11/11/12 Doug Honig

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Doug Honig of Wash state MJ effort, Fox dung, Paul Armentano of NORML, Doug McVay on Oregon MJ failure, Hou Chron Editorial, Eric Sterling of Criminal Justice Policy & Abolitionist Moment

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / November 11, 2012


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

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “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.


DEAN BECKER: The deed is done. The die is cast. The course is set. The evils of prohibition have been decried. Pot is legal in two states and three strikes does not compel life sentences in California.

Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Let’s get started.


DOUG HONIG: This is Doug Honig. I’m Communications Director for the ACLU of Washington.

DEAN BECKER: Doug, major news breaking up there in Washington State. The people have decided “enough is enough” and they have decided to legalize cannabis. Tell us how that’s going to pan out.

DOUG HONIG: Well, it was a statewide initiative run by a group called New Approach Washington. The ACLU was very supportive of the campaign. As of December 6 th you cannot be arrested for possessing marijuana in the state of Washington. The next year there will be a rule making process by various state agencies that will end up a year later at the end of 2013 in having stand-alone stores licensed and regulated and taxed by the state of Washington that will sell marijuana. Any individual can purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana legally and varying amounts of brownies, liquid form and what not.

DEAN BECKER: Now as kind of already been the case but there are indications that some officials have already thrown in the towel saying there will no longer be any arrests. Your response, please.

DOUG HONIG: We already have medical marijuana by statewide initiative since 1998 so the public has had a chance to get educated on the whole medical benefit of marijuana to many people. Here, in the city of Seattle where I live and work, there was an initiative passed in 2003 that made marijuana the lowest level of enforcement for law enforcement in the city of Seattle. The reality is people have still been getting arrested in the thousands for marijuana possession.

Looking at the new law we expect that some of the prosecutions in the pipeline will simply be dropped and that’s great news. Our view is you shouldn’t throw people in jail simply for possessing and using marijuana. To the extent that there are any concerns about marijuana it should be treated just as a public health matter but not as a matter to arrest, jail and fine people.

DEAN BECKER: What you mentioned there about those already in the pipeline are very likely to be dropped and it brings to mind is there any kind of (I don’t know the term) reciprocity, retroactivity…

DOUG HONIG: Not necessarily because technically people would have violated the laws that existed but politically the measure passed or is passing (and we expect this to hold up) 55 to 45. It wasn’t close. It was a very strong statement by the people of Washington that they want a new approach and a new direction. I think politically there will be sense from some public officials that they need to get on board with this.

The whole War on Drugs...but here in Washington and in many places across the country is an issue where the people have been way ahead of elected officials. The passage of the legalization measure here in Washington and in Colorado I think are a strong shot across the bow to elected officials that public sentiment has really changed and they need to line up with it.

DEAN BECKER: Perhaps where I was wanting to lead with that last question was the thought that for many people the thought that to have a marijuana arrest on their record bars them from certain possibilities in society. Your thought there.

DOUG HONIG: Yeah, that was one of the things that was stressed in the campaign and was a big message of the ACLU. There are all sorts of what we would call collateral consequences of enforcement of marijuana prohibition. As you said one of them is if you get a conviction it stays on your record. It can hamper you or even prevent you from getting employment, getting housing, getting a college scholarship and it’s way out of proportion to what the person has done.

I look at alcohol use and tobacco use which have much greater health problems and problems for society but we don’t deal with them by putting people in jail and preventing them from getting housing and what not.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Doug Honig of the ACLU of Washington State.

Doug, I want to send a huge “attaboy” towards you guys. Please pass that along to Alison Holcomb and all the other good folks who worked to make this possible.

DOUG HONIG: I certainly will and thanks for spreading the word.


DEAN BECKER: Here to discount Doug’s thought is some elephant poo hand delivered by a fox.


LARRY KEHLER: Welcome back to the Kehler Report. So Colorado and Washington State made history on Tuesday becoming the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

I just want to ask if liberals trounced on American values and, by the way, productivity also. Joining us to talk about this is syndicated radio host, founder of Constituting America, Jeanine Turner.

Jeanine, great to see you again.

I just want to ask you a bunch of things here. First of all, with all the issues America has why is it so important? Why the liberals, why are the lefties crusading like crazy to legalize marijuana? What’s this all about?

JEANINE TURNER: I don’t know. I think it’s very disappointing. I think it’s stealing the promises of Americans, the future of America but not only that our children, our youth, you know, obviously children (have to be 18 or 21or whatever) but it still our youth it’s going to permeate into our high schools. I think it’s very disappointing. I agree with you, Larry. There are so many issues to be worried about rather than this.

LARRY KEHLER: This is like…does America really need this?! There’s going to be a legal debate about this – the Department of Justice and the DEA and so forth – and this stuff doesn’t go into place for a year or more but I’m kind of not interested in the legal side.

I mean, for one thing is this a little too much freedom. That’s what I want to know. Freedom is great but is this too much freedom?



We all love Big Brother. He protects us from the evil one. Bow down to Big Brother – to his satellites and guns. We need him and adore him. Freedom is so over-rated.


PAUL ARMENTANO: Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, I know you’re busy. The election just proved the point that people will vote for legal cannabis, correct?

PAUL ARMENTANO: What we see in this election is really a sea change. Not just in public opinion because we’ve known for several years now that more Americans support ending prohibition than support continuing the present policy. This is the first time that we have ever seen a majority of Americans go to the ballot box and actually vote in a manner that is in accordance with that public sentiment.

This is the first time in history we’ve ever seen a majority of voters vote to abolish cannabis prohibition on the state level.

DEAN BECKER: And this is kind of a portender, I think, of what is soon to be in other liberal leaning states, correct?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Certainly time will tell. I think that many states are going to take, initially at least, a wait and see approach. They want to see what the federal government may or may not do. They want to see what may or may not happen regarding youth rates of marijuana in these states. They want to see may or may not happen regarding the establishment of a regulatory structure, regarding the state licensing, production, taxation of cannabis.

I think once we have time to digest these things and once the public is assured that the sky is not falling in states like Colorado and Washington – at that point I concur that I do think we are going to see a number of other states pursue very similar policies that say at least at a minimum we are no longer going to arrest adults who possess and, in some cases like in Colorado, cultivate personal use amounts of marijuana in private.

The parallels here are very clear. This is like the fall of alcohol prohibition. Alcohol prohibition was a federal policy. It was an unpopular policy and it was a policy that relied on the active enforcement of state and local police. When a sufficient number of states turned their back on that policy - led by New York in 1923 and then eventually nine additional states followed – the federal government had a choice. They could either go into those states and spend their limited resources prosecuting federally offenses that in the past had been state crimes or they could reevaluate the federal policy.

We know what the federal government did. They abolished the federal prohibition of alcohol. History is now repeating itself.

DEAN BECKER: I know you’re busy. One more question for you, Paul. This has global implications as well, does it not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well, most certainly. We have already seen a limited response from Mexico, from Canada and I’m sure that there are plenty of other nations that are looking right now at what the voters of Colorado and Washington did and they are going to be basing their own decisions regarding drug policy based on those state votes.

Clearly some of our bordering states…it is clear already that they are now ready to come to the table. They want to come to the table with the Obama administration and they want to talk about the implications of these policies.

Hopefully if the administration doesn’t want to talk about the implications of these votes domestically they, at least, they will talk about the international implications and ramifications of these votes with our global partners.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Their website is http://norml.org


DOUG McVAY: Success has many parents, while failure is an orphan.

As everyone has already heard, on Nov. 6th two states – Washington and Colorado – voted to legalize marijuana for adult social use.

Reformers, prohibitionists, pundits and politicos from all sides have been weighing in on the meaning and significance of those measures.

For now though, let's examine the state which tried and failed to legalize in this election cycle.

Oregon's Ballot Measure 80 was given no chance of winning. The measure as written was broad, extremely liberal, in a lot of ways it was a hempster's dream. National organizations such as NORML, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Drug Policy Alliance for the most part withheld their support, putting no financial or human resources into Oregon – though it should be noted that local chapters of SSDP and of NORML actively supported the measure, and of course none of them opposed it.

Altogether, two Oregon-based PACs put a total of just under seventy thousand dollars into campaigns supporting Measure 80. The campaigns didn't even start until August 2012. A poll released around Labor Day, paid for by the original sponsor of the initiative, found only 38% of likely voters in favor. None of the state's major newspapers editorialized in support.

Measure 80 ended up getting 46.31% of the vote.

Across the border in Washington state, where the legalization measure I502 passed, proponents spent nearly $6 million dollars on the campaign which started very early in the cycle, having been placed on the ballot in April after the state legislature declined to pass it. I502 got 55% of the popular vote.

In other words, Measure 80 came less than 4 percentage points away from victory with a campaign that spent just 1.2 percent of the money which I502 spent in winning.

In electoral politics, we can learn as much or more from our losses as we do from our wins, but only if we examine things honestly and completely. There are loads of people talking about the lessons learned in this election. Little of the analysis so far has gone very deep. Most has been a regurgitation of what these analysts were saying prior to the votes being cast. Real follow-up polling and indepth analysis will be needed to finally learn the lessons from this election, but again, importantly, it has to be done honestly and completely. Everyone – drug warriors, reformers, legalizers including me – everyone needs to re-examine our preconceived notions about legalization in light of November 6. The only thing we know for sure is that when the sun rose the next morning, it dawned on a new, different, and hopefully better world.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy.


DEAN BECKER: The following editorial is from the Houston Chronicle, “A real drug lab in two states.”

Two states are experimenting with legalizing marijuana; the results could be interesting.
Colorado and Washington made history on Election Day when their citizens voted to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol (“Marijuana legalization sets up clash with feds,” Page A6, Thursday). The temptation for wordplay is high (we’re allowed one), but the time for pot jokes is over. These successful legalization efforts mark a turning point in our nation’s War on Drugs, and how we react will set the stage for decades to come.

In this realm of marijuana policy, we encourage the Department of Justice to heed the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Bran deis: “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Semilegal marijuana has become the norm in many areas, with 18 states and Washington, D.C., allowing medical marijuana, and cities like Chicago, New York City and Detroit permitting personal possession of small amounts.

The degree of federal incursion into these markets has greatly declined over the past several years, with the Justice Department mostly bringing action against overly large dispensaries and warning proprietors when they open in inappropriate areas, such as close to schools.

And while Attorney General Eric Holder actively opposed California’s failed legalization efforts in 2010, he has remained silent in the wake of these two victories. We hope Holder will continue to let these states act as laboratories for democracy, only stepping in if these legal experiments risk contaminating other states. But short of those circumstances, Holder should realize that we have a national interest in seeing these hypotheses fully tested.

State legislators from across the country have an interest in whether legalization does successfully raise the millions of dollars in tax revenue that Washington and Colorado have projected, and if this can happen without negative effects from easy drug access.

Texas also has a particular focus on the results of legalization, specifically as they apply to Mexican drug cartels. With our border feeling like a battle zone at times, legal American marijuana threatens to put a significant dent in the $2 billion that cartels rack up every year from the American marijuana business. After the horrors of guns, blood and corruption, drug criminals may find themselves finally undercut by, as The Economist put it, “El Cartel de Seattle.”

Texans may not agree with these other states on proper drug policy, but we should be open to new ideas when it comes to fighting crime.

Our country has waged a War on Drugs for 40 years, and the only winners seem to be cartel lords and private prisons. Two states have come up with a new plan. Let’s see if it works.


DEAN BECKER: Again, that was from the Houston Chronicle.


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DEAN BECKER: Well the people have spoken. Two states are going to legalize marijuana. Others are going to look for medical marijuana and many cities and various locales around the country have spoken. It’s time for change to these drug laws.

Here to talk about it is a fellow who worked for the U.S. Congress many years back in crafting some of these drug laws and who now heads up the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, my good friend, Eric Sterling. How are you doing?

ERIC STERLING: I’m doing fine, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, as I was talking about there is a lot of changes taking place, going to take place to these drug laws here soon. Do you want to just give your perspective of what it means?

ERIC STERLING: It’s hard to underestimate how important the elections of November 6 are going to be. The passage of the two marijuana legalization initiatives have very important political, legal, practical and international foreign policy considerations.

Politically 55% of the voters in both Washington and Colorado approved marijuana legalization for adults for social purposes. This is a very strong margin and I think politicians around the country recognize that.

The Republican party was devastated. They lost votes in the Senate. They lost seats in the House of Representatives. They were running against one of the weakest incumbents in many, many years and they were unable to defeat him.

A front page story in the Wall Street Journal today asked about the nature of this changing nation and why did the Republicans lose. So this is a very important signal about the changing nature of the American public.

In terms of litigation because there is probably positive conflict between these state laws would regulate the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana with the federal drug law there’s almost certainly going to be lawsuits brought by the federal government to try to block them.

There’s the Supreme Court interpret the 10 th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that reserves to the states powers that are not delegated to the congress, trump the federal law in this case. There’s a trump treaty obligation of the United States under the Single Convention Narcotics. There are very important legal issues that are going to be fought over on this.

Practical considerations on what this means to the marijuana markets in the United States and elsewhere in the world. As of December 6th individuals in Colorado can under Colorado law begin to grow their own marijuana for their own use. They can grow 6 plants, 3 of them mature plants. They can keep the harvest and they can distribute without renumeration up to one ounce to an adult.

How does this change the illegal market? How can this be enforced? Will Colorado authorities multiply largely to police this new cultivation? Can the federal government possibly marshal the resources to do this? No possible.

Let’s assume in Colorado in a year there are 500 criminal cases total brought in the federal court. Very hard to imagine that they’re going to be able to expand the number of federal judges, federal court rooms, DEA agents to do a great deal of policing which means marijuana is going to be grown in Colorado relatively free of legal consequence which is going to begin to travel across the country driving down the price of marijuana in the other 48 states.

In terms of foreign policy already we’ve heard from the head of the transition team for incoming Mexican President Enrique Nieto that this changes the rules of the game between Mexico and the United States regarding smuggling and drug trafficking. This is a very clear sign that many other countries which tens of thousands of people die as a consequence of the drug war they’re not going to be willing to continue to do that when they see marijuana legalized in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: It’s a powerful thing isn’t it that the will of the people, they have spoken and there will be major changes.

ERIC STERLING: There will be major changes inevitably. It is quite possible that the courts will successfully block Washington and Colorado from going forward with their state-run marijuana production program but this changes the moral calculus.

Will juries convict people who are being charged with growing marijuana when they know that the voters of the state have said that this should be legal? Will state-elected District Attorneys bring cases when they know that the voters in their jurisdiction have voted to legalize marijuana? Will politicians in other parts of the state continue to take such a strident anti-marijuana view when they recognize that the public no longer wants marijuana and its economy to be controlled by criminals?

These are very, very important changes that were established on November 6 th and it’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out. It remains to be seen whether or not with a dramatic decline in the price of marijuana there is an increase of marijuana by teenagers. Are there going to be more motor vehicle accidents that are marijuana intoxication related? Are there going to be other adverse social consequences?

These are not things to disregard - to be aware that this political battle is not over. We’ve won an incalculably important victory but this battle is not ultimately over yet.

DEAN BECKER: OK. One last thought I wanted to share with you. If the feds were to do the injunction, the law suit, whatever it might be and stop the states from licensing the stores that means that one of the aspects, the positives that people voted on is they will not be able to collect taxes. They will, in fact, create a new gray market. Your thoughts there, Eric Sterling.

ERIC STERLING: You’re absolutely right. The federal injunction would mean no tax money comes to the state. I think something that every realistic state official knows is that the amount of federal money that is going to states now to cover everything from schools to health care to highways – that’s going to shrink. The effort to fight the federal deficit is not going to end and that means that federal money to spend on local projects is going to shrivel up and that means that states are going to have to cut their expenses such as their criminal justice expenses that are drug related and they are going to have to look for sources of revenue and if they think that marijuana is a real source of revenue for them that the feds are denying them that’s going to create a powerful political backlash.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Once again, folks, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Eric Sterling. He’s President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Their website is http://cjpf.org


This is the Abolitionists Moment.

Just over one hundred years old, the drug war give no pretense of ultimate success. Deaths, from both contaminated drugs and turf battles, are on the rise. More lives are being ruined by AIDS and Hep. C. Terrorists are thriving. Cartels continue reaping their bloody harvest and the US gangs afford their high powered weaponry, by selling dubious concoctions to addict our children. Surely there must be a better way.


DEAN BECKER: Yes there is a better way. I think we’re on that path now. Hopefully we’ll get there soon. But in the meantime I must once again remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org