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10.26.17 – SPOKES Notes

SPOKES Notes written by Tom Mathison

The Rotary Club of Downtown Grand Rapids gathered at noon at the University Club for its regular meeting. President Renwick Brutus called this meeting to order at noon by welcoming everyone and announcing the line-up of events and future speakers for the Club:

November 2:  “Rotary in the PM” – University Club at 4:00 pm

November 6: Volunteer Opportunity – Ronald McDonald House

November 9: Ed Swart, District Governor, District 6290

Renwick called upon Keith Lang to lead us in song today, the “Star-Spangled Banner”, followed by today’s invocation by Chelsea Dubey.

President Renwick invited Tom Dorwin to introduce guests and visiting Rotarians. And then he invited James Eliassen to remind Rotarians of the many community engagement opportunities coming up, such as volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House on November 6 – see James or Jim Siegel if you would like to volunteer.

Renwick then invited Hilary Smith to make a financial report to the Club, which will be given every quarter.

Hugh Brenneman stepped forward to introduce today’s speaker, Brian Lennon, former Federal criminal prosecutor and now an attorney with Warner Norcross and Judd, and Chair of its White Collar Crime Group.  Hugh stated that, in 2016, more Americans died from opioids than in all of the Vietnam War.  President Trump has declared the opioid epidemic a national crisis.  Brian Lennon is a graduate of Harvard University and Notre Dame Law School, and he spent four years in the Marine Corps as a JAG.  He has coached Division 1 basketball, was a counselor at a homeless shelter in Boston, and played on a national championship rugby team.  He has lived in Grand Rapids for the past 13 years.

Brian’s presentation today was about the opioid epidemic in America.  In the late 1960’s, the use of heroin and marijuana were of greatest concern, and in 1969, Richard Nixon ran for President on an anti-drug platform.  He declared a war on drugs in 1971, and of the funds spent on this war, 60% was spent on enforcement, and 40% was spent on drug education and treatment.

Today, 29 states permit the use of marijuana for medical use.  Eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana.  In many elections coming up, many states have marijuana issues on the ballot.  Currently the use of Fentanyl and heroin lead to 91 deaths each day (more deaths than those caused by cars each year).  Fentanyl just passed heroin as the most deadly drug.

Brian stated an “uncomfortable truth”:  Illicit drugs are part of modern America’s DNA.  It will always be a part of our culture.  Drug use leads to selling drugs, which leads to prison.  Brian said that he is opposed to the war on drugs, and is opposed to the illicit use of drugs.  He also said that the decriminalization of drugs is not the answer either.  Rather, drug use is a societal problem that needs to be managed.

Brian said that the most recent developments in drug policy has used “Design Thinking”, and he mentioned a video that was produced by Steelcase University.

The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but it consumes 80 % of the world’s population.  Of particular concern is synthetic opioids, such as Oxycontin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanyl.  Between 2000 and 2010, the use of prescription opioids has increased by 104%.  Michigan is tenth in the nation per capita in the prescription of opioids in 2012.  In 2015, Kent County had 109 overall opioid deaths, including a 10-month-old baby.

Brian walked us through the chronology of drug policy in the U.S.:

Policy before the War on Drugs:

1914:  Harrison Narcotics Act

1930:  Federal Bureau of Narcotics established

1951:  Boggs Act

1956:  Narcotics Control Act

1963:  Presidential Commission on Drugs

1966:  Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act

1968:  Enforcement given to Department of Justice

Policy during the War on Drugs:

                    1970:  Controlled Substances Act

1973:  DEA created

1982:  War on Drugs and Organized Crime

1984:  Comprehensive Crime Control Act

1986:  Anti-Drug Abuse Act

1988:  Anti-Drug Abuse Act

2003:  Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act

2010:  Fair Sentencing Act

Prescription Drug Gateway:

1986:  White paper on Opioids for Non-Cancer Pain

1996:  Pain: the Fifth Vital Sign

1998:  No regulatory problem for over-prescribing opioids

2001:  Treating pain is a priority

2004:  Punish the “under-treatment of pain”

2007:  Executives plead to misbranding

“Design Thinking” started at Stanford University, based on 5 distinct, but related elements:

.         Empathize – Understand

.         Identify the scope of the problem

.         Imagine possibilities – ideate

.         Prototype ideas – fail fast

.         Incorporate feedback into new approach

Following an engaging and thoughtful time of Q&A, the Club offered an enthusiastic round of applause.  President Renwick presented Brian with a certificate for a clean water filter to be given to a family in his honor in Nicaragua.

Renwick recognized all the Interact students attending today, and then he rang the Rotary bell, and the meeting was adjourned at 1:15 pm.

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