04/06/18 Daryl Atkinson

Dean Becker speech to European Monitoring Centre for Drugs & Drug Addiction, Daryl Atkinson of Forward Justice in Lisbon, Becker presentation to Federalist Society at Rice Univ. + "Rat Park"

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, April 6, 2018
Organization: 
Forward Justice

Comments

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

APRIL 6, 2018

TRANSCRIPT

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

The following was recorded in Lisbon, Portugal. I was invited by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction to give a speech to their assembled scientists and doctors and cops. This is -- my introduction's from Lucas Wiessing, the chief scientist.

LUCAS WIESSING: So, I'll start myself. I'm Lucas Wiessing, I'm from Holland, working with the -- 22 years I've been with EMCDDA. I'm an epidemiologist, and currently I'm hosting this series of sessions of talks on all sorts of different topics. So if you're once interested to give a presentation on police work, you're very welcome, or -- Nicola's laughing, I think Nicola's the next speaker.

Okeh. So, with -- actually, it's quite interesting, we are having -- this is mostly internal, for EMCDDA colleagues, but we invite people from outside also, and we're very, very happy and honored that you're wanting to come. And today is very special because we have Dean Becker from the United States.

I'll just briefly introduce him, then you introduce yourself. Dean has been recommended by a friend, colleague, Richard Andrews, who was here in September on hepatitis C, also from Texas, he was from Texas. You know the title, he will be talking about US drug policy, Drug Prohibition is Irrational, is the title, and for us it's very interesting to see a point of view on the American drug policy, and he, as you just said, you were interested to learn from us, so, you know, you are very welcome to give information back.

Dean, do you want to add, explain more about yourself, and then we make a little --

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Basically, I would say this, that, you know, I've -- I've been a worker, you know, my whole life. I started out as a cop in the United States Air Force --

LUCAS WIESSING: Cop is a policeman. Okeh?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Guarding nuclear weapons was my main job. Hello.

LUCAS WIESSING: We're just doing the rounds, so we're just talking, so, we can do later.

DEAN BECKER: And -- that was a rather short career, an enlistment in the service, was just a couple of years. But, after that, you know, I was a roofer, and a carpenter, machinist, machine inspector, accountant, an auditor, project analyst, and the last 16 years I've been doing radio. I've been broadcast radio there in Houston, KPFT, one of the -- I was telling Lucas, one of the five Pacifica sisters, we are -- we hope to be the conscience of the United States, that's what we try to do.

Ours is listener sponsored, we don't have commercials or, you know, ads. It's what the host, the producer, wants to present, and sixteen and a half years ago I chose to produce what I call the unvarnished truth about the drug war. That means no holds barred, we want to examine it down to its core.

I want to start with this one thought, and I will underscore it. Are we ready yet, or? --

LUCAS WIESSING: We were going to do a little round of introductions, but you want to start your presentation?

DEAN BECKER: Oh, no, no, that's fine --

LUCAS WIESSING: And we should mention that you're recording.

DEAN BECKER: I am recording.

LUCAS WIESSING: And, we will then send it to our management to see if it's okeh for use in your program. So --

DEAN BECKER: To edit out --

LUCAS WIESSING: If you have any problem with the recording, let us know, or, you know, because this is not being sent out, unless we have full agreement, and I talked to Paul, he doesn't see a problem, but I will send it first to the management, if for you can use it.

Should we just do briefly what you're doing, just --

ANNABELLE: Yeah, I'm Annabelle, I studied international relations, and I've been a trainee at the EMCDDA for one year.

FRANK: I'm Frank, from Holland, I study European public health, and I'm now doing research on drug use in prison.

CLAUDIA I'm Claudia, I'm from Poland, and I just started my training here. Yeah, and I'm working in prevention and support the practice sector.

FEDERICA: My name is Federica, I'm from Italy, and I'm data manager in the trends and analysis sector.

VOICE: Hello, I'm xx, Chief of Police, of principal police, and I represent community policing.

MAGDA: I'm Magda [inaudible], I'm a member of INPUD, and I'm a peer worker. I work for -- representing people that use drugs, and escorting them to drug user treatment. I work in a drop-in center.

RICARDO FUENTES: Hi, good afternoon, I'm Ricardo Fuentes. For many years, I've worked in harm reduction and community health services, but now I'm an adviser for the city council on drug issues and other issues as well.

ISABEL: Hi, I'm Isabel, I work at the EMCDDA, and on the past consequences of drug use, but what I'm very interested in for the moment is drug related deaths and drug related emergencies, so that's why I found it very interesting to listen to you today.

EMMA: I'm Emma, a trainee at the EMCDDA for one year, and my background is in anthropology and global health.

BETTA SINGLETON: I'm Betta Singleton, I work at the EMCDDA. I am a scientific analyst writer with a background in survey research and policy analysis in the UK.

MARISA GOMES: Hi, I'm Marisa Gomes, and I work at the public health unit as a secretary.

ELENA: And I'm Elena, I work also in the trends and analysis sector with data on infectious diseases and problematic drug use.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. I don't think there's a heck of a lot I'm really going to teach you, but I do want to just give you a perception of what the drug war is like in the United States. Perhaps that's the best I can do at this point.

Earlier, Lucas and I were talking there in the hallway, and I was talking about the guy who kickstarted, who -- the guy who initiated the drug war worldwide. His name was Harry J. Anslinger. He was head of the effort to prohibit alcohol in the United States. When the 1930s came around, and they ended the prohibition of alcohol, he needed another job, so he became the head of the [Federal] Bureau of Narcotics, the forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

And, he -- can we [inaudible]? And Harry J. Anslinger, he wanted to give a reason for the Bureau of Narcotics. He needed a paycheck, so he started giving reasons for, in particular, marijuana, because a lot of people were doing marijuana, very few people were doing heroin or cocaine. There were a number, but ....

Here's a couple of quotes from Harry. "Marijuana's the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind." Now we all know that's BS, but it was believed, it was in the newspapers, he worked with William Randolph Hearst, a major publisher, many newspapers around the United States, and Anslinger sold his ideas through those newspapers.

Another one: "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men." Okeh? That sold in the 1920s. And it still lingers to this day. I often talk about reefer madness being drug war madness, because it's just convoluted and twisted. But anyway, that's enough for Harry, but, he went on to get -- he produced the movie Reefer Madness, have you ever seen that, the 1920s [sic: it was produced in 1936], you have seen it. It's ludicrous now, it's laughable now, but it frightened America's parents back in the 1920s.

He then went on to the United Nations. Harry J. Anslinger took his idea --

LUCAS WIESSING: We have another police officer here.

DEAN BECKER: Good, okeh. Hello sir. I'm Dean, you're ?

VOICE: [inaudible]

DEAN BECKER: Well, glad to have you here with us, sir. There's a chair right there. Thank you for coming.

I was just telling folks about the guy who instigated the drug war, his name was Harry J. Anslinger. He was head of the Bureau -- of the alcohol prohibition [sic: he only rose to Deputy Commissioner of that bureau], and then when it ended, he tried to get himself a new job by the Bureau of Narcotics [sic: the FBN was created by Congress in 1930, and Anslinger was its first director].

He convinced -- he produced a movie, Reefer Madness, I don't know if you've seen it. I highly recommend it, it's laughable now. Reefer Madness. It's out there on Youtube and elsewhere.

But, he managed to convince people that marijuana was bad, that -- I mean no offense by this, he was known for making quotes like, reefer makes darkies think darkies think they're as good as white men, you smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother. I mean, he just goes on.

But, the point is, he was then given the expertise, or the level of recognition, and he took that idea to the United Nations, and he sold it in the United Nations. He traveled the world, he probably convinced people here in your country, back in the 1930s.

Anyway. I just wanted to share that with you, that it started with one man, who needed a job.

For twenty years, I've sought the most knowledgeable people on the planet to discuss the drug war. I've interviewed more than a thousand individuals, scientists, doctors, all kinds of politicians, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police chiefs, prisoners, providers, patients, and priests. I've invested more than thirty thousand hours investigating this situation, and what I found sickens me, it compels me to reject with my very being the idea that this drug war has any reason to exist.

Been nearly 50 years since President Nixon declared the war on drugs, to quote go after the black without appearing to do so. It's now over fifty years since the United Nations first declared their war on drugs, with the belief that they would eliminate drugs from planet earth within five years.

Cocaine was made a federal offense in the US when politicians proclaimed that black men on cocaine would rape white women, or at a minimum would fail to step off the sidewalk when a white man approached. In 1937, because Mexicans were taking our jobs and might rape white women while high on marijuana, the feds crafted the Marihuana Tax Act, later declared unconstitutional and with Timothy Leary v USA, and then put under the regimen of the ludicrously named Controlled Substances Act.

Over the lifetime of the drug war, more than 45 million American citizens have been arrested for these plant products in their pocket. The US has invested way over a trillion dollars, some say more than three trillion dollars, waging this drug war. At the same time, the barbarous cartels, the terrorists, thousands of violent gangs, make more than three hundred billion dollars a year from this policy.

What positives have we derived from this policy? And I say, there is nothing positive has come forward from it. It is a fairytale, it is a projection, it's a hope, a dream that somewhere down the road we will stop these kids, if we just keep at this.

Meanwhile, the terrorists, cartels, and gangs are profiting, overdose deaths are increasing exponentially, especially in the United States right now, the fentanyl/carfentanyl is -- nobody knows what they're buying. They buy this stuff on faith and they hope that it won't kill them.

Most politicians remain ignorant about this subject. They don't want to know the truth, but when I interviewed the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, I asked him, is there anything positive in this drug war? He said, nothing, there is no benefit.

Belief in the drug war allows ignorance to be used as a badge. In the United States, it allows for stop and frisk, it allows for battering rams, it allows for SWAT teams, it allows for this mentality that drug users are so dangerous, so slippery, that we've got to do any and everything possible to stop these people, when the truth be told, most drug users just want to be left alone. I think we all know that here.

I use this phrase a lot, because it kind of displays the war of terror is the war on drugs with, you know, rockets, because the mechanism, the mindset, against drug users was immediately in the US extrapolated to go after people that we feared were out to do us harm.

We take this attitude that we've got to protect the children. That seems to be at the heart of the drug war, at least it is in the United States, that we have to protect the children, whatever -- by whatever means possible. A phrase I like to use is that we've got to protect the futures of millions of kids each year because we're afraid these drugs might destroy their future, so we arrest them, thinking that will save them, and in essence it -- in the US, it means no credit, no education, no housing, no job. It means go out on the street and sell more, that's what it means in America.

I interrupt myself to say that was recorded in Lisbon, Portugal. I'm giving a speech to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. We continue.

FRANK: Can I have a question?

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.

FRANK: Is it like, is there an age limit, when -- at the point when the government says, okeh, we'll take care of you, like, do children aged 15 end up in jail by using drugs, or do they have --

DEAN BECKER: Well, they've go -- they get, they go to juvenile, they --

FRANK: So there's no treatment.

DEAN BECKER: Often, they're taken from their parents, it's just a means to start controlling that kid's life, because eventually he'll -- he'll wind up with a foster home, perhaps, or out on the street.

But, you hit on my next, the overdose deaths, are now as they always have been mostly caused by rebellion, confusion, and by not knowing what's in the bag. In America, if these kids get busted, then follows a never-ending battle over morals, that starts with their parents, maybe their bosses, their wives, their husbands, their kids, the church, the cop, the DA, the judges, the probation officer, the parole officer, the treatment provider, then they've got to pay fees and fines and wear ankle bracelets, and it just goes on and on, that they -- it's hard to clear, to get clear of a drug bust. It just stays with you for life.

Now, failing that obligation, the fines increase, as does the oversight. The young person with this eternal black mark on their life and livelihood, they fail and flail until the only job he can find is with the world's largest multi-level marketing organization, the black market in drugs.

With the tiny amounts needed of fentanyl and carfentanyl, now, hundreds of times more powerful than pure heroin, and thus so easily smuggled that a one ounce bag is equivalent to I think 20 kilos of heroin or something, the numbers work out.

Anyway, the cops and the judges in the US are beginning to realize that this isn't working out, that it is, you know, a fairy tale, as I call it. But they're afraid to back down. They're afraid to now speak what they know to be true because they made their bones, and that's a phrase I'll explain.

It's a gangster thing. They made their bones, they killed people, you know, not that they're actually killing people, but they do on occasion, but they made their reputation, there we go. They made their reputation through believing in this drug war, and it's now hard for them to back down.

My fair city of Houston, when I first started on the radio sixteen and a half years ago, I opened it with this phrase: broadcasting from the gulag filling station, from the gulag supply line, this is Cultural Baggage. That's the name of the show. Because back then, we were arresting so many people that they were filling the jails, they were under the beds, they were in the hallways, they were, each morning they would load up a bus and ship it to a little small town nearby, even to other states, because they just had so many kids on drug charges.

Sixteen years later, the DA is my friend, the sheriff is my friend, the police chief is my friend. They understand this, they call -- they have come on my show, they have said the drug war is a miserable failure, we've got to stop doing this, because the truth of the matter cannot be ignored, or it can't be ignored forever.

And, my point I'd like to get across to you guys is, what Portugal has done is admirable. It's wonderful what the European Union is doing, it's a great advance, but there's a much greater problem, and it is this belief in the drug war that allows the terrorists, cartels, and gangs, to make three hundred billion dollars a year, and does nothing to stop overdose deaths or children's access.

Thank you for this. Can't say that. It -- the drug war pays the bills for the cops' pensions, for the DA's rise through the ranks, for all these kinds of things, but, after, you know, twenty years of personally examining this, I could just say this: there is no benefit. It's a pipe dream of men who died long ago.

Oh, I wanted to say one thing, a humorous note. Harry J. Anslinger, our first drug czar, his first medical guy was a veterinarian. His name was James C. Munch [sic: Munch had a PhD in pharmacology], and I -- most of you may have heard of the word "munchies," right? That's where it came from, from that veterinarian's last name.

Anyway, that's not for you guys. Okeh. Because of drug prohibition, we are all potential victims, especially in the United States. We're considered to be criminal suspects, maybe carrying drugs, subject to an ugly law enforcement mentality, and we're all obviously and forever in great peril thanks to drug war.

Now, I'm going to fess up. After I left the Air Force, I became a hippie. It might be obvious. But, I got busted thirteen times. I've been arrested thirteen times, mostly for minor amounts of drugs -- well, always for minor amounts of drugs, a seed in the floorboard could get you arrested back in the '60s. A roach in the ashtray. I've had more than that on occasion, but not very much, because I don't travel with a lot of drugs. I don't need to, I've learned not to.

But, my -- the complicator, for me, was that I was a drunk at the same time, and I always got busted for being drunk, stumbly, whatever, and then they'd find the drugs. Never got charged for drunkenness, ever. Every. It was always for the little bit of drugs, because that's a much better mark, or achievement, for a policeman, to bust somebody for drugs rather than drunkenness.

And I guess it was May Eighth, 1985, I quit drinking. I haven't had an arrest, been in trouble, had a ticket, a fight, an accident, nothing, and I guess the point I'm getting at is, my drug of destruction, the one that was eating my life, eating me alive, is for sale in every block in the world, and yet I drive by it every day. I choose not to use my drug of destruction, and the same perspective, mentality, could be justified, or useful, with these other drugs, because alcohol, by god, is a drug, it's a deadly drug, kills hundreds of thousands of people, and it just needs a new perspective.

Before prohibition of these drugs, a gram of pure cocaine could be bought at the drug store for 25 cents. Now, the youngsters out there are buying a contaminated, mostly polluted, gram of cocaine, could go over a hundred dollars a gram. Prior to the drug war, a month's supply of heroin could be purchased from Sears Roebuck, which was a big retailer in the US, for a dollar, and they would throw in a syringe as a bonus.

Back in 1900, about one and one half percent of America was addicted. Today, after all this hoopla, arrests, and whatever, about one and a half percent of America is addicted still.

After forty, fifty, a hundred years, it's time to face facts. The drug war is a pipe dream of men who died long ago. It's a quasi-religion, a belief system, that has attracted many adherents within law enforcement and the criminal justice system, to speak from that ignorance, bigotry, and steadfastly in support of primitive screeds, platitudes, and irrational tradition. The process has a strong resemblance to the persecution of witchcraft.

This isn't for those in this room, but, the cemetery's overflowing with people who have been killed, not necessarily by bullets, but by persecution, by being driven from the center of society, by being driven to great despair.

This is a bit overkill, but, if we embrace the truth, that the drug war is vacuous, has no real reason to exist, it's hollow, it's a horrendous mistake. I'm sure our law enforcement officials here are not gung-ho, not wanting to arrest everybody, certainly not in this city. And, my hope is that all the folks here can find ways to expose this fraud, this misdirection. It has legs, it's been carried, as I've said, almost a hundred years, and most folks are unwilling to address this conundrum, this situation, as boldly as it needs to be.

The answer to the drug war: legalize. Stop funding the Taliban, gut the cartels, eliminate most of the gangs, let Pfizer produce it. Let drug stores sell it. We'll judge adults by their actions, like it used to be, instead of by the contents of a baggie or a pill. And we will then have lots of room in prison to hold anybody who would dare sell drugs to our children.

Kind of like me, you know, I was a bad alcoholic, but for thirty-something years now, I've managed to straighten up and fly right, and we can expect the same from most kids, which is who do these drugs, that, from about age 15 to age 25, that's your primary use group, and most of them wind up getting a job, a wife, children, whatever, and go away from that drug use.

I'm not for gradual change to the drug laws. Incrementalism is a killer. I want to quote Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior, quote, "Gradualism is so often an excuse for escapism, and do-nothing-ism, which ends up in stand still-ism." End quote.

I'll say it again, prohibition guarantees hundreds of billions will each year flow into the coffers of terrorists, cartels, and gangs, who will continue to entice our children into lives of crime and addiction, overdose deaths will continue to rise, along with a number of horrid yet preventable diseases. After two decades of trying to expose the futility, the insanity, of this policy, I"m quite certain that drug czars in the United States and other high officials will continue to run fast and run far from my questions.

Considering the horrible consequences of believing in the drug war, what is the benefit? What do we derive that even begins to offset the horror we inflict on ourselves and the whole world by continuing to believe what is the benefit. The drug war's an abomination, and it must be ended. Thank you.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Physical stimulation, appetite suppression, the prevention of altitude sickness through increased oxygen supply. Time's up! The answer, as is so obvious in the lives of millions of Bolivians: coca. Mother Coca.

NARRATOR: If there's one thing we all learned growing up, it's that drugs are bad. Like, really really bad. We've been taught that addiction is inevitable, and that addicts are completely irrational. But, you might be surprised to learn that a lot of what we think we know about drugs and addiction comes from a series of studies done in the 1950s and '60s on rats.

And it turns out that what we think we know, yeah, it might just be wrong. This is Bruce Alexander.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: I'm a psychologist with Simon Fraser University.

NARRATOR: Bruce has been studying addiction for almost fifty years. When he started back in the '70s, there was a huge public concern about heroin use and what many at the time described as a growing epidemic.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: The view was that heroin was essentially a demon drug. If you took it a few times, it would flip a switch in your brain and you would be forever addicted. That was it. You were doomed. And it was in the media, it was in the movies, but, in those days, there was also a primary kind of research evidence that was used to support this idea.

NARRATOR: Much of that research used animal studies, particularly laboratory rats. Rats would be placed in really small cages, called Skinner Boxes.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: A Skinner Box is a box which is just about three times the size of a rat. The experiments involved putting rats in Skinner Boxes with a needle, which was implanted in their jugular vein, so that if the rats pressed the little lever on the wall, they would get a little surge of heroin in their blood stream.

NARRATOR: Press the pedal, get a shot of heroin. Press the pedal, get another shot.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: And in some cases, they just kept pumping heroin into themselves to the point where they forgot to eat, and would die.

NARRATOR: Beliefs about rat studies would find their way into PSAs and Hollywood films, and it would become part of our collective understanding of just how dangerous these drugs really were.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: These experiments seemed to show that any creature, including even the lowly rat, if given access to heroin, would simply take lots and lots of it.

NARRATOR: But Bruce had another idea.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: What these experiments really show is that rats who are in solitary confinement will take lots of heroin.

NARRATOR: See, rats are very social animals. Rats don't normally spend their lives in harnesses with catheters shoved in their necks. They prefer playing with other rats, running around, you know, doing rat stuff.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: To put a rat in a Skinner Box is to make this very, very social creature live a life of solitary confinement.

NARRATOR: Bruce and his colleagues wondered if maybe these rats were taking so many drugs because they were living in such an unnatural environment. So he organized his own rat experiment, but with some important differences. Most notably, he built a much bigger enclosure for them.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: About half as big as my garage floor, as a matter of fact.

NARRATOR: Bruce and his colleagues filled it with everything a rat could want: food, running wheels, and other rats to play with. He called it Rat Park. His team put a group of rats in the park, and another group of rats in solitary cages. They made morphine freely available to both. The results were eye-opening. Giving the choice between plain water and morphine, the Rat Park residents chose the water. It's not like the rats in Rat Park totally abstained from morphine, but:

BRUCE ALEXANDER: You could say that they acted more or less like human recreational users of morphine.

NARRATOR: Bruce and his colleagues even tried an experiment where the rats in cages were given nothing but morphine-laced water to drink for 57 days straight.

BRUCE ALEXANDER: In other words, we made sure they were good and addicted. In terms of the conventional expectation, every one of those rats should have been addicted for the rest of its life.

NARRATOR: But when they were placed in Rat Park, those same addicted rats generally chose to drink the plain water, and voluntarily went through withdrawal.

DEAN BECKER: The following interview recorded at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal.

DARYL ATKINSON: Daryl Atkinson.

DEAN BECKER: All right. And, tell us about the work you do.

DARYL ATKINSON: I co-direct Forward Justice, a law, policy, and strategy center dedicated to advancing social, racial, and economic justice in the south. Part of that work is what we call criminal legal reform, and obviously ending the drug war is a significant portion of that.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Now, we're a couple of the approximately 70 people here, invited to attend this gathering in Lisbon, Portugal. We're all partners of the Drug Policy Alliance, we've been here a couple of days, we've got a couple more, a day and a half to go. First impressions.

DARYL ATKINSON: There are -- Portugal, I think, there's some great learnings to take away, that I think we can maybe apply the States. One is them really looking at, you know, substance use disorder as a health issue, and not a criminal justice issue. I think that's just their over-arching paradigm, and if we could kind of import that value back to the US, I think it would be awesome.

And it's very integrated, you know. We -- I was part of one of the groups that went with the street outreach teams, and one of the things in the site that we visited was a nonprofit, an NGO, but the NGO was very much integrated with what, you know, the state was doing as far as the first site that we visited this morning, when we visited the clinic. Right? Where people could go get help.

And these institutions are not working in separate silos, they're working very much integrated, and I think that's another good approach that we could take back to the States.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I went to a gathering this afternoon, where they determine drug policy, where they work with these NGOs, where they determine how to move forward, and I was very much impressed by the -- just the willingness to contemplate change, because in the United States, the politicians, those in positions of power, are very seldom willing to contemplate change. Your thought there.

DARYL ATKINSON: No, I think that's absolutely right. One of the things that we heard when we were at the NGO was that because, that politicians and people in power were starting to have more proximity to this issue, meaning that they had family members and loved ones who were suffering under problematic substance use, right, and possibly dying or whatever, that, that created more impetus for change.

I wonder if the same opportunities are presenting themselves, you know, particularly with the opioid epidemic, and that hitting home with decision makers, and if that presents a similar opportunity for us to have a broader paradigm shift.

DEAN BECKER: May that come to pass. I agree with you, there -- the potential is certainly there. I, in my fair city of Houston, in the last five years in particular, when I interview the police chief or the sheriff or the district attorney, and the focus turns to marijuana, medical marijuana, it does hit home there. They know people who benefit, they realize that, you know, we have been doing it wrong, and that we've got to open the potential for marijuana to be a legitimate medicine. But, they're not the politicians, they can't swing this cat, they can point it out, but it's a real quandary. Right?

DARYL ATKINSON: Yes. Yes it is, yes it is. I do want to add that I really appreciated one of the leaders at the NGO, that pointed out that Portugal is doing a lot right, but he was very clear that Portugal isn't a paradise. It's not a utopia. They still have work to do, so for example, you know, when we were out with the outreach workers, we were seeing people out using, and not in safe spaces.

So, one additional step that Portugal could take, and what the leaders of the NGO said that they hope to see, is this idea of safe use, safe consumption spaces. Right? Where people can use in a safe space, and they don't -- they don't have to be fearful of being harmed.

In addition, I think there's still a very stark dichotomy between people who consume drugs and the perception and the empathy that we have for them, and people who sell drugs, because Portugal still very much looks at those folks who sell drugs as the "bad people", and I'm doing air quotes here.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

DARYL ATKINSON: For your listeners.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and the heck of it is, even today with some of the leaders, they were talking about that, well, we have a situation in the US where poor people, black people, Hispanic people, are treated differently in many cases, just for preconceived notion, if you will, and that that even still can hold true here in Portugal, if they're a dirty Gypsy, is what I heard. Your thought there.

DARYL ATKINSON: Yep. Yeah, I heard the same thing. I also heard the, you know, the use of the word "criminal", like, oh, my son or daughter is not a criminal, they're just using and consuming substances, right? So, then that begs the question, well, what is a criminal? Right? And, I think it still provides that space where a particular group of people can be demonized, so, you know, we all have more work to do, but I think this has been a wonderful experience to come and learn.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and I would hope that our presenting these questions, of challenging their concepts, may help them to move further in the right direction.

My first day here, I spoke to a gathering of officials from the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, and they had also invited the police chief and the police commissioner to attend, and when I was done, they all, not everybody embraced me, but everybody thanked me for what I presented. It's more of a LEAP presentation, you know, that legalization is the way to go, because many of the harms of prohibition are caused by prohibition. And to realize that, I think, is a great awakening for all of us. Your thought?

DARYL ATKINSON: I completely agree. You know, when you look at, when we reeled back -- rolled back prohibition with alcohol, it took away the underground economy, right? It dissipated the violence, you know you didn't have Capone and those folks, you know, warring over turf, of where they would sell their underground alcohol.

The similar kind of concept, Dean, has to apply with drugs. Right? That if we go complete legalization, we take away the underground economy, we provide a space where people hopefully can access treatment, and we can save so many dollars to engage in real drug education, not the just say no stuff, but real drug education that will keep people alive.

One of the things that, you know, really struck me about Doctor Hart's presentations years ago was the --

DEAN BECKER: Doctor Carl Hart.

DARYL ATKINSON: Doctor Carl Hart. The reason why people are overdosing is because they don't have good information on how to use effectively, because we don't teach that, because we're stuck in this real Puritanical ideal that this is bad. So we don't teach people that if you're going to use opiates you shouldn't drink as well.

We don't teach people that, and we don't have, we don't spend our time, building or providing kits where you can identify adulterants that might be in your substance, right, to make sure that you don't die. Right? We don't teach these things. As a result, our kids, our population, is getting harmed, and we could just be so much more effective. Legalization provides that framework to do those things.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I would hesitate to think that it's all intentional, but the fact of the matter is, if we really wanted to protect our kids, we would make those type services available, there'd be one in every town, where drugs could be analyzed without fear of an arrest, that sort of thing. And in this modern age, if you want to call it that, for this circumstance, we have even more deadly drugs coming forward to jeopardize lives and futures, like fentanyl, carfentanyl, which was the years -- previous years was just not that much of a problem, but it's, it's an easy way for the criminals to make money.

And, I close my show with the thought that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful. And that's just more true than ever before. Your closing thoughts, there.

DARYL ATKINSON: Yeah, I think that's absolutely right, and I'm hopeful that, you know, we have a multidisciplinary delegation from, I can't remember how many different states and localities around the country, and I'm just encouraged that we take this movement back, and continue this important work, because, you know, we are at a place in our country where I really believe, not only our economic vitality but the very fabric of who we are is in jeopardy if we don't get this right.

DEAN BECKER: Would you like to share your website with the listeners?

DARYL ATKINSON: Oh, www.ForwardJustice.org.

DEAN BECKER: Last night, I was invited to participate on a panel at Rice University. The invitation came from the Federalist Society. The speakers included the Solicitor General of Oklahoma, Mithun Mansinghani; Katharine Neill Harris of the Baker Institute, and also from the Institute, yours truly. Due to time constraints, we only have room for my comments.

Give one of these Mexican beet workers a couple of tokes off a marijuana cigarette, next thing you know, thinks he's been elected president of Mexico. Sets out to kill his enemies. That's the kind of BS that got these laws passed in the first place. It was true bigotry, racial, I don't know, just domination.

The majority of those arrested for drugs are still black and brown, they're still poor people. It's -- for -- to make alcohol illegal, they needed a Constitutional amendment. They got the states to sign on to do it. When they repealed it, they had to undo that, get more states to sign onto do away with that prohibition.

For marijuana, they just threw out a bunch of morals. They used this guy named Harry J. Anglinger. Now, I don't know if you've heard of Harry, but he was head of the alcohol prohibition outfit, and when that ended, he needed a job. So he set up the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, got himself a good long term job.

That lasted until about 1969, '70, when they changed over to the Drug Enforcement Administration [sic: the Treasury Department's Federal Narcotics Bureau merged with the FDA's Bureau of Drug Abuse Control in 1968, becoming the Justice Department's Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which in 1973 became the Drug Enforcement Administration].

But the point I'd like to get to is, Harry was a moralist. He pretended to be knowledgeable. He spread his BS around the country and eventually around the world, demanding that prohibition be put forward, that it overshadowed prior perceptions, that people who used drugs were unconditionally exterminable, they were useless, they were to be demonized, cast aside, imprisoned.

The whole point being, there is no real justification for the laws against marijuana, or any of these other drugs. This is a means whereby the population can be controlled and frightened into submission, into believing these things to be necessary.

I'm going to read you a couple of quotes from Mister Harry J. Anslinger. You may, I hope some of you have seen the movie Reefer Madness. It's an old 1936 movie, I believe it is, that shows people just smoking marijuana and going completely nuts, and it was used to frighten parents into believing these laws to be necessary.

Here's a couple from Harry J. Anslinger. Marijuana is the most violence causing drug in the history of mankind. That was carried in newspapers around the country, by, what's his name, William Randolph Hearst, and many newspapers around the country. Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men.

All right? That's the kind of BS that brought all this about. You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother. Okeh? This is the kind of stuff that was used to justify these laws.

Now, you know, I have spent the last 20 years of my life, I started working for the New York Times, their Drug Policy Forum editor. I got to interview good folks like Governor Gary Johnson, out of Arizona.

VOICE: New Mexico.

DEAN BECKER: New Mexico, thank you. And, the point I'd like to get to here is that there -- there still is no justification. There's not one person on the planet willing to sit down and go toe to toe with me over the need for this drug war. We've arrested forty million of our fellow citizens, we've spent one trillion, maybe three trillion dollars, we've never done any good to stop the use of drugs, not for adults, not for children.

The best place to buy drugs in America's probably in colleges like this, followed closely by high schools, then by junior highs, and then by our prisons. There is no reason to continue this, it is a complete fabrication, with no justification whatsoever. Drugs are stronger, deadlier than ever before, they're now -- they have fentanyl, carfentanyl, ten thousand times stronger than morphine, and yet, we feel that we can stop these cartels.

The more we try to stop them, the more violence is created, the more barbarism goes on in Guatemala and Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador. Right now, Afghanistan, number one place to get your opium, it's six cents a gram, in Afghanistan. They make the heroin over there, they ship it mostly to Europe, but we get some on our west coast.

Marijuana's an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death. That was the catch phrase, that's what they used in Congress for years, that's what they still use to this day, without knowing the basic facts that, you know, marijuana in its pure form has never killed anybody ever in the history of mankind, and yet it is still prohibited.

It is based on this fear factor, this hundred year old propaganda, that still stands to this day. Reefer madness, from my perspective, rules the whole of the drug war. It is this fear of drugs, it is this quasi-religion that people believe in because their daddy did and they're just not going to back down, they made their bones through this policy, and they cannot now back down from what they -- what they pronounced, and what they've committed to, the millions of arrests, the needless deaths and decades behind prison bars.

Classic example of the insanity of this drug war, what this marijuana does. Right here in this city, year is 1970 [sic: 1968], there's a small protest going on down on Montrose Boulevard. A couple of gentlemen are passing a joint, a black man steps in, can I have a hit? He takes a hit, he passes it to the next man, and they put the cuffs on him. They arrested him for distribution of drugs. He got sentenced to ten years in prison. His name was Lee Otis Johnson. He got out after about two and a half, but that's the insanity of this drug war, entrapping people, setting them up by the millions, to justify their lies in this regard.

A complete opposite: marijuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing. You know, any and every way they could influence people's perceptions of this drug, they were willing to do it. They continue to do it to this day.

Colorado's earning, as Katie said, five hundred million dollars in tax revenue. It is making money, it is creating jobs, nobody's dying, there is no reason to consider this a bad investment of our efforts.

It is dangerous to the mind and body and particularly dangerous to the criminal type, because it releases all its inhibitions. The use of cannabis, whether smoked or ingested in its various forms, undoubtedly gives rise to a form of addiction, which has serious social consequences, abandonment of work, propensity to theft and crime, disappearance of reproductive power. You know, it will rob you of your manliness.

That goes on to this day. They say it hurts men's testosterone, any and every way to frighten people into not using the stuff.

Now, it was mentioned I just returned from Switzerland and Portugal, I got to interview Portugal's drug czar. They haven't legalized marijuana there. They have decriminalized it, just like they've decriminalized heroin and cocaine and everything else, but they're not certain whether they should legalize it, and I had a good talk with him. I think they're going to reconsider here soon, but, they're waiting to see the long term effect out of Colorado, California, the other eight or nine states where it's now nearly legal.

Again, quoting Harry J. Anslinger, I don't think there's such a thing as not being able to cure an addict. Marijuana addicts must go to a federal narcotics farm, and they did have a federal narcotics farm, I think it was in Tennessee [sic: it was located in Lexington, KY], right near where they now grow marijuana.

Oh, that's at the University of Mississippi, I'm sorry, University of Mississippi they now grow marijuana by the ton each year, and there's three people left in America who get marijuana free from the federal government, approved by the DEA, approved by the FDA, shipped to them in a tin can every month.

One of them gets 300 joints every 28 days, his name is Irv Rosenfeld. He's a stock broker in Florida who goes out on his lunch break and smokes a couple of joints with his boss's approval, because it helps him to -- he has a degenerative bone disease, and it just helps him to get through his day in a more appropriate fashion.

Another young lady in Florida, I might think of her name [sic: Elvy Musikka], but she gets 300 joints every 30 days, and she's one of the two or three people left who get this marijuana from the US government, prescribed by -- prescription by the US government.

Here in Texas, we have had a quasi-medical marijuana law put forward that really benefits maybe a handful of kids, maybe 5, 10, 12 kids, who have a particular type of epilepsy, who must get two doctors' recommendations and be shown to not benefit from all the other drugs that are on the pharmacist's shelf, and they pay outrageous amounts for CBD oil, and I can't tell you whether it's hemp CBD oil, is any good, or whether it -- how it compares to cannabis CBD, but I just think they're getting outrageous prices, a hundred dollars a week for a little kid for potential medicine.

I don't need the twelve minutes, I guess. What I want to say is, there is no reason for the marijuana law to exist. It doesn't do any good for anybody, it is a fabrication, you know, I wonder why we needed Constitutional amendment to make alcohol illegal but we didn't for marijuana, and I think it's because somehow those who disapprove of marijuana think they're more moral, more capable of rational decision, and just hold it over the marijuana users because we've allowed them.

People hide from admitting they use the stuff. They can't do it at work, at school, you know, they fear repercussion with society, and so they keep their mouth shut. Twenty percent of Americans smoke marijuana. What the hell are we afraid of?

The following question was posed later, during the Q&A portion of this event.

VOICE: What do you see as the roadmap for the implementation of the kind of policy you want to see in America, and what kind of --

DEAN BECKER: What I perceive, or what is necessary?

VOICE: Yeah, like, what's your process for --

DEAN BECKER: I think courage, really. What it's going to take, I mentioned it earlier, people are afraid to speak of what they know in this regard because of this quasi-religion that's been set up. It's a moral arbitrary, it decides how things should go, and people are afraid to speak up at work, at church, at school, in their own homes, you know, for fear of being ostracized or, you know, diminished somehow, through knowing or sharing what they know to be true.

And I guess it's the courage to say what we know to be true, to have the willingness. I say it on the radio, I've convinced the law enforcement in this county, I've convinced the DA, the sheriff, and the police chief, we changed the laws thanks to my influence, for the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion program, thousands of kids each year are not getting arrested, jailed, bonded, et cetera, because I had the courage to challenge them on air and to get them to admit that prohibition is a failure.

The first one was Clarence -- McClelland, December 2014, he said Dean, the drug war, you're right, the drug war is a miserable failure, and we opened up that discussion, and through that, his willingness to agree, that it's a failure. Fox News covered part of my radio show, NBC covered it, the Chronicle covered that interview six times, and awakened, you know, the people in this county, and it did make a change.

And I -- what I'm saying is, that's a small change, but it's one I'm very proud of. I wasn't a direct contributor, but we now have this bond system where people get public recognizance bonds rather than being required to pay to get their way out, and thousands of people are now free, and I was instrumental in that, though there were a lot of people involved in overturning that.

But, courage is what's going to change this, the willingness to say what's so god damn obvious and true.

In response to a question about the future of cannabis, here are my closing remarks for this panel.

VOICE: -- cards where they can.

DEAN BECKER: I used to grow, before I got into radio. I used to grow pot 20, 25 feet tall, right here in Harris County. It's real easy to do, you can grow a thousand pounds on an acre without trying, without blinking, without worrying about it, because it

VOICE: -- that's against the honor code so don't.

DEAN BECKER: But the point I'm trying to get to is, probably ten years after it's truly legal, it will sell for ten dollars an ounce and a hundred dollars a pound, because it don't cost nothing to grow it outdoors, and it won't have the leaves trimmed off, it will still be on the stalks, because nobody's going to mess with it at ten dollars an ounce. It will look like real good Mexican weed, once we finally quit this fearful habit.

All right, that's it for this week. I wish I was young enough to make a bet with somebody that I'm right, but, I don't think I'll make it. Anyway, again, I remind you, 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. 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 an abyss.