05/01/16 Doug McVay

This week: more from the recent UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, the UNGASS. We speak with Adam Eidinger with DC Marijuana Justice; author, journalist, and hemp advocate Doug Fine; and radical journalist and drug policy reformer Enrico Fletzer.

Century of Lies
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon col050116.mp3



MAY 1, 2016


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

I'm in an iron cage, outside of the UN building. A steel cage. Steel? Iron? A steel jail. It's a jail cell. With my friend Adam Eidinger. So, we're locked up in this cell outside of the UN building, which I've got to say is a sentence I never thought I would use. Adam, what are we doing here?

ADAM EIDINGER: Well, what we're doing is, it's a form of street theater. We're, we actually have a real jail that looks something like, you know, you would imagine ISIS would have towing behind a pickup truck. And on top of it, it says, Jail Is Not A Drug Policy. We're illustrating what prison looks like. It's a small, caged existence. There's a small toilet here, there's a bunk. We have banners, and we want to engage the delegates to the UNGASS as they come and go in a more informal, grassroots kind of engagement.

You know, there's definitely a meeting going on inside of policy experts, and the public should play a role in this outcome. There needs to be public engagement, and so, we're creating a forum. We've had, you know, a Bolivian ceremony this morning with coca leaves, that was remarkable, and we're going to have people here talking about psychedelics in the context of healing. We have, you know, we're from Washington, DC, where we legalized home cultivation of marijuana, personal possession, and ended mass incarceration for marijuana. That, we want to bring to the whole world, so we're talking about marijuana, and we're open to other topics about drug policy.

So it's sort of a universal opinion that jail is not a drug policy, but, and in a lot of different issues that we're all working on and we want this to be more like an informal scene. And we've had a scene here, you know, since yesterday. And this morning, we really redid it so now we're -- we have the jail positioned where you can take photos of the United Nations with this jail cell in front of it. It's sort of a human rights issue we're raising. StopTheDrugWar.org was, collaborated with us on this. But really, it's just individual activists as well, that feel that they need to speak out, and we're going to be a hub. We have, you know, a PA system here for that.

DOUG MCVAY: Before I go any further, I do want to -- I think I want to take exception to one of the things you said, which is, the drug policy experts inside. Well, I'll grant you they do have at least a handful of drug policy experts inside, and I have a pass to go in as soon as I leave my recording equipment with someone because security doesn't think that NGO representatives should own recording equipment. But never mind that. Drug policy "experts,", eh. National delegates and people who are experts in talking about policy, I'll give you that one.

In fact, we just had a group of tourists a moment ago, standing over there taking photographs of the cage, and of us inside it. It's quite -- yeah, attracts a good bit of attention. I want to ask you about the event that you had down in DC, and -- yeah, let's, actually let's start with that one, because I want to get to some of the UNGASS stuff, but before we go any further. You did a terrific thing in Washington, DC. We've had smoke-ins before, and none of them have ever gotten the kind of publicity, the kind of good press, that yours got, and one of the reasons for that was that bloody inflated joint. If we only had props like that, but I'm -- I'll let you tell us about it.

ADAM EIDINGER: Well, okeh, so, there were a lot of things that were working to our advantage, but Cesar Maxit was the artist who designed that inflatable joint. He had built a Keystone XL pipeline that was inflated in front of the White House, and as we all know, that project was killed by the Obama administration after a lot of pressure from activists. So the idea was, like, to have waves of civil disobedience at the White House. We called it Reschedule 420. And we wanted something inflatable as well to carry over our heads, and we figured, well, why not a joint?

Cesar had this, you know, he built that thing in, like, a couple of days, you know. He's a really talented artist. He used this white plastic, and a cow fan, and a lot of spray paint and some duct tape, and, you know, some other tape, and -- I mean, it's really remarkable. And it took -- it says on the side of the joint, Obama Deschedule Cannabis Now. Because we think that he ought to make a big move on this before he leaves office. He needs to do it before July for it to be worth anything. So, yeah. That was our strategy.

And, you know, 4/20 is on a Wednesday, and that's no good, so we -- it's tomorrow, but it's like a workday, and really, it's, it needs to be on a Saturday, so moved -- 4/2 is a Saturday, you drop the zero, Obama's been a big zero on descheduling cannabis, so, make it 4/2. And we told the press that, you know, since Obama's been a zero, and then we looked into our messaging, and, you know, one of the main talking points was, there's been now over 5 million marijuana arrests under the Obama administration, since they came into office. Now they inherited these bad drug policies, they could be the first administration to really do something about it. Or they can just add their name to the list of other administrations that failed to make any kind of dent into mass incarceration and just gave lip service to it.

We also were calling for pardons, you know, for tens of thousands of marijuana offenders sitting behind bars right now. And they, pardoning, you know, 60 or 70 at a time and, I think about 200 pardons or something, you know, and it's just -- you know, they're not even, and they're people who are in there for really severe stuff. I mean, you need to go much deeper than that, you need to get everybody out. Why is the person who's been wronged a lot more, anymore entitled to a pardon than someone who's been wronged just a little? They've been wronged nevertheless. And, so we talked about that issue.

The last thing I want to say is that, you know, there was a lot of controversy over this action, but, we were working with a professional consulting firm, called Collective Consulting, that does public relations work. Ken Bazinet and Ellen Mellody have both been working in official Washington for a long time. Ken was a White House correspondent, Ellen was, I think, worked with the Gores and the Clintons, actually, at one time. But they're pretty liberal, pretty progressive people. So, they volunteered to do public relations for the protest, so, it wasn't just our small crew that can execute logistics very well, but it was also working with some professional public relations folks with White House connections.

The whole White House press corps was alerted to this protest. The protest visually didn't let down, as you noted. It had all the great visuals, thanks to Cesar and the people who executed it on site. It took a big team effort, you know, there were easily 30 people carrying the thing around, and they had to work together, and that was, that sort of team effort, of this carrying this thing around, after the police had said it couldn't be in the park, after they had turned everyone -- turned us away, it was deflated and then re-inflated in front of the White House. So, we had, like, this kind of adventure, and it was -- anyone who participated in this thing was, it was -- seemed a little bit miraculous that we were in front of the White House with the inflatable joint and our PA system, and we did a 420 blessing, and we had a mass engagement, mass, you know, use, mass civil disobedience.

And, there were a few people, maybe like a few dozen that, hell or high water, if the police warned us or not, they were still going to use. And they were prepared to go to jail that day and spend a couple nights in jail because there's no court on Sundays. But, those folks, you know, and I was one of them, we didn't have to do that, because the police stood away and just watched. And then after 15 minutes or so, they started to issue a couple of tickets. They only gave two, and those people kind of blew smoke right into the cop's face. It wasn't intentional, they just were, they didn't realize the officer was, like, standing right next to them, I guess, and the officer was just, like, offended, and then was like, I've got to do something. And the ticket wasn't for public use, which is actually, there is no ticket for public use, there's arrest -- arrestable offense, that's it. So instead of charging them with public use, they charged them with a lesser offense, and gave them a ticket for that, $25. So it was sort of like, it was like symbolic enforcement, it wasn't really enforcement.

And, the next day, on Monday, or two days later I should say, you know, we hear from, you know, Elizabeth Warren's getting a response from, you know, from the DEA in July. And then we hear, a couple of days after that, that the White House wants to meet with us, and they've invited us for April 25th, for DCMJ to go. Just DCMJ.

DOUG MCVAY: I saw some of the comments about it, a few people were asking, oh, is this okeh? And a few people were, you know, oh, we're trying so hard, and, yes, you're trying so hard to maintain the image that your business wants you to so that your business can get funding, but when it comes to the publicity, there was no negatives out of this. You know, a long time ago, it's really funny, I was -- a good friend got in touch, and she had been contacted by a -- I think it was Time, they wanted to get a picture of some young kids smoking weed. And so, she got talked into it, and she talked me into trying to find someone, and unfortunately the youngest I could find was a couple of 20-somethings. Eh, and, they looked young, and I guess she managed to find a couple of folks out in the bay area, where she was, where her dispensary was, that looked kind of young. And, but, they didn't really look that young. In fact -- Ah, cell door's closing. Next sound you hear is going to be a cell door closing.

Eh, wasn't quite loud, but that's okeh, we'll try it again. Or not. That's a heavy cell door. And so, yeah, we got the AP photographer came out, did the stuff for us. They had a photographer did the stuff for them. Unfortunately, a dog, they did a cover about a dog. If you're in show biz, never follow an act with dogs or kids, you'll always get blown off. So, that one didn't run, but I realized, that's part of how they do that. They find young people, they find -- they were afraid of the smoke-in for years, look, oh those images of all those people. What, of all the Vietnam vets who were walking over from the Vietnam Memorial and coming over to our concert because the concert down at the Mall is so bloody boring, and we've got the kind of music they like to listen to. And so these military veterans are coming over and enjoying themselves at our show, and maybe they're smoking some weed. That's fine. And they're the ones who don't get tickets from the Park Service Police -- Oh yeah, that was so many years ago. But the kind of --

ADAM EIDINGER: I'm trying to end the Fourth of July marijuana event. I think we should no longer do it.

DOUG MCVAY: The security has made it such that it's almost impossible to hold something like that, so I'm -- I cannot comment. But all I can say is, we ran into the same kind of stuff from other people, and it didn't happen. I mean, it was just --

ADAM EIDINGER: The story of why we can't do it, because the people who organize it have made -- they have gotten permits where they promise not to have a smoke-in as part of their permitting. And so they call it a smoke-in, at the White House at high noon on July Fourth, and they march to the concert, which begins shortly after over at the Lincoln Memorial. That's been the plan every year. So this year, this past July Fourth, I went down with a few joints in my pocket to Lafayette Park, and I found the organizers -- who are from New York, by the way -- and I said, hey, I'm, you know, do you know who I am? And they're like, no. And I was like, oh, well, I'm Adam Eidinger. I'd be happy to speak at your event, if you want me to speak. I worked on the marijuana initiative, we legalized in DC. They just didn't know who I was. And I was very polite about it, though, because, you know, I'm a younger activist, and these are older activists who were doing this.

And then I said, by the way, so, how's the smoking going to go down, are we all going to do it together? And they're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We're not going to smoke here. What do you mean, we're not going to smoke here. Well, you can go down the street and smoke, I was like, actually it's illegal to smoke down the street, it's just as illegal down there as it is to smoke right here. So why don't we just do it here, because this is a protest. And I tried to talk them into doing a smoke-in, because they're calling it a smoke-in.

And they didn't actually -- they didn't actually appreciate what I was saying at all. And they said, you know, you're going to mess this up for us, we're going to get our permit revoked. And I was like, permit for what? I mean, what do you have the permit -- you have a sound permit. You don't really need a permit to have sound in this park, I've done it many times without a permit. Well, you know, we're in the park, as a group, and I was like, that's fine, you're in a park as a group. It's a constitutional right. So why do you have a permit in the first place. And I was like, the permit should say you can smoke. It doesn't say that? No. And I was like, well, is this civil disobedience or not. I mean, you called it a smoke-in. And they said this is not civil disobedience. And I said, well, if I smoke right now, it's on me, it's not on you. At this point, they were like, they decided, hell with this, this guy's, you know, they were getting angry and upset because I was challenging them. They went and got the Secret Service, they went and got the Park Police, and had the Park Police escort me out of the park.

This happened on this past July Fourth. So, I'm anti-July Fourth now, for the reason that the people who advertise it as a smoke-in don't really do a smoke-in. Our group, DCMJ, advertised a smoke-in in front of the White House. DC NORML joined and a few other -- quite a few regional NORML chapters, on their own, decided to come. You know, MASSCAN sent a decent sized delegation. It was -- there were folks from North Carolina, folks from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware. Baltimore sent a decent contingent from Maryland. We were there, and it was a united, grassroots movement, and it was a very successful protest for our movement. It did not make us look bad.

And, you know, it's funny, when activists who believe in legalization ever try to gather and have a legalization rally, people want to end the drug war, it's not news that people are using drugs at those events. You know? It should be obvious. So, the media can get past it. They're like, well, of course you guys are going to use marijuana at your marijuana legalization rally. Of course. But, you guys are targeting the president, that's interesting. Why are you targeting the president? Oh, you don't think he's doing enough? And that was the whole point, it was, like, we need to put pressure on the president. He's not doing enough. And we're going to keep doing that, we're, you know, I don't know if this meeting at the White House is going to mean anything. It might just be for show. It might just be so they can say, see, we met with them and no, we're not going to do what you want. You know, that might be their attitude.

So, I -- we're not going to give up, though. We have to keep fighting, we have to get the next generation ready to fight. We are making progress, slowly but surely, through referendums and initiatives, and that's putting a lot of pressure on lawmakers to put together laws on how to create monopolies. But, I don't know. I'm, you know, there's, no one protest is going to end the drug war, and no one policy is perfect, so we're just -- we're all human beings, we're struggling. I do think there's a change of attitude about marijuana that's pretty fundamental in the nation's capitol right now, and that's a beautiful thing.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with my friend Adam Eidinger from DC Marijuana Justice, DCMJ. We spoke outside the United Nations building in mid-April during the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs. The meeting at the White House, which Adam mentioned, did take place. Unfortunately the meeting was off the record, the two representatives of the Office of National Drug Control Policy with whom he met would not even give him copies of their business cards. Still, I applaud him for getting in the door.

You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now, here's part of a three-way interview that I was part of. The next voice you hear will be my friend Doug Fine, the noted author and hemp advocate, then you'll hear my friend Enrico Fletzer, an Italian radical journalist and drug policy reform advocate.

DOUG FINE: You were talking about your duty, your duty to be here. Why drug policy? Why did you dedicate your life to doing this?

ENRICO FLETZER: Not really because of marijuana consumption, which I've used since I was 12. There's another question is, the fact is, big injustice has grown up out of that. For instance, in Italy, it was just -- I mean, like, recently, just, John Ehrlichman, which in German sounds like "honest man," John Ehrlichman is German for honest man. He said it was just a mechanism to throw out black people and the anti-war movement, out of the political scene, to turn everything on the right side. So the similar things were experienced in Europe, because in the '80s, after there was a big -- people, lots of people, committed suicide, being arrested for a few grams of hashish or cannabis. Then, the Italian population in '93 decided to overturn that, and decriminalize. Again, another rightwing government, led by the fascists, started to recriminalize, equalling marijuana with heroin, etc., and making all the people needing treatment to go out and do drugs, and vice versa. So it's really -- it's a really screwed situation, that drug policy cannot be, up to the, maybe, the surgeons, and doctors, and to put it up in the police because stigma is a very important fact in the drug repression.

For instance, lots of people being killed in Italy, just because they've said, okeh, they're drug addicts, etc. So it's really an excuse to kill people in the jail system. There were many cases. Maybe you've seen the picture of Stefano Cucchi, which became like a monster, like in Auschwitz, the concentration camp. He was kept prisoner by the hospital, by the prison wardens, by the military police, the normal police, except that nobody knows yet what happened out of him. So, this total institution, where you get up like that, you die. And he was registered first as Albanian homeless, which is enough to be probably mistreated by the police. If you are registered Albanian homeless, you are fucked.

DOUG FINE: Yikes. Oh, gosh. Well, let me step back a minute onto the drug policy thing and bring our good friend Doug McVay, and a great journalist and a good friend I've now, I've known for several years. His interviews with me are always the most indepth, so I'm trying to bring my A game to my fellow journalist. What do you -- what would we say, Doug, if we take a step back from Enrico was saying, and say, okeh, thank you, Nixon administration, for manufacturing this modern war. Or even further, I walked into a Kentucky conservative's office, and his first question for me was, in the US Congress: should we raise the THC level for hemp? And I thought, don't you guys understand that if you allow cannabis, ganja, hemp, it's all one plant. If you allow it back, really, like you should of course, we win, because the ramifications of a cannabis society, and the way that we can communicate, the way that we're all communicating right now, thanks to our endocannabinoid systems, it's the next step forward in a good way. Like, the stereotypical Republican values, let's say, and I'm not a Democrat -- our Puritanism is over. Doug, what's your reaction to that.

DOUG MCVAY: You could make the argument I think pretty strongly that Nixon in a way did a favor by cracking down, by trashing the Shafer Commission report. Because he upset a lot of people who thought that doing things the nice, calm, easy way, and letting government take its slow but steady way, was going to work. And whoops, it didn't. So, all right, we have to do something. The Yippies had already been fighting for marijuana rights, and so NORML started working with them a little bit. Keith, for all his faults, back in those days, was willing to reach out to the hippies. NORML has a back and forth with the Yippies and with the freedom movement, but we're never going to go away.

And, I mean, you saw it in Clinton. The beginning of the Clinton years, drug policy reform took a major step backward, because we stopped putting the pressure on. Bush was gone, the Reagan years were over, now Clinton, hey, he even smoked weed, we know he's going to be our boy. Everything's going to be just fine. I heard someone even talking about that during an open, one of the few open board meetings that NORML had back then. And of course that's not what happened.

If you track the growth of drug courts under Bill Clinton, and drug courts were begun by his attorney general Janet Reno, when she was the attorney general of Florida. If you track the growth of drug courts in the United States, and you put a chart next to that of the growth of drug arrests in the United States, particularly marijuana arrests, they track side by -- they track very closely. I mean, that's what drove this massive increase. We created a situation with drug courts where we could easily process drug offenders, as long as, you know, they were -- well, the way that they'd put it is, if they had a good chance of becoming, of being successful, of getting clean. The other way of looking at it is, if they were white, middle class, and had enough money to afford a good lawyer, those were the ones who got through the program and made it out fine, because they didn't have a drug problem in the first place, but by gosh, cherry picking like that makes the court statistics look good. And, instead of making it easier to process so that the courts would, you know, finally get breathing room, we expand the number of people going in, because we want to keep this system at maximum stress.

It took years for people to figure this out. When we finally did, well, when we finally did, it was time for Bush. And during that, of course, we knew that things were tough, so organize, organize. Obama in 2008, yay! I even stopped working full time on drug policy so I could get a job with a dispensary, before everybody else jumped in. And, you know two years later, having grown more and more frustrated and seeing the greed in the industry, and the lip service being paid to drug policy, and friends who should have known better -- I'm back in. Just when I thought I was out, they drag me back in again.

That was an interview with myself, the author Doug Fine, and the radical journalist Enrico Fletzer. We were in the Katherine Hepburn Memorial Garden at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in New York City. The conversation took place during the UN General Assembly Special Session on drugs. We'll have more from that event in future programs.

Here's a portion of an interview I did with Billy Murphy, Jr. Billy Murphy is an attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, and he represented the family of Freddie Gray, a young man who was murdered by Baltimore police in April of 2015.

JUDGE BILLY MURPHY, JR.: I have a lot of faith in today's young people. They seem to be disconnected from the old ways, and that's good. But, sometimes, they're a little too disconnected, because they don't read about the old ways. They don't understand how we got here. And, for them, just go back and read about Richard Nixon and what he did to join the bigotry of the south into the Republican party. It was called the Southern Strategy. Remember that the Republicans had the majority of the votes for the Civil Rights Act of '64 and the Voting Rights Act of '65, which revolutionized the American south, but it didn't change many minds.

And, then Richard Nixon came along. In order to beat a really, really great progressive leader, Hubert Humphrey, who was President Johnson's vice president, he came up with that Southern Strategy, to get all of the arch-segregationists, all of the overt bigots, all of the overt racists, who were in charge of every southern state. All of that leadership: US senators, congresspersons, governors, legislators, a completely racist bunch. He invited them to join the Republican Party as their new home. He didn't want them there so that he could subject them to a re-education. He brought them there to accommodate their racism.

And since '68, the Republicans have two general philosophies. One, let's do everything corporate America wants, and number two, let's keep people divided in the south and wherever else we can divide them, on the basis of the color of their skin, so that they could be easily manipulated. And that's what you've seen over the past many, many years. So Republicans ought to understand that, and they don't. And they don't understand why that's been the home of racism ever since 1968, and they won't. And so Republicans need to know that ever time that they vote for saving taxes, they're stuck with the whole agenda, that whole racist agenda.

And you see it manifesting in Donald Trump today. You see it manifesting in Ted Cruz. These are two men who've never done anything to solve the problem created by racism in America, solve the problems of poverty, this, that, and the other. You've got one who's a narcissist, and the other who is just a calculating, miserable human being. And so we have a choice between those two on the Republican side, and Republicans only have themselves to blame, because they've nurtured this racism, they've kept it going, ever since 1968.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Billy Murphy, a criminal defense attorney and Baltimore political activist who represented the family of Freddie Gray, a young man who was murdered in Baltimore in April of 2015.

And that's it for today. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends.

A quick shout-out to the radio stations and streaming services which carry Century Of Lies. Thank you for your support. If you're interested in carrying Century Of Lies or any of the fine programming on the Drug Truth Network, full-length programs in high-definition audio are available from the Pacifica Foundation's audioport or directly from the Drug Truth website at DrugTruth.net.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.