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Politically Incorrect PI May 15, 1998

May 15th, 1998
Guests on this program were:
Dr. Drew Pinsky
Todd McCormick
Natalie Maines
Woody Harrelson
Bill's Opening
[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: Hi, I'm Bill Maher, and tonight we're going to dedicate the program to California's Proposition 215, which says that Californians can use marijuana for pain.
It's only a coincidence that it was enacted the same year as the Fleetwood Mac reunion.

[ Laughter ]

California says it's the law.
the Federal Government says it isn't.
So they split the difference, it's legal, but if you do it, you're going to jail.

[ Laughter ]

Well, tonight my guests are an addiction specialist, a marijuana activist, a country and western singer and a movie star.
me, I'm just here to make sure it's all fair, and partial, and as always, satirized for your protection.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Panel Discussion

[ Applause ]

Bill: All righty.
Let us meet our panel on our special show.
He's an actual medical physician and the host of MTV'S "Loveline," Dr. Drew Pinsky.

[ Cheers and applause ]

There's the doc.
How are you, doc?

Dr. Drew: Hi, good to see you.

Bill: Always good to see you.
One of the country's most controversial medical marijuana activists, Todd McCormick.
Yes, sir.

[ Cheers and applause ]

There you are, buddy.
How are you?

Todd: Pretty good.

Bill: Good to see you.
Her band is Dixie Chicks, her CD is "Wide Open Spaces," Natalie Maines, yeah.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hello, young lady.
Nice to meet you?
How are you?
Have a seat.
And finally, this guy's an activist for a lot of causes.
He dabbles in acting.
Woody Harrelson came by.

[ Wild cheers and applause ]

You don't have to shake my hand.
All right.
Well, as you probably know, tonight, it's pretty much a one-topic show because we have one of the, as I said in the introduction, a leading medical marijuana activist here, that is Todd McCormick.
And medical marijuana has been a hot-button issue, not only in this state, but all across this country.
It was passed here in something called Proposition 215.
I believe it was the November '96 election where the people of this state said, by a pretty sound majority, that they believe that if you are suffering from cancer, is usually what they use it for, and marijuana helps, you can have this drug available to you.
Well, Todd has been testing this and has pretty much landed his ass in jail for doing it.

[ Laughter ]

And I know you guys are against this, so I just want to start this discussion and say, this poor guy has had cancer since -- how old were you?

Todd: Since I was 2.
Ten times.

Bill: Since you were 2?

Todd: Since I was 2.

Bill: And at some point, your mother gave you a joint, and you said it relieved all the pain?

Todd: It was amazing.
Actually, I was 9 years old.
I had cancer in soft tissue between my left lung and my heart.
I was given six months to live.
As a last-ditch effort, my mother gave me some marijuana.
She'd read in "Good Housekeeping" it may help.

Bill: In "Good Housekeeping"?

Todd: Of all things.
Yeah, yeah.

Bill: Are you serious?

Todd: In the doctor's column, yeah.

Bill: In the doctor's column of "Good Housekeeping."

Todd: Yeah, I think it was February of '78, actually.
And the doctor said, "He has nothing to lose."
And it gave me a regained appetite.
It gave me a better mental clarity.
It made me feel better.
It improved the way I felt about life.

Dr. Drew: Did you have a firm diagnosis then?

Todd: Yeah.
Yes, I've had cancer --

Dr. Drew: Because Histiocytosis X, which is what I understand you have, is a pretty benign condition.

Todd: Yeah.
It was coming on like machine gun fire, actually.

Dr. Drew: And so really, it's not really so much, for you, been the cancer.
It's --

Todd: The treatment it helped me with.

Dr. Drew: Right.
It's not really a cancer -- that isn't really technically a cancer, even.
It's sort of a benign, it's a relatively benign tumor of childhood.
But if the pain --

Woody: Yeah, but when you give him six months to live --

Dr. Drew: Well, that's why I'm so surprised, because it is usually a self-limited disease.
It goes away on its own.

Todd: Right.
Up until '85, they treated Histiocytosis X as -- Well, I've had radiational therapy, chemotherapy, surgery --

Dr. Drew: Yeah, so you had it in the liver, you had it extra -- in other organs other than the --

Todd: In the spine, the skull, the hips, I was in a wheelchair.

Dr. Drew: But it's been the pain, isn't it, that's really been the issue?

Todd: Since I was 12, I used it for pain relief.
My spine is fused together.

Bill: I think the issue is if something is helping a guy who's sick, where does the government get the [ bleep ] to say, "You can't have it"?

Todd: Well, it's interesting --

[ Cheers and applause ]

You know, even during alcohol prohibition, Bill, the medical use of alcohol was never prohibited.
You could always walk into a pharmacy and pick up medicinal alcohol.
It seemed like --

Dr. Drew: But don't kid yourself.
The government's involved in the patient/physician relationship all over the place.
I mean, the insurance companies are involved in it.
The government's involved in it.
The legal system is involved in it.
So it is --

Bill: So?

Dr. Drew: I don't think it's a good thing.
I'm with you.

Natalie: I'm back at the beginning.
Did you say you have mental clarity because of pot?

Todd: Absolutely.
Well, when you're stressed out and you're going through all these types of medical treatments, you can really feel down.

Dr. Drew: But here, I think we have to be very, very careful of what we're talking about.

Bill: Wait a second.
Why is that a joke to you?

Natalie: Because I don't believe that.
You know, I went to high school with people who smoked pot four and five times a day, and they were sitting on their butts.
They didn't have mental clarity.
And, you know, is it one of those things where, "I drive better under the influence of pot"?

Bill: We're not talking about driving now.

Natalie: So you don't drive?

Bill: I mean, maybe that's you and your friends.
I mean, Woody, I know, has better mental clarity under it.

[ Laughter ]

Woody: There's no question about that, Bill.
Thank you.

[ Laughter and applause ]

I mean, I think the issue is, if he's in pain and the populace decides that they think it's okay for medical -- you know, for patients to have it, then where does the government get off saying, "You can't have it"?

Natalie: I agree with that.

[ Applause ]

I agree with that, except that I was talking to Dr. Drew backstage, and he was saying that it's not proven.
There's no medical cases that it's proven.

Dr. Drew: And really, that's the real crux issue, is that there's difficulty getting the research done.
And that's really where there's been a serious problem.

Todd: But it's been the government that's prohibited the research.

Dr. Drew: I think everyone's pretty much in agreement that the research needs to be done.
The problem I have with marijuana --

Todd: Yeah, but, I mean, there is a lot of research.

Dr. Drew: He's not dying of cancer.
It's not like we're going to give him something to prolong -- in fact, it may be the wrong drug for him because it's chronic pain that he has.

Todd: You know -- wait a minute, though.
The society for neuroscience, this was just front-page news in the "L.A. Times."
They said that over 97 million people would benefit from the chemicals derived from or similar to the ones found in marijuana.
Potentially, 97 million Americans --

Dr. Drew: But we don't know.
That's the problem.
We need the research.
We really need the research.

Bill: But until the research is done, people are suffering.
And --

Dr. Drew: I got to tell you something.
Because I have tons of clinical experience with this stuff.

Bill: But he has tons of actual experience.

[ Cheers and applause ]

Dr. Drew: But in fact, though, Todd -- and please, Todd, I don't mean to disparage your condition, but your real condition now is chronic pain?

Todd: Right.

Dr. Drew: And one of the axioms of chronic pain is getting off all substances before the -- and utilizing other than medicinal approaches to the treatment of chronic pain, because activation of the reward system --

Bill: You've got to be kidding.
This whole country is dedicated to taking a pill for everything --

[ Applause ]

Dr. Drew: JAMA just published an article this week about adverse drug side effects being the fifth -- between fourth and sixth leading cause of death for people in hospitals.

Todd: It was just all over the news that prescription drugs kill over 100,000 people a year, also.
Cannabis, on the other hand, hasn't taken a life in a 5,000-year history.

[ Applause ]

Dr. Drew: That is my point.
I've gotta tell you.
If you hear -- it has, unfortunately, and please, bear with me.
'Cause I run an addiction program, and I have to deal with marijuana addiction every day.
And the fact is that the incidence of suicidiality of the first six months of marijuana abstinence is substantial.
And people don't know that.

Bill: I don't think it's the marijuana, it's the fact that they miss it so much.

Dr. Drew: They do.
It's a very serious reality.
And in fact, people who get into marijuana addiction years down the line already get depressed.
They get irritable.
And usually, they switch to speed --

Natalie: Which is why, until the drug -- until there is enough research, it is an illegal drug.

Bill: Enough research.

Natalie: But that research has to be out there.
What about years ago when people didn't think cigarettes did anything to you?
Now we found out you die of it and people die of it--

Woody: That's a legal drug, and pharmaceuticals are a legal drug--

Natalie: I agree with that--

Woody: And coffee's a legal drug--

Natalie: And it shouldn't be.

Woody: And sugar's a legal drug.
And they're all damn bad for you.
Should we round up everybody who goes to Dunkin' Donuts and throw 'em in jail?

[ Cheers and applause ]

Natalie: We should, as far as cigarettes.

Bill: I have to take a commercial.
We'll come back to Dunkin' Donuts.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right, we were talking about medical marijuana and marijuana in general.
And some people watch this and say "Oh, they're talking about drugs, and that's what they care about."
To me, it's fundamentally an American issue, about what we want in this country, and what this country means.
Do you have the freedom to do what you want as long as it doesn't hurt somebody else?
That, to me, is what America is about.

[ Applause ]

That, to me, should be a conservative standpoint.
But it is not.
Now, you had mentioned, you said marijuana addiction.
You talked about a clinic that you were involved in.

Dr. Drew: Yes.

Bill: I've never heard those terms together.

Dr. Drew: You know what?
I thought that somebody would bring that up.
So I just pulled out the first two quarterly journals of "Addiction Disease."
And in here, a physician -- one of them has a physician paper on how to handle marijuana addiction, and what the American Society of Addiction Medicine's position is on marijuana.

Bill: Well, what is addiction, doc?

Dr. Drew: Addiction is the progressive use in a biologically prone individual in the face of consequences.
If somebody keeps using even when they need to stop and want to stop.

Bill: So, food can be an addiction?

Dr. Drew: Well, it depends on --

Bill: I bet food kills more people than pot.

[ Applause ]

Woody: Amen, brother.

Dr. Drew: But stay with the -- I'm not defending -- because I'm quasi-anti-prohibition.
I think prohibition basically fuels the crime syndicate and doesn't do much for people that use drugs, except it doesn't help addicts contain their behavior, and it allows for abuse of substances for adolescents.

Bill: But why is it -- some things are not addictive, I assume, we could say.

Dr. Drew: I am anti-misinformation on this drug.
Unfortunately, I hear the audience snicker when I talk about my experience with this drug in dealing with people who become addicted and looking at the biological consequences.

Woody: I don't think the issue is whether or not people become addicted because I think it's obvious people become addicted.
You know, there's a lot of potheads in the world.
But the issue is whether or not we should be throwing them in jail.
If there's such a thing as a victimless crime.
And we spend $50 billion a year on victimless crimes in this country.

[ Applause ]

Now, the question is, should we be throwing these people in jail?
Should we be -- you know, I don't quote George Bush much, but he said something I like.

[ Laughter ]

He said, "If we've learned anything in the last quarter century, it is that we cannot Federalize virtue."
And that, to me, is what's going on here.
The United States government --

[ Applause ]

The United States government is trying to tell us what's right and what's wrong when no one's being hurt by it.
If you're not hurting the person or property of a nonconsenting other --

Bill: But he is being hurt by not being allowed to have even Marinol, which is the prescription version of it.

Todd: Right.
Yeah, I just spent 11 days in jail because the judge decided that I shouldn't be allowed to use prescription Marinol.

Dr. Drew: Does Marinol work for you?

Todd: Actually, it does.
You know, what happens when I have chronic pain is I can't sleep at night.
I wake up chronically fatigued.
I lose my appetite.

Todd: It works well.

Bill: And it has nothing to do with who you got baked with in high school.

[ Laughter ]

Natalie: Yeah, but the point to that was that it doesn't not do anything to you.
And it does affect other people.
Your senses get altered, you get behind the wheel of a car, just like you do alcohol, and you put the lives of other people in danger.

Bill: Yeah.
But -- alcohol is not outlawed.
You can't outlaw things just because people might screw up with them.

Natalie: No.
But now that something is illegal, you can't say you can do it just because alcohol is legal.
So let's bring a lot of other things legal that hurt other people because we already have one.

Bill: Using Democracy doesn't hurt other people.
It helps people.

Woody: Is this a free country?
Do you really think it's a free country?

Natalie: Yes.
And my mother had cancer, and I have to honestly say that if that helped her and it was legal, then that would be okay.
But my worry is --

Todd: Did she try it?

Natalie: No.

Todd: Why?

Natalie: She didn't have to because her cancer didn't get that far.

Todd: It didn't get that far.

Natalie: Right.

Todd: But now the people who have had cancer get that far, the people with AIDS, the people with glaucoma, the government supplies one of my dearest friends with 300 marijuana cigarettes for the past ten years because she has glaucoma.

Natalie: But what about when you --

Todd: It's the only thing that's helped her see.
Should she go blind because it's illegal?

Natalie: How about this?
How about, since you have to smoke it around seven times a day, like all the other addictive drugs in the hospital, why don't you go to the hospital, smoke it seven times a day in a room with a doctor so that you don't go get it at a drug store and pass it off to all your friends?

Todd: Do you know how ridiculous that really just sounded?

[ Laughter ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

And that's like saying, "go to the hospital because you've got to take your Prozac."

Natalie: Yeah, 'cause I don't want kids getting that, too.

Bill: Yeah, Prozac.

Todd: When I was 9, I never shared it with my friends.

Bill: Kids take Prozac.

Todd: I did very well in school.
It didn't affect my friends.
It affected me.

Bill: Your experience is that you saw --

Natalie: You were sick.
Not all kids are sick.

Todd: And they weren't, and I saw a difference.

Bill: But why should everybody suffer because the people you went to high school with used it to eat Cheetos and watch cartoons?

Natalie: It's not the people I went to high school with, it's kids --

[ Applause ]

Bill: Not everybody uses it that way.

Natalie: But people do, so let's make it more available to them.

Bill: But people do?
People also drive badly, should we outlaw cars?

[ Laughter ]

Dr. Drew: Let me turn this a little bit and say that I have yet to have a request for marijuana prescription from somebody who is not a marijuana addict.
I have yet to experience that because --

Todd: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Dr. Drew: Because, well, let me explain.
Hold on.
Hold on.
Because people who have this predisposition have much more of a euphoric effect from the drug.
And I have made cases that we ought to find out what that euphoragen is and take that out, and see if people still want to use this drug for medicinal purposes.

Woody: Why throw people in jail because they're feeling euphoria?

Dr. Drew: But -- right.
But wait a minute, this is the question -- wait a minute, this is the question --

Bill: Hey, let's take the good taste out of chocolate ice cream, doc, while we're at it.

[ Laughter ]

All right, I've gotta take a commercial.
We'll come back to right there.

[ Applause ]

Bill: All right.
This is your record, Dixie Chicks, great record.
And I assume it's all done sober.

Natalie: Except for the last song.

Bill: Except for the last song.
What happened there?

Natalie: A little wine.

Bill: A little wine?

Natalie: No pot, though.

Bill: Well, why is wine any different?
I mean, creativity is enhanced by certain things that nature, God, put on the Earth.
There's any number of bands who would testify that they were not, as you say, induced to just zone out when they smoked pot, but they actually had their creativity enhanced.
You don't think that that's possible?

Natalie: No.

Bill: Really, then you're just --

Natalie: You just listen to the dobro part on that last song, and it's really out of tune.

Bill: You don't think anybody ever had a different experience than the one you characterize with marijuana?

Natalie: Yes.
But what about every experience I bring up, it's specifically his.
Or do you have cancer?
Have I missed the bulletin?

Woody: I don't have cancer, but I think I have a right to smoke pot, as much of a right as someone has to take Prozac and as much of a right as someone has to smoke cigarettes.

Dr. Drew: All right.
Here's the deal, though.
Really, what we're talking about is, none of us really disagree that if somebody with a terminal condition or even a chronic condition that would be improved by marijuana should categorically not be allowed to use it.
But I think the question we're kind of zeroing in on here is, does prohibition work, and do we want a government that utilizes prohibition in our society?

Todd: Well, when we had alcohol prohibition, we saw crime increase, we saw gangs --

Dr. Drew: If you look at the facts, if you look --

Woody: To quote Thomas Jefferson, "I think the government that governs best governs least."

[ Applause ]

Todd: And then -- and then, you know, what kind of resources are being wasted on this drug war right now?
I was lookin' at statistics last night.
There's over $17 billion this year cast away.
That doesn't include the IRS drug budget, the DEA's drug budget, the FBI's drug budget, which closed at $21 billion.

Dr. Drew: Oh, I agree with you.
But here's my concern is that if we, say, start to legalize various abusive substances and the government gets funds from that, I would be in favor of it if they would use those funds to help treat and educate people about drugs and addiction.
The problem is, what do you think would happen to those monies?
They would very quickly be siphoned off into God knows what.

Todd: Well, wait a minute.
Wait a minute.
Wait a minute.

Bill: So the better answer is to send crop-dusting planes to Colombia?

Todd: Yeah, right.

Dr. Drew: But the better answer is to contain this.
And I think that's what our society is trying to do, is try to help --

Todd: But you're not containing it by having a drug war.
We are -- by feeding the fire, to say the very least, I mean, a person, a family has to pull teeth, sweat bullets, to be able to save up enough money to put their kids through college.
And it's so hard to procure a loan and save $14,000 a year just to get money to go to school.
But, if you're put in a desperate situation because you have no education, there's $16,000 to $33,000 already put aside to incarcerate you.
You know, what are we doing for the children with this drug war?

[ Applause ]

Natalie: But the point is that it's against the law.
You get put in jail because you're breaking the law.

Bill: But the law is made by the people, and the people of this state and many others said they don't think it's a just law.
They have a sense of what this country is about, which is freedom to do whatever you want to do if it doesn't hurt somebody else.

Woody: Halleluja, brother.

[ Applause ]

Dr. Drew: I have to counter with an Abraham Lincoln quote, which is "The majority cannot decide what the majority cannot decide."
Meaning that sometimes --

Bill: Why should --

Woody: I got another Abraham Lincoln quote -- "I've noticed folks with very few vices have very few virtues."

Natalie: Hey, I've got a Clinton quote -- "I did not inhale."

Todd: And now he's a President, but he tried it.
Should we imprison him for trying it?
And that's what this really should be all about.
We are sending people to jail.
The government has been trying to put me in jail for ten years to life because I grew my own medicine.

Woody: He never hurt anybody.

Todd: No.
Nonviolent --

Dr. Drew: But I read what you were growing.
That wasn't all for you, was it?

Todd: Yeah, actually, it's research.
I mean, now that the laws have changed, anyone with half a mind is going to want to experiment with a plant that has as much diversity as dogs.
I mean, if I was allowed to grow dogs, I wouldn't grow chihuahuas to pull a dog sled.
And this is the situation we're in.

[ Applause ]

Bill: Now, how can you say this man is not thinking clearly?

[ Laughter ]

Could a man make an analogy like that if he wasn't thinking clearly?

Dr. Drew: You're not using it continuously, are you?
You're using it intermittently.

Todd: I used to use -- No, no, no, no.
When I used marijuana medicinally, I found actually it was quite the reverse.
If I used it spontaneously, like a little here and there, I would get high, come down, I'd still be in pain.
If I would use it from when I woke up to when I go to sleep, I would not be in a foggy state.
I would be able to think clearly.
You would never be able to tell if I was smoking or not smoking.
And my pain would decrease.
I would sleep normally, eat normally.

Dr. Drew: Do you use intermittently?
That's a no -- ?

Todd: No.
I use it all the time.
But right now, I'm under severe drug testing because the government is acting as a doctor.
Even though I have no less than five recommendations from some of the top American physicians on the subject, the government is saying, "We know best."
And that's not Democracy.
That's more of a mirror of fascism than it is anything that this country --

Bill: They can't deliver the mail, and they're telling him how to run his health regimen?

[ Applause ]

It just seems wrong.
We have to take a commercial.
We'll come back.

[ Applause ]

Bill: Okay.
Last time we talked to you, you wanted to say something about Proposition 215.

Dr. Drew: I was really offended by 215.
As you know, what I am mostly against is misinformation.
And 215, to me, seemed like a sham.
It was some sort of Trojan horse, concocted to try to get people -- using the sympathies of people about individuals with chronic illness, to try to cram this thing into legality.

Todd: No, I started a compassion club in San Diego because I've seen people going blind, dying of AIDS in front of me, and nobody's helping them.
And the drugs that you can prescribe don't work.
These people shouldn't suffer waiting for you to change your minds and laws.

Dr. Drew: Marijuana doesn't work that well.
That's misinformation, too.
It's a weak drug.
It's not a very potent drug for these sorts of things.
For you --

Todd: It doesn't stimulate appetite?

Dr. Drew: It stimulates appetite, but a lot of things -- Megase stimulates appetite.
That's what's indicated now for AIDS wasting, as a matter of fact.

Woody: The question is, should the government have a hand in victimless crimes?


Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher

Executive Producers
Scott Carter
Bill Maher
Nancy Geller
Senior Producer
Douglas M. Wilson

Supervising Producer
Kevin Hamburger

Created By
Bill Maher

Directed By
Dennis Rosenblatt

Writing Supervised By
Chris Kelly

K.P. Anderson
Mark Bruser
Bill Kelley
Bill Maher
Billy Martin
Jerry Nachman
Ned Rice
Cliff Schoenberg
Danny Vermont
Scott Carter

Executive in Charge of Production
John Fisher

Executive Producers
Brad Grey
Bernie Brillstein
Marc Gurvitz

1998 Follow Up Productions, Inc.