07/29/16 Jim Gierach

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Prosecutor Jim Gierach (ret) speaks of ultra-violence of drug war in Chicago + Yvonne talks of journey from Ireland to Colorado to seek the medicine that is changing her child's life for the better

Audio file


JULY 29, 2016


Smoke your pot,
You should know
You're not alone.

If your grass
Is like molasses,
That gets you stoned,

If you're counting the hours,
Watching the minutes,
That special time
When everyone hits it.

Take it from me,
You're really not that far away

Roll me something fat and long.
Pack me a bowl or fill me a bong.
It only comes twice a day but I don't care.
It's 4:20 somewhere.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, that was Chief Greenbud with "It's 4:20 Somewhere." This is the Cultural Baggage show, I am Dean Becker, your host.

Well folks, you've been hearing and seeing the news. The bloody mayhem on our city streets, both by and against law enforcement. And nowhere is that more obvious and glaring than it is in the home of, well, the fall-out of prohibition, both with alcohol and Al Capone, and now with drugs in Chicago, most of it being imported and distributed by the Sinaloa Cartel, the very same cartel that Chapo Guzman was once the head of, and despite the fact he's in prison, I figure he's probably got some say-so in what's going on anyway. Anyway, to talk about the situation, in Chicago, is a former prosecutor and longtime friend of mine, Jim Gierach. Hello, Jim.

JIM GIERACH: Hi Dean, it's great to be with you and your listeners.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim, am I right, Chicago is the chief example of the fall, the horrible fall-out of this drug war?

JIM GIERACH: Chicago was the home of prohibition, the home of Al Capone, and renowned around the world, doesn't matter where you go, Chicago was renowned for Al Capone and his prohibition days, and we're unfortunately living it again.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, and I don't know the factor, I mean, you track this on a daily basis, because daily, there are shoot-outs, there are deaths, there are children being wounded and killed over this violence as well. Right?

JIM GIERACH: Chicago, we're killing roughly two people a day, and we have in addition to that 11 or 12 people shot a day. For the year, the score, the homicide score for the year in Chicago is 378, last check here a little bit ago, and 2,200 plus people shot who did not die.


JIM GIERACH: So, it's a bloody mayhem.

DEAN BECKER: It is. I got a chance to take a look at Chicago when I was with the Caravan For Peace, Justice, And Dignity. We had a major parade, it started out with a few hundred people. By the time we reached our destination, it was many thousand people. The people in Chicago are well aware of this bloody mayhem, are they not?

JIM GIERACH: For certain. And, you and the Caravan, and I, with you, went with the Caravan For Peace. We were on the west side, and, like many cities, we have pockets where the violence is worse, and those are usually the people who are more dark complected, and who are poor, African Americans, Latinos. You were on the west side of the city of Chicago, that is one of the two major pockets. The south side and the west side. And, people realize the war on drugs is the problem, so when they saw our police car that said Stop The Violence, End The Drug War, they gravitated to it. And they poured in behind us. But the mainstream media, for whatever reason, is not picking it up, and will not seriously go near drug policy, which is of course the problem.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you know, the heck of it is, the major media, along with, and I'd like to throw a few people in this pile, the medical practitioners, but mostly, well, the politicians as well. They believed in this, they built laws around this, they supported this, they were part of the, just, creating the fall-out, the blowback, from the drug war, and it's hard for them to now say, Hey, we were wrong. We -- all these people didn't need to be arrested, all of these deaths were unnecessary, et cetera et cetera, down the line. And, I guess what I'm trying to reach here, Jim, is that it has an answer. It's an obvious, glaring answer, but they're afraid to touch it. Am I right?

JIM GIERACH: Absolutely. You know, there's so much news happening. Here, Jesse -- Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is based in Chicago and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is here, and this past week he held a press conference with the Illinois director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Dr. Damon Arnold. And the point of the press conference was to explain the economic cost of the homicides in Chicago, and the cost of bullethole care in this war on drugs. The average cost of a shooting for one gunshot victim was $35-50,000.


JIM GIERACH: Oftentimes, can run up to a million. But the number that caught my attention, and just startled me. The annual cost of homicide shootings in Chicago is $2.5 billion a year. Two point five billion dollars a year. I don't care whose name goes on healthcare reform, you cannot pay the bills when you are having that many people shot.


JIM GIERACH: And yet, this last, just this week, we had a new crackdown by the relatively new US Attorney here in Chicago, and he's Zachary Fardon. And, he, and thirty-some Latin -- Latin Kings, cracked down on another drug gang, and the Chicago Sun-Times is praising, that, oh, and I stand corrected, I'm looking at a newspaper, it's 60 alleged Latin King members in Illinois and Indiana, and they're indicted for drug dealing, for killings, et cetera. But, the Sun-Times, that hasn't really helped anymore than the Chicago Tribune to bring to the public attention the fact that we cannot stop the violence without ending the war on drugs, without legalizing, controlling, and regulating drugs, you can't stop the violence.

But, the Sun-Times is congratulating this new state's attorney on another meaningless indictment. It -- and that means something to people who are going to be prosecuted, and we're going to put some people in jail, sure, and if they commit these serious crimes of murder, we have to put them in jail. But, the thing that bothers me is that the Sun-Times and this Zachary Fardon is saying nothing about changing what's causing all of this shooting and the violence, and the killings.


JIM GIERACH: That funds the gangs, that buys the guns, that requires us to build prisons until we can't pay for schools.

DEAN BECKER: And pay two and a half billion for all the shootings, it's just --

JIM GIERACH: And, that -- the overtime bill for the Chicago Police Department this last year was $116 million. You can't pay those kinds of bills. And so when you read the Sun-Times editorial, this is the 28th, so this would have been yesterday, they said, it's really great, this federal crackdown is a welcome step in the battle against gangs. More than 60 members of the Latin Kings street gangs were arrested. But then it says, we know that sending high-ranking gang members to prison's not enough. Also, we need better jobs, better schools, sounder family structure. Exactly where are the fathers, it asks. Well, they're in jail. They're in jail because of the war on drugs. But nowhere, not one word, not one sentence in the editorial of the Chicago Sun-Times says anything about drug policy. Nothing.


JIM GIERACH: And yet, the former superintendent of police in Chicago, Gary McCarthy, said 80 percent of the homicides and shootings are retaliatory drug turf fights among the gangs.

DEAN BECKER: It's well beyond preposterous. Friends, we are speaking with Mister Jim Gierach. He's a former prosecutor in the city of Chicago, and we're talking about the levels of violence, we're talking about the drug war and its long-lasting impact on our nation. Jim, I wanted to bring up, we hear so much discussion about black lives, and white lives, and blue lives. They all matter. But the fact of the matter is the people who say the black lives matter is, you know, irrelevant or self-serving or whatever, what they're bringing forward is a necessary point of discussion, is it not, sir?

JIM GIERACH: Well, you can't have people shot for nothing, and no one being held accountable, and think that things are going to be peaceful and fine. We have developed a culture of violence and war in our cities and neighborhoods across the United States because of a war on drugs, where the kids are shooting each other, fighting over drug turf, where the kids get ever bigger guns and assault weapons to take on the opponents, and sometimes military style weapons, as assault weapons really are.

And so now the police, because they're fighting these heavily armed gangs, now the police become more militarized. So now that the police act more like military personnel instead of like police personnel. So now, now the community becomes divided, with a wedge between the community and the police, where many people see the police as the enemy instead of the friend. And the police oftentimes unfortunately are looking at the citizenry as the enemy, because they're supposed to go in there and stop drug dealing. Well, you can't stop drug dealing when you've got a policy in place that makes marijuana the equal value of gold by weight.

It's absolutely foolhardy, what we have done to both our police and to our citizenry. We have people who are being abused, and we have police who are being shot and targeted, all because of a stupid drug war. It was started by John Ehrlichman, domestic policy adviser for Richard Nixon, on June 17, 1971, declared public enemy number one, a war on drugs. We're going to go get the, all these drugs, and really it was a way to get black people, minorities, the lefties, the people who wanted us out of Vietnam, according to John Ehrlichman's own statement. So, in 1971, the United States started this crazy war on drugs, we've incarcerated a nation, we've gone from 300,000 people to 2.3 million people in jail, we've become the prison capitol of the world, and it's disgraceful. It makes police the enemy instead of the friend. It -- kids shouldn't be running from a policeman, they should be running to a policeman.

But, you know, when some of them are abused, and then the -- you know, this Freddie Gray thing that just, you know, they just, nolle prossed these other three cases, three police officers found not guilty and three more dismissed. I mean, when some kid gets stopped for no reason other than they exchanged glares with the police, and the kid runs, and then they catch the kid, they find a knife in his pocket, which wasn't observable beforehand, and the kid ends up dead because of a squad ride, somethings wrong.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Jim, look, the heck of it is, you see, and I see them all the time, I guess I'm tuned in to get them. But today, I saw video of a kid riding his bicycle down a city street. He didn't have any lights on. So cops follow him, turns the lights on, turns on the siren, the kid pulls over, the cop sics a dog on him, screams at him to get on his chest while the -- and put his hands behind his back while the dog is pulling his arm away from his body. And I guess what I'm trying to say here, sir, is that because of the internet, because of so many videocameras, we are seeing more of this. That doesn't mean that we should ignore it. It means that this is the truth that's been around all this time, that just now is becoming visible. Am I right?

JIM GIERACH: You are right, and you know, we have two presidential conventions that are just happened these last two weeks, and our presidents are trying to make things better, but there's very little discussion about drug policy. There's very little making the point that fundamentally, people have to care about one another. Police have to care about the people they're taking care of. The people have to care about the policeman that are trying to take care of them. And when we put in place a war on drugs, and we assign our police departments to go fight it, and try to arrest my son, my daughter, my father, my mother, putting people in prison, trying to turn them into informants so that they can go up the grapevine, taking the drug dealers' moneys and cars, and boats, and converting it to police use. They're pirates.

It's just -- it doesn't deserve the respect that the people, and when you have no respect for law enforcement, and the law, that our Congress and state legislatures have put in place, you can't have a society that's worth living in.

DEAN BECKER: Jim, I want to say this. You know, I talked about the kid that didn't have the lights on his bicycle, and, you know, that's an extreme example, but it was the mechanism of drug war, started by Nixon and Ehrlichman back in, what was it, '71, that put forward the idea that anything, that we can do anything to stop the drugs, which led to increased stops, increased searches, increased attitude, and to more violence. And I'm not saying it all came from the police, there were bad actors that helped escalate this on the other side of the equation. But, it is, I don't know how else to say it, it is the drug war that leads to people needing guns to protect their stash, to, you know, protect from thieves and all of this down the line, that has just escalated this beyond the pale. Right?

JIM GIERACH: So, the best description I've ever heard of the erosion of constitutional rights is the war on drugs is the exception to the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights exists, and it protects people, unless the war on drugs is after you. Unless the police are coming through the door. Unless they're trying to catch you before you flush something down the toilet. It, and there's just a recent Supreme Court case where they said that you can't -- if you go into someplace in a drug raid, and you didn't have probable cause to start with, but it turns out that one of the defendants has an outstanding warrant, we're going to uphold the probable cause-less episode.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Anything to justify continuing the drug war.

JIM GIERACH: I mean, it's, you can throw the rules out if it's about the drug war because drug war -- drugs are just such a scourge, right? I mean, the drugs that have been here forever, on the marijuana and poppy and the coca plants, I mean, we've got to make war on them, right? God made the mistake in putting these things on mother earth, and we've got to get them.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. It's like the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve, all that crap too, I guess, I don't know. Now, the good thing, it's a hopeful thing I guess, not necessarily, no traction with it, but, within the Democratic Convention in particular, there were a lot of references to the need to revamp, to restructure, our criminal justice system, and in particular from Hillary Clinton. It sounded good, but you know, let's bring it to fruition. But at least they're seeing the failure and futility of what we're up to. It's a good thing, right?

JIM GIERACH: Well, it is. You know, the pendulum swings. Back in the early '90s, we're going to get tough, we're going to crack down, we're going to build more prisons, three time loser laws. Harsher draconian sentences, we're going to show them who's boss, we're going to pay whatever it costs. We need more prisons, we're going to build them. And now, we're seeing what the consequence of that is. We've got families without father, we've got people in prison for adult consensual behavior instead of for crime. We're destroying communities. We've got healthcare bills we can't pay. We've got prisons instead of schools. We can't afford college. And so, you know, the economic reality of horrible policy is that at some point it's going to change, you know, the sooner the better, and I wish it were yesterday.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim, we're going to have to wrap it up, but I, my hat is off to you for continuing to do the work you do to bring focus to the horrors of your fair city. But sadly, Chicago is not alone, it just seems to be the prime example of that horror. A few seconds, Jim, closing thoughts?

JIM GIERACH: End the war on drugs to make life better for everybody. That's the most important thing anyone could take from this radio program.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Jim.

JIM GIERACH: Good to be with you, Dean. Thanks.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Loss of personal freedom, family, and possessions; ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing, or employment; loss of aggressive mindset in a dangerous world; this drug's peaceful easy feeling may be habit forming. Time's up! The answer: Doobie, jimmie, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, stege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa. Made by god, prohibited by man.

YVONNE CAHALANE: Well, we have two little boys, our youngest is Tristan, oldest Oscar. And Tristan started getting seizures, and we got a diagnosis of Dravet Syndrome. And, we started looking into the syndrome, and trying to see what other options of treatment were there for him besides a rotation of different cocktails of drugs over and over again, and they weren't working. He was still getting hour long seizures, he was getting up to 20 a day. And we knew that after he had two years of age, that that would progress to 200, 500. It would just get worse and worse, and he was a zombie with all the drugs.

We tried to seek an alternative treatment, something that was out there, something that was working. And we came across links, and videos, for actually Jason David's child, Jayden, and he used medical cannabis after all other drugs failed. So we started looking into it a little bit more, spoke to researchers, neurologists, neuroscientists, and other parents that had done this already, and were using it with success. And we decided to go for it. So we asked our community for help to help us get to Colorado for medical cannabis for Tristan.

DEAN BECKER: And, to get to Colorado from where?

YVONNE CAHALANE: From Ireland, yes. From West Cork.

DEAN BECKER: And Britain does not have the dispensary system, they do not it readily available, then.

YVONNE CAHALANE: They do not. It is, every aspect of the cannabis, every aspect, every compound, is illegal. So, you would have to get a special license if you were to get any, or grow any kind of hemp product for whatever research, if they were, you know, but, yeah, no. No, it's completely illegal. So we campaigned first, and we met with government, and we spoke to doctors to see how we could go around getting it in the first place, and when we were just meeting brick walls, over and over again, we even spoke to Customs, we spoke to guards, we spoke to solicitors, all trying to see what their take on it was, and how, where to start, even.

And eventually we just realized, we're just going to have to go if we want this for him, and if we want a better life for him, we're just going to have to go, mountain Mohammed situation. So we spoke out to our community, and we started fundraising.

DEAN BECKER: And, so now, you have been in Colorado for some time. Tell us again how immediate was the progress, how much progress is being made?

YVONNE CAHALANE: It was scarily immediate, to the point where I rang the doctors here in Colorado and I said, is it supposed to work this well, this quickly? It was amazing. I mean, Tristan was getting 20-plus seizures, he was, he was on over a hundred doses of medications a week, you know, everything, nothing was working. Even when he was in hospital, his seizure's an hour long. They gave him everything they possibly could, and they just had to wait it out, and after an hour waited out to see when it would stop, he was going to be intubated twice. There was so much that he was going through with conventional pharmaceutical medications that did not work.

Within a week of being on cannabis, the very first week, he started to get more alert. And he started to talk more. Within the second week, his stability, he like, he stopped walking in May, after so many seizures, he was in hospital for a month. He stopped walking and he stopped talking. So, then, when we got here in December, in that first week where we just saw a boom of improvement, it just kept coming. The progression and the improvement, we just woke up a child. It was amazing. Cannabis woke him up.

DEAN BECKER: Well, this is one of many amazing stories about the benefits of cannabis in particular for those with epilepsy, with Dravet Syndrome. And it was a US doctor, Sanjay Gupta, who I think awoke many politicians here in the United States. Did his broadcast make it to Ireland as well, or was, are you aware of him?

YVONNE CAHALANE: I am aware of him. He wouldn't have been, I actually spoke to Raphael Mechoulam, who was the father of cannabis research. I spoke to him first, in Israel, and we spoke to researchers in Canada and California. I have heard some of his conferences, but they didn't come til later, I think we had spoken to other doctors, doctors in children's hospital in Colorado as well, and you know, Dr. Shackleford, he was very helpful for us as well.

So, we spoke to a lot of other doctors that are actually dealing with medical cannabis every day, and with their help, they were able to get Tristan from nine plus medications, I say plus because there would have been benzos used as rescue medications, so there's no telling how many we would have used of those. But nine plus medications a day, but he's now being weaned off his seventh drug. So he's doing so well, no seizures, speaking, walking and running, playing, and off seven drugs already. Amazing.

DEAN BECKER: That's just so wonderful. Yvonne, we had Shane Shackleford on last week talking about this, and this is one of the main subjects, the main focus we like to bring is that we've been lied to for generations now, and this is a legitimate medicine, is it not?

YVONNE CAHALANE: Oh, for sure. I mean, yeah, we absolutely have, I mean, we were -- there wasn't a hope in hell before we knew we needed it that I would have introduced it to my household, never mind to my child. I never knew that it had such powerful potential. And that's exactly what it is. Doctors want to know more, and as much as it's helpful for Tristan's epilepsy, and so many more conditions, they want to learn more, and rules and regulations that are unfounded are preventing all of that from happening. We're speaking with our government and doctors in Ireland all the time, and we're making progress, and there's a lot of politicians that want this to happen as well. It's just a very slow process, because you do come up against some walls.

I know here in America, I'm told a lot that the pharmaceutical and the alcohol industry, and things like that, that they are blocking things from progressing with legalization. It's just -- you know, when some of these people will need it, and please god they won't, but if they do, that's when things will change. You know, they'll see it, they'll see why it's so amazing, so change is everything.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, Yvonne, do you happen to know the website where folks can learn more?

YVONNE CAHALANE: Well, Shane is with Safe Haven, so they can, even if they look it up through facebook, they can find the web, or the facebook page for that. For us, we're still, we've got a petition, so that's the petition that we're asking a lot of people to sign. We've got over 8,000 already and we've got books that are all throughout Ireland, and Europe as well, that people are signing. That's the petition for cannabis for Tristan and for everyone else, whole plant cannabis medicine for Ireland. For everyone. So people can look that up on Change.org. And then there's Tristan's web page as well, our facebook page, Tristan Cahalane. So, you know, if I can help give advice or in any way as well, I, you know, we get calls and messages and emails all the time, every day. But, yeah, if there's anyone else that is out there that can help us, or can help others, and help us bring a change to the world, it would be wonderful. It's needed.

DEAN BECKER: All right, I want to thank Yvonne, and former Chicago prosecutor James Gierach, for their thoughts and their help in all of us understanding the true nature of this drug war. Please join us next week here on Cultural Baggage. I remind you once again that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.