08/05/08 - Barney Frank

Marijuana: Threat or Menace? Featuring Congressmen Barney Frank & Ron Paul + Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and an extract from a BBC report featuring author Misha Glenny

Century of Lies
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Barney Frank
US Congress
Download: Audio icon COL_080508.mp3


Century of Lies, August 5, 2008

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. My name is Dean Becker and today we have a very special program for you.

Marijuana: Threat or Menace?

Ah yes. Today we’re going to hear from a couple of U.S. congressmen, Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project, as well as excerpts from the ONDCP video production of ‘Stoners in the Mist,’ and we’ll close out with an extract from a BBC radio program featuring author Misha Glenny talking about our ‘success’ in Afghanistan. But first up, we’re going to hear from the ONDCP production of ‘Stoners in the Mist.’


Our host, PROFESSOR BARNARD PUCK, and his trusty assistant, BALDRIC, cautiously scan for some unseen creature. PUCK motions BALDRIC to the house on the left. BALDRIC sneaks off, taking slow, cautious steps. PUCK addresses the camera.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: It is a beautiful day. And while most people are out and about enjoying friends, activities, life in general...the creature that we seek is sedentary, uninspired, and remarkably unmotivated. My associate and I are in search of the lair of a magnificent specimen: the mature stoner.

[BALDRIC, kneeling next to a basement window, motions for PROFESSOR PUCK. PUCK motions for the camera to follow him over to the window.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: (EXCITED) Ah ha! Here we go!

[As they approach, BALDRIC pulls open the window, releasing a cloud of smoke. PUCK crouches next to it. PROFESSOR PUCK looks through the window. He fights to hold back his excitement.


TWO MALE STONERS, sitting on a ratty couch. Smoke wafts up around them, filling the air.


The CAMERA pulls back to PROFESSOR PUCK.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: In this interactive feature, we will explore and attempt to explain the social interactions and natural responses of this elusive and baffling creature. I am your host, Barnard Puck and this... is Stoners in the Mist.

[PROFESSOR PUCK and BALDRIC cautiously enter the basement. PUCK motions to the camera to follow.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: Shh, stay close.

Dean Becker: I’m told that ‘Stoners in the Mist’ cost the federal government almost one million dollars to produce and you can check it out online at the ONDCP website but next up let’s hear from U.S. Congressman Barney Frank.

Congressman Frank: I don’t think that it is the government’s business to tell you how to spend your leisure time. Now, there are a lot of things that people do that I don’t do. And I think they should be free to do them. There are some things I do that other people don’t do and I want to be free to do them. This notion that we somehow have to either approve or criminalize all human activity is, as I said, a great misunderstanding of what’s needed for a liberal, in the broad sense, government: a government in which people are free to do as they wish unless they are damaging somebody else or unless in rare cases you believe that they are so out of control that they can’t be trusted to make their own judgments. I believe that smoking marijuana is an example of this. There are people who smoke marijuana in excess, there are people who drink to excess, there are people who do a number of other things to excess. We should deal with the excesses, particularly we should deal with anti-social behavior that occurs as a result of the excesses, but not lock people up or use scarce federal resources to arrest people for using, or possessing for personal use, marijuana. And now, if a state wants to use its legal resources for this the states free to do so, although as we know there are, I think, it’s eleven or twelve states, twelve states, that have voted to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes with varying degrees of stringency in how they apply that and in most of those cases, I believe, it’s been done by referendum, only one, I think, was by the vote of the legislature, my neighbors in Rhode Island. So, what we’ve had is -- particularly under this administration -- the spectacle of people who believe in limited government and states rights sending federal law enforcement people in to prosecute people who have used medical marijuana in conformance with their own state’s laws. This would end that. This would put an end to that practice. So that’s what this bill is about. The legislation, as I said, removes federal penalties; if states choose to use their resources this way they can.

You know, we talk about imprisonment and they say ‘Well, not many people are affected by it.’ I never understood why people thought it was a defense of a law staying on the books that it was rarely used.

Dean Becker: That segment was courtesy of CNN.

Next up, more from Stoners in the Mist.


PUCK and BALDRIC watch the stoners from the back of the room through the veil of house plants. PUCK whispers to camera in order to remain unnoticed by the STONERS.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: You will notice that after weeks of exposure, the stoner pack is still completely oblivious to our presence. We can now go about our business relatively unnoticed.

[Suddenly the STONERS hear the camera crew and turn toward PUCK, who grabs BALDRIC and dives below the cover of the plants.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: Oh, duck!(recovers) Today we are going to attempt to map out the stoners' territory, in order to determine their area of movement. In order to do this, we need to attach these radio transmitting collars.

So, my associate, Baldric, is going to attempt to attach the collar without disturbing the stoner.

[BALDRIC quietly walks in, places a BLINKING COLLAR around one of the STONER'S necks, slaps the other one on the head, then exits.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: (V.O.) Shocking… the creatures are docile and unresponsive, to the point of helplessness... Baldric! Stop that! Mind your method!

Dean Becker: Since we are dealing with a video I’ll just tell you...they walked right into the stoners’ lair and attached a blinking collar to the neck of these smokers.

Next up, we hear from Congressman Ron Paul.

Reporter: Here’s a question for you. Should people be able to smoke marijuana in the United States legally as long as they’re doing it responsibly, kind of like with alcohol? Well, there is a new push by law-makers to legalize the illegal drug for users, not abusers. A new proposal been announced in Congress to end federal penalties for anybody that’s carrying fewer than a hundred grams of pot, that’s about three and a half ounces or so. Let’s talk about it with one of the proposal’s supporters, Republican Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul. Also, you know him from the race for president.

Congressman, good to see you. As your colleague Barney Frank said, the chances of this thing passing are not high -- if you get the joke. What’s the aim here if this thing isn’t going to pass?

Congressman Paul: Well, my aim is always to promote freedom and the Constitution and an issue like this is just, has no value to have the federal police going out and trying to find people who might be smoking. Before 1938 the federal government wasn’t even involved. So I would think that the states can handle things like this and the whole notion that we regulate and prosecute people for things that some other people think is a vice -- I just don’t see any purpose on this. I thought we learned our lesson about what prohibition did in the early part of the last century. There’s no value to it. It wastes a lot of money and causes a lot of trouble. And what do we do? We end up with laws like this that prohibit sick people from using marijuana where they can get benefit. We, literally, the federal government overrides state laws and arrests people who are sick and getting some benefit from marijuana and they’re dying with cancer or AIDS. It makes no sense at all.

Reporter: Congressman Paul, real quickly though, where does it end? So we legalize about three and a half ounces of pot, then we say if, you know, if you get a touch of crack cocaine that’s OK too?

Congressman Paul: Well, that isn’t the purpose of this piece of legislation but, you know, for a hundred and thirty years that’s exactly what happened. When I was a kid in high school selling in a drug store, I sold cough medicine with codeine in it and nobody recorded anything. And I never saw one kid in the whole community ever abuse it. So this whole idea that you have to have the federal government make people ‘do the right thing’ is total nonsense. Yes, it’s dangerous, it’s risky, but so is alcohol and so is smoking cigarettes. It’s who should do the policing and who should make these choices and I say it should not be the federal government. It should be the parents and the individuals and as long as they’re not hurting other people we should allow state regulations to take care of these problems.

Reporter: Let’s talk about the other side of it with somebody formerly in law enforcement. Thank you to Congressman Paul.

Dean Becker: And before we do that, let’s hear a little bit more from ‘Stoners in the Mist.’


A teenage FEMALE STONER leans up against a wall in a school hallway, obviously stoned. She looks unkempt. A GOOD-LOOKING TEENAGE GUY turns the corner, carrying a backpack.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: The stoner's fascinating courtship rituals highlight the extreme difficulty these animals have fitting into other social groups.

GOOD-LOOKING GUY: Kelly, hey. What's up?

FEMALE STONER: What's up... (slurring)



[An uncomfortable beat passes, then the FEMALE STONER tries again, forgetting what she just said.]

FEMALE STONER: (giggles) So... what's up, Brad?

[The GOOD-LOOKING GUY stares at her.]

GOOD-LOOKING GUY: Okay, ummm...I'm sorry, but it looks like you have a big chunk, wow, a huge chunk of something stuck in your hair.

[(a beat)]

Oh, is that? Oh, that's not...is that a... that's a brownie, isn't it?

[A big chunk of dried, crusty brownie is in the STONER GIRL'S hair. She touches it indifferently – plucks it out and tastes it.]

FEMALE STONER: (holding part of the brownie) Oh...yeah.

PROFESSOR PUCK: In fact, we have learned through our intensive research that both male and female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper hygiene.

Reporter: Let’s go to Jeanine Pirro, Fox News Legal Analyst, a former judge herself. Jeanine, is there a legitimate issue here that there is a problem, these sponsors in congress are concerned, that basically the punishment doesn’t fit the crime? That too many people are being locked up for having a bit of pot on them?

Jeanine Pirro: Well, you know, you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water and what, what, look, as a DA in West Chester Country and most DA’s across this country, we do not send drug, marijuana defendants to prison. These are not people who are filling our prisons. They usually get drug treatment or they get some kind of a, you know, unconditional sentence. But that’s not the issue here. What has happened is the United States Supreme Court has said that the federal government can trump and can prosecute those individuals who according to their state are legally using marijuana for medicinal purposes. But if you look at history, Jane, what we’ve got in Alaska, where they legalized marijuana in the seventies, teenagers were using marijuana at two and three times the national rate so they recriminalized it in 1980. In Holland, where marijuana was legalized, the use of heroin tripled. It is a gateway drug and comparing it to alcohol or anything else doesn’t change the issue. There are doctors who will talk about the fact that it alters certain parts of our brains, it is too dangerous to start getting involved in legalizing a drug that we, as a society, know creates issues not just in terms of driving but in terms of altering our brain and memory function.

Reporter: Jeanine, real quickly, what we see going on out there, though, in the states -- does this thing have any legs, this whole concept?

Jeanine Pirro: No. No. I don’t think it has any legs at all. I don’t think that anyone is going, or any politician is going, to put him or herself on the line by legalizing marijuana. It creates a possibility, Jane, where the opponent says ‘This person is in favor of legalizing drugs.’ It’s not worth it to any politician. Ron Paul can talk about it all he wants. You know, this is part of who he is. But your run-of-the-mill politician is not going to run with this legislation. It’s not going to happen, Jane.

Reporter: Jeanine Pirro, Fox News Legal Analyst. Thanks Jeanine.

Dean Becker: And once again, we tune into ‘Stoners in the Mist.’


PUCK sits in front of a bank of computer monitors.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: With our specimens safely intact in the artificially controlled environment, my intrepid assistant, Baldric, will enter the testing chamber and perform a series of tests.

Dean Becker: They have the stoners completely enclosed in a smoke filled environ.

[CUT TO: BALDRIC enters the SMOKE-FILLED LAB wearing a gas mask. A MALE TEENAGE STONER and a FEMALE TEENAGE STONER sit on a ratty couch, totally out of it.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: First up: Reflexes.

Dean Becker: They throw a ball the stoners are unable to catch. Then they start throwing various household items, including beer cans...they can’t catch that either.

[BALDRIC tosses various objects to the MALE STONER. Each time, the STONER'S reaction is slow and the objects hit him in the chest.]

PROFFESOR PUCK: (over an intercom) Um... all right... let's move on...Let's analyze their concentration.

[BALDRIC plays CARDS with the FEMALE STONER. He deals a hand and stops, and the FEMALE STONER stares at the cards.]


[A frustrated BALDRIC throws up his hands, as the game is obviously not "Go Fish."]

Bruce Mirken: I am Bruce Mirken and I’m director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Dean Becker: Bruce, yesterday Barney Frank brought forward an idea, a bill he’s presenting to the U.S. congress to decriminalize certain aspects of possession and even distribution of marijuana under federal law. Tell us how that went, if you will?

Bruce Mirken: Well, sure. Yesterday Congressman Frank had a press conference joined by representatives of MPP and NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance and cosponsors of the bill are Representative Barbara Lee of California and William Lacy Clay of Missouri and it was a rousing success, considerable coverage, especially on CNN. And the bill, just to be clear, would remove federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one hundred grams or for non-profit distribution of up to an ounce. So it would still, it wouldn’t change the laws criminalizing cultivation or sale for profit, anything like that, but if you passed a joint to a friend you wouldn’t face federal charges for distribution of a controlled substance. The interesting thing was that the Drug Czar’s office was spooked about this enough that the day before they sent out a preemptive press release making their usual collection of factually challenged accusations about marijuana and then they sent three people to crash the press conference, including the odious David Murray, their alleged chief scientist, who was there to try and convince the press that marijuana is the worst drug in the world. It’s just amazing.

Dean Becker: Well, it was Ghandi who told us long ago that first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, and then they fight you before you win. Looks like they’re fighting at this point, eeh?

Bruce Mirken: Well, it certainly seems that. One can only assume that they’re really spooked by this. Or maybe they’re just sort of running out of things to do as the clock ticks towards the end of the Bush Administration, I’m not sure. But I actually think they helped get us some coverage by raising the controversy level a little bit. So on behalf of MPP and the drug policy reform community I would like to thank David Murray for helping us out.

Dean Becker: Bruce, it seems to me that more and more Americans are aware of the fact that marijuana is not a threat or menace, as it was originally framed in the beginning, but it’s time to speak up. It’s time to get in touch with our politicians, right?

Bruce Mirken: Indeed. And people should let their member of congress know that they support this and they want to see it move as quickly as possible. I’m not going to pretend that it’s going to happen overnight but it’s important that people hear from their constituents about this. And actually, if you go to our homepage right now at MPP.org, right at the top of the page there’s a great big box that says ‘Ask your representative to support the Personal Use of Marijuana Act’ and if you just click on the link it will get you through the process of contacting your congressman.

Dean Becker: All right. And now we have one last segment from ‘Stoners in the Mist.’

PROFESSOR PUCK: In this next extraordinary experiment, we capture actual rare footage of stoners operating a motor vehicle. Now, unbeknownst to them, we've set up an obstacle course for them to navigate in order to test their senses of memory, perception and coordination in their natural environs.


BALDRIC helps the STONERS buckle their seat belts. The STONERS get in and start driving, hitting one obstacle after the next, finally screeching to a halt.]

PROFESSOR PUCK: There you have it. The stoners are incapable of operating a motor vehicle. They are an endangerment to themselves and to the public in general.

Well, we've only scratched the surface on this tragic species. Join us next time when we explore the stoner's fight or flight response...

...Until then, this has been: STONERS IN THE MIST!

[anonymous voice] I believe I have some more notes on this. Yes! Here we are.

Dean Becker: It was our first Drug Czar, Harry J. Anslinger, who first came up with the question: Marijuana, threat or menace? That idea is still being carried forward some one hundred years later.

Terry Nelson spent thirty-three years working for the U.S. government as a customs, border, and air interdiction officer. He retired earlier this year as a GS-14, the equivalent of a bird colonel.

Terry Nelson: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, bringing you one of the latest idiocies of the war on drugs. Southern California -- out of control. According to an article in the Orange County Register, Nature’s Wellness Collective, owned by Bob Adams was raided this week by approximately fourteen DEA agents armed with assault rifles and accompanied by members of the Orange Police Department. During the assault on the legal dispensary agents took all his medicinal marijuana supply, money from the store’s register and an ATM machine, computers, cameras, smoking pipes and his city-issued business license. Officers detained Adams and his three employees. Subsequently they were released without being charged with any crime though.

Now, why does this sound so ridiculous? If no crime was being committed then why did the inappropriate number of officers participate in the raid? Do they not have more pressing issues to address or is Orange County the only county in America that does not have car theft, home burglaries, and armed robberies, et cetera? Apparently there was no intent in the raid to prosecute the alleged perpetrators, just to seize the money and assets and send a message that the DEA was on the job. And if there was no intent to prosecute then why did the raid happen in the first place and why did they need so many officers to raid a non-violent medical marijuana dispensary? Do these places have a history of being violent? Did the owner or employees have previous arrests for violence? I don’t know about that but I would be ashamed to participate in this type of police action.

The war on drugs has failed and this has become a boring rerun of the Keystone Cops with the tail wagging the dog. But finally, a courageous sitting congressman has come out and called for ending some of this madness. I’m sure that since one had some luck others will follow.

As many of you know, LEAP is for total legalization of all drugs and initiating a system of regulation and control to reduce the crime and violence associated with the illegal drug trade. Then we can implement a system of education about the harms of drug abuse and implement a system of treatment for those that do become medically dependent on the substance, that substance being alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroin, meth or you name the addictive substance.
It’s obvious that our national policy of prohibition does not work. If the distribution and sale of drugs is not taken out of the hands of terrorists and criminal gangs then we can expect a continuation of the consequences of the drug war: tortured lives, broken families, and needless death. It’s time for a change. Let’s work together to stop this craziness and help build a better future for ourselves and our children.

This is Terry Nelson at www.LEAP.cc signing off.

This bud’s so good that when I smoke it the government freaks out.

[DTA Promo] Hey, this is Tommy Chong for the Drug Truth Network telling everybody: don’t let free speech go up in smoke, man.

[SSDP Promo] Pop quiz: Which is more dangerous, alcohol or marijuana? Study after study assigned shows that alcohol causes much more harm to the user and to society than marijuana. So why do colleges punish students more harshly for getting caught with cannabis? Join Students for Sensible Drug Policy and give your college administrators a simple Pharmacology 101 lesson.

Visit www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com to find out if there’s a chapter at your school or how to start one.

Dean Becker: Now, before we go to our BBC segment featuring author Misha Glenny this comes to us courtesy of the Washington Post.

A police SWAT team raided the home of the mayor in the Prince George's County town of Berwyn Heights last Tuesday, shooting and killing his two dogs, after he brought in a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been delivered to his doorstep, so said the local police.

Mayor Cheye Calvo was not arrested in the raid, which was carried out about 7 p.m. by the Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers. Prince George's police spokesman said that all the residents of the house -- Calvo, his wife and his mother-in-law -- are "persons of interest" in the case.

And now, as promised, this is an interview from the BBC featuring author Misha Glenny.

Announcer: Billions of dollars are spent each year in what politicians generally call ‘the war on drugs.’ But Colombia and Afghanistan and millions of drug users in the rich countries would suggest it is a war that is being lost. In the UK, the Drug Policy Commission -- it’s an independent think-tank with former police officers, academics and criminologists on it -- the Drug Policy Commission has just come out with a report and it concludes that there is remarkably little evidence that markets have even been disrupted and availability of drugs reduced by all the millions of dollars spent on that purpose. The former Chief Constable of West Mercia, David Blakey sits on the commission.

David Blakey: If there is to be a solution in the long term, and I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom, it’s that combination of prevention, of disruption, of arresting major drug dealers together with a great deal of money being spent on education, more than at the moment. Well, one can always make an argument for money and I’m sure everyone would. We’re actually spending more money on education and prevention than we are on enforcement at the moment, and that’s probably right. Those two things together would then give some hope to people in problem areas and in difficult areas and indeed across the country that something real is being done to do this with all of the agencies and I think coordination is the word.

Announcer: Well, Misha Glenny has just written a book on international crime, much of which, of course, revolves around the illicit drugs trade. What does he think of the suggestion that the current policy just isn’t working? Does that sound right?

Misha Glenny: It sounds absolutely right to me, Owen. The people who benefit the greatest from the policy of what’s known as ‘the war on drugs’ in Washington and what economists call the strategy of prohibition, making these substances illegal, are the big drug dealers themselves. I have spoken to major narcotics exporters in as far flung places as Canada, Colombia and South Africa and they are, along with the politicians in Washington, the most fervent supporters of the war on drugs because this war guarantees them vast profits. Unfortunately the collateral damage in the war on drugs are large tracts of South America, Central Asia and any other country which happen to be on the drug route from the point of production to the point of consumption, which is usually in Western Europe or the United States. And, of course, those people who are addicts and involved in the social despair associated with drugs in the inner cities themselves. But the point is, is that the war on drugs is not having any impact on people’s ability to access these drugs or indeed to use them safely. So this is a public health issue and criminological issue.

Announcer: Yeah, but it’s quite striking that this think-tank didn’t recommend legalizing drugs. I mean, where do you stand on that? Is that the answer?

Misha Glenny: Well, the thing about legalization, Owen, is that, again, during the research I did for this book, ‘McMafia,’ which involved looking at the drugs industry all around the world, I spoke to many senior politicians, senior policemen, senior policy makers, journalists, academics, dealers themselves and victims and those people in official positions frequently agreed that the war on drugs and prohibition was nonsense but they admitted frankly that they could not say this in public because it would lead to them losing their job or not being elected at the next vote. And so, when it comes to discussing the alternatives to the war on drugs you have to be very careful about how you phrase things and what you recommend. At the moment what we see is that those people who disagree in official positions with the war on drugs suggest a combination of what’s known as harm-reduction and generally ‘decriminalizing’ part of the narcotics market because the only way that you’re going to get a change in this policy, I suspect, is through a softly-softly approach and not through a dramatic one-off legalization overnight.

Announcer: Right, let me just put to you two points from the emails we’ve received on this. This is one sort of line of argument in quite a few of them. ‘Real tough sentencing is the only answer’ -- that’s from Sarah in London -- and ‘Unless you start throwing dealers in jail for fifty years and forcibly treating addicts there’s no chance.’

Misha Glenny: Right. Well, that’s exactly what we’ve doing for the past sixty or seventy years. We have been in the United States and in the United Kingdom, but particularly in the United States, dealers, people who have been put into jail for thirty years and above simply for passing a few joints. People dealing cocaine or crack cocaine often go to jail for a very, very long time indeed. But if you want to have an effective law enforcement strategy which is based on throttling supply and denying access to the market you will need a policing system akin to that one found in North Korea.

Announcer: Final email, this from Stan in West Yorkshire...

Misha Glenny: This is Northern England.

Announcer: ‘All my children have experimented with drugs to some degree or another. Want to put a stop to it? Jobs, marriage, mortgages and children.’

Misha Glenny: Yes, exactly. Jobs, marriage, mortgages and children. You have to get down -- if you have work available, if you have other responsibilities then people will generally stop taking drugs. I mean, if you look at the figures for the amount of people who take drugs in the United Kingdom it’s quite staggering. It’s anywhere between four and eight percent of the population. But what you don’t see are the type of social damage, say, amongst the biggest group, which are cannabis users, that you do amongst alcohol which, of course, is a legal drug. So there’s a hypocrisy at the heart of this policy as well.

Announcer: And that was Misha Glenny.

Dean Becker: OK. In closing, I want to refresh everybody’s mind to the fact that the government does indeed consider us to be ‘Stoners in the Mist,’ oblivious to what’s going on around us, incapable of taking care of ourselves. But unless and until you speak up, until you recognize what’s going on around you and demand that it change it will continue. Every eighteen seconds somebody in America hears the slamming of the cell door for being arrested for drug possession.

Once again, I remind you that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to exist. We’ve been duped. Surely the drug lords run both sides of this equation.

Visit our website, EndProhibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.