04/24/15 Phil Smith

Interviews with Phil Smith of Alternet and the Drug War Chronicle, Willie and Merle's new song "It's All Going to Pot", Ms. Deon Haywood of Women With a Vision and Pacifica "cub reporter" Derrick Broze.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, April 24, 2015
Guest: 
Phil Smith
Organization: 
Alternet
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

APRIL 24, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

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

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hi, this is Dean Becker, and I urge you to hold on to your hats.

Well, it's been a while since we had this reporter on air here on the Drug Truth Network. He used to do a weekly segment for us, her worked for the Drug Reform Coordination Network and Stop The Drug War, but he's still reporting on the drug war. I want to welcome my good friend Mr. Phil Smith.

PHIL SMITH: Good to be here, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Phil, as I say, you're still reporting, and I want to say this: it's so easy now to find drug war stories, hell even the major media's starting to report it correctly, or nearly so. Am I right?

PHIL SMITH: It's really been a change from when I first started doing this 15 years ago. I was just about the only person covering drug policy stuff on any kind of regular basis. Definitely not the case anymore, especially with marijuana, I mean, it's just gone crazy with pot. Everybody's covering that. I just watched CNN, all weekend long they were doing marijuana stories. I mean, hour after hour of them.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Phil, those reports with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, I think are helping to swing the cat rather widely, are they not?

PHIL SMITH: Oh yeah, when it comes to medical marijuana, I mean, I don't think there's even really a debate anymore, I mean the only time you see a debate on this is not in public opinion polls, where it's always 80 percent or so, or higher. The only time you see a debate is in these reactionary state legislatures where sometimes they don't -- can't even pass a CBD cannabis oil bill for epileptic kids.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and truthfully, that's so telling, if you will, that they can't find it within their heart to make available these non-toxic, non-high-producing CBD oils for little babies that are thrashing about in their cribs, it's absurd, isn't it?

PHIL SMITH: It is absurd, but I have to give some state legislatures credit, I mean, even some Republican-dominated state legislatures are passing these CBD cannabis oils bills, not all of them, but some of them. So, I mean, I think it's a way for these Republican politicians to acknowledge that public opinion is very much against them on this issue, but not go so far as to actually approve a full-blown medical marijuana program or god forbid actually decriminalize or legalize weed.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Phil. Now there are a couple of hot stories that have been breaking over the past week or so. Let's start with one where you had a story you posted on AlterNet, talking about Michele Leonhart, the departure of our lovely drug czar, you want to talk about that one?

PHIL SMITH: Oh, Michele Leonhart, we hardly knew ye. Yes, she is gone, she has been forced out because of repeated scandals in her agency. I mean, the straw that broke the camel's back was this absolutely absurd story about DEA agents in Colombia over a period of years partying repeatedly with prostitutes, sometimes using taxpayer money to fund their little parties, other times having Colombian drug cartels bankroll them. Ms. Leonhart, as head of the DEA, imposed some strict discipline on those agents, they got paid vacations of up to 10 days.

Now that didn't sit too well with her Congressional overseers, who really raked her over the coals last week, and then immediately after her poor performance in that hearing, 22 members of that committee said they had no confidence in her, and her goose was cooked at that point. After that, the White House wouldn't speak up in favor of her, and a few days later, she's history.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and then there's a story that's breaking just today, that the US Senate is finally approving the appointment of Ms. Loretta Lynch to our attorney general position. Your thoughts.

PHIL SMITH: Well, it's been a long time coming, she's been held up for no good reason as far as I can tell. Now, I'm not as excited about Loretta Lynch as I was about Eric Holder, I think on balance he has been a very good attorney general when it comes to drug policy. I know the Obama administration went after some medical marijuana people in California and other states early on, but they've pretty much given that up -- not entirely, but pretty much. They've also signaled that they're not getting in the way of legalization in states where voters want it.

Also, I have to give Holder and Obama credit for major sentencing reforms, thousands of people have gotten out of prison who were doing those ridiculously long sentences, thousands more will get out early, and I also have to give them credit for the work they've started doing on asset forfeiture reform, with Attorney General Holder cracking down on the equitable sharing program, where, whereby local and state cops would do an end run around their state laws which required the money to go into the general fund, instead they would give it to the feds, then they'd end up with 80 percent of it for those law enforcement agencies. Holder really moved against that policing for profit, at least in that respect.

DEAN BECKER: It's provided some impetus for states, was it Arizona that has now basically outlawed this type --

PHIL SMITH: New Mexico has outlawed civil forfeiture. That also passed in Wyoming, only to be vetoed by the Republican governor.

DEAN BECKER: Heh heh heh. It's just preposterous to me. Oh, one other thing I wanted to get to, Phil, and that is, just this week or recently, the US Supreme Court says it's no longer -- you're no longer forced to sit in your car and wait for a drug dog to come sniff your car seats, right?

PHIL SMITH: That's absolutely right. I could have been the guy who took that case to the Supreme Court if I had ten or fifteen thousand dollars to hire a lawyer. I mean, I was one of the people who suffered under those practices, I was pulled over on Interstate 70 in Utah one evening in 19 -- in 2008, after passing a slow-moving civilian vehicle. That slow-moving civilian vehicle turned out to be an undercover police car. He then pulled me over for a -- my infraction was doing a lane change without signaling two full seconds in advance before I changed lanes.

Now, you know, I've been following drug policy for a while so I know my rights when it comes to police encounters. I did not consent to a search of my vehicle. He gave me a warning ticket, then he asked to talk to me, and I said I didn't have time to talk because I had places to go and I asked if I was free to leave. And no, I wasn't free to leave. Well, am I under arrest? No, you're not under arrest. Well, am I free to leave? No. I was detained in the side of the highway for 45 minutes waiting for the arrival of a drug dog. When a drug dog came, they found my ounce and a half of weed from California and stole it, and charged me with a misdemeanor, and I had to pay a fine and fill out a very silly anti-drug abuse coloring book.

But now, they can't do that. They cannot detain you on the side of the highway waiting for a drug dog to show up. That was a 6-3 decision in the Supreme Court, and it was a very short opinion, I mean, the issues were clear-cut, that has no relation to their traffic enforcement mission, it's fishing, you know, it's basically fishing for some sort of criminal offense and they don't get to hold you and detain you while they wait for someone to come and do that.

DEAN BECKER: And Phil, this --

PHIL SMITH: It's a good ruling.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you, sir, and this brings to mind that it has been this, oh, this concept of drug war that has over the decades escalated, it has extrapolated the means and the mechanisms by which police can stop you and search you and do so many of these -- it is the means to --

PHIL SMITH: Well, and the Supreme Court has let some of this go on, I mean it was the Supreme Court ten years ago who said it was okeh, who said that a drug dog sniff was not a search. It boggles the mind.

DEAN BECKER: There's a lot of boggling going on, I agree.

PHIL SMITH: Right.

DEAN BECKER: Phil, what am I leaving out, what would you like to bring forward?

PHIL SMITH: Yeah, the departure of Michele Leonhart at DEA opens some interesting questions. I mean, one obvious one is who might replace her, and no one really has any good answers for that that I've seen so far. I'd like to throw one name out, and that's Washington, DC's police chair. As far as I can tell, she seems to be a very progressive law enforcement person with a good approach to drug policy and a good understanding of the issues. If we're going to continue to have the DEA, we need someone like Cathy Lanier to be running it, not, certainly not someone from within the agency, I think that agency has outed itself as hopelessly hidebound and corrupt.

DEAN BECKER: Inbred.

PHIL SMITH: Indeed. It has demonstrated, under Michele Leonhart and before her, a real unwillingness to actually thoroughly address science when it comes to rescheduling questions for one thing. I mean, it has been the agency that has blocked marijuana from being moved off Schedule One, you can blame that squarely on the DEA, and of course its sole mission is to enforce the drug laws. You know, we have other federal law enforcement agencies, we have the FBI, we have the ATF, we have Customs and Immigration Enforcement. In my opinion, the DEA is a redundant rogue agency and it should be killed, and its law enforcement functions transferred to other federal law enforcement agencies and its drug regulation functions transferred to the FDA or somewhere else, not in that -- we shouldn't be having scientific and medical questions about drugs being handled by cops at the DEA.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and let's don't forget it was the brainchild of one Richard Milhouse Nixon.

PHIL SMITH: Right. I mean, there have been efforts to do away with the DEA before, there have been at least 3 or 4 efforts, and they never got very far because over time the DEA gets more and more powerful, it has more and more allies. But I think we're now reaching the point where it may be time once again to seriously do a push to abolish the agency.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Phil, if folks would like to tune into your work, you got some websites you want to share, some closing thoughts?

PHIL SMITH: I have a couple of websites that I'm writing on these days. As always, I'm still at the Drug War Chronicle, that's at www.stopthedrugwar.org, but I also wear a second hat these days as the editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter, and that's at alternet.org/drugs. Check them both out, keep up with the latest in drug policy news. And not just drug policy news, I'm also doing some fun stuff with AlterNet, doing 24 classic reefer songs for 420 and things like that. It's not all just dry, you know, this bill passed this committee with alternet. I'm really excited about next year, I mean I think we're going to see California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine legalize it at the polls, and that's just for starters.

And by the way, I just did an alternet piece on, not the states that are most likely to legalize it but the nine states that are least likely to legalize it, or the ones that are going to do it last, and that story went huge, I had 130,000 reads on that. I guess there's a lot of interest. Let me tell you what those states are.

DEAN BECKER: Please.

PHIL SMITH: North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, Idaho. Now, some of those states are there because they don't have an initiative process and they have very conservative state legislatures. Some of those states are there despite having the initiative process, like South Dakota for instance, it has the initiative process but it's, also has the dubious distinction of being the only state to twice defeat a medical marijuana initiative at the polls, and defeated it more harshly the second time than the first time.

You know, places like Utah and Idaho don't have the initiative process and have very socially-conservative populations and are the heartland of Mormonism, very conservative religion, so I'm sorry for all you folks that are living in Utah or the Dakotas or the deep south, but it looks like it's going to be a while before you get to smoke weed without worrying about going to jail. And Texas isn't in the bottom nine, I expect Texas to have legal weed within five or six years, maybe by 2020 or 2022. It will be up to you Texans though, so go for it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, what do you think of Willie and Merle's new song, It's All Going To Pot?

PHIL SMITH: It is, and we're running towards it as fast as we can.

[MUSIC]
WILLIE NELSON: Well, it’s all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
Best I can tell
The world’s gone to hell
And we’re sure gonna miss it a lot

All of the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee
Just couldn't hit the spot
I gotta hundred dollar bill, friend
You can keep your pills
Cause it’s all going to pot

MERLE HAGGARD: That cackle-bobble-head-in-a-box
Must think I'm dumb as a rock
Readin' daily news
While I'm kickin' off my shoes
It's scarin' me outta my socks

The Red Headed Stranger I'm not
But buddy, let me tell you what
If you ask ol' Will, he'll say here's the deal
Friends, it's all goin' to pot

WILLIE AND MERLE: Well, it’s all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
Best I can tell
The world’s gone to hell
And we’re all gonna miss it a lot

MERLE HAGGARD: All the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee
Just couldn't hit the spot

MERLE AND WILLIE: I gotta hundred dollar bill
You can keep your pills, friend
Cause it’s all goin' to pot

[INSTRUMENTAL BREAK]

WILLIE NELSON: Well I thought I had found me a girl
Sweetest little thing in the world
But all my jokes went up in smoke
When I caught her makin eyes at Merle

He said, sweet little honey
With her eye on your money
She's gonna take every penny you got
I said she's never gonna get it
Cause I've already spent it
Merle, It's all goin' to pot

WILLIE AND MERLE: It’s all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
Best I can tell
The world’s gone to hell
And we’re all gonna miss it a lot

MERLE HAGGARD: All the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee
Just couldn't hit the spot

MERLE AND WILLIE: I gotta hundred dollar bill
You can keep your pills, friend
It’s all going to pot
I gotta hundred dollar bill
You can keep your pills, friend
Cause it’s all goin' to pot

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers or white spots on lips and mouth, unusual bleeding. Time’s up! The answer: Another FDA approved product, Acetaminophen.

DEON HAYWOOD: So, Deon Haywood, executive director of Women With a Vision Incorporated out of New Orleans, Louisiana. I'm one of the people who, I felt like when I came to DPA and I, you know, joined this, this movement, that I didn't feel like my voice as a woman, the women we worked with at Women With a Vision, members of the LGBT community weren't visibly in the room. It was like, you're there, but wasn't being talked about, or the issue of race.

And what I see happening now is that everybody wants to capture this moment. We know that things are out of wack in this country, whether we agree with everything, we may never, but we are, we do agree that the war on drugs has ruined and decimated many communities and many lives, and so I feel strongly that we're at a point where yes, we're shifting our analysis and yes, we can see that things are changing, but we have to do the work to come up with a plan of strategy as we've been saying the whole day, a strategy that's multi-pronged, that speaks to every level of growing our communities, healing our communities, and making things right.

Meanwhile, tearing down the system, because it really, you know, we talk nicely about it, but historically we've tweaked it, every now and then we get them to pass a law, bit it really doesn't give us everything we asked for. I just feel like we're at a point where we have to demand what we're asking for.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, the first chapter of my book, Incrementalism Is A Killer. We keep accepting little bits of what we're asking for, right?

DEON HAYWOOD: Yeah. All the time, you know, what happens is we fight to have the, you know, get some lawmaker to sponsor our bills, the bills we think are important, or we're fighting or trying to shut down some bill that somebody else has popped up that's going to do more harm, and we end up going in and we amend, and we amend to the point that where we, what we end up with is not the document that we started out with, this is not what I wanted. I want people to be able to live a healthy life. I want people to see, see drug addiction, addiction as a public health issue and not a criminal one. I want people to understand that individuals who use drugs have a right to do so in a way that won't cause them life in prison. And so, if we keep tweaking it, we're never going to get where we need to get.

DEAN BECKER: One of the topics that came up today that interested me, I've been, I'd like to think I'm a friend with Lynn Paltrow and, you know, the Advocates for Pregnant Women, and you were bringing forward some points that tie into that very directly, the, boy, just the bailiwick of misery that we throw on women too often, right?

DEON HAYWOOD: Right. You know, throughout history, it's not new to the year 2015, but throughout history, you know, women have always been seen as, you know, these, this pure person, and that's only left for some women. We know if we had to break it down for, by race, black and indigenous women have different experiences, well white women have often experienced things a little bit differently, not that the struggle is not there, but based on class and race, things are looked at differently. And so, if women, if a woman uses drugs, and she goes into the hospital for help, well then she's arrested.

If something happens to the child, or she has a miscarriage, which women have miscarriages every day, then she can be 20 years we just saw it in Indiana, and so organization like Lynn Paltrow's Advocates for Pregnant Women, my organization Women With a Vision, organizations across the country, we're fighting that, but people see it as a reproductive justice issue because we're talking about hte body and the baby, or the body and the fetus. Well, you know what, it's a drug issue, it's a drug war issue, because to target women like that and end up where the answer is incarceration, that's what the drug war does to men, that's what it does to everyone, and so I feel like it targets women differently.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to tie into another thing y'all were talking about today, and that is the situation in Louisiana where they're providing new options for men, treatment and so forth, but what happens to the women that get busted for drugs in Louisiana?

DEON HAYWOOD: You know, well, again, it's a patriarchy. You know, we think about, you know, people always see men as the people who have to go out and work, and they need to be able to access jobs. In 2012, we fought Louisiana crime against nature law that was putting individuals that were women and transgender women who were sex workers, it was an automatic felony and they had to register as a sex offender. Whenever you would go to the sex offender registry, all the men had a job. Everybody was employed, because you know if you look at those sites, they tell you that the person is employed, because they have to be, they have to have gainful employment as a part of their being out or not being locked up.

None of the women who were on the registry who were there, who were involved in sex work, oftentimes for survival sex, didn't have a job. Most women are doing service work, and so often the economic, the economic penalties are higher for women, with some of these laws. Women who, you know, they talk about treatment for men, re-entry programs, making sure they're, they have training for work, where many women are sitting in local jails, maybe not all the prisons, but local jails, with no training, no GED programs, nothing, one, to stimulate them, but nothing to so-called rebuild their lives, to come out with a skill that they can use.

And so it becomes a driver for being able to get women again, because the only thing they have, many of them, is to count on themselves, their body, to get by. And we need to change that, we need to make sure that the same privileges that are given to men are given to women who often we all know come home to children. Men stay with their sister, their momma, they've got some woman, they AT, somebody's going to let them stay with them. Most people see women and they're like, when you going to get your life together? And if somebody's raising their kids, when you going to be able to take your kids? So, the same skill set and things we want men to have is really important for women to have, we know most women had households in this country. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: We do want to recommend that folks go to the Drug Policy Alliance website, that's drugpolicy.org. Any closing thoughts you'd like to share with the audience?

DEON HAYWOOD: You know, I just would ask anybody listening to this, is when you think about the war on drugs and if you're listening to Dean's show I know you know about it. But really think about what that means overall for everyone in our communities. Let's, the same thing we're asking of each other here at this conference, to come up with a strategy that's multi-prong, our communities need to hold that as well.

DEAN BECKER: We have a Mr. Derrick Broze with us today. Hello, sir.

DERRICK BROZE: Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Hey Derrick. I've been watching what you're doing, you're, you've written a book, you're at every rally and protest you can get your hands on, I think you are standing tall for the truth that Pacifica and KPFT try to bring to our citizens here in Houston. Derrick, I see that you have a great post that was published this month in AntiMedia.org website, talking about the situation with opium in Afghanistan. Kind of summarize that for us, if you will, please.

DERRICK BROZE: Absolutely. So, there was a new report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that found that Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, the mercenary group that many people are familiar with, they received $309 million in training, uh, in training, equipment, supplies, to the Defense Department, and it's supposed to be to fight opium production in Afghanistan, but as many people know we've actually seen opium production soar, instead of go down, since the United States has been over there.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and what you were bringing forward is that, it just seems so illogical that we have these truly in many cases murderous thugs getting hundreds of millions of dollars for basically nothing, right?

DERRICK BROZE: Absolutely, I mean, we're seeing, just recently we see some ex-employees, mercenaries of Blackwater were convicted of, of murders of Iraqi citizens, so we see the type of people that we're putting over there supposedly to fight this war on terror that many people have realized is truly, you know, it's also related to the global war on drugs, specifically with opium production and I've talked to former soldiers who said that the only thing they were doing when they went over was literally guarding the opium fields, so while they tell the American people that their tax dollars are going to hundreds of millions of dollars to train people to stop the opium production, soldiers and mercenary groups like Blackwater are actually sent there to guard the production of these crops.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, what's hardly ever noticed is that, following our departure, our near-departure from Afghanistan, that they have once again per capita become the world's largest supplier of cannabis as well. Blackwater doesn't seem to be doing its job at all, does it?

DERRICK BROZE: I would say not. I would say Blackwater, at least that the job that they're telling us they're there to do, which is to stop opium production, if that's their true intent, they're failing miserably at that. Some might say that their real purpose is to guard the opium production, that is actually just a fabrication to the American people that they're there to stop opium production. But I guess that depends on the view that you take.

DEAN BECKER: Now, once again, folks, we've been speaking with Mr. Derrick Broze, a reporter and more, who has a new book that's out. Derrick, tell us quickly about that, and were folks can learn more about it.

DERRICK BROZE: Yeah, appreciate the opportunity to do so. So, this book is part of my activism, which is my philosophy on the world, it's called The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality. And it delves into the synthesis of the philosophy of anarchism and the world of spirituality and indigenous teachings, and trying to bring these two ideas together is something that I've been working on for quite a while, and if anybody's interested in finding out more about that or more of my other work, go to consciousresistance.com.

DEAN BECKER: That's about all we can cram into a show. I want to thank Phil Smith, Deon Haywood, and Mr. Derrick Broze. And as always, I remind you that, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful. To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.