05/15/19 Howard Wooldridge

DTN Editorial: Prohibition is Evil, Howard Wooldridge Dir of COP Citizens Opposing Prohibition + Paul Armentano of NORML & Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Guest: 
Howard Wooldridge
Organization: 
COP
Download: Audio icon FDBCB051519.mp3
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MAY 15, 2019

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: This is a Drug Truth Network editorial.

Drug prohibition is a glaringly obvious deviation from morality, a hundred years of hysteria, propaganda, and demonization has given impetus and trillions of tax dollars to the effort to find and cage millions of Americans, to destroy the lives of those who chose to use drugs.

Cops know this. Judges, prosecutors, wardens, and border patrol all know that this is a lie, an eternal cluster-fock, a charade that is played out daily to protect these same drug warriors and their supposed morals from being exposed as servants of a great evil.

Prohibition is evil. It is a crime.

Hi, folks, I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. This is Cultural Baggage. In a little while, we'll hear from my good friend Mister Howard Wooldridge. We'll also hear Mister Art Way of the Drug Policy Alliance. But first up:

Well, this morning, I received an email, came from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The subject was New Bill Alert. Here to fill us in on what that's about and maybe how we can get involved is the deputy director of that same organization, NORML, Mister Paul Armentano. How're you doing, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I'm fine, Dean, it's nice to speak with you.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you Paul. Yeah, Senator Schumer and Representative Jeffries announced their intent to reintroduce the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act. What does that mean and how can folks learn more and help in that effort?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Sure. Well, this is legislation pending before the United States Senate and the House of Representatives that essentially would de-schedule marijuana at the federal level. It would remove the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, thereby allowing individual states to set their own cannabis policies unimpeded and unfettered by the federal government.

It would also provide inducements for expungement for those who have past marijuana convictions, so that those at the federal level would no longer face the stigma and lost opportunities that go along with having a criminal conviction for the possession, use, or sale of cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and this is kind of, I don't know, being put forward along with ideas on redesigning how cannabis shops can bank at a regular bank, and all kinds of things, a lot of common sense approaches being taken, and I think that this bill that you were explaining there would perhaps give some of these state officials the ability to relieve their conscience, so to speak, to say that, you know, as long as the federal government is against it we're going to stick with our past intentions.

What's your thought in that regard, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, most certainly there still are states and politicians in certain states that use the federal prohibition of cannabis and specifically the Schedule One classification of cannabis under federal law as political cover for their own failure to move forward state specific marijuana policies, and to move forward policies that are aligned with the majority of their constituents.

Because we know that around sixty percent or even in some cases seventy percent of voters support legalizing marijuana. Certainly, this would remove that political cover that some state politicians are utilizing.

But more importantly, it finally ends this flat earth policy where we have the federal government trying to make the case that cannabis is without any medical value whatsoever, and that cannabis is among the most dangerous controlled substances available.

Both of those premises are false on their face, and the federal law needs to reflect that reality.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Thank you for that. Well, again, friends, we've been speaking with Mister Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Paul, I'm also looking within this email I got today, it's asking folks if they can take twenty seconds to send a message to their elected, telling them it's time to commit to reform. How might folks do that?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, they could certainly do it by going to the NORML website at NORML.org. Go to the Take Action Center, which there is an icon for on the right hand top of the page, if you simply click Act, you will then go to our federal action alerts, and you can contact your member of Congress or your US Senator and ask them to be a co-sponsor of this bill and to support hearings and votes on this measure.

You mentioned earlier, Dean, that there's separate legislation to permit banking. There's legislation pending before the federal government to permit veterans to have access to medical cannabis.

The reality is, is that all of these individual piecemeal bills are unnecessary if and when the federal government moves forward and simply declassifies cannabis altogether, as this bill will do.

DEAN BECKER: And, Paul, this is kind of the season of major rallies and stuff around the country in support of NORML, in support of marijuana legalization, and it occurs to me there are tens of millions if not perhaps approaching a hundred million Americans these days who know cannabis is a safe medicine and or recreational vehicle.

And if we all had the courage, just that one day, to stand up and speak up, it would make one hell of a difference, wouldn't it?

PAUL ARMENTANO: It most certainly would. Look, politicians tend to generally be risk averse, and so they need to understand that advocating and voting in favor of marijuana policy reform is not a political liability, in fact it's a political opportunity.

The reality is, is that politicians need to fear going against the wishes of their constituents, going against the will of their voters. They need to be rewarded when they act in favor of what their voters want, but in instances like this, where they choose to either ignore or reject the will of their constituents, who want marijuana policy reform, they need to know that their positions as elected officials could very soon be in jeopardy.

That's the message that needs to be sent.

DEAN BECKER: A good message it would be, indeed. Again, folks, you can do that by going to the NORML site, NORML.org. Thank you, Paul Armentano.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Thank you, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Abnormal dreams, confusion, coughing up blood, decreased sensitivity to stimulation, decreased sex drive, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, hepatitis, impotence, memory loss, and sensitivity to light. Time's up! The answer: Claritin, another FDA approved product.

About two months ago, I was in St. Louis, I was attending a conference with many of my compadres from the Drug Policy Alliance. While there, I got a chance to speak with Mister Art Way, and he's very much in tune with what's happening with drug policy and happenings around the planet, if you will.

I want to talk to him about a couple of different subjects today, he's with us now. Hello, Art.

ART WAY: Hi Dean, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm real good. Art, the first one comes to mind is state-side, Denver, not too long ago, passed a measure to allow for, well, not necessarily to allow for, but to make it a non-priority, the use of magic mushrooms. Correct?

ART WAY: Right. They are now, according to the voters of Denver, the lowest law enforcement priority, for the Denver District Attorney and Denver Police Department.

So with these lowest enforcement priority initiatives, you really want to have the DA on board, but our current DA, I think, is a bit more progressive than the past one, and she hasn't come out and said anything similar to date.

Our public health and safety benchmarks are well within norm, and I expect the psilocybin initiative not to have any detrimental impact on public health an safety either.

Well, it's definitely that, one of the more popular illicit substances out there, you know, and I think it's popularity may increase, but I think that would be due to its medicinal benefits and those seeking to get help for their depression.

DEAN BECKER: Stories are breaking, many people are reconsidering past stances taken, are beginning to move in a different direction, and that certainly holds true for the nation of Mexico, where they have announced plans to end the prohibition of drugs and allow for a legal supply through prescription, thus cutting out the gangs and the cartels.

It seems like a smart move to me. What do you think, Art?

ART WAY: Yeah, I'm happy to see Mexico starting this discussion and moving in this direction. You know, I think we are somewhat concerned that, you know, that the private market in Mexico can, in many ways, dominate state regulations, and, you know, we don't want to see the type of rampant, unregulatory system when it comes to this, but more than anything, it's good that Mexico is having this conversation.

It's good that they're having this conversation with all drugs, and they know more than anybody the detriment of prohibition, and the impact that it can have on their people. So, it's definitely a good move in the right direction.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Art, we were in Lisbon, Portugal, just over a year ago, many of the Drug Policy Alliance folks, I was privileged enough to go on to Switzerland, but what we learned over there is that they are no longer arresting anybody for minor amounts of drugs, for I think it's a five day supply, if I remember right.

ART WAY: Ten day.

DEAN BECKER: Ten day, all right, even a ten day supply.

ART WAY: Right. Right. Right.

DEAN BECKER: And that includes everything from heroin to cocaine to marijuana to mushrooms, I would suppose. And, their ramifications, or their spin-off problems, maybe I should say, have diminished greatly, there's less addiction, less overdose, less crime, on down the line. Am I right?

ART WAY: Absolutely. I mean, what you see in Portugal is a concerted effort to deal with the demand for drugs, and that those who are using and possessing are assessed for any type of substance use disorder. And if that is there, they provide state based treatment that doesn't depend on abstinence.

And they're also focusing on large scale drug distribution, so what you see in Portugal is proper priorities, as opposed to what you see here. We try to fight the drug war here on the backs of the petty drug user and the petty drug seller, and Portugal's focusing on bigger fish and dealing with the demand when it comes to problematic drug use.

DEAN BECKER: They don't have the mad frenzy that we have over here. Correct?

ART WAY: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think when it comes to prohibition related violence, you've seen their numbers go down. Drug dependency and addiction numbers have also gone down for most demographics out there.

So yeah, you know, our system of, you know, wack-a-mole when it comes to the drug supply chain really creates a lot more problems than it's worth, when you talk about, you know, the death of confidential informants, and just the plea bargaining system altogether is problematic. Portugal is cutting that out when it comes to simple use and possession.

DEAN BECKER: Well, here's hoping that we can begin to learn lessons from these other nations, Mexico, Portugal, heck, even Switzerland.

ART WAY: Well, you know, Europe has different healthcare structures than we do here in America, which allows them to really take a more rational approach to drug policy. But, you know, we're moving in that direction.

Here in Colorado, we just defelonized use and possession under four grams, and are slowly starting to establish a way for us to assess people for dependency. But yeah, we've definitely got a couple decades to go.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I, sadly I have to agree with you on --

ART WAY: Right.

DEAN BECKER: -- extended time frame, but here's hoping more folks will get involved, will educate themselves, and, I don't know, become part of the rally cry against this drug war, lasting forever with its horrible results. You can learn more, dear listener, by going to the website of the Drug Policy Alliance. that's out there on the web at DrugPolicy.org.

This is going to be a different interview than I've ever done with you probably ever before.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Okeh. What's new and improved?

DEAN BECKER: Well, first off, I want to introduce you to the listeners. This is my good friend, my compadre for twenty years, dating back to our time with the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. I'll let him tell you about himself, the organizations he's working with.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Oh, yeah, I'm retired detective Howard Wooldridge, Fort Worth, Texas, founder of COPS, Citizens Opposing Prohibition. I represent a group of law enforcement and other concerned citizens in the halls of Congress to end the federal prohibition of all drugs, starting with marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: And he means that. He patrols those halls year in, year out. How long you been doing it, Howard?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: This is my thirteenth year in the halls of Congress, the swamp, if you will.

DEAN BECKER: Are they draining it yet? I don't know, I don't know.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: No. Not yet.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, let's don't get into politics. And you probably heard, I'm doing this semi-facetiously, I'm claiming to be the Reverend Most High, the leader of morality in the drug war. And I claim that because I feel I've investigated this a hell of a lot.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right.

DEAN BECKER: I have done my very damnedest to educate and, you know, understand what's going on. And I feel that you are in that same boat, you have done that as well, you've traveled the world, you've tried to invigorate your understanding, have you not, Howard?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah, a couple of weeks ago I finished passing out to all 535 members of Congress plus my two contacts in the White House a summary of how the Swiss handle heroin addiction treatment, the best in the world, most pro-life, if you will, most effective, both in terms of saving lives, saving taxpayer money, and currently I'm going to all of the offices to inform them as to why police officers don't want to legalize marijuana specifically, and why some of us, many of us, do.

And I just simply say that the number one reason that is not often talked about is the ability to search every vehicle and every person in America is completely dependent on us making the claim, true or not, making the claim that we smell marijuana, get out of your car.

DEAN BECKER: My lord. There it is. I've been writing these editorials and I've been trying to formulate, to put on paper, to present the facts, the undeniable, unwavering facts that can influence others, and it seems to me, the nation of Mexico is now trying to legalize drugs, looking for our cooperation, to sell it through pharmacies rather than street corners.

And yet, we're hearing nothing here from our Congress. Your thought there, Howard.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: I'm happy. Silence is tacit, you know, silent admission of what's going on is not a bad idea. If they were yelling and screaming, saying bad idea, that's one thing, but when they say nothing, it's a thundering, thundering silence, that, go ahead, Mexico, we don't care.

And that's a silent admission and or approval, if you will, that Mexico is on the right path, which is to legalize, regulate all drugs, and sell them through a pharmacy with controls that a pharmacy has.

I'd like to see this, something -- or something like that, very much, in the USA as soon as possible.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Now, Howard, what, another aggravation that's just tearing at me, I'm seeing the stories every day, how it's getting worse and worse, these immigrants coming across the border, they've got nowhere to put them, they're sleeping on rocks, there's babies with these Mylar blankets.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right. Right.

DEAN BECKER: It tears at my heart. Your thought there, they are up here because of this damn drug war, are they not?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Absolutely. We should be calling these people in the caravans drug war refugees. They're fleeing the violence of the cartels. Why are there cartels? Because America has a policy of modern prohibition.

When prohibition falls by the wayside, the cartels will disappear, just like all of the Al Capones of 1933.

This ain't rocket science, Dean, as you well know, it's simply getting the effective message out there to convince a voter not on our side yet that it's in their best interest, especially of their children, to end this thing, because we see in Colorado and Washington state, six years into legalization, my colleague detectives are arresting more pedophiles and other violent felons because we're not in a helicopter screwing around with god's green plant.

We've got to speak to the children who are being hurt, shot, killed, selling drugs, and of course, police resources should be redirected to looking after our children.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. And these legitimate cannabis dispensaries, these businesses, they have a problem. They cannot take their money to the bank. The bank will not take it. There's a federal law against it. And it leads to the only crime involved in that industry, is people wanting to rob the proceeds because they can't use the banks like normal people.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Sure. Yeah. Well, I have cheerful news for you and your listeners, the banking bill is gathering great steam, we've already had a hearing, and it's looking very, very good to pass the House and probably the Senate, and then the next big step past that is also, I have medium confidence, is the 280e rule which means businesses can take off their income tax, their 1040, all their normal businesses.

This will allow businesses, according to my CPA friend Karen Anderson, to drop prices by one third and then beat up on the black market and perhaps even destroy it once these prices drop dramatically with changes in Washington.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that is good news, Howard. You know, I have friends that are in the black market that are still making a decent living. They're -

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Sure.

DEAN BECKER: - in many cases they're providing a better product, at, certainly at a better price, than the overtaxed marijuana at the federal -- state store, I should say. But there is room for those people to get involved in trade, to not be excluded. The, too many regulations are excluding those people with those years if not decades of experience of making a better product. Your thought there.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, that's -- it gets complicated. I agree that these people who've been providing for thirty years should have an equal chance to go after the legal store. They should not be held back by a criminal record, whether a felony or misdemeanor. They should be given an equal chance like everybody else.

And yeah, if we over-regulate this thing, which some states are doing, we will see a continuation of the black market, because the prices will be too high and that allows people to make money, as you say, some of your friends, selling it on the side.

DEAN BECKER: Well, lordy lordy. Howard, I want to come back to the thought that you have more experience than me, you're a little bit bolder than I, you were the first to wear the Cops Say Legalize Drugs shirt, Ask Me Why. You were the first with the Cops Say Legalize Heroin Ask Me Why shirt.

But I've been following in your footsteps. I think you're leading down a proper path here, my friend. And -

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Got to say thank you, Dean, because, you've worn yours a couple months, I've had mine on for nine months, and it's amazing, the overwhelming response, it's somebody will ask a thoughtful question, why do officers want to legalize, I give a thoughtful response and they walk away going, he made some sense.

Not necessarily agree with him, but this man is making sense and they don't treat me like the village idiot. More and more, seriously, they're treating me like the mayor of the village.

DEAN BECKER: Well, look, I hang out at the courthouses here, as you know, I hand out my little fliers, and it seems like the ones who look like they were on trial today as they're walking back out, they're the least likely to take it. But the ones who take it the most are ones, the attorneys, both the prosecutors and defense attorneys.

They admit this is a fiasco, never needed to start and it certainly needs to end, but they've got no ideas on it and some of them even say, no man, I'm not going to kill my gravy train. It's -

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right.

DEAN BECKER: That's eating at me as well. Your response there, Howard.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Dean, I did the Frederick Rotary a couple of weeks ago, a hundred and twenty Rotarians, conservative business people, community leaders, and what was not surprising, but it's important, every person in that audience knew somebody addicted to heroin or who had died of a drug overdose.

And that's why, my belief is, why I'm getting a good reception on the heroin shirt is because everybody knows current policy is not working, and the trouble is nobody in Washington nor any state legislature is asking professionals to come forward and say, what is the best, very best method to treat these drug addicts, because what we're doing today results in 200 people dying, we're doing something wrong.

I just say, the Swiss are copied in eight countries. Nobody, nobody anywhere in the world copies the American approach to heroin addiction. Nobody.

DEAN BECKER: Well, maybe Duterte in the Philippines, but he took it --

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Okeh, maybe the Philippines, I stand corrected.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And for those who don't know, Duterte is a dictator, a man who goes out on his motorcycle and shoots people he thinks are using drugs in the middle of the road.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right. It's sad.

DEAN BECKER: And then he encourages all his cops to do the same. It's an insane situation.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Howard, we, by that I mean, you know, the good folks we know in LEAP, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, those who wore the badge or swung the gavel, or whatever.

We know this. Why aren't we getting the respect we deserve? Why aren't politicians leaping on the end of prohibition like, well, winners? Your thought.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Dean, as you see with the Democrats in 20 -- for the '20 election versus '16, nobody in '16 was talking -- no Democrat was talking legalization of marijuana. Now, all twenty, thirty, forty, whatever it is, candidates are all talking legalize marijuana, except for Joe Biden who's a muffinhead.

So, it's just a question, you know, politicians do not lead. They follow, and that's why it's so important, and I ask all your audience, please, email your politicians and for me, the Congressmen, your two US Senators, and say this should be a Tenth Amendment states' rights issue.

Just so you and your audience know, all I talk about in Congress is Tenth Amendment. Let the states decide. I don't use the L word, legalization, I don't decrim, I simply say this should be a Lansing, Springfield, Atlanta, Austin Texas, issue. The federal government has more important things to do than look after and make decisions about god's green plant.

So please, send those emails.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Howard, I appreciate that. Well, we've got a couple of minutes here. I want to share -- I changed different shirts, you know, I do the Legalize Heroin, but I also have a new one, this [unintelligible], it's What Is The Benefit Of Drug War? And What is big, Benefit Drug War. What Benefit Drug War, big question mark.

And that's the answer I've been looking for, for twenty years, you know that. I know what it's all about, but what do we get back? What is the return? And there's nothing.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Correct, I mean, unless, unless there are certain industries which are making billion -- tens of billions of dollars, not the least of which is the police, prison industry. Police officers, the prison guards, are making billions and billions off the modern prohibition.

And so they don't want that gravy train to end. There are other -- there are private prisons, of course, they're an opponent of mine, an adversary on the Hill. Because again, if we change the drug laws, their business model goes in the toilet as we drop our prison by half.

I mean, there are certain groups that are making lots of money off this thing, and also, the, and I've seen this, and maybe you have too, police officers who, and all of us have been to funerals of men and women who, police officers who died in the line of duty on a drug raid or a bad traffic stop.

That means those guys, and women, died for nothing, in vain, and a lot of cops are emotional about the fact they don't want to accept that their friends died for nothing, like a whole generation did in Vietnam forty years ago.

DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind a story, I was a moderator at an event, and I won't give the guy's name, I'll just say he was running for district attorney of Houston, Harris County, and I gave my usual spiel that drug war empowers terrorists, cartels, gangs, enriches, you know, ensures more overdose deaths, et cetera, et cetera.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Sure.

DEAN BECKER: When I was done, he left the podium, he starts walking towards me, his face is getting red, he's saying, you mean to tell me all of the brave men and women who died fighting the drug war did it for nothing?

And before he got within swinging range, the deputy police chief grabbed him by the shoulder and walked him to the [unintelligible].

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah. Yeah. Sure.

DEAN BECKER: And that's all they have, is bluster, and to make a scene. Anyway.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Right.

DEAN BECKER: We've been talking with my good friend, Mister Howard Wooldridge. Howard, share your website, some closing thoughts, please.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yes. CitizensOpposingProhibition.org. Cheerful news is, at this moment, for the first time in history, we have sufficient votes in both the House and US Senate to end the 1937 federal prohibition of marijuana. We have the votes. We don't have the -- we still have lots of work to do, but we are almost on the edge of winning here in '19 or '20.

And that's the cheerful news. And the other part of it is, too, the people are more with us, Dean, because there's heroin in every small town in USA, and that gives people pause as to should we really support this failed trillion dollar drug war? So please, keep the faith, folks, we've been out there for twenty years. We are on the edge of ending a bunch of it.

DEAN BECKER: So much we didn't have time for, intros or outros, all I can say is the drug war can be won, can be won sooner, if you'll dare to say just a few words. And as always I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.