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Interview with Sandee Burbank
by Bob LaBrasca
Apr 1984
Citation:   LaBrasca B. "Interview with Sandee Burbank". High Times. Apr 1984:32-9.
Founder of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA), Sandee Burbank heads one of the most unique parents organizations in the country. Unique in that its attitude towards drugs is rational, not hysterical.


When we at High Times first got word, about a year and a half ago, that an organization called Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA) had begun to build a following up in the potgrowing country of northern Oregon, we were delighted - though a bit skeptical. The group, we understood, was pushing for a broad-based campaign against drug abuse, while taking a soft line on marijuana. There were rumors, of course, of a connection between MAMA and the Oregon Marijuana Initiative (OMI) - the statewide campaign to legalize cultivation and/or possession of personal-use quantities of pot. But if somebody was going to investigate that link, it wouldn't be us.

The national "parents movement" itself, after all, seemed to be little more than a front group and organizing apparat for repressive right-wingers in general, and the Reagan White House specifically. So we figured this "mothers" organization in Oregon might just be an inspired political riposte to the devil-theorists and scapegoaters who were grabbing headlines and taking over PTA meetings all over America. Hey, why shouldn't the grower interests be savvy enough to set up their own "responsible" front groups? If our guys were stealing some of their fire - well, that's politics.

We were too cynical, it turns out. We finally came face to face with Sandee Burbank, the founder and director of MAMA, at the NORML conference on Marijuana and Health in Washington, D.C., in November, and she was all she claimed to be; and more. She was obviously dedicated, heart and soul, to dealing with the drug-abuse problems in her community. But make no mistake about it, she's also - personally - an energetic supporter of OMI. MAMA, she emphasizes, takes no position on the Marijuana Initiative; their concern is strictly with the problems of drug abuse. She sees no contradiction at all, though, in working actively for both causes.

Sandee is a child of the '60s, grown up. She lives with her husband and her three children on homesteaded property in Wasco County on the eastern slope of the Cascades. You might call her a back-to-the-land farm wife; she's into pottery and the domestic arts. When she and her husband moved there in the mid-'70s they were retreating to the historical American frontier. The Dalles, Wasco's county seat, marks the end of the Oregon Trail; from there the pioneers traveled by water down the Columbia River to the coast. Sandee feels very much a citizen of this still underpopulated region peppered with fruit orchards and occasional grainfields.

Wasco County, tucked against the Washington border, hasn't completely escaped public attention in recent years. The takeover of the town of Antelope by the tantric love cult of Rajneesh has brought network news teams on repeated forays into the county, and put Wasco on the media map. But High Times readers may recollect a more obscure tale, published in these pages a year ago.

The story was entitled "The Sinsemilla Snitches" and recounted the exploits of a nefarious free-lance drug informant named Mark Caven. Caven, you remember, set up a phony employment agency in The Dalles and advertised high-paying jobs for those who could qualify. Most employment in the area is seasonal, and this was the off-season, so his office was soon flooded with eager applicants. In confidential interviews, secretly taped, Caven made it clear to would-be workers that their chances for employment would be much improved if they could find him some good local pot. When Caven's victims managed to scrounge up a little weed, they were busted and offered clemency if they would turn over their suppliers.

All of this, naturally, was done in cooperation with the Wasco County Sheriff's Department and the district attorney's office. It seemed a dandy little investigative strategy, until the whole slimy affair was made public, the cases were thrown our of court and citizens' lawsuits began piling up against the prosecutors and the constabulary. All in all, one nasty little scandal.

But it was the first murmurings of this outrage that pricked the conscience of Sandee Burbank. She knew none of the bustees personally, but when she learned that this kind of third-rate, bait-and-switch chicanery had been conducted under the authority of supposedly responsible public officials, it was enough to get her righteous American dander up. She joined with other citizens in organizing the Committee to Investigate Fraudulent Law Enforcement (CIFLE), and began vociferously protesting at town meetings, exposing the details of the Caven scam to the media and helping to set up lawsuits.

Sandee also had the insight the realize that the Caven affair was more than just an example of abhorrently unethical conduct - it was also the natural spawn of the marijuana laws. The absolute marijuana prohibition was obviously unenforceable, and consequently created the opportunity for this kind of predatory injustice. So Sandee became a supporter of OMI. Revision of the pot laws, she felt, would at least solve part of the problem.

But she was continually asked about another issue, as she recruited friends and neighbors to support CIFLE and OMI: the undeniably expanding problem of drug abuse. Now that they were de facto community organizers, she and a few friends began looking into that briar patch; and out of their inquiries and organizing efforts MAMA was born.

It took some time, almost a year, but they managed to lay hands on objective, credible drug information for themselves, their kids and their parents. And they got some support from unlikely places: The local police and prosecutors, embarrassed by the Caven scandal, were more than willing to contribute to a visible and respectable effort at actually dealing with the drug problem. At this writing, MAMA-organized drug-education programs have served 800 young people, 150 adults and 50 local professionals in drug-related fields. The group's press-lobbying also provoked a seven-part series of articles in the local paper, on drugs and drug abuse, and managed to keep the coverage balanced and unhysterical.

All of this happened well before Parents for Drug Free Youth, their various flaky affiliates and Nancy Reagan joined forces to produce the overblown "Chemical People" television shows - those abominably dull programs aimed at stimulating the formation of antidrug community organizes, reactionary in substance but structured very much like MAMA. Maybe one of the reasons why MAMA has succeeded - where the Reagan, antidrug TV evangelism is now failing - is that MAMA is more interested in honestly confronting drug problems than in moral posturing.

MAMA and Sandee Burbank are beginning to get some national attention. They recently gave testimony before an Oregon Special Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Policy, and Sandee has been a guest on the syndicated "Woman to Woman" TV talk show. She's also beginning to receive invitations to speak in various forums around the country. We only hope the appearance of her words in these disreputably "drug-oriented" pages does nothing to diminish her obvious credibility.

High Times: Just what exactly is MAMA?

Sandee Burbank: Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse is a statewide parents organization which was founded in Wasco County, Oregon.

We were originally concerned about what we considered to be a lack of good drug education in the schools, but as we expanded our research we found that it was not just the schools that were lacking in this area but the entire community. So we sat down and figured out what our goals as a group would be.

Firstly, to provide current, scientific drug education to all age groups of our society - I'm not willing to give up on any of them. Some of my best friends are in their eighties and their nineties, and they're beautiful people and have a lot to teach me. Some of my other friends that are that old I can't talk to anymore because they've been medicated to the point where - they're gone. And because I'm not related to them, I don't have any control over it.

Secondly, we want to offer individual and family-oriented alternatives to drug use. And this has to happen on a small-community-by-small-community basis. We have to become communities again.

Thirdly, as a parents organization, we find ourselves in the unique position of being able to serve as a center of communications between law enforcement, educators, the clergy, other parents and youth. We can do that better than anybody else.

Fourthly, we question the Madison Avenue techniques of advertising over-the-counter drugs, alcohol and tobacco and their effects on our entire population.

High Times: But how did you people get together to begin with?

Burbank: It all started after the Committee to Investigate Fraudulent Law Enforcement exposed an undercover agent operating in our community. We began getting calls from people who were very concerned about drug education and the way it was being handled by the public schools. I then started talking to people in the community, people in other school districts than ours, and as we talked our group grew. I did some research and found that the other parents organizations dealt strictly with illicit drug use by youth. And they didn't even cover all the illicit drug use. For example, there wasn't much mention of tobacco use by youth. Some of the other groups dealt strictly with one drug or another, and we felt that this was counterproductive. Next we went to the chief of police in town and talked with him and told him our concern. I should mention that my position was rather compromised because of my involvement with the Oregon Marijuana Initiative.

High Times: Were you deeply involved in that?

Burbank: At that point, yes. In fact, one of the newspapers carried a cover story about Sandee Burbank, "the crazy marijuana lady."

The hardest thing we had to do was establish a good, credible educational source. Anybody who is trying to set up a MAMA organization is going to find that one of their hardest tasks is to locate a good local source of information. We ad heard of Mark Miller from the University of Oregon Drug Information Center, but we had never seen him or heard his presentation. But when we went to see the chief of police we found out that two of his officers had taken training from him and they highly recommended his course. He is also considered an expert witness on drugs for the state.

We decided we could bring Mark Miller here with the support of the local law-enforcement agencies. And he gave a program on basic drug consumer safety which was directed at pretty much all age groups. Young children might not have understood it, but, for anybody from a junior-high level up, it was very easily understood. He did two presentations, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. And we had 135 people turn out, which is, I guess, phenomenal for the community, considering the fact that other mental-health groups had tried to set up programs before ours but nobody would come.

High Times: And just for the sake of chronology, how long was this before the Chemical People thing was on TV?

Burbank: Is was a little bit less than a year. We had our first presentation February second of last year. So by the time the Chemical People show was aired we'd already had an in-service training program that was two days long - ten hours. We had fifty people take that. It's a big deal to get fifty people in our community to commit themselves to ten hours on a weekend, but they did. And it gave us a shared learning experience which also helped unite the community.

High Times: The parents who were initially involved in organizing MAMA - were they mostly '60s veterans - people who had either firsthand experience with drugs or at least some general knowledge about them?

Burbank: Yes, a lot of us had had either personal experience with drugs or had had friends who did. We had seen firsthand a lot of drug use and abuse. We are the '60s generations; this is now the '80s and we have families. A lot of us are grandparents and were very concerned that so many people seemed unaware of the real scope of the drug-abuse problem. Not just recreational drug abuse which we're pretty familiar with, growing up in the '60s, but also the abuse we saw occurring with senior citizens who were drugged to keep them quiet or to keep them manageable, et cetera. That was something that was of great concern to many people. It wasn't just the youth. People had gotten very concerned about both ends of the spectrum. You know, the youth and the senior. The interests of everybody in between came later.

High Times: Did you find yourself at odds with the more ideologically puritanical parents groups?

Burbank: We didn't have a parents group here. We were real lucky. We're so far out in the sticks, I guess nobody thought to pay much attention. The other parents organizations that had formed in the state had been around for quite a while. We hadn't gotten much information out here at all. We had the concerns before we even found out about the other parents groups. It wasn't until we went seeking something that we even found out we disagreed with them. We are not reacting to them.

But we were quite happy in that one of our school districts had just spent a bunch of time revamping their drug-education program and had reduced it to responsible decision making, That's basically what it amounts to. And they are now starting on the kindergarten level, teaching people how to make responsible decisions. They have an excellent drug-education program. Also, one of the counselors for the junior high school in that same school district had just been involved in setting up a good drug-education program back East, so he was real familiar with a lot of the issues.

High Times: What do you mean by an excellent drug-education program?

Burbank: Well, okay, I'm just speaking about the health classes now. They were not using reefer-madness kind of education. They had just changed over and were using one that starts at the kindergarten level, teaching people how to make responsible decisions regarding all kinds of things. We didn't feel that this was adequate, but at least it was a step in the right direction. I think you can teach people, but you also have to have other programs besides just a class, you know.

High Times: Like what?

Burbank: We feel that there need to be peer support groups for people who are either using drugs and want to quit using them or people who feel they're being pressured to use drugs.

Another thing that we thought we needed and are still working on is a crisis hotline for people who are having problems and need to plug in right away to somebody. People are coming to us because there is nothing available for drug abuse in our community unless you have a lot of money, which puts us in the position of having to search throughout the state for facilities to help these people. And we ran into a problem there when we discovered that if you try to get somebody into a treatment place, they try to make whoever is putting the person in liable for the cost.

High Times: And that can be extremely high.

Burbank: Oh, yeah, I've talked to people that have spent $50,000 trying to get a child off marijuana. which I find just ridiculous. We've talked to other people who have spent $23,000 to get somebody clean on cocaine.

What we find so often is that when these people do go to treatment and try to come back into the community they have a real hard time, because there's no halfway house, there's no support group for people who have cleaned up. If it's a child, their old friends think they're a narc, and other kids don't want to have anything to do with them because they're 'bad.' So they find themselves really alienated.

High Times: In light of your approach I'm sure you must have found yourself in conflict at some point with some of the other parents groups.

Burbank: Well, at first we actually went out seeking a group to join because it's a lot of work to form an organization from the ground up. We checked out Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the group affiliated with National Federation of Parents, and we found that their scope was so limited and so emotional that we thought it would be counterproductive.

High Times: But you actually had discussions about possible affiliation?

Burbank: Oh, yes. You know, in the beginning we had no idea that we were going to be forming our own group. We were just trying to deal with the issue in our community. It would have been much easier if we could have plugged into another organization with all kinds of printed material, et cetera.

High Times: But weren't these the only groups that were being funded by the Oregon government?

Burbank: Yes. They also get a lot of federal funds. It gets filtered down through the state but it's coming from a national level. One of the groups had gotten $10,000, which is a lot of money to us. We've done everything we've done for way less than a thousand. The three things that you had to do to get this kind of money was to first concentrate on the negative effects of drugs, in particular, marijuana. You had to be affiliated with National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth and you had to form twenty viable parents organizations in the state.

So I went to some of their programs and I said things like: "Don't you think we should talk more about alcohol, which is the number-one drug of choice with students?" And "Shouldn't we talk about cigarettes?" But they didn't want to hear what I had to say. A lot of those people could only look at my opinion of the marijuana laws and they would shut down to hearing anything else I had to say. They think because I'm personally opposed to the marijuana laws and think that they are very ineffective, that I'm promoting marijuana use.

What we did see coming from the other parents organization is that they were responsible for introducing a lot of antimarijuana legislation is a lot of states other than ours. Ours is one of the few states where a bunch of that legislation didn't pass. And that came mostly from the marijuana-legalization advocates being much better organized here than they were in most other states. But a lot of parents organizations introduced legislation such as the land confiscation bill or the Model Paraphernalia Act, and they passed without much opposition at all.

High Times: Are you aware of any other groups forming along lines similar to MAMA in other states?

Burbank: Yeah, there are several states where people are working on forming groups of their own. But it takes a long time to first research the community to find out what's already available. Now, it would seem to be a very simple process of picking up the phone and calling, but it's not like that. It took us almost two years to finally get to the point where we realized that we did not have anything in our own community.

High Times: Do you work with church groups?

Burbank: Oh, yeah, I've been working with the church, law enforcement, the schools.

What our group is dealing with are most of the issues that the PTA would be dealing with: alternatives to drug use, a uniting of the community in all age groups. We've found that interaction between different age groups has been reduced to a bare minimum, and that's sort of an underlying problem because kids say that one of the reasons they use drug is because of peer pressure. Well, I think that's because we put people in a position where their peers' opinion is more important than anybody else's.

High Times: But you've also gone to groups like Kiwanis and Rotary.

Burbank: We've spoken to the Lion's Club. We have sent letters or have spoken to every service organization in our area. Some of the them had a real problem with my position on the marijuana laws, as I've stated. Other groups have divided over the issue and many times we left in the middle of a brawl. Others have become very supportive and have offered us assistance anyway they can. This is just now starting to happen. Because of my personal opinion of the marijuana laws, it's been a long hard process trying to convince people that MAMA's not trying to legalize it. My success rate, probably, with a hostile crowd, is that I can win over about a third.

High Times: We get a good deal of mail from parents who use drugs, mainly marijuana, and are unclear as to the best way of explaining their occasional, recreational drug use to their children. How do you think this situation should be handled?

Burbank: Well, I've seen people approach it in a couple of different ways. There are people who hide it from their children. I've seen problems come from that. Then there are other people who are quite candid with their children about their marijuana use and explain to them the problems with the law, which is also another big problem because you end up with your child being frightened of law enforcement, because in fact the entire family could be affected by parents using marijuana. And that is one of the reasons I'm involved with the Oregon Marijuana Initiative.

By the way, I'm speaking for myself more than for the group, because I don't know that we've ever really discussed this and decided on a group decision, but my personal feeling about it is that marijuana should be handled just like any other drug. Drugs are not for kids. Kids are too young and too immature - no, that's not the word I want. Let's put it like this. When I was growing up we were not allowed to drink coffee because it stunted your growth. You did not smoke cigarettes because children did not smoke cigarettes. You did not use alcohol because children did not use alcohol. And I feel that children should use no drugs at all if at all possible, and that includes aspirin, or any of the other drugs that are out there. If a child gets a temperature, parents will give him drugs, because children are supposed to have this perfect temperature all the time. I have a lot of problems with the drug use that I see occurring with our kids, not just illicit drug use but legal drug use as well.

You know, we program our kids to take drugs for every little bitty thing that bothers them, from the time they're little babies on. Then, when it comes to recreational drugs - alcohol, I guess tobacco would have to fall into that category, marijuana and illicit drugs - they're already programmed into the system of relieving every anxiety or pain with a drug.

High Times: What about in the schools? How early do you think the drug issue should be brought up with kids?

Burbank: Kindergarten. Maybe not in terms of drugs but in terms of responsible decision making, which is the whole issue.

High Times: What exactly do you mean?

Burbank: How to weigh the good aspects and the bad aspects and decide what is a good, responsible decision to make. For example, what will happen to me if I do not brush my teeth on a regular basis? It's the same thing, you lose your teeth and you lose your health. It's the same decision - how to take care of your body, how to take care of your mind, yourself, because really the individual is the only person that can end up making those decisions.

High Times: Should there be an escalation to addressing specific drug issues as kids get older? Do you have any kind of timetable in your head as to how that should develop?

Burbank: Oh, I think that most kids, by the time they're in fourth, fifth or sixth grade, have been exposed to drugs, both legal and illegal, and at that point I think we should start, instead of just dealing with responsible decision making, to address the specifics of all the drugs that are out there and their potential for abuse.

High Times: So drug education, as far as you're concerned, should encompass all those substances that are prescribed by the family physician.

Burbank: Oh, yes. That's a whole other issue, how to educate the family physician about drug abuse. One of the highest percentages for drug abuse comes from prescription drugs. A lot of people feel like they haven't gotten their money's worth when they go to the doctor unless they get a prescription. They don't want to hear "Go home and cut down on your coffee intake" or whatever. They want to be handed the miracle drug.

High Times: Something that they can put into themselves that will cure them.

Burbank: That's right.

High Times: Let's talk a little bit about the drug literature that's available. I take it you look at a sea of material and cast around for the stuff that you find most reliable.

Burbank: Right. Well, we get quite a bit of good material from the University of Oregon Drug Information Center. They have a pretty thorough knowledge on the drugs that are out there. The Do It Now Foundation has some excellent stuff, and I noticed that they have expanded their line. For example, we just got a new catalog from them, and instead of one pamphlet on marijuana, I think there are now four dealing with different aspects of abuse. We also use Dr. Andrew Weil's books Chocolate to Morphine and The Natural Mind.

High Times: Have you found that there's also a fair amount of drug literature out there that is not helpful, that perhaps has a negative effect?

Burbank: Yes. The information that National Federation of Parents and their affiliates put out tries to make some drugs evil and other drugs good, and I think that's counterproductive. All drugs have a potential for abuse, every one of them, and there are 400,000 of them out there.

High Times: Kids must tune in at some point to the fact that when these groups say "drugs" they don't mean all drugs. They mean the drugs that they happen to be scapegoating at the time, rather than drugs in general.

Burbank: Yeah. We feel that the reefer-madness approach is very counterproductive. Kids are smart.

High Times: You mentioned when we talked before that kids should be a source of information.

Burbank: That's right. For instance, I was amused with the home urinalysis kit that they're supposed to come out with. If a parent wants to know if their child is using marijuana, it's really pretty easy to find out. Just pay attention. Time and time again I see parents who discover the stash in the child's drawer, question him about it and believe lines like "Oh, I was holding that for my buddy John because he didn't want his dad to find out." Or they find four marijuana plants growing in their garden and believe the child when he says, "Oh, that's not mine. My buddy John is doing it" or whatever.

What I want to know is, if they can't just talk honestly to their kids about these things, how are they going to get the urine that they need for the sample without the child finding out?

High Times: Another interesting sidelight to the urinalysis test kit is its five percent error rate, and that's by the manufacturer's estimate. That virtually guarantees that at least one out of twenty families will produce a situation where a parent who decides to approach his children in that kind of military fashion is going to falsely accuse them of smoking marijuana, and who knows what kind of trouble that could stir up.

Burbank: That's right. You know, drug abuse is not something that exists on its own. Drug abuse usually occurs when there's a breakdown in the established family unit or the school or the church. I'm always concerned when I hear about kids who are having problems, because so often the problem comes not because of the drug, but that they turn to the drug because of other problems they are having.

High Times: And very often the solutions are lacking for dealing with those problems.

Burbank: Right.

High Times: I'd now like to get into the question of legalization, the various initiatives and other approaches. I realize your opinions might not be those of everyone in MAMA.

Burbank: Well, I can tell you what MAMA's opinion is. In particular about the marijuana laws, we feel that they are inequitable, ineffective, unenforceable and counterproductive. As far as how to deal with the specific issue, we have many different opinions in the group, but we do feel that the laws are more of a problem than a help.

High Times: When you were talking before about the problem of how parents deal with their own marijuana use in a household situation, the nub of the problem seemed to be its illegality.

Burbank: That's true. It's just like if we were trying to teach people how to drive cars responsibly - it would be real hard to do if cars were illegal. Those kinds of laws just aggravate the problem. What we're seeing when we see drug abuse is an illness. Maybe not a physical illness, although in some cases it does become a physical addiction, but it's a mental illness of attitude. Remember when they used to pick up anybody drunk on the street and throw them in jail? They've changed that a lot lately. Instead, they're now treating the person who is drunk on alcohol as a person with an illness. I find that a lot easier to work with than to make it a crime. I mean, they've already got enough of a problem without being considered a criminal too.

High Times: Have you remained active with the Oregon Marijuana Initiative?

Burbank: Yes, I have. I'm a chief petitioner.

High Times: What does that mean?

Burbank: You have to have three chief petitioners to get a petition on the ballot, and I'm one of three.

High Times: And the prospects I take it appear good at this point for -

Burbank: Oh, yeah, I think we're going to be on the ballot. That's not a problem. We still have some signatures to get, but we gathered lots in just a few months last year. The passing of it is another thing.

High Times: The Oregon legislature meets every two years, does it not, and they will go into session again when?

Burbank: In '84. They already tried to deal with the issue, or they at least put up a front of trying to.

High Times: And you need how many signatures?

Burbank: About 65,000, something like that.

High Times: How have you been mobilizing petitioners?

Burbank: We've got petitioning drives where we go into communities. A lot of petitioning fairs are taking place where we've got all of the initiative petitions in the state and we present them all to the voter and they can sign any of them that they wish.

High Times: Are there a lot of people in Oregon motivated to help out with it?

Burbank: Oh, yes. But it's hard to stand on a street with a petition in your hand and walk up to complete strangers, especially when you're dealing with something as volatile as marijuana. I think that the initiative petition is one of the best things that any state could have going for it, though.

We were very frustrated with the legislature this year and their inability to deal with the marijuana issue. For example, we had five bills that were introduced and they had a hearing on all five bills on one day. One was a land confiscation bill where any amount of any controlled substance would have allowed the government to confiscate your land and all of your holdings. Another one was the model paraphernalia bill. Another one would have reduced penalties. Another one would have made it legal for sales in the liquor stores, and then there was still another one creating a new crime that was possession with intent to distribute. All right? Well, we were allowed three minutes to testify on all five bills. After the testimony was over several of the senators told us, "There is no way we're going to deal with it this way. You are going to have to do it through the initiative process." So that's what we're doing.

High Times: So, if you get the initiative on the ballot, then it is still only an advisory initiative, is it not?

Burbank: No, it's the law. But they'll be able to change it around and set a limit, which we think will just complicate the issue, because either it's for personal use or it's not for personal use. If it's not for personal use, then you are selling it and it's against the law. If it's for personal use it could be one plant or it could be twenty plants. If you try to set a limit of let's say five plants, well, maybe one of the people who can grow five plants is only going to use two. Do you see what I mean?

High Times: So I guess you find yourself wearing two hats, one as an activist against drug abuse and the other as a marijuana law reformer.

Burbank: Definitely. But it's really all the same issue.

High Times: In what way?

Burbank: Well, I've discussed already how we feel that making drugs illegal creates more of a problem than a help. Obviously, the illegality does not keep people from abusing drugs. We've got record drug abuse now. As far as I'm concerned, it's all the same issue. It all deals with drug abuse and people who are being hurt, whether it be by laws or by their own self-inflicted drug abuse.

High Times: So you figure that there is initially a problem with drug abuse and then there is the compounding of that problem by the laws?

Burbank: That's well put.

High Times: What are the prospects for a lot of MAMAs developing around the country? I gather that you're not interested in operating a national political organization?

Burbank: No. It's not for political reasons that I'm involved. It's what? Humanitarian reasons. I care about people who are abusing drugs whether they be illegal or legal drugs. And, no, I don't really want to be involved in setting up a national organization, although I find right now that I am at the center of most of the organizing that is happening. But what is going to have to happen is that each state is going to have to find their own good, reliable educational source. And that can only be handled at the community level.

High Times: You've leveled some pretty strong criticisms at the National Organization of Parents for Drug Free Youth or whatever they are calling themselves these days - that they're in reality a broad-based support group for President Reagan's reelection, right?

Burbank: Yes. The qualifications I already mentioned, that you needed to be eligible for some of that $10,000 from the federal government, will point to that. Just those three qualifications alone. What I saw when I went to their conventions was that they talked about marijuana specifically and how to lobby and how to form parents organizations. They didn't really deal much with what you were supposed to do after you formed the organization. They were so interested in legislation, et cetera, which is one of the things that we've stayed away from. We try to deal with the political issues as little as possible. But we see that that's one of their main driving forces.

High Times: So it seems that they are interested in promulgating White House policy at the very least?

Burbank: Oh, yes.

High Times: And presumably electing the people who will support the policy?

Burbank: Well, Sidney Cohen, Lee DoGoloff, Carleton Turner, those are their main speakers. I went and heard what they had to say. They had a marijuana convention here. That was something else. They had a convention on marijuana and our organization wasn't asked to participate. It was kind of interesting. Neither one of the organizations I am affiliated with, the Oregon Marijuana Initiative or MAMA, was asked to participate. But, I went, and what I heard is pretty much the same thing that I've heard before. Now, instead of "amotivational syndrome," they're calling the "marijuana syndrome." One of their big terms that they use a lot now is the "wall of denial." I think they have a wall of denial in their approach. Most of the people that are doing this speaking for these organizations are getting paid a lot of money. We are strictly volunteers. Usually my expenses are not even met. We make our money through bake sales or burrito sales or however we can get a little bit of money up. We have utilized the law-enforcement agencies' money and their willingness to work with us to bring several of the programs to our community.

High Times: Let me ask you about that a little bit more. I've sort of passed over your involvement with law enforcement. You found them cooperative?

Burbank: Very cooperative.

High Times: Why's that?

Burbank: Because they are the ones that have to try and enforce these laws. We've done a lot of research on what's happening with the courts, and what we see is that, at least in the Portland area, a fourth to a third of the cases that are going through the courts involve marijuana use. And I think most of the law-enforcement agencies would really rather deal with more serious issues like robbery, rape, murder, et cetera.

High Times: Right now in your particular county you are dealing with the police department that -

Burbank: Two police departments, The Sheriff's Department and the city police.

High Times: And you had some district-attorney money too, right?

Burbank: Yes. Well, that was a personal donation from our district attorney.

High Times: This is the same guy who had been prosecuting the Caven cases?

Burbank: The same guy who almost got sued.

High Times: And you actually attended a Chemical People town meeting?

Burbank: Yes.

High Times: What was it like? Quite different from a MAMA gathering I suppose?

Burbank: Well, many of the people that were involved with them had shared an educational experience with us earlier on. And without our having to speak up there were people there who said things like, "We're dealing with youthful drug abuse here but the issues go way beyond youthful drug abuse." Another man said he thought television itself was as bad a drug as any of the ones we were talking about. So there were a lot of very reasonable souls in the audience. They've got a meeting tonight, as a matter of fact. It's their Task Force meeting. And we're going to go and hear what their reports are.

What we've decided to do is just sit back and watch what happens and make available to these people any of the resources that we have. At this point we're much better educated than they are. And we want to share this education with them. We will work with them when we can. But we refuse to deal just with the issue of youthful drug abuse of the illicit drugs. We will not do that. All it does is tend to alienate the kids if you take that approach.

High Times: Well, that's probably a point of view that they should hear.

Burbank: They have heard it. I mean, they know how we feel about that. And we didn't have to say it. We've had people that are involved with MAMAs around the state attend Chemical People meetings. Someone called me yesterday who'd been appointed as secretary to the Task Force and wanted MAMA to come and speak. What we're doing in our own state with the Chemical People program is trying to plug in, trying to use the people who turned out for the program and see if we can't involve them in the broader issues of drug abuse.

High Times: You received a letter from Nancy Reagan, didn't you? What did it say?

Burbank: It wasn't a letter. They called. I wasn't here, so they left a message that they had gotten my letter and they were very sorry that they had missed me while I was in D.C. I had called asking for an appointment. We did meet with several of our congressional representatives there and one senator. I just got a letter from Senator Packwood yesterday. I had questioned the tobacco subsidy and wanted to know why he didn't vote. And he wrote me back a page-and-a-half letter about why, stating his position.

We're not just dealing with illicit drug abuse. We're concerned about tobacco and the fifteen-million-dollar-a-year subsidy we put out there, and we're concerned about alcohol and alcohol advertising practices. We're concerned that the president allows himself to be seen toasting with a mug of beer and a glass of wine and wonder what kind of message is going to the youth. We're concerned about prescription drug abuse by senior citizens. They're not doing it to get high. They're doing it because they don't understand the drug interaction. We've gone from less than a couple of hundred drugs to over 400,000 in thirty years. We've got the profit motive on both ends, meaning the drug industry and the rehabilitation industry. I'm not saying that all of them are driven by that motive. But I sure do see a lot of high price tags.

High Times: Right. There's a profit motive in the illicit drug industry as well.

Burbank: There certainly is. And our laws help subsidize that industry.

High Times: Delighted to hear you say it.



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