10/16/19 Will Foster

Will Foster once sentenced to 93 years for 5 plants is now a powerful and potent weed grower in Okla, Aaron Ruth of Johnny Appleseed Dispensary, Dean Mitchel of Ma & Pa Canna Shops + Houston Atty Russell Webb

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Guest: 
Will Foster
Russell Webb
Will Foster
Download: Audio icon FDBCB101619.mp3
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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

OCTOBER 16, 2019

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

MALE SPEAKER: It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD CHANT: No more Drug War! No more Drug War! No more Drug War!

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.

DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, this is Dean Becker. The Reverend Most High and you are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. We’ve got some segments recorded in Oklahoma about ten days ago during our visit up there and we are also gonna hear from a Houston attorney, Mr. Russell Webb. But let’s get started with Oklahoma.

AARON RUTH: I am Aaron Ruth, I help run the Johnny Appleseed in Okmulgee.

DEAN BECKER: Now we’re touring Oklahoma, we are seeing good gosh just dispensaries all over the place. It’s not stigmatized, it’s not shunned, and its booming business is it not?

AARON RUTH: Oh absolutely. It’s a product that sells itself and as long as you have a good product they are going to keep coming back for me.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. I think the Powers That Be, they used to say – pish posh, not in my town. They are changing their perspectives are they not?

AARON RUTH: They are but they don’t have much of a choice the way the law was written originally so that helped to stifle them from stifling us. There are a lot of laws set up to protect from cities not wanting us to be in their town.

DEAN BECKER: Now you if I dare say are kind of privileged to have one of the ramrods – one of the people who helped change these laws here in Oklahoma show up at your establishment. Let’s talk about that for a second.

AARON RUTH: Absolutely! I have heard a lot about her. I haven’t met her yet. I know she has done great things and obviously we are open because of her and get to carry a strain named after her which is awesome. So just seeing her name on there and her coming in was a huge surprise I guess.

DEAN BECKER: The thing that I find almost curious, but like you said – it sells itself. But how big a town is Okmulgee?

AARON RUTH: Oh 15,000 give or take. Maybe a little more. I think the whole county is around 23 – 24,000 people.

DEAN BECKER: Right. But they are kind of scattered over a few hillsides around here. It’s not like – well there may be a bigger downtown, but it’s not a huge metropolis.

AARON RUTH: This street is probably one of the biggest areas of the town and then right down that street and a couple over, a half mile down you’ve got the rest of the little downtown area.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Do you have a website, something you might want to share with the listeners?

AARON RUTH: No we don’t have a website yet. You can find us here – our little logo on Weed Maps, but we keep our menu here in-house. We don’t put it out. We keep the prices cheaper than most around and we’ve got good product.

DEAN BECKER: I saw the signs out front. Good indications you guys are being respectful to your customers wanting that return.

AARON RUTH: Absolutely. If we charge too much they won’t come back. If we don’t charge enough well we obviously won’t make it but we found a happy medium and everybody seems to like it. After getting a good product in is the main thing of it.

DEAN BECKER: Following our time in Okmulgee, we went to the High Life Hemp Harvest Fest.

DEAN MITCHELL: My name’s Dean Mitchell and I have got two dispensaries and a grow operation.

DEAN BECKER: And you are based here in Oklahoma?

DEAN MITCHELL: Yes.

DEAN BECKER: How long have you been in business?

DEAN MITCHELL: We’ve been in business since Day 1. We got our license on the first day that we possibly could. We didn’t actually sell any THC products until the 1st of the year. We grow our own and we also buy it but yeah, we have been going at it for a year now.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. What was the official date? I am from Texas. I don’t know.

DEAN MITCHELL: September I think is when we got licensed. September 19th, and I actually got my OBNDD License from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics on October the 10th on my birthday and that is the first day that we could actually sell THC products.

DEAN BECKER: Don’t take this wrong, that just kind of makes me smile. You got license from the Bureau of Narcotics. It just seems gratifying in a way. What’s your thought there?

DEAN MITCHELL: Yeah. It seems unreal that this even happened. Never thought it would happen in my lifetime but we are having a blast. This is all great – the whole deal.

DEAN BECKER: It’s not like you are the only one in Oklahoma. A lot of folks are finding success, am I right?

DEAN MITCHELL: Yes. Lots of them. There are some failing, but most are succeeding so far.

DEAN BECKER: Tell me a little bit more about your story – what’s your past. Was there some obstacles that you had to overcome before this bonus came upon you?

DEAN MITCHELL: No. Since it became legal it’s all real easy for us. I mean there have been some obstacles with the state you know, and we still have a lot to overcome with the rules and regulations not clear right now but no – everything is going smooth for us right now.

DEAN BECKER: And as I understand it, it is expensive, but the license fees and other fees are not like they are in some other states where its $100,000 or whatever.

DEAN MITCHELL: It’s easy to get in. Anybody can. I mean it takes a little bit of cash but it’s nothing too bad. The main deal is the state throwing up the new rules and regulations that we can’t comply with like we should – like the compliance letter that we are supposed to get from the counties – they are not ready for us to do that but we will work through it. It’s all going to work out.

DEAN BECKER: And I would think that some of this is just not obstacles but regulations that got overlooked in the rush to get this going.

DEAN MITCHELL: It all happened so fast that there is just so much to try to do all at one time. It was rough on the state and it was rough on everybody but you know – we are doing it and we are having fun. It’s a dream job.

DEAN BECKER: Dean, I do appreciate your time. Tell me again about the town that you live in – how big a population?

DEAN MITCHELL: 8-10,000 population in Grove. That’s where our main store and our grow operation is at and then there’s another town south of here about 40 miles called Little Kansas and it’s a population of maybe a thousand but we get the county all through the southern part of the county coming. That’s my hometown as far as born and raised so we opened one up there. My daughter runs it and we run the one in Grove.

DEAN BECKER: Makes you proud, don’t it?

DEAN MITCHELL: Yes it does. Yeah it does. It’s a family owned operation. Not everybody that works with us is family, we have three or four that are not but we employ about ten people full time and then when we harvest we bring in eight or ten more people temporarily. It is creating jobs for Oklahoma. It is great!

DEAN BECKER: Well Dean, I want to thank you for your time. Is there a website you might want to recommend?

DEAN MITCHELL: We just went on Facebook. Ma and Pa’s Cannashop – Ma and Pa’s Cannashop 1 and Ma and Pa’s Cannashop 2. That’s basically where we are at and where we advertise.

DEAN BECKER: Have you got pictures of the shop, pictures of the buds?

DEAN MITCHELL: Yes. You can also Google – we are on Google, too. We have several pictures on there also.

DEAN BECKER: Look, I have been to California, Oregon, Colorado and whatever – you guys grow some pretty good buds. I have been seeing some amazing work here.

DEAN MITCHELL: There have been good buds grown here for years – just the way it is – but yeah, Okies know how to grow it.

DEAN BECKER: Well I have certainly got to agree, Okies do indeed know how to grow it and one such individual is Mr. Will Foster. He went from a prison sentence of 93 years for growing five plants in Tulsa Oklahoma. Managed to shorten his sentence – spent some time in California working with Ed Rosenthal and others and now he is back in Tulsa and he is the best grower in the state. He came up with the genetics for Norma’s Dream. This is my interview with Will Foster.

I am here with a gentleman I have known at least over the phone and through newspaper articles and other means for maybe approaching 20 years. A gentleman who has a story of travail and great success and I want to welcome him back to our program. Mr. Will Foster, how are you sir?

WILL FOSTER: Fine. How are you doing, Dean?

DEAN BECKER: I am doing good. You know as I understand it, you guys have a great facility that is providing some quality cannabis to the citizens of Oklahoma. Am I right sir?

WILL FOSTER: That’s correct.

DEAN BECKER: How long have you been involved in that endeavor, sir?

WILL FOSTER: Oh – here in Oklahoma – and that’s just for about six months but my lifetime – about 35 years.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now I told the folks that you had gone through some travails. Let’s backtrack maybe a couple of decades. Let’s talk about where those travails were and how they were undone eventually.

WILL FOSTER: Well I started right here where I am currently at now in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1995 I was busted and sentenced to 93 years in prison for a five by five garden – 25 sq. ft.

DEAN BECKER: I know you don’t want to give too many particulars but you have got a much bigger facility than that now, right?

WILL FOSTER: Correct. One of the reasons I was one of the first people who tried to present a medical defense for medical cannabis in ’97, and I am just here to show them that I was right 25 years ago.

DEAN BECKER: That is the heck of it is that there are probably still a bunch of naysayers and people clinging to the old ways and days but it has proven itself. Legalization of medical cannabis has proven itself to be of great benefit to your state, right?

WILL FOSTER: Yes. For a lot of reasons. I think that prohibition is one of the reasons that we have a lot of medical issues that we have today.

DEAN BECKER: Just yesterday I was at a conference out in the hills of Oklahoma and a lot of folks gathered to celebrate cannabis in many ways – a Hempfest if you will. They are going on all around the country. Is reefer madness dying? Your thought in that regard Mr. Foster?

WILL FOSTER: Well I don’t think Reefer Madness is dying I just think that the reason that we have such resistance to legalization is that politicians don’t want to admit that marijuana is more popular than them.

DEAN BECKER: That is a good point. It’s hard to admit when you are on the wrong side of the issue. I think about the people I met – the relaxed atmosphere, the lack of paranoia is I guess a word I should use that exists in this state. That no one really gives a rats behind – very few people anyway. Neighbors don’t care right?

WILL FOSTER: Most instances it’s not. If your neighbors don’t partake they don’t believe in infringing on the peoples’ rights or what they do. Oklahoma is pretty open about that. They respect the privacy of others.

DEAN BECKER: Now I have been talking about realtors and electricians and all of these other industries that are benefiting and finding new work because of the cannabis industry but following your ordeal in Oklahoma, you kind of bailed the state for a while. Let’s talk about the experience you gained out there on the west coast.

WILL FOSTER: I went to California and was with Ed Rosenthal for about 15 years. I was a participant in his book, Marijuana Grower’s Handbook. I have had almost 20,000 square feet of warehouse out there so I have been providing medical cannabis in California since the early 2000’s.

DEAN BECKER: Here in Oklahoma there are some good learned folks doing the job of growing and selling this cannabis but it has also been a trap for a few hasn’t it – that they were kind of planned wrong?

WILL FOSTER: Well I think a lot of people thought it would be easier than it is. They probably have experience at growing cannabis but if you want to grow medical grade cannabis, it’s not that simple and it’s not that easy. I think that a lot of people got in to it believing it was going to be easier than it is.

DEAN BECKER: You know I have been touring parts of the state with Norma Sapp and we visited a lot of dispensaries, got to see a lot of quality cannabis and I think probably those that are gonna fail – most of those that are gonna fail are probably already gone. Your thought there, please?

WILL FOSTER: No. I don’t think so. I think that what you will see is more when their license comes up renewal time and they see all of the compliance issues and things that they are gonna counter with this new Unity Bill – the safes and the safe rooms, and the transportation, packaging, labeling, and security – I could just go on and on. It is kind of a nightmare. From what we gather we are far ahead of being in compliance than most people. I see that compliance alone is going to push a lot of the mom and pops out because they are just simply not going to be able to afford all of the fees, the necessary upgrades of hiring people, pulling the permits and everything like that so I think that you will see a lot of the mom and pop’s go but you will see two market corrections. You will see this one here and then you will see one at the end of next year when the people won’t be able to just sustain because of the lack of product or not a good product. I have watched this in California for years.

DEAN BECKER: Good product sells and will continue to sell. The others will slowly fade away, huh?

WILL FOSTER: Correct. A lot of people are trying to have too many irons in the fire. They want to run three dispensaries and two grows and a processing lab. I just think that it gets to be too much especially with the new additional costs of everything. Before you have to have a licensing agent now you have a licensing agency which is new money and then a Certificate of Compliance which you know now cities are charging huge amounts of money to come out there until you are not compliant and then you have to get Fire Plans and then electrical work – it’s just a never ending situation.

DEAN BECKER: Well Mr. Will Foster, over the years I have carried your story. Had many interviews with folks about you I think more than I had you on the show. I guess the thing that comes to mind is that it is good to see success. It’s good to see somebody who got stepped on stand even taller than they were before. Any closing thoughts, Will?

WILL FOSTER: When you have a passion and you know you are right it is hard to say you are wrong. That is what I have never ever said from Day One and it is just how I am. If more people took a stand like that I think that we would be in a lot different places.

It’s time to play Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Does your idea of a fun night consist of playing German board games and going to bed at ten? Do you avoid listening to the news because you know it will make you sad? Do you get angry just knowing that there are teenagers on VINE who have made more money in the past two years than you will in your entire life? Do you enjoy drinking a beer right after getting home from work just a little too much? If you answered yes to even one of those questions, chances are you might have Adulthood. A serious condition that affects seven billion people 18 and older worldwide and there’s no legal cure!

DEAN BECKER: Russell Webb – I sorry, Russ. I just got kind of paralyzed for a second. Russell Webb yes, sir. Russ, how are you doing?

RUSSELL WEBB: I am fine.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Russ, we have a situation where the drug laws are changing. I mentioned earlier, my biggest success here in doing these shows is in swaying the opinion of the district attorney, the sheriff, and the police chief more so than the Average Joe out there. It kind of hacks me off that folks are still constrained by worry about job or reputation and all of that stuff to really speak up whereas these people in law enforcement were able to speak a little more boldly. What is your though there, sir?

RUSSELL WEBB: I agree with that about the DA, although before I came here I did run a check to see if they are actually arresting people for possession of marijuana and I couldn’t find any on today’s filings.

DEAN BECKER: Well I can’t think of the gentleman’s name – of course I had Kim Ogg, our DA on I think it was June – early June. I had her Misdemeanor Chief on I think maybe three weeks ago and he told me that they are not going to do it. That she was very influential with the DA’s in Ft. Worth, Dallas, San Antonio and other big cities that they are going to follow suit. It is too big of a hassle, too big of a burden, too big of a cost right now to even worry about these little bags of weed, whatever may be in that bag, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: I believe that’s true in the big cities but if you live in east Texas or any small county it’s not the same.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and we talk about big brother always watching over us, always trying to better his chances of catching us doing something and out there on the highways computers and readers and others means are making it easier for them to locate “suspects”. Am I right?

RUSSELL WEBB: Well, it’s good when it’s used for that type of purpose if they are looking for someone but LPRs or ALPRs are getting to be standard equipment in police cars now. That stands for Automatic License Plate Reader.

DEAN BECKER: That means they can just be driving down the street and it’s automatically each car they pass – it’s just reading it and telling them something?

RUSSELL WEBB: Well it’s not just reading it and telling them something, it’s reading it and absorbing it into a giant database. I have one client now that was arrested because of – actually it was a drug case but the stop was because of an LPR that determined that that vehicle didn’t have insurance.

DEAN BECKER: Didn’t have insurance – I didn’t know that was – I guess with these computers it has become an easy stop so to speak.

RUSSELL WEBB: Well that is true. That is true. The easy stop becomes a trip to jail with the usual “can I search your car” or “I smell marijuana, I am going to search your car”. These kind of stops lead to other things.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Kim Ogg and I had this discussion and she told me I should have been an attorney. She was just joshing me I guess, but she said there is no probable cause, that the smell of weed – even the sight of weed is no longer probable cause because you don’t know if it is a legal herb, hemp or if it’s the illegal THC product. I bet they still use it as justification but it no longer is truly probable cause, is it?

RUSSELL WEBB: I believe not because there are two kinds of smells to marijuana. It’s usually smoking in the car or fresh marijuana improperly packaged. Either one could be one or the legal version of one.

DEAN BECKER: I guess that is the conundrum and as you say, I think the further you get outside of big city limits, the more likely that you are to be hassled by the man for that weed – probable cause or not, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: That’s right. I was gonna talk to you about other ways police find probable cause.

DEAN BECKER: Please do.

RUSSELL WEBB: I believe – well this I just discovered recently because of one of my clients. He was stopped for a defective brake light and I went and looked at pictures of his car and both brake lights worked but guess what? There is a federal regulation that says the center brake light must also work. So even if you have two good brake lights if that center brake light is not braking or showing, that is probable cause to stop because Texas has adopted that federal regulation and it’s now a crime to drive around with your brake light in the middle not working.

DEAN BECKER: I had my car inspected just about a month ago and the gentleman who did the inspection told me that my center brake light – the one up above the window on the back of my van was not working and he was kind enough to pass the inspection but told me that I needed to get it fixed and I am glad I did after hearing what you just said. That could be probable cause to get myself pulled over.

RUSSELL WEBB: It is.

DEAN BECKER: Well once again friends we are speaking with Mr. Russell Webb, a local attorney. Russ, we have over the years de-intensified the caliber of the drug war that 30 years ago they were kicking in doors without warrants, they were pulling people over and really hassling them and occasionally beating the crap out of them. It’s not so bad – at least not in Harris County anymore. Am I right?

RUSSELL WEBB: It isn’t as bad – you are right. When I was in high school in El Paso, Texas in 1968, they were sending high school students to prison for possession of a seed or a tiny amount of marijuana. As far as the magnitude of the injustices you are talking about they still happen – just not on a grand scale like the old days.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Back when there was also the option was often given that we won’t sentence you to prison if you will sign up for the Army or Marines and a lot of people lost their –

RUSSELL WEBB: During Nam.

DEAN BECKER: -- and Nam, yeah. I guess what it really boils down to from my perspective, Russ, is that it is kind of over – but it’s not because the legislature – and don’t take this wrong – some of you in the legislature – but the legislature in general has its head way up its ass. It’s unwilling to look at the benefit like is going on in Oklahoma right now where thousands of jobs are being created, where millions in tax revenue is being generated. Or to even look at Colorado, which over the past couple of years has generated over a billion dollars in tax revenue to use for education and housing and health and everything else and we just keep pouring that away as if we don’t need any more help here in the state of Texas. Am I right?

RUSSELL WEBB: That’s right. One of my thoughts is the fact that there is a cost to the state government for all of this enforcement and warehousing of people in prisons. Texas has at least 130,000 people in prison to above 140 – I don’t know what the exact population is now but in 1973 – 1976, I was actually a prison guard in Huntsville at the Wall’s Unit and at that time we had 13 prisons in Texas and the population was 30,000 or less. The TDC numbers which are sequential were in the 23s.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Russ, it brings to mind – it was about that time that they just ratcheted up the War on Drugs. They just decided Nixon, who really kicked it in the butt got it going stronger. Just wanted to get those votes by being “tough on drugs”, and that has been a means and mechanism for politicians ever since, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: Well actually not. It’s a war against citizens who use drugs. That’s why the prison is full of citizen’s who use drugs. Nancy Reagan pushed that, too, when Ronald got elected. It’s actually they are just locking up people who have bad habits and I have ranted about this for years. I have suggested that the model of maybe mandating treatment for druggies would cost less than warehousing them in the hundred-some odd prisons now that they have. 13 units to over a hundred.

DEAN BECKER: Well I have said this on air, I am going to say it again. I have a grandson who has his problems with alcohol, was out on the city streets one time and a cop was hassling him and because of his drunken state, he spit too much while he was talking and it landed on the police officer and because it was his second time to have that circumstance happen to him – he has now been in one of our unheated, un-air-conditioned prisons for about three years to teach him a lesson I suppose. Your response to that, Russ Webb?

RUSSELL WEBB: Well I have got another client – same thing. Assault on a peace officer by saliva.

DEAN BECKER: Once again I want to thank attorney Russ Webb. Once again his website: tdcparole.com. Russ, thank you for coming in.

RUSSELL WEBB: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: All right folks, as we are wrapping it up here I want to let you know that there is hope that next week we are going to have a knowledgeable guest on to talk about the worthiness of some of the presidential candidates – Joe Biden, and once again I remind you, because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag and I urge you to 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 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.