10/21/16 Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz re police murders of drug users in Philippines, Jill Stein Green Party Candidate for President, Governor Newsome of CA for legalization, wife of Utah Gov Cand busted for medical cannabis

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Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, October 21, 2016
Guest: 
Maia Szalavitz
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

OCTOBER 21, 2016

TRANSCRIPT

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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: 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. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. We've got a lot of stuff, let's get to it.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: I am Maia Szalavitz, I am the author of the New York Times bestseller Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way Of Understanding Addiction, and I've written about addiction, drugs, and drug policy for I guess like almost the last 30 years.

DEAN BECKER: Maia, there was a great article, appeared in the Washington Post earlier this month, why we ignore thousands of killings in the Philippines. The victims were drug users. Outline what you presented in that piece, please.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Sure. Well, the rhetoric of the American drug war dehumanizes people who use drugs. And it's, that is the kind of dehumanization that has unfortunately been done to groups that have been subjected to genocide in the past, and what's going on in the Philippines is basically a genocide aimed at drug users, and that sounds really exaggerated and bizarre, until you listen to Rodrigo Duterte, who is the president of the Philippines, saying that he is like Hitler and wants to kill millions of people.

So, this is not coming from the outside, it's himself saying that I am committing genocide, ha ha ha, basically. I mean, it's horrifying.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. There was a recent interview of President Duterte by, I think it was Al Jazeera, and he was speaking in English and saying this out loud, very much what you just indicated.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: No, it's really shocking, and really depressing, and the problem is that, I mean, one of the things I mentioned in the Post was, you know, there were some Jewish organizations that were like, this is outrageous, you know, you shouldn't be comparing drug users to Jewish people, and it's like, wait a minute, you shouldn't be dehumanizing anybody. Like, nobody deserves to be killed for being a member of some group. If it's okeh to use alcohol and tobacco, without getting shot in the street, why should we shoot people who use other substances in the street? I mean, it's just disgusting.

And the idea that this is a war on crime or a war on pushers, or anything like that, I mean, you don't end up solving drug problems this way. We know that harsh prohibition has failed, again and again and again. So, this is really about a man who wants power, and is terrorizing his people, and is killing poor people to do it.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And I think the latest statistics indicate something like 3,800 people have been shot for quote being drug users, and that about 1,500 of them were by police forces, but the majority of them are just people accusing their neighbors or someone they suspect is a drug user, and just leaving their body in the street. Correct?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, and it's very hard to know, especially from this distance, what is going on in terms of, you know, how much coordination there is between the police and the vigilantes, and, you know, what of this is just freelance killing. You know, it's -- not surprisingly, people are terrified, and staying home, and not speaking out. I have the luxury of doing this as I am safely here in America, but, you know, it's -- the other thing that is completely horrifying about this is that there are about 600,000 or so people that turned themselves in, that put their names on a list, thinking that this would keep them safe from being executed summarily. And some of them have just been put in horrifyingly overcrowded prisons, which look like concentration camp pictures. And some, you know, some have been killed anyway. I mean, it's just so distressing and depressing, and sad.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, and I've seen some pictures of those jails in the Philippines, and there's not room to sit down, let alone lay down, in many of those cells, they are just crammed full of people. Correct?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Yes. I mean, it's really, you know, my father was a Holocaust survivor, and so this is, obviously, sensitizes me to this, but it's just like, I couldn't look at those pictures because it was just like looking at pictures of the Holocaust. I mean, it was horrifying. And, you know, what amazes me is just that, like, why would you shoot somebody in order to prevent them from harming themselves?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Very good --

MAIA SZALAVITZ: I mean, it does not make very much sense. Now presumably you might shoot them as an example to others, who might be thinking about harming themselves, but if you understand why people use drugs, you will understand that you cannot eradicate this activity from human life. There has never been a culture that doesn't have drug use.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. You know, this piece that you had in the Washington Post, and I've seen a handful of others that talk about this situation in the Philippines, but it hasn't really gotten the focus that I think it deserves, due to the just the horror that's being inflicted. Your thought in that regard, Maia.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, I kind of think also, like, the election is just sucking up all the media at the moment. I, you know, Americans are not very good about paying attention to foreign news, and that's an ongoing problem. But, you know, the other issue here is that the United States has sort of tried to tiptoe around it carefully because the Philippines are strategically situated with regard to China, and I guess they thought they might be able to do something diplomatically by not calling them out, but this does not seem to be happening.

But I do think part of the reason that this isn't getting the kind of attention it would get at a normal time is simply the Trump campaign.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I want to read just a little section of this piece you had in the Washington Post, it says, "for example, a 1914 article written by a doctor was headline, quote, 'Negro cocaine fiends are a new southern menace,' end quote." You go on to say it claimed that cocaine made black people more resistant to bullets, and turned them into better marksmen, producing a quote race menace. It's the same old same old, isn't it?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Yes. I mean, racism is the heart of the drug war. There is no drug war without racism. The reason that we have the drug war is because certain people wanted to come down on races that they didn't like. And all of our drug laws, with the exception of the law that created the FDA, have come about for explicitly racist or colonialist reasons. And this sounds like I'm a crazy leftie or something when I say this, but as you can tell from those quotes that I read, it is just straightforwardly racist, it's not at all hidden.

DEAN BECKER: No. No, and, you know, the same was said, Mexicans would smoke weed and rape white women, on down the line. It's just been a means to an end of, well, or a beginning of eternal war on plant usage.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Yeah. What's very strange about it is that drug policy is not about drugs. If we are actually concerned about people's health, we know how to deal with addiction. But we're not concerned about people's health, we're concerned about oppressing people that we don't like, and we're concerned about threats to society that actually aren't related to drugs, that we project onto drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, you know, Maia, this is, hope it's not an indication of a re-escalation of drug war mindset, it seems to have been fading significantly, here in the United States, but we still have a long way to go, do we not?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, absolutely. I mean, today, the New York -- the US Attorney in New York announced that he's going to start prosecuting drug dealers for murder in relation to overdoses, which is another failed drug war strategy. And I was really quite horrified to learn that. But, yeah, I mean, I feel like we're getting the last gasps of it, hopefully, and I do think that the fact that so many of the opioid users that are afflicted now by addiction, and that are dying from overdose, are white, is changing things, and that's sad, but if it changes for the good because of that, that will be good.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Again, friends, we're speaking with Maia Szalavitz. She's a journalist, an author, and author of a great book, on the New York Times bestselling list, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary Way Of Understanding Addiction. Maia, you know, you are what I consider to be a real drug reformer, I think probably 99 out of a hundred drug reformers deal strictly with marijuana, it's their one drug and they could give a damn about the other drugs. So, would you talk about that situation, your understanding of that?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Sure. I mean, I think unfortunately we have had this dialogue that is basically, well, my drug is good and your drug is bad. In fact, my drug isn't even a drug. And that's why alcohol isn't a drug, and cigarettes aren't a drug. And we're trying to create a marijuana exception for that, and I think that is actually dangerous. I think it's certainly the case that marijuana is one of the least harmful psychoactive substances, and it certainly should never have been made illegal.

But, locking people up for possession of any psychoactive substance does not make any more sense than locking people up for eating a doughnut when they're on a diet. It just doesn't work. It does harm. It doesn't solve the problem it's meant to solve. It imposes costs on society. It inflicts racism, I mean, it's just bad. There is no reason to do it. If we want to have better public health, there are just so many better ways of getting there.

DEAN BECKER: Right. No, and it's so true. Well, Maia, I want to thank you for this article. I want to thank you for your commitment to exposing this, oh, I'll try to be polite, this damn drug war for what it is, an imposition on our rights, freedoms, and just liberty to be who we want to be.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Absolutely. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: Is there a website you might want to recommend, some closing thoughts you'd like to share?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: I just hope that we will move past this terrible phase of our history, and look back on it and say what the heck were we thinking? And, you know, create public policy that actually promotes public health.

DEAN BECKER: This week, instead of our usual Name That Drug By Its Side Effects, we have the following, the only positive information coming forward from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

JACK RILEY: I'm Jack Riley, Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and I want to take a minute today to talk to you about something very important. As a matter of fact, it could kill you, and that's Fentanyl.

Fentanyl now is being sold as heroin in virtually every corner of our country. It's produced clandestinely in Mexico, and comes directly from China. It is 40 to 50 times stronger than street level heroin. A very small amount ingested, or absorbed through your skin, can kill you.

Many times people that purchase this on the street or sell it on the street have no idea it's Fentanyl, and just how deadly a minute amount can be.

DEAN BECKER: Again, the reason it's on the street: drug prohibition. And who loves drug prohibition the most? The DEA.

VOICEOVER: When legalizing safe, responsible, adult use of marijuana, the most important question is how. By voting yes on Prop 64, adults 21 and over could only purchase marijuana at licensed marijuana businesses. And Prop 64 bans advertising directed at kids, requires strict product labeling, childproof packaging, and bans edibles that appeal to children.

Smart provisions to safeguard our families. Learn more about the safeguards at YesOn64.org.

DEAN BECKER: A lot of the old heads in California don't want this to pass, because it will kill their golden goose. Can you imagine weed selling for under a hundred dollars a pound? They can't.

I'm at the Last Concert Cafe with one of the candidates running for president of these United States. I'm proud to be sitting here with Jill Stein. Hello, Jill.

JILL STEIN: It's great to with you. Thanks so much, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Jill, I, you know, as you travel the country you get bombarded with questions about all sorts of things, I'm sure, but I have one particular focus, and it is the drug war. It impacts nearly every aspect of living on this planet. I've seen some of your videos, talking about your understanding of this, and, you know, I'd just like to thank you for speaking boldly about the need for change.

JILL STEIN: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: I'm not giving you a question there, am I. Okeh, the point I want to get to, Ms. Stein, is this, that, you know the other candidates, Republican and Democrat, have briefly touched upon the subject of need for change to our criminal justice system. But at no point have I heard any discussion about the drug war itself, or the prohibition which creates the problems attributed to drug use, and I was wondering if you would delve into that aspect of justice.

JILL STEIN: Right. So, it's the prohibition that really creates the incredible danger and violence, and the true threats to our health and safety, that are attached to drugs. So for marijuana, for example, you know, marijuana is a substance which is dangerous because it's illegal. If it were not illegal, it would be far safer than alcohol and nicotine. So the solution there is to legalize marijuana for starters, because it is the workhorse of the whole drug economy. By legalizing marijuana we basically pull the rug out from under the rest of the illegal drug economy.

And we call for treating all substance use as a public health issue, not as a criminal issue. That includes for example ending the incarceration of people who should not be in prison in the first place, for the recreational use of substances that are safer than smoking and drinking. So, that means discharging them from prison, sending them home with not only job training but with a job. And that means also respecting their human rights, their right to vote, their right to access housing support, to access education, loans, et cetera. We need to reintegrate people who've been unjustly stolen from their families.

DEAN BECKER: So well said. Thank you for that. And I want to kind of, you know, I mentioned that the drug war impacts so many aspects of life on this planet, and of course it impacts this perceived need to do things like search and seizures, to focus on black and Hispanic communities, to have the impact be on those less able to defend themselves in the long run, and it's run off the rails, I guess is what I'm suggesting. Do you think I'm right?

JILL STEIN: Oh, absolutely, and we've had this explosion of mass incarceration, and actually we can look to the Clinton crime bill of the 1990s, that opened the floodgates to mass incarceration, and essentially this war on black and brown people that incarcerated them at far higher rates than, you know, than the rest of the community out there. So we've been filling our jails with poor people, with people whose schools have been underfunded and recently are under attack, and part of a school to prison pipeline, which is part of this high stakes testing, corporatization of our education system, the charterization of our schools, and the militarization of our schools as well, that promotes this movement from schools into prisons, even of our children. So this is, you know, this is an absolute outrage.

And we also, we outsource this drug war, and we provide, you know, a lot of money, and I don't have the numbers offhand, but a huge amount of money to governments south of the border, in particular Mexico, this Merida plan, or Plan Merida, you know, which is about conducting our drug war, however if we simply legalized, you know, decriminalized drugs, legalized marijuana, it would just take the energy out of this violent drug trade and the cartels to start with. Over 150,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the last, you know, within the last two terms, since this war on drugs has, you know, has been, very much, you know, powered by the US government.

DEAN BECKER: Oh yeah, forced at the point of a gun, almost.

JILL STEIN: Oh, very much.

DEAN BECKER: I know we've got just a couple of minutes left, and I want to talk about another story that seems to be ignored. I've seen it mentioned on CNN, but this new president of the Philippines.

JILL STEIN: Oh, yes, yes.

DEAN BECKER: Duterte, I think is his name. He has given license so to speak to his police and to the populace to kill the drug users. This -- I said our drug war has gone off the rails, his has gone over the cliff. And I was wondering if you'd address that, this belief in drug war has never produced any of the desired results, has it?

JILL STEIN: Oh, well, no, it hasn't, and, I mean, there are all kinds of human rights violations that get caught up in this, because a lot of people who are getting killed, just like in Mexico, you know, are not part of the drug trade at all, they're just innocent people who are getting targeted, and a lot of it is the press, who's just doing reporting on this, you know, and they're being assassinated. And there are students, you know, who are standing up for just their democratic rights, that are also being murdered by this, this militarized government that has all these weapons, and they've got all this, you know, this, these drug militias that are, you know, going off the rails, totally, and devastating human rights altogether. So, yes.

DEAN BECKER: If I could bring this back to maybe where I started this, and that is, here in the United States, we have a prime example, you know, we had alcohol prohibition in the 20s and 30s of the last century, and we learned our lesson, we said, okeh, let's tax and regulate that for adults, let's let the, let's stop the kids from carrying buckets of beer for criminals, let's stop the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, but today, nearly every day of the year, there is a St. Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago, two or three people killed, ten or twelve wounded, and no one wants to drill down to the reason for that. Yes, they're poor people, yes, they're in bad neighborhoods, but at the heart of it is the power, the influence of this drug war. Would you address that, as we close up, Ms. Stein?

JILL STEIN: Yeah. Okeh, so the drug war is, it's both a symptom and a cause of this ongoing chaos and poverty and hopelessness. So, this is not rocket science, how to fix it, as you mentioned. We interrupted the violence, we ended the violence surrounding the prohibition of alcohol, simply by legalizing, taxing, and regulating alcohol. We need to do the same thing for marijuana, and as president, I would do a really radical thing, which is to instruct the DEA to use science, use science in determining what substances should and should not be listed, and the minute that happens, both marijuana and hemp come off that list of scheduled substances, and we would promote their legalization.

At the same time, you know, instead of spending all this money on drug enforcement, and I might add on border enforcement as well, including on this very regressive and violent immigration policy, or I should say anti-immigration policy, you know, what we need to do, number one, is stop creating an immigration crisis, and how do we stop creating an immigration crisis? One thing we do is end the drug war, because that's creating a lot of the violence that's forcing people to become refugees. And number two, we renegotiate NAFTA, and we stop the Trans Pacific Partnership, so that we have fair trade agreements, not trade agreements that are putting people, farmers in particular out of business, and then, you know, and not only do they have to flee here to find jobs, but we also create poverty, and it's the poverty which helps drive people, you know, towards drug, the drug trade, because it's the only job that they can get.

And then finally we have to stop invading other countries, and driving people here as political refugees from the violence that results, like in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, where we participated in the overthrow of three democracies. So, it's not rocket science how to fix this. We're creating this problem, which makes it a very easy problem to solve, and we can create a, you know, a more just, sustainable, and healthy economy, and world, for us all, by doing the right thing. And we can easily start here, by putting an end to these racist, violent, counterproductive drug wars.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you so much.

JILL STEIN: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: I appreciate it.

JILL STEIN: I appreciate all you're doing.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy KUSI.

ALLEN DENTON: Our top story: it's one of the most controversial issues on the ballot, legalizing marijuana, and tonight, one of California's leaders was in San Diego to endorse it.

SANDRA MAAS: Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsome is a proponent of Prop 64. KUSI's Sasha Foo spoke with him. She brings us the story in tonight's Prop Report. Sasha?

SASHA FOO: Sandra and Allen, there's probably no state official with more thorough knowledge of the marijuana issue than Gavin Newsom. California's Lieutenant Governor organized a blue ribbon panel back in 2013 to start looking at some of the consequences of legalizing marijuana. All of that was prep work for a decision that Gavin Newsom calls a game changer.

GAVIN NEWSOM: To me, this is a social justice issue. This is a criminal justice, this is about racial justice, this is about economic justice. I think the war on drugs has been an abject failure.

SASHA FOO: Surrounded by other advocates for legalizing marijuana, a religious leader, a former prosecutor, a mother whose son was convicted of marijuana use, Newsome says he's supporting this measure because of what he sees as the devastating effects of making marijuana illegal.

GAVIN NEWSOM: I think the war on drugs has been a war on poor people. I think the war on drugs has been a war on people of color. I think the war on drugs has failed us. I am not pro-cannabis, I'm anti-prohibition.

GRETCHEN BERGMAN: This disastrous war continues to ensnare tens of thousands of people in the criminal justice system in our state, every year.

SASHA FOO: Gretchen Bergman is the executive director of a parents group that supports Prop 64. In 1991, her 20-year-old son was arrested for marijuana possession. In asking for the prohibition to be lifted, Bergman says, this will keep people like her son from being punished.

GRETCHEN BERGMAN: The violence that he got subjected to behind bars was just, you know, he's kind of a gentle soul, so it was a terrible experience, and he's just one of so many.

SASHA FOO: The lieutenant governor covered a broad range of topics, from taxation:

GAVIN NEWSOM: Fifteen percent tax, sales tax, would apply at the local level, sales tax would be exempted for medical marijuana.

SASHA FOO: He also said that towns and cities would have local control, to make their own rules on marijuana businesses.

GAVIN NEWSOM: For example, if your community feels that it's not right for you, we give local control.

SASHA FOO: If voters decide to make marijuana legal, people who are convicted for some marijuana offenses can have their records wiped clean.

GRETCHEN BERGMAN: My son, for example, can go back and get his record expunged.

SASHA FOO: Newsom says passing Prop 64 won't make the drug cartels disappear.

GAVIN NEWSOM: That said, 20 percent of the money that's dedicated from this is going to go to law enforcement, to target the black market, to go after the cartels.

SASHA FOO: He sees the greatest good in ending the war on drugs and restoring social justice.

GAVIN NEWSOM: This is a game changer for this state, it's a game changer for this country. The war on drugs as we know it cannot perpetuate itself without a war on cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment comes to us courtesy of Fox out of Utah, talking about the gubernatorial race.

DORA SCHEIDELL: And on the Democratic side, one candidate is dealing with a police investigation for pot possession. Fox 13's Ben Winslow reports.

BEN WINSLOW: Over at the state Democratic party convention, a stunning announcement from the nominee for governor: his wife is facing a criminal investigation for using marijuana.

MIKE WEINHOLTZ: She has only used cannabis for medical reasons, for relief of chronic pain.

BEN WINSLOW: Donna Weinholtz says she was told Wednesday she was under investigation by police. She says she uses marijuana to treat arthritis.

DONNA WEINHOLTZ: I don't believe in abusing any substance, I don't believe in abusing alcohol, I don't believe in abusing this, and this is not what this is about. This is about being able to sleep, and being able to relax, and not have the pain from arthritis, and I know that folks out there that are like that know what I'm talking about.

BEN WINSLOW: Mike Weinholtz says they disclosed it to be transparent to voters.

MIKE WEINHOLTZ: And we're happy to be the public face for this issue now, and we hope it will help all Utahans, which is why we got into this race in the first place.

DEAN BECKER: Well, folks, that's about all we've got time for this week. I hope you appreciate the caliber of the guests that we're bringing to you, as you remember that, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag -- just as the DEA told you. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.