When Dana Beal was locked up in Nebraska and Wisconsin a few years back, facing hard time after being busted transporting hundreds of pounds of marijuana, friends and allies from across the world flew to the Midwest to speak on his behalf.
These days, all the backup Beal, 68, who ended up serving about three years, says he needs is five or six people to join his bi-weekly pickets outside of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in lower Manhattan.
While Beal and his posse — which on a recent Monday included a Green Party candidate for state senator and a 20-something looking to reinstate smoke-outs in Washington Square — are calling for Vance to stop prosecuting sick patients found with pot, the self-proclaimed “grandfather” of the marijuana movement has his sight set halfway across the world.
Beal, an advocate for the African plant Ibogaine that supporters say can cure heroin addiction in a single dose, said he’s about $2,000 away from starting a clinic in Kabul to combat the addiction that is crippling the country. Beal said patients will receive a one time dose that costs $350.
“It’s metastasized,” Beal said of the heroin epidemic in Afghanistan. Numbers from the most recent United Nations report indicate there are between 1.3 and 16 million heroin users, more than 5 percent of the population. With less than 30,000 treatment beds, less than 10 percent of those addicted have access to treatment.
Heroin deaths in New York City are up. The New York City Department of Health said last year said overdose deaths increased by 41 percent from 2010-2013, and 77 percent of those deaths attributed to heroin, painkillers and other opioids.
Beal, a historic marijuana activist credited with founding the Global Marijuana March, said he’s set he’s specifically set his sights on Afghanistan instead of New York City. If the clinic is successful, he thinks the idea will ripple back to the U.S.
“To show it can be done, to show how easy it is when you have a government willing to, like, talk to you,” Beal said when asked when why he isn’t trying to start a New York clinic.
Ibogaine is classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the U.S., but available in Canada, Mexico, South Africa and other countries. Critics doubt the hallucinogen’s ability to cure addiction.
But Beal says getting Ibogaine’s legitimacy might get another boost because of a celebrity twist — the Kardashians.
Scott Disick, husband of eldest sibling Kourtney Kardashian, reportedly sought treatment for an alcohol and pill problem at a Costa Rican resort offering ibogaine treatment earlier this year.
“You had to get Scott Disick in the news, you had to get on the Kardashians. Bored, vacuous rich women on television had to be married to a guy with an alcohol problem,” Beal said. “Based on its merits, it should be in every scientific journal in the world, but things don’t work that way.”
“I just want to make it available for people who don’t have Scott Disick money," Beal said. "There’s always been high-end places to go to quit drugs,” Beal said. “Most heroin addicts are busted.”