01/15/08 - Dominic Holden

Dominic Holden re the harms of drug prohibition. Marc Emery faces 5 years in prison for selling seeds. Bruce Mirken of Marijuana Policy Project re police killing of medical marijuana patient. Phil Smith re widespread swat raids on drug users.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Guest: 
Dominic Holden
Organization: 
NORML
Download: Audio icon COL_011508.mp3
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Century of Lies, 01/15/08

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.

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Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us here. In just a little bit we’ll bring in our guest Mr. Dominic Holden out of Seattle, Washington. A man who wears many hats, a man who is involved in trying to bring an end to the harms, the collateral damage, the blow-back of this Drug War. And we’ll also get to hear from Mr. Phil Smith who normally brings us the Corrupt Cop Story talking about some of that blow-back as well as, we’ll get to hear from Mr. Marc Emery who was our guest last week and we have some breaking news in that regard as well and we’ll also hear from Mr. Bruce Mirkin, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Again all of these stories talking about the blow-back. You know it’s one thing to say, I don’t know, protecting our kids, keeping the streets safe, doing the right thing, if you will, you know, through this drug war and I can, as you’re well aware, prove that’s not right. But what we have to really do is pay attention to the fact that we have, through this policy, this drug war, this drug prohibition created many harms to our society. We’ve scrambled the eggs before they’re out of the shell, if you’ve follow me, and I’m told that we do have Dominic Holden on line at this time.

Dominic, can you hear me?

Dominic Holden: Yes, I can. How are you, Dean?

Dean Becker: I’m well. Dominick, I don’t know how much you got to hear but we’re today talking about the blow-back, the ramifications, the quote “collateral damage” of this drug war and you had a story published recently in a newspaper up your way called The Stranger. Why don’t you tell us about that article, please?

Dominic Holden: Well, to summarize what happened there is a young woman, a girl, 16-years-old named Danielle McCarthy who took ecstasy first time last new year’s eve on December 31, 2006. She began to display symptoms: she was not well, she was vomiting and she fell in and out of consciousness and eventually appeared to have a seizure. Her friends never called 911 or took her to the hospital even though she was obviously having a bad reaction to the drug or something was seriously wrong with her. Later they would tell investigators they didn’t want anyone to get in trouble. Clearly they would be arrested if they called 911 because everyone at this party had taken ecstasy. Finally, at about ten in the morning they brought her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. And its really quite sad because if she had consumed a legal (unintelligible) or if there had been some sort of amnesty from drug prosecution that these young people had known about, this girl may well have lived. So it was really a terrible tragedy, both because of the negligence of her friends but also because of strictly punitive drug law.

Dean Becker: And that’s it. It’s the situation whereby you can’t call for help for fear of a prison sentence.

Dominic Holden: That’s absolutely right. One of things I wrote about in this article was an experience I had when I was 17-years-old. A friend of mine showed up at my house at a party and he’d consumed LSD and he had what people call a bad trip. And he was holding his breath and his head swelled up and he looked like a plum and he was trying to claw his eyes out. We didn’t know what to do so we called 911. I didn’t think twice about letting medics and police officers into the house to take my friend but no sooner had they entered the house than they came to me and they put me in handcuffs and they marched me downstairs and they interrogated me for hours and what I’d done was essentially the right thing. I’d witnessed a drug overdose. I called the medics and I was the one being treated like a criminal. So, although I ultimately did the right thing I can understand why someone would choose not to go through that or, in the alternative, that they would spend precious minutes destroying evidence or perhaps taking someone to the hospital themselves or taking them outside or who knows what, when that person really needs medical attention right away.

Dean Becker: And it’s a sad state of affairs. I think there is one of the fifty united states where a person can call for help without fear of that legal retribution, that’s New Mexico, right?

Dominic Holden: That’s absolutely right. They passed a Good Samaritan Law. It was signed into law in June in 2007, the first of its kind in the country, and what that law essentially does is, says that if someone calls 911 or seek medical help when they witness an overdose, that they will be exempt from possession penalties and in Washington State there is a senate bill that’s been introduced by State Senator Adam Kline of our 37th District that essentially does the same thing. One of the problems, however, with these laws is that they specifically give an exemption in cases where someone has sold the drugs to the overdose victim and while that would seem to make sense, the truth is drug taking is often communal, where one person obtains the drugs and then the drug users reimburse the purchaser of that drug even though no profit is made from the second sale. So there is drug sales activity going on even when its not the type of, sort of, street dealing or profiteering that we think about. The other issue is that there’s an exemption in these overdose prevention laws in the case where someone dies. The problem there is that someone essentially has-to-be dying before anyone’s going 911 to save them and if the person does actually die then these laws, the bill in Washington and the law in New Mexico, would offer no protection. And I think that is a real concern if we want these laws to work properly.

Dean Becker: You know this brings to mind a scenario. I think it was less than a year ago I saw stories breaking about the fact that, I think it was Purdue Pharma had distributed millions of oxycontin pills, thousands of people had become addicted, hundreds had died because they had mis-prescribed it, they encouraged people to take more than they should have and yet, despite these hundreds of deaths and thousands of addictions and, who knows how many millions of crimes committed to pay for these things nobody was convicted, no one was sent to jail. They did fine the company an enormous hundreds of millions of dollars but it just shows that the corporation mindset once to put the onus, the burden, upon the person who purchased the drug, didn’t really make any money off of it but somehow he’s guilty and deserving of a prison sentence. It seems bass-ackward.

Dominic Holden: Well, I mean one of the, an example we can look to is the epidemic of abandoned newborns as something of an analogy. Throughout the 90’s there were mothers who were abandoning their babies and they had to make a choice: they could either leave their babies in a dumpster where they’ll probably die or they can leave it out in public where someone is likely to find the baby but the mother is also likely to be seen and arrested and prosecuted. So states across the country passed laws to provide safe-haven deposits where mothers could leave their infants. The difference is, you know, there is a lot of sympathy for newborn babies, there is more sympathy for a user of a legal prescription drug but there is relatively little sympathy for the person who uses an illicit substance to the point of vital compromise. So we see this disparity in the treatment of mothers, of people like Rush Limbaugh who used prescription pain killers illegally than we do from someone who is suffering the same problem with methamphetamine or heroin.

Dean Becker: You know, last week we had, I think a friend of yours, an associate perhaps? Allison Holcomb.…

Dominic Holden: Yes indeed.

Dean Becker: ...talking about the need to, I guess, change the onus, the focus of the marijuana laws and you work in that regard as well, do you not? Tell us what you’ve observed in Washington, the change in mindset and perhaps the diminishing of the dollars needed to go after these quote marijuana users.

Dominic Holden: I think one of the things to keep in mind when you think about Washington State is that it is, politically, it is two different states. The Cascade Mountains run up the middle dividing into western and eastern Washington. Easter Washington being very conservative with a distinct libertarian bent, western Washington being a more of a traditional, progressive, liberal community and I think that the reactions to the existing marijuana laws are split a little bit with conservatives and libertarians being generally concerned that we have given too much power to law enforcement to violate what people do in the sanctity of their own bodies and on the privacy of their own land. And in western Washington I think there’s a growing sentiment that we are wasting our limited law enforcement resources that could be invested in violent, dangerous and serious crimes to our community, we’re wasting that on enforcing marijuana laws. And I think on the uniting issues, however, is medical marijuana. We’ve seen, we’ve passed a law with 58 percent of the vote in 1998 that allows the medical use of marijuana and that is overwhelmingly supported by, I believe, about 80 percent according to polling data currently available, but the law is very weak, it only provides patients an affirmative defense so that once their home has been searched and they’ve been investigated and the person has been arrested, only once they reach a judge are they able to show their medical marijuana paperwork and show their documentation they’re actually suffering from a disease and show that their doctor has authorized their use of medical marijuana. And I think that this disturbs a lot of the voters in Washington State who believed when they were passing Initiative 692 ten years ago that it would protect medical marijuana patients, people with serious conditions, from the trauma of being arrested and going through the prosecution. So I think, whether it be for adult personal use and people’s right to do what they want on their own land or simply compassion for the sick and dying, there are attitudes changing certainly in favor of reforming marijuana laws.

Dean Becker: Thank Goodness that’s kind of happening across the country a little too slowly, a little too incrementally for my taste but thank God it is happening. Now if folks would like to learn more about the work you’re doing, you’re involved with the Seattle Hempfest, you’re involved with the ACLU, probably some other organizations, I saw you at the New Orleans Drug Conference...You want to help make this change, you want to enlighten people, what would you recommend, what websites?

Dominic Holden: Hmmm, that’s a really good question. I think that if people are interested in marijuana law reform generally they should go see the NORML website, I’m one of the members of the board of directors, and that is: N-O-R-M-L, there’s no A in that, norml.org and if someone in Washington is interested if finding out what’s going on in Washington State I would check out the ACLU of Washington’s web site, aclu/wa.org.

Dean Becker: All right, well thank you for that and, Dominic, you guys keep up the good work. Like I told Allison, the more you guys can expose the truth, the more you guys can help bring about the necessary change the sooner state like Texas and others can find their focus and begin to make those changes and I appreciate you being with us today on the Century of Lies show.

Dominic Holden: Dean, thank you so much for having me.

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Dean Becker: All right. Ok, now we’re going to, as I said, we’re going to tune in to a couple of interviews I did with folks I did about the ramifications and the blow-back but first up, our guest from last week, Marc Emery has some important news for us.

Marc, we had you on our Century of Lies show last week talking about your situation but it appears, perhaps, the resolution is at hand?

Marc Emery: I wouldn’t call it a resolution, I’d call it an unjust situation that has come up. That in order to perhaps save Michelle and Greg from jail and certainly save Michelle from a lot of health problems and suffering and misery in jail I’m accepting an outrageous jail sentence that I would never normally even consider. The whole situation of me being exiled to the United States for selling seeds to consenting adults is, on one hand, outrageous and certainly, none the less though, it’s a battle that I’ve always had with the U.S. Federal Government for fifteen years, its just been escalating to a more and more public point and, you know, I’ve taken this kind of offer because it was available and it would save Michelle and Greg and its contingent on those things, that they don’t go to jail. But definitely, five years for selling seeds is in Canada unprecedented. They say a ten-year sentence, well I have to serve five years in custody but the DEA’s crazy. We know that from the millions of Americans that have experienced the hell of an American prison over the drug war and how hundreds of thousands every year continue to be locked up because of the drug war and, you know, it makes me feel that my battle has been properly waged because I haven’t hurt anybody, there’s no victims as I constantly tell the Canadian people, there are no victims here, there are no people complaining, every Canadian was aware of what I did, I paid my tax on time. Did everything very transparently so I’ve nothing to be ashamed of and everything I did is what I told people I would do and we were able to help thousands of people, we gave away millions of dollars to activist groups around the world so, you know, I’m content in what I did.

Dean Becker: Marc, you say some of this is still contingent on agreement from the U.S. authorities to keep Greg and Michelle.…

Marc Emery: No, more actually agreement from the Canadian authorities. The American have put their demands in writing, I’ve tentatively accepted them, harsh as they are, because they require me to abandon my magazine and have no assets and be in poverty and then I have to plead guilty to a ten-year sentence, I have to serve part of that five-years in mandatory custody in the United States as well as Canada, I have to take lie detector tests, make sure I don’t have any hidden assets, which is fine because I never kept anything so I had no objection to anyone in anyway. Its going to be peculiar contemplating several years without being outside, looking after the magazine and doing all the things that I do and I’ve done for eighteen years now on behalf of the movement, but I have plans. I’ll learn Spanish and French and write my memoirs and get stuff done and try and keep busy.

Dean Becker: Marc, as always, you are willing to give to support this movement, to support others within the movement, my heart, my thoughts go out to you and your beautiful wife, Jody.

Marc Emery: You can put special memento on the show each year to commemorate the time. But we of course, I’m always proud to say, we helped Cultural Baggage in the early days when your financing was required as we did with hundreds of different groups that needed money so, a lot of these things have come to bear incredible fruit. We were there, one of the earliest sponsors of Marijuana Policy Project when they didn’t have millionaire sponsors and we were amongst the largest donors in the early days and so things have improved for many of the people we helped and they are on their own doing great things now and I look back on when I started, eighteen years ago, books and magazines in Canada about marijuana were banned. As certainly were seeds and everything else but now we have legal medical marijuana, we have industrial hemp that’s legal in Canada, we have, even the government sent people to me to buy seeds, who had legal medical marijuana permits, so it is a travesty of justice, everybody in the world knew what we were doing and everybody used it, from the government to collecting their taxes on it, to recommending people buy from me, even Canada’s own medical marijuana program was started up by my seeds. All the seeds that they grow in that mine in Flin Flon came from Marc Emery Direct Seeds so there’s a big trunk load of hypocrisy going on here and I may not get the justice end of the equation but my conscience is clear, there are no victims, I’ve helped thousands of people and I’ve been a good leader for the cannabis culture for a good ten years, at least I’ve been a leadership figure like that, and I think we have some wonderful accomplishments to show for it and can carry on while I’m on ice.

Dean Becker: Well, real good Marc. We will be in touch and following this story. We thank you for your commitment and your courage.

Marc Emery: Thank you very much.

Dean Becker: Marc’s website, cannabisculture.com. For a little while it doesn’t belong to the DEA. Check it out my friends.

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Bruce Mirkin: I am Bruce Mirkin, Communication Director at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Dean Becker: Bruce, today we’re taking a look at some of the ramifications, the harms that result to our society from this policy of drug prohibition. Marijuana Policy Project had brought focus to bear on an a Dallas resident, Stephen Thornton, a man suffering from thyroid cancer. Tell the folks what happened to him.

Bruce Mirkin: Yeah, this was a real tragedy. This was a fellow who used marijuana to control the chronic pain and nausea that resulted from his cancer and the treatment for his cancer. He lived in the Dallas area, was convicted in 2005 of-quote-possession of a firearm by a unlawful user of a controlled substance. Basically he had a gun which would otherwise have been entirely legal for him to have except that he was using marijuana to control the pain from his cancer. He fled Texas in 2005, took up residence in Raleigh, North Carolina, continued to grow marijuana for his medical purposes and about a week ago he was shot and killed by law enforcement officers in a drug raid who claimed that they thought he was a quote/unquote kingpin. Give me a break. You know, this was just a guy who was trying to cope with a terrible illness and now he’s dead because of our insane marijuana laws.

Dean Becker: Its not a rarity that people are shot. Gosh, that, what was it, eighty something year old lady in Atlanta. She was shot defending her home. No drugs were found but then they planted marijuana on her to-quote-justify the intrusion.

Bruce Mirkin: Indeed. That was another trashing, but the thing that you also need to bear in mind is that you have a few cases like this that become headlines: the Atlanta case certainly became a national news story but there’s a lot of more subtle stuff that happens to people that still really screws up people’s lives but it never becomes headlines. Just today, we heard from a woman and I can’t mention her name because we don’t know that she wants to talk about this publicly, this is a woman in her early fifties with a seriously ill husband and an autistic son who went back to grad school, got her master’s degree, got her special ed certificate so that she could work and put some money away into a trust fund to take care of her autistic son. And after she went to the trouble and expense of getting a special ed degree she discovered that she can’t get a teaching certificate in the state where she lives, which is Illinois, because of a 32-year-old marijuana conviction. She was in college, she was caught with a little pot and now her master’s degree and her special education teaching certificate are basically useless to her because of this. That’s crazy.

Dean Becker: And 32 years later she’s still being penalized, you don’t do the time and get your new certificate of citizenship, you pay for these drug charges for life.

Bruce Mirkin: Yeah, these so-called collateral sanctions, as they’re sometimes referred to which is kind of a bloodless phrase, we need to come up with a better way to describe it, but these things can haunt people for their entire lives and interfere with their ability to get jobs, to get various sorts of public benefits if they need help. What’s the point? Regardless of what you think of what this woman did when she was 21 years old, and lets face it, lots of us do dumb things when we’re 21, what good does it do anybody to keep her from teaching and making a living now?

Dean Becker: It’s why we do this work, is it not my friend?

Bruce Mirkin: Indeed. And if I feel a little cranky and frustrated, hearing stories like this does it to me.

Dean Becker: Well once again, if folks would like to learn more about this please send them to your website.

Bruce Mirkin: Sure. Please visit us online at mpp.org. That’s triple-W M-P-P-dot-O-R-G and there’s always new stuff on there and keep in touch and give us a hand if you possibly can. We can get some of these laws changed.

Dean Becker: I think YOU should help get some of these laws changed. You know, some “marijuaners”, go on, marijuana users go on to gain prestigious jobs like President of the United States.

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This is Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle reporting for the Drug Truth Network. A very ugly and dangerous phenomenon we’ve been watching for some time has been in the news again lately and that’s the use of paramilitarized SWAT style police raids in routine drug search warrants. SWAT teams were originally designed to be used rarely in extreme situations like hostage taking or armed standoffs but they are now being used an estimated 40,000 times a year across the country too often in what appears to be an extreme over-utilization of force. We saw an example of that January 4 in Lima, Ohio when a police SWAT team member shot and killed a young mother and wounded the 14-month-old child she was holding in her arms. Tarika Wilson, aged 26, was killed on January 4 in her upstairs bedroom, shot twice by Lima Police sergeant Joseph Chavalia. Her one-year-old son Sincere Wilson was also shot as were two pit bulls at the house. The child lost his left index finger but his injuries are not life threatening. One of the pit bulls was killed. In the days since the incident Lima police have failed to provide any details on what led up to the shooting except to say they were executing a drug search warrant for Wilson’s boyfriend, Anthony Terry. Terry was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of crack cocaine which, along with marijuana, was found at the house. Those counts have now been upgraded to multiple counts of crack and pot sales. While Lima police have not been forthcoming on what went down, they did however engage in some preemptive apologetics. Here’s a quote from Lima Police chief George Garlock who said “This is a terrible situation that resulted from a very dangerous situation that occurs when a high-risk search warrant is executed.” Garlock did not explain what made the search warrant high risk nor did he explain why he sent a SWAT team to raid a house where he knew children were present. In addition to the one-year-old child, Wilson was a mother of five other children between 3 and 8 who were present at the home. Officers tossed at least one stun grenade before charging the residence but that explosion took place outside because knew children were present, police said. Lima police have turned investigation of the incident over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation because the shooting involved one of their own. That investigation is expected to take several weeks. By mid-week last week, the FBI announced it was joining the investigation but angry family and community members are not waiting for answers. A crowd of more than 300 people marched with family members from a community center to the home where the shooting took place to express their outrage and from there to the police station. That was Saturday, January 5, the day after the shooting. Residents and community activists have vowed to march every Saturday until justice is done. Last Monday, more than 200 people showed up at a heated meeting with police officials and the city council to demand action. Those people hit the street again last Saturday, the day after 100 more people attended Wilson’s Friday funeral. Wilson was black and her killing has heightened racial tensions in a town where many African-Americans claim they are targeted by police. It isn’t just people on the street saying that. Councilman Tommy Pitts, chair of the Council Safety Services Committee said the Lima police had long targeted blacks. “This comes as no surprise to me” he said about the shooting. Now, Lima is tense and waiting. You can read my report about the killing of Tarika at www.stopthedrugwar.org. (unintelligible) bloggers has been posting about it as well. Our Director Dave Borden, for example, directs the reader to an animated .gif image on the SWAT team’s website. That image shows an armored SWAT team member firing his weapon directly into the faces of website visitors with cool firing flashes. It isn’t on the SWAT team website anymore but you can still see it at www.stopthedrugwar.org.

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Dean Becker: I want to thank our guests today, Dominic Holden, Marc Emery, dang it I wish he wasn’t having to go to prison, Bruce Mirkin, Marijuana Policy Project, and, of course, Phil Smith. You know we have several new videos up on line including one with the UN drug czar, Antonio Maria Costa. We got a new one we just did last week with Tommy Chong who was in town and on Cultural Baggage this week, I recommend you tune in, we’ll have Peter Crist, one of the directors of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Check out our new website. Its looking pretty spiffy these days, we’ve got built-in “potcasts”, you can search by guest, by organization, by date, etc, it gives you a chance to really give it a good scan. Its there for your use. I hope you will use it, share it with your friends, your redneck Uncle Bubba. Do your part. Its really up to you. All the folks I listed, myself included, our good engineer Philip Guffy, all of us understand that this drug war is a scam. We work to expose that scam but we really can’t do anything unless YOU stand up, unless YOU do your part and get involved. Check out our website which is drugtruth.net. Do your part. You know there is no truth to this drug war, no justification, no logic, no scientific fact, medical data, in fact no reason whatsoever. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Visit our other website endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco.

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

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Our engineer is Philip Guffy.

Transcript provided by Gee-Whiz Transcripts. Email: glenncg@zoominternet.net