02/13/19 Joe Moody

Rep Joe Moody re cannabis law change in Texas, Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy & Christopher Redfearn victim of Texas asset forfeiture

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Guest: 
Joe Moody
Organization: 
Texas Representative
Download: Audio icon FDBCB021319.mp3
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

FEBRUARY 13, 2019

TRANSCRIPT

[music] Pfizer and Merck kill more of us
Than the cartel's crap ever could.
They thank us for our silence,
Each year’s hundred billion dollars,
And the chance to do it forever more.
Drugs... the first eternal war.

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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hi, folks. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am your host, Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High.

Earlier this week, busloads, hundreds of people came to Austin to try to influence them to change our draconian, ancient marijuana laws.

Folks, I went last week to Austin. Saw about four hundred cannabis lobbyists, if you will, lobbying their representatives and senators. Didn't really get a chance to talk to any of the representatives or senators myself, but, I'm proud to have with us at this time Representative Joe Moody.

He represents Texas's District 78. It's a mixed urban and rural district covering most of the northern El Paso County, and I just want to welcome him to join us. How are you, sir?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: I'm great, and yourself?

DEAN BECKER: I'm well, Joe, thank you for that. The fact of the matter is, you have one of the top bills. Well, let me back up a bit. Last I heard, there are 27 bills been submitted thus far, and maybe it's expanded since last week, that deal with marijuana, medical marijuana, the hemp industry, criminal justice industry, dealing with drug war aspects.

You have one of the top bills. Is it Bill Number 60, there?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: Sixty -- 63.

DEAN BECKER: Sixty-three, thank you sir. First off, please tell us about your bill. What would it portend?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: So, this is the third session that we've carried this measure. In this session it's House Bill 63, so if anyone's keeping track of it, they can do it that way, House Bill 63 for this session.

This is what we call a civil penalty, or civil sanction bill. It's also referred to as decriminalization. So, we take the -- we take everything under an ounce, simple possession. And we essentially drop that out of criminal sanctioning, so no arrest, no criminal record, no jail time.

This is something that you'll be cited for, and you'll be given a, you know, a civil sanction or a fee that won't create a criminal, you know, criminal history record, also won't exhaust local resources enforcing low grade possession laws.

So this is a bill that's gotten broad, bipartisan support in the past. I expect it will have that again. One thing that's changed, Dean, 2017 and 2019, is that the Texas Republican Party has added a plank of their platform that endorses this measure.

So this is truly bipartisan at this point, and hopefully we'll be able to get that across the finish line this session.

DEAN BECKER: Well, does it have some parallels to what they did in Houston with their Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion program? I understand it's saving jail space, it's saving police man hours, letting them go after more desperate criminals. Is there a comparison there, sir?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: Well, so what this does is it -- this sets a standard across the state. The district attorney in Harris County, Kim Ogg, essentially expanded a program that existed under her predecessor, and so that is -- every prosecutor has discretion to do that.

You have a similar program in, down in Corpus Christi in Nueces County, I think Dallas, San Antonio, Travis County, all of -- Bexar County also has looked into doing this. El Paso has a First Chance Program out in my area.

So there are a lot of jurisdictions that are dabbling in this, and what my bill would do would be to -- it would say, you know, to prosecutors, clearly you can go over and above this. So the -- you know, the program would go over and above this, but it actually creates a uniform policy across the state for low grade possession.

So this wouldn't be an option or a discretionary issue, this would be the law of the land, and if a prosecutor wants to take that further, obviously they can -- they have within their discretion to do that.

So right now we have a patchwork of laws being created across the state, in quick fashion. And so this would at least create some consistency across the board.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Representative Moody, I, you know, I have admitted on the airways, when I've interviewed the police chief, the sheriff, and the district attorney here in Harris County, that I use marijuana on a daily basis. I'm an alcoholic, you know, I've been doing it for, well, 34 years since I quit drinking.

And I don't smoke every day, but, when you feel like getting outside yourself, it just feels like, you know, it saves me from drinking. That was my drug of ruination, I guarantee you, sir.

And, what are your thoughts on what they might do here in Texas in regards to medical marijuana? Have you talked to some of your allies and fellow representatives about the potential?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: Sure, and so, you know, we essentially have four tracks in front of us right now. We have the status quo, which is criminalizing all possession no matter what, based on weight. I don't think that is something that we should continue to, you know, certainly shouldn't continue down that track. I think we definitely need reform in some way, shape, or form.

Then there's the criminal sanction -- you know, civil sanction piece that I just described in my bill. You have the medical component, medical cannabis avenue, that we can run down, a track that we can run down.

And in Texas, we do have a very small medical cannabis program called the Compassionate Use Registry, and so there is, for children with intractable epilepsy, there is a path for them to obtain that medicine. However, it is a very narrow program, very difficult to get to be a part of, and so there are various efforts to expand upon the Compassionate Use Registry this session.

I think, given the example you just gave, you know, I certainly think that there needs to be an expansion of that program. There are a lot of different uses that we can step into, if we're willing to expand. I think there is some -- there's some bipartisan buy-in on that as well.

And then there's the fourth track, which is creating a true retail market, and I know that those efforts will probably be discussed this session. The governor has essentially said that's a nonstarter for his office, so while I think we should continue to talk about that and make sure we're fleshing it out and be ready for when that political shift comes.

I think the main conversation this session is going to be around medical cannabis and what ailments are going to be allowed to be allowed access to the Compassionate Use Registry, and then also how we reform the criminal justice component of this.

DEAN BECKER: Wonderful thought. Yes, sir. Now, as I understand it, there are 22 US veterans committing suicide every day. Many of them are, you know, eating the pills provided by the Veterans Administration, taking the opioids, taking these more powerful and more deadly, you know, medicines to help with their PTSD, with their wounds, with their, you know, look back at the war they've been involved in.

And I guess what I'm saying, sir, is that, you know, the need is out there. It's obvious. When I interview the local politicians, we talked about medical marijuana, and they talk about, well, yeah they do indeed have friends, they have family, that benefits from it, and I guess what I'm leading to here sir is that the studies are still ongoing.

But there are sufficient studies that our rival state just north of us, Oklahoma, came out with a very good medical marijuana law that's now in play. Louisiana has, so has New Mexico. What do you think? Are we going to catch up with these other states this year?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: You know, it's hard to handicap the legislature. We've got 140 day session, and things, you know, things can get sideways quickly. But I certainly think that conversation is more prominent than it's ever been in this building.

You know, when I started working here ten years ago, if you would have told me there would be twenty-something marijuana related bills, there's no way, no way anyone would believe you.

And so, we've really come a long way in a very short period of time in advancing this conversation, so, you know, they, when they presented this very narrow medical bill, in the past, you know, we called it the Compassionate Use Act, and my question to those folks is, why do we have limits to our compassion?

There are people, to your point, people that are suffering from ailments that could be helped, whether those be veterans, or those that are, you know, addicted to much more dangerous substances.

So, what can we, you know, what can we do to expand the compassion that we have for people. How about folks on hospice? You know, that's one of the measures that's been filed this session --

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: -- is to have some end of life care and compassion for people. So these, you know, I certainly think the conversation has been elevated in a way that it's never been before.

So, I'm hopeful. Hard to handicap this, but I am hopeful that we'll see some expansion during this session.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, once again we're speaking with Mister Joe Moody, he's a Texas congressman [sic: state representative] from the district 78, north part of El Paso.

Now, to kind of step away from marijuana for just a second, you are involved with the criminal justice reform with, I don't know, just redirecting our efforts in that area. Anything you see on that horizon, sir?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: I think criminal justice reform, broadly, really can, you know, can really impact a lot across the board. So that includes reforms to the death penalty system to how we're handling low level offenders, not just when it comes to drug possession, but maybe some other minor offenses. How do we handle them, get them in and out of the justice system?

How do we deal with criminal history records? You know, is there a certain amount of time that, if it passes, are we okeh with allowing someone to remove those marks from their records so they're not a lifetime sentence.

So, there are various ways that we can help impact and reform the criminal justice system. And so I've certainly been part of that conversation over the last decade, and it's, the group of folks that want to work on those issues is certainly growing, it's not shrinking in the Texas legislature.

So, I'm enthusiastic. We had our first hearing of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee today, and I think that we have a lot of room to work and if we build on the work that was done last session, I think we can certainly see some successes in the area of criminal justice reform.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Now, Representative Moody, as of this evening, we have president Trump in your city of El Paso to rally folks for the need for more walls to stop the drugs from coming across the border and for various other reasons.

And at the same time, now, I don't say retired, but out of work Beto O'Rourke is staging a rally at the very same time. Do you want to speak in that regard, to that situation, sir?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: Sure. Yeah, I, you know, Congressman O'Rourke is certainly a friend, and has been so for some time, and has been a great leader in El Paso, a good example for those of us who want to serve the community.

I think what you'll see in his event and rally tonight is one that is positive, that portrays our community accurately, that puts the correct light and a positive light on our border, on one of the largest binational communities in the entire world.

And so this is -- this is an opportunity while, you know, while the president has decided to spread lies about our community, I think this is actually, this is an opportunity for us to stand up and say this is who we are. This is the truth about our community. This, the border is a blessing and a benefit, not something that should be demonized.

And, you know, I hope, I hope, while I'm not holding my breath, I do hope that the president takes time to learn more about our community, because it is, for a very lengthy amount of time it's been a safe community, and is a safe community because of our immigrant population, and because of local law enforcement having great trust relationships with our communities.

And so that's what led to our success, and so I hope that there is some willingness to actually understand what our community is about, and to step away from hateful rhetoric and actually speak the truth.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, I certainly thank you. Once again, folks, we've been speaking with Representative Joe Moody, a state representative out of El Paso, Texas. I thank you, sir.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE MOODY: Thank you very much, appreciate it.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment is from a couple of days ago, courtesy of Houston's ABC.

TOM ABRAHAMS: From CBD to marijuana, marijuana not legal in Texas yet, but some new graduates are prepared in case that changes, they're students of the Houston Academy of Cannabis Science, they're the first to receive their certificates today. They took medicinal and business courses on that plant. Some have been cannabis fans for years. Others are recent converts.

VOICE 1: From an agricultural standpoint, it's a beautiful plant, because it can help build our economy. So it's not just a medical thing, it's -- it actually can help business.

LIZA DEANDA GARCIA: I was the number one person for saying dope is for dopes, and let's see, oh, they're making me eat my words today.

TOM ABRAHAMS: Now that woman says her children told her their relationship would have been so much different growing up if she'd only changed her views on cannabis a little bit sooner.

DEAN BECKER: So we're wrapping up today's show, I think it appropriate that we talk to one of the leaders responsible for this great event, the four hundred plus folks showing up to lobby for marijuana laws. With that, I want to welcome the director of Texas for Responsible Marijuana, Heather Fazio. How are you doing, Heather.

HEATHER FAZIO: Hi Dean, I'm doing pretty good. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Heather, it was quite a day, was it not?

HEATHER FAZIO: It certainly was. We've seen momentum growing for marijuana law reform over the years, and last Thursday at lobby day really was something special, seeing hundreds of Texans coming from around the state to stand up for themselves, for their loved ones, and for their community, in advocating more sensible and compassionate marijuana policy.

DEAN BECKER: Now, you know, I got a chance to talk to some of the folks on the bus on the ride there, and the perspectives were diverse and powerful. We had former police officers, we had folks who had been -- had their belongings taken, suffered through asset forfeiture, if you will.

There are just so many reasons, so many ways that we need to change these marijuana laws.

HEATHER FAZIO: Indeed there are. You know, we have folks that are advocating for reduced penalties for low level possession, considering that's what the vast majority of the 66,000 people are arrested for, when it comes to marijuana in Texas.

And folks also standing for broader medical access for patients with debilitating medical conditions. As you know, the Compassionate Use Program is unnecessarily narrow in that it only allows those with intractable epilepsy to access low THC cannabis.

And what we know is that a majority of Americans have more medical freedom than Texans do, allowing their doctors to work with patients to decide if cannabis is an effective treatment that may be able to benefit patients.

So Texans are on board with reform on the criminal justice side of things as well as the medical side of things, and we're very optimistic that 2019 is the year that we're able to get meaningful policy changes across the finish line.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I was able to tour, or I don't know, move around the building. I hit 79 different offices. I didn't get a chance to speak to one senator or one representative, though for today's show, we do have an interview I conducted today with Joe Moody.

And I guess what I'm wanting to bring forward here is that the staffers, they're, 20 to 35 years old, most of them, and they got it. They got it, they underscored it, they supported everything I was saying.

And I guess what I'm wanting to suggest is that these staffers know the truth, they've heard it all their lives because reform has become a big issue in the last 20 years, certainly.

And I think these politicians know the truth as well. Let's hope that they bend to that truth with this new session.

HEATHER FAZIO: Well, that certainly is the case, and I'll tell you what, if staffers were making the decisions on policy, they would better reflect the values of their community, because they're the ones who hear it.

When constituents make the phone calls to their legislator's office to tell their story about a loved one going through chemotherapy and using cannabis as treatment, or, you know, themselves wanting to use cannabis for a medical purpose, they're hearing these personal stories.

And if staffers were making the decisions, we certainly would have already seen laws change. And that's because they're so directly associated with the folks who are advocating for themselves and for their families.

So we're seeing opinions changing, though, which is exciting, you know, across the party lines, Democrats and Republicans agree that this issue is about people, not about politics. And that's why we're so optimistic about this legislative session.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, we had good folks from Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition and a couple of other groups, some hiring buses, hauling dozens of people from Houston, Dallas, and other cities, to attend this event.

But we can't stop now. You know, I think it would be great if those same four hundred would email and or write or call and to remind folks that their opinion hasn't changed, that that position is still as valid as when they made that visit.

What do you see in the coming weeks and months to help motivate these politicians to listen up?

HEATHER FAZIO: Well, it certainly is critical that we remain vigilant throughout the legislative process. And it certainly is a very cumbersome and difficult process to pay attention to all the ins and outs, which is why it's critical to get involved with and support advocacy organizations that are paying attention, day in and day out, of how policies are progressing through the process and how individuals can take action.

There are going to be lots of opportunities for calling your representatives and emailing them in support of these policy changes as the bills progress through committee hearings and onto full votes of the Texas House of Representatives as well as the Texas Senate.

We want to make sure that all the lawmakers know that this issue is a priority, that we're paying attention to the process, and that we're expecting to hold them accountable to their constituents who want to see these sensible reforms made.

DEAN BECKER: Well, here's more power to that thought. And, Heather, closing thoughts, please, a website, some motivation for the listeners out there.

HEATHER FAZIO: Of course. Well, Dean, I appreciate your consistent advocacy of this issue, and our website is TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org. You can find more information about how to sign up for email updates and action alerts. You can automatically email your, both your representative and your senator through our take action tab.

I also encourage folks to writing an op-ed. Take your personal and professional experience, put it down on paper, and submit it to your local newspaper, or other media outlet. There are lots of stories to tell and people are listening to those advocating for this issue.

So I encourage people to remain optimistic, remain vigilant, and turn yourself into a force multiplier in that not just you are contacting your legislator, but contact your friends who support the issue. Help them through the process. Give the the website, and give them the tools that they need to join the team.

We have a lot of work to do, and I'm so grateful for the many thousand people across the state of Texas who over the years have been advocating for these policies and who are remaining vigilant through this legislative session so that we can get across the finish line by May 27.

That's our deadline, and we're looking forward to celebrating a victory for sensible marijuana policy at that time.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, shallow or absent breathing, dizziness, sedation, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, weak or absent pulse, heart failure, death, thousands of deaths. Time's up! Designed to sedate adult elephants, this drug is one hundred times more deadly than fentanyl, 10,000 times deadlier than morphine.

A portion smaller than a grain of salt can be fatal. The drug lord's dream fulfilled: carfentanyl.

Canada's CBC just released the following. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are reviewing how their members should handle fentanyl following new reports that downplay the risks faced by frontline officers exposed to the drug.

While fentanyl remains a deadly and unpredictable drug for those who take it, new research from within RCMP suggest that police officers aren't likely to overdose on the opioid by absorbing it through their skin or inhaling it.

Quote: "Exposure to people handling the substance is not as high as we thought it was initially, according to Sergeant Luc Chicoine, the RCMP's National Drug Program Coordinator." End quote.

Well, the journey to Austin was rather uneventful, but I got to ride with a busload of friends with all kinds of reasons why they were involved, and while in Austin, I got to meet a gentleman who has a reason that varies quite a bit from what most folks are there for.

Folks are there for medical marijuana, legal marijuana, to change some of the underlying drug laws, the paraphernalia laws, voting for hemp, but there is another aspect, another horrible aspect of this drug war, that demands our attention.

CHRISTOPHER REDFEARN: Thank you, thank you. Well, my name is Christopher Redfearn, and first off, once again, thank you, Dean, for having me.

Unfortunately, I have had the opportunity to work both sides of the fence as far as seeing law enforcement, being a person who became victimized for having it, as well as had some type of a criminal history [inaudible] cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: I am a legalizer, across the board, all drugs. I think it's just my right. Then there are others that think it is a medical necessity, and it is, for certain folks, certainly. But, I like to use the phrase that when euphoria is considered a crime, everyone must suffer.

And, give us some more details here, Christopher. Get to the heart of why you had this problem, why they had this problem with you.

CHRISTOPHER REDFEARN: The story is this. On May First, 2017, I was at a police station with my son. I was returning him to my ex-wife. And I get a call from my new spouse, who I was living with in El Paso, and she says that police officers are at my door.

And I speak to the officer. She said she's there because she is doing a child welfare check. So, I speak to the officer, I let them know that I am at a police station. I let them know that my son is with me. And, he also confirmed it by speaking to an officer who was there at the desk at the police station.

So, about thirty minutes go by. My son gets picked up. I make it home. And when I get home, there's two units there, and two officers, and they're waiting for me. When I got there they immediately put the handcuffs on me.

Since that day, I still haven't seen my son. I've been looked at as someone who is unfit to be a parent. They found cannabis inside my apartment. I'm not a trafficker, this is actually purchased legally in our nation. I paid three separate taxes for it, and rather than taking opiates that would have to be prescribed, which clearly the country has an epidemic of, we decided to take a more holistic approach.

And by bringing that over, I put myself to be put in the cross hairs of the system. And of course, I know what the law is, I worked in it for ten years, but it's for that reason why I left. I disagree with it too. I don't believe that it's right.

I -- my spouse and I, my wife, her name's Melanie, altogether we lost our apartment, I lost my car, we have spent over twelve thousand dollars in legal fees. We had to get rid of our attorney because we could tell that he was trying to roll on us to curry favor with the DA.

We have had to suffer loss of family because of it. My family is fairly conservative and we lost a huge part of our dignity, on top of five thousand dollars in civil forfeiture that they took because they said that it was cash that was going to go towards drugs.

And the worst part about it, you know, we lost our home, we lost family members, we've lost money, we feel like we're in a fight that is a losing battle. Yet, there have been strides and accomplishments, thank god.

But, I lost my son.

DEAN BECKER: All right. The big news from yesterday, they convicted El Chapo, likely to get several life sentences. But the truth be told, it's not going to stop the drug war at all.

And 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 Foundation 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.