08/03/14 Beto O'Rourke

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, LEAP Director Neill Franklin & Bill Piper Director Natl. Affairs for Drug Policy Alliance speak in US House Bldg in support of To End The War On Drugs: Summer Reading Assignment for US Officials + Marc Emery & MSNBC Report on call for legal weed

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Guest: 
Beto O'Rourke
Organization: 
US Representative
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / August 3, 2014

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DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the liars who support the drug war, empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels and gives reason for existence for tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

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DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. This past Tuesday we held the Summer Reading Assignment conference in the Cannon Office House Building in Washington, D.C. About one dozen good friends of drug reform spoke in regards to my new book “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition.”

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[at press conference]

DEAN BECKER: I am proud to say I have some good friends who are here to speak today in support of my book “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition.”

I’ve been doing radio now for 12 years. I’ve been investigating the drug war for 15. I’ve interviewed one thousand people in this regard. The book contains the words of 115 experts who have been guests on my show.

I learned the truth 15 years ago. I read the original documents which showed the propaganda, hysteria that led us down this path. Over those 15 years I’ve been doing everything I could to educate and embolden others to the fact that this drug war has no nexus with reality. It’s a pipe dream. I needed the words of these 100 experts to validate what I am saying.

I’ll have a little bit more to say later on but first I want to bring up my boss, the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He can tell you more about his career but it’s an illustrious career. He’s a man whose work and experience should give you cause to lend an ear. I want to welcome Mr. Neill Franklin.

[applause]

NEILL FRANKLIN: Good morning everyone. Thanks for coming by. I think this is extremely important. I am going to talk about two things and be brief. I’m going to talk a little bit about my career so you can understand where I’m coming from regarding this war on drugs which we obviously need to end. Then I’m going to talk briefly about the importance of this book. The importance of this book not for the average reader but for our policy makers, for those people who are in the positions to craft policy for going forward as a country which really isn’t just about this country because the policy that is crafted in this country eventually helps to guide other countries as well.

Other countries like to follow our lead here in the US hence the US borne war on drugs and the US led war on drugs.

Again, I am Neill Franklin. I’m a retired major from the Maryland State Police. In 23 years of service, retired in 1999 before going on to work with 2 other police agencies – the Baltimore Police Department as the head of training which I did for 4 years and then onto Maryland Transit as the head of the detective bureau and the chief of patrol for 6 years. The only reason, the only reason I gave up law enforcement completely was to be the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition because I see it as being that important - this mission and what the many speakers of that wonderful organization do like Dean and Howard sitting in the back.

During my career with the Maryland State Police I spent most of that time in drug enforcement or criminal investigation. I worked undercover. When I started in the late 1970s and going into the 1980s I worked undercover right here in the Washington, D.C. Metro area – not so much in the city but the surrounding Maryland suburbs.

What I found to be very interesting was as we started this war on drugs in the 1970s and we vowed to go after these major drug kingpins, you know, the people who were responsible for bringing this so-called poison into the United States and those who were reeking the havoc in our communities and making ungodly sums of money from this illicit trade as we vowed to go after them what I realized is most of the people that we arrested, that we put handcuffs on weren’t kingpins – not even close.

They were the average person on the street who may be possessing marijuana. Most of the arrests we made were for marijuana. Most of the arrests we make today are for marijuana. We were ruining a lot of lives. I realized how dangerous it was not just for policing but for all of us. It was the loss of a close friend, Ed Totely, who was working undercover in 2000. He was working right here in Washington, D.C. with the FBI and he was buying cocaine from a mid-level dealer when he was assassinated by that drug dealer.

That made me pause long enough to step back and take a different look at this drug war. From there I started this journey. I started this journey of turning – turning 180 degrees to a place now where I have a different perspective. It was violence that caused me to start making this turn but then I started learning so many other things from the many speakers of LEAP and this gentleman here – Eric Sterling.

I started learning about the prison industrial complex. I started learning and realizing we can’t stop drugs from coming into this country. As a matter of fact this war that we have waged causes us to bring more drugs into this country and they become more valuable and more potent and more problematic and more crime, more violent crime as more drug dealers now operate on many of our street corners in open air drug markets around this country in just about every major city.

It continues to escalate. As one of the co-founders of LEAP would say, Jack Cole, it is a self-vitiating policy disaster. It just feeds itself. So that’s how I made this turn.

The reason I see this book as such a valuable tool is because as the author, Dean, said it’s a collection of 100 interviews of professionals from just about every corner of this issue – political, policing, policy – I mean you name it. If you read this book from cover to cover I can’t imagine...If you are a prohibitionist today, if you still support these policies of prohibition that we’ve had in place for over 4 decades an obviously do not work – if you read this book and you maintain that position something is wrong with you. You are not normal. Well, I’m not normal either but what is normal? That’s a whole other story.

What I mean is that you have to be delusional to maintain that position. You’ve got to at least be thinking about changing and moving into a different direction.

I advocate for those of you that are here, staffers representing our different policy makers – our senators and representatives – what I ask that you do is when you go back and you speak to our representatives that you stress to them the importance of this book. If they themselves don’t read it to at least require that one of you guys read it and give them a thorough assessment of it.

Thank you.

[applause]

DEAN BECKER: While he is here we should take advantage of the fact that we have the congressman from the Texas 16th district, Mr. Beto O’Rourke. Beto, would you come up and say a few words, please.

[applause]

BETO O’ROURKE: What kind of politician would I be if I didn’t accept an opportunity to speak into a microphone?

I really can’t add and hopefully won’t take away anything of what Dean has done with this book. I’ve known Dean for at least since 2009 and I have to tell you that I’m very grateful for him and others who have been working in the trenches on this issue on an idea whose time has finally come. As the old saying goes, “There’s nothing more powerful than that.”

Dean has written something here that is critically important for me and my colleagues and our staffers to digest and understand and when we do it’s really hard to escape the conclusion that the war on drugs has failed and that there is something far more rational, humane and arguably more responsible should take its place.

Recent events whether it’s closing in on half of our states have adopted or are considering adopting measures to allow the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana or the New York Times editorial board taking an unprecedented step in campaigning for a federal end to the prohibition policies when it comes to marijuana or people like me who prior to my exposure to this issue because of the drug violence and prohibition-related violence in Ciudad Juarez this was something that I didn’t really think about, care about, think it affected me and it wasn’t until it came to my attention from the violence in Juarez and I got a chance to listen to people like Dean and others who pointed out that we imprison more of our own fellow citizens than any country on the face of this planet, that we spend billions and now well over one trillion dollars on this war on drugs and that something like marijuana today is just as available if not more so to young kids, middle schoolers, elementary school kids than it was when we spent the first dime and we are nowhere closer to reducing its access, reducing its potency, keeping money out of the hands of criminals, thugs and cartels.

For every reason and anyway you can measure it the right thing to do is now before us and that is to end the prohibition on marijuana and replace it with a much more logical, sensible, rational, humane plan to regulate and control its sale, keep it out of the hands of kids, help those who may need help if they have issues with addiction and make sure that we take the least bad option before us.

Dean, I just wanted to come here today and thank you and commend the representatives of my colleagues to pick up a copy of this book, read it. Make sure, if you can, to get your boss to read it. Then let’s do the right thing. I think the choice is very clear before us right now.

It used to be that we wondered that if in our lifetimes we would see the right decision made. I think it is going to be within the next term or two in congress that we will see historic change here and it will be thanks to people like Dean and others who have been pursuing this issue in the trenches and on the front lines.

Dean, thank you and I’ll turn it back over to you.

[applause]

DEAN BECKER: As I said earlier I am proud of the friends I have made along the way. I’m not a demented hippy. I have no delusions about the futility of this drug war. I’ve examined it. I’ve traveled to Mexico. I’ve toured across America with the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity with one hundred Mexican and Central American citizens who have had family members killed. They came to America asking for help. A lot of TV cameras but no TV is what basically came of that. Here we are 3 years later and we’ve got 60,000 youngsters sneaking across our border because of that same violence.

We have with us here another gentleman...I saw him on TV last night debating Kevin Sabet. He is the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, Mr. Bill Piper.

[applause]

BILL PIPER: Good morning. I am Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. I have been working on drug policy issues in the nation’s capital for about 15 years. It is clear that support for the war on drugs has greatly eroded.

I think Dean’s book does a really good job of illustrating the widespread disillusionment of drug prohibition and the damage it is causing. A new bipartisanship is emerging that drug use should be treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue and that states should be free to set their own drug policies and, in particular, states should be free to set their own marijuana policies.

It is worth noting that the US House has voted 5 times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies. I just want to repeat that because I think one time would be historic but 5 times this year alone to let states set their own marijuana policies reflects the fact that a majority of Americans want to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. We see a majority of support for legalizing like alcohol in states like Texas and Louisiana so support is evolving pretty quickly on this.

The debate over marijuana legalization really isn’t about whether or not people should be using marijuana – people are already using marijuana. The debate is over who should control the marijuana trade. There really is only 2 choices – organized crime or regulated, licensed business owners. Those are the choices that policy makers face and where should the revenue of marijuana sales go. They can either go to crime bosses or government coffers, to machine guns and private armies or treatment, prevention and education.

It is long past time that we take marijuana off the streets, out of the classrooms and put it in a regulated environment where young people can’t get access to it. If you read Dean’s excellent book it raises a lot of issues beyond simply legalizing marijuana. A lot of the people he interviewed talk about repealing drug prohibition. It is really hard to argue with that when you look at the facts. Prohibition and criminalization of any substance has never worked including alcohol.

We’ve waged an all-out war on drugs for more than 40 years as previous speakers have mentioned. We’ve kicked in doors. We’ve shot people’s dogs. We’ve pointed machine guns at their children. We’ve hauled off and literally arrested tens of millions of Americans and yet I guarantee you you can get marijuana or any other substance you want probably a few blocks from here. You probably don’t even have to leave this building to find somebody who will sell you drugs. That’s how much of a massive failure drug prohibition is.

I think it is time really for members of congress to admit two things. One, we can’t arrest our way out of the drug problem. Two, Washington doesn’t have all of the solutions. I’m not even going to claim that I have all of the solutions. I’m not going to claim that Dean has all of the solutions. This is why we really ought to let states have more flexibility in designing their own drug policies especially when it comes to marijuana which is where the majority support is.

I want to agree with the congressman that I think we are only a term or two - probably 5 years at most – from repealing marijuana prohibition at the federal level and letting states decide this issue.

I really not only want to stress the importance of reading this book but actively and quickly because this war is going to come to an end. From this point all we are doing is wasting more resources arresting more people, putting more law enforcement officers in jeopardy, more average citizens in jeopardy and it’s all completely unnecessary. The war on drugs is a failure and I think it is time to put all options on the table.

Thank you.

[applause]

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(Game show music)

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

Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilled science and events, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: and this Drug is the United States’ immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to Drug War.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by that American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress and the cops and in abeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels.

$550 billion a year can be very addicting.

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DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy Canada’s CBC.

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ANCHOR: Some consider him one of the most significant advocates of marijuana legalization and now that Marc Emery has been released from US prison he could be back in Canada by next month.

Emery was jailed for 5 years for selling marijuana seeds to American customers. At the time the US Drug Enforcement Agency called his arrest a significant blow to the legalization movement. Many consider Emery’s years of crusading for the cause the reason why pot if now legal in some American states.

Marc Emery joins us on the phone. Marc, describe for us where you are and also where you are in terms of the release process.

MARC EMERY: I’m in what they call a Louisiana Parish Prison. It’s a detention center. It’s a very...I don’t know...terrible around a lot of levels detention center where they hold people here for 20/30 years. Louisiana sentences people to longer jail sentences than any other state in the United States.

I happen to be in this wing where deportable aliens are kept. Almost everyone else here is Mexican and I’m the one non-Mexican person awaiting deportation. I’ve been here 3 weeks and I hope that I’ll be gone in three weeks back to Canada.

ANCHOR: How safe has it been for you not just in Louisiana but before in the other prisons that you were in?

MARC EMERY: I’ve seen everything now. I’ve been in 6 different prisons in 6 states. I was in a detention center in Seattle and then I was in a holdover facility in Nevada and then I was in the hub at Oklahoma on a couple of occasions. I was at an immigrant prison where just foreigners are kept in Georgia. For 3 and 1/2 years I was at the medium security federal prison in Yazoo City where I spent most of my time. Now I’m in a Louisiana detention center.

I will say this. You can adapt to anything. You have to make the best of whatever you got. Becoming miserable is not an option. Once you become miserable your time is terrible.

ANCHOR: One last thing which we will talk more about when I interview you face to face but for now if you are paying attention to the magazines and newspapers you know things have changed at least in parts of the United States when it comes to marijuana. How’s it been for you to see those changes from within a prison?

MARC EMERY: I’m vain and arrogant enough to presume that I can take some credit for some of those changes. The 5 million dollars I gave away from the 109 years of seed sales went to projects like getting marijuana legal in 1998 in Washington, D.C. and getting marijuana legal in Colorado in 2000 and in Arizona and other states, too.

My money went to all of these projects which are now bearing fruition. I’m really happy. I’m delighted to see legal marijuana in Washington and Colorado and Oregon and Alaska will be adding to those numbers this November. I have every expectation that Vancouver is a changed placed compared to when I left it. I understand there is 35 dispensaries there now and different kinds of lounges and all sorts of different cannabis culture evidence. These are all good things. I’m delighted to see it.

It’s rich in irony, of course, that my prosecutor, John McKay, who prosecuted me in 2005 helped write the legislation for Washington State’s legalization. I appreciate the fact that many of my adversaries have now become converts for legalization.

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DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy of MSNBC.

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ARI MELBER: You can usually bet a political idea isn’t too radical if it is endorsed by the New York Times while the paper’s editorial board doesn’t always lead the boldest policy debates so a politicos viewed it as a major breakthrough when the Times came out and endorsed pot legalization in a blockbuster editorial this Sunday.

[video clip]

DAVID GREGORY: The New York Times this morning with a major statement. A lead editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: The old gray lady is going senile. The New York Times shocked many of us this weekend with an editorial that was pro-pot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2: When the New York Times editorial board called for the US to legalize marijuana over the weekend. The paper was reflecting a clear shift in how Americans view the politics of pot.

[end video clip]

ARI MELBER: The paper put the pot crusade on the level of America’s most embarrassing constitutional amendment, “Repeal Prohibition, Again” the paper thundered. Recalling that it took 13 years for the US to come to its senses and end prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking. Otherwise law abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates flourished.

It has been more than 40 years since congress passed the current ban on marijuana inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol, the Times writes

Now, 35 states have already loosened marijuana laws in some ways either decriminalizing or allowing some kind of medical use. Two states have legalized it completely.

And a recent poll shows that views on marijuana are significantly evolving over the past quarter of a century. 54% support legalization today versus the 81% that opposed it in 1990. Meanwhile the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy responded directly to that New York Times tonight writing, “We agree that the criminal justice system is in need of reform and that disproportionately exists throughout the system however marijuana legalization is not the silver bullet solution to the issue. Policy makers cannot ignore the basic scientific fact that marijuana is addictive and that marijuana use has harmful consequences.”

Joining me now is Vikas Bajaj who is a member of the New York Times editorial board that wrote that piece and Khary Lazarre-White, co-founder and co-executive director of the Brotherhood Sistersol.

Good evening, gentlemen.

You were part of this editorial. You have the Office of National Drug Control Policy responding to you. Why was it important to do this and were you leading or following?

VIKAS BAJAJ: I’ll leave the question of whether we were leading or following to others but I think it was important for us to do this because the states are clearly moving. The country is clearly moving on this issue and it was an important issue for us to take a position on.

We have long supported medical marijuana in New York and other states. Given what has happened in Washington and Colorado which have legalized and Alaska and Oregon are going to vote on legalization this year we felt like it was time for us to take a bolder stand on this issue.

ARI MELBER: In your deliberations did you discuss what portion of the editorial board has used pot?

VEEKUS MAJAZ: No it didn’t come up.

ARI MELBER: Why not?

VEEKUS MAJAZ: I think, you know, probably quite frankly, almost all of us have used marijuana or most of us have used marijuana in the past but that is not germane to the discussion. You could ask the same question of the board members as to how many of them have children. Most of them have children and what do they think about that? I don’t think it was really a question about personally what our experiences with marijuana it was more of a policy discussion.

ARI MELBER: Let me tell you why I think it’s relevant, Khary. It’s because for many people who are affluent professional and particularly white Americans, the data suggests that the choice to use pot may become a fond memory or sidebar. Yet for many young black and brown men, as you’ve pointed out in your work, it can be life-changing. While the rates of usage are similar across racial lines, we know African-Americans are almost four times as likely to be arrested and in our criminal justice system, that arrest can trigger a whole lot of problems in the rest of your life.

KHARY LAZARRE-WHITE: That’s right. It’s a misuse of police, a misuse of law enforcement, and it has a disparate impact on people solely because of their race and the community they’re born into it.

Just a few statistics to give you an idea around this. Last census, 2012, around these issues saw 650,000 people were arrested for marijuana in the United States, 250,000 for cocaine and heroin.

So, number one, where is law enforcement utilizing its resources? Number two, in New York, 87 % of those arrested for marijuana possession are black and Latino even though we know racial groups use it according to their percentage.

The result of those arrests, what are framed in terms of your last report by the Commissioner Bratton as a broken window approach is something that results in people not being able to access their housing if they live in public housing. Not being able to access money for college in terms of scholarship, often not being able to have jobs such as being a barber. There are long-term effects around misdemeanor arrests and this is particularly focused on black and brown men and it’s part of the general policing approach that reveals itself in a specific way but interconnected to the first story you explored.

ARI MELBER: Yes, I think that’s fair and we know the ’96 Welfare Reform Act took food stamp and welfare benefits off the table for folks for one pot arrest.

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DEAN BECKER: So, just how much sense does the drug war make and how much does your silence in this regard make?

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 Network 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.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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