08/07/19 Clay Conrad

Attorney Clay Conrad perspectives on hemp, marijuana, drug dogs & more + Seth Schibler regarding conspiracy charges against Eapen Thampy in Missouri

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Guest: 
Clay Conrad
Organization: 
Looney & Conrad
Clay Conrad
Download: Audio icon FDBCB080719.mp3
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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

AUGUST 07, 2019

DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, this is Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High, and we have a magnificent show to share with you beginning now.

Folks if you have been listening to Cultural Baggage over the years you have heard our next guest many times. He comes on usually to talk about the need for jury nullification which is the means by which we can take prosecutors thought on prosecution and tell them no, not on my watch. He works with Looney & Conrad, and he is more the investigative half of that team. I want to welcome a good friend of the show, attorney Clay Conrad. Hello Clay.

CLAY CONRAD: Hello. How are you, Dean?

DEAN BECKER: I am good. Clay, there is a lot of talk about hemp, marijuana and the differences and similarities and how we are going to handle this going forward. What is your take on this situation?

CLAY CONRAD: The first thing as a practical matter these misdemeanor hemp and marijuana cases are probably just over because the cost of running the tests including the time it takes to get the test done, the capacity to run tests is so limited that we are probably not going to see misdemeanor amounts of weed justifying the laboratory tests to determine whether it contains enough THC in it to constitute non-hemp cannabis in most of Texas. On another level, we are seeing that an overwhelming majority of people in Texas and nationally just want to see this over. They don’t see any point in continuing to arrest people for marijuana cases. They would rather have the tax revenue, thank you very much.

Where are we at now? We are in what should be a familiar place. We are in the same place we were when we were reaching the tail end of prohibition and in some parts of the country, two-thirds of the cases were resulting in acquittal because people were not willing to convict in those sorts of cases anymore. Now it is important to remember that under prohibition possession and use of alcohol was still legal it was only sale, production, and distribution that were criminalized. That is where we are going to be with hemp. The only people who are going to be busted for marijuana cases are people who are growing it, selling it, and having significant quantities of it. When juries start refusing to convict those people then the war on drug – at least the war on cannabis will be over. I think the politicians aren’t going to act on this at least not in Texas and most of the Deep South, until juries start standing up and saying no and that it is no longer law enforcement, and they don’t want to be part of it.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Clay. I thank you for that. This brings to mind many questions I have swimming in my head. For the most part marijuana cases do not go to trial in the first place at least not for minor possession. They offer some sort of probation or citation and it rarely goes to trial. Am I right there?

CLAY CONRAD: Absolutely. They basically make an offer that is too good to refuse. They offer some sort of deferred prosecution and most people are going to take that and probably most people should take it because it is pretty close to a get out of jail free card provided you can comply with the conditions of deferred prosecution. The people who can’t take it are going to be people who work out of state or for whatever reason can’t do all of the things that are required to succeed on the deferred prosecution. I think people who travel out of town for work are probably the biggest group of that because these particular conditions can’t be met by people who work out of state.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. A couple of things come to mind. I have been seeing over the last few days that the DPS has said that they are no longer going to arrest either and that they won’t even necessarily take the whole bag that they discover, they would only take a sample and if they have a document that indicates that it is in fact hemp they will leave you alone. How much truth or voracity is in that thought?

CLAY CONRAD: I would be rather surprised if things had gotten that good. If you have documentation such as a bill of lading from a recognized hemp grower they might leave you alone but I would expect that they would not just look aside since they can’t prove it is marijuana. I would expect that it would still be treated as a crime in Texas because the presumption with the police is always going to be that this is more than just hemp. The fact is that most of the time they are probably going to be right. Not that many people will be walking or driving around with just hemp on them. We all know this as a reality. But what you know sort of instinctively and what you can prove are not always the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: So if I am riding around with a bag sitting on the dashboard with a green, leafy material that smells like marijuana and I had just smoked a joint out of that particular bag; but it is hemp. If I get pulled over and the cop says that he smells marijuana and orders me out of the car but hemp smells exactly like marijuana and that bag of hemp looks exactly like a bag of marijuana. How can they justify the bust? How can they take my bag?

CLAY CONRAD: That is really going to be the $64,000 question because everybody in law enforcement, just like everybody on our side is still trying to figure this out. One of the issues they have that we haven’t heard a lot about yet is drug dogs. Drug dogs are useless now. They have all been trained to alert to something which is not necessarily legal. As a matter of Supreme Court precedent if a dog alerts to something that is not contraband, it is not a well-trained dog and its alert is not considered reliable so you cannot rely on it to justify police action. Now we have gotten rid of the drug dogs and that is kind of a big deal in itself because without the drug dogs a lot of these cases never would have begun. They need those dogs to justify getting in to your car in the first place.

DEAN BECKER: I know that this is still in the works since it is still early for a lot of the rulings and it occurs to me that Texas is requiring some paperwork to justify that it is hemp. I am not certain because it is very vague at this point but that it is something that should be generated by the State of Texas to stand in support of a batch of hemp as being grown and legal in the state, and yet they are not issuing that paperwork. It reminds me of the story of Timothy Leary who started going to Mexico but decided to come back and he had a joint in his pocket. He was busted for that joint and then he was prosecuted under the Federal Tax Act, but the fact was that they were not issuing tax stamps for people who had marijuana and they threw the whole case out and declared the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional and came up with the Controlled Substance Act a few months later. Your thoughts on that, Clay Conrad?

CLAY CONRAD: It is not surprising that they haven’t got it all worked out yet. Every time the law changes, and this is not unique to this issue, it takes a while for the powers that be to draft the rules and regulations they need to enact the new law. So many people’s lives are going to be at stake because this is the most frequently violated law in the land. The laws against marijuana are the most frequent crimes reported in America so if they can’t get this together they are in a really bad place because it is not just doing business as normal; this is business as normal. This is the biggest criminal activity registered in America, people smoking pot, possessing pot, and people getting arrested for pot which constitutes hundreds of thousands of people a year.

DEAN BECKER: If I remember right, the number of marijuana arrests each year is more than the total arrests for all violent crimes. We often talk about how it is such a waste of our taxpayer dollars. Well friends once again we are speaking with Mr. Clay Conrad, with Looney & Conrad here in the city of Houston and Hempstead, TX. Clay is author of a couple of books talking about jury nullification. Clay as we are wrapping it up here if hemp is legal and they say it is, is it legal to smoke it? I am actually thinking of gathering a crew to meet at the courthouse in Houston at noon and smoke some hemp together and see what in the hell happens. What do you think might happen?

CLAY CONRAD: Troublemakers!

(LAUGHTER)

CLAY CONRAD: I don’t see why it wouldn’t be legal. It is a legal substance, you should be able to do whatever you want with it. You can smoke it, cook with it, make clothing out of it; it is a legal substance. I don’t see where they can say that you can do some things with it and not others. I guess to the extent that laws against smoking indoors would apply.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. There at the courthouse they have a nice little area with some benches and such where people sit and smoke. While I am there handing out my fliers at the courthouse I would like to take a little break and sit down and smoke a joint of hemp with some friends. What do we have to do from my perspective, Clay? I am not asking you to endorse this but we have to embarrass and belittle these politicians that they don’t have a clue what they are doing and no idea how to handle marijuana. For what it is worth, what irks me the most is that that they are still looking for a means, a mechanism, a test, a way to discern on the side of the highway if I am too high on marijuana to be driving? If they can’t figure that out than they have got no reason to try to figure it out. What is your response, Clay Conrad?

CLAY CONRAD: I don’t think any of us want to see people who are thoroughly out of it driving on the roads.

DEAN BECKER: Me, either.

CLAY CONRAD: I don’t know how you get around that. I think that is one of the biggest problems with marijuana legalization as it is harder to tell as it is with alcohol. That is not a reason not to legalize. That is the reason to put in the investment to develop those tests; it is not an impossible burden. Those tests can be done and just because something can lead to problems has never been an excuse to just make it wholesale illegal before. Everyone knows that alcohol can lead to drunk driving but we don’t say that responsible alcohol users aren’t allowed to do it because a drunk driver might slip through the cracks. We have got to develop the technology and it is not an impossible burden to be able to tell when someone is dangerous to themselves or others and that is not unreasonable. They do it.

DEAN BECKER: I am with you there, Clay. I am not arguing the point necessarily only to say that if you can’t tell through a discussion, stand on one foot, do the alphabet backwards which is a normal thing we have done with alcoholics in the past but if you can’t discern any failing in their actions or mental faculties then leave them well enough alone. I quit drinking 31years ago and before that I was in car wrecks, fights, got tickets, and you name it. Since that point and time I have smoked weed every day for the last 34 years and haven’t had a fight, car wreck, ticket, and no problems with the law whatsoever. I guess what I am saying is that pot is not the Buggaboo or the Devil’s Weed, and it is not the threat that it has always been purported to be. Your closing thoughts there Mr. Clay Conrad?

CLAY CONRAD: The old joke is that if you have a drunk driving on the road they will be going 90 and unaware they are speeding and you get someone who is stoned, your biggest problem is going to be that they are going to sit there and wait for the stop sign to change. It is not as dangerous as alcohol even when someone is using it on the road because potheads don’t tend to be as aggressive as people who are drinking so they don’t tend to be hyper aggressive drivers. That said, the technology can be developed so that if someone is too stoned to drive they can be identified. If that is a challenge for law enforcement so be it; let them meet the challenge. This is not a reason to keep something illegal because it means cops are going to have to work harder and that is really what the argument comes down to. It is time for people to step up and start refusing to convict in cases where a conviction serves no social purpose and that is what this is a case in which conviction serves no purpose that can be recognized.

DEAN BECKER: Absolutely true! I agree with you, Sir. It brings to mind that the one thing I am hoping for as this all evolves is that we finally realize that the cops no longer have the right to say they smell weed and make someone get out of the car because that has been a means where they short circuit our civil rights, constitutional rights, and our God given rights. There doesn’t even have to be weed in the car to make that happen. Your closing thoughts, Clay?

CLAY CONRAD: Oh, absolutely. It’s one of the loopholes the cops have been exploiting for decades now and I do believe that it’s come to an end. I don’t think the “I smell weed in the car”, or “My dog smells weed in the car” anymore. I think that is probably a good thing. I don’t think that ending the war on drugs is a threat. I think the war on drugs is a threat. We have got far too many people who haven’t hurt anyone in prison. Even if you just want to think of it from a fiscal standpoint; we can’t afford it anymore. It is too expensive to put all of those people in prison. We lose their tax revenue and we have to support them. That gets expensive real fast.

DEAN BECKER: That is exactly right. Okay friends, once again that was Clay Conrad. He is with Looney & Conrad and you can find them on the web at: www.looneyconrad.com. Clay, thank you, Sir.

CLAY CONRAD: Thank you.

MALE VOICE: Tell your kids never to sniff inhalants because the first time can kill.

FEMALE VOICE: A message from the Partnership for a Drug Free Texas and America.

DEAN BECKER: The Partnership for a Drug Free America is an enormous fraudulent enterprise but in this one instance they did get it right.

Over the decades I have been in rooms with thousands of illegal marijuana plants being grown as clone mothers for thousands of people who wanted to grow marijuana themselves. I have been in rooms with hundreds of pounds of marijuana stacked on the shelf being sold in the store openly whereas the marijuana itself in that volume was worthy of a federal sentence serving life behind bars. Many of my friends have been in similar situations. We are doing investigations, we are learning facts, getting to the heart of the matter, we are educating ourselves on the principals, the economics, and how the marijuana industry works. One of my friends has been in similar situations and has faced a gauntlet of law enforcement claiming that he was a conspirator to these happenings even though he was just an observer. Here to talk about it is one of his friends, Mr. Seth Schibler up in Missouri. How are you, Seth?

SETH SCHIBLER: I am doing well, Dean. Thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Did I nail it pretty good there? What do you think?

SETH SCHIBLER: I think you did a pretty accurate job of illustrating Ethan’s case. The fact of the matter is that if a Federal Grand Jury really wanted to, they could indict a ham sandwich. The absurdity over a federal felony marijuana distribution conspiracy charge – anyone who wants to be implicated or could be implicated in a conspiracy charge could have made as simple as a phone call and be implicated in something that is related to Ethan’s situation. It is a shame what the U.S. Attorneys have brought against him but I think he has a very good case to fight this.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Let’s give them more details that we may have skipped over. We are talking about Mr. Eapen Thampy. He is based in Missouri and he is a marijuana activist extraordinaire. What happened and how did he get caught in their snare?

SETH SCHIBLER: Eapen Thampy who is 35, is a very seasoned and experienced member of the Missouri lobbying community. He has lobbied for issues ranging from marijuana and cannabis reform, criminal justice reform, and civil asset forfeiture reform. A Federal Grand Jury came down with this indictment on Thursday, May 30th. He was picked up on a felony marijuana distribution conspiracy charge and a felony marijuana possession charge. If he is convicted he would fact ten years to life in prison for the distribution charge alone. That speaks to the problem we have in this country with mandatory minimums where someone can get ten years to life in prison for having possession or distributing a plant gets more time than someone who murdered another person and that to me is just absurd in and of itself.

DEAN BECKER: That is thanks to Mr. Joe Biden. We must never forget that he led that charge back when. Let’s talk about the potential consequences. As I think we have both tried to indicate, Eapen is just an observer. He might as well be a journalist out gaining facts which is what he was doing. He was not going to profit from any of this profiteering that was going on from this black market mechanism. Many women who get caught up in these conspiracy charges have nobody to snitch on. They have no means to take the monkey of their back and they wind up getting longer sentences than the people who were actually doing the bad acts. Your thought there, Mr. Seth Schibler?

SETH SCHIBLER: I think you hit it on the nose, Dean. It is 2019 and we still have marijuana listed as a Schedule 1 at the federal level; this is very outdated and needs to be looked at in a different light. We need to have more perspectives on it from people like Eapen Thampy and I think a major step we could take is to support legislation like the States Act, which would basically entrust the states with giving them more power over how they view the conduct and regulation of marijuana and no longer at the federal level. I think that is something that we seriously need to consider and something that we all need to have a responsibility in taking action to promote legislation like that and encouraging our senators and representatives to do that.

DEAN BECKER: Right on, Seth. The whole framework is just shredding in front of everybody’s eyes. Your closing thoughts there, Seth Schibler?

SETH SCHIBLER: I think that there are a lot of changing dynamics going on especially with the more science and research we get out of the developments in marijuana and how it is utilized in agriculture. As much work as we have to go, we have made major strides with the 2018 Farm Bill that was supported heavily by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which would allow for farmers to obtain licenses by the commissions that work with the Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp on their property. The more we destigmatize marijuana as a society, the more we will be able to benefit socioeconomically and keep people like Eapen Thampy out of prison. It is just absurd that he is having to go down this road and I hope that he wins this case and is a testament to the reform that we need in this country when it comes to cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Is there a website you can share?

SETH SCHIBLER: You can go to: www.gofundme.com/eapenthampylegaldefensefund

DEAN BECKER: Looking for brave souls. If you are a regular listener to this program you know that each Wednesday morning I go to the courthouses in downtown Houston to hand out my postcards and fliers to judges, jurors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, deputies, policeman, troopers, as well as probationers and the accused. As you heard earlier in my discussion with attorney Clay Conrad, I want to challenge the hemp marijuana laws by way of smoking a joint of hemp at the courthouse. I hope one or more of you will join me in passing said hemp joint there on the tobacco smoker’s benches at 201 Caroline Street, which is the Harris County Civil Courthouse. We will meet on the south side at the end of the disabled ramp under the trees because it is hot. We will be handing out fliers and will be easy to see. I will be the old man with long white hair wearing a shirt that says, “Drug War is an Abomination before God”. Even if you don’t want to smoke with me – because we might go to jail – I need someone to video tape the event just in case they arrest me or in case they do not. I don’t care, I have been to jail 13 times already. I don’t think they have evidence or logic to want to continue the hundred year old bull shift. I will alert the DA and police chief in advance, we don’t want to frighten anybody. It would sure be great if even just a few folks would join me next week, August 14th at 201 Caroline Street. Please be there before noon and if possible please alert me by email: dean@drugtruth.net.

There is no disrespect intended through this effort and I think everyone understands that. Perhaps there can be a better, nice bold step that we can all take.

Once again I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag – not even weed these days. Please be careful!

Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are currently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.