Jodie Emery on Global BC challenges SAM logic + Michelle Alexander author of "The New Jim Crow" & Asha Bandale of Drug Policy Alliance.
Century of Lies
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Jodie Emery on Global BC challenges SAM logic + Michelle Alexander author of "The New Jim Crow" & Asha Bandale of Drug Policy Alliance.
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Mon, 03/10/2014 - 14:49
Century of Lies March 9, 2014
DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.
DEAN BECKER: Hello, my friends, welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us. A little bit later we are going to hear from Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness” as well as from Asha Bandale but first this report from Global BC out of Canada.
PETER McKAY: What we are talking about is very much in line with what the chiefs of police have proposed and that is giving police further discretion or optionality when it comes to the treatment of small amounts of marijuana. That is to say that the criminal code offences would still be available to police but we would look at options that would give police the ability much like the treatment of open liquor that would allow the police to ticket those type of offences.
ANCHOR: Alrighty, Minister Peter McKay, kind of felt like that came from left field - not really. He mentioned the chiefs of police – they made this very clear to the Tory government that this is what they are interested in but I’m not sure that this is what everyone was expecting – Ottawa to agree. Joining us now to talk about pot is Jodie Emery. How are you?
JODIE EMERY: Doing well, thank you.
ANCHOR: On the phone, Pam McCall, who is with Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada. Hi Pam.
PAM McCALL: Hi.
ANCHOR: Jodie, in your opinion, does this signal a major shift by the government or are they simply falling in line with what they figure is becoming the more common thought about marijuana.
JODIE EMERY: I think they are taking the smallest possible step that they can based on the pressure that exists not only from the Canadian public (which the majority wants legalization) but also from the rest of the world...you know, Colorado, Washington legalization, there is 20 states with decrim, there’s 19 or so with medical. The momentum is definitely on the side with law reform but the conservative government of Canada has always been very much against that but they don’t want to look like dinosaurs all the time so they’re doing something small to appease the public who want reform. I don’t think it goes far enough and I think it could actually be even worse.
ANCHOR: Do you think it could be more of a punishment? Much of this is at police digression now and what you hear anecdotally is that people if they get caught with joints/pot if it’s a small amount cops just turn a blind eye.
JODIE EMERY: There are a lot of police officers who do that and it’s very smart of them to save their time and resources and tax dollars but a lot of cops will go with the full extent of the law and they can still charge you with possession. Here in British Colombia<?> we’ve seen possession charges doubling over the last number of years so it’s not something that isn’t happening. A lot of lives are still being destroyed by simple possession arrests and if cops are still being allowed to do it that makes the law even more unjust because if you can get away with it in one place and then just 10 minutes out of time get busted and thrown in prison that’s not a fair law.
ANCHOR: Yeah, the maximum law penalty is 5 years in jail or $1,000 fine so it is pretty steep.
Pam, what’s the focus of Smart Approaches to Marijuana? Are you in favor of tickets, fines for small quantities of pot?
PAM McCALL: We’re a health oriented organization who will do everything we can to reduce the users of marijuana in this country specifically with youth. We absolutely think that we don’t want to see people thrown in prison nor are they being. There was 7 people who were charged and actually saw jail time in 2011 in British Colombia so we’re not talking about a great deal of people having their life affected at the moment with the current situation however the law that is on the books right now isn’t being enforced by the RCMP and police because this is the way things have gone so the conservative government, the government of today is looking to address the way things are and the way the law is and I think they are being very progressive and I think it is a good step in the right direction.
ANCHOR: So, then, is your major concern with teenagers, young people using marijuana?
PAM McCALL: Well, Canada leads the western world with the highest incidents of youth taking up marijuana. We have more youth in this country using marijuana than anywhere else in the world so I absolutely think we have a crisis in this country as far as usage and we have to address that. That really should be the focus here not necessarily the judicial system but the health system and I think that that really should be the focus.
ANCHOR: Talk about that, Jodie.
JODIE EMERY: When it comes to young people and marijuana we know from decades of evidence that places with looser marijuana laws have lower usages amongst young people. In Amsterdam, for example, where it’s kind of decrim but considered legalized and in Portugal where it’s been legalized for over a decade youth rates go down and in states where medical marijuana has been made legal the rates go down as well.
We know that when ...
PAM McCALL: That’s not true but...
JODIE EMERY: I encourage people to use Google and they can go and find all the information. They don’t need to trust me but it’s proven that young people suffer far worse from the penalties of pot prohibition than they do from marijuana use itself. If there are young people...
ANCHOR: But are you at all worried ...you don’t have kids but if you were the mom of a 13, 14, 15-year-old would you be concerned about them smoking pot?
JODIE EMERY: I’m sure moms are concerned about their kids driving, about ...
ANCHOR: That’s not what I’m asking. Would you be concerned about a teenager smoking pot?
JODIE EMERY: Yeah, probably but not nearly as concerned about alcohol. Alcohol which subjects young women to rape and sexual assault every single night. It is true and that is indisputable. Alcohol is putting young people at risk in far greater numbers than marijuana ever does.
ANCHOR: So why is alcohol so dangerous and pot isn’t?
JODIE EMERY: Because alcohol is proven to cause physical harm and brain damage scientifically. Marijuana ...
ANCHOR: Studies show that marijuana...
JODIE EMERY: Actually children are going to Colorado in droves to find relief from their seizures, epilepsy with marijuana use.
PAM McCALL: You really have that backwards. You really do. All the science that we have shows that anybody under the age of 18 exposed to marijuana has a definite exposure to reduction of cognitive ability permanently throughout their lives. That is the risk here. That is the situation and Canadians don’t know that fact.
JODIE EMERY: Well, millions of Canadians use marijuana for decades and they are not all going insane. There are millions of Canadians...
PAM McCALL: We are not saying they are going insane. We are saying children who use marijuana are definitely at risk for having a cognitive disability and that is absolutely science and truth and it’s a permanent situation they will face the rest of their lives.
JODIE EMERY: Well, we better get all the young people out of sports immediately and I encourage SAM to get young people out of football where brain damage is being caused every day. If you’re talking ...
PAM McCALL: Come on....come on!
JODIE EMERY: You’re argument is that we want to protect the children and we want to protect them from harm. We need to protect them from things that are harmful on a much bigger scale than marijuana use. Right now marijuana use is not a crisis. There are many...
PAM McCALL: It is a crisis. 1 in 6 children using marijuana in this country will become addicted to it.
JODIE EMERY: Addiction does not exist for marijuana and that’s been proven. Even if people got addicted...
ANCHOR: You have problems with addictive behavior...
PAM McCALL: That’s not true...It’s really not true.
JODIE EMERY: Even if young people do use marijuana ...some are addicted to video games...
PAM McCALL: There is no basis in fact with anything you just said.
JODIE EMERY: I encourage people to look online. They don’t need to believe me. They don’t need to believe you...
PAM McCALL: No they do not need to believe you and one would have to ask who is your lobby and who are you being paid by.
JODIE EMERY: I’m not being paid by anybody. My husband is in prison and he’s a drug war victim and my life is devoted to people who are being peaceful, non-violent victims of the drug war. I don’t get paid anything. I pay money to keep my husband in federal prison where he has been sent for spending millions of dollars he raised and gave away in its entirety to change the laws which is what’s happening in...
PAM McCALL: Did he break the law?
JODIE EMERY: He sold seeds and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration admitted that all of his money went to political activist groups and his own prosecutor admitted that marijuana should be legal. My husband...
PAM McCALL: What you are doing personally I think you are doing an incredible disservice to this country and the youth of this country and you should not be given the amount of time and space you are given because your point of view is not based in science. It is not valid and it’s completely bias.
ANCHOR: I’m going to stop you both right there. We need to go to commercial break. We are going to continue this conversation.
ANCHOR: Welcome back. We are continuing this conversation with Pam McCall who is with Smart Approaches to Marijuana. She is on the phone from the Gulf Islands and Jodie Emery who is a marijuana activist in studio.
Ladies, you clearly have differing viewpoints on this. I want to ask you this, Jodie. People who smoke marijuana and smoke it regularly talk about it not being addictive. How is that possible because for people who watch others smoking it it certainly seems addictive.
JODIE EMERY: We have to talk about what addiction really means. Coffee is something that a lot of people are really addicted to. Sincerely, they wake up in the morning and they say, “I cannot function without coffee.” That’s an addiction.
Cigarette smokers – also addicted. Video games - is that addiction to video games or is that just habitual use? So there’s a difference between addiction and habitual use. Addiction I think we can loosely define as something you do repeatedly that causes you harm to your daily life. Now marijuana users who use it regularly don’t suffer any ill side effects from that. Maybe they are addicted in that they use it every day but they are not addicted in they will suffer without it.
My husband, Marc Emery, well-known for taking gigantic bong hits and smoking big joints went into federal prison and never felt one second of withdrawal. The only thing he misses is fresh food and freedom. When it comes to marijuana anyone who says they are addicted may have tendencies of being addicted to anything else out there. They might have been addicted to alcohol or pain killers...
ANCHOR: They might have but that doesn’t erase the fact that they may well be addicted to marijuana. It alters behavior.
JODIE EMERY: Marijuana doesn’t really alter behavior. It may make you slow down and think about things from a different perspective. There are also a lot of researchers out there (and this is evidence – look it up) showing that people addicted to hard drugs and opiates and pharmaceuticals are getting off of those addictive drugs (and heroin and cocaine) by using marijuana so marijuana is actually been proven (type in the words, “gateway out of drugs”) marijuana is being used by researchers to help people.
ANCHOR: Perhaps, some might call it harm reduction.
Pam, I want to bring you back into the conversation. Give us your viewpoint on marijuana and addiction.
PAM McCALL: We know from scientific studies that have been validated around the world that 1 in 6 youth who use it regularly will become addicted and 1 in 10 adults. If the fellow guest does not understand what addiction is and the crisis of that to not only the user but the family and what it does to them and their job and their future and everything else that’s very sad because addiction is a very real concept and a very real challenge in society and be it alcohol or tobacco or marijuana addiction is a plight and it’s a very sad situation for people to find themselves in and can be a life-long struggle and marijuana absolutely is an addictive drug.
JODIE EMERY: Well, marijuana isn’t that addictive and even if it is we shouldn’t be punishing people for it...
PAM McCALL: Pardon me?
JODIE EMERY: They have found that the majority of people being sent to addiction centers (and groups like SAM are actually funded by groups that want money from treatment) these treatment centers are being...
PAM McCALL: No, we’re not funded by any treatment centers...
JODIE EMERY: ...so what happens is young people being sent to treatment for addiction aren’t actually addicted they have the choice between treatment for addiction or prison for possession and, of course, they are going to choose treatment which means they have addiction but they don’t. It’s just they’re choice they had to go that way because of the law.
PAM McCALL: What’s your vision of Canada? What do you see? Would you like everyone to take up marijuana?
JODIE EMERY: They are not all going to take up marijuana. Right now millions of Canadians use marijuana without any harm to society at all. It’s been going on since the 60s – decades of millions of adults...
PAM McCALL: But marijuana on the streets today is nowhere near the marijuana of Woodstock...
JODIE EMERY: Do you smoke it? Can you tell me that from experience and example because I can tell you that I know a lot of people out there using marijuana and, sure, some of the prime stuff from the 70s was good but a lot of marijuana is just the same and, in fact, if it’s any stronger it’s because we forced it into greenhouses where the environment is perfected rather than getting the swag grown in the hills of Mexico so prohibition has made marijuana stronger if it is any stronger that was prohibition.
ANCHOR: Pam, go ahead and ask that question again.
PAM McCALL: How do you see society moving forward? What is your vision with a free society and everybody smoking dope and there’s no harm, there’s no addiction quality to it...
JODIE EMERY: Right now people are smoking it...what I’m seeing is a vision where taxpayer’s dollars are not being wasted arresting or imprisoning people...
PAM McCALL: They’re not.
JODIE EMERY: They are....millions and millions of dollars...
PAM McCALL: No, they are not.
JODIE EMERY: Yes, http://sensiblebc.ca has the statistics of the province of British Colombia and the money they have spent on simple possession and it’s millions of dollars. I encourage people to look it up for themselves.
Let’s just go back to the point that even if something is harmful we should not be punishing people for it. We need to educate them and help them. Groups like SAM are out there just to continue the “reefer madness” and the propaganda and stigmatizing by saying ...
PAM McCALL: No, we’re not. You have said from the beginning of this interview falsehoods and I’ve written them down. You have not based yourself in fact at all. SAM stands behind science. We are absolutely a science-based, fact...
JODIE EMERY: But you are opinionated. Your science...
ANCHOR: I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop you. We will have to continue this another day. Pam McCall with Smart Approaches to Marijuana – thank you for joining us.
PAM McCALL: You’re welcome.
ANCHOR: And Jodie Emery thank you for joining us as well.
JODIE EMERY: Thank you.
DEAN BECKER: I think you did fine, Jodie, but next time break out the brass knuckles. We’ll be back shortly with Asha Bandele and Michelle Alexander but first this public service announcement.
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DEAN BECKER: Alright, as promised, thanks to the good folks at the Drug Policy Alliance we have Michelle Alexander and Asha Bandele who introduces Ms. Alexander.
ASHA BANDELE: An incredible book that came out roughly 4 years ago, “The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness”. It has spent more than 75 weeks on the New York Times’ best seller list and it have invigorated a discussion that was needed to be had in this country.
There are really few places where one can go where there is not a discussion about what it means in the United States which has 5% of the world population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population and the single greatest policy cause for that terrible statistic has been the failed drug war because she’s had a very particular and unique seat at this table.
We want to know about what she has witnessed and learned from that particular and unique seat – Michelle Alexander.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I really appreciate being invited and am looking forward to our conversation.
ASHA BANDELE: In “The New Jim Crow” you consider the role of the black middleclass and sort of more mainstream civil rights organization in helping to end mass incarceration and the drug war policies that drive it. I wonder how you have seen the landscape change.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I think it absolutely has changed in profound ways. When I was in the process of writing this book I was feeling incredibly frustrated by the failure of many civil rights organizations and leaders to make the War on Drugs a critical priority in their organizations. I was frustrated by many of my progressive friends and allies to have an awakening - the failure of so many people that I knew and cared about to have an awakening to the harm caused by the drug war and mass incarceration in our communities.
At the same time I had real empathy because as I acknowledged in the introduction of the book there was a time not so long ago that I didn’t get it. I failed to really understand the horror of the drug war on poor communities of color and I failed to connect the dots between mass incarceration and slavery and Jim Crow and understand the ways in which these systems of racial and social control are being borne and borne again in this country.
In writing the book I felt this fierce urgency and some frustration but, you know, over the past few years I just could not be more pleased with the reception that the book has received. Many people warned me that civil rights organizations might be defensive or even angered by some of the criticism in the book but the contrary.
The NAACP, the ACLU, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights...this goes on...did nothing but respond with enthusiasm and some real self-reflection. I have seen now over the last 4 years as I’ve been traveling from state to state speaking in prisons and universities, in churches and conferences, speaking to judges, speaking to all different kinds of audiences that there absolutely is an awakening taking place.
I think it is so important to underscore that this awakening certainly didn’t begin with my book or my work. Angela Davis coined the term “Prison Industrial Complex” long before I had begun to wake up to the reality of the new Jim Crow. Momia Jamal was writing from prison about mass incarceration and our racialised prison state and its links to earlier systems of racial and social control before I had begun to connect the dots. There are many, many advocates from whom may be on the call today who have been doing this work and connecting the dots far longer than I have.
One of the motivations for writing the book is I wanted to try to lend more credibility and support to the work that so many people had been doing for so long and that has been marginalized and not taken seriously.
So I am optimistic at this point and time but at the same time I see that there are real reasons for concern. There are important victories in Colorado and Washington with legalizing marijuana. We see that Attorney General Holder is speaking out against felon disenfranchisement laws and mandatory-minimum sentencing. You see politicians across the political spectrum now raising concerns for the first time in 40 years about the size of our prison state and, yet, I worry that so much of the dialog today is still driven by fiscal concerns rather than out of genuine concerns for the people and communities who have been most impacted and the families who have been destroyed over the last few decades that we haven’t yet really had, as a nation, the kind of conversation that we must have and the kinds of fights and debates that we must have if we are going to do more than tinker with this machine and ultimately break our nation’s habit of creating these cast-like systems in America.
ASHA BANDELE: What a beautiful, wide-ranging and yet succinct answer to that first question. It makes me think about the initiative that Obama pushed out last year – my brother’s keeper. He talks a lot in that about where black boys are falling behind in every piece of the social ladder. A lot of this I think was driven by having disrupted families, families that are disrupted by the drug war, communities that are disrupted by the drug war – their mother’s now gone and what have you.
It looked like when it came to a lot of what Obama was saying was that he made a nod toward structural racism and policies that dismember communities. The real underpinning of what he was saying is that it is a moral failing on the part of those very communities and children.
That’s probably the way that he’s approached race in this is probably the third time that he’s addressed race – the least of any president I think in modern times. I wonder what you think advocates might be doing to really put some peace behind that, at least, opening that we have there and, certainly, the more powerful openings we have is the statements that Holder made before the ABA last August about the drug war specifically and mandatory-minimums.
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I’m glad that President Obama is shining as spotlight on a real crisis facing black communities today and, in particular, black boys and young black men. He’s right to draw attention to it and lift it up in a way that it seems that he is committed to doing so but I am worried that much of the initiative is more based in rhetoric than in meaningful commitment to address the structures and institutions that have created the conditions in these communities.
As far as I can tell in taking a look at the initiative it seems there is a commitment to creating some type of task force to study the problem and identify the kinds of programs that have managed to work in keeping kids in school and out of jail, etc. There’s an aspect of the initiative that seeks to engage foundations and corporations in funding of programs that work but from what I can tell there’s nothing in the initiative that offers any policy change from the government or any government funding of any kind to support programs that are desperately needed in these communities.
There’s almost sort of an implicit assumption that we just need to go out and find what works to help people lift them up by their bootstraps and survive and thrive in the current era without acknowledging that today we are waging a war on these very communities that we claim to be so desperately concerned about. There is much that President Obama and Attorney General Holder and congress can do today to alleviate so much of the suffering that is being experienced in these communities.
DEAN BECKER: That was Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance. She was speaking with Michelle Alexander, the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color blindness.”
I love her book. I’ve interviewed her a few times. She’s in the first chapter of my new book, “To End the War On Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press and Public”. It’s 340 pages. It’s featured the words and thoughts of 115 experts, scientists, doctors, lawyers, politicians – you name it. It’s out there on Amazon. You can get it on Kindle. I think it takes the next step towards ending this madness of eternal drug war.
Close it out with a thought that there is no justice, no logic, no science, no reason for this drug war to exist. We have been duped. We’re going to close with Bea Author and Rock Hudson.
Prohibido istac evilesco!
For some it’s grass, for some it’s coke,
For some it’s powder, for some it’s smoke,
Everybody today is turning on!
For some it’s dust, for some it’s weed,
For some it’s acid, for some it’s speed,
Everybody today is turning on!
Time was when if a fella felt depressed
He simply got it off his chest
By callin’ on a preacher,
Talkin’ to his teacher,
Coughin’ up a half a buck to see a double feature!
But now it’s pills, and now it’s pot,
And now it’s poppers, and God-knows-what
Sniff, swig, puff, and your cares are gone!
Everybody today is turning on!
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.
The Century of Lies.
This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org