01/23/08 - Mike Gray

Mike Gray, author of Drug Crazy and Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy discusses his forthcoming video: "Clergy Against the War on Drugs" + Charles Thomas of Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative & Poppygate, Official Government Truth.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Guest: 
Mike Gray
Organization: 
Common Sense for Drug Policy
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January 23, 2008

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

My name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the phamaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

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(Twilight Zone Excerpt): The darkness continues to make itself known. A sickness known as hate, not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ but a sickness none-the-less. Highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don’t look for it in the Twilight Zone, look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether.

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Dean Becker: It was in black and white and I was just a kid but it was the craft of Mr. Rod Serling that first informed me that life is not all black and white. Another craftsman has informed my understanding and my work over the last few years. He’s author of “Drug Crazy”, he’s an Emmy nominated screenwriter, producer and director of many of the shows you’ve seen on your television and sometimes movie actor, he’s also Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy. It is my honor to welcome Mr. Mike Gray.

Hello Mike.

Mike Gray: Dean, how are you?

Dean Becker: I’m well, Sir. I’m well, Sir. Glad to have you with us. Over the years you have picked up the mantle, so to speak, and carried it forward, trying to explain this policy of drug prohibition and how it’s failing our nation, right?

Mike Gray: Well, how it’s destroying our nation, I think, even more than that. That’s one of the things that’s really, having been on this case now for about, over a dozen years, the deeper you get into it you realize how much damage this thing is doing, you know, in ways that we didn’t, you don’t normally realize. And it’s very frustrating. It’s a disaster that we’ve brought on ourselves.

Dean Becker: As I said in the intro, you are a craftsman, you have done a wonderful video for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, it’s getting wide circulation. And you’ve just recently been compiling and finalizing an edit of Clergy Against the Drug War and, I’ll tell you what, let’s go ahead and listen to a little clip from that and then when we come back we’ll talk about that new production, alright?

Mike Gray: Great.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Mike.

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Rev. Sanders: One day when I’m in the middle of one of our visits to a public housing project where we knew there was some significant incidence of injection drug use, I was there showing some young people how to clean a needle with bleach and someone had told one of the local television stations that we were there. So the reporter says to me “How do you justify this? A man of God out here showing people how to clean the needles?” and I guess, off the top of my head, my response was “You know, what I have to offer people as a minister, as a clergy-person, is something that I have to to offer people alive.”

Dean Becker: That was the voice of the Reverend Edwin C. Sanders III. Next we hear from Reverend Mary Marino Richardson.

Rev. Richardson: Well I think that I always understood from the drug war that it was going to be a war that would try and somehow to stop the drugs in our communities but what I really see that’s happened is that there is more violence, that there is more drug use and that there is more of an effect on communities of color and poorer communities because of our laws.

Dean Becker: This is Father Earl Koopercamp.

Father Koopercamp: So the longer we live in situations of injustice the more we’re willing to concede, the more we’re willing to compromise. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us as both religious leaders, as members of congregations, to resist any sort of complicity, any sort of willingness to go along with this because I think that ultimately it really compromises our life of faith and our own morality.

Dean Becker: This is Rabbi Michael Feinberg.

Rabbi Feinberg: I’ll start with a provocation and that is that I would say arguably that the war on drugs has caused as much devastation to communities around this country, particularly low-income communities, as the drugs themselves.

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Dean Becker: OK. It’s a much longer clip. I wanted to share that with you to kind of give you the flavor of what this is about. Mike, there are many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of religious figures across this country that are, that have taken another look at this drug war and are calling for a change, right?

Mike Gray: Absolutely, Dean. These people are very heated up about this too. That was one the things that surprised me. I mean we went in search of ministers and rabbis and priests and nuns who were interested in speaking out on this subject and I had no idea, I mean they are hot under the collar. And the reason for that is they see a lot of this damage first hand. Because they work with the poor people, they work with the inner-city and they work with...a couple of these people who were speaking there were prison chaplains.

One of the speakers, Mary’s sister, Marion Defeis was the head Catholic chaplain at Women’s Prison at Riker’s Island in New York and she told us some stuff that just really curled your toes about incredible mandatory minimums and women who were sent to prison simply because they didn’t have anybody to turn in. You know. In other words, their boyfriends turned them in. And they got off easier because they were able to turn somebody in. These girls were just like hanging around or doing a favor for their boyfriend or something like that, they get turned in and they get 20 years.

Dean Becker: Well sure. They’re the ones that take a phone message or deliver a small package and not realize that they have just become part of this major conspiracy.

Mike Gray: Well she told us one story about a woman, a friend of hers, who became a friend of hers in prison, a young girl who was on the street and a junkie, a guy who was in terrible shape and shaking and so forth, asked her if she knew anywhere he could buy drugs. And she said “I don’t know” and he said “surely you must know someplace around here where I can get drugs” and she pointed to a housing project, she said “I’ve heard that you can get stuff in there.” They arrested her and she got 10 years for steering, can you imagine that?

Dean Becker: Just for pointing?

Mike Gray: Yeah.

Dean Becker: And Mike, it’s not, I don’t know, unique in its aspect. I mean the fact is that for crack residue in a pipe, in many of the states in this nation, you can be hauled in, you can be convicted, you can be sent to prison for 1/1000 of a gram.

Mike Gray: Well, I saw that piece of footage, the film that you did, Dean, I thought that was quite good with the former Judge who spoke about that issue and, as I understand it, she’s part of that group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, right? She was?

Dean Becker: Yes. Judge Eleanor Schockett, we miss her, she passed on January 12.

Mike Gray: That’s really a shame. She was such a powerful speaker and so knowledgeable about, you know, the evils of the drug war. That’s the thing. And I think that’s primarily the message. I got, as you mentioned in your intro there, we shot twelve minute video on the five founders of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And they now have 26,000 copies of that DVD all over the world and they are one of the fastest growing reform organizations I think in history.

They’ve gone from five members to 5,000 in the space of like 36 months. And these guys are really quite powerful. When they speak, nobody, I mean they get a standing ovation almost every time they show up because they are ranking police officers who are saying “the drug war is a disaster.” It’s destroying our police departments, it’s destroying our cities, it’s destroying our country and it’s eating up our constitution. And when cops say that, people listen.

So that’s why, that’s how this second video came about here, the one that we’re just about to release right now, which is clergy against the war on drugs and we said, you know, if this video about the police against the war has been so powerful why not check with the ministers and priests and rabbis, see what they think? Well, we got a real surprise, as I said.

They’re even more vitriolic about this drug war, they don’t use quite as many swear words of course, (laughter) than the cops but they are equally vehement in their disgust over what we’ve done to ourselves with this war on drugs.

Dean Becker: Yes, and I recall there was one of the, I think it was a father, a Roman-Catholic father, who was talking about that they have to, the clergy need to reexamine their position in this because if they look back in time they were pretty much responsible for this quote “moral stance” and the road we’ve taken.

Mike Gray: Yes, that was Reverend Scott Richardson actually, an Episcopal priest in San Diego and he lays it right on the line. He says we are responsible for this. The clergy, we got behind this war on drugs without thinking about it. We were motivated by Puritanism and the perfection of mankind and this idea of fighting a war on drugs appealed to a lot of people and, you know, we got to do something about this and so, he said, the clergy, that’s why he said, we clergy members must do something about this because we are responsible for it.

Dean Becker: Well I conducted an interview with Charles Thomas of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative. We’re going to be playing that a little bit later. He talks about the width and breadth of this, the number of church organizations that are involved in. It is a no-brainer if people would only take the time to examine what’s going on, examine the result of this decades old effort...

Mike Gray: Yes.

Dean Becker: ...and, Mike, about, I’ve heard its going to be a couple of weeks, a couple of months perhaps, until we have the release of this video to the public?

Mike Gray: We’re working on it. In fact I am on the case today. We’re just making a few changes that, we got some feedback at the screening at New Orleans and also from the clergy members themselves, and they suggested a couple of changes which we’re working on, that will be accomplished probably in the next three or four days, then we have to design the package. That’s going to take a week and then the production should be accomplished with a couple of weeks after that so I think we’re looking to somewhere around 30 days to have copies of this thing available.

And they will be available for free from Common Sense for Drug Policy, all you have to do is explain how you intend to use the copies, I mean if you want more than one copy you have to give us, you know, a plan for distribution, but other than that they will be available on DVD disc at no cost.

Dean Becker: Well, you know the LEAP disc, 25,000+ copies, and, oh, I wanted to correct you, gladly, that the number of members of LEAP is now approaching 9,000.

Mike Gray: Wow, that’s wonderful. You know, I’m running a little behind the loop here, but that’s fantastic, Dean, 9,000 members. And like I said, when I met them they had five guys.

Dean Becker: Right. Right.

Mike Gray: They had the Chief of Police of Seattle, a Florida Chief of Police, and I mean they were all ranking top police officers but there were only five of them.

Dean Becker: Right. Police Captain, 13 years undercover narcotics officer, people who spent that time in the trenches, who had that mud on their boots and people that we ought to listen to in their opinion.

Mike Gray: You said it. Yeah.

Dean Becker: Now, insofar as the clergy video, I think its something that, you know, if people think their minister might be swayed by the truth, if they think their minister might have the courage to speak that truth to the congregation, or at least to share it within the realm of the church hierarchy, to begin to sway that opinion, to begin to sway this draconian situation.

Mike Gray: Yeah.

Dean Becker: Mike, you have written a book, “Drug Crazy”, that speaks to this, that talks about that underbelly, the Al Capone-ism, of America. Let’s talk about what this drug war has wrought.

Mike Gray: Well, I, it was the book “Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out” was published by Random House in ‘99 and that’s what got me into this combat here on--I always knew the drug war was a disaster, just as, you know, like a casual observer and I knew people who’d been sent to prison for virtually no reason, except, you know, they just happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. And it all seemed so arbitrary.

And, of course, I did a couple of documentaries in the 60’s, one was called “American Revolution Two” and the other was “The Murder of Fred Hampton” and those documentaries exposed us to the street situation in our major cities in a way that we couldn’t, that’s an education that we couldn’t have got any other way, and that became apparent at that time. The tremendous damage that was being done by the drug war, specifically to the inner-cities, that whites were doing just as much drugs as the blacks and the hispanics, in fact the whites actually do more drugs per capita than either blacks or hispanics, think about that, and yet the blacks and hispanics get arrested at 3 to 10 times the rate of whites: where is the justice in that?

So, I got, I decided I was going to write a book about it and I figured, actually, you know, probably take a year maybe or something, it took 6 years. And it is a definitive indictment of the war on drugs and a lot of people have told me that they deeply appreciate the work that I put into that, the 6 years that went into it because it saves you the trouble of having to wade through 6 years of information. It’s a 2 night read but it contains all those facts in it. I now, of course, am involved so deeply that I have prisoners calling me. I suppose that happens to you too.

Dean Becker: I have a very lengthy letter I just got today about a man who was comparing his case to that of Marc Emery up in Canada. You know, he had, he was accused of, irrationally by an informant of having, you know, a grow site. Turns out he didn’t, there were no drugs but he was in Texas and so things didn’t turn out so well....

Well, Mike, I want to ask you, you have a dozen years at this and just last month you and I were in New Orleans attending the, that major drug conference.

Mike Gray: Yeah, that was quite a conference wasn’t it? I was very impressed. One of the biggest we’ve had so far and the enthusiasm and the multi-racial quality, at last we’re getting a lot of black people directly involved in this issue. And I was really impressed that, who was there and what they had to say.

Dean Becker: As was I. I thought it an event filled with courage. That side to me, that’s what’s going to end this is when we dare to claim the moral high ground because I think we own every square inch of it.

Mike Gray: You said it. You said it. These guys don’t have a, you know, I mean they don’t have a square inch to stand on. Everything they have done has created unintended consequences that have led to a far worse disaster than anything that could have been caused by drugs.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Exactly. Well, Mike, you have through your work with Common Sense for Drug Policy gives you the chance to, I don’t know, take the pulse, I suppose, of this country, maybe our trip to New Orleans did as well, but we’re making progress. These politicians, these presidential candidates are even beginning to, well, some of them talk about the drug war. Progress, right?

Mike Gray: Well, this is the first presidential campaign where the subject has even come up. I mean its been mentioned in the past but always in terms of being tough of crime. Yeah, yeah, we’ve got to do something about these drugs, we got to be tough on crime. You know, which is a synonym for being stupid on crime because we’ve made the problem steadily worse year by year, you know.

We arrested 800,000 people last year, Dean, for marijuana possession. Can you imagine the amount of police time and courtroom time and criminal justice time that was wasted on what we are now starting to see, it’s not only not a harmful herb but actually may be a wonder drug. Now think about that.

We’ve been told, I remember when I was a kid in Darlington, Indiana, they had a library in that high school there, that probably only had thirty books in it, and one of the books was “The Evils of Marijuana.” Well, as a teenager, of course, you’re always interested in evil so I read that book. It describes all kind of horrible things, oh my God, you’d chop up your parents, you smoke one hit and you just go totally insane, you never recover, I was, wow, that’s something I never want to touch.

Well, you know, now we are finding out that in 1976 there was a test, or I meant a study, of the cannabinoid THC, which is the active ingredient, and they found out that THC reduced brain tumors in mice. OK? Now that doesn’t mean it will reduce brain tumors in humans but you would certainly have some curiosity about that, wouldn’t you?

I mean if you just got a study from one of your assistants in the lab and said, “Hey, this stuff shrinks brain tumors. Don’t you think we ought to check it out?” Instead they buried the study. Think about that. Our government buried a study that indicated that there was a fruitful area of inquiry, that marijuana might shrink brain tumors. And they covered it up. It was rediscovered 3 years ago in Portugal by a group of scientists who discovered the original study and they said that this is such a productive area that they are launching major studies and there have now been several other studies that are advancing this.

This is the kind of thing that I’m talking about. We have been subjected to total propaganda. Complete and total propaganda. Not only is marijuana not a harmful substance, herb, but it may be a miracle drug.

Dean Becker: Good grief. Well, Mike, we’re going to have to leave it right there. We’ll be inviting you back soon, perhaps with the release of this. We can talk more about the clergy against the drug war video. Mike, it is fear that runs this drug war, is it not? You guys at Common Sense for Drug Policy have some of the answers to quell that fear. Give us your website, please.

Mike Gray: www.csdp.org, that’s “csdp” like common sense drug policy.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Mike.

Mike Gray: Thank you, Dean.

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Charles Thomas: This is Charles Thomas, Executive Director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative based near Washington, DC. We’re a national organization that mobilizes religious leaders and individual people of faith to take action for more compassionate alternatives to the war on drugs.

Dean Becker: Charles, we’ve been listening to the audio from a new video released by Common Sense for Drug Policy, among others, and produced by Mr. Mike Gray. What is your take on that video?

Charles Thomas: Well, we’re really pleased with it. We were able to help by putting Mike Gray in touch with most of the clergy that he interviewed for it. We’ve been mobilizing religious leaders for the past several years and we have more than 500 clergy from dozens of denominations that support us so we called on a sampling of those from a variety of denominations and locations throughout the country to help make this project happen.

Dean Becker: And let’s talk a little bit more about the work you do and why you do it.

Charles Thomas: Sure. Well, we believe that the war on drugs hurts everyone. In addition to wasting tax dollars, the war on drugs breeds crime, disease, and violence. For example, people steal to get money to buy drugs at prohibition inflated prices. Some drug dealers have shoot outs in the streets and turf battles and sometimes hit innocent bystanders and some people who inject drugs get AIDS from dirty needles and spread the disease to their sex partners and children.

And, of course, for the individuals who happen to be arrested, in addition to the harm caused by incarceration, the government often imposes excessive fines, takes their cars and homes, denies financial aid for college and strips away the right to vote. And a criminal record costs people their jobs and other economic opportunities.

So what we do is, we connect with the religious denominations and individual religious leaders who support our policy goals, in some cases our long ranging goals of replacing prohibition with reasonable regulations, or in other cases some of our short term goals that are currently being seriously considered in various legislatures.

For example, we advocate for repealing mandatory minimum prison sentences, allowing the medical use of marijuana, restoring financial aid to students with drug convictions, and allowing injection drug users to access clean needles and other harm reduction services.

So what we do is whenever there are any bills or ballot initiatives pending on these matters we make sure that the religious leaders speak up and let their voices be known. In addition to individual clergy there are many denominations that support, at least, some of our goals. These include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, the United Methodist Church, all four black Baptist denominations, the Union for Reformed Judaism and a couple of dozen others. So there’s a lot of support out there on some of these issues and we make sure that legislators and voters know about this support to help change the laws.

Dean Becker: Charles Thomas is the Director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, idpi.us.

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Poppygate: Bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, featuring Glenn Greenway.

Glenn Greenway: Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan over six years ago the Afghan narcotics industry has exploded. The Talibans' highly effective poppy prohibition collapsed in the aftermath of the invasion and now the war-ravished country produces 93% of the world's heroin supply, up 45 fold since 9/11.

The British Independent reports this week that Afghans with experience in planting poppies have been helping Iraqi farmers in the country's north-eastern province of Diyala to switch from traditional crops to opium. After harvest, the opium is reportedly taken to Western Iraq where it is exported internationally for processing into heroin. After initial plantings last year in southern Iraq failed due to the extreme heat and humidity, Diyala has proved to be a nearly ideal environment for the poppies to flourish.

According to DEA reports the U.S. heroin market has been traditionally divided by the Mississippi River; more powerful white heroin to the east and less pure Mexican 'black tar' to the west. Recent news accounts reveal that this pattern is apparently disintegrating. Black tar heroin sales have recently been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina while so-called "China White" heroin is now appearing in California and Texas.

On January 20, U.S. Drug Czar John Walters accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of being a "major facilitator" of the cocaine trade by failing to root out corrupt officials and deny Venezuelan ports and airfields to smugglers. He added "It goes beyond 'I can't do it' to 'I won't do it'. And 'I won't do it' means that 'I am colluding'."

Considering the U.S. heroin experience in Afghanistan and now ominously in Iraq I would personally like to say "Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, this is Pot."

And this is Glenn Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.

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Dean Becker: You know we try to entice drug warriors to come on our show, offering them love and money. They won’t do it so we produce the following segment on their behalf.

Winston Francis: So I was watching this drug legalization movie, “American Drug War” the other day when an odd thing happened. A sparkle of truth in a sea of spin. A police officer is called to a fancy restaurant where a naked man has walked in and began shoving ice up his butt. When the police arrived, sure enough, there he is. When they have him in custody he swears at them incoherently like a demon possessed sailor. He’d been smoking ‘sherm’ or cigarettes dipped in PCP. Where does this scenario fit into the drug legalization advocates’ vision of utopia? The zombie-like, scrambled brain, naked masses stumbling around from place to place, shoving ice in their butts. Well, no thank you. At the end of the scene, it happens; the sparkle of truth.

(speaker) No sane person will tell you that drugs like PCP or crystal meth should be made available to the public.

Winston Francis: He’s right. Instead we should have a system where experts decide which drugs should be available and which drugs will scramble our brains and should not be available. Oh wait, that’s the system we have now.

This has been Winston Francis with the Official Government Truth.

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Dean Becker: Yeah, the system we have now says that criminals decide those drug distribution points and who gets to use what. And, as always, I remind you that because of drug prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, on behalf of engineer Phillip Guffy, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

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