05/15/11 Cliff Thornton

Cliff Thornton, Dir of Efficacy-Online re disparity in drug war + Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Guest: 
Cliff Thornton
Organization: 
Efficacy-online.org
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Transcript
Cultural Baggage / May 15, 2011

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

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: 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 pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.

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DEAN BECKER: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here, in just a moment, we are going to bring in our guest for this show, Mr. Cliff Thornton, the director of Efficacy-Online. But first I want to read from today's New York Times. This is written by Michelle Alexander.

“In Prison Reform, Money Trumps Civil Rights

THE legal scholar Derrick A. Bell foresaw that mass incarceration, like earlier systems of racial control, would continue to exist as long as it served the perceived interests of white elites.

Thirty years of civil rights litigation and advocacy have failed to slow the pace of a racially biased drug war or to prevent the emergence of a penal system of astonishing size. Yet a few short years of tight state budgets have inspired former “get tough” true believers to suddenly denounce the costs of imprisonment. “We’re wasting tax dollars on prisons,” they say. “It’s time to shift course.”

And, I think, indeed it is. This weekend I went, I was invited to speak at Texas Southern University on a panel dealing with incarceration and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This was the second invite and I want to thank them for opening up this can of worms and going fishing for truth.

All right, now I’m going to bring in my “brother from another mother.” A man who believes and understands this drug war just about 100% like I do. I want to welcome Mr. Cliff Thornton. Hello Sir.

CLIFF THORNTON: Hey sir, how are you? Thank you for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: I’m good, Cliff…

CLIFF THORNTON: Understand too that we are going through severe electrical storms so it might be choppy here.

DEAN BECKER: Well you are sounding a little fuzzy already but I appreciate you being with us, Cliff. Now you had a major piece in the Courant, was it?

CLIFF THORNTON: Yeah, the Courant which is the leading newspaper in Connecticut.

DEAN BECKER: Why don’t you tell us about that piece.

CLIFF THORNTON: It’s a piece that I wrote, frankly, a few years ago called, “Legalization Without Indemnification Is Totally Irresponsible.” And in the piece I explore the things that we have to do. We just can’t legalize drugs and walk away. We have to repair what has happened over the past… almost more than 4 decades of the drug war.

Like rebuilding the public infrastructure for higher education. And, looking at Connecticut, and understanding that Connecticut is facing a 3.5 billion dollar deficit next year, we can recoup those monies from the cities and towns here in Connecticut.

For instance, Central Connecticut State University can out with an economic report showing the monies we were spending to fight the drug war. In the town of Hartford… in the city of Hartford with 120,000 people, we spend 174 million dollars for a perceived 42 million dollar illegal drug market. In the town that I live in, some 30,000, we spend 1 million and a half dollars fighting the drug war. If all of the towns were drugs legalized, medicalized and decriminalized, Connecticut stands to recoup something like 2 to 3 and one half billion dollars.

DEAN BECKER: And then this perception, this presentation you want to talk about what we would do with those monies, right?

CLIFF THORNTON: Yes, we could actively rebuild our public education system having one teacher and one assistant for every 10 pupils for K through 9. And that is what we have to do to create a sound foundation for learning for our young people.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Cliff, I’m sure it’s the same all over the country. Here in Texas we’re laying off school teachers and fire fighters and cops and others to meet those budget constraints. It’s really causing people to rethink this whole prison industrial complex, isn’t it?

CLIFF THORNTON: You are absolutely correct. And when you start to look at things like Cocaine Nation where they came out with this video (it was reported last summer) where Wells Fargo, a subsidiary of the Fargo area, from 2004 – 2007, the cartels laundered a quarter of a trillion dollars through their banking system. And that is just phenomenal. And when you understand the drug war you understand this: the drug war has absolutely nothing to do with drugs. It’s about power, control, coercion. It’s about money, plain and simple. And the money is keeping the world afloat.

Now, this video, we can’t show it, obviously, but it is a very insightful video because it shows that…it help create…or it was the mainstay of the fiscal meltdown during 2008.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Cliff, that money laundering, the quarter of a trillion you’re talking about, as I recall Wachovia paid a 120 million dollar fine.

CLIFF THORNTON: Yeah, but that’s less than 1%.

DEAN BECKER: Well that’s less than a percent of a percent. It’s ridiculous.

CLIFF THORNTON: OK, I’m not going to argue with you.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I didn’t figure it out but it’s not much, is it? It’s a drop in a huge bucket. And this is indicative of what’s going on. You’re talking about it’s not about drugs it’s about power-play, it’s about money, it’s about control, influence, coercion. All of these things hold the drug war together. In essence it’s just , you know, shoveling sand, I’ve heard that phrase used in this regard often. That’s a good comparison, isn’t it?

CLIFF THORNTON: You are correct. And see, going back to Connecticut and understanding that, that is money that we’re not even talking about…the almost 800 million dollars for 17,000 prisons here in the state of Connecticut with 70% of them being in there for drug-related charges. We’re not even talking about that money yet. That money is not included in the savings. So we’re talking about astronomical sums for a population here in the state of Connecticut of 3.5 million people. We could effectively have health care for every single person in the state of Connecticut if we wanted to do it.

But, that makes too much sense. But, looking at our new governor, Governor Malloy, he is the first Governor that, I believe, that issued a medical marijuana bill and a decrim bill. It came straight from the Governor, it was not under the auspices of the activists or organizers. So that is a tremendous first here in the country, not just the state of Connecticut.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, if I got it right, I think just yesterday the Governor of Delaware signed a bill where they have, for a lack of a better term, a very mediocre medical marijuana law that applies to a select few people, making 16 states that have some type of medical marijuana bill which is a positive. But, then again, Cliff, as you’re well aware there have dozens if not scores of busts of dispensaries in the last couple of months. Where the feds say that the dispensary owners are not following state law so they go after them. What’s your response there? It is kind of two steps forward, one step back, isn’t it?

CLIFF THORNTON: Well, I think looking at medical marijuana, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not against medical marijuana. Medical marijuana served a purpose, it was a good force to open the door and it has definitely done that. Now it’s time to go ahead and look at the real situation like what happened out there in California with outright legalization. However we don’t have the referendum type stuff here in Connecticut to achieve a goal like that.

I think if we continue down this path of trying to get every single state for medical marijuana we’re losing valuable time. We don’t have too much time. The experts on economics are predicting if, in fact, we don’t start recovering financially we’re going to go into a huge, deep depression. And understanding that, we look at Connecticut and Connecticut’s situation (the 3.5 billion dollar deficit that we’re facing next year) we see that in the late 80s / early 90s Connecticut spent a billion dollars building prisons.

So, we can safely say that at the core of this budget crisis is America’s longest war and that is the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Cliff, I want to come back to the piece that you had in the Currant. In here you’re talking about some of the things that we need to deal with. You’re talking about, first, drug policies have taken our taxpayers out of the community and spent tax money to keep them in prison. Because as too few people know those people in prison are counted as residents of the Podunk town that prison happens to be in. You’re talking about, second, that 20 million children have been orphaned because one or both parents have been sent to prison. And third you’re talking about the process of economic and family discentigration. And that public and higher education have been dramatically short-changed.

Now you’re thought earlier about having a teacher and an assistant for, what was it, 8 or 10 children?

CLIFF THORNTON: Well, yeah, for every 10 children K-9, that would establish, hopefully, a sound foundation for learning for our students. As you well know, the United States every year we aren’t able to compete like we once were. We can’t continue to use gun bolt diplomacy that we’ve been using throughout the world. We’ve got to use our brain power instead of our military power. And that has greatly hampered us.

But, we cannot blame all of this on the elected officials because when you start looking at voting patterns in California with the legalization bill…when we see that the age group from 18-25 voted in the 30 to 35% percentile – that says a lot. And when you start to look at Connecticut and you start to look at the Democratic primary for Governor, you see that only 20% of the voters showed up to vote in the Democratic primary. And when you look at the general election for Governor over 800,000 voters didn’t show up to vote for the Governor. So that sends a strong message to the politicians that says, “Well, these people don’t care. We can do what we want to do.” And that’s exactly what they’ve done. And if you follow these voting patterns throughout this drug war you see every year fewer and fewer people are voting.

DEAN BECKER: I don’t’ know if you had a chance to hear, I was reading from the New York Times’ Michelle Alexander piece, “In Prison Reform, Money Trumps Civil Rights” and it brings to mind for me, Cliff, again, I hope you heard that Texas Southern University invited me to speak two days ago and about a month ago on the subject of incarceration. And that‘s Houston’s black college and I’m quite proud of those invitations. And Michelle Alexander’s writings and others have begun to “stir the pot” that the minority communities are beginning to recognize the disparity in the enforcement of these laws.

CLIFF THORNTON: That is true. This particular book, coupled with the tremendous efforts of a lot of other people, has started to awaken this giant in the black and brown community to look at this drug war. The only thing that Michelle does not put forth are solutions. These problems that she’s talking about in her book - and it’s great and was put out 10 or 11 years ago by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They showed the same thing that Michelle was talking about today.

DEAN BECKER: It gives me hope to realize that more and more folks are getting on board. Last week, well, a week and a half ago, I was in Denver attending the Drug Policy Alliance Partners’ Meeting, and Cliff, you know this, in years past..10 years ago in particular, there were very, very few black or Latinos that were involved in drug reform.

CLIFF THORNTON: You are right. I can remember going to my first Drug Policy conference about 13 years ago and I was about the only dark face there. But going to past DPA and NORML conferences I see that there are more and more black and Latinos coming into the fray. And that’s great because we need as many voices as possible.

DEAN BECKER: We do and I’m proud to report that at that Partners meeting it was about 20% black and Hispanic. It was very encouraging.

CLIFF THORNTON: Yes, yes, it is Dean, but we’ve got to come across with some solutions. I’ve always advocated the outright legalization of cannabis and along with it hemp. I advocate the medicalization (a form of legalization) for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy and a decriminalization of all the other drugs for future debate and true and honest study. And I see this past summer with the work, I’m pretty sure of, Rick Doblin and his group, is that the FDA approved ecstasy on trials for soldiers coming back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, I truly know and understand that we’re on the right track to get this particular thing rolling. Because those things have to be done very well and Rick and his crew doing yeoman work with the so-called psychedelic.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yeah, it makes me quite proud to see the stature or the respect that the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is starting to achieve.

CLIFF THORNTON: Yes, I’m really proud of that. But getting back to Michelle Alexander, it’s good that the book came out. I talked about it in an essay in this book, “Unintended Consequences”. When this book came out by Preston Peet with essays from reformers from all over the world, I talked about that particular issue of mass incarceration and returning back to the days of slavery where they were arresting astronomical numbers of people of color.

So I think the book has great promise and I wish her all the luck to get this thing to the forefront. But it’s going to take the yeoman work to do this because you know as well as I do that slowly but surely countries throughout the world are pulling away from United States and the International treaty.

DEAN BECKER: Now Cliff, the press…Heck I’ve been talking in the past few weeks about all the TV shows…it seems there are at least one mention of drugs in one fashion or another in every show on television.

CLIFF THORNTON: Yes.

DEAN BECKER: But the press, the print press is really starting to come around…starting to speak some truth even though they’ve been reluctant to do in the past. I want to read a little bit from MetroWest Daily News out of Framington, Mass.

Puritism, H.L. Minken wrote, is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. In a state founded by puritans that spirit lives on if not in the minds of most citizens at least in their government. There seems to be this lack of communication…failure to communicate. You know that the politicians don’t listen to the will of the people. That, even in Texas, 75% are for medical marijuana and yet there’s no chance in hell that anybody in that legislature is going to write a bill about it. What’s your thought there?

CLIFF THORNTON: Well I tried to outline that particular problem just using Connecticut as an example and the people actually showing up to vote and that’s going to be the drive of present. And it’s a proven fact, I mean, we have statistics from California and they didn’t come out in droves even though it lost by, I think, 8 points, I’m not quite sure about that but it didn’t lose by a large margin.

DEAN BECKER: It’s like 6 and a half but go ahead.

CLIFF THORNTON: OK. Well, you know, something of that nature. So until we vote in the 60 to 70 percentile, I don’t think this thing is going to change that much because you need at least two-thirds of the people voting in a block for a particular bill or for a particular person that’s running for office before they really start to look at the drug war seriously. I’ve always told the young people, and if the 18 to 25-year-olds voted in the 75 percentile there would literally be a political revolution in this country. And until we reach that particular point I don’t see too much of a real change happening. It’s going to happen because the longer we continue this drug war the more we are going to go into debt. And you can see it left and right. You talk about laying off teachers. I mean in Texas, in your state, man you could probably recoup something like 8-10 billion dollars and probably more savings if all drugs came inside of the law.

So it’s going to be difficult to get those things to change. But I will say this, the Hartford Courant, just this past Friday, sponsored a forum that featured one of the league people with three others on the panel…I mean they put this on, this was a major newspaper, the largest newspaper in the state of Connecticut that put on a drug policy forum looking to see what the audience would say. It drew maybe 120 people and of those 120 not one of them disagreed with what the panelist for pro-reform was saying. So, we’re on the right track but we got to show it in the voting booth.

DEAN BECKER: Cliff, please hang on we’ll be back with you in about 3 minutes.

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(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Trouble breathing, severe headache, vertigo, cancer of the lung, skin, liver, kidney and bladder, a metallic taste in the mouth, profuse, bloody diarrhea, cold, clammy extremities, convulsions, shock, renal failure.

(gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: the use of arsenic in contemporary medicine has been severely curtailed but it is still used in the treatment of severe parasitic disease.

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DEAN BECKER: Because I’m such a good guy here’s a secondary warning: Don’t fire up that joint for pain no matter what God says on the first page of the bible.

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TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Perhaps all of our drug regulations are doing an absolutely splendid job of keeping Americans from suffering from crippling drug addictions…I think not.

But what about the unintended consequences? The DEA has created a shortage of the ingredients for Adderall and a generic version of the drug that is used to treat ADHD. The current shortage, Mr. Matt Cambria of Shire PLC said, is due to a delay last year at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in releasing extra supplies of the drug’s active ingredients.

The cold and allergy sufferers who go without relief for their congestion because it is harder and harder to get sudafed and afrin. The people who are killed in drug raids. And now, apparently, the inability to get adequate supplies of common medication because the DEA controls the precursors and is more willing to risk people going without their medication than letting drug addicts get their hands on a slightly more convenient supply.

How far does all this have to ratchet before we say enough?

Preventing addiction is a worthy goal but it’s increasingly getting in the way of more worthy goals. Like making sure people have access to medication that lets them live normal lives. The things we have to address is that just whose business is it that we have a cold and want to use over-the-counter cold medication to relieve some of the symptoms.

Does the DEA or any other state agency have the right to monitor what medications we chose to take? I have not bought any cold medicine that required me to sign my name on someone’s list. All this has accomplished is to cause people who would not normally be involved in illegal activity to do so when someone pays them to buy these products for them. The bad guys still get the products but the system in place actually precipitates criminal behavior of those who would not otherwise be involved.

Prohibition simply has not worked and four decades of its implementation prove that it is the wrong approach to dealing with health problems. A much more humane approach is to scrap prohibitionist policies and implement a national system of education on the harms of some substances can cause.

We only have to remember that the only success that we have had in eliminating a dangerous substance is the reduction of cigarette usage in the past 20 years by almost 50% and we did not have to incarcerate millions of people to accomplish this. And it was all done through education and peer pressure. The same approach will work to substances now prohibited by law.

Stay safe. This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.leap.cc, signing off.

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DEAN BECKER: Mr. Cliff Thornton. Cliff, you guys have made some great strides there in Connecticut. People are beginning to talk about the need for change. How are we going to get that to spread around the country? What’s going to be the impetus for that?

CLIFF THORNTON: Well, you know, what you’re doing, Dean, is parmount in getting the word out. Eventually it’s going to sink in and people are gonna move on it. It’s still going to take some time but during the ten years that I’ve been doing this work I’ve seen remarkable change. However it’s not the change that we need. We need, you know what we need, we need to bring all of these drugs inside the law. But it’s just going to take a concerted effort and slowly but surely it’s building.

But, you know, I’m listening to the guy from LEAP talk about cigarettes and how people got off of cigarettes. We have created another prohibition with cigarettes and people don’t understand that. Because, when you look at the top five crimes in this country, you’ll see that cigarettes is in the top five. Because we don’t have the uniform tax code for cigarettes and that has created a multi-billion dollar underground economy for the sale of illegal cigarettes. So, we got to be careful. Prohibition makes anything precious and that shows how prohibition works.

DEAN BECKER: Cliff, I’m looking at a…I was talking about earlier about all the print media that’s starting to really glom onto this idea of the need for change. I’m looking at the Guardian newspaper for today. Author is Jamie Doward, “Drug Laws and Bans on Legal Highs Do More Harm Than Good.”

“The UK’s “outdated” drug laws could be doing more harm than good and are failing to recognize that banning some “legal highs” may have negative consequences for public health. This is according to the leading independent panel setup to analyze drug policy.”

Now, Cliff, what this is talking about is the new bath salts and the K2 and all the other fake or synthetic drugs that are coming on the market to take advantage of loopholes. And many of these drugs are more dangerous than the “drugs they are trying to replace.” It’s a trap for our children. That’s what this whole drug war has become, isn’t it?

CLIFF THORNTON: That is correct. And when you just look back on alcohol prohibition you see the same things with bathtub gin and the concoctions that people brew up in their homes. And as long as this drug war keeps going you’re going to continually get that. And we need to stop that. As soon as they brought alcohol in - you don’t find people brewing it in their tubs anymore because it’s much easier.

And people don’t realize that people grow marijuana now for their own personal consumption and they should be able to do that once, let’s say, drugs come inside of the law. However you know most of the people aren’t going to do that if it’s available in your local pharmacy or store or wherever they’re going to sell it. So this is going to continue and is just going to get exceedingly worse instead of better.

DEAN BECKER: OK, Cliff, if you will, please share your website with the listeners.

CLIFF THORNTON: You can reach us at www.efficacy-online.org. You Dean are a true trooper and just keep up the good work. You’ve got a great archive of shows and I just love to listen to them.

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DEAN BECKER: And as always I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

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DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org