04/07/21 Kassandra Frederique

Kassandra Frederique the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance on "claiming the moral high ground" in the drug war + DeVaughn Ward, Sr. Counsel of Marijuana Policy Project

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Guest: 
Kassandra Frederique
Organization: 
Drug Policy Alliance
Kassandra Frederique
Download: Audio icon FDBCB040721.mp3
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I am Dean Becker. Your host, our goal for this program is to expose the fraud misdirection and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches Barbara's cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent, new as games who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is cultural baggage.

Hi folks. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend most high. This is cultural baggage a bit later. We'll hear from Mr. Devon ward of the marijuana policy project, but first well folks it's with a great deal of pride. And I don't know, just recognition of the work of a young lady who has in the last decade or so risen through the ranks, showing her expertise, her knowledge, and her courage, if you will, and has now become the executive director of the drug policy Alliance. Want to welcome Cassandra Frederick? How are you Dawn?

I'm doing well. Thanks for having me, Dean,

Thank you for joining us now. I want to first off just commend you. I I've started this thing called, uh, you know, um, claiming the moral high ground in the drug war. And I think you have taken a similar outlook attitude into your administration. Have you not?

Yeah, I do. I think we are right. I think that if you're going to talk about what's best for community, that's what we're offering,

Right. And, and a huge component that has grown exponentially over the last year or plus or minus here is the racial implications. The, uh, um, the, the way the drug war is waste is racially motivated and has, has wound up, uh, just horribly in that direction. Has it not?

Yeah. I mean, I think the whole, the, the first drug laws were racialized tools of social control when we saw like Chinese migrants in California. And so you can always draw a direct line between the groups of people that, but I'm indented like, um, and how they use drugs as a way to really, uh, create the parameters in propaganda to make, to use drugs as a scapegoat, um, as a way to control people who are not white.

And, um, this has played out, as I said, horribly over the last year with, uh, Rihanna Taylor. And, and now with this trial of George Floyd, that's right. The truth is coming out. The truth is, is, is there for all to see? Is it not?

Yeah. You know, I think in this past summer, when we look at Brianna Taylor, you have to ask the questions, why was she not safe in her own bed? And it's like all the money that has been put forward with law enforcement and, and how that, how that money was funded by drug money and how it was based on false drug information. And George Floyd, everyone saw what happened with the police officer, having his neon, Mr. Floyd's neck and somehow, um, George Floyd's, uh, history around addiction and opioids is what is on trial, as opposed to the brute use of force that we all saw.

It's I don't, it's just so ugly. It's hard to talk about sometimes the, the belief system that exists that, um, you know, people are needing punishment. If they use drugs, they they're just unworthy of respect in this life. And that's just so wrongheaded, isn't it? Yeah,

It's really, it, it limits our ability to see each other. And so I think, um, when you talk about things around the moral high ground, it's really about getting us to see each other in our fullness so that we can be able to give people the things that they need

Right now, uh, in your time, uh, you've been executive director now a little over a year. Is that right? Or,

No, I think I'm in month seven.

This COVID has made it where it's all one long night. I got no real reference points anymore. Um, now, okay. Uh, Oh, uh, on a positive note last night on the daily show, one of our compadres, uh, Dr. Carl Hart was the main guest and he was talking about this, a similar stance to admit who and what we are and how it didn't ruin our lives to use these drugs. Um, I've done that over the airwaves for 20 years now, but for Carl to speak this doctor, this, this is a scientist to speak so openly and clearly about his drug use is a, it's a new benchmark of some sort, isn't it?

Uh, it's been great to see the conversations that Carl's book has opened for us. And I think it's really reaffirmed, uh, what so many of us have been saying for a very long time. I also think Demi Lovato, um, who's a celebrity who talked about, um, navigating coming out from overdose and recognizing that her treatment plan around abstinence based recovery, wasn't helpful for her and how she's, you know, she calls it California sober, we call it harm reduction. Um, and house she's created a treatment plan for herself that works for her, right. And it's about self-determination. And I think both Carl and Demi Lovato, the key linchpin that they're talking about is agency. Um, and I think that that is often missing and public policy and one that drove policy, um, supporters have always pushed on is that we have agency and we should build systems that respect that

Exactly right. And part of that, uh, the agency, or perhaps a redefinition of policing, we don't want to eliminate the cops. We don't want to, uh, you know, take away some of their, their work because they're necessary, but much of what they do can be replaced by people with medical knowledge or, uh, doctors, psychiatrists, others with a different set of knowledge. Am I right?

I think that, that, that premise that you started with is still up for debate. There are some people that don't want the cops, right. Um, and I think that in our world, we, you know, drug policy has the ability to show that other people can do the things that law enforcement is doing right now. And I think that this is an important opportunity for our movement to not only, you know, remove law enforcement from doing things that we think other people can do, and also give people the ability to imagine what a world would look like if we had more community support, um, and helping people in crisis.

No, exactly right. Uh, we need to redefine it somehow. I think we all agree with that. Um, you know, okay, now there are, there's always these, uh, stocking horses, or I don't know, just propaganda Wars and, and people frightened of drugs. And we now have, uh, state legislatures around the country changing or considering laws to make those who distribute fentanyl, um, major drug traffickers, worthy of a major, uh, prison sentences. When the truth be told most of the times, it's just one friend acquiring for another it's, it's blown way out of proportion, your, your response, Cassandra,

I think the neck, one of the biggest challenges that our movement has is to talk about drug sales. Uh, we haven't done it so often and oftentimes our opposition has framed it in a way so many people miss the fact that sharing substances is considered a sales. That's the way it is in my home state of New York. And we actually need to break apart what that is so we can move through the stigma, um, and, uh, navigate that together.

Now, Cassandra, you mentioned your state of New York. You are, uh, a new Yorker. You've grown up there. Have you not? Wow. Excuse me. You guys just made a major, your governor, your legislature just made a major step towards recognizing the futility of prohibition. In other words, legalizing marijuana. Let's talk about that. What, how is that going to pan out in New York?

Well, we have passed pretty progressive legislation around cannabis legalization, and now it's all really about implementation. Who's going to be in power. Who's going to be navigating these conversations. How do we move forward? Um, and so I think that that's really exciting. I, it really depends on implementation at this point. Um, we have put out some of some really good raw materials for us to build, uh, the end of cannabis prohibition in the state. And I think we're just going to have to fight to make sure that it actually fits the intense

Well, what was it? Was it North Dakota, South Dakota that the people voted for legalization. And now the legislature is trying to quash that, that movement. So let's

Yeah, that's South Dakota. And I think it just really reflects to us that, um, the people are further along than the decision, the elected officials and that we really need to figure out how we can make the way that our country is governed to be more directed by people on the ground. Um, and people that are actually living real lives, you know, it's really scary to see, um, the people of South Dakota vote for something and the courts, uh, try to quash it. Um, this is about, this is supposed to be about giving people freedom and authority and power, and we should all be worried, um, when our rights are being violated in that way.

Yeah. Just slowly you start somehow or just negated. Um, now coming back to our thoughts on, um, the drug policy Alliance, I was looking at your website and you had a couple of topic topics in there uprooting the drug war of dissecting every aspect of life in the U S I think in a way to, to re-examine, you know, I think what we were talking about claiming the moral high ground, getting down to the nitty gritty of what makes the drug war work. Um, let's talk about how it doesn't work.

Yeah. You know, so much of what we know for the drug war has really been about, um, how can we keep communities? They, they tried to do it under, like, this is what's going to keep community safe. This is what's going to, um, navigate this conversation, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what we're saying is one, it hasn't kept people safe. Two, the overdose rate is the highest it's ever been. Three mass incarceration is happening. All the things that you said would happen if we turned our backs on our loved ones, if we, um, incarcerated, I loved ones. If we punished our loved ones, none of those things have been a deterrent. And so, um, that has been, um, difficult to navigate, which is like really getting people to understand that what's happening right now doesn't work. And I think so much of that is like in the way that we often put out our solutions, folks are like, well, what if it doesn't work? And I'm like, well, what's what what's, what is actually working right now. Nothing.

No, no, I, and you've probably heard my 32nd elevator speech. Um, Mr. President whoever's in that elevator with me, is there, the fact of the matter is the drug war empowers our terrorists enemies, enriches Barbara's cartels ensures more gangs will prowl our neighborhoods and more overdose deaths will occur. So considering the horrible consequences, what is the benefit? What do we get back to begins to offset the horrors? We inflict on ourselves and the whole world by continuing to believe. And Cassandra, I look at it this way. It is a belief system. It is a religion that the drug war, no matter what must endure forever, it's, it's, it's a bad religion in my opinion.

Yeah. I mean, I think it is one, I think part of the reason why it has this feeling is that so much of it is rooted in other belief systems. And they've created the drug war to strengthen those beliefs, right? That people can't make choices for themselves. Um, you, you should not alter your current state that, you know, all these different things like, um, folks of color are not worthy. They're untrustworthy that, um, poor people can't be able to take. They shouldn't be able to take care of their kids. Like all the bare things that underlie the drug war logic and the drug war logic just fills it in and bolsters it. And they use drugs as a way to scare people into that belief system.

You nailed it. You nailed it now. Um, I want to talk about the fact that things are changing Oregon de creme to try to Portugal as their state, if you will. And, and I, I wonder how much the DPA's, I guess it's been two years, has it been three years? I don't know. We went to Portugal. We met with rugs are over there. Uh, we learned a lot we've visited their hospitals and their, their treatment centers. We learned how it really, and truly does work. This, this, uh, idea of decriminalizing and Oregon has done it. And now Washington state is seriously considering it. I think a couple of other States are looking into it as well to take away the, the hammer from this drug war. And, and to, to go a little more gently though, I, you know, legal as ice in that for me is the only way we, we really end this stupidity, but de creme is a good step along the way. Is it not?

Yeah. You know, decriminalization is the biggest thing we can do currently, um, because it makes so much sense for a lot of people. And it also builds upon the social justice movements that are going right now, as people have conversations about re imagining what a world, uh, outside of law enforcement could look like. Decriminalization is a key strategy point in that when people are talking about divesting and investing decriminalization is a key part of that when people are talking about how do we decrease the barriers for people to get access to housing, um, employment supports decriminalization is a key factor in that. And so I think that, um, you know, it's learning what happened in Portugal, but also doing our own version of that because, you know, Portugal's not perfect. Um, and so we, we can build upon that model.

Yeah, no, it wouldn't last. I spoke with Dr. Gould out there, Portuguese drugs czar, we talked about legalization and I finally got him to admit, and that legalization will be the ultimate or the necessary answer, but it's going to be necessary to convince a lot of other countries to, uh, you know, to get onboard that bandwagon and to, um, uh, just, I guess in general, um, allow people to develop a comfort with that potential. Um, it, it is, it's scary to a lot of politicians though. I think the majority of politicians, maybe even, uh, cops on the beat now know the drug war is a failure, at least in many ways, maybe they don't understand complete it's complete failure, but they do know that it's lacking. Do they not? Okay. Um, now I wanted to, um, I mentioned them as, uh, it seems like too long ago, we were in Portugal. We had the DPA, uh, meeting, where were we? Uh, New Jersey. Where did we have that? Oh, it was, uh, St. Louis. Um, and, and, um, that's the last I saw all you guys, all that has really, maybe not to change the direction, but it has impacted our work. Uh, has it not, let's talk about what has changed because of COVID.

I think over it has reinforced a lot of the things that we have thought. And I think it's also added a bit of urgency to the things that we've always been asking for. And also what COVID has shown us is that bureaucracy isn't necessary. So as soon as COVID hit, we started to see these bureaucratic red tape things that impede access come, come down, especially around, um, methadone and buprenorphine. And tele-health, we saw prosecutors say, listen, if, uh, jails and prisons are congregate houses where we can't keep people safe, we are no longer going to prosecute drug charges. You know, that was one of the things that we, um, navigate that, that we learned, and that is really influencing the way that we're moving forward.

No, and you're right. Even before COVID here in Harris County, Houston, Texas, my da, uh, wanted to quit prosecuting at least minor drug charges. He no longer, uh, sends people to jail for marijuana under four ounces, or the little corners of cocaine baggies that they used to send people to for 10 years, they no longer prosecute those either. And it is that discretion that they have realized that they have had all along and are now implementing that is, is really helping to, uh, well, make some, some changes. I don't know how major or minor, but definitely noticeable. Um, now the, the international aspects of this there's one story that just baffles my mind that we're going to spray the, the, the, the fields of Coca in Columbia. Again, the Joe Biden has approved that as far as I've read. And it just seems preposterous. We learned nothing from the, uh, the lawsuits for the, the, uh, you know, the cancers and, and the, the, the diseases that were developed in those fields where they sprayed for Coca and the farmers and their crops were ruined. Farms were lost, et cetera. Let's talk about the international implications,

The U S set up the drug war, um, exports to drug war in so many international company countries. Um, I often think that, that, um, we have to play more of a partnership role in organizations with organizations internationally in trying to disrupt the way that the us is exporting the drug war and paying more attention to us foreign policy, especially around appropriations, because we're also funding the drug war across the country. I mean, across the world and that we as American drug policy reformers need to have a more global view in the way that the drug war is impacting our families. It's not just happening in the us, it's happening all over.

No, it is, uh, it was the United States. It was Harry J Anslinger and his, his minions that I'm convinced the United States and then convinced the United nations that this drug war was to be necessary and it be waged forever and ever, and we are certainly responsible. I agree. Now, coming back to one of my original thoughts about, uh, George Floyd, we now have a new story here in Texas, where a young man named Marvin Scott was picked up for marijuana. I think it was for one joint, it's under two ounces, but I think it was the one joint, if I'm correct. And within a few hours, he was dead. He was dead in that jail cell. He had, uh, he was held down and pepper sprayed and had a mask put over his head. And then a few hours later, he was dead. Please respond to that. I don't even know what to say. It's just so outrageous.

What is so disheartening is how much, how often this happens. I think we're hearing more and more stories closer in succession, but it's not a new phenomenon that this is what is consistently happening. And that, um, in this moment of community reckoning and recognition, I think hope folks are connecting the dots a lot quicker. Um, and it's really why decriminalization is the pathway forward, because we need to remove drugs as a tool for this kind of interaction. We need to remove drugs as a justification for these interactions, and we need to remove drugs as an alibi for these interactions. And so when we hear the, uh, the details about Marvin Scott, the third, or we hear, um, what's happened to George Floyd, when we hear and see what's happened to be on a tailor, it's like we were, when we find out about Carlos Lopez, we have to like, literally be like, how, what created, what was the Genesis of this? Um, and how do we disrupt that? And, you know, that is race, that is gender that's sexuality, and it's also drugs, right? And so it's like, how do we navigate and extract that from our interactions? Um, because until we do that, this will continue to happen.

Right. And right. Marvin has got, um, maybe it was one of the more outrageous, but there are a hundred more that are not quite so outrageous happening daily across America. That don't get that recognition that maybe the people don't die, but, uh, it's, it, it is truly representative of the compassion of the drug war. I don't know what to say to it. Okay. Friends, I'll tell you what, once again, we've been speaking with Ms. Cassandra Frederick. She is the executive director of the drug policy Alliance and a courageous woman. Uh, I, I wish her great success moving forward and at the DPA can claim that moral high ground and can begin to, uh, change this equation to something more,

We'll join you on the moral high ground, because there've been a lot of people in the movement that have held the moral high ground for a very long time. Um, and I think, um, more of us are going to reinforce our position there, but bring along more people

Well with that, I guess we'll wrap it up again. Folks, if you want to learn more about the drug policy Alliance, their website is drug policy.org. Thank you, Cassandra. Thanks Dean.

You mean you're gonna let him get it. It's going to be legal. You're going to let them get leased right now. We don't let them get it. I don't want to let them get it.

Uh, my name is Davon ward and I am senior legislative counsel at the marijuana policy project. Well, that's, that's a substantial chore given that there is so much, uh, progress and or portended progress within legislatures and, uh, other governmental bodies around the nation and, uh, New York in has really cotton. A lot of people's attention. Tell us about what's going on up there. Will you,

Yeah, I mean, New York, um, you know, legalized, uh, last week, uh, you know, and essentially put into play one of the largest, um, one of the most heavily populated States, uh, for, for legalization, but you know, also it comes on the Hills of new Jersey's legalization, uh, at the top of 2021. Um, and now with Connecticut, just just moments ago, the judiciary, uh, in Connecticut advanced, uh, the governor's proposal there, um, it puts into play this entire, you know, Northeast region from Massachusetts down to New Jersey in terms of, uh, industry in a corridor, uh, of commerce related to cannabis. And so it's, uh, it's an exciting time in the cannabis space right now, you know, the more act, um, which would have rescheduled cannabis passed the house in December. Um, and then, you know, the, uh, this, this session, uh, Senator Schumer and Cory Booker and Senator Wiener are putting together a cannabis bill in the Senate as well. So, you know, that there's progress abound, uh, on this particular issue.

Things are changing. Things are staying the same as well, but, uh, there's hope on the horizon if nothing else, right?

Yeah, yeah, no, there's, there's, there's a lot to be hopeful for. Um, but you know, New York was a, was a big piece of the puzzle. Uh, and you know, New York has been a state that's been trying to, to legalize, you know, for about three years now and couldn't, couldn't reach consensus. And so, um, it, it was really great to see, to see that happen in, you know, substantively in the bill. You know, the bill goes really far in terms of equity, in terms of trying to repair some of the, um, the wrongs that were done were created because, because of the war on drugs and through prohibition, um, in new York's billboards really fall under that New Jersey bill also, also, it was a, was a strong, um, has a strong equity component as well. So, you know, to see that is really encouraging to, to, when you think about where, where, what the industry could look like in five years from now,

Hi, I live in Texas, but I still got a little bit of hope, you know, but we will. How far are you from Oklahoma? I last year went to Oklahoma and by gosh, they do have a wonderful, uh, medical program and, uh, um, just the way they went about it just makes so much sense. Um, but I hear New York has none, um, admirable job as well, making available number of plant counts and, uh, licensing fees and all of these things that will, uh, enable the industry rather than slow it down. Right, right, right. Well, yeah.

You know, the governor is moving very quickly to set up, uh, his cannabis commission. Um, and, and yeah, I think, I think the, the way, um, you know, particularly the way, the way they, um, they're directing the revenue and they're doing the licensing, you know, 50% of the licensing going towards, um, equity applicants, and, you know, those equity applicants will, will likely would receive reduce fees priority in terms of their license or review. Um, you know, and, and I think, I think that's, that's really, um, exciting, exciting to see, you know, because there's, there's lessons learned, um, and a number of States in terms of how they in about equity measures. Um, and you know, it doesn't appear that any state has, has gotten it exactly right out the gate. And so, you know, what new York's envisioning is a really strong start, um, to, to achieving some equity in the marketplace. And when I say equity, you know, specifically, um, you know, folks who have had previous, uh, cannabis convictions or immediate family members who have had cannabis convictions, or, you know, come from communities that were, um, over policed and, um, over surveillance because of, uh, cannabis prohibition. And so, you know, making sure those folks have have opportunities in a place, uh, in this new industry now that this product is being legalized is, is, is really important, uh, for a number of reasons. And so we're really happy to see that, uh, in new York's bill,

Me too. I, uh, folks, once again, we've been speaking and Mr. Davon ward is with the marijuana policy project. If you want to learn more about the work they do, please go to mpp.org. Thank you. [inaudible]

Thank you so much for having me

Well, that's about it for this week. I do want to thank Devon ward. I want to thank, uh, Cassandra Federico for her time and attention. And I want to thank you for tuning in and listening, and they'll get an, I remind you because of prohibition. You have no idea what is in that bag. So please, please be careful

To the drug truth network listeners around the world. This is Dean Becker for cultural baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural baggage is a production of the Pacifica radio network. Archives are permanently stored at the James aid banker, the third Institute for public policy, and we are all still tapped on the edge.