This article appears in the June 25, 2021 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
NEW YORK SYMPOSIUM
Independent Candidate Confronts Lies
Behind Schumer-Cuomo Drug Legalization
After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used a required annual budget bill to ram through recreational marijuana legalization at the end of March (proudly weeding the state letterhead, as shown below), Independent Senate candidate and LaRouche representative Diane Sare held her weekly informational symposium May 14 on the impact of legalizing drugs on society and the economy. She is opposing Sen. Chuck Schumer, who sponsors “The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act” to legalize drugs on the Federal level, which ultimately controls many drug policies. Schumer spoke on the Senate floor for making April 20, “Marijuana Day,” a national holiday.
Diane Sare’s panelists were:
Susan Salomone, Executive Director of Drug Crisis in Our Back Yard, New York;
Bishop Jethro C. James, Jr., Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church, Newark, New Jersey, President of the Black Ministers Association in Newark, and New Jersey Director of Social Action for the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Bishop James is also Senior Advisor to the state chapter of R.A.M.P. (Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy), a national organization;
Dr. Robert Bennett, Professor at Montana State University and author of Pill;
Ernest Schapiro, MD, retired psychiatrist, researcher and organizer for the Schiller Institute;
Joseph Lin [Jiang F. Lin], electrical engineer and real estate investor, a Chinese-American community leader in New York City.
Diane Sare: I’m Diane Sare, LaRouche Independent candidate for U.S. Senate in New York, and this is the New York Symposium with Diane Sare. We are going to have a really packed discussion this evening with a panel of experts on the question of marijuana, opioids, and the effect of the drug legalization, starting with marijuana legalization around the country. The bill that has just been passed in the state of New York, and what Senator Chuck Schumer is proposing to be passed throughout the whole United States, is called the “Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.” And if you have seen my press release on this, you’ll see that I’m considering it basically the “Slavery and Oppression Act.” …
If you don’t support the creativity of the human mind, then you are going to destroy yourself economically.
Now, there’s a big difference between physical economy and money. And what we’ve been doing since the Crash of 2008 is printing a huge amount of money, which has caused the massive increase in the cost of living for most people, which is not commensurate with the income that most people are getting. But we have not increased productivity. We have not increased human—the human ability to transform nature, at least certainly not in the trans-Atlantic world.
Something different is going on that China is leading, in various kinds of infrastructure and development. But here, what we’ve created is the gigantic bubble. And, in a kind of addiction of its own, the bubble needs to find more and more and more income streams to stay afloat. When the mortgage bubble burst, there was student debt, there was credit card debt, there were derivatives. Now there’s going to be carbon swaps. And all of this is simply to prop up something.
And it is a problem of physics as well. I don’t think there’s any bubble in history that ever did not pop. And this one is going to, and there are certain measures that can be taken, which LaRouche outlined, like what FDR did: reinstate the Glass-Steagall separation of banks, invest in those things that actually create mass employment and become more productive.
If people are addicted to drugs and then if those people are operating heavy equipment; if people are brain surgeons; if they’re running a nuclear power plant, you can imagine that being mentally impaired is something that is going to cause a problem in that kind of work.
The second aspect of this drug trade is emotional…. The point of educating our emotions is that our emotions become a strength, and knowing how to act in a time of crisis. It is no accident that almost every freedom movement in the world, in human history, has had music and singing associated with it. Because there is a certain power in that, and we are being removed from that…. And I think there is a value to human beings having emotions that may not be comfortable, or may not be happy, but nonetheless compel us to do what is necessary for the good of mankind.
Before we begin, I’d like to say that the presence of the people on the panel, who I’m just going to introduce very briefly and then we’ll hear from them one by one, does not constitute endorsement of my campaign or my candidacy for office. We are doing this in an effort to educate the public and to have a debate of issues that are very important for the American people to understand.
That being said, our first guest was pre-recorded. Her name is Susan Salomone. She’s the founder of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard; we will be seeing a video from her. She will be followed by Bishop Jethro James from Paradise Baptist Church in Newark; and he will be followed by a video clip; and then Dr. Robert Bennett, the author of the book Pill (Object Lessons). Then we will have Dr. Ernest Shapiro, a retired psychiatrist, who’s done a great deal of research on the history of marijuana and its effects. And finally, Joseph Lin, an electrical engineer, realtor, and an important activist in the Chinese American community in New York. So, without further ado, perhaps we can go to the video from Susan.
‘It’s a Gateway Drug’
Susan Salomone: [video] My name is Susan Salomone, I’m the Executive Director of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard. This organization was started in June of 2012 after the death of my son, Justin, to a heroin overdose. Justin was my oldest of four boys, and he was twenty-nine when he passed away, so my youngest son, Dylan, was 19. We lived with his addiction for 10 years—he was addicted to heroin from age twenty-five.
Justin started his foray into drugs at age 16 with marijuana. That’s what started him off. And it’s very possible that he was dealing with anxiety and some mental health issues, but nothing that was really far from the norm. But once he started smoking pot, it seemed to make him more sociable. He made more friends. He was able to take more risks. And for a couple of years, he did all right with just marijuana.
But once he got into college, he started to use stronger drugs. And at age twenty-three, just about the same time that the pill market was going crazy and they were dumping opiates, Percocet, Vicodin all over the streets, he started taking Percocet and he got addicted to Percocet, and at age twenty-five he started doing heroin because you can’t continue to have an addiction to the pills unless you have a lot, a lot of money. So, from age twenty-five to twenty-nine, my son struggled, battled for his life.
He went to rehab. He was in a research study with Columbia University for Naltrexone. He was on Vivitrol, which is the 30-day shot of naltrexone, a medication-assisted treatment for opiate disorder. He so wanted to be clean. But in the end, he did lose his battle to addiction. And that was on May 29, 2012.
Shortly after that, I wrote an article to our local paper in Putnam County called “Saving Justin,” and I got a call on June 14th from Lou Christiansen, who picked up the phone and said to me, “I buried my son Erik this morning—twenty-eight years old, a New York City narcotics detective.”
We got together, Lou, Carol, my husband Steve, and I, and started Drug Crisis in Our Backyard. We had our first event on August 14, 2012. That was like two months after our children had died. And we had two hundred people show up at the Mahopac Library, because nobody was talking about this. Up until COVID, we were presenting in Westchester and Putnam Counties. I know a lot of people in [New York] City. I’m involved with groups in the city. Our mission is to provide services to help families struggling with addiction, and help those at risk.
Sare: I have a question already. People are going to say, “But we’re just talking about marijuana.” What would your response be?
Salomone: I cannot even wrap my head around the fact that they legalize marijuana anywhere, because marijuana is—not everyone’s going to get addicted to it—but there are people who are going to get addicted to it. And [considering] the co-morbidity of mental health and substance use, with marijuana being legalized, we really are in trouble now. My son started with marijuana. I work with a lot of parents, I work with families every single day, and they all tell me—“My son”—and it’s mostly sons, sometimes it’s a daughter, but it’s mostly boys—“started with marijuana.” ... It’s a “gateway drug,” as is tobacco.
Sare: Let me ask you another question: People are going to say, “What about tobacco?”
Salomone: I’m against tobacco, too. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s good. It is legal already. But for them to legalize marijuana, another addictive substance, when you’ve already got tobacco and now you have vaping, which is crazy and wild in the middle schools and the high schools, and now you’re going to bring marijuana on the scene. Just because there’s tobacco there already and alcohol there already, it doesn’t mean that marijuana is OK. Because that’s what the kids think. Right now. The kids think, “well, it’s legal”; and I mean the young kids.
Sare: Teachers and others who work with children were saying if you make it legal, that sends the message that it’s safe. Do you agree with that?
Salomone: Absolutely. It goes right back to the pills…. The doctors were prescribing these opiates for people. And my girlfriend, Carol, … when she tells her story, she says, “My son Erik came to me and said, ‘I got this prescription from the doctor. I think I’m addicted to these pills’.” And my girlfriend said, “But the doctor gave them to you.” OK, so it doesn’t mean they’re safe. And we know now they’re not safe. The opiate settlement that is currently in place from McKinsey, Purdue Pharma, J&J [Johnson and Johnson —ed.], they are paying a price for legalizing those opiates. There’s no question that they have opened a Pandora’s box. So just because the kids are saying they think it’s safe, it isn’t safe—marijuana nor opiates.
Sare: Would you hazard a guess, or have you looked at other states where they have legalized marijuana, in terms of how much legalizing will increase the use of it among young people?
Salomone: I don’t have any statistics, I don’t have my paperwork with me. So I’m not a statistician. I’m really about, you know, the bigger picture. And I know that in Colorado youth use has skyrocketed and along with that, mental health issues. And so I’m familiar with, or I have worked with, Dr. Kevin Sabet, who is [co-founder, in Denver, of] Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
But I know from my Drug Crisis in Our Backyard, which is a fairly small organization, but we work with a lot of other nonprofits like mine that got started for the same reason mine got started. And they will tell you over and over and over again that once this is legalized, the younger people are going to start using. There’s going to be more mental health issues, and more substance abuse problems because of it, and more substance abuse disorder problems because of it. And you know what’s amazing about the whole thing, Diane? The state is spending unbelievable amounts of money to get this opiate epidemic under control and then they turn around and legalize marijuana….
‘The Black Market Is Already Booming’
Sare: Thank you. I’ll go ahead now to Bishop Jethro James, who I think has a few things to say also about what we’re being told in the marijuana legislation, why “we have to do this for social justice,” and things like that. Bishop James?
Bishop Jethro James: Thank you so much for having me, first of all, and I’m Bishop Jethro James, senior pastor of the Paradise Baptist Church. I am Director of Social Action for Full Gospel Baptist churches in the State of New Jersey, as well as President of the Newark, New Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen.
When our Governor was running for office, he talked about legalization of marijuana. Once he got elected, he attended an event at my church on MLK [Martin Luther King] Day. And I called him out publicly to warn him of the devastation of putting more drugs in communities of color.
Senator Ronald Rice, President of the New Jersey Black Caucus took the battle to the legislature. [They were never able to get the legislation passed —ed.] However, it eventually passed on the ballot [as a referendum —ed.] this year. One of the biggest lies ever told was that this was done “for social justice.”
Number One: They made promises that folks that were arrested for possession of marijuana would be able to have their records expunged. That did not happen in this state. When applying for expungement, all criminal acts are considered. For example, if you take a plea bargain, “I got caught with the marijuana and a knife,” when you go for expungement, the knife comes back in, and therefore you’re not eligible. Anyone who was arrested under the federal marijuana laws would not be eligible for expungement because they have to get a pardon from the President, or from some federal source.
Here is another untruth. What we have seen is the promise of African Americans, Latinos and other people of color owning a marijuana distribution business, and having wealth coming back into our community. Well, in the State of New Jersey, not one African American owns anything dealing with marijuana. You cannot go to the bank and say, “I want to become a legal marijuana dealer, grower, manufacturer, and I need a million dollars for startup money.” The capital is not there. And to have U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Senator [Chuck] Schumer talk about legalization—it’s insane. Because it’s all about the money. I would question any politician who would want to legalize marijuana how much money did that business, that industry, give to their campaign?
When we look at what has happened in New Jersey, the black market is already booming. But in New Jersey, the story of how much illegal marijuana is sold or seized doesn’t hit the front page of the newspapers. We recently had law enforcement seize 10 duffel bags of marijuana coming to the inner city of Newark, going to a local hookah shop. Of course, with that much marijuana, the bust was made by the federal government and local law enforcement, and it hasn’t hit our streets. The black market will function.
In addition, one of the challenges that we face here in New Jersey is that every woman who gives birth, she and her baby are tested for federally-banned substances. If the mother or the child tests positive, it becomes a child welfare case which could lead to the charge of endangering the welfare of a child and possible loss of custody of the child.
Just recently, a young lady who was a schoolteacher had a baby. The baby was suffering from THC [Tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana —ed.] addiction. Of course, if you have a child welfare case against you, you must notify the employer, especially if you work around children. Well, she wasn’t a tenured teacher. They notified the school board, and as a result she was fired. You can’t work around children if you test positive for marijuana. She has filed a lawsuit. There’s nothing she can do about it. But here’s the tragedy: This baby has been taken out of the custody of the parents because they smoked legally in their home. The grandmother now has custody of the child.
We’re also looking at the development of children. We know that the brain of a child is not fully developed until he or she is well into their mid-20s. We know that smoking of tobacco products is prohibited in many areas because of the adverse effects of secondhand smoke. The THC in marijuana has a more devastating effect, especially with children. We have seen babies as young as four or five who are suffering with schizophrenia. That’s real. I can’t understand these promises. They talk about things that they won’t do….
We’ve seen the edibles. We’ve unfortunately had an incident in the State of New Jersey, where a three-year old who ate a few of the marijuana gummy bears has been in a coma for weeks now, fighting for his very life. When we look at what folks are trying to do, the promises that have been made to my community, it’s never going to happen. This is another way of devastating the community.
We’re spending billions of dollars now around this nation saying, “Stop smoking tobacco products, stop chewing tobacco products.” However, it’s amazing to me that the medical societies of this country have already identified the health hazard of smoking marijuana, but there are very few speaking against it. The New England Journal of Medicine published an issue that said that if you constantly smoke marijuana, you will probably have your first heart attack or stroke before you’re thirty-five years old. For young men who start smoking at an early age around 16 or 17, by the time you’re 25, it’s a good possibility you will never be able to father a child because of what the THC does to your reproductive organs. We’re not having these conversations. We’re not talking about health and safety issues.
Dealing with marijuana in New Jersey, by the way, we have one of the highest insurance rates in the country. In the State of New Jersey your insurance rates are determined by your zip code, so if you live in an urban area, the insurance is much higher. I talked to some of the executives who work for insurance carriers, and they’ve said to me, “Bishop, if you live in an urban area where marijuana is sold, we’re going to ask for a minimum of 10-15% increase in your auto insurance.”
We’ve seen something that happened in the medical field in New Jersey. Talk about cheating the government! There was a doctor in the city of Trenton who prescribed medical marijuana. We’re not against medical marijuana. Unfortunately, this physician wrote prescriptions in the amount of one million dollars in one month, which sent up a flag, and of course he was arrested. This abuse is a concern.
What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t confuse fighting for justice when we enable behaviors that lead to the destruction of individuals and families. Thank you.
Sare: Thank you very much. That was very clear. We’re now going to go to an excerpt from the , Aldous Huxley and Brave New World: The Dark Side of Pleasure, shown with permission of the Academy of Ideas.
Film Narrator: How, one may ask, can pleasure be used to deprive people of their freedom? To answer this question, we must discuss “operant conditioning,” which is a method of modifying an organism’s behavior.
In the 20th century, the Harvard psychologist, B.F. Skinner, performed a famous set of experiments in which he tested different methods of introducing new behaviors in rats. These experiments brought to light how the powers that be can condition humans to love their servitude.
In one set of experiments, Skinner attempted to cultivate new behaviors via positive reinforcement. He provided the rat with food any time it performed the desirable behavior. In another set of experiments, he attempted to weaken or eliminate certain behaviors via punishment. He triggered a painful stimulus when the rat performed the behavior Skinner wished to eliminate.
Skinner discovered that punishment temporarily put an end to undesirable behaviors. But it did not remove the animal’s motivation to engage in such behaviors in the future. “Punished behavior” writes Skinner, “is likely to reappear after the punitive consequences are withdrawn. Behaviors that were conditioned via positive reinforcement, on the other hand, were more enduring and led to long term changes in the animal’s behavioral patterns.
[Aldous] Huxley was familiar with Skinner’s experiments and understood their sociopolitical ramifications. In Brave New World and his subsequent works, Huxley predicted the emergence of a controlling oligarchy who would conduct similar experiments on human beings to condition docility and minimize the potential for civil unrest….
The following passage from Skinner’s book Walden Two however, reveals that such mass conditioning would in reality make possible a pernicious form of tyranny, one in which the masses would be enslaved, yet feel themselves to be free:
Now that we know how positive reinforcement works, and why negative doesn’t, [writes Skinner,] we can be more deliberate and hence more successful in our cultural design. We can achieve a sort of control under which the controlled nevertheless feel free. They are doing what they want to do, not what they are forced to do. That’s the source of the tremendous power of positive reinforcement. There’s no restraint and no revolt, by a careful design. We control not the final behavior, but the inclination to behave, the motives, the desires, the wishes. The curious thing is that in that case, the question of freedom never arises.
In Brave New World, the main reward used to condition subservience via positive reinforcement was a super-drug called Soma. “The World Controllers,” writes y, “encouraged the systematic drugging of their own citizens for the benefit of the state.”
Soma was ingested daily by the citizens of Brave New World as it offered what Huxley called a “holiday from reality.” Depending on the dosage, it stimulated feelings of euphoria, pleasant hallucinations or acted as a powerful sleep aid. It also served to heighten suggestibility, thus increasing the effectiveness of the propaganda which the citizens were continuously subjected to:
In Brave New World, the Soma habit was not a private vice, it was a political institution, [writes Huxley]. The daily Soma ration was an insurance against personal maladjustment, social unrest and the spread of subversive ideas.
Is Our Society Determined by Chemicals?
Sare: Dr. Bennett, if you’d like to go ahead.
In each of these books, the author focuses on a particular object and explores it in depth. In my book, I’m looking at pills and specifically psychiatric medications that have been widespread in the field of psychiatry over the last 50 years or so. And in some ways, this is a continuation of what Huxley prophesied, that we would use chemicals to manipulate our minds.
Now, obviously, in these cases, many times people have serious mental illnesses that need to be controlled by pills. But often times, we also use pills to control a wide variety of, sort of, everyday situations, as simple as being afraid on an airplane or being nervous at a cocktail party. A central thesis is that medications from the smallest to the most significant constitute a profoundly significant aspect of life in the modern world. And so, we need to think about them a little bit more deeply than we have and we often do.
And the first thing that I point out is the ubiquity of psychotropic pills, and I argue that there’s nothing that alters the human mind on a global scale as profoundly, pervasively as the psychotropic medications found in common everyday pills. We also see that recreational drugs such as marijuana are similarly ubiquitous with the legalization in so many states and so much money being put into, invested in them. In 2010, the global market for pharmaceuticals was more than the government bailout of the U.S. economy.
Aside from treatments for cancer, the bestsellers are psychiatric medications. One out of every five U.S. adults uses at least one drug for a mental health problem. Many people are put on cocktails of four or more drugs, and 10 drugs or more is fast becoming the norm for the elderly, especially in the United States. So, we can see this is really a ubiquitous problem and it’s spreading very rapidly….
The second thing I want to talk about is the complexity of this medication—that we often think of medication as sort of the Coke machine. You put in the pill and out comes a cure. It’s much more complicated than that. Our pharmacological solutions are far from simple or straightforward. We just don’t understand this neuro-circuitry of the brain very well, and this plays out with marijuana as well. We don’t understand, really, all of the implications it has on our brain chemistry…. And this is where we see that psychiatric medications, opioids, marijuana—all of these things—are sort of intermingled. They all come down to dealing with complexity of the brain and how we try to modify it using chemicals.
My final point is that I want to point out the profundity of pills and other chemicals that transform our minds: that these chemicals radically “transform, modify, design, manipulate, mold, bend, twist, manufacture and engineer our very identities.” That they act on us at the level of our most basic molecular neurochemistry, and redefine the human subject to relocate “the center of the self” in the brain, and the ways that we modify it with chemicals. That human identities are only bounded by, and increasingly determined by, the ever-expanding powers of simple pills.
And if we want to put this in the context of marijuana and other recreational drugs, we can see that our society is becoming very determined by chemicals and how they shape our identities.
I’ll conclude with the fundamental existential quandary of our age: What does it even mean to be a human self in a biochemically engineered age, [with] ubiquitous psychiatric pills and other chemicals that alter our minds? Who are we really? Are we ourselves, or are we the chemicals that we ingest?
Sare: Thank you. I think that’s a good question and I think it’s also a good introduction to what Dr. Shapiro may have to tell us from his work on this.
Historical Examples of Forced Legalization
Dr. Earnest Shapiro: You have to raise the question, “What kind of environment is the person in, who is exposed to the marijuana, and how does that affect their response?” And also, “What are the vulnerabilities of the population that is now living in an environment of legalized marijuana?”
I want to take up two examples.
It’s not generally known that in the beginning of the 20th Century there were international conferences to deal with the opium traffic, which had been run by the British Empire with great devastating impact in different parts of the world, especially China. But the problem was even then known—opiates were considered a problem all over the world, except by the British. And it so happened that at these conferences, the leaders of countries like Turkey and Egypt said they were much concerned about hashish—a very concentrated extract of cannabis sativa, the marijuana plant. And they said this had been devastating to their nations for many centuries, and must be banned.
And so, it became part of the international convention that Egypt and Turkey, for example, had insisted on, and it was recognized finally in the United States. We had Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who was very much attuned to this idea, and he fought for it. He fought against allowing any access to marijuana. And there really wasn’t a problem in those days—that was back in the ’30s, that he was Commissioner. It was really only after World War II that we had it here.
But the important thing I want to bring out concerning the Islamic world is that there was a time when Baghdad was a center of civilization in terms of culture and science. And what happened was that, particularly starting in the 12th Century, there was a move toward a widespread use of hashish, first in the eastern part of the Islamic world, in Persia, and then Syria, then it got into Egypt, all the way to Morocco. And it became a fundamental part of the society.
These countries underwent decadence. They were ruled by basically oligarchs. Basically, they were people who were very oppressed. Particularly the poor people, laborers, would regularly use hashish. There were hundreds of words in the vocabulary having to do with hashish. It was a fundamental part of the society. A number of times the rulers, you know, either the Turks or the Mamelukes, tried to eliminate it, to restrict it, because they saw more and more people were becoming dysfunctional in this society; they really didn’t have a workforce. But they could not, as they were not able to eradicate it. And this went on until modern times.… I will quote from a medieval scholar, az-Karkashī, who wrote this about hashish:
Hashish produces narcosis, laziness, stupor, weakening sense perception, foul breath, ruination of color and complexion. Hashish is mind-changing and personality-changing, causing insanity in a habitual user, changes in the mind, making it absent from reality. [quoted in: The Herb: Hashish Versus Medieval Muslim Society, by Franz Rosenthal, 1971.]
He also spoke about “addiction and the loss of willingness to work.” So that’s the first case.
The second case is here in the United States.
Some people may know the work of the two sociologists at Princeton, Dr. [Anne] Case and her colleague Dr. Angus Deaton. And what they perceptively observed, about six years ago, was that, lo and behold, there was a rising mortality among white people who did not have a college degree. They found that there was actually increasing life expectancy among whites with a college degree, but also blacks….
One of the things that they stressed was the huge cost of employee-employer health programs, medical programs, so that they will no longer hire people unless they are very specialized employees. They would rather have someone take a “gig job.” If they need a janitor, he’ll have a “gig job” rather than actually being under regular employ. So the point is that the workforce is undergoing a catastrophic change. Somebody said that now a college degree is a minimum requirement for dignity. So it was that a few decades ago a person without a college degree could get a productive, well-paid factory job. Of course, the factories have also moved out, which is another factor. But still, this is a vulnerability that has to be taken into account. And we may consider that when you legalize marijuana, you are exposing this kind of suffering, anguished population to this added effect.
Sare: OK, I have many questions, including some of the medical effects of this, which Bishop James was alluding to, but before we go to that, we have our final speaker, Joseph Lin, who I think has some things to say about what happened in China [during the 19th century Opium Wars], when the British Empire foisted opium onto the Chinese population, resulting in mass addiction and what the Chinese to this day call their period of “the great humiliation.” Joe Lin (Jiang F. Lin) is an electrical engineer who has lived in the United States for forty years, and is a leader in the Chinese-American community in New York City.
China Learned from Humiliation by Drugs
Joseph Lin: Before I begin my talk, I will tell you about a story. My grandfather died of cancer. But right before the last stage, he was in a lot of pain. So, that was back in 1937. My dad was like, 7 years old. And they wanted to get my grandfather the opiate. But, because he had seen a lot of people who, addicted to opium, had destroyed their family, he would not take the opiates. In China at that time you could sell your wife for money. So many people, because they were addicted to opium, and they couldn’t afford it, so they would sell their wives and their kids. So, opiates. That’s why when I tell my kids, I say, “There are two things you will never, ever do. One is gambling, the other one is drugs. Because once you are addicted to them, you will become a different kind of person. Once you’re addicted to drugs or you’re addicted to the gambling, you’ll become a very different kind of person. You’ll come home begging, lying, for the money, to support the addiction.”
Now, China was a very rich country before 1850, which was when the Westerners were coming with ships and guns to open China. It was because China produced a lot of china, silk, tea, which were exported to the Western countries, and they made a lot of money—but not in U.S. dollars. They were paid in silver.
So everybody wanted the goods from China, and they had to pay silver. At the end of that, China had a lot of surplus in the trade. So, the West saw that, when they actually started importing opium to China, actually back in 1750, which was almost 100 years earlier. But because the West owed so much money to China, every time they went to trade, they had to bring a lot of silver.
And so then, the Chinese loved the drug. At the beginning it was mostly for the rich people. And then by 1856 it started the tipping point where China actually had a deficit in import and export; and not only that, but as a result of the first Opium War, 1850, China lost Hong Kong. That’s when they gave Hong Kong to the British. And then, by the 1860, they had the Second War. And at that time, in the Second War, China lost a lot more land. Basically, the whole country toppled because of that. The Westerners went to Peking, and they burned the palace, they robbed all the antiquities.
But you’ve got to understand, that at the beginning, China didn’t see that the drug was the problem. They think, “Oh, it’s just a recreation, just for rich people. It has a medical use.” When I look at pictures, people, rich families, they are using it. But later, in a later stage, you will see a lot of people who were so poor, and they got addicted to it. And it is interesting: The population in China at the time was around 400 million, but most of the people lived in the country. The people in the cities were probably only like 10%, so we are looking at about 40 million. But 10 million people are using it, so you literally had a lot of poor people in the city who are using the drug and they can’t afford it.
Now, people say, “Oh, because they legalize the drug, that way you don’t have to pay a lot.” That actually is worse for the country, because now the poor people are using it, and they are the labor for the city, and they cannot work. And the drug that you use for recreation at beginning, once you get addicted, you need more and more and more.
‘We Are Getting Weaker’
Now, you can see the story: China was a very strong country, but because of opium, it became a weaker country. Now, you look at the U.S.—a strong country, all right, but now, we are getting weaker—because our infrastructure is falling apart; we have a lot of deficit; our education system … and “We want to compete with China.”
A lot of times when you look inside the USA, you feel like, well, we have freedom, we have freedom of everything, including drugs. But we are getting weaker. We are competing not just with ourselves. We are competing with the world, we’re competing with China. The country doesn’t allow a single drug. I had a friend who was caught having drugs in China. He was executed. Zero tolerance. That’s what I mean. Now we are competing with a country that has free drugs on every level, and we are competing with a country that has no drugs at all. And we are competing with a country that can build a bridge within 72 hours. And we build the same bridge within five years and $873 million dollars. How are we going to compete?
OK, we have $621 billion [the Biden proposal for roads and bridges in Biden’s $2 trillion package —ed.]; 15 years, you divide that, you’ve got $41 billion per year, you divide it by 50 states, each one gets 800 million. For New York City, just one project, the Kosciusko Bridge, took five years and $873 million dollars to build. What kind of infrastructure money would we have? The politicians are basically lying.
You have to be watching out for your own kids. Before marijuana was legalized, my kids were in junior high, and they saw their friends using drugs right in the school—before it was legalized. It meant that a lot of people were getting paid a lot of money, and the kids still had access to the drugs. Now we talk about legalizing it on a federal level. Basically, this is telling the kids: “OK. You can use the drugs.”
Everybody knows the kid who’s 17 years old, up to 21, their brain is not fully developed, and the drug has a consequence for them. One in every five kids has a mental issue already. We would be adding this to the children. You will see a lot more mental illness. You know how much money we spend on the mental illness on adults?—$225 billion a year. We are basically spending more money on the mental care than on our infrastructure….
There’s no point in this, there’s no gain for us. A lot of people say “cheaper.” Yes, it’s cheaper, but an economy doesn’t go around it, because when you create a problem, and you spend money to go to solve the problem, you are wasting the money.
So, the warning is this: We don’t have the money for the military, we don’t have enough money to go abroad to compete with China building infrastructure. We don’t have the money to build our own infrastructure. Meanwhile, as a parent, we say to the kids, “OK to use drugs.” What kind of country do we want our country to be? It’s a wake-up call for everybody. We need to get off drugs, a.s.a.p. Thank you.
Sare: Thank you very much.
And I just want to share that I direct a chorus, and many of our musicians, the pianists who play with our chorus, are from China. I asked one of them, “Do you have a drug problem in China?” And he looked at me like I was crazy and said, “No.” And it’s not the punishment. I mean, it’s not just that it’s illegal. He said if anyone in China—and he said it has happened, a rock star or some big business star—goes over to the West and they get photographed with a joint or a bong or something in hand, when they come back, they are completely ostracized. No one even wants to be seen with them. It’s such a matter of pride because people have a memory of the humiliation of the country being destroyed from outside.
Also, I’ll just say I read a report from another one of my colleagues, Dr. Ned Rosinsky, who said in Colorado, apparently, there’s a 250% increase of THC in [the blood of] young people who have committed suicide. So there clearly is a real relationship between marijuana, marijuana addiction, and suicide. And also from Kevin Sabet: Apparently, it’s the case that marijuana users who start over the age of 18, one out of 10 becomes addicted. But in users who begin under the age of 18, it’s one in six. And with people who get addicted to the opioids and other drugs later, 98% of them started on marijuana first.
From the Question-and-Answer Session
Sare: Now one of our audiovisual people, José Vega, has a question that he wants to ask.
José Vega: My question is: During the 1960s, R.D. Laing had compared the effects of using psychedelics to schizophrenia. He also advocated for the liberation of mental patients through the use of psychedelics and other drugs. John C. Lilly used psychedelics in a flotation tank and wrote a book titled, Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Bio-Computer. What is the relationship between these persons, [B.F.] Skinner, and the situation we have today with the mass distribution of these drugs? When I say, “mass distribution,” I was told that in New York City—this is just an example of this mass distribution—that if you had gotten your vaccination card, you got your vaccine, you could go get a joint, somewhere. And this was broadcasted on WNYC. This was broadcasted on Public Radio. So that’s my question….
Dr. Bennett: I think we have this kind of techno-scientific mindset, where we feel like we can control our lives through chemicals. But the chemicals that we use end up controlling us. And that’s where it’s sort of, the complexity of our minds. We don’t fully understand the complexity of our minds. We think that we’re in control of this process of chemical manipulation, but because of addiction, because of the complexity of the neurochemistry of our minds and various other factors, we’re really not; we’re not able to control once we’ve gone down this path of chemical manipulation, we are not really able to control where it leads, and the chemicals end up controlling us.
Bishop James: Allow me, if you will, just thinking about chattel slavery in this country, what would be the tool to keep you enslaved? First and foremost, your thought process. If I’m not free in my mind, I’m certainly not free…. COVID did something that identified health care disparities. What are we going to do with the mental health of these babies that are being born in Colorado and California? We’ve seen a 70% increase in pediatric poisoning.
And then lastly, New York has had decriminalization for a long time. New Jersey just got it. And so no one has to be arrested for a joint. But what does the joint do? I repeat what I said, as I sat at the Governor’s table to debate the legalization project, I said to them, “Who’s going to enforce and keep this out of the hands of our babies, the edibles and what-not?” And they said to me, “Well, Bishop, I guess that’s going to be the job of the community.” For those of us that have worked with, seeing the poverty, seeing what it has done to our community, we are still saying “Why put this in our community?” To promise this is going to set you free has never worked….
What are you going to do in the neighborhood when 50-60% are going to be unemployed because they can’t pass a simple test? And then when it comes to this whole expungement thing, Diane, in the State of New Jersey, again, I’m a retiree, a former executive from Public Service Electric & Gas Company. One of the things on the application is, have you ever been arrested? It doesn’t say have you ever been arrested and was it expunged? If you have an expungement and say “No,” they have you for falsifying official records. This is a perfect way to keep you enslaved, to keep you in poverty. And your mind can’t even be free because it’s doped up….
Sare: … I hadn’t thought in this way of how absurd it would appear to someone in China for the United States to say, “We have to compete with China, we have to compete with China. And, the first thing we’re going to do, is legalize drugs!” After China went through the Opium Wars, saw the total destruction from that, knows what it means, and then to hear someone who can’t hear what they themselves are saying. I think the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway has been under construction for thirty-five years now, and then some. To say, “Oh, yeah, we’re really going to compete.” …
Lin: If you were worried about the black community, I work in many communities as a realtor. When I go to the black community, they are the hardest hit. I see them using marijuana. This country keeps saying about “race injustice.” But they only say, they don’t do nothing for the black community. What’s most important? Most important is the education…. We put a lot of money into fighting wars outside our country, but we don’t put enough money into the black community….
Bishop James: Amen. Politics is a pile of poli-tricks…. I’ve been to Washington a few times, and I’ve talked to some of the elected officials there. One of the things they were telling me is that they have what I call “marijuana trucks.” They go to events in the black community, and they openly sell the edibles, the drinks now, to folks that are young, without asking for identification. It’s amazing that when you think about the United Negro College Fund slogan, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” and our children’s minds will be wasted by smoking marijuana.
I thank Mr. Lin for what he said…. And I say this to my community: “If black lives really matter, then they’ve got to matter from the cradle to the grave.” We’ve got to make sure that our children do not become addicted to drugs in their own homes. We need to make sure that our children are not inhaling, not just secondhand cigarette smoke, but secondhand marijuana smoke. We’ve got to make sure that no other child takes an edible and is now fighting for his or her life, because they ate a substance that their body could not handle.
We’ve got to make sure that what we’re seeing in California and Colorado will not happen in New Jersey. They are seeing pediatric accidental poisoning increase by 70% since the legalization of marijuana. I thank Brother Lin for being totally honest. I grew up poor. But thanks be unto God, I had parents who had morals. They had convictions, and they understood that education was so important, but also that manners will take you further than money, and that you must have a moral value….
Sare: I really want to thank everybody who has participated here. It just shows that actually this is a very complex matter, but it’s not unclear. And I would say that I think it’s really urgent. I’ve said this many times before, but there’s a phrase that keeps going through my mind in terms of what I encounter on the campaign trail with the people that I meet, which is “selling your birthright for a bowl of pottage,” that people have decided that they cannot get what is actually due them, due us as human beings created in the image of the Creator. That there is no reason in this day and age, 2021, for any single person on this planet to not have clean drinking water, not have electricity, not speak more than one language, not learn classical music, not be conducting cold fusion experiments in a basement, or that the conditions of life for every human being should not be those reflective of the dignity of man….
And not only that, but that each generation can have a growing population. But if you don’t develop your mind and you don’t make scientific discoveries about using the resources that we have more and more efficiently and discovering new resources, then you succumb to the belief that all we can do is get smaller and smaller and consume less and less, and that each generation is going to have a harder time and live worse than the generation before, and that there are certain problems that we really can’t solve. And I would say that is a very un-American approach.
Diane Sare states that appearance in her Symposium does not represent endorsement of her campaign, but is for the purpose of education and a needed dialogue for voters and candidates alike.