08/09/18 Inge Fryklund

Inge Fryklund, LEAP board member re reason for migration, Mary Jane Borden re Ohio medical cannabis situ, Jag Davies of Drug Policy Alliance re success of decriminalization in US

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Inge Fryklund
Drug Policy Alliance



AUGUST 9, 2018


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.

I am Dean Becker, the reverend most high, this is Cultural Baggage. Today we'll hear from Jag Davies, he's with the Drug Policy Alliance, regarding drug decriminalization. We'll hear from Mary Jane Borden regarding legalization of cannabis in Ohio.

But first up, Inge Fryklund is a former assistant state's attorney in Cook County, Illinois. She's a former policy adviser regarding Afghanistan. She's now an executive board member for Law Enforcement Action Partnership, LEAP, otherwise known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and she's with us now to talk about this situation on our border, what is driving family migration to these United States. Hello, Inge.

INGE FRYKLUND: Hello, thanks for having me on again.

Well, the question that I've raised is, even though we're focusing on sort of the current facts of children being separated from their parents at our border with Mexico, we haven't really asked the question why are so many people so desperate to leave their home countries, especially in Central America and Mexico, that they would take risks of having their families torn apart and maybe losing their children.

And I think that's the question we need to be focused on, rather than these short term fixes about, hey, how do we reunite these families.

DEAN BECKER: They're willing to take their kids, many of them travel a thousand miles or more, riding on top of freight trains.

INGE FRYKLUND: Yes. They obviously seem desperate to escape their home countries, and these people are not fleeing some act of god, like a hurricane or a earthquake, that no one has any control over [sic: earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes have from time to time been responsible for some refugees]. Most of what they're fleeing is government's failure and the violence and the corruption.

The New York Times article that you referred to, the reporters had interviewed some parents, and their answer almost uniformly was, my kids are in danger of being killed by the drug cartels, and that's what we're trying to escape.

And, my argument, as I put in this article, is that it is the US that in the pursuit of our war on drugs has insisted that these poor Central and South American countries and Mexico fight our war on drugs. And we don't seem to care how much crime, corruption, and violence results from that. And if we, you know, really cared about what was happening with the people in this country and stopped the war on drugs, that takes market share away from the cartels right there.

Now, we already know that the marijuana industry in Mexico is dropping, because of competition from legal production in the US. So, my argument is that a lot of the problems that these poor families are fleeing from are caused by US policies, very specifically our failed war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: It was charlatans, I think they were moralists, considered to be at the time, but they toured the world and proclaimed the need to do this, they insisted that the United Nations join forces with the US, and make this a global jihad, if you will, against the use of drugs, and it just hasn't panned out. There has been no benefit to speak of, has there been?

INGE FRYKLUND: I can't think of any benefit, and the downsides are there for everyone to see. But, it's particularly interesting, I think, if you compare the drug war situation with our war on alcohol, back during the days of prohibition, 1920 to 1933. Remember Al Capone and all that violence in our big cities.

Back then, we never attempted to get the rest of the world to join up with our crusade. In fact, European countries and Canada were happily shipping liquor into our three mile limit. And all of the violence and corruption came home to roost, you know, with massive corruption of our own big city politicians and police.

I think that's one of the reasons why prohibition of alcohol lasted only 13 years. Whatever we thought the benefit was, the downside, and we suffered from that, was a lot more than anybody had counted on.

But with the war on drugs, there's really not all that much drug related corruption within the US [sic]. I mean there's kind of minor stuff, you know, police taking stuff from evidence lockers, and extorting some criminals, but the big violence, where the cartels are, are in the producer countries, you know, the people who produce the cocaine, opium poppy, marijuana, and the transit countries, and the full weight of the violence comes down on them.

And the US government has essentially held a stick over their governments. You know, you either fight our war on drugs or we're going to withdraw all the foreign aid you're getting. So this is also undercutting democracy. Citizens there can't vote to stop this nonsense. The US has got too big a hold on them.

DEAN BECKER: It often seems that the criminals are running both sides of this equation, I mean, I don't know how true that may be, but --

INGE FRYKLUND: Certainly a lot of profit to be made in this country by illegality.


INGE FRYKLUND: Think of all the people employed by DEA, the police getting surplus military equipment, the grant money that goes to fight drugs, the private prison industry, which seems to be booming.


INGE FRYKLUND: A lot of people have a financial interest in keeping this nonsense going, no matter how many people are dying.

DEAN BECKER: We have this situation in those transit countries where one gang will round up the wives of the competing gang and take them on a dirt road somewhere and chop them into little pieces and put that video on the web to show their domination. We don't have that in these United States, but, that's what's driving these people northward, am I right.

INGE FRYKLUND: Right. But those people and those practices are what's essentially necessary to feed the drug habit in the US. If we would legalize, which then makes it possible to regulate, we could do something about the quality control on these substances. You know, when we say heroin overdose, people aren't actually overdosing on too much good heroin, what they're really dying of is all the stuff it's cut with, like fentanyl.

In an illegal market, the seller has every incentive to cut the quality in order to inflate his profits. And then our citizens die.

DEAN BECKER: It has no solution, without some type of decriminalization, legalization, of these drugs, because otherwise we leave control of the manufacture and distribution in the hands of inept criminals and we're just not going to win this war that way.

INGE FRYKLUND: No, and I think we should just recognize that human beings are susceptible to these substances. You know, if you look back through a couple thousand years of history, if there is any product, or fruit, or grain, which can be smoked, distilled, brewed, in order to produce a high, people have done it. That's just who we are as a species, and rather than pretending that we can be a drug free America or drug free world, let's acknowledge who we are and figure out how to manage it, and that requires legalization.

Can't regulate something if it's illegal. So legalization in order to regulate, I think would deal with a lot of this, cut our fentanyl deaths, cut the cartel violence, cut the police corruption in Central America and Mexico.

DEAN BECKER: And do away with much of the violence in our cities like your city, past city of Chicago, where it kind of resembles the situation under Al Capone once again.

INGE FRYKLUND: Yes, people shooting each other trying to divide up the drug territories. I remember back when I was a prosecutor in Chicago in the '80s, we'd point out that when the violence level dropped, that was something to be nervous about, because that meant somebody had consolidated territories.

Violence went up when they were all squabbling with each other. But, inevitably, lots of bystanders, very often children out on the streets, were getting killed in the midst of this warfare.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I guess as long as euphoria remains a crime, we're going to have these types of problems. We've been speaking with Inge Fryklund, former state's attorney in Cook County. Inge, any closing thoughts you'd want to share?

INGE FRYKLUND: No, just keep pushing at legalize for the purpose of regulating, and instead of putting all our money into locking people up, let's put the money into some of those problems, especially in our rural areas, that drive people to start using heroin. If they didn't have lives that seemed otherwise empty, there might not be the demand that's being fed by the cartels right now. So, there's nowhere to go but up if we legalize, regulate, tax.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Again, Inge's a member of the board of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, out there on the web at LEAP.cc. I urge you to please check it out.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive, seizures, hallucinations, memory problems, confusion, problems with speech, thoughts of suicide. Time's up! The answer: Xanax, for anxiety.

Over this past year, we've kind of looked into what's happening in the various states with their medical or recreational marijuana laws. Today we're going to take a look, take a listen, to my friend up in Ohio about what's going on up that way. I want to introduce Mary Jane Borden. Hello, Mary Jane.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Hi Dean, let's see, this would probably be my hundred and third or fourth radio interview with you.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is, you have been attuned, ear to the ground, so to speak, to what's going on in Ohio. Please tell us what's happening, or not quite happening, up there.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Well, in 2016, the Ohio legislature passed HB523, which went into effect on September, I believe Eighth, 2016, and the legislature gave the state of Ohio two years to set up a program and have it operational.

The program in Ohio consists of three entities. There's part that's managed by the Ohio Department of Commerce, part is managed by the Department of Pharmacy, and then part of it is managed by the Medical Board, and of course the Medical Board, as you can well discern, is the entity that certifies the physicians recommending marijuana in Ohio.

I think things are rolling on pretty smoothly. This time last year, I was very optimistic that the state would meet its deadline. I was pleased to see that they had the rules set up by September 2017. They had submitted -- had cultivation license -- licenses for applications out, they had processing, you know, procedures and testing procedures out, there's testing sites, they had a bunch of information out on the website that I thought was pretty comprehensive.

November of last year, they announced the cultivation licenses. The state of Ohio has two tiers of cultivation licenses. They have a tier two, which is up to three thousand square feet, and a tier one, which is up to 25,000 square feet. Now, what I'm talking about is the announcement of the level one cultivators, which are the big guys.

Well, they -- you look at the list, and it has disqualified, oh, I'd say most, it appeared, of the applicants. They were to issue twelve licenses, it seems like they wanted to award -- issued licenses were mysteriously quote unquote "disqualified."

I think that just started a tumble, whereby the state found out that -- they found out that the state's scoring methods were problematic, they -- there were all kinds of very weird things going on there and ultimately stalled the issuance of the actual licenses, and the start-ups, the ones that did get licenses, kind of have put barriers between them and being able to get the operating licenses that I think were just awarded to maybe three cultivators within the last month or so.

So one month from now, one month from now, we're going to have a fully operational program, with, you know, cannabis that is grown, processed, and available to patients. I think it's pretty clear that's not going to happen.

When it's going to happen now, when this is actually going to be implemented, there will be products on the shelves? That's an open question that the Department of Commerce does not want to answer. It's really, it's an open question.

Fifty six provisional dispensary licenses were issued in July, so they're -- dispensaries are doing build-out, and, you know, setting themselves up to serve patients. But to do that, you have to have the product, and then the product has to be processed, the product has to be tested. So it's -- it's problematic.

I guess the only way I can sum it up, Dean, is to say, you know, we're coming out of a situation where we had just total, complete prohibition. Think about where we were when we started doing this work, Dean, maybe 20 years ago.


MARY JANE BORDEN: Think about how far we've come, when we're debating cultivation facilities of 25,000 square feet. You know, when I see the problems in Ohio, I back up a little bit and I think to myself, wow, this is really cool.

I guess I'd say start with Ohio Rights Group. And so that's OhioRightsGroup.org.

DEAN BECKER: Jag Davies is the director of communication strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance, based up there in New York, but he recently had an opinion piece published in the Washington, DC newspaper, The Hill. It was titled up A Push For Drug Decriminalization Surges In Countries Around The World; Could The US Be Next? With that, I want to welcome Jag Davies. How are you doing, sir?

JAG DAVIES: I'm doing good, thanks so much for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jag, last week I had Mister Dana Larsen out of Canada saying very much the same thing. It's having a great impact, influence, around the world, this thought, is it not?

JAG DAVIES: Absolutely. I mean, so many people have heard of Portugal now. Portugal's the best example of decriminalization, and that implement -- they implemented probably the most comprehensive version of it, but a lot of other countries, particularly in western Europe, have some form of drug decriminalization.

The Netherlands, the Czech Republic has a very impressive system that's been quite successful with decriminalization, Switzerland and several other countries as well, and now, the past year there's a whole bunch of other countries where, at the senior levels of government, they're making serious moves towards drug decriminalization.

These countries include Norway, which has got quite a bit of press in the US, France, even some countries outside of Europe and North America, like Ghana in western Africa. And then, it's -- I've been amazed the past few months how much progress has been going on in Canada. You have two of the three main political parties in Canada all of a sudden endorsing and campaigning on decrim.

You have the public health authorities in Toronto and Montreal, over the past month, calling for drug decriminalization. The city of Vancouver and their mayor have called on the federal government to decriminalize drugs.

Now, Justin Trudeau, as Dana probably said last week, has not come out in support of drug decriminalization. He's been asked about it pretty regularly in recent months, but just even the fact that the prime minister is getting asked about drug decriminalization seems pretty significant.

And what's, I think, striking about all of this is that, in a lot of the ways, where, you know, a lot of the conditions that have led to this, these calls for decriminalization in Canada, are similar in the US, and a lot of people might think that, you know, drug decriminalization sounds like this pie in the sky idea for the US, but actually in the United States already, this is a concept that a majority of the public already supports.

You know, you always hear politicians saying things like we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem, and we need to treat addiction as a health issue, but we haven't quite just taken that next step of saying, well then let's just stop arresting people who use drugs. We're still arresting as many people who use drugs as ever, 1.3 million drug possession arrests we're making a year here.

So, it kind of seems like really an opportune moment right now to really generate public debate and put it out in front of people, and this is an issue that, you know, the Drug Policy Alliance is going to be exploring in future years, potentially doing ballot initiatives or legislative campaigns at the state level for decriminalization.

I mean, at the federal level, the federal government's always the last one to move forward with drug policy reforms, but, there's a lot of states and cities and municipalities around the country that have already taken significant steps towards decrim, and I think it's likely in the next few years we're going to see a lot of movement at the local and state level towards decriminalization.

DEAN BECKER: A lot of politicians are getting this. It's kind of hard to maneuver when state and federal legislators don't open up the possibilities. Your thought there, please.

JAG DAVIES: Well, there's actually a lot that can be done at the local level without state and federal support. One of the closest things we have in the US to decriminalization is a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, also known as LEAD, or also known as pre-arrest diversion programs.

And it's not an ideal situation, because it still gives the police some discretion in some situations to make an arrest, but there's a whole handful of countries [sic: municipalities] around the country that have already implemented this program and there's another twenty or thirty cities, and Houston is one of those cities, that are in the process of developing a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, and, which are already up and running in more than a dozen cities.

So, it's -- so yeah, we're moving pretty close towards that. The district attorneys have a lot, and local law enforcement have a lot of discretion over, you know, low level misdemeanor drug possession arrests. I think, you know, when it comes to marijuana, even in places, you know, cities in the south or in places that may have lagged behind the northeast or west coast on marijuana policy, they're starting to catch up now.

But, I think the next step is also going to be, you know, dealing with other drugs, because in some ways, you know, the, about half of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession, so eliminating that is a huge part of it, but the harms of drug possession arrests, for drugs other than marijuana, you know, in some ways are even more harmful and insidious, because, you know, with drugs where, you know, like opioids or stimulants, where, you know, there's a risk of overdose, criminalization drives people into using drugs in more isolated and unsafe environments, makes it less likely that they're going to -- people are going to call 911 for help in the event of an overdose.

So in some ways, drug decriminalization, you know, is one of the factors -- or you know, the criminalization of drugs, I should say, is one of the factors, you know, contributing to the overdose crisis.

Decriminalizing drugs alone wouldn't save, you know, by itself, end the overdose crisis. What's so significant about what Portugal has done is that at the same time they stopped arresting people for drug possession, they also significantly ramped up their health and harm reduction services, so that's also important too, to be able to redirect those resources into health and treatment services.

But, I -- yeah, there's already, you know, there's nothing really stopping a local municipality at this point from moving forward with, you know, with decriminalizing drugs. And another step actually that a lot of states are taking that I should mention, that's a really important incremental step, is what's called de-felonizing drug possession. It's something in about 30 states around the country, possession of drugs other than marijuana is still a felony.

So, there were a few states that never made drug possession a felony, but a number of states in the past few years, Connecticut, California, even some conservative, more conservative states like Oklahoma, have passed laws or passed ballot initiatives to reduce the penalties for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Which is, you know, it's an incremental step, but it's an important one, because right now in most states, you know, you can get hard prison time and really get, face a lot of criminal punishment just for small possession of drugs.

As I mentioned in my piece, there was an ACLU and Human Rights Watch report a couple of years ago on drug decriminalization, and they found that there's about a 130,000 people behind prison bars -- behind bars, you know, simply for drug possession, which is out of about half a million people behind bars for drug offenses overall, so it's a, you know, it's only maybe a third or a quarter of the overall number of people behind bars for drugs, but, it's the majority of the arrests, you know, and there's a huge amount of churn of people cycling through the criminal justice system, and getting stuck in -- with collateral consequences and under criminal justice supervision due to drug arrests.

So, you know, it's -- yeah, I think part of it is about reframing what we're doing too, from talking about mass incarceration to also talking about mass criminalization more broadly. You know, incarceration is so massive in this country, we have 2.3 million people behind bars [sic: just under 2.2 million according to the most recent data], but then you look at the total number of people under some form of criminal justice supervision and control, and that's seven and a half million people [sic: just over 6.6 million according to the most recent data].

That's another five million people who, you know, if they miss an appointment with a parole supervisor, if they simply fail a drug test for marijuana, anything like that, they're back in jail again, and cycling in and out, which of course is incredibly detrimental to people's lives, their ability to support themselves and their families.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and not to mention very costly to the government to keep them locked up and, you know, feed them and house them and take care of their medical problems. It's outrageous.

Once again, we're speaking with Mister Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance. You know, earlier this year I got the chance to go to Portugal and to Switzerland to talk to the head of the heroin injection program there in Switzerland, and to meet with Doctor João Goulão, the, in essence the drug czar of Portugal.

And we talked about, you know, what has happened once they decriminalized, and the number of gangs has diminished, the number of violent crimes has diminished, the number of overdoses has diminished, the number of diseases being shared has diminished significantly.

It seems like a win win win, and with no downside. Your closing thoughts, there, Mister Jag Davies.

JAG DAVIES: Yeah, I mean, we need to be careful not to overstate the benefits of decriminalization. It's not a panacea for all of our drug policy problems. It doesn't address the problem of, you know, adulteration in the drug supply. It does make test -- checking drugs for fentanyl easier. But, so it does help to some degree with that, but it doesn't completely solve the problem of, you know, adulteration of unregulated drug supplies.

And of course it doesn't deal with the problems around people who sell drugs, and respecting their humanity. A lot of the devil is in the details. DPA released a very comprehensive report on decriminalization last year, called It's Time For The US To Decriminalize Drug Use And Possession. You can find that by going to DrugPolicy.org/decriminalize.

We have the political support for this here in the US, we have the scientific support. We just need to compel our policy makers and our leaders to start taking up this issue, because we have the winning hand here, we just need to play it.

DEAN BECKER: I've been sitting here with a royal flush, nobody from the government wants to play with me. 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 of an abyss.