04/29/08 - Barney Frank

US Representative Barney Frank discusses marijuana bills now before US Congress + Fred Gardner seeks input from veterans, Corrupt Cop Story with Phil Smith & "Offical Government Truth" with Winston Francis

Century of Lies
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Barney Frank
US Congress
Download: Audio icon COL_042908.mp3


Century of Lies, April 29, 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: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m so glad you could be with us. My name is Dean Becker. I host this program on your behalf. Here, in just a moment, we hope to hear from Representative Barney Frank from Massachusetts. He’s put a couple of bills before Congress dealing with the subject of marijuana and we hope to have him on the air here in just a moment. I want to invite you to do your part, you know I talk about this nearly every week, that I can speak the truth, all my friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition can speak the truth, even members of Congress can speak the truth, but until all the members of Congress, all of them in the state and federal level begin to speak of this subject we will be stuck in this bind. It’s been decades now. And I am told we have the Congressman online.

Representative Barney Frank, are you with us, Sir?

Rep. Frank: I am.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Sir. We appreciate you joining us. Yes, sir. There are two bills that have been put before the U.S. Congress dealing with the subject of marijuana. Would you care to tell us about those, please?

Rep. Frank: Yes. One is a version of a bill that we passed, unfortunately didn’t pass, we acted on it for several years which is limited to saying that where a state has authorized the medical use of marijuana the Federal Government should not try to override that. In fact, there are a number of states that allow the medical use of marijuana, the federal government granted, under the Clinton Administration, Attorney General Reno did not in fact try to invoke that where under the Bush Administration there have been federal prosecutions of people in San Francisco, for example, for trying to take advantage of California law and have medical marijuana. So we wanted to abolish that one.

Beyond that, in a broader sense, I believe that it’s time for the federal government to drop prosecution of the personal use of marijuana altogether. That would leave it up to the states. If the states want to make using marijuana a crime then the states can do that. A number of states have actually moved to reducing it to a very low level misdemeanor, I don’t think any have yet said ‘Look, it’s not something we’re going to prosecute at all.’ But, the second bill is a broader bill and it says that the federal government will not be in the business of prosecuting people for the personal use of marijuana, leave it up to the states.

Dean Becker: Thank you for that, Sir. And now, these are House Bills 5842 and 5843 and as I was saying in my introduction, it’s necessary for people, constituents of other elected officials that they get in touch with their Representatives. That they...

Rep. Frank: People sometimes get too cynical and say ‘Oh, it’s only big money that moves politicians.’ Campaign contributions count but I guarantee you, after a lot of time working as a legislator, votes mean more than money. After all, when a politician wants campaign funds that’s the means to the end. The end is getting the votes. So if you can get right to the votes you don’t need to worry about the money and if members of Congress hear from a large number of their constituents, that’s very likely going to move them in the right direction.

Dean Becker: And, if I dare say, there’s an example of the fact that it is not a ‘third rail’ with Representative Ron Paul, who lives in a very conservative district of Texas who gets reelected and speaks in this regard as well, right Sir?

Rep. Frank: Yes. Ron Paul and I differ on a lot of economic issues but on questions of personal freedom we’re often allied. We have both opposed, for instance, efforts to ban people from gambling on the internet and we tend to defend obnoxious speech on the principle of free speech and we’ve worked together on this issue as well. So on the question, look, there’s a central principle that the English philosopher and thinker John Stuart Mill put forward a hundred and eighty years ago or so in a book called ‘On Liberty’ in which he said ‘If what I’m doing affects you then the government can regulate it, but if I’m doing something that primarily affects me, even if you think it’s stupid, even if you think I’d be better off not doing it, you cannot prevent me from doing it or prohibit me from doing it in a free society. You can try to talk me out of it but you cannot coerce me or, you have no moral basis for coercing me, if it only affects me.’

Dean Becker: Congressman, I saw you on the Bill Maher show, I guess, about a few weeks back now and it’s always good to see the subject being broached, that the discourse is open to any degree whatsoever. Of course, as a comedy show, treated it rather light heartedly but it has been kind of a light hearted, cynical treatment of marijuana use over the years, has it not?

Rep. Frank: Well, it’s been cynical. It’s not too light hearted. It’s really been used in a very nasty way and it’s been used, I think, as a tool to go after people who are members of unpopular groups. If you go back to the original prosecution of marijuana I think it was racist. I think it was based on the view that, though, this is something that these black jazz musicians did and the white people who hung out with them.

Later, it began with a big thing under the Nixon/Agnew regime, during the Vietnam War. I think marijuana use is more general throughout the adult population, there tend to be prosecutions of it aimed at people who are more dissident. So I do believe it’s been very cynical but I think it’s been used in a very nasty way to prosecute and even persecute people who are in disfavor for other reasons. That is, I don’t think you see the average white middle class professional prosecuted for smoking marijuana even though many of them do.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. Now, the recommendation, your bill 5843 kind of parallels what was recommended by the Shafer Commission, back under President Nixon in the early 70s, I think it was, right, Sir? This science has been known for years.

Rep. Frank: Yes. Nixon appointed a commission and then didn’t like what they said so they rejected it. And the argument that marijuana is somehow damaging in ways that tobacco and alcohol aren’t has no basis. And again, one of the points I want to make clear and we talked about the thing that Ron Paul and I have in common, part of the problem is that there are people who divide activities into two kinds: those that the government makes illegal and those that the government encourages.

In other words, people argue ‘Oh well, the government shouldn’t be encouraging people to do this’ and that’s a very anti-freedom notion, the notion that if the government doesn’t prohibit something it’s encouraging it and therefore, if the government doesn’t want to encourage it, or society standing in for the government here, then you have to outlaw it. It’s like there should be three categories: things that are illegal, a small number of things that we encourage because I think we shouldn’t have the society intervening that much, and a large number of things which are your own business, what you read, what movies you go to, how you eat These are things that society should neither approve nor outlaw. And that’s what we’re saying about smoking marijuana, at least Ron Paul and myself.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. Now you mentioned earlier the reference to the jazz musicians using marijuana, the stigmatization, the demonization that goes along with that. In Texas, I think it was the illegal Mexican immigrants were using it and it was a means to save their jobs, I suppose. But we have over the years witnessed kind of an ongoing, a morphing of this situation to where the history, the reasoning behind these laws is kind of lost in the hysteria, is it not?

Rep. Frank: Yes. I think people may think ‘Oh, this is always some scientific judgement’ and I think it was always one that was influenced by social and cultural views and groups that were not popular were seen abusing it, as this ridiculous movie, not meant to be ridiculous, called ‘Reefer Madness’ people may have seen, from the 30s, narrated, the FBI had something to do with it, and it was just bizarre in its ‘demonization’, the very good word that you used, for people that used marijuana, and they clearly had a political agenda.

People who used marijuana were un-American, they were subversive, and, as I said, the notion that you would have upstanding professional white people prosecuted, people would, in fact, if you did that, well, don’t do that. And that’s another reason why I think we should repeal this. I think the law is a very serious business. When we tell people who are sworn law enforcement officials to enforce the law that’s a very solemn job we’re giving them.

I don’t want us to say ‘Enforce the law, but by the way, there are these laws that we don’t want you to enforce.’ I think a federal enforcement agent who started arresting 45-year-old lawyers or doctors who smoke marijuana would be in trouble. People would say ‘What’s the matter with you? Why are you doing that?’ Well, I agree that it’s not a wise thing for them to do but it’s unfair to them to have these laws on the books if we don’t want them to enforce them.

Dean Becker: All right, Sir. We have, not just in the political arena, I think it has been the medical community, scientific community, the media has adopted this hysteria, has carried it for decades now and despite the ongoing science and medical studies showing marijuana’s effectiveness and so forth, they are afraid to back down. If you will, Sir, they have-quote-made their bones from this legacy, if you will, their reputations are at stake, right?

Rep. Frank: For some. I think there is also a couple other concerns that some of them, at least, it’s interesting that when I talk to my friends who represent minority communities, they’re torn, some of them, because on the one hand they see the very discriminatory use of these laws, many more young African-American and Hispanic people are arrested for this than middle or upper class white people.

On the other hand, they do worry that because of this social disorganization in which many of the minority teenagers live, they may be too prone to that. I think they’re now, more and more, coming to the view that this does more harm that good. There’s also this association with drugs that are mind-altering and severely debilitating and people say ‘Well, marijuana is linked to heroin, etc.’ In fact, there’s no more logical reason to link marijuana with heroin than tobacco or alcohol.

What links marijuana to drugs that have more of a physical and emotional effect on people is that we treat them the same. We treat marijuana as though it’s Class A, Class B and Class C, I think we ought to say about marijuana, it’s something, I don’t advise people to use it, I don’t advise people to drink, I don’t advise people to smoke. But it’s more in that category than methamphetamine.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. And we have, in my opinion, a lot of hysteria in this country, a lot of fear of the unknown. Drugs have been-quote-the unknown. Threat to our children, threat to the neighborhood, the community. And yet, we have devoted untold millions of man-hours chasing down people for those bags of pot. Isn’t it also a great squandering of our resources?

Rep. Frank: Oh, no question. You have people in prison for marijuana offenses, you know it’s very expensive to keep people in prison, we have a shortage of prison cells partly because we put too many people in prison. Look, if you hit somebody over the head or steal their money then I probably do want you in prison, I don’t want you hanging around at least for a while, but we waste money in incarcerating these people and we waste money, it’s true, in the prosecution.

Now, if you get to a big city, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, it’s inconceivable to me that they would pay any real attention as though, cities that have serious police problems don’t pay a lot of attention to it, but in other parts of the country that they do pay too much attention to it and we’ve seen federal prosecutions under the Bush Administration of sick people using marijuana under a doctor’s prescription and that’s not just cruel, it’s a waste of money.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. You touched on something, it was just about a month ago a major report came out showing that the United States leads the world in its incarceration of its own people and, predominantly, that’s because of our arrest for drug use or sales, and I guess my question, Sir, I’m a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We work to end all of the drug war and there’s a situation that’s developed in Afghanistan now where they’re not only the world’s leading supplier of opium but they’re now supplying the world the largest amount of marijuana as well. Your thoughts, sir, that situation in Afghanistan has not been very productive, has it?

Rep. Frank: No, it hasn’t been, although I think the major reason that we haven’t done a better job in Afghanistan is the terribly misguided war in Iraq. You know, the President of Afghanistan, President Karzai just complained a day or two ago that the American forces were killing too many civilians, he said ‘They promised they’d do less, but less just doesn’t do it. I want none.’ Well, one of the reasons we have a higher civilian casualty rate in Afghanistan, innocent civilians, is we got all the troops in Iraq so they’ve got to use more air power in Afghanistan and air power cannot differentiate between good guys and bad guys.

But it’s also indicates we have an economic issue and the fact that Afghans want to continue to grow these substances it means, in my view, if we want to help build a government in Afghanistan that can resist the terrorists, resist the Taliban and Al Qeada, all of whom are, in my judgement, bad people who are a legitimate, who are a threat we legitimately are concerned about, then that’s the focus. And to the extent that we say ‘Oh no, we’re going to cut down all your opium’ we’re making it harder to get the kind of political and economic support we need to fight terrorism.

Dean Becker: It’s kind of a no-win situation insofar as the opium supply, isn’t it?

Rep. Frank: It’s very hard to keep large numbers of people from doing something they’re determined to do.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. You have spoken some great truth here, I think, that needs to resonate more that the media is focused on Reverend Wright, they’re talking about so many mundane, meaningless things rather than, say, the war in Afghanistan or proper methods of controlling Al Qeada, and we waste so much time, I think it was 1.7 million Americans arrested last year for non-violent crimes. We need to refocus our fear, if you will, need to find a better way to use our resources, right?

Rep. Frank: Oh, no question. It’s very expensive to prosecute people, you have at least, you have the courts, then you incarcerate them and, you know, people say to me ‘Oh, why is it so expensive to put people in prison?’ It costs more to send someone to a prison than to send them to Harvard because the answer is people don’t try to escape from Harvard.

Dean Becker: (laughter)

Rep. Frank: You know, you want to keep somebody in against his or her will, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, you’re going to need a lot of people to watch them. Because you can’t say ‘OK. It’s five o’clock, no escaping now. I’m going off duty. No fair escaping until nine o’clock the next morning’--you’ve got to have all those extra shifts on.

Dean Becker: All right. Once again, you are listening to the Century of Lies Show on the Drug Truth Network. I’m pleased to have as our guest U.S. Representative Barney Frank. Barney, if you would, give us the details of that HR 5843?

Rep. Frank: Well, it’s really very simple. What it says is ‘there will be no federal, it will not be a federal crime to smoke or ingest marijuana,’ or to possess, and I forget the exact amount, but the amount that would be for personal use. It’s a small amount. So that the federal government would no longer make it against the law to use marijuana. Now, that wouldn’t touch the laws against sale. That’s a more complicated issue, I would think ultimately I might want to talk about that, but this bill simply says ‘It’s no longer a federal crime for using marijuana, which means either the act of using it or possessing an amount for personal use.’

Dean Becker: Very straight up and simple and we need to take a simpler approach to this. If you look across the United States there are at least fifty different laws in, I guess, municipalities...

Rep. Frank: Right.

Dean Becker: ...have more ways of dealing with this, Denver being a prime example where they voted in the City of Denver to make it the lowest law enforcement priority and yet since that law was passed the number of arrests have gone up.

Rep. Frank: Right, because you can’t order a policeman not to enforce the law. If you don’t want a policeman to enforce the law you better repeal the law.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir.

Rep. Frank: Because you’re putting that police officer in an unfair position and so it’s ‘Officer, officer, I saw someone violating the law.’ Well, what is she supposed to do? Walk away from it? She’s a sworn officer. If you don’t want people enforcing the law then you need to repeal them.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’m a member of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and we want to tax and regulate and actually control the distribution of these so-called ‘controlled’ substances to adults. I think...

Rep. Frank: I agree with you. Look, it’s very analogous to Prohibition. It was clear Prohibition was a terrible mistake. It enacted more crime and less government revenue and there really is no argument for banning marijuana absolutely but allowing tobacco and alcohol to be used legally.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. The situation in Afghanistan is bad enough. We’re empowering the terrorists through their growing of opium and we have, nipping at out heels, down on the Mexican border, the cartels and representatives of the paramilitary, I guess, from Colombia having shoot-outs everyday, people dying by the dozens. We’d best be careful how long we hang on to this idea of prohibition, right?

Rep. Frank: I think it’s debilitating. I don’t think it’s going to get to the point of destabilizing our society but it’s wasteful and also, to some extent, it has a--you know, we want to encourage young people to be believers that things are legitimate, we’d like them to participate politically. I think when young people look at the system one of the great hypocrisies they see is this smoking marijuana, or using marijuana is theoretically illegal and then they see the number of so-called respectful people who do it--they don’t see any logic to it. I think it’s one of the things that leads to disrespect for the law.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. As a former law enforcement official I would like to restore that respect, to make the cop...

Rep. Frank: I agree.

Dean Becker: ...a person you’d go to for help or an opinion and yet we’ve been separated by this drug war in particular.

Well, Congressman, let me ask you one last question here. We’re about to run out of time. We have, over the years seen progress, people have awakened, polls indicate that people support medical marijuana in particular, marijuana in general in the majority, and yet the politicians remain ensconced, remain, I don’t know, unwilling to discuss this subject. How do we get people to move toward that truth?

Rep. Frank: I think, you know, there are different cases. Sometimes you have to persuade the politicians that you’re right. I believe there are a lot of my colleagues who agree with me but they are intimidated because they think they’ll be attacked by the people who say ‘Oh, you’re promoting drug use.’ I do think, in this case, if they knew there were people out there who supported them that this would be helpful. I think you really, it’s an easy job to give them the courage of their own convictions. Since I made this public I’ve gotten many more people expressing support than opposition. And so, it goes back to what you said before, people need to talk to their own representative, their own senators, and say to them ‘You know what? You can do this.’ And I think they’ll then be pleasantly surprised that there’s more support for this position than they had thought.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Sir. You know, I offer an invitation, a standing invitation to anyone on the planet who thinks the drug war is a good idea to come on my show, and we’ve been making that offer for nearly five years. No one has ever stepped up to accept that invitation. Heck, I’ll even give them cash for their kids or...

Rep. Frank: That’s a very telling point and I’m glad you, that should be emphasized.

Dean Becker: Yes, Sir. Well, Congressman Barney Frank, you have been one of the few folks in the U.S. Congress that I respect fully. I consider you to be a patriot, sir...

Rep. Frank: Thank you.

Dean Becker: ...and I appreciate you being with us here on the Century of Lies Show. Any closing comments you’d like to make?

Rep. Frank: No, Sir. I think we’ve covered it well.

Dean Becker: All right. Thank you, Congressman Barney Frank.

Fred Gardner: This is Fred Gardner. I edit a journal called ‘O'Shaughnessy's’ for a small but growing groups of pro-cannabis doctors on the west coast. And the upcoming issue, which will be out in the Fall of 2008, is going to focus on the situation of veterans, especially their dealings with the VA system and the option, the illegal option, of cannabis as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Any veterans who are listening to this show and have a story to tell about their dealings with the VA and their own PTSD situation are invited to contact us at 415-305-4758. My name is Fred Gardner and my email address is Fred@Plebesite.com. That’s ‘Sierra’-ite.com. Hoping to hear from you.

[SSDP PSA] Despite a decades long drug war, billions of dollars spent and millions of Americans locked up, drug use rates have remained relatively constant. When a drug dealer is busted it’s nothing more than a job opening for someone to fill. It’s Economics 101. Join Students for a Sensible Drug Policy to help teach law makers this simple economics lesson. Visit www.SchoolsNotPrisons.Com. Find out if there’s a chapter at your school or how to start one.

[DTN PSA] Round-up, now with Cosmoflux! Responsible for the destruction of 30% of the Amazonian rain forest, more than one million Colombian refugees, and millions in profits for Monsanto Laboratories.

Dean Becker: OK, I meant to ask Congressman Frank about this but we have across the country, as I said, many States are trying to pass medical marijuana laws and up in Michigan they had a situation where a ‘group,’ supposedly compassionate folks put a TV ad on the airways and I’m going to play the audio for you. I insert a couple of thoughts that you can’t see because, well, it’s not television. But listen up to this from Michigan.

This is a banana. [They show an apple.] This is a cat. [They show a dog.] This is fire. [water noise] This is harmless. [Marijuana leaf.] And actually helpful to some people. Don’t believe everything you hear. The fact is that every major health organization rejects smoked marijuana. Now that the smoke is cleared discover TrueCompassion.Org.

Dean Becker: Yeah, true compassion, right. Well anyway, as I indicated to Congressman Frank, we have, over the years, offered cash money to any drug warrior willing to come on this show, any police captain or above, any agent of the DEA, CIA, FBI or Justice Department willing to spend twelve minutes clarifying the need for drug war. But in that none of them ever have, and I don’t think ever will, we occasionally produce the following segment on their behalf.

Official Government Truth with Winston Francis

Here’s a news flash. Heroin is not safer than aspirin. Being addicted to crack is not safer than driving to work and free-basing PCP is not safer than climbing a tree. Drug legalization advocates will use misinformation and misdirection to try and convince you that these ridiculous notions are actually fact. Like a magic trick. Example: substantially more people die each year from Aspirin overdose than heroin overdose--abracadabra--heroin is safer than aspirin. Only it isn’t. You see, more people use Aspirin that heroin.

Imagine that everyone who used Aspirin also used heroin. I think it would be safe to say that we would see a change in those figures, don’t you? What if everyone who could drive a car was also addicted to crack. You get the point. The real question is ‘why?’ Why don’t more people use crack and heroin so we can see the death toll rise? The answer is that the drug war works. The reason that alcohol and tobacco kill so many is because they’re legal so more people use alcohol and tobacco. The same goes for over the counter medication. The death toll for illegal drugs is low because people are discouraged from using them. This is the success of drug prohibition. Our efforts pay off in lives not wasted and graves not filled.

Abracadabra. It all makes sense, doesn’t it?

This has been Winston Francis with the ‘Official Government Truth.’

Phil Smith: This is Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle with this week’s corrupt cop story for the Drug Truth Network. It’s sad to say, this week we’ve got a particularly sleazy example of corruption related to the drug war. This time it’s happening in Arapaho, Oklahoma, where the Custer County Sheriff resigned on April 16 as state prosecutors filed a 35-count indictment charging him with coercing and bribing female inmates to participate in sex acts.

The new former Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess faces 14 counts of second-degree rape, seven counts of forcible oral sodomy, and five counts of bribery by a public official, among other charges. A federal lawsuit filed by 12 former inmates alleges that Burgess and his employees had them participate in wet T-shirt contests and gave them cigarettes if they would flash their breasts. He also allegedly had sex with a female drug court participant after telling her she would be sent to prison if she didn't satisfy his sexual demands.

Yet another prisoner alleges she was given trustee status after agreeing to perform a sex act on Burgess, but lost that status when she later refused. He also faces two counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape by instrumentation, and two counts of subornation of perjury. It being Oklahoma, Burgess now faces 467 years in prison.

As always, there are more corrupt cops out there. Check them out online at www.StopTheDrugWar.Org.

Dean Becker: Once again, that was Phil Smith, one of the bravest reporters I know of. He is in Mexico, by himself, looking for the illustrious drug czars down there, I guess, drug lords, I suppose, and he’ll be our guest on this week’s Cultural Baggage Show.

I know that you know the truth. It’s time to do something about it because, as we all know, there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, in fact no embrace of reality involved in this drug war.

We have been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please do your part to help end this madness. 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.

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

Our engineer, Philip Guffy.

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