10/14/12 Bishop Allen Berry

Bishop Allen Berry & Kevin Simms of National African American Forum's focus on drug war, Seattle City Atty Peter Holmes, Dr. Donald Abrahms and Dr. Bertha Madras courtesy NPR, Stephen Keenan parapalegic faces life for cannabis tincture & Mason Tvert Re Colorado effort to legalize + how you can help

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Guest: 
Bishop Allen Berry
Organization: 
National African American Forum
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Transcript

Century of Lies / October 14, 2012

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DEAN BECKER: 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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DEAN BECKER: Hello my friends. Welcome. I’m glad you’re listening in. We’ve got some folks in studio. We’re going to talk about a new endeavor from the National African American Forum. We have with us Bishop Allen Berry. He’s based at the Foundation Church International. Also in studio we have the Special Project Coordinator of the NAAF, Mr. Kevin Simms.

Gentlemen, how are you doing today.

ALLEN BERRY: I’m doing great. It’s a pleasure to be here today, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Kevin, we’ve been talking about this endeavor for a while now. It’s good have you here.

KEVIN SIMMS: Thanks for having us here. We appreciate you inviting us and hopefully we’ll be back.

DEAN BECKER: Certainly. Now the fact of the matter is later this month, October 27, you guys are having a major forum right here in Houston. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it.

ALLEN BERRY: Awesome. We will be at the University of Houston in the University Center. We will be coming public with the National African American Forum and we’re looking forward to that. We will be sharing information with the community. We will be discussing some of the outlined purposes of the forum. Our primary concentration and focus at this time are going to be on the issues that relate to the criminal justice system.

DEAN BECKER: Now that’s a big ball of wax there. That’s impacting a lot of people all around this country. There’s a lot of discussion about what we’re doing and maybe what we shouldn’t be doing.

Kevin, you’re thoughts on that.

KEVIN SIMMS: To conclude what Bishop Berry just said, the reason why this forum was started was because of Michelle Alexander’s book. She wrote a book called “The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness.”

It was about the War on Drugs. In 1980 Ronald Regan put the war specifically on African Americans when the crack epidemic came. That brought a lot of controversial issues especially in the law where the penalitization of what the crack amount versus a kilo of cocaine. It also displaced a lot of African American families especially the men out of those families who went to prison.

It impacted everything from housing, education, economic development – you name it. On your show we’re concentrating, focusing on drugs and the War on Drugs and this is a good fit because when the War on Drugs was concencrated by the specificality of African Americans and we want to identify that problem. We’ve invited Mike Anderson who’s the Harris County District Attorney nominee along with Adrian Garcia who’s a Harris County Sheriff for now and he’s also running for election. We also invited Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall Law School who is going to do a mock trial.

We’re just real excited with Bishop Berry’s leadership. We’re really excited with the forum and expect to take this nationally. We just got to undo the wrongs of what happened in that years.

DEAN BECKER: Michelle Alexander was here in Houston about ten days or so ago. She spoke at the Wortham Center. She gave a very powerful speech.

The realization, the recognition of the audience when she spoke was so powerful that words she put forward and the recognition of the harms that we have been doing to one another was just so obvious and known and felt in that theatre. We have to take that and share it with others to let them recognize, “What in the heck we’re up to.”

Am I right?

ALLEN BERRY:: Absolutely. One of the things that I thought was really powerful about her book is when she discusses the issue of being locked up and locked out. She focused on the issue that really touched my heart as it relates to people who have made mistakes or made errors or they did things that were contrary which they should have been convicted for or sent to prison. However one of the things that we want to focus on is what are we going to do now after they are out of the system so that they can be reinstituted, reinstated back into the system – fully able to be employed, housing and all of those issues.

When we talk about the War on Drugs it’s more than just a conviction and the sentencing. We need to deal with what happens after they are out of jail and that’s the thing that is really impacting the communities in which we live that is so devastating. After the fathers have been removed they’re back home, they can’t get gainful employment and there are so many areas of life that they have been removed from. We want to see those things changed by not just talking about a problem but instituting programs and solutions to those problems that are going to be beneficial to the whole community.

One of the things that really touched me and I would really like to see much more involvement in is we want to see communities empowered and empower the whole nation and we want everyone to see that this is not just an African American problem. This is an American problem period because what happens in one community affects all of our communities.

We want to get as many communities involved so we can empower the whole nation. We believe that no chain can be strong if it’s weak in any link. If one of brothers is suffering we want to do our part to make sure this is a strong chain in this great country in which we live.

DEAN BECKER: Once again folks that was Bishop Allen Berry. He’s with the National African American Forum. We also have with us here in studio Mr. Kevin Simms of the NAAF.

Bishop, let me ask you this. You guys have been able to invite Mike Anderson who’s running for District Attorney. You’ve got Sheriff Adrian Garcia. This is a sign that at least people are beginning to be willing to talk about it. We’ve got to be willing to talk about it before we can make any changes.

ALLEN BERRY: Absolutely. That’s one thing that we are so excited about. One of the things with the National African American Forum that we want to make sure that we are on the forefront of is that we don’t want to adhere to the same old sterotypes. We want to make sure that we’re reaching out to everyone that is willing to listen to address this American problem.

Not only do we have representation from former Judge Mike Anderson who’s running for District Attorney we also have representation from the Houston Police Department as well. Chief McCleland was not able to make it but the police department will be sending Michael Durton who is the Executive Chief and he’s also an attorney.

So we are very, very excited about the participation we are getting. Also the churches in the city of Houston, pastors and bishops, who are very concerned about what’s going on in our communities. We are looking not to be ones that are agitating but looking at being people who are bringing about the solution. We want to be proactive in this and not be reactive so that we can come together with those who are writing the laws, implementing the laws, enforcing the laws and those who are living in the community so that we can all come about a great solution that will benefit everyone.

DEAN BECKER: I’m of the opinion that the truth of this matter is becoming so obvious, so glaringly obvious to so many people that there are fewer and fewer people calling for harsher drug law tactics. There are more and more politicians both active and retired who are beginning to say, “It’s not working. We must do something different.”

What I’m trying to say here is I think that breathing room for working politicians is starting to grow. It’s starting to give them the ability to say a little bit more than they did last year even though, from my perspective, they all know the truth they’re just afraid to say it.

You’re response.

ALLEN BERRY: I can say that that is true and that’s one of the reasons that I believe God allowed me to take this approach. That way no matter what side of the aisle you may have been on, what position that you may have held there’s no demagoguing from say politicians – whether you be Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative or whether you’re black, white, Hispanic.

We want to focus on this is an American problem. This is a problem that’s affecting all of us. We’re seeing with the approach that we’re willing to take with the National African American Forum that we are receiving and we are coming into forums, we are coming into offices, we are meeting with people that other organizations that traditionally wouldn’t even go to and that’s the thing that I’m most excited about.

Even with the National African American Forum at this time we have many people from many different background. This is not just a black group. This is a group for all Americans who are concerned about all of us. I’m a firm believer that we can deal with and we can help the least will help us all.

That’s what I’m excited about. This gives an opportunity for politicians who have been on one side or one position to now listen and say, “You know what? This is something I can get in the door on and I can support.” And that’s what I’m excited about.

DEAN BECKER: Bishop Berry I appreciate the truth in that. It’s becoming more obvious to everybody and I think more and more folks will be willing to chime in, to help create that ladder to get out of this pit we’re in.

Kevin, if you would, share with us when this first forum going to be? When and where and what time…how can they get involved.

KEVIN SIMMS: It’s going to be at the University of Houston in the University Center, the Houston Room. It’s across from the Hilton Hotel. It’s going to be Saturday, October 27 at 9 a.m. We’re going to start at 9 a.m. with the continental breakfast from 9 to 10.

Then 10 to 12, Dean, you are going to be our moderator. I want to put that in there for people who don’t know that.

DEAN BECKER: I am proud of that. I don’t know how else to say this but I’ve been fighting this fight with you guys for a long time and I appreciate it.

KEVIN SIMMS: I want to reiterate what Bishop Berry said that this is not an African American organization only. This organization is open to every nationality, every background – everyone has felt the War on Drugs or the drug culture…One of the things that Michelle Alexander said in her book was even though African Americans were targeted this happened in every community – the white community, the Asian community, the Hispanic community…

DEAN BECKER: …My community…

KEVIN SIMMS: Exactly. It wasn’t brought to the forefront as it should have been and now this is a problem for all. I know we have a lot of European immigrant Americans listeners and we would love for you to come to the conference. We would love for you to voice your opinion about the divert programs that we’ve had.

Some of the programs that we’ve had, that you pointed out, Dean, before, we had discussed HR 2391…do you want to explain that bill again?

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is I don’t remember the exact date…I think it was 2008…2009 that the Texas legislature passed and Governor “Good Hair” signed this bill – House Bill 2391…it’s probably got a new nomenclature as a law.

But the bill that it passed under says it is no longer necessary to arrest or jail anybody for under 4 ounces of weed and that’s a big bag of weed, friends, or crimes under $500 – check writing, graffiti, misdemeanor charges of all types.

Yet, here in Houston, they refuse to recognize it…well, it’s all across Texas but here in Houston, especially, they refuse to recognize it. They arrest people under any law that they can and avoid that House Bill 2391 law. They send them to jail. They refuse to give them Public Recognizance bonds…and why? Because the Houston judges get their main campaign contributions from the bail bondmen. This is a cycle. This is part of what’s devouring your community and helping to destroy mine.

KEVIN SIMMS: Absolutely and that’s why we encourage each and every one of you listening out there to join us for the forum. The forum is free. The event is free. You can also look at our website at http://www.nationalaaf.com.

There is a lot of folks involved so we can do something about the War on Drugs and move onto the other areas in which Bishop Berry has in mind for the forum itself.

DEAN BECKER: I’m looking forward to it. It’s our goal, our hope to fill that auditorium, to enlighten, to embolden folks to recognize and perhaps do their part. Am I right?

Once again, friends, we’ve been speaking with Bishop Allen Berry. He’s heads the National African American Forum. He’s pastor at Foundation Church International. We have with him his Special Project Coordinator, Kevin Simms. Again, that website is http://nationalaaf.com

Gentleman, thank you so much for being with us. It’s a pleasure having you with us in studio.

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DEAN BECKER: The following audio was taken from a television ad airing in Washington State. It features Charles Mandingo, a former FBI agent, Kate Plumber, a former U.S. Attorney and John McKay, another former U.S. Attorney.

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MODERATOR: Former federal law enforcement officials speak out about Initiative 502.

CHARLES MANDINGO: We know first-hand that decades of marijuana arrests have failed to reduce use and that there is drug cartels that are pocketing all the profits.

KATE PLUMBER: Initiative 502 brings marijuana under tight regulatory control. 502 brings new revenue for education, health care and prevention.

JOHN McKAY: And if 502 passes we’ll have more resources to go after violent crime. Join us in…

ALL THREE: Voting Yes on 502.

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DEAN BECKER: The following introduction is provided by Allison Holcomb, director of New Approach for the State of Washington.

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ALISON HOLBOMB: Without further ado please join me in welcoming Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes in hearing about why he decided that this was the right initiative to back.

PETE HOLMES: Frankly it’s the months and months of working with Alison on issues that have come before our state that has gotten me so energized about this subject.

Sometimes the planets just align up and so here I am standing before you, a current sitting elected official who very much wants to be reelected…sticking his neck out. My job will say very clearly and own it is public safety – that’s number 1 – my job is public safety.

I’m also an unapologetic progressive. I’m a Democrat. I think this is good, sound policy. But I want to step back for a minute and talk for a minute on how the planets are aligning.

If we’re going to make change across the spectrum – whether it’s just drug policy or whether it’s other things this country so desperately needs – whether it’s health care reform or housing or getting people back to work – we have to acknowledge that a lot of people are enviewed with the sense that government is not working, that government is ineffective and if there is ever a subject, ever an issue, ever a subject matter that the government is completely ineffective and wrong on it’s drug enforcement, it’s the drug policy that we have in this country.

To be called “Incarceration Nation” by the Center for Economics and Policy Research with the numbers that Alison just gave you is the travesty. What gives me great cause for hope and why we’re right now at the crux of the movement that this state could lead the rest of the country is the simple fact that when I ran for office I ran against a 2-term incumbment and it was just assumed that possession is a crime and you put people in jail.

I found that suddenly on the campaign trail that the notion of should we really be charging this – people wanted to talk about. They also wanted to talk about the fact that the city of Seattle, our beloved city of Seattle, was in the process of spending perhaps a quarter of a billion dollars to build a brand new jail to house, among others, people guilty of possessing marijuana.

I made a simple promise on the campaign trail that I was not going to prosecute possession cases any longer whether they were in connection with another crime or a stand-alone case. When I took office I found that there were hundreds pending – 59% of them were against African Americans - in the city of Seattle and we’ve dismissed them all. We’re not charging them anymore and you know what? Crime is tending down in Seattle – down 9% across the board.

We officially, last month, disbanded the JAG – the Jail Advisory Group – that was tasked with citing the new jail. It has been disbanded. We are not going to build a jail in Seattle. We have a chance to show people that if you will just try another approach you might find that it works better than the same old formula that is not working. That we keep spending the money. We keep incarcerating people and wondering why is drug use more prevelant than ever?

It’s because prohibition hasn’t worked. So you have now an initiative that is the best single effort to date to address all of the concerns that people have after decades of prohibition…where this has been driven down into the black market, where it is the back street deals that people conjure up when they think about marijuana. Why would anyone, a law enforcement officer especially, want to legalize something that is bad?

It’s bad because we’ve put that label on it. We’ve called it criminal and we’re trying to show the rest of the country that another way of approaching it, another way of thinking it and trying to learn from the failed experiment that was the 18 th amendment – prohibition of alcohol.

We’re going to treat this the way we treat hard alcohol. That’s the best model that we have. That’s the model that we learned after the failed experiment with prohibition was the best way to go forward – to treat this as an issue in which education and treatment are the best tools to use. Where we have a homegrown industry, if you will, where the cash crop in this state, one that we can encourage our beleaguered agriculture industry by producing hemp, by producing marijuana locally and cutting off and undermining that drug cartel. Finally giving a sane answer to our brothers across the Mexican border when President Felipe Calderon said, “United States – you are part of the 40,000 murders that have taken place in this country because you’ve decided this is an illegal drug. You are going to make sure that only criminals sell it.” when, instead, we could follow what 502 is going to try to do and that is let’s find a way. Let’s legalize it. Let’s regulate it and let’s tax it.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment comes to us courtesy of NPR and Science Friday.

MODERATOR: Is the science on cannabis compelling enough to convince officials? Dr. Donald Abrahms is Chief of Oncology at San Francisco Hospital. He’s also Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco.

Dr. Bertha Madras is Professor of Psycho-biology in the department of Psychiatry at Harvard Med School in Southborrow Massachusetts.

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DEAN BECKER: And now we drop in on things right near the end of this 20 minute conversation.

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DONALD ABRAHMS: They’re not going to make any money.

BERTHA ABRAHMS: It’s in composite message of delivery. They can composite single isolated cannabinoids.

DONALD ABRAHMS: They have done that. That’s called Dranabinol. Those are available for patients.

I’ll tell you as a cancer doctor…

BERTHA ABRAHMS: Generic drugs are very, very lucrative for companies such as Tefa Pharmaceuticals. They can be made as generics as well.

MODERATOR: CANN is a large population who is doing it and is doing it and will pay for it.

DONALD ABRAHMS: There is no answer to that. Can I just say, as a cancer doctor now for 30 years in a state where we have tolerance to the use of cannabis as a medicine, that a day doesn’t go by when I don’t see a cancer patient who has nausea, loss of appetite, pain, depression and insomnia. I can recommend one medicine to that patient and instead of writing prescriptions for 5 or 6 pharmaceuticals that may interact with each other or with the patient’s chemotherapy and this is a medicine that my cancer patients can grow if they want to.

I ask all of my patients, “What brings you joy?” and the percentage of patients living with and, in fact, dying with cancer who tell me gardening brings them joy is not insubstantial because bringing life out of the ground is a pleasure and it’s this life that people bring out of the ground that is also their medicine – why don’t we let them have it?

The number of patients who come to me saying they were given narcotics and at the end of life they can’t communicate with their family and then they wean themselves off of their opiates with cannabis so that they can have a more pleasurable action in their final days of life. Why do we deny people this medicine?

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STEPHEN KEENAN: My name is Stephen Keenan.

DEAN BECKER: Stephen, we’re here at a fundraiser for you in support of your legal costs. Tell us what those legal costs are for.

STEPHEN KEENAN: I had the cops come kick in my door. They didn’t have a warrant. They just came to my house. They just drove up my driveway and bum-rushed me. I was coming outside my back door and they said, “Oh, we smell pot.”

I was like, “What do you mean? We’re not even smoking pot.”

“A neighbor is complaining that ya’ll were smoking pot.”

I was like, ”I can’t believe that. Hell, we smoke pot here every day and nobody’s ever complained about us smoking pot.”

They’re saying, you know, they’re looking around the side of my fence where I had plants grown on the side of where my garden was and they confiscated my plants. I didn’t know what to do. They pretty much manipulated their way in…manipulated me and just …I didn’t know what to do but …I didn’t feel like I had anything to hide. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong. I was growing plants to heal myself.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is that they’ve now charged you and they’re wanting to sentence you to a long sentence because of some trouble you had when you were a teenager. What are you hearing that they might want to do?

STEPHEN KEENAN: It’s a mandatory 10 to life.

DEAN BECKER: Here you are – you’re sitting in an electric wheelchair. You certainly have some sort of malady. What is your condition, sir?

STEPHEN KEENAN: I’m a T-12 burse fracture with the TBI which is a traumatic brain injury. I cannot walk. I’m paralyzed from the waist down. I have severe depression. I have severe ulcers. I have muscle spasms. There is a long list of ailments that go along with this injury.

DEAN BECKER: As we’re closing this out I want to just say this to my listening audience – it goes out to Houston and it goes out across this country – in three states right now they’re not voting for medical marijuana they’re voting to legalize it out right yet here in Texas they want to give you 10 to life for trying to take care of your condition.

Your closing thoughts, sir.

STEPHEN KEENAN: With all that said I thought that with all the states around us that it wouldn’t be such a big deal. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong because I have friends in California. I have friends in Portland. I have friends in Colorado.

Most those guys are the ones that turned me on and said, “Hey, if you’re having problem with your pain…”

People don’t like to smoke. The reason I made tinctures is my friend told me this is the easy way to control your pain. You can put it under your tongue and nobody has to smell it or anything and that’s my main charge is because I made marijuana into a tincture where I could just put a couple of drops under my tongue and I would feel no pain. I could go back to feeling normal.

DEAN BECKER: Stephen, is there a website where folks can learn more or get in contact with you about this?

STEPHEN KEENAN: Yeah, it’s http://www.saveourstephen.com

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MASON TVERT: My name is Mason Tvert. I am the co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

DEAN BECKER: Mason, we’re down here in Texas. We don’t have much going on in regards to our marijuana or drug laws at all but around the country there’s a lot of folks trying to do a more rational approach and Colorado is no different. Tell us what’s going on there.

MASON TVERT: In Colorado we have an initiative on the ballot for this November, Amendment 64, which would end marijuana prohibition in the state and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed and controlled in a manner similar to alcohol and so we are seeing support grow here very quickly and we have a great shot here at becoming one of the first states along with Washington and Oregon to take this very, very big step toward more sensible marijuana laws in our country.

Here in Colorado we’ve seen a lot of great support as well ranging from the NAACP and the ACLU to former Republican Congressman Compton Kredo and some other conservative groups. So we are seeing a lot of support. It’s continuing to grow and we recently had more than 300 physicians from the state of Colorado sign on in support of this, joining about 130 college professors.

We would remove the penalties for adults who are simply possessing and using marijuana, growing limited amounts in their own homes and we would establish a system where we have licensed production and licensed retail sales where those sales are being taxed and the money is going toward legitimate Colorado businesses instead of drug cartels and gangs and other criminal enterprises.

And, of course, we would be able to direct our law enforcement forces towards far more significant issues – violent crime and property damage and all sorts of things. People are ready to take this step here in Colorado and we are doing everything we can to get them out and voting in support of Amendment 64.

We’ve got several ways that people can help out but most importantly we’re hoping that folks around the country who support ending marijuana prohibition will help out by jumping online and making phone calls to folks here in Colorado. We’ve made it very simple by having an online phone bank. You simply call from wherever you’re at. It will show you a voter and provide you with their number. You give them a call and let them know that you hope they will support the initiative. Let them know why you support it. Let them know why you’re not in Colorado and that you are watching because you really hope to see change not just in Colorado but also nationwide.

People can get involved and help out with the phone bank by going to our website, http://regulatemarijuana.org and right there on the front you will see that there is a big banner that says “Call to Action” and it gives you the ability to start making calls.

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DEAN BECKER: Well, that’s about it. I’m just going to give you the old standby because that’s really where it’s at. There is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. Please do your part. Please visit our website: http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!

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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.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org