07/21/13 Phil Smith

Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicle re Med MJ, Mexican violence y mas, Tom Angel of Marijuana Majority, Nat Geo segment on med MJ

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Guest: 
Phil Smith
Organization: 
Drug War Chronicle
Download: Audio icon COL072113.mp3
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Century of Lies / July 21, 2013

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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: Man, do we have a great show for you today. We’ve got Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle. We’ve got Tom Angel of the Marijuana Majority and we’ve got a little bit from the other side.

Let’s start with our segment with Phil Smith.

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PHIL SMITH: This is Phillip Smith, editor and head journalist for the Drug War Chronicle, which is a publication of http://stopthedrugwar.org.

DEAN BECKER: You and I have been reporting on the drug war for a decade or better now. It’s getting easier and easier as it’s what to leave out instead of what to leave in.

PHIL SMITH: When I first started doing this 12 years ago I would have a hard time coming up with 10 or 12 stories to crank out every week. That situation has shifted dramatically especially in the past couple of years.

We are now inundated with drug policy news. We are also inundated with whole new media sources – bloggers, Twitterers as well as increased attention from the mainstream media especially in the wake of the elections last year where we had 2 states vote to legalize marijuana. It has just excited a whole new level of interest in drug policy reform and marijuana law reform, in particular.

DEAN BECKER: I was delayed in contacting you today because I was capturing a video out of Canada, CTV. It is a very well-produced video talking about the need for medical marijuana for children with epilepsy – just one of many such stories that are, as you say, hitting the broadcast media.

PHIL SMITH: It’s a rapidly evolving situation. You noticed changes in the tone of the coverage over the past few years as well as the degree of coverage. Things are really moving in our direction.

DEAN BECKER: There are other stories that are still much in need of attention. Why don’t you tell us some of the hot button items you see this week.

PHIL SMITH: The biggest thing I’ve been watching this week is Mexico. The arrest of the leader of the Zetas is a big deal. The government there is treating it as a big deal. The government here is treating it as a big deal.

This gentleman (if that’s the right term to use), Miguel Morales , is probably responsible for thousands if not tens of thousands of murders in Mexico. He is also led the Zetas for the past year and one-half after his predecessor was killed by the Navy. In the last few years they have become arguably the second most powerful cartel in Mexico standing up only against the Sinaloa cartel.

What’s interesting to me is while the governments of both countries have portrayed this as a big deal the Mexican government has been fairly low-key especially when compared to Pena Nieto’s predecessor, former President Calderon.

Calderon’s strategy was to go head on against the cartel leaders, to bust them or kill them and they always took great pride in that whenever they accomplished that. They would do the big publicity “perp” walks…you know, have the guys in handcuffs in front of the guns and drugs. It was much more low-key this time under the new administration.

I think that reflects a shift not only in public affairs but also a shift in strategy and one that may be a shift for the better. The new administration of Pena Nieto has downplayed the significance of going after top cartel leaders and, instead, seeking to emphasize public safety. That appears to be working for them.

It’s hard to say for sure but it seems the number of prohibition-related murders is down a little bit in the first part of this year compared to the same time last year. Also the fear in Mexico is down. Part of that is due to the perceived reduction in violence. Part of that is due to the administration in Mexico City just not harping on the drug war all the time.

It’s been a real change from Mr. Calderon who was always wanting to talk about the War on Drugs. Mr. Pena Nieto doesn’t want to talk about that very much. He would rather talk about other things particularly the economy.

So it seems like things are a little calmer in Mexico even though the violence continues and even though the attention of Mr. Morales is unlikely to really change anything.

DEAN BECKER: You were talking about this guy killing thousands perhaps tens of thousands. We know the Zetas have been very much involved in the deaths of thousands if not tens of thousands of people and, as you mentioned, they’re in second place to the Sinaloa cartel headed up by Forbe’s listed billionaire, Chapo Guzman.

I see this as a chance to redirect the conversation not just for Mexico but for the United States that through measures other than intervention, arrests and going after these people with a vengeance perhaps there is a way to return to the days of yesteryear in Mexico where things ran much more smoothly. Things were just rubberstamped and donations made to the political officials.

PHIL SMITH: We may, indeed, be returning to the days of yesteryear but you have to understand what that implies. Prior to 2000 when there was the perfect dictatorship of the PRI in Mexico there was one party that controlled the Mexican state. That meant there was one party that you had to bribe somebody.

It has long been common knowledge that under the previous administration (previous to 2000) Mexico’s role in the drug trade was not so much to repress it but to manage it. That is kind of sleazy. We’re talking about widespread bribery and corruption.

On the other hand it was much more peaceful than what we had under Calderon. Yes, there were killings before and, yes, there were killings after 2000 but the levels of prohibition-related violence were much, much lower than they have been in recent years.

Whether it’s politically possible for the Mexican government to go back to cutting deals with traffickers is one thing. Whether it will happen quietly is another thing. Whether it’s going on already is something that a lot of Mexicans suspect. I think if you talk to anyone in Mexico most of them will tell you that they think the Sinaloa cartel is begin protected by somebody in the government and it doesn’t seem to depend on which party is in power.

Making deals with criminal drug cartels is bad politics so I don’t know how that’s going to work.

DEAN BECKER: You mentioned the ultra-violence and you and I are both in tune with the blog del Narco which features emails and horrible graphic pictures and video. Let’s hope they do curtail the violence of the Zetas.

One video I featured on my television program showed the Zetas holding hostages – 5 wives of Gulf Cartel members - and then chopping off their heads and legs and building a big pile of body parts. It’s a horrible situation down there.

PHIL SMITH: It’s absolutely terrifying. I’ve seen some of those videos myself and I wish I never had. I don’t think I will ever be able to un-see them.

DEAN BECKER: I thought it important to share that with an American audience so they would realize what our mandate to the world does around the world and especially to Mexico.

PHIL SMITH: Since you’re mentioning blog del Narco I want to mention the stuff that they do is now available in book form in a bilingual edition published in the U.S. by Feral House Press. It’s called “Dying for the Truth.” It’s by the fugitive reporters of the bloggers of del Narco. They have now left Mexico.

The lead person behind del Narco identified only as a woman named “Lucy” fled to the United States several months ago after several of her collaborators were disemboweled and hung from a bridge and another one went missing.

As I understand it “Lucy” has now left the United States and is in Spain trying to find a safe place to hide out.

That book is available to English speakers and Spanish speakers in the U.S. Be forewarned it is extremely gruesome. You heard the kind of things that Dean and I were just talking about. That book is copiously illustrated with them.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and I said, it is time for Americans to realize what our mandate has done to not just our country but to the whole world.

PHIL SMITH: We have managed to export a large degree of our drug prohibition-related violence to Mexico. We have people dying in the streets in our country but not to the extent that they are dying in Mexico. They are dying because of drug prohibition. These criminal gangs (so-called cartels) are the Frankenstein monsters of drug prohibition. We made them. We provide the oxygen that they breathe.

DEAN BECKER: And we insist that this last forever.

PHIL SMITH: That appears to be the policy. I don’t see any real signs of significant change in Washington’s policy towards Mexico or the drug cartels or drug prohibition, in general.

DEAN BECKER: No, but I think the time has come to shame them, to embarrass them, to force them to look at what they have wrought.

PHIL SMITH: I will say to the drug warriors in Washington and elsewhere are coming increasingly under pressure and isolated. You see movement all around the globe on this issue especially from Latin American countries who have suffered the brunt of the prohibition-related corruption and violence.

You have leaders like President Santos of Colombia speaking out about wanting a discussion about legalization. Likewise the leader of Guatemala and Costa Rica. Of course there have been the various Global Commissions and Latin American Commissions – the OAS (Organization of American States) is pushing ahead, looking at alternatives. The drug war continues but it is under increasing pressure.

DEAN BECKER: You mentioned Guatemala and Honduras for folks who don’t realize that as bad as things are in Mexico they’re several times worse in Guatemala and Honduras because it’s such a narrow isthmus to bring those drugs through.

PHIL SMITH: They have higher murder rates than Mexico. That’s absolutely correct. They also have huge street gang problems which ironically is sort of blowback from earlier U.S. ventures in Latin America and I’m speaking particularly about the Salvadorian gang bangers. Where do they come from? They came out of Los Angeles after hundreds of thousands of Salvadorians fled the civil war that we paid for in their country in the 1980s.

They went to L.A. The kids grew up on the streets of L.A. Not being part of the Mexican-American-based street gangs they formed their own gangs to protect themselves. Learned all the tricks of being an American-style gang banger. Then they get deported back to Central America and applied the lessons they learned – not to mention we have the Zetas and other Mexican cartels moving in force into Central America. You see lots of cartel-related deaths there, too.

DEAN BECKER: It’s just a horrendous situation all around. No one can defend the policy. Who wants to continue funding terrorists, cartels? Who wants to create gangs in the United States? Politicians, I guess.

PHIL SMITH: Apparently our elected representatives because they keep on doing it. Even if they don’t want to defend it out loud they keep voting for it.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed, they do.

Friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle.

Phil, some closing thoughts – be sure to include your website.

PHIL SMITH: I said at the beginning of this interview that I’ve been doing this for a dozen years. Despite the horrible things that are going on in Mexico I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t think I would have said that even a couple years ago.

We’re starting to see real changes particularly when it comes to marijuana in the U.S. but marijuana is half of the whole drug war. Pot arrests are half of all the drug arrests. Marijuana law enforcement is a big deal.

I think it’s starting to go away. We saw that in 2 states already and will probably see that in a couple more states in 2014 and another handful in 2016. That’s just via the ballot box. Once we start having more states legalizing marijuana some state is going to be the first one to do it legislatively.

I think we’re in the dying days of marijuana prohibition and that is a key pillar of the overall War on Drugs.

I will encourage your listeners to come join me at our website, http://www.stopthedrugwar.org and read along as we watch the drug war, hopefully, wind down.

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DEAN BECKER: Now we hear from someone with a completely different stance.

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SPEAKER: No civilized nation permits the sale or use of marijuana yet America is presently witnessing a phenomenal growth in the use of this unpredictable intoxicant. Few people would make the decision to experiment with marijuana if they were in possession about the facts of the inherent dangers. This film is designed to provide those facts.

All of the marijuana in the world comes from Mexico. It was planted there by Satan in the 1920s. God-fearing Americans were introduced to this narcotic in the 1960s by communists and dirty hippies.

Today the drug is most commonly associated with rappers and terrorists. According to intelligence authorities the regular user is usually 20 to 30 years in age and often homosexual. They also vote Democrat and murder kittens.

Users are introduced to blowing pot through peer pressure. Within seconds of the first tentative drags respectable citizens are instantly transformed into crazed, half-dead, psychopathic teenage mutant dope fiends.

Marijuana abusers can be detected in a number of ways while under the influence of the terrible demon weed. It is important to recognize these symptoms early and to never look a dope addict directly in the eyes.

Common signs of marijuana abuse include deterioration in physical appearance, sudden compulsion to play a piano incredibly fast, frequenting unusual places such as the closet, the basement or the bathroom.

In conclusion, there can be no doubt that all of the problems facing our world are caused by marijuana.

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TOM ANGEL: This is Tom Angel from Marijuana Majority.

DEAN BECKER: You know, folks, Tom Angel of Marijuana Majority is quite a man, quite a spokesman. He has been at the top echelon of nearly every drug reform organization on the planet. He’s got some insight to share with us.
TOM ANGEL: The organization formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America this week released some new polling results. I guess they are tired of polling the population in general and specifically parents about their thoughts on marijuana policy. It’s a real gift for legalizers which is surprising coming from an organization like that.

They found majority support across the board for many of the marijuana policy reforms that our movement has been pushing. It really seems like this is part of a strategic shift on the part of the prohibitionists away from trying to stand in the way of legalization. I think they have recognized that they have lost that argument with the American people and are now more so trying to focus on shaping what legalization looks like and trying to make sure it is as least objectionable as possible to them and to their concerns.

DEAN BECKER: That’s not just astounding it stands in support of what we’ve been trying to put forward for so long. I guess what your latest organization, Marijuana Majority…we’re finding more and more allies, more and more supporters aligned with that need for change, right?

TOM ANGEL: That’s correct. Marijuana Majority exists to help people understand the very simple fact that marijuana reform is a mainstream, majority supported issue.

For too long many people (including those in our movement) have viewed our movement as marginalized, as radical and not necessarily representing the mainstream of America but the polls show that we do have majority support for the policy proposals we’re trying to enact and that some of the most prominent people from across the political spectrum – from the left to the right and everyone in between – are on board with what we are trying to do and are becoming less and less afraid to say that publically.

What we are trying to do is spotlight some of these voices to encourage even more people who agree with us currently only behind closed doors to feel emboldened and empowered to say it publically.

DEAN BECKER: You referenced the thought earlier that now the government is just trying to influence the change from our draconian policy. To me that brings to mind that we hear these rumblings from situations in Colorado, Washington and elsewhere where local and state authorities are trying to confine and minimize the use of cannabis through new constraints, through new interpretations.

TOM ANGEL: I think it’s part of a strategic retreat on behalf of the prohibitionists. They recognize that they can no longer prevent marijuana legalization from happening and now they simply want to shape what legalization looks like.

While I think many on our side will be prepared to quibble and fight with some of the restrictions that Partnership for Drug-Free America and other organizations want to enact and will rightfully so fight against some of the most extreme and limiting of these measures I think it’s a really good place for us to be in.

I, for one, welcome these folks to the table and look forward to the discussion about shaping what marijuana legalization looks like. It’s no longer a question of whether marijuana will be legal it’s a question of how and when that will happen.

In the Partnership survey that I mentioned it seems like their main focus is trying to make the case that parents are very concerned with youth access to marijuana under legalization. They are talking about things like preventing people from using marijuana in public in places where cigarette smoking is currently banned and enacting some types of restrictions on advertising of marijuana in the new legal industry.

To be honest with you I don’t have much of a problem with those things. I’m not sure I would favor an outright ban on advertising but certainly I and some groups have been working for a decade to change the marijuana laws and not that excited about the notion of huge marijuana boards on the side of the road.

This discussion is something that I think is important for us to have. Now that we’re talking about what marijuana legalization will look like rather than whether marijuana should be legal I think that’s quite significant.

DEAN BECKER: I gotta agree with you at least in general. I just have this premonition of backtracking and stalling and delaying and trying to make the regulation and control a failure through that backstabbing.

TOM ANGEL: I agree. That’s certainly something we need to guard against. We don’t want to replace prohibition with a system of regulation that continues to force people into the black market to access the plant that they so desire.

I think this is a good position for us to be in. Let’s have the discussion. Let’s hear from even the folks on the other side and let’s make our case in front of regulators and lawmakers but the fact is very few people in society are no doubting that marijuana legalization is on the way and at this time our side is winning.

Let’s continue this momentum and let’s try to shape legalization in the way that we want it to be shaped but legalization is coming.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it is. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Tom Angel. Tom, share your website with the listeners.

TOM ANGEL: Folks can find out more about us and see some of the prominent voices that are speaking out in favor of marijuana reform by visiting http://marijuanamarjority.com and you can check us out on Facebook and Twitter as well.

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DEAN BECKER: The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

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BARACK OBAMA: There is history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws.

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[music]

SINGERS: They nailed me for possession.
Lord, they nailed him to a tree.

But Jesus was a felon just like me.

DEAN BECKER: From the demo “Jesus” by Jo Lynn.

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SPEAKER: With drug war black market sales fueling violence it’s time to take the profit out of marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

Remember prohibition? It still doesn’t work.

Al Capone didn’t shoot people because he was drunk. The cartels don’t kill people because they are high.

Find out what you can do to help change the laws against marijuana by visiting http://houstonnorml.org

We meet on the third Thursday of every month. That’s http://houstonnorml.org

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DEAN BECKER: Hell’s bells – even in Texas they’re trying to change these drug laws.

The following courtesy of National Geographic.

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REPORTER: Dispensary owners aren’t the only ones subject to strict regulation so are medical marijuana patients like the Stanley’s close friend, Bob Crouse.

STANLEY BROTHERS: Hey, man – good to see you. How are you doing?

BOB CROUSE: Every day is an adventure.

JARED STANLEY: Let’s get you taken care of.

Bob’s was diagnosed 4 years ago with leukemia. He’s been a patient in Colorado and been able to grow his own plants and sustain himself up until about May when the cops came in, arrested him and seized all of his plants.

He was over the weigh count. He came to us in May and asked us if there was anything we could do. Of course we’ve been supplying his meds.

We’d like to find something that could possibly manage your pain as well as keep you active and give you some energy as well.

Let me pull down…

JOSH STANLEY: His proven indica is the Bubba Kush and let’s have the Dynamite.

JARED STANLEY: They Dynamite I like.

BOB CROUSE: I’d like some of that.

JOSH STANLEY: And then, of course, we made plenty of oil. If you run out just let us know and we’ll have it here.

REPORTER: The oil contains a potent dose of the plant’s cannabinol and some studies have shown to help fight cancer. It’s ingested not smoked.

JARED STANLEY: Bob takes between one to two grams of extracted oil per day.

You take a pound, even up to two pounds, of raw product and you dump it into a bucket. You dump isopropyl alcohol into it and you slowly burn off all the alcohol. What you’re left with is just this raw cannabis extracted oil.

BOB CROUSE: I’m just lucky because of you guys providing this medicine for me. That cannabinoid triggers a message to the leukemia cells in my body telling them to kill themselves so this is killing cancer in my body right now. If I don’t have this medicine I die. There’s no doubt in my mind. That’s what the oncologists have told me.

How much do I owe you there, bud?

JARED STANLEY: it’s just going to be $25.62.

In order to have about one month’s of bob’s treatment takes about one pound of product. They came in. They seized his plants and now he’s looking at jail as he’s fighting leukemia.

We’re doing everything we can to try to ensure that he doesn’t go to jail and that he can keep fighting this.

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DEAN BECKER: So there you have it – another Century of Lies in the bag, so to speak.

Folks, you know somebody who smokes pot - if you don’t do it yourself your brother, your sister, your aunt, your father, your mother. It’s time to pull the plug on this stupid ass drug war. Do your part to end this madness. 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