02/19/17 Earl Blumenauer

This week we speak with Kymone Freeman, who's an activist, playwright, and founder of We Act Radio, about marijuana legalization and political protest, plus we hear from Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) about the formation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Century of Lies
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Earl Blumenauer
Download: Audio icon col021917.mp3



FEBRUARY 19, 2017


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.

Radio is a tremendously powerful medium. Radio is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to communicate information and ideas to great numbers of people, so it's hugely valuable for political organizing and advocacy. Obviously, I'm biased, yet it's true.

My guest today, Kymone Freeman, is quite familiar with the power of radio. Kymone Freeman is a poet, an activist working on equitable economic development, an award winning playwright, the producer of #AnacostiaUnmapped on NPR, subject of the book Beat of A Different Drum: Untold Stories of African Americans Forging Their Own Paths in Work and Life, from Hyperion Books, and he is the co-founder of We Act Radio. Kymone, how are you doing today?

KYMONE FREEMAN: In the words of the great film The Network, I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking it anymore.

DOUG MCVAY: Excellent.Tell folks about We Act Radio.

KYMONE FREEMAN: We Act Radio is DC's only independent broadcast media station. We're located on the radical side of Martin Luther King Avenue, in Anacostia. For those who do not know, Anacostia is the underbelly of the nation's capitol. It is in the poorest area of the most powerful city on the planet, and so there lies, you know, the disparity, I should say the inequity, between the power of K Street and the poverty on Martin Luther King Avenue.

DOUG MCVAY: It's a huge part of the city, it's a major population center, yet it was never served by a -- by the subway, for -- did they finally open up a subway station in Anacostia a few years ago?

KYMONE FREEMAN: Yes, the Green Line was the last line to open inside DC, yes.

DOUG MCVAY: And yet it's still horribly underserved, in every sort of sense. But it's --

KYMONE FREEMAN: Well, Anacostia has come up. We've, you know, because of -- not because of the city, by and large, but because of the people who live and work there. We have a museum, we have a theater, we have a radio station, you know, we have a health food store, you know. We have an arts center. All this is in Anacostia, you know. The French government issued a travel advisory to its citizens to not venture to Anacostia when they come to the nation's capitol, because it's not safe, despite the fact that most of the robberies occur on the other side of town. So, when they had their last terrorist attack, we issued a travel advisory to DC residents not to travel to France because it's too dangerous.

DOUG MCVAY: It's a new administration. And we have a new attorney general, J. Beauregard Sessions III. Now, we've seen the first executive orders on criminal justice policy and civil rights. We know what Beauregard has had to say over the years. How do you think things are shaping up in this brave new world, as far as the criminal justice and civil rights aspects are concerned?

KYMONE FREEMAN: It's a beautiful mess, I tell you. May you live in exciting times. This -- you know, some people, you know, there was like a whole, you know, I'm going to leave the country, and, you know, it's, the world is coming to an end, and dah dah dah. And I was, like, celebrating. I was like, yes! You think, the world, this world that, of inequity, and fascism, and racism, yes, that world needs to end. You hear what I'm saying? So, I'm cheering that, I'm like, and leave the country? You think I would leave the country and miss this? This is the -- I'm like George Carlin, I mean, we've got a front row seat right here.

So, I'm just so excited, because this is, you know, I've been waiting for this moment my entire life, where it's, the moment where I can sit and say, as an angry black man in therapy, that this world, this country, is corrupt, and it needs to change. And the vast majority of people would say, yep, you're right. So, we are in uncharted territory. I'm looking at this, not as a celebration of the totalitarian government that we've always had. I'm looking at it as an act of desperation, this is an act of desperation from desperate people, taking desperate measures, to the point that they will, you know, elect this guy, you know, who has appointed cabinet -- people in this cabinet who are the wealthiest cabinet in the history of this entire country, by the way.

But, every person he has nominated for cabinet positions is there explicitly to gut whatever agency they've been entrusted with. And we know this. There's no other way around it, it's in your face, it's irrefutable, you know, and he has really been the cure for an apathetic public who otherwise would look the other way and then just say, oh, well the president's doing the best he can, and, you know, or whatever.

All those things are gone out the window. And within his first 30 days, he is, like, two sentences away from impeachment proceedings, because, if this guy, his former National Security Adviser, if this guy says that Trump asked me to do this, Trump sent me to do this, I was there at the request of the president-elect, then that's going to be it for him. And then of course, you know, we would have our Vice President become President, who's going to be even worse, by the way. So, this is like white supremacy's last stand.

America has an identity crisis. Either we're going to remain a white, racist, capitalistic, everything's for sale society, or we're going to become a multi-cultural, social, socialist democracy that uplifts everybody. It's going to be one or the other, and however it goes down, it's going to happen in our lifetime. So, it's an exciting -- it's very exciting to be alive right now.

DOUG MCVAY: Well again folks, our guest today is Kymone Freeman, he's a political activist, an organizer, a writer, a playwright, journalist, he's also the co-owner and program director of We Act Radio in Washington, DC. Now, let's get to the drug policy thing for a minute. It's a show about drug policy, you know. Got to get that stuff in here somewhere.

A lot of people have been protesting against the new administration, its policies, and its cabinet choices. Some people in the marijuana industry argued for a wait and see approach, they think that the money being made by marijuana businesses will be enough to convince people like Beauregard Sessions that weed should just be left alone. Those people are even saying that protests could paint Sessions and the new president into a corner. Because, you know, critics bringing up things that people have said are ultimately the real problem, not these long-held deeply personal political and cultural biases, prejudices, and the like, it's entirely our fault.

What do you think about that kind of -- yeah, I'm being sarcastic. What do you think about that kind of argument?

KYMONE FREEMAN: I think that kind of argument just goes to serve, to reinforce, this notion of the golden rule, whoever has the gold makes the rules. They think that because they have created a billion dollar industry, that was built upon the backs of incarcerated people of color around this country, and the white, predominantly white people who have profited off of this newly created, legal industry, will be safe because of their wealth and their whiteness. That has to be said.

But, that is a false narrative, because no one is safe from fascism. No one is safe from totalitarianism. This country is teetering on the brink of despotism, and they think that the old rules will apply to them, that the good old boy network will protect them. And that's not the case, because Sessions doesn't care anything about their rights, Trump doesn't care anything about their whiteness. They need to recognize that if they -- no one's clear on what their position on, at least I don't know, I haven't heard them address this, Sessions was just confirmed like a week ago, so I don't think they have even made a statement on this right now, because they've got their hands full with other things.

But the potential, the threat, of them coming down heavy-handedly on the newly created, legalized I should say, marijuana industry, is very real, and it would be to their detriment if they do decide to do that, because that would just join -- reinforce the opposition party, you know, and I would hope that they would come down on it, because we need all the help that we can get to, you know, all hands on deck, to take on this system and resist it completely. But, if they don't, then those people, for aforementioned reasons, would think that they're fine and they're safe, and this is not their fight, and they will stay quiet and continue to count their money, and do their business.

So I would like to see everyone affected by this regime, everyone needs to be touched. You know, as they say, well first they came for the Jews, and then they came for the Muslims, and then they came for the blacks, you know, and then they came for the weed, and then, now, okeh. Because weed cuts across class, race, you know, ethnicity, religion, dah dah dah dah. You know, I've smoked marijuana with people from all over the world, you know, it's one of those common things that everyone can enjoy, at least have enjoyed at some point in their lives, you know?

So when you talk about criminalizing it, or de-legalizing, I don't know what the word is when it has been decriminalized, legalized, and then you're going to criminalize it again. I mean, like, what's the word for that? But, I would like to see them try it, because we need to take these people out of their comfort zone, and we need to have all hands on decks to join the opposition party, to resist this regime that's now in power.

DOUG MCVAY: You are 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. We're in the middle of a conversation with Kymone Freeman, founder of We Act Radio, activist, journalist, a playwright. We'll be back to that conversation in just a moment.

But first, on Capitol Hill last week, this happened.

US REPRESENTATIVE EARL BLUMENAUER: I would like to thank my colleagues, Congressman Young -- good! Congressman Polis, and especially Dana Rohrabacher, with whom I've had the privilege to work on an ongoing basis. We formed a Cannabis Working Group in 2013, so that staff members of people who care about this legislation could come together and figure out approaches in a cooperative basis, and we've had some significant successes. Dana referenced one of them.

But now it's time for a formal Cannabis Caucus. I've been working in this space literally for decades. I was part of the Oregon Legislature when Oregon became the first state in the Union to decriminalize marijuana. I've been deeply concerned about the gap between where the public is, what is rational policy, and where the federal government is.

It's interesting to note that this movement to legalize cannabis has been driven at the state and local level. We, starting in California in 1996, Oregon, Arizona, with medical marijuana. We saw in 2012, and my colleague Jared Polis will talk maybe a little bit about the Colorado experience. We saw this wave crest this November, with 8 states moving successful ballot measures to expand adult use or medical marijuana. We're at the point now where 95 percent of the American public are in states or territories where some aspect of marijuana, or medical marijuana, is available.

So it's time for us to move with this bipartisan caucus. There's a lot of work to be done. We've had over two dozen pieces of legislation, successful amendments, but now we're going to be focusing, in my judgment, on four critical areas. One is dealing with research, and we have bipartisan legislation with Congressman Harris, who isn't necessarily a fan of cannabis, but agrees that the federal government should not interfere with research, and we have, I've had bipartisan legislation with him.

We need to make sure that we have access for our veterans, who in many cases have had their lives transformed with medical marijuana. We need to make sure the Veterans Administration works with veterans in places where it's legal. That amendment passed both chambers, but somehow got lost in backroom dealing in the last Congress.

And most important, we need to deal with their practical business needs. They cannot, because of a provision called 280e, fully deduct their business expenses, requiring a much higher effective tax rate, and they have to pay those unfair taxes with cash, because of the banking prohibition, which is insane.

I've been working in this for years, I've never met a single person who thinks any policy objective is advanced by making this be an all-cash business.

These are areas that should not be necessarily partisan. They're not complex. They will make a big difference for the industry. And having a Cannabis Caucus, where we can work together formally, I think people will be surprised by the number of folks in the weeks ahead that will join up, on a bipartisan basis, to advance these objectives.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Representative Earl Blumenauer talking about the creation of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. That's right, folks, it's evolved from being a networking group, informal, of members who are interested in marijuana law reform, and who come from states where medical marijuana and or adult use marijuana is now being legally regulated, gone from an informal affiliated group to being a real, recognized, official Congressional caucus.

It's actually a major step in acknowleding that the marijuana laws have gone from something that -- decades ago, Congressman Charlie Rangel described marijuana legalization as "too dangerous" a topic to be discussed openly. Imagine, too dangerous to discuss a topic like marijuana legalization. That's simply madness. It's gone from that to now having an official Caucus on Capitol Hill devoted to marijuana legalization and marijuana law reform. It is a major step.

Now, let's get back to our conversation with Kymone Freeman, the journalist, activist, author, and playwright, and founder of We Act Radio.

Some folks in the marijuana movement are still working on reform. There have been a number of protests in DC that have actually made waves among other reformers. You've got tactics like a joint give-away, a smoke-in. I, you know, our good friend and colleague, Adam Eidinger, has been very upfront in a more confrontational sort of approach, and I used to work on smoke-ins back in the day and I'm still proud of that, it's --

KYMONE FREEMAN: Yes, shout outs to Adam Eidinger for single-handedly making weed practically legal here in the District of Columbia.

DOUG MCVAY: He's amazing, he's absolutely, I -- yeah.

KYMONE FREEMAN: He's a force. Adam is a force, I love him.

DOUG MCVAY: He is great. What do you think about those sorts of protests, these, those sort of in-your-face, you know, the, like I say, the joint give-away, the smoke-in? What do you -- what do you think about that? How does that reverberate in the community? We hear what the, what, you know, what the, I mean, we hear what the politicians and the stuffed shirts and the, you know, and the "don't rock the boat, we've got this wonderful business, don't," you know, we hear from those people because they can buy megaphones and talk loud. People like us have, you know, this is our platform. What do you think?

KYMONE FREEMAN: I love it, because Adam gets it. He understands that even though he's had a victory here, he is not going to rest on his laurels because he understands, just like Martin Luther King understood, is that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. He knows that just because he was successful here at decriminalizing it, that if he steps across this imaginary line, he could be arrested doing the same thing. So, that injustice still exists. This insane drug policy still exists. And he isn't going to rest until it no longer exists anywhere in this country.

I'm convinced of that. He's proven that time and time again. And I'm, you know, I just want to pat him on the back, because this is necessary. It has to be put in their face. You can't sit here and say that this is fine over here, but over here it's not. You know? This is supposed to be a United States, it's not supposed to be a bunch of individual groups making up their own laws, wherever they feel like it. There has to be some sort of consistency.

This reminds me of my time in Cuba two years ago, and we were meeting with the US Interest Section Chief, I think he's the ambassador there now, and he was saying that if you're looking for consistency in American foreign policy, you're never going to find it. And I think that's what we have here domestically, that we're not seeing any consistency in our judicial system, we're not seeing any consistency on drug policy, and we're definitely not seeing any consistency on the handling of these cases across the country.

You know, some clinics have been raided, some are making billions of dollars, some are being shut down, some continue to expand. And I think that Adam really gets it in terms of, we are here in the nation's capitol, the whole country is taking their cues from DC, and he's doing all he can to bring that consistency to drug policy, and I wish I had more resources to contribute to his efforts.

DOUG MCVAY: I wish we had a hundred more like him. My gosh, this would be a different world. Again folks, our guest is Kymone Freeman, a political activist, organizer, journalist, playwright, co-owner and program director of We Act Radio in Washington, DC. and a brilliant man. You are of course listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, we're on the web at DrugTruth.net, and I'm your host Doug McVay.

DOUG MCVAY: Again folks, our guest today is Kymone Freeman, he's a political activist, organizer, and journalist, he's also the co-owner and program director of We Act Radio in Washington, DC.

Kymone, the last election left a lot of people confused. I think, you know, there are some folks who are still just in shellshock over everything, and trying to figure out. What should people be doing over the next four years?

KYMONE FREEMAN: Well, the last election left a lot of people on Prozac and other prescription drugs. That's a fact, I'm not being facetious when I say that, you know, any quick survey of psychiatrists or mental health industry professionals will attest to that, that the numbers have gone up. People are having breakdowns, people are, they're having anxiety attacks, people, they're fearful and what have you.

Whereas I'm having the time of my life. You know? I think that what people need to understand is that for the next four years, and beyond, this is the -- this is our coming to Jesus moment, that's, I was looking for a better word, so for lack of a better word, it's our coming to Jesus moment, because America has an identity crisis. You've seen, we haven't had a legitimate Republican elected since, I don't know, what, maybe Nixon?

I mean, really think about this. You saw what happened with the Trump selection. He doesn't win the popular vote, he's elected by the Electoral College, millions of people were purged from the voting rolls, and at the same time, hes going to say that, you know, millions of illegals were voting. No one's talking about the voter suppression, where names were just arbitrarily thrown off the rolls across this country, and not to mention the voting laws that actually restricted people, who could vote, you know, we saw the Voting Rights Act demolished. The past administration as well.

So before him, we had Bush, and you know how his election was stolen with the Florida, his governor brother ruling over Florida, that put him, the Supreme Court actually put him into office. Before him, was Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan got into office because they held hostages until he got into office, so he could take credit for it. You know, so all of those were illegitimate presidencies. Well, you can mention George Bush, the first George Bush, you can argue over that one, but if we do any amount of investigation I'm sure we'd find some smoke there as well.

But, I have to point those things out, because this, you know, Trump didn't just happen overnight. This was a long walk here, and so what we've seen with Trump is the complete and utter marriage of corporate forces and greedy, corrupt government. This is fascism, folks, and he represents the honeymoon, and it was a very short honeymoon because we're waking up to the cold reality, with what we're seeing right now.

So what we should be doing for the next four years is resisting. What we should be doing for the next four years is keep fighting, and it's only with situations like this that we can actually improve our society. You know, the Obamacare was a great compromise, it was a farce, it was health care insurance reform, you know. That needs to be removed. We need to have universal healthcare, single payer, for everyone. That's it. If you're sick, you should have access to whatever you need to make you better, not because of a profit margin, not because your insurance approved this or didn't approve that.

My son's mother has to have eye surgery in two weeks. Do you know that she's fighting tooth and nail with her insurance company about whether or not this procedure is necessary? As if she wants to have a tummy tuck or something. She has to have eye surgery to save her vision, and her insurance company is arguing with her on whether or not it's actually necessary. You know, here's a person that has to -- there's a mental component to all this, and she's stressed out dealing her insurance company about a medical procedure that -- she shouldn't have to have this conversation. But this is what we're dealing with, because money has become their god, and it has interfered with every aspect of our lives.

Corporate forces have interfered with every aspect of our lives, from Citizens United to the healthcare industry, and to our school system, as we've seen, you know, the Department of Education was just sold for $200 million when DeVos took over. So, what we should be doing for the next four years is not trying to work with the administration, not trying to respect the position, not trying to pretend that, well, let's wait and see. This is open aggression, it's open fascism, and we have to stop it in its tracks and own up to the fact that America's always been like this, and this is the breaking point, and hopefully people will rise up to the occasion and we will get to see the changes that we deserve in this lifetime.

DOUG MCVAY: Where can people find out more about all this stuff and the work that you're doing, and how can we listen to We Act Radio, the web address, twitter, all that kind of stuff?

KYMONE FREEMAN: Well, you can find us, We Act Radio, on all relevant social media. Our website is WeActRadio.com. We are launching our first fundraiser, so please join the opposition party, on President's Day. It's going to run from President's Day until April 15th. Please come back and visit our website, it's about to be renovated, we'll have a new site to match new studio next week. They can catch us, again, our programs run from 6am to 8pm for progressive political talk, and after 8pm we get into independent music, because, as Emma Goldman would say, if I can't dance, it's not my revolution.

DOUG MCVAY: That was a conversation with Kymone Freeman, founder of We Act Radio in Washington, DC.

And well folks, that's it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to Century Of Lies. We're 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 has a Facebook page, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. Remember: knowledge is power. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

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.