10/07/08 - Susan Boyd

Susan Boyd, author "From Witches to Crack Moms" + Fritz Wenzel of Zogby on poll: :"76% of Americans see drug war as failure"

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Guest: 
Susan Boyd
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Century of Lies, Oct. 7, 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.

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R.E.M. - Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) plays as an introduction.

You vitriolic, Patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty
Psyched

It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

Dean Becker: Well, I don’t know about you but I feel fine. You know this economic catastrophe has not impacted me, my stocks went up in smoke a couple of years back, so I’m not all that worried about it. I hope you are doing well, suffering along with the rest of us here in America thanks to this economic failure, if you will. But, we’ve got some other topics we want to talk about.

We’re going up to British Columbia, Canada today. We’re going to talk to the author of what I consider to be a great new book. It talks about the, what I call quasi religion of drug war. It’s not her words mind you, but she has looked at it, I think, from a scance and come up with some ideas and thoughts that I want to share with you guys and with that, let’s bring in the author of, From Witches to Crack Moms - Women, Drug Law and Policy Miss Susan C. Boyd.

Dean Becker: Are you here with us Miss Boyd?

Susan Boyd: Yes, I am. Hi.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much for being our guest today.

Susan Boyd: Oh, my pleasure.

Dean Becker: Susan, I don’t know how much of my introduction you got to here but I was talking about, you know we have over the years developed what I call a quasi religion of drug war and that it heresy to speak against it. Is that a fair assumption?

Susan Boyd: I think it’s very difficult to speak against it. I think we have very simplistic set of slogans about what we consider a good drug or a bad drug and a whole host of criminalized drugs and the people who use those drugs are seen as evil and a threat. But, they’re sort of empty slogans when you start to really look more closely at the war on drugs, you can see that most people are being criminalized for possession of drugs like marijuana, our most benign drug but all we here about is cartel drug traffickers.

We don’t really look closely to see how extensive it is to wage a war on drugs and that historically they fail. They’re very expensive, very damaging to communities, families, individuals and… so I think it has some aspects of sort of a religious crusade to it for sure.

Dean Becker: I want to… you know, your book From Witches to Crack Moms … early on in the book, I want to read a half a paragraph here. Linda, excuse me, Laura Gomez reviewed articles about drugs, pregnancy and child abuse in two California newspapers between 1985 and ‘92. She argues that the news media played a crucial roll in constructing the ‘crack crisis’ and ‘crack baby’ as well as bringing to the attention of the public. I want to just say this, they have assigned a special stigma, if you will, to women in this regard, it’s the heart of your book. Right?

Susan Boyd: Yes, it is. What interests me, I’ve been writing about drug issues for a long time and especially focusing on women. I’m concerned about what’s happening with men as well I mean because there are more men in prison then there are women but I saw specifically that women were, women’s lives were being regulated in a very different way and that was due to the fact that they are most often ‘mothers’ so they are being seen as unfit mothers where dad’s weren’t necessarily being seen in that light as like bad fathers but, also in relation to pregnancy and how they were being regulated around their pregnancy and the emergence then of this, negative terminology like ‘crack baby’, ‘crack mom’ and …

There’s a number of researchers that have looked at this phenomena but I wanted to look at it even more closely. I went and visited different women’s health care centers in Scotland and Liverpool and in the Netherlands to, to understand how they were working with women using illegal drugs like heroin and legal drugs such as Methadone and cocaine specifically too. And what I found was that most often that we mistake the effects of poverty for drugs and that there’s no acknowledgement that most of the early studies were based on very poor women that were marginalized, had no access to health care during their pregnancy and some of them no housing.

You know, really dire situations and that the health centers outside of the United States that were offering women good health care before and during their pregnancies and the birth and economic and social, supports that those women were having comparable birth outcomes as the same women from their social, economic background. I thought that was so telling that those stats were almost the opposite of one another.

So, it made me want to look closer at the issue of poverty and lack of economic and social support and health care and how we so easily want to label women as being deviant instead of looking at the fact that they’ve been marginalized and blamed for things that are out of their control. Then, of course, there’s also the issue of, ‘Why don’t they just stop using drugs?’

I want to point out that, no woman get’s pregnant and purposely wants to hurt the fetus / or the developing infant and that for a small portion of drug users, you could say that their drug use really masks some much larger insignificant abuse that’s occurred in their life and I just want to say that’s a small percentage and that unless we offer some support, you know, drugs in some way is their way to help medicate the same way someone else might take Prozac, a legal drug.

Dean Becker: Yep. I want to throw a couple of thoughts in here. One is Lynn Paltrow and the Advocates for Pregnant Women have done a lot of investigation into that ‘crack baby’ syndrome / myth and they even were instrumental in a major piece in the New York Times. The reputation of that, that ‘term’ by a group of doctors to refute, I guess, New York Times editorial, right?

Susan Byrd: Yes. The term is completely inaccurate. There’s no such thing as a ’crack baby.’ Babies who are exposed to cocaine during pregnancy are not born as ’crack addicts.’ I mean, most often what we’re seeing is those babies health, if it’s poor health, is shaped by poverty…

Dean Becker: Exactly.

Susan Byrd: …and it’s lack of health care. And so, Lynn Paltrow’s organization at National Advocates for Pregnant Women it’s an amazing organization and they’ve picked up a lot of these legal cases where women have been charged with criminal charges, trafficking to the fetus and child, civil child abuse statutes as well where if a woman gives birth to a child and they test positive, the mom or the child for drugs, then that woman is charged, the baby is apprehended and then they have to suffer through a long… either a criminal or civil court case. We have over 30 states with these child abuse statutes.

So it’s a very difficult situation for women because it places all the focus on often a positive drug test and they’re renown for being flawed. I mean you could have had poppy seed cake the night before you go into labor and test positive on a drug test and more importantly I think too is they don’t tell us anything about the woman’s life, you know, about her drug use, whether she used drugs, what kind of treatment might have been available for her. Because what we see over and over again too is that, there is no good drug treatment for women, who are pregnant, available to them…

Dean Becker: Right

Susan Boyd: …__ often in their communities, so even if they wanted help, stabilizing their pregnancy or switching to Methadone, a legal drug, it’s not available to them so in some ways they’re being punished for a situation completely outside of their control because… what we’ve done is diverted tax dollars into law enforcement instead of prevention and treatment efforts and education.

It’s phenomenal at the same time that we cut off funding for schools and housing and prevention where it’s not just, ’Just say no’ type of prevention. We’ve built up a prison industrial system in the United States, there’s no other country to compare it to. You know right now 1 out of 100 Americans are in prison and that’s a phenomenal statistic when you talk about democracy.

Dean Becker: Oh, exactly.

Susan Boyd: How can you have a flourishing democracy when such a significant portion of your population is criminalized?

Dean Becker: Once again we are speaking with Susan Boyd, she’s author of a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the principle’s of this drug war. The book is: From Witches to Crack Moms - Women, Drug law and Policy. Susan, I mean, I can’t recommend this book any higher. I think it peels back the layers, allows us to look at the truth of this matter. I wanted to talk about the fact that you were saying the US leads the world in it’s incarceration rate and I know things are a little better in Canada but, that new guy, what’s his name, Harper?

Susan Boyd: Yes, Steven Harper.

Dean Becker: He likes what we’re doing here in the US apparently, right?

Susan Boyd: He just adores it and if it was up to him we’d have the exact same drug policy in Canada and I have to say that many people think that we have a pretty relaxed attitude towards drugs in Canada but I do want to say that our drug laws are quite harsh. You know we have right up to ‘Life’ for sentencing for drug traffickers and importers and producers and Steven Harper has put forward…

It’s called Bill C26 and he’s pushing for mandatory minimum sentences in this bill especially for the production of drugs, like growing marijuana. Also creating you know, sort of hysteria about drugs when it was really not a large issue for most communities…

Dean Becker: I have to interrupt here. Susan’s phone started wigging out on us and I had to cut out about one minute of the program. I’ll try to make it as cohesive as possible. Once again, this is Susan Boyd author of, From Witches to Crack Moms.

Susan Boyd: …and then on the back of the flyer is a picture of Steven Harper, our current Prime Minister and the writing says, ‘Junkies and drug pushers don’t belong near children and families. They should be in rehab or behind bars.’

Well, the thing in Canada too, is that we have long waiting lists for drug treatment and not enough available spaces for in detox or rehab treatment and basically this conservative government is trying to adopt an American sell more on drugs than Canada. But our laws are sufficiently harsh and in fact we have a huge body of activists who include a lot of health care professionals. People from all different professions that are moving toward a regulated market.

Trying to put forth that legal, regulated market would really be beneficial to society because then we would see an end to any drug war turf violence that does exist, but also we would see the end to sort of the criminalization of such a large portion of the population and if these drugs were as dangerous, which I’m not agreeing that they are, that we would then take them out of a un-regulated, illegal market and regulate them in a way that makes sense so that we can take all those tax dollars and divert them back into what makes healthy communities and that would be by providing economic and social support for people through housing and education and health care and seeing addiction, negative addiction, as a health and human rights issue not as a criminal justice matter.

So, our government, our current minority government, is quite scary up here because they immediately took our drug strategy out of Health Canada and put it into justice once again and so they’ve really… taking a number of steps backwards with this government so we are all hoping, you know, on election day that the ‘Steven Harper government’ will fall and that another government will be put in place. We’ll see what happens.

Dean Becker: Well, sure Susan, I want to step back a moment. You were talking about the fact that these drugs, you wouldn’t necessarily agree that they were as dangerous as purported to be and I want to kind of talk about that.

In one of the chapters of the book, you talk about the fact these drugs ‘are made beyond our borders’ giving it some sort of ‘fear’ factor and then I want to jump from that to the thought that Heroin is currently made by untrained chemists and cut with household products, yet it’s killing far fewer people than are: Methadone and/or the Oxycontin type drugs.

Susan Boyd: Yeah.

Dean Becker: It’s a shame we can’t really look at the evidence and see what we’re truly up against, right?

Susan Boyd: Yes, and I think the early drug wars, you know, the contemporary drug wars, there was a real focus on criminalizing and regulating natural drugs. like opium…

Dean Becker: Coca

Susan Boyd: …coca and the coca plant and cocaine derivatives and…

Dean Becker: Mushrooms.

Susan Boyd: Marijuana. Yeah, but what was interesting to me was those drugs were ingredients in patent medicines and elixirs that people were taking, but the natural drugs were associated with racialized people like the Chinese community, black people, black men and cocaine, marijuana and Mexican workers. So there was this racialization of drug use.

But even more significant I think is that you can’t patent a natural drug and so synthetic drugs are very easy to patent and then the pharmaceutical industry profits from those patents over a long period of years. And so there’s an issue around natural drugs and they’re seen as bad drugs in contrast to drugs that Doctors are prescribing such as Oxycontin.

So, I just wanted to bring that to the forefront that this line dividing our legal and illegal drugs is pretty illusionary and that when we look at the health impact of drugs like alcohol and tobacco, they’re far greater than the ill effects of drugs like cocaine and heroin and a lot of the ill effect of those drugs are related to the illegal market.

I mean when you buy a drug on the illegal market, you have no way to know the quality and quantity of that drug in the same way that you would when you go into the pharmacy and you’re picking up a prescribed drug. So it’s not to say that those prescribed drugs don’t have dangers. We know that they do. But at least they are more explicit and known to us, some of them. But on the illegal market, you’re always taking a chance…

Dean Becker: Exactly

Susan Boyd: …because there is no quality control for those drugs and that’s the cause of a lot of our drug overdoses. But also we don’t have good information about those drugs because we have our drug war ideology that all those drugs are bad. But, Oxycontin is the perfect example. I mean these are narcotics, pharmacologically they’re very, they’re no different than the illegal narcotics that you can buy on the illegal market. Even here in Canada, heroin can be used in palliative care and the same in Britain. So, it obviously has some health benefit that we’re not willing to look at very closely.

Dean Becker: Well, here in the US, you know the story, they won’t even allow the people to get 10 grams of Marijuana to do a study. You know they route it through the various organizations and prevent people from even conducting the study, let alone, making a determination or having the chance to study it.

Susan Boyd: See, in Canada, we do have a medical marijuana program where you can apply to use marijuana for medical reasons and you have that in a number of states but your federal government has been challenging that ever since it began. I think what the federal government, their fear especially in the United States, but I think a lot or our governments that we’ve had in Canada too, marijuana’s seen as the essential drug.

I mean that the most popular illegal drug in Canada and the United States. And it’s the drug that people are most often arrested and convicted for use. What would happen to the drug war without marijuana? You know it would collapse in a certain type of way and so I think that’s why drug war advocates really just hang onto the criminalization of marijuana and they don’t want to see that it has any health benefits.

But we know that it does and there’s a huge body of literature that supports marijuana for quite a number of ailments, glaucoma, it really helps people with stimulating their appetites. You know there’s a range of ailments that people have found quite a bit of relief by using marijuana.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Well Susan, we’ve got just about a minute and a half left here. I want to talk about, I have been here in the presence of someone with MS who’s shaky, unable to hold things, can’t really talk and after having used medical marijuana are able to actually kind of control their hands while they talk and get that sweet smile on their face and you can see the dignity coming back into their life. It’s…

Susan Boyd: Yes and this is the thing, I mean I think we always have to remember, that it’s actual people that are negatively impacted by the war on drugs. It’s not the drug, it’s people that we’re arresting and marginalizing and keeping from getting drugs that might actually modify their illnesses or help in some way to alleviate some of their symptoms and that when you look….

One of the reasons that I wanted to look at the witch hunts and move it to present was to say that really, it doesn’t work to try to regulate altered states of consciousness and not to recognize the health benefits of some of these drugs and to bring forward that we need to move in another direction, you know if we really want to live in a democratic society we have to do that because this war is a complete failure.

Prohibition doesn’t work and in fact to have a regulated market and a better education for people about drugs would really be beneficial for us especially at this time in our history.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Well, I’ll tell you what, we’re going to have to let it go for now. We’ve been speaking with Susan C. Boyd author of, From Witches to Crack Moms - Women, Drug Law and Policy. I highly recommend it. Susan I thank you so much.

Susan Boyd: Well, Thank you. Take care. Bye

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Fritz Wenzel: My name is Fritz Wenzel. I’m the director of communications at Zogby International. We are public opinion researchers and we do marketing for businesses as well. But largely based on research that we do. We work in over 70 countries around the world and our website is zogby.com

Dean Becker: Well Fritz, you guys, I guess, issue a report approximately once a week on various situations involving the US and around the world. This past week there was one that talked about the views of the US policy on Cuba, immigration and the drug war itself. And I think I saw instances of the other topics being reported but I did not see one instance of the 76% of Americans polled, thinking the drug war is a failure, appearing in any newspaper. Have you had any calls in that regard?

Fritz Wenzel: Not specifically on those questions in the survey. It was a wide ranging survey but reporters have been seizing on the different aspects of it. Nobody has called me about the questions we asked about the war on drugs.

Dean Becker: Well, Fritz as I noted from y’alls issuance there were vast majorities of Democrats 86%, Independents 81% and even Republicans at 61% calling this drug war a failure. Um… go ahead sir.

Fritz Wenzel: I was just going to say, you are exactly right and ideologically the more conservative you are the more likely you were to consider the war on drugs a success, the more liberal, the less likely you were to think that the war on drugs had been a success.

So it was an interesting survey and then if you look at the follow up question, we asked, which of the following do you feel is the single best way to handle the war on drugs. We found the more liberal the respondent was the more likely they were to favor such things as legalizing drugs in the United States, pursuing education in the US to teach people to stay away from ‘em or just flat out ending the war on drugs all together.

By contrast a conservative, and the very conservative, seem to believe that the war on drugs is failing because we’re not activist enough in stopping drugs at the border or preventing production of narcotics in their countries of origin. They’d like to those activities be beefed up more and they do not want to see them legalized near as much as those that are more liberal.

The Libertarians, not surprising, didn’t like the war on drugs at all. They don’t want us to have anything to do with preventing production of narcotics overseas or in other countries. They don’t like the effort to stop drugs at the US border. They don’t even like an effort to offer treatment and education here in the US.

They are almost wholesale in favor of legalizing drugs or simply ending the drug war all together. Libertarians, at the most conservative, we put them at the most conservative end of the scale, really they kind of span the ideological scale because their ideas are cohesive with some progressive ideas and cohesive with some conservative ideas.

But both libertarians and progressives do not feel that the effort to go overseas or to other countries to prevent drug production is a worthy goal. I suspect that some of that maybe because of the war in Iraq, and perhaps even the war in Afghanistan although US soldier are there but they are not burning down or destroying the poppy fields in Afghanistan to be sure.

Dean Becker: Well, absolutely true. We’ve been speaking with Mr. Fritz Wenzel. He’s the director of communications for Zogby International.

Dean Becker: Cutting out that clip for Susan left me with enough room for this little caveat. In just a second you’re going to hear a PSA for the ‘mother-ship’ station. I urge you to please forgive. I urge you to listen in and I urge you to think about what is said in the next couple of minutes. Send me an email please. Send me your question. dean@drugtruth.net

PSA: This November, Houston will elect a new district attorney. KPFT will host the debate between democratic candidate and former Police Chief, Clarence Bradford and the republican candidate and former Judge, Pat Lykos. Houston, now leads the world in calling for the death penalty and in it’s incarceration rate.

More than any other elected official, the District Attorney determines the morals of our city. Questions will be provided by KPFT news and various KPFT reporters and programmers. I’m Dean Becker and I will host this debate on Tuesday, October 14th from Noon to 1 PM on KPFT Houston.

Dean Becker: Well, next week I will be hosting a debate between the two DA candidates here in America’s fourth largest city and I’m asking listeners around the world to send me you questions. Please put in the subject line, Debate Question and what should we ask these DA’s in the city that sends more people to prison than any other on the planet. I’d love to hear from you.

I want to thank the good folks who attended the truth network ’toke the vote’ gathering this past weekend. A lot of folks got registered to vote, a lot of folks got connected with one another, came up with ideas on how we can work together to change this morass of drug war. I want to thank you for tuning in. I want to thank Susan Boyd author of From Witches to Crack Moms for being with us today and you guys are the answer. There is no truth.

There’s no justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to continue. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. I urge you to do your part to help end this madness of drug war. 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.

Submitted by C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org