Cannabis Capitalism with Prof. David Jernigan | Crooked Media
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November 23, 2021
America Dissected
Cannabis Capitalism with Prof. David Jernigan

In This Episode

The movement to legalize cannabis has marked some major wins, helping us better understand its benefits and addressing the way it’s been used to systematically over-police and incarcerate Black and brown people. And yet cannabis is big business, as venture-backed companies have swooped in to monetize newly legal cannabis, putting their bottom line ahead of public health concerns. Abdul talks to Dr. David Jernigan, an expert on the public health issues relevant to cannabis about these questions and more.





Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: The FDA and CDC have approved the Pfizer vaccine booster for the general adult population. The Biden administration announced a plan to vastly increase COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing. And drug overdose mortality has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, a 29% increase since last year. This is America Dissected. I’m your host, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. I’m a child of the ’90s. Born in 1984, I grew up with Nickelodeon, danced to the Macarena, and fell in love with hip hop, listening to Poc and Biggie. I also grew up with a cop in my classroom telling me about the harms of drugs, and I wore the ubiquitous DARE T-shirt that he brought. It was all part of growing up in the shadow of one first lady’s message to a whole generation.


[clip of Nancy Reagan] So to my young friends out there, say yes to your life. And when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: First Lady Nancy Reagan’s infamous campaign kicked off a cultural wave in the United States, one that demonized drugs as a singular cause of poverty, criminality, and social breakdown. But implicit in telling kids to just say no is that substance use is a moral failure driven by individual choices to use or not use. In an economic sense, the first lady was framing drugs as a demand-side issue. If enough kids said no, there’d be no demand for drugs. That’s ironic because while Nancy was saying “Just say no”, her husband, Ronald was saying something else.


[clip of Ronald Reagan] It’s easy to lose touch with reality when it’s other people’s money that you’re spending, and there are so many things you want to do for those, or this or that special interest group. So many programs, many of them quite attractive and well-meaning, that can only be subsidized by more government taxing, spending and borrowing.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: In the 1980s, Nancy’s beau Ronald was busy remaking the economy around supply-side economics, the macroeconomic theory that lowering taxes and cutting corporate regulation could create massive wealth for massive businesses that would trickle down to everyone else. To cut taxes, he weaponized racist tropes about welfare queens to justify cutting anti-poverty programs that millions relied on. Reagan’s magical economics was right in one respect: it did create massive wealth for massive businesses. It just didn’t trickle down everyone else. Businesses and their leaders saw their paychecks balloon, kicking off the massive inequality that we have in America today. And without the regulations that were critical to keeping them accountable to the public, they were free to pursue their profits in devious and dubious ways. Meanwhile, the government deployed massive police forces and burgeoning jails to mass incarcerate hundreds of thousands of mainly young Black folks on petty drug crimes. Over a 39-year period, between 1980 and 2019, the number of Americans incarcerated for drug offenses increased more than tenfold. And at the center of that was cannabis. To this day, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, despite the fact that it’s not chemically addictive, it can’t be overdosed on, and it’s even been shown to have several medical benefits for certain types of patients. Schedule 1 is supposed to be reserved for substances that have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety standards for use under medical supervision. That’s not cannabis. Over the last 10 years, there’s been a growing movement to legalize cannabis. 31 states have either decriminalized or fully legalized cannabis. And there’s been a strong push to change federal law, which has hindered medical research on cannabis and still prohibits people from carrying it across state lines. This movement is critical to addressing the ways that cannabis was used as an excuse to over-police Black and brown communities and send a whole generation of disproportionately young Black people to prison. And yet, though the costs of keeping cannabis illegal has been borne largely by low-income Black folks, the benefits of legal cannabis have flowed in very different directions. Legions of venture capital-backed companies have flooded communities where cannabis has been legalized with glitzy storefronts and billboards in an all-out war to vertically integrate markets and outcompete each other for the billion dollar industry. Meanwhile, though cannabis is far safer than substances like alcohol, which have been legal for decades, it’s not harmless. Impaired driving is on the rise. And advertising targeting young people can drive cannabis use by minors. And the consequences for mental health are starting to be better understood. Like all substances, it should be used safely and responsibly. But the corporations who grow, market, and sell cannabis in America have every incentive, just like they’ve done with every other substance, to profit from it, which too often comes at the cost of safe and responsible use. Who does it affect most? As usual, those whom society has marginalized the most. Which brings us back to Nancy and Ronald Reagan. The problem isn’t that we didn’t say no like Nancy told us to, the problem is that the corporations said yes to profit above all else—just like Ronald told them to. And these days, there’s a lot of profit to be made off of cannabis. Today, we’re exploring the space where cannabis meets capitalism with a public health expert that studied the alcohol industry for decades and has now started to identify the same patterns of behavior with the cannabis industry: advertising to minors, pushing back against government oversight, and trying to consolidate the market. Professor David Jernigan, author of “Cannabis: Moving Forward, Protecting Health” after the break.


[ad break]


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: All right, thank you so much for agreeing to do the pod, I really appreciate it.


David Jernigan: Happy for the opportunity.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: OK. Can you introduce yourself for the tape?


David Jernigan: My name is David Jernigan. I’m a professor in the Department of Health Law, Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: Professor David Jernigan has studied the alcohol industry’s efforts to peddle their product, too often to the detriment of the public’s health for decades. After recognizing the same patterns take shape in the cannabis industry, he wrote Cannabis: Moving Forward, Protecting Health. He joined us to talk about what we know about cannabis, how capitalism has wrapped its tentacles around it, and what it means for how the government should respond to maximize the benefits and prevent the harms.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: You’ve just recently written a book all about cannabis, which is a topic that’s on a lot of minds right now. There is a broad nationwide push to either decriminalize or legalize, and a lot of that in response to the clear civil rights and civil liberties issues attributable to cannabis and the mass incarceration on the back of very punitive laws around drugs, and cannabis being one of them, and a growing recognition that the best analogy for cannabis is probably alcohol, which is legal in our society. And at the same time, the fact that post legalization there is a lot of infrastructure missing around how to think about making sure that legal weed is also safe and that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands. Can I ask you personally what inspired you to write this book and to work on this issue?


David Jernigan: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. We are having a big national conversation about this, and we just felt that there wasn’t much of a public health voice in the conversation, that we’ve learned a lot about regulation of drugs from our experience with alcohol and tobacco. There have also been experiments in other countries. And what we tried to do in the book is really bring together all that public health research and experience and apply it to the cannabis questions.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: When you talk about a public health voice, what do you mean by that?


David Jernigan: There has to be a happy medium between outright legalization and leading it up to the free market, and making cannabis available in a way that minimizes the harms. You mentioned alcohol. Yes, alcohol is legal, but it’s also heavily regulated. And this is one of the lessons that we’ve learned over time is that putting things like alcohol, like cannabis, in the hands of the free market doesn’t work in terms of protecting health. There are too many externalities that economists would say from the use of these substances, so there need to be sensible controls in place, and that’s what we were trying to write about.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: I appreciate your focus on the free market, right? Because what has happened in a number of states—like mine, I was very supportive of legalizing cannabis as a substance considering what we discussed. And since the legalization, you have seen this massive flow of venture capital and private equity funding into the cannabis industry in ways that really don’t match the goals that we’d had. Right? And in a lot of ways many who supported legalizing cannabis supported it recognizing the broad racial inequities around the fact that it was illegal. And now you’ve got massive industry making a ton of money on this in a relatively unregulated space. And it’s a story that’s told over and over and over about the roles of corporations in society, often to the detriment of public health. Can you talk a little bit just about the business of cannabis over the past several years with the legalization?


David Jernigan: You’re absolutely right that there’s billions of dollars getting poured into this. It’s called a very attractive investment. The alcohol companies are investing, the tobacco companies are investing. And it’s ironic because, as you said, social justice was such a motivation for the reforms of cannabis laws and yet social injustice is in the process of being replicated in that some states are providing incentives to get involved with the cannabis business for small players who were negatively affected by the war on drugs, or incentives for those communities. What we found in alcohol is partly, well, largely, as a result of racist redlining, land use laws, alcohol outlets ended up completely over concentrated in poor and BIPOC communities, and we’re in danger of doing exactly the same thing in terms of cannabis. But let me back up a little bit and just say the public health goals here would be to prevent youth use, to control prevalence, frequency and intensity of cannabis use, to reduce cannabis-related harms to individuals and communities, to ensure that there’s accurate information out there about the risks of cannabis use, and to minimize the influence of the cannabis industry and the profit motive in general. A lot of the push behind cannabis was: this is a medicine, this is a medicine, there are ways it could be good for people. Well, it is a drug and it’s got some benefits. It’s also got some serious harms and there are, there is a need to control it. There are a number of different models for how we could control it. You know, we could simply be allowing home cultivation. We could be permitting cannabis social collectives where people produce for each other. We could do, as 17 of our states did on alcohol, which is have government-run monopolies in some part of the trade, whether it’s wholesale or retail. An analog to that, we could have a public authority sell it. We could also have a licensed regulatory authority that has a real clear public health mission. We don’t have any of those so far in the states. What we have is a licensed regulatory system that is commercialized. And this is just to set up. The economies of scale in cannabis are enormous.  Ad it’s a set up for concentration, for vertical integration in the industry, you know, producers owning processors, owning wholesalers, owning retailers—which just increases the power of the industry. And that, in turn, sets up captive regulatory agencies that are so heavily controlled by the industry that public health and frankly, community voices, are just completely lost in the conversation.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: There’s a lot there that I really want to unpack. First, let’s start with some of the negative consequences. What are some of a, the benefits of cannabis being  made legal? And then in particular, what are some of the society-wide harms that we’ve seen start to crop up post legalization?


David Jernigan: A big benefit of at least decriminalization and expungement would be taking some amount of a chunk out of our huge mass incarceration issue. We have, our levels of incarceration are higher than any other well-resourced country, and that’s just ridiculous. The other benefits, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which is Congress’s science advisory body, they found that there was a clear benefit for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, for dealing with chronic pain, for multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms. And then we’ve already got a CBD-derived medicine Epidiolex that’s FDA approved for epilepsy. Those are the main benefits for which there’s substantial scientific evidence. And then the harms. So there’s mental health itself. Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of developing major depression in young adulthood, as well as suicidality. There’s increased risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses. There’s cannabis use disorder itself, which is recurrent cannabis use that results in the failure to fulfill major role obligations at home, at school, at work. And about 22% of users at this point will develop a cannabis use disorder, and 13% of them, about one in eight, will develop cannabis dependence. There are also respiratory symptoms: chronic cough, phlegm, wheezing, sputum production, shortness of breath and more frequent chronic bronchitis. There are second-hand smoke issues that are similar to the issues that we find the tobacco. And during pregnancy, cannabis use has been associated with lower birth weight. Those are some of the negative consequences. And of course, we haven’t talked about impaired driving. There’s a powerful myth out there that cannabis does not impair your driving performance. Unfortunately, that myth is not supported by research. First of all, we have a lot of people who are driving and testing positive for cannabis. I wish we had more recent statistics, but as of 2014, we had about one in eight weekend nighttime drivers testing positive for cannabis. Driving under the influence of cannabis is estimated to be associated with about a 20 to 30% higher odds of being in a motor vehicle crash. Cannabis use is associated with poorer overall driving performance, longer response times, slower speeds which can be dangerous in and of themselves. And so the National Academy of Sciences again found substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And how much higher is youth use, you know, post legalization versus before?


David Jernigan: Yeah, no, that’s a great question. It’s really interesting. Legalization, as far as we can tell so far, doesn’t seem to be having a big impact on young people’s use. It’s the young adults and the rest of the adults that are the groups they need to be worried about because legalization is definitely increasing use and problems in those populations.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Well it’s reassuring about young people. I want to sort of step back, right, because one of the really important points that you made is, you know, obviously around both the positives and the negatives and the fact that any substance that we ingest is going to have both positives and negatives. But then the other point that you made is that it’s not just the legalization of cannabis, it is the way that we legalized it in a setting where we basically empowered the corporate producers of cannabis to own and capture the industry. Now you laid out a couple of really interesting models that would protect the industry from that kind of power, and the consequences of that kind of power for everything from, you know, concentration of where outlets are to advertising practices, all of which have long term consequences. Can you share a little bit more about each of those different models that you suggested might help?


David Jernigan: So what we try to do in the book is first talk about the overall system that you need, and those are the different models that I’ve laid out. And of those, the best would be something that had a really clear public health mission, whether it was license or monopoly. But then within that, you mentioned a bunch of different areas that need to be regulated. And from the alcohol side, we usually refer to these as the 4Ps because they are the 4 P of marketing, but that’s where the regulation needs to happen. So let’s start with product. For cannabis product, what a mess. There are so many different products proliferating on the market. We don’t know so much about them. Product labeling is in its infancy. It’s difficult for a consumer to get basic information about product potency from things like, you know, a brownie or a container of gummy bears. Plus, there’s the issue of pesticides, and different states are regulating pesticides differently. California is doing a great job. Other states? Not so much. This is a real issue. So that’s on the product side. The next P is the P of place. We’ve talked about that, physical availability. Where, when and how is this going to be sold? And in particular, we know from alcohol that the placement of the outlets will have a lot to do with not only use in a community, but concentration of problems in a community. The third P is price, and here is where states, I think, are really interested in cannabis because they want to get tax revenue from it. The cautionary tale there is that the price of cannabis, it’s cheaper to produce cannabis legally than illegally. So after legalization, there will be a natural drop in the price. This has caused states to take in less tax money than they expected. But then there’s the whole question of how are you going to tax it? Are you going to tax it by weight? Are you in tax it by volume? Are you going to tax it by potency? We come out in favor of taxing by potency, but that means that taxation authorities have to keep up with the new products and with ways of measuring potency. The cannabis on the market these days is so much stronger than the stuff that many of the policy makers may have used or been exposed to in their youth. So and then the final P, you’ve mentioned, is promotion and advertising. And I’m part of a research group, we did the first survey of young people’s exposure to cannabis marketing in social media. We found that there is lots of it. A lot of it comes through cannabis business pages, and young people are heavily exposed to it. We found young people’s greater levels of exposure associated with greater likelihood of young person having a cannabis use disorder. We also found this to be fairly lightly regulated, and violations to the regulations were legion. If you’re going to effectively regulate promotion, you have to monitor it. You have to pay for monitoring and surveillance and enforcement. And right now, it really is the Wild West out there, particularly where we were studying it, which was in social media. There are also states, I mean, I drive by so many cannabis billboards here in Massachusetts, and billboards are the one form of advertising where you cannot click away from it, turn the page, turn it off whatever. It is, just there in your face. And it is difficult to regulate advertising in this country because of our First Amendment protections for commercial speech. But one of the simplest things states could be doing is simply denying tax deductibility for marketing expenses. This doesn’t have anything to do with free speech or the Constitution, and it would frankly bring the states more revenue from cannabis, and dis-incentivize the amount of marketing that we’re starting to get for this product.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: We’ll be back with more with Professor David Jernigan after this break.


[ad break]


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, narrating: We’re back with more of my conversation with Professor David Jernigan.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Professor Jernigan, I keep coming back to the recognition in this conversation that the problem isn’t the substance per se, it’s what happens when the substance is exposed to the particular brand of capitalism that we have in America. And what you are discussing is really at the level of consumer safety and consumer advocacy, and also recognizing that the government has a real responsibility not just to protect consumers, right, from the substance itself, but also to protect them from what the corporations who are buying into this industry are going to do. What do you wish that policymakers understood about cannabis that doesn’t really quite make it? Because I feel like the conversation tends to be: legalized or don’t legalize. But there’s not much nuance about how to legalize and legalize safely, and to do so in a way that predicts what the cannabis industry is going to try and do post-legalization. What do you wish policymakers understood better?


David Jernigan: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think what I’m most wish they understood better is the lessons that we already have in hand from alcohol and tobacco. We created big tobacco, then we had to dramatically rein-in big tobacco. We have big alcohol. We have oh, roughly well, we have two beer companies that sell 80% of the beer in the US, five spirits companies that sell about half the spirits. These are very large, politically powerful companies. I know this because I’ve spent my career going up against them in every form you can imagine, because their push is to make the product as cheap as possible, as attractive as possible, and as available as possible. And public health protection suggests that we push in the opposite direction. So I wish our policymakers would learn more of the lessons from the past than just the war on drugs was a terrible mistake. There are other lessons there. And then if I were to really sum it up, my message would be in two words: go slow. States are rushing into this in the hopes of, you know, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You get more revenues and you do good things for social justice, and it’s just not playing out that way. And we know that it’s much harder to go backwards in a more conservative direction from a very liberal regulatory regime than to take a more conservative approach at the outset and then loosen things up as you learn how things are going. That’s not what we’ve been doing.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: And what would you say to folks who want to be responsible and safe consumers of legal cannabis?


David Jernigan: That’s a really hard question, because there’s so much we don’t know yet. And I would say probably the same thing, which is go slow, treat it as a drug. Unfortunately, consumers are having to figure out their own dosages if they’re trying to use it medicinally. I would say it is a real drug. It’s not a pretend drug. It’s not, I mean, there’s this sense, oh, it’s cool, you know, and nothing bad will happen. And it has a really different set of consequences than alcohol, for sure. Alcohol clearly kills more people. Alcohol clearly has more immediate acute consequences. But you know, I have a colleague who studies college populations, and what she finds with the cannabis users is they attenuate their expectations. They start out in STEM majors, they shift to easier courses. They start out planning to finish in four, they end up finishing in six. It’s a powerful drug that has a set of consequences that we don’t fully understand yet. I sometimes say in 20 years, we’ll have the public health studies to tell us what a big set of mistakes we’ve made around this. Clearly, it was a mistake to make it the killer weed or whatever, and there’s a deeply racist history to that. You know, I don’t use the term marijuana because that whole term was attached to this drug in order to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment, in order to get it placed on Schedule 1 back in the ’30s. So there’s plenty of racist history here. We don’t need to repeat that history. I think we want to do good things in the future, which means we want to regulate it smartly. We want to move slowly. And people who are considering using it should be aware of conditions that they have that would put them at higher risk. They should be insisting on better consumer information from the people who are producing and selling it. You know, they should ask for everything that they asked for any other product that they put in their body. And believe me, they’re not getting that information.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, I appreciate that and I also appreciate you calling out, rightly, the fact that we can’t disaggregate the present from the past and a whole history of racism that created the regime that kept cannabis illegal for such a long time and put so many, predominantly, young Black men behind bars for the consumption or the sale of it. Other people might read this conversation and say, well, that Professor Jernigan wrote this book and having all this conversation about the risks of cannabis, isn’t that going to just feed into a narrative that keeps us from legalizing it entirely? What would your response to them be?


David Jernigan: I think the legalization train has fully left the station, which is why we wrote the book. Clearly, public sentiment is in favor of legalization, and clearly, states are seeing a revenue advantage for themselves in legalization. I wish more of those revenues were going into economic development of other forms of businesses in the communities that have been hardest hit by cannabis illegalization and by the war on drugs in general, rather than going into cannabis businesses in those communities. But that said, I don’t think there’s much danger that we’re going to pull back from the trend towards making this drug more available. I would hope this is part of a larger conversation where we treat all of the drugs from a public health perspective and not a criminal justice perspective, where, as hopefully we’ve learned from COVID, we let science do its job. We let science speak. We let the studies happen and we act based on the results of the research, and frankly, a growing body of experience that we’re having. Let me just take young people as an example, very quickly, you know, people think that if we make cannabis legal, we’re going to get rid of racist policing. And yet in the places where we’ve made it legal, it’s still illegal for people under 21 and you still see huge disparities by race in the arrest rates of people under 21 for cannabis. The point is, legalization of cannabis is not going to solve all of our social justice problems. And what we don’t want to do is have it created as well a whole new set of public health problems.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, I appreciate that point. The other thing that we haven’t talked about is, you know, we talked about how the benefits of the legal cannabis trade have largely benefited communities that were not affected by the consequences of illegal cannabis trade. The other question, though, is that, you know, the consequences of legal cannabis that we talked about are also, considering the way that almost every public health problem unfolds, most likely to affect lower income communities of color. Has the evidence demonstrated what direction those costs are headed?


David Jernigan: Absolutely. I mean, disparities are disparities. And so the combination of poorer access to care, poorer access to treatment, with the concentration of this trade in communities that have less ability to defend against it, to put it crudely, it’s a set up for poor and BIPOC communities to continue to bear the brunt of the cannabis trade, even as the profits go to large, at this point, multinational corporations that are headquartered hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from those communities.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: We really appreciate you joining our show today to talk a bit more about your book on cannabis. I do hope that folks check it out because I do think it lays out that brutal intersection between corporate capitalism and cannabis, and the ways that our failure to predict what would happen has happened with other substances have created the framework where, you know, we may potentially be bearing far more of the costs than we need to have, and that those costs are likely falling disproportionately on low income folks and people of color. That was David Jernigan. He is a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health and author of the new book Cannabis. Professor Jernigan, thank you so much for taking the time.


David Jernigan: Great. Thanks for having me.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: As usual, here’s what I’m watching right now. Cases are on their way back up, causing a lot of folks to feel a lot of deja vu. Wasn’t it this time last year when we were on the verge of our worst surge yet? As I talked about last week, though, a lot’s changed. We have vaccines now. Not just two, but three doses are now recommended for all adults over the age of 18. If you haven’t powered up that vaccine, now’s the time. The move comes in response to new convincing evidence that immunity may wane with time and that a third dose is critical to keeping a strong immune response, can reduce the probability of breakthrough infection, and can reduce spread. Some folks wonder what took us so long to get here. Well, the science. You can’t tell folks to trust the science without actually waiting for the science, and that means you have to have the science in hand before you make a choice. And by the way, while we were waiting for that science on boosters, millions abroad were going without their first doses. Toward that end, the Biden administration announced a plan to vastly increase COVID-19 manufacturing with an eye to increasing vaccine access abroad. And look, that is a big effing deal, to use the commander in chief’s language. The other BFD? The House finally passed a Build Back Better bill that includes a ton of fantastic pieces of legislation on health care, including capping insulin costs at $35 a month, capping seniors out-of-pocket drug spending at $2000 a year, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, expanding Medicare hearing benefits, boosting the ACA’s subsidies, and finally closing the gap on Medicaid coverage in the states that didn’t expand Medicaid when the ACA passed. Yes, BFD indeed. Now let’s see if Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema think so. In bad news, though, for the first time in U.S. history, the number of drug overdoses surpassed 100,000 in one year. That’s a 29% increase over the last year. This is awful, painful news, and it’s a reminder that the cost of this pandemic were not limited to the number of people who got sick and died of the virus, but so many more who died because of the circumstances created by the pandemic. As we head into the holidays, it’s worth remembering how hard these times can be for so many people. Check up on your friends and loved ones and take care of yourself.


That’s it for today. On your way out, I hope that you’ll do me a favor: go to your podcast app and rate and review our show. Also, if you love the show, go ahead and tweet or post about it on Instagram. Tag me @AbdulEl-Sayed. Share with the hashtag America Dissected, and I’ll give you a repost. And of course, don’t forget: if you’re interested in repping the show or want to pick up a cool, public-health inspired gift for a friend or a loved one, don’t forget to stop by our Crooked Media store and check out our drip. We’ve got our new logo tees and mugs, our Safe and Effective shirts, and our Science Always Wins shirts and dad caps. They’re a perfect gift for that special someone who loves science and loves the pod. And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to get your flu shot, and that COVID-19 booster.


Dr. Abdul El-Sayed: America Dissected is a product of Crooked Media. Our producer is Austin Fisher. Our associate producer is Olivia Martinez. Veronica Simonetti mixes and masters the show. Production support from Tara Terpstra, Lyra Smith, and Ari Schwartz. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa and Alex Sugiura. Our executive producers are Sarah Geismer, Sandy Girard, Michael Martinez, and me: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, your host. Thanks for listening. And from all of us at America Dissected and Crooked Media, have a happy, healthy holiday weekend.