05/26/13 James P. Gray

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Judge James P Gray, author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed + Shawn McCalister re forthcoming NORML conf in Ft Worth TX on June 7-9 + Doug McVay of Common Sense Drug Policy

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / May 26, 2013



DEAN BECKER: 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: Hello my friends. Welcome to this holiday edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m glad you could be with us. We have a couple of guests lined up for you today. A bit later we’ll hear from now-retired Superior Court Judge James P. Gray.

But first up we’re going to talk about an event that is happening in Texas that actually deals with the whole of the United States. Reading from their web page:

“It’s High Time Texas Grab Prohibition By The Horns!”

Here to talk about it is the head of the Dallas/Ft. Worth NORML group, Mr. Shawn McCalister. Shawn, how are you doing?

SHAWN McCALISTER: Dean, how’s it going?

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. Tell us a little bit about what is going to happen next month.

SHAWN McCALISTER: What we really wanted to do with this event was to give Texans a truly honest and entertaining cannabis education. There’s been so much misinformation out there we just really felt like it is time to call an official “This is what it is - this is what it isn’t” type of event.

In doing that we really wanted to showcase the strength of the various groups that are working in Texas to end this prohibition and also hopefully call more Texans to action because we do feel like now is the time to get involved.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it is. More and more politicians, more and more newspapers, broadcasters…I say this every week but it’s still happening. It’s like an avalanche that is starting to tumble - all this information is flowing forth.

SHAWN McCALISTER: I like the avalanche analogy. Somebody told me a couple years ago that we needed to reach the boiling point and that’s one I’ve always felt we were working towards. It’s what Colorado has done and Washington has done. Texas is obviously sticking its head up from the prairie and saying, “Hey, what about us now?!”

It really is going to take people like us jumping out there and saying, “Hey, we do feel like there is a better approach. This is what we are thinking.”

And hopefully getting more people involved in trying to change the laws. The politicians are not going to lead. It’s going to take us and we just felt that this is the perfect opportunity to get out there and try to make a difference.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are talking with Shawn McCalister with Dallas/Ft. Worth NORML. I’m reading from their announcement here:

“…proudly presents the Texas Regional NORML conference at Norris Conference Center on Houston street in Ft. Worth.”

This is going to be June 7th through 9th. This is not just for Texans. This is not just for people in the south. This is a national gathering isn’t it, Shawn?

SHAWN McCALISTER: Yes, sir. We’re flying in Keith Stroup, founder of NORML, from the D.C. office as well as Erik Altieri, from D.C. We’ve got Judge Jim Gray coming in from California. Russ Belville is coming in from Oregon. We got Mike Hyde, father of Cash Hyde, coming in from Montana. This is really a national level event.

We’ve also got a lot of local speakers. We’ve got a reverend, attorneys, patients, Libertarian party politicians – we’ve got all different types that will be speaking.

DEAN BECKER: I will certainly be there. That’s my plan if “the creek don’t rise…” - all that stuff. I’ll be there for audio and video for my new TV show, Unvarnished Truth.

Let’s talk about the fact that you mentioned the father of Cash – it’s Mike Hyde, right?


DEAN BECKER: Many long-time listeners would know his son, Cash, had a brain tumor and his life was “written off” when he was barely an infant and yet through the use of medical cannabis he was able to prolong his life and lead a couple more years through that process, right?

SHAWN McCALISTER: That’s correct. Up until they decided to go ahead and take the medicine that they were using to help Cashy fight cancer – once they took that away from him he started a downward path that unfortunately he was never able to recover from.

We’re actually featuring that story in this movie, “American Drug War II: Cannabis Destiny” That’s one of the reasons we’re screening it at this event. It’s a touching and important story. I feel like that in the end or at least in the history of prohibition we’re going to look back and say, “I can’t believe we allowed this type of thing to happen.”

DEAN BECKER: He, young Cash Hyde, represents other toddlers and youngsters across the country who have benefitted. People call it anecdotal, “It’s just an aberration.” The fact of the matter is it happens it’s not an aberration is it, Shawn?

SHAWN McCALISTER: Absolutely not. Millions and millions of people around the planet can’t be wrong.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. Shawn, we got about one minute left. I’m going to bring in one of your speakers, Judge James Gray. Please synopsize this – what’s going to happen, when’s it going to happen, where can they learn more?

SHAWN McCALISTER: June 7th through the 9th in downtown Fort Worth. We’ve got the Norris Conference Center. We’ve got 3 live music events that are going to wrap around this event. Friday night we’re having a reception. There’s also going to be a live art event at Froggy’s Boathouse.

Saturday night we’re going to have a Ragoo Celebration which is right next door to the conference center. Sunday night we’re going to have a celebration at Whiskey Girl Saloon. The idea is all weekend in Fort Worth it’s going to be about changing the laws for marijuana.

People can find out more information at http://dfwnorml.org/conference.

DEAN BECKER: Shawn, Texas was one of the first to make cannabis illegal basically so they could go after the Mexican population who were the predominant users at that time. It’s just really turned into a horrible situation hasn’t it?

SHAWN McCALISTER: You were cutting in and out there but I understand what you are getting at. It surprises me when I talk to Texans about how many people aren’t absolutely outraged when they hear about 60,000 people dead across the border all because of prohibition of some plants that never really hurt anybody. When you put those numbers in people’s heads it gives them perspective and lets them see that this isn’t just a weed we’re talking about. There is something much deeper here and it needs to be exposed and it needs to be changed.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it does. We’re looking forward to this event and, again, you can learn more …give them the website one more time.

SHAWN McCALISTER: http://dfwnorml.org/conference. That has all the speakers. It has video introductions for many of our speakers, the trailer for the screening for our movie. It’s got all the info as well as how to register.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you so much and I’ll see you in a couple weeks.

SHAWN McCALISTER: Thanks for having me on and I’m looking forward to meeting you.

DEAN BECKER: Here in just a moment we are going to bring in our other guest we hope. Is he online? OK, we’re having trouble reaching him. Let’s go ahead and do our “Name that drug by its side effect”. We’ve got a little report from Doug McVay which ties into this quite well. Hopefully we’ll be back in a couple minutes with Judge James P. Gray.


It’s time to play, Name That Drug, by it’s Side Effects.

Shortened attention span, hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, diagnostic diseases, kidney failure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, tooth decay and death.


Time’s up. For the answer, look in every bag of Halloween candy and in damn near every product we buy. Yep. It’s sugar. Happy Halloween!


DOUG McVAY: The US Senate adopted an amendment to the new Farm Bill which would deny Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits what most people call food stamps to some former felons, because nothing rehabilitates offenders like going hungry. Actually, that kind of policy would likely mean higher recidivism. The amendment was introduced by the junior senator from Louisiana, David Vitter.

My senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, are both good progressive Democrats, so I was surprised to hear that they had remained silent about the Vitter amendment. A Portland-based nonprofit called the Partnership for Safety and Justice put together an email campaign targeting them. I participated, taking a few extra minutes to edit the form letter provided and add my own thoughts. I pressed send. The email went to a handful of staffers in both of my senators' offices.

We've all used these automated systems before. Normally what would happen next would be either I'd get brief responses from the recipients simply acknowledging the email, or nothing followed by a form letter from the Senators' offices acknowledging the communication and thanking me for getting in touch.

This time however was somewhat different. I did get an email back quite quickly from one staffer in Senator Merkley's office. His State Operations Director, Scott Maguire, emailed back to let me know he'd gotten my email and that quote We will work to get your message over to the Senator's normal email process. End quote. Odd statement. Not the end of the email. Should have been, but Scott went on.

Quote: This email address was given out to an individual who portrayed herself as having attachments that wouldn't go through the Senator's mail process on the website at www.merkley.senate.gov. This is clearly not the case. These identical messages are clearly items that would fit within the normal process. My hunch is this is an automated system instead of individuals

You are creating problems for getting your message through by crashing a staff member's working email address. Please don't send to this address again.

And if you can reach the organizer of this snowstorm of emails, please request they handle this more professional manner by using the public contact system provided on the website. End quote.

A more professional manner. That's an interesting choice of phrase.

Though Scott had asked that I not send to that address again, I felt I had to reply. I told Scott that his email seemed to me to be curt and somewhat rude, and that while I appreciated the fact that he, or at least an intern, seemed to be working on a Friday afternoon, he should appreciate the fact that a constituent (me) was taking time out of my Friday to communicate with his boss, through him, regarding an issue about which I feel strongly.

To which I got another reply: Quote, That was from me. To use my email for what is now 58 nearly identical messages may induce a bit of curtness. Thanks for your thoughts. End quote.

Wow. 58 whole emails in one afternoon. It's inhuman! Seriously though, crashing his email? A snowstorm? And I was kinda disappointed that there had only been 58, what will the poor guy do if more people get in touch?

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


DEAN BECKER: We do have our guest online but I thought it was important…you know we’re going to be speaking to a retired Superior Court Judge and with this holiday weekend I wanted to share the following message with you.


ZAMORA: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


DEAN BECKER: That was my youngest granddaughter, Zamora. Thank you so much.

With that I want to welcome our next guest, James Gray. Hello Judge.

JAMES GRAY: Hey Dean. You know you really are named well. You are the “dean” of Drug Truth Network but, having said that, you really rubbing it in because I don’t have any grandchildren and now I’m listening to one of yours. Life sometimes isn’t fair but I’ll do the best I can.

DEAN BECKER: She’s a star of the family.

Folks if you don’t know Judge James P. Gray is now a retired Superior Court Judge out of Orange County, California. He was last year’s Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate - a man of great stature, a man who gave me the courage to do what I do.

I remember that day he was in Houston 11/12 years ago and I went up timidly after his speech and started talking to him and by God the fire just got brighter once I started talking to this man because he understands this drug war.

Judge, you are coming to Dallas/Ft. Worth as part of that gathering in June, right?

JAMES GRAY: That’s true. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s always good to be with good people. I’ll get in on Friday, June 7 and I believe I’m going to address the gathering for NORML and other groups on Saturday the 8th.

I even have the hope that you’re going to be there, Dean. I look forward to shaking your hand again.

DEAN BECKER: You bet. As I told Shawn, the guy who heads up DFW NORML, that is my intention.

Judge, I mentioned to Shawn that there is starting to be an avalanche tumbling of information, of politicians and publications and people willing to say what needs said. Your thoughts, sir.

JAMES GRAY: You know that I wrote a book called “Why our drug laws have failed” and whenever I endorse it when people ask me to I always put, “It’s OK to discuss drug policy.”

If we were just to allow ourselves as a society to discuss this area honestly, truthfully, fully we would have changed away from drug prohibition years and decades ago. So, yes we are now allowing ourselves to discuss it and now we’re changing. These laws, initiatives in Colorado and Washington are going to be noteworthy, historic. We can now see that proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” in view.

We are going to see that just because they do allow the recreational legal use of marijuana that that does not turn us into a bunch of drug zombies like they’ve also learned in Portugal. We’re going to get along very well – thank you very much – take away a whole bunch of revenue from really bad people like Mexican drug cartels and juvenile youth gangs and other thugs and really convert that money like we do with alcohol to paying our fire fighters, paying our teachers, fixing our roads.

The end is in sight and it’s long since time for that to have occurred. Thanks, again, in no small measure to those like you who help get this word out.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you so much. To kind of underscore what I was saying a minute ago this is yesterday’s New York Time’s opinion piece by Attorney Paul Zukerberg. He was discussing the number of arrests in Washington, D.C. This is just an extract:

“In 1995, police in the District arrested about 1,850 people for having pot. By 2011, the number had skyrocketed to more than 6,000. It's still rising.

To put that into perspective, there are twice as many marijuana arrests in the District as there are students graduating from D.C. high schools each year.

And though marijuana usage rates for blacks and whites are about the same, more than 90 percent of those arrested on pot charges in the District are black. Most of them are young men. By the time their cases are over, months or sometimes years later, they have gone from the unemployed to the long-term unemployed.

For young people denied jobs, crime and public assistance become far more enticing. Marijuana laws create a permanent underclass of people unable to join the legitimate workforce.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments." Is it not cruel, and unusual, to deny a young person caught with a bag of weed his chance for entry into productive society? Long experience shows that legitimate employment is the best remedy for youthful indiscretions.”

Your response?

JAMES GRAY: There’s so much to talk about, Dean. You can extend that. I see this on the bench. I was a trial court judge in California for 25 years and the tougher we get with regard to non-violent drug offenses literally the softer we get with regard to the prosecution of things like robbery, rape and murder because we only have so many resources to pursue criminal justice issues. The tougher we get there the softer we get on the prosecution on crimes that really do affect us.

In addition, the biggest safety measure we could pursue for our police would be to repeal drug prohibition. It was dangerous for Elliot Ness and those folks to attack Al Capone and the rest and once we repealed alcohol prohibition that problem went away. Their lives were so much safer.

Like you were saying here, too, not only …if you were arrested and convicted for even a marijuana offense the rest of your life you will probably lose your eligibility for federal educational benefits, probably for federal housing benefits. You can be convicted of rape and not lose those benefits so it’s just crazy.

So many folks believe that this is done for a racist reason. We all know that it does not take a sociologist to go through any jail or prison in our country and see the people of color are vastly overrepresented. I don’t think it was intended to be that way but certainly has brought that result. On the day before Memorial Day celebration I believe the most patriotic thing I can do for the country I love is help us repeal drug prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: You talk about the focus of the dollars and effort and the one that grates me so much is that if a person is busted with a bag of weed, cocaine or any kind of “illegal drug” that bag is almost instantly analyzed and set up so they can bring that person to trial and work them through the process whereas we have tens of thousands of rape kits around this country that sit on a shelf without the dollars, without the emphasis, without the work to get them done. It shows that disparity hugely doesn’t it?

JAMES GRAY: Even in states like California where we basically made under an ounce of marijuana for an adult be a citation with the maximum penalty of $100 fine nevertheless we still have to process those marijuana seeds or whatever in order to determine that they’re actually marijuana or whatever so, again, the rape kits are not analyzed and the marijuana and other drug violations are using our chemists all the time.

It just goes on and on. We’ve lost more of our civil liberties because of the War on Drugs than anything in the history of our country. Are we in better shape today because we lost those civil liberties? No but it just continues to go forward.

Then you can ask questions like the people in Mexico they’ve lost (you know better than I) 60,000 people in the last 5 years have died a violent death in Mexico not having anything to do whatsoever with drugs. It’s all drug money that has caused those deaths and the corruption.

It just goes on and on in so many different areas. I say in front of rotary clubs and other groups, “You tell me any area of society and I will show you how it is made worse because of our policy of drug prohibition. You can talk environment, education, health care – I don’t care what you talk about I will show to your satisfaction how this area is made worse because of this terribly failed and hopeless policy of drug prohibition that we have pursued basically since 1913.”

DEAN BECKER: I read the Houston Chronicle a lot – home town paper. I see of late we’ve had several murders of people that were either growing pot or had a stash of pot in their house. The write up always says it was a drug-related shooting. The fact of the matter is somebody wasn’t so high on marijuana that they killed this man. No, sir, this was a prohibition-related shooting. Your thoughts, sir.

JAMES GRAY: Precisely. Dean, I was in the Navy in Guam – a Navy JAG attorney. This was the early 1970s and when I was there they had headlines in the local paper showing that the first homicide since the second world war had occurred and they were so concerned, “How could this happen on our wonderful island?!” and the rest of that.

It turned out it was drug prohibition-related. It was drug money-related. By the time I left about 2 or something years later we were having something like every month or two another homicide that was drug-related. It’s the money. It’s the just the drug money that is doing this.

People are not …You can look at high school kids they are not selling Jim Beam bourbon to each other in their high school campuses but they’re selling methamphetamines, marijuana all the time because of the money. You do not see Mexican drug cartels raising illegal vineyards in our national forests in competition with Robert Mondavi. They could but there’s no money in it. It’s the illegality that brings these things forward.

I tell a lot of high school/college students that prohibition is never as good as regulation and control. Prohibition simply doesn’t work because as soon as you prohibit some of these substances you give up all of your controls completely to the bad guys.

Quality control – huge issue – the bath tub gin problem went away when we repealed alcohol prohibition. Place of sale, pricing, age restriction – all of those are completely abandoned to the bad guys such that, Dean, the term “controlled substances” is the biggest oxymoron of our lives today because, once again, once you prohibit something you give up all of your controls to the illegal drug gangs and juvenile street gangs and the Mexican drug cartels.

We couldn’t design a worse policy if we tried.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right. Judge, let me take a guess…when they violence started in the Philippines was it? ‘69/’70 was that about it?

JAMES GRAY: Yeah, it was in Guam and about early 1972.

DEAN BECKER: That’s when it all started shifting here. I’m old enough to remember when you could legally…well, not legally but you could smoke pot near a cop in Houston and they didn’t care. It was when the Nixononian (I don’t know) took hold.

JAMES GRAY: That was about 1971, Dean. Just around this same period of time. I’m just finishing writing a column for a local legal newspaper and in that I say that in California (where I’m from) throughout our history until the year 1980 we had built 13 state prisons. Now we have 33.

So in that 33 years we have built an additional 20 state prisons. It’s enormously expensive. The United States leads the world in the incarceration of our people both by sheer numbers as well as per capita. Here, I assure you, that “We’re number one!” does not make me proud. So many of those are non-violent drug offenders and a lot more of those are caused because of drug money.

It’s just unbelievable the corruption, the violence we get involved with with drug money. Like you were saying earlier if I were growing marijuana or any other illegal deal or I were selling cocaine on the street corner and somebody were to rob me I’m not going to call the police. I can’t do that because it’s illegal so I start carrying guns to protect myself just like with alcohol prohibition.

Now if Coors has a distribution problem with Budweiser they don’t take guns to the streets. They come to judges like me and they adjudicate it peacefully. It’s all connected.

Dean, I tell people and I mean it that drug prohibition is the biggest failed policy in the history of our country – second only to slavery. The closer you get to seeing it (as you know, my friend) it is when we finally repeal prohibition I guarantee that everybody within three or four years will link arms and look back and be aghast at how we could have perpetuated such a failed system for so long.

I look forward to coming in a couple weeks to the Fort Worth area and talking about this more and spread the word. Thank you for that so we can get more and more people there to understand it’s OK to discuss drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it is. Once again, friends, we’ve been speaking with Judge James P. Gray, a retired Superior Court Judge out of Orange County. He’s going to be speaking with others at the forthcoming Dallas/Ft. Worth gathering on June 7 th through the 9th.

Judge, we got about a minute left here and I want to hand it over to you. If somebody out there knows this truth and yet they fail to do anything about it I consider (I’m not a real religious guy) but I consider that to be almost a sin. What’s your thought there, sir?

JAMES GRAY: Without getting into all of this we do so much harm to people because they fail our drug morality test and really the answer…I’m a former federal prosecutor, Navy JAG criminal defense attorney, veteran trial court judge – you understand the criminal justice system was created to hold people accountable for their actions but now what they put into their bodies. In fact, as you said earlier, I was the Libertarian candidate for Vice President in the recent election and I’m a Libertarian. I believe that the government has as much right to control what I, as an adult, put into my body as it does with what I put into my mind. It’s none of their business.

But if I drive a motor vehicle impaired by…I don’t care – alcohol (which is my drug of choice) or marijuana, methamphetamines – hold me accountable for that. Bring me to a judge. Why? Because there, by my actions, I’m putting your safety at risk. That’s where the criminal justice system should be. We’ve got to get back to that and then we will see supreme results from those efforts instead of funneling so much money into really bad people in Mexican drug cartels and others.

It’s just a question of money. It’s a question of emphasis. It’s a question of doing what works.

So, again, good for you and thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth in two weeks.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, Judge James P. Gray – thank you so much.

Folks I want to encourage you to please attend. It’s going to be in Fort Worth June 7th through the 9 th. It’s going to be at the Norris Conference Center at 304 Houston Street. I’m going to be there.

Look, you need to meet Judge Gray. He will astound you with his knowledge and the fact that this is a Superior Court Judge speaking these words so boldly, so carefully, too for that matter.

We’re just about out of time. Please go to http://dfwnorml.org/conference where you can learn more.

Thank you Judge Gray, Shawn McCalister and, as always, I 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.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org