Keith Ellison: When it comes to the opioids, there's a company called Purdue Pharmaceutical that makes OxyContin and other medicines that address pain. They minimized discussion about its level of addictiveness. They pushed really aggressive sales techniques that were not supported by evidence, and they didn't include sufficient warnings. Eighty-eight people a day die from opioids overdose. The industry will say, "Yeah, some of that is a problem, but drugs laced with Fentanyl are coming from Mexico, and that's not us." So, there will be this exchange. I can tell you that this is a big deal. These products are sold all over the country. They've been sold everywhere. There's been a lot of these slick sales techniques. I expect that there'll probably be some offers of settlement.
I will ask myself whether settlement proposals meet the demand of the people who suffered. If so, we'll think about settling. There are other elements to think about. How important is it to get the truth out? You take a product like asbestos. Well, they knew way back in the last century that this stuff caused (cancer) and would make people really sick. Yet they didn't really say anything about how dangerous the product was. Same thing with lead. Same thing with cigarettes.
So, in some cases, I will factor in how important is it to get the truth out about what this product does?
Some states are looking at climate change. Exxon Mobile has been very adamant first, claiming that there is no climate change. And then saying if there is, it's naturally occurring and had nothing to do with anything they sold. “It's not our fault, and we didn't know anything about it. Don't ask us for anything."
Now we know that in the early 70s, and maybe even before, they were changing the engineering on their rigs because of changes in climate. They knew before anyone knew. They had the research. They had documentation. They denied it, and then they blamed others.
Same thing with cigarettes, and same thing with other things, such as lead.
We’ll get the evidence. If there's enough to make a claim, the claim will be made. They will have a right to defend, and there'll be efforts of settlement negotiation. If that doesn't happen, then you'll have trials.
Al McFarlane: What is the impact of changing marijuana laws and policies. You said this at the beginning of this interview there's lawful and there's awful, right?
Ellison: Basically what you're asking is if we move forward toward recreational marijuana, and now all of a sudden big people like Bob Dole are making money in marijuana, then what about Little Sammy Johnson or Pookie who got time, who got arrested, got an arrest record for having a small amount of marijuana and because he sold a few joints on the corner?
Is that right? No, it's not right. It's immoral, and we have to adjust.
Here's my two cents. If we're going to have recreational marijuana, and I think we should ... by the way everybody, I don't smoke marijuana ... I say that because this is not some self-serving thing. I don't smoke marijuana, and I don't recommend that you do.
Having said that, I do support recreational cannabis, and here's what I think we should do. We need to have a geographically, racially, gender-diverse committee that comes together with people all over the state, law enforcement and previously incarcerated people, who come together and say, "OK, what should a recreational marijuana law look like?"
Let's benefit from the Netherlands that's been doing this for years, or Spain, or Canada, or Colorado. Let's do the best thing we can do based on what we know. One thing I do not want and will be 100 percent against is the monopolies. We have cigarette monopolies – Altria, Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds. We don't need a marijuana monopoly. So, the dispensary should be small enough for small business people to do this, right?
Two, everybody who has a criminal justice record for anything connected to marijuana, certainly anything like small amount of sales or usage, needs to be expunged. And not just expunged, but pardoned, because an expungement means it's still there, but the public can't see it. A pardon means you are excused legally. It's like it never happened.
We should make sure that it can't be sold to children. We should make sure that it cannot be advertised. We know what Joe Camel meant to cigarette sales. No, Joe Camels for marijuana. We're not going to have a cute cartoonish looking sales program for marijuana. No TV advertising. We should restrict all that. We should go into this eyes wide open very clear. You need to understand the marijuana industry. Probably 60 percent of the sales will be to 10 percent of the population, the heavy users, right? Well, what do we do about those people? That's a social cost. What do they need? Shouldn't you, if you're going to sell marijuana, have to pay an additional fee just like you should pay a penny a pill if you're selling OxyContin? You should pay an extra fee for marijuana for people who find themselves dealing with that as a health or social problem.