed that they got the placebo.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier you mentioned the fact that the amount of hard drug users would be so small that if marijuana were legalized that it would take away the DEA’s reason for existence. I think that’s true. I can’t remember who it way – Center for Disease Control or somebody – put together a report that showed the level of addiction in the United States has, since the Civil War, remained right at 1.5%. It is a pipe dream. It is a scam isn’t it?

MITCH EARLYWINE: It’s funny because now with the new DSM5 coming up and the changes in the idea of what is dependence and what is abuse and what is the addiction syndrome – yes, those percentages do seem to change. But the bottom line really is the harms caused by cannabis are certainly really, really minor and the percentage of folks who run into trouble with the plant is really small and certainly not enough to justify putting anybody in jail for owning what is essentially hay.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Dr. Mitch Earlywine. Doctor, if you would, share your website. Where would you like folks to visit?

MITCH EARLYWINE: If folks are just wanting to check out the U Albany site department website just search University of Albany, State University of New York. They’re bound to find me there. I also do a lot of work with NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - and I’m on their advisory board if folks want to search that. If they have questions that I haven’t gotten to they can always email me at 420research at gmail dot com.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Earlywine, thank you so much. I hope to see you soon.

MITCH EARLYWINE: Looking forward to it, Dean. You take care.

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(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Here to help us regarding a powerful side effect is U.S. Congressman, Jared Polis, asking the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration some very important questions.

JARED POLIS: Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?

MICHELE LEONHART: I believe all illegal drugs are bad.

JARED POLIS: Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?

MICHELE LEONHART: I don’t think any illegal drugs…

JARED POLIS: Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?

MICHELE LEONHART: Again, all…

JARED POLIS: I mean either yes, no or I don’t know. If you don’t know you can look this up. You should know this as Chief Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking a very straightforward question. Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?

MICHELE LEONHART: All illegal drugs are bad.

{{{ gong }}}

DEAN BECKER: Times up…for the DEA.

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JOE ELFORD: Joe Elford for Americans for Safe Access.

DEAN BECKER: Joe, there was a recent ruling handed down from an appeals court dealing with the subject of medical marijuana. Am I correct?

JOE ELFORD: Yeah, the District of Colombia Circuit Court in Washington, D.C. gave a decision in our rescheduling case. Not a decision we were hoping for but at the same time it does provide some possibilities.

DEAN BECKER: From my perspective as basically a laymen out here is that with each step we move a little closer to the showdown so to speak. Do we not?

JOE ELFORD: I actually thought we were at the showdown. Unfortunately the showdown didn’t occur. But, yeah, I mean certainly I think we’re progressing in the right direction albeit way to slow for my taste and I’m sure the taste of others. In the meantime you’ve got a lot of people who are suffering and if they were to reschedule marijuana and allow this to be used by people who need it that would really erase the suffering of a lot of folks.

So every day it’s one day too long.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. Recently I had a chance to speak with one of the appellates, Mr. Michael Krawitz, who was part of this case, correct?

JOE ELFORD: He’s technically a petitioner but appellate is basically the same thing. He certainly a part of this case.

DEAN BECKER: He kind of represents kind of the underlying scenario, the exposure of the needs for veterans. So many of them now with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and so many of them saying it gives them benefit. Am I correct?

JOE ELFORD: Absolutely. One of the most unfortunate aspects of all of this is we increasingly are seeing a number of veterans who have served our country and during the course of their service have had some kind of injury that could be helped by using marijuana. The federal government was there to make sure that federal government continues to exist but they are preventing them from taking a substance that would help them with the injuries that they suffered. It’s extremely unfortunate.

DEAN BECKER: It’s a real conundrum, a puzzle that the government says there hasn’t been enough studies done and yet the government doesn’t allow those studies to be conducted. Your thoughts, sir.

JOE ELFORD: Certainly we’ve been caught in the “catch 22.” What makes even a bigger “catch 22” which I know from a technical, legal point of view is the arguments that we ultimately lost on were never raised before oral argument in the case. The courts now just create a whole new standard of what studies are sufficient.

We presented over 200 peer-reviewed, published studies. We presented numerous double-blind, placebo studies. What else could we do and all of the sudden they’re coming back at us saying, “Oh, you may have done all of that but you didn’t do something else that no one has ever told you you needed to do.”

It’s extremely frustrating.

DEAN BECKER: The ruling came down that the DEA was not being arbitrary and capricious. Is that it?

JOE ELFORD: Yes, and that is the standard. We always knew that was going to be the standard and that there was going to be some defference given to them but we think the DEA with HHS is acting so arbitrary and capricious. Everyone knows…or probably every one of your listeners knows that marijuana does have medical use. There are a number of studies. At what point does it become arbitrary and capricious to just continue to deny that studies exist?

DEAN BECKER: This is part of a tone that is resonating across this country. There are half dozen, maybe more, that are considering medical marijuana – a couple are thinking about legalizing it outright. These politicians in D.C. need to get on board don’t they?

JOE ELFORD: That’s what our hope would be. This case was going through the judicial system but we’re also working on congress and the President. Any one of the three branches of the government can do the right thing here and that would greatly benefit the people who are suffering who really could use this medicine. Any one of the three branches of government could do something here. We’re hoping that someone will do something sooner than later. In the meantime there will be needless suffering.

DEAN BECKER: Americans for Safe Access has a conference coming up next month in Washington, D.C. Tell us a bit more about it, please.

JOE ELFORD: We’re having a national conference. It’s going to devoted in large part to lobbying members of congress to start trying to change the laws of medical marijuana. You have 18 states and the District of Colombia that have legalized marijuana for medical use. That’s the trend that is going and the federal government should follow that trend.

It could have been a bad experiment. When it first started in California in 1996 it could have proven to be a bad thing but, instead, it’s proven to be a very good thing. The numbers of folks who support medical marijuana have only increased since 1996. That’s the trend across the entire country and at some point you would like your federal government to represent the interest of the people.

DEAN BECKER: What are the dates of that conference?

JOE ELFORD: I believe it’s February 22 nd through the 24 th.

DEAN BECKER: And folks can learn more on your website, right?

JOE ELFORD: http://americansforsafeaccess.org or http://safeaccessnow.org or just google Americans for Safe Access and it will pop right up.

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THOROGOOD: Man, the first day of sobriety sucks and I realized something. I was a real irritable guy when I wasn’t smoking marijuana. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting high. That’s when I decided it was time to get help.

Hi everyone. My name is Thorogood. I’m here today because I’m addicted to marijuana.

AA MEMBER 1: Man!! You in here because of some marijuana?!

AA MEMBER 2: Marijuana is not a drug. I used suck head for coke.

AA MEMBER 1: I seen him!

AA MEMBER 2: But that’s an addiction, man. You ever suck some head for marijuana?

THOROGOOD: No, I can’t say that I have.

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DEAN BECKER: I want to thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to thank Dr. Mitch Earlywine as well for his kind thoughts and expertise. I want to thank you for the phone call and the email you’re fixin’ to make. I want to thank you for contacting your elected officials – for doing your part to end the madness of drug war.

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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DEAN BECKER: 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… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org