10/06/13 Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist Pres. of Americans for Tax Reform interview, Sen. Rand Paul decries drug war policy, Doug McVay of Drug War Facts & Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys help celebrate 12 years of the Drug Truth Network

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Guest: 
Grover Norquist
Organization: 
Americans for Tax Reform
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Cultural Baggage / October 6, 2013

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[music: Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys , “Reefer Blues”]

DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We’re celebrating 12 years of the Drug Truth Network.

[music]

DEAN BECKER: To celebrate 12 years of Drug Truth Network we have a report from Doug McVay about the absolute failure of the drug war. We have a segment from Congressman Rand Paul about the failure of the drug war and put your ears on we have a lengthy interview with one of the most powerful influential people in Washington, D.C. Here we go.

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DEAN BECKER: Our guest today really needs no introduction. He’s the nation’s most famous anti-tax crusader and an outspoken conservative strategist. This is a big day for our program and I want to thank Grover Norquist for being with us today on Cultural Baggage. Welcome Grover.

GROVER NORQUIST: Delighted to be with you.

DEAN BECKER: I also want to thank our mutual friend, Howard Woodridge of Citizens Opposing Prohibition, for linking us together. As I understand Howard spoke to your D.C. gathering a couple of weeks back there in Washington, D.C. How was he received?

GROVER NORQUIST: He was well received. He comes and joins the Wednesday meetings every week unless he is traveling out of D.C. We put together each Wednesday from 10 to 11:30 about 150 to 180 conservative activist – 30 will present in any given week. Howard often does.

People get up and talk for 2 or 3 minutes and say, “I want everybody to be aware of this. We’re working on this project.”

It’s really been very, very helpful in making sure that everybody that’s center-right what Howard does to try to reduce the damage that prohibition does. It’s not something that all conservatives are familiar with or up to speed on so his presentations are very informative and educational.

DEAN BECKER: I caught a video online several weeks back. You spoke to a large gathering of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. You were talking about the difference between federalism and states’ rights in regards to the marijuana laws. Could you briefly summarize that for my listeners?

GROVER NORQUIST: What we’re looking at is some people have talked about states’ rights. That’s when George Wallace said that he can beat up somebody in his state if he wants and nobody can get in the way. Federalism was what Reagan was for. Federalism is we want 50 states to provide 50 different competing visions of how to provide the best government at the lowest possible cost.

People move to well-governed states. They will move to low tax states. So I think it is extremely helpful step by step to allow states to take different approaches. I sit on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association. 40 states have very robust concealed carry laws. That happened because Florida passed it and people saw that it worked. They saw that the crime fell. All of the imaginary stories the liberals made up about how it would be dangerous if people had concealed carry ...as it turned out it turned out well. As more and more states learned how well it was more and more states passed concealed carry laws.

9 states have no income tax like Texas and Florida. Those states are doing better economically than states with income taxes. We like competition. When you have an issue as difficult and as ingrained in people’s habits as drug prohibition if you are going to discuss ways to reduce the harm of drug prohibition it’s probably a good idea to try it in different states and then other people can say, “Oh, that seemed to work.” Or “Here was a problem.”

If you pass one law for the whole country you don’t know good or bad things that flow were really from that law or whether it was just something affecting the whole country.

DEAN BECKER: While there at SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) you did mention that Texas is no longer having to build more prisons by taking a smarter approach to drug sentencing, to sentencing in general. Although this is true I wanted to alert you to this that the local officials in Texas (the county commissioners, DAs and sheriffs) are still locking up tens of thousands of drug users each year when there is a law on the books that would allow them to simply write a ticket instead.

I was wondering if you might respond to that.

GROVER NORQUIST: Obviously if you give local police the option they may take it. I would assume that over time as people see the cost of some of these policies that we’re in a position where more and more local governments would move in the direction of allowing more leeway in how to handle low-level drug crimes.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to point out, too, that often those that are jailed are unable to make bail for these minor charges and they are often held in jail longer waiting for a trial than they would if they were found convicted and had to serve that time. I was wondering your thoughts there, please.

GROVER NORQUIST: That is a real challenge. I think everything that we can do to speed up the criminal justice system, to make it simpler and more transparent...One of the questions you have to ask is how many people do you really want in prison? How much time and effort and money are you willing to spend putting people into prison? Are there ways to do this less expensively?

DEAN BECKER: Recently Senator Grassley held some hearings - the first one was dealing with marijuana, the second more with mandatory-minimums and sentencing. This is a good sign. Politicians are starting to wake up to that need to re-address this. Am I correct?

GROVER NORQUIST: Oh, yes. There have been a number of definite steps in the right direction on mandatory-minimums. I had dinner last night with Rand Paul who has legislation along with Senator Leahy to give judges more discretion and get around mandatory-minimums. The administration has said they are going to ignore and go around some of the mandatory-minimum laws.

I’m more comfortable actually passing a law and reforming the laws than have a president go, “Well, I want enforce the laws as written because I don’t like them.”

Because the next president might turn around and decide to enforce the laws. I think it is a lot healthier to change that.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, that would kind of tie in with the pronouncements of Mr. Holder and Mr. Cole out of the Justice Department to redefine how they are going to treat things, right?

GROVER NORQUIST: Yep.

DEAN BECKER: What do you think it might take to get the Republicans in congress who say they are in support of the 10th amendment to apply those same principles in support of legalizing marijuana?

GROVER NORQUIST: I think what you’ll have is states like the 22 states who have passed rules that liberalize medical marijuana and the 2 states that have decriminalized marijuana period (Washington State and Colorado) and people will look and see what happens.

Some folks who are advocates of prohibition say you’re going to have all these problems. Others say look at all the problems you avoid by getting rid of prohibition and, just as with concealed carry permits – there were people who said, “This will be a disaster.” Well, it wasn’t a disaster. Those people are a little discredited.

There are people who said, “Here are the benefits that will flow from this.” They turned out to be correct.

It helps to have the different states so that we can learn from them to see what happens, what works best.

DEAN BECKER: I’m an individual. I live in Texas and I feel like my state and federal representatives tend to respond with blanket letters and really never address the reason I’ve contacted them. They’re certainly unwilling to come on my radio show to clarify their stance taken. I’m beginning to feel that the system is fractured, that there’s no real two-way street between the voters and the elected officials. I see too much corporate influence. Your response, please.

GROVER NORQUIST: Obviously politicians tend to shy away from issues that they are unsure how the electorate is going to respond to them. That’s why everybody who voted to end drug prohibition in Washington State and in Colorado and those politicians who support it get re-elected. Then politicians in other states will be more comfortable moving in that direction.

If they don’t get re-elected then the movement will go the other way.

DEAN BECKER: Currently we arrest more drug users than we do violent criminals. I see this as a huge squandering of resources, a waste of our tax payer dollars and especially our police resources. Your response, sir?

GROVER NORQUIST: One of the arguments for ending drug prohibition or certainly reforming significantly is that it’s very expensive. It’s expensive to put people in prison. It’s expensive to chase after people and arrest them and convict them. If you’re not sure that you really want to do that ...spend the money...if you do really want to encourage somebody to get drug rehabilitation if they’re addicted to something perhaps there are places other than prison to do that.

DEAN BECKER: In order for these drugs to move from the hands of say the Mexican cartels to the hands of our children the obvious fact is that it requires pervasive corruption of border guards, of cops, of banks and, in fact, our whole society suffers because of this corruption. What are we to do?

GROVER NORQUIST: Whenever you have laws that people are uncomfortable obeying - like liquor prohibition – then you have a situation where people want to buy liquor and they are not comfortable with the laws. They don’t turn in people who break the laws. They do break the laws themselves.

It leads to corruption because politicians take bribes. Terrorist as borders have always been a source of bribery. Government licensing of businesses has always been a source of bribery. Prohibition has been a source of bribery.

DEAN BECKER: Last summer I toured 7,000 miles across America with the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity. It was a couple of busloads of people out of Mexico who had lost loved ones in this drug war. The number is now approximately 80,000 dead (perhaps more they say), tens of thousands are missing. I guess my question is, sir, because of our mandate to the world the Mexicans try to enforce these drug laws and they suffer.

In Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras it’s even worse. I was wondering if you would talk about the international ramifications of this policy?

GROVER NORQUIST: Well, obviously drug prohibition has effects not just in the United States but internationally. By making certain things illegal you dramatically increase their price like drug crops overseas and then people will kill each other to have control of those.

It’s not just an American problem it’s also very much an international problem. Latin American politicians are often talking about their view of how prohibition harms everybody.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now, speaking of harming people, kids who get busted with a joint or a small amount of drugs get convicted and then they’re barred from education, housing, employment, credit...the list goes on. Many of these ramifications are life-long. Your response to that, sir?

GROVER NORQUIST: One of the challenges we have with our criminal justice system is when you make someone a felon it’s a tattoo, it’s a mark, it’s something that people carry around for the rest of their lives. When you’re doing that you’re not just putting somebody in jail for a short period of time you are affecting them for the rest of their life. That can be a little bit rough and tough for kids who make a mistake at a young age to turn around and do better.

DEAN BECKER: You have tremendous influence within the Republican party, heck, within politics in general. I was wondering what might you say to those recalcitrant and often misinformed supporters of the drug war?

GROVER NORQUIST: I think people need to look at what’s working and what’s not working in the various states. Let’s look at those states that are dealing with medical marijuana, that are doing drug courts rather than prison, that are thinking about ending prohibition – states like California, Alaska as well as Oregon, Washington State and Colorado. Take a look at what works and feel comfortable when you see things working.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve about run through my list of questions but I want to ask a more bold question, sir. Do you believe in the legalization of drugs or at least the control and regulation?

GROVER NORQUIST: I run a tax payer group so I don’t have opinions on everything but I’m open to the idea that with the 10th amendment the 50 states should take a look at what works. I look forward to seeing how reducing or eliminating drug prohibition works in the states compared to the ones that have it. I’m certainly aware that while there are costs to society of drug usage there are very definite costs to society for drug laws.

The costs of drug laws are not zero and not negligible so we need to take a look comparing the costs and benefits of prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Grover Norquist. Mr. Norquist I thank you so much for your time. I hope that there could be an additional meeting of the minds not just with you but across party lines and a reassessment of this drug war.

Closing thoughts?

GROVER NORQUIST: I think we’re going to have exactly that debate. Certainly the 22 states which deal with medical marijuana dispensaries and the regions that are looking into decriminalization will have more information and better information.

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DEAN BECKER: Well, obviously I want to apologize for the overload in Grover’s phone signal but it was just too hot for my system.

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DOUG McVAY: Prohibition is a global failure. The law enforcement-centered strategy which the US has traditionally favored is ineffective at stopping drug production, supply, and use. None of that is actually news to regular listeners. What is news, is that recent research published by the British Medical Journal proves those facts yet again. The article, titled The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems, is available for free from the British Medical Journal website's BMJ Open service. According to the authors, quote:

"Longitudinal data from government surveillance systems demonstrate that during the past two decades there has been a general pattern of increased illegal drug supply as defined through lower price and higher purity of heroin, cocaine and cannabis. During the same period, patterns of drug seizures either increased or remained stable, although the trends detected in some of these indicators did not reach statistical significance. As such, we conclude, consistent with previous studies, that the global supply of illicit drugs has likely not been reduced in the previous two decades. In particular, the data presented in this study suggest that the supply of opiates and cannabis, in particular, have increased, given the increasing potency and decreasing prices of these illegal commodities."

End quote.

Specifically, the authors found that in the US, quote:

"between 1990 and 2007 (the last year for which data are publicly available), the purity of heroin and cocaine, and the potency of cannabis herb in the US increased, while the inflation-adjusted and purity-adjusted retail street prices of these three drugs declined. Specifically, heroin purity increased by 60%, cocaine purity increased by 11% and cannabis herb potency increased by 161% during this time. During the same period, the prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased 81%, 80% and 86%, respectively."

End quote.

The authors conclude by expressing their hope that, quote:

"this study highlights the need to re-examine the effectiveness of national and international drug strategies that place a disproportionate emphasis on supply reduction at the expense of evidence-based prevention and treatment of problematic illegal drug use."

End quote.

Bless. These are the same numbers which pro-reform researchers and analysts have been harping on for years. Each time new data come out, reformers get fresh ammunition proving that prohibition is a failure. The difference this time may be the global economy. The US, the European Union, and the international banking system have all suffered hugely in the past few years. It can be argued that US economic worries were a major reason that voters in two states in 2012 were willing to support legalization and taxation of marijuana. The question is: When will the failure of global prohibition be fully acknowledged and result in real, lasting policy changes? The answer seems to be: sooner than anyone thought.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

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DEAN BECKER: Recently Senator Leahy held a special session to talk about the ramifications of this eternal war on drugs. Speaking at that event this is Senator Rand Paul.

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RAND PAUL: Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to testify about mandatory minimums.

If I told you that one out of three African-American males is forbidden by law from voting, you might think I was talking about Jim Crow 50 years ago.

Yet today, a third of African-American males are still prevented from voting because of the War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected young black males.

The ACLU reports that blacks are four to five times more likely to be convicted for drug possession although surveys indicate that blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates. The majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, but three-fourths of all people in prison for drug offenses are African American or Latino.

Why are the arrest rates so lopsided? Because it is easier to go into urban areas and make arrests than suburban areas.

Arrest statistics matter when applying for federal grants. It doesn't take much imagination to understand that it's easier to round up, arrest and convict poor kids than it is to convict rich kids.

The San Jose Mercury News reviewed 700,000 criminal cases that were matched by crime and criminal history of the defendant.

The analysis revealed that similarly situated whites were far more successful than African Americans and Latinos in the plea bargaining process;

In fact, "at virtually every stage of pretrial negotiation, whites are more successful than non-whites."

I know a guy about my age in Kentucky, who grew marijuana plants in his apartment closet in college.

Thirty years later, he still can't vote, can't own a gun, and when he looks for work he must check the box, the box that basically says: "I'm a convicted felon and I guess I'll always be one."

He hasn't been arrested or convicted for 30 years-but still can't vote or have his Second Amendment rights. Getting a job is nearly impossible for him.

Today, I'm here to ask you to create a safety valve for all federal mandatory minimums.

Mandatory sentencing automatically imposes a minimum number of years in prison for specific crimes - usually related to drugs.

By design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from judges so as to impose harsh sentences, regardless of circumstances.

Since mandatory sentencing began, America's prison population has quadrupled, to 2.4 million.

America now jails a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country, at the staggering cost of $80 billion a year.

Recently, Chairman Leahy and I introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act.

The legislation is short and simple. It amends current law to provide "authority to impose a sentence below a statutory mandatory minimum."

In other words, we are not repealing mandatory minimums on the books - we are merely allowing a judge to sentence below a mandatory minimum if certain requirements are met.

There is an existing safety valve in current law, yet it is very limited. It has a strict five-part test and only about 23 percent of all drug offenders qualified for the safety valve.

The injustice of mandatory minimum sentences is impossible to ignore when you hear the stories of the victims. John Horner was a 46-year-old father of three when he sold some of his prescription painkillers to a friend.

His friend turned out to be a police informant, and he was charged with dealing drugs. Horner pleaded guilty, and was later sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 25 years in jail.

Edward Clay was an 18 year old and first time offender when he was caught with less than 2 ounces of cocaine. He received 10 years in jail from a mandatory minimum sentence.

Weldon Angelos was a 24-year-old who was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three marijuana sales.

Federal Judge Timothy Lewis recalls a case where he had to send a 19-year-old to prison for 10 years for conspiracy. What was the "conspiracy?"

This young man had been in a car where drugs were found. The judge said, “I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure one of us might have been in a car in our youth where someone might've had drugs.”

Imagine this...and I’m glad the President has such great compassion because he’s admitted like a lot of other individuals who are now in elected offices that at one time he made mistakes as a youth.

I think what a tragedy it would have been had he gone to prison. What a tragedy it would have been if America wouldn’t have gotten to see Barack Obama as a leader.

I just don’t know why we can’t come together and do something about this.

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DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Senator Rand Paul giving indications that the door is wide open for you to talk to your elected officials and bring about an end to this madness of drug war.

I want to thank Grover Norquist and again I apologize for the distortion. I hope you could hear it and the transcript will be up soon.

The opening segment was “Reefer Blues” from Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys and they are going to close us out with this, “Digging in the Dirt.”

I want to thank you for being with us on this 12 year anniversary of the Drug Truth Network.

As always, I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

[music: Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys, “Digging in the Dirt”]

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