08/18/17 Eric Sterling

(1 Hr show) Eric Sterling Dir of Criminal Justice Policy Foundation + Ray Hill reformer extraordinaire + Doug McVay report from Seattle Hempfest & Phil Smith reporter for Drug War Chronicle

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, August 18, 2017
Eric Sterling
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation



AUGUST 18, 2017


[music] Put down that tiki torch,
Put that rifle in its case,
We are brothers, we are sisters,
No matter what religion, gender, or race.

I'm an Irish German agnostic,
My best friend is a Jew,
But I am an American
As American as you.

Our diversity empowers us,
It makes us strong.
It's for Heather Heyer that
I dedicate this song.

Fighting each other doesn't help us
And it never will,
But don't you dare blame both sides
Here in Charlottesville.

Fighting each other doesn't help us
And it never will,
But don't you dare blame both sides
Here in Charlottesville.

DEAN BECKER: There you have it. You know, we have to open our eyes. We have to take a look around. We have to see what's going on in this country. Racism, it's around, it's strong, it's making a comeback, if you will. This is the Cultural Baggage show. My name is Dean Becker. This is the first one hour edition of this program and I thank you for being with us.

A little bit later we're going to hear from Mister Eric Sterling. He's president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. We'll hear a report from one of the Drug Truth Network reporters, he's going to be a regular on this program, Mister Doug McVay, as well as from Mister Phil Smith, who works for the Drug War Chronicle. But we have in studio my mentor, the man who gave me the backbone, the courage, to do what I do, the man who worked 32 years on the prison show, the old man of the mothership of the Drug Truth Network. I want to welcome in studio with me Mister Ray Hill. Hello, sir.

RAY HILL: Thank you, Dean. I have watched carefully the evolution of Cultural Baggage from when it was a little corner of the prison show.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And I still think back to those days and I'm so glad for that opportunity. Thank you once again.

RAY HILL: Yeah, but you've produced a product, a broadcast product, that has been syndicated and carried over how many stations?

DEAN BECKER: Our peak was 115, thereabouts. We're down to about 65. But, I --

RAY HILL: 65 ain't no slacker, anyway.

DEAN BECKER: No, sir, but that's an indication that other folks have now developed the courage to speak of this drug war in much the same fashion I do.


DEAN BECKER: As of this point, and for the last 15 years, I am the -- this is the only program on the airwaves of America that addresses the drug war head on, week after week [sic: actually DTN's second program Century of Lies does this as well].

RAY HILL: Absolutely. And, you've got a determination that is kind of required.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

RAY HILL: In broadcasting. I don't care who is in broadcasting, they don't kind of saunter in and fall into doing a program, you have to have a reason to do it, you have to believe in what you're doing, you have to understand your audience and your potential audience. Can I talk to your audience here a little bit?

DEAN BECKER: Sure, please do.

RAY HILL: Fellows that are hung over from the prison show, well, welcome back. It's like having Dean back on the program again, and remember way back, those of you old timers around there, remember way back when we went on the radio and you heard some, why didn't they talk about that? Well, for my case. Well, we got a late start, but we're still at it, and, you know, I think prison's full of folks that maybe overdid things a little bit and got drunk, stoned, stupid, and did stuff they might not have done, or they weren't fully responsible because they had added some chemicals to them.

Dean's program takes the drug war element out of it, and that reduces a lot of things like cost and imprisonment, and a lot of you guys wouldn't even be down there if it weren't for the possession that they hung on you, and they probably weren't after you for possession, they were probably after you for something else, but possession's what they got you on.

DEAN BECKER: Happens all too often, Ray, that little bitty trace amounts can be used to --

RAY HILL: And it's the substitute for what they couldn't put together to make a case out of.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and Ray, the other part of what I try to talk about though is that many folks that are users, ofttimes they can't pass a urine test, they can't get a job or keep a job, and ofttimes they do some surreptitious things to acquire the funds to buy those drugs, and the truth of it is, were it legal, well, by god it would cost one penny on the black market dollar, and there'd be less need to go out doing these other crimes to purchase the drugs.

RAY HILL: Just to feed a habit, yeah, sure.


RAY HILL: I mean, the money thing, the imprisonment thing, the whole industry needs to come crumbling down, and they, and Dean and I have had conversations several times about incrementalism, and I'm with him. If you're going to do this, then you need to go take a look at where they have avoided incrementalism, and waded out into the real world and that's where the differences were made.


RAY HILL: Because a percentage of your liberty, a percentage of your wealth, is one thing, giving you the liberty and letting you keep your wealth is something altogether different.

DEAN BECKER: Oh yeah, they'll, through asset forfeiture take your children, your house, your car, your cash, all your worldly goods.


DEAN BECKER: Yeah. The intro, we were talking about racism in that intro, and again, it has shown its ugly face more prevalently here of late. I want to read a quote here, I think this is from the New York Times, in 1994.

John Ehrlichman, Nixon's domestic policy advisor and a Watergate co-conspirator confessed the following to the author Dan Baum, quote: "The Nixon campaign in 1968 and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

And with that, I want to go ahead and see if we can't reach out to our first guest, Mister Eric Sterling. He's up in New England, and we'll hopefully get him on air here in just a moment. No, call him, please. And --

RAY HILL: So, while Big Mike's setting that up, by the way we're engineered by Captain and Mike, they're over there, got us covered, and thank you boys for doing that. While that's happening, a friend of mine died, I just found out about it today, died a couple of weeks ago. His name was David Patterson. And David Patterson had -- I have a dope story about David.


RAY HILL: David's an old friend of mine. He and I were early gay activists in Houston, 1967 and '68.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Back in the day.

RAY HILL: Yeah, yeah, back in the day, and I went to prison, I got out, and I was sitting at home at some time in the late 1980s, and my phone rang, you know, it was the sheriff. And the sheriff was in some county in Alabama, and he said, you Ray Hill? And I said, I am. And he said, do you know David Patterson? And I said yeah, what can I do for you? And he said, I want you to get him out of my jail. And I said, well, what would that entail, and he started talking about bond figures and fine amounts, and I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. What's this about?

He said, well, David was driving through the state park over here, and apparently smoking a joint, driving next to a patrolman. Patrolman looked over and saw the joint and pulled him over, and smelled the odor, and arrested him. And I said, when did this happen? He said a couple of weeks ago. And I said, you know, David is HIV positive, this is an expensive thing for you, and he said, what do you mean expensive thing? And I said because I know his medication protocol is about $1200 a month, and you're obliged to do that because he's in your custody.

Now, well, I don't know what these fines are that you're talking about, and I don't know what this bond is you're talking about, but I would suggest in the interest of saving the county a little money you get David's ass out of your jail as quick as possible.

He said, well how quick can you get him out of town? And I said, well, by the time you got to the bus station this afternoon there'll be a ticket there waiting for him. And so sure enough, a sheriff somewhere in Alabama made it right, simply because of the expense of keeping a PWA in his jail.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, that's becoming more prevalent these days, economics is being considered a whole lot more in this. Do we have our guest on line? Okeh, well, again, I hope to bring him on here in a minute. Let me kind of pre-introduce him a bit. His name is Eric Sterling. He's the director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, I think he's based in, near Washington DC, a little town there in Maryland. He worked with the US Congress back in the '80s to bring forward the mandatory minimum laws, to increase the penalties for drugs.


DEAN BECKER: I think he worked for Congressman Peter Rodino.

RAY HILL: Rodino, I remember Peter Rodino.

DEAN BECKER: He worked directly for him, and -- Okeh. Well, okeh folks, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network, Pacifica Radio. I am your host Dean Becker. We have in studio with us Mister Ray Hill, and, what's happening with our guest, please?

RAY HILL: I see David's over there talking to him on the phone.


RAY HILL: Okeh, and soon as they get the code, then they can call that.

DEAN BECKER: All right.

RAY HILL: And, you need to do this ahead of time.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I thought they had it. I talked to them. Okeh. All right, folks, I don't --

RAY HILL: Well, you know, we've had a change of management, so that changes everything.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I guess so. You know, of late, Attorney General Sessions has been talking about, you know --

RAY HILL: Going back.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, going back to the '50s, back to the good old days, I guess. He's been talking about, you know, marijuana smokers are untrustworthy and all that kind of stuff, they've been talking about -- I tell you what, let's play track three, if you will, Mike, and hear what some thoughts about President Trump's attitude, position, and maybe some counterpoints, from Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance. Track three, please.

RAY HILL: Okeh. We're -- we haven't got this down. This is your first show with these folks, right?

DEAN BECKER: Right, right.

RAY HILL: Okeh. And, because they've got to find it.

TIM PATE: My name is Tim Pate. We're at the Seattle Hempfest backstage right now, on Main Stage. This is my twenty-first year on this stage with this event.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted track three, please, on the other disc. Please. That, that disc only has one --

TIM PATE: My name is Tim Pate.


TIM PATE: We're at

DEAN BECKER: Other disc.

RAY HILL: Okeh, you're ready for your call.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Is the call ready? Okeh.

RAY HILL: Put him on.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, please, let's welcome our guest, Mister Eric Sterling. Are you there? Hello, Eric? Eric?

ERIC STERLING: Hello? Hello, this is Eric Sterling.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, I thank you for being with us, Eric. I was telling the folks that you're director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Please tell us a little bit about your organization, the work you do.

ERIC STERLING: I provide a lot of support to drug policy reform groups. I helped start the Marijuana Policy Project, and I'm on the board of LEAP, we used to mean Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. We try to help provide --


DEAN BECKER: Okeh, are you still there, Eric?

ERIC STERLING: I am, but there's someone else in the background.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. I think we're okeh now. If you would continue please.

ERIC STERLING: Sure. We -- so, we're a drug policy reform organization, you know, we started in 1989, with support from the Linnell Foundation, to at that time help end the war on drugs. We had just had a brand new drug czar, William Bennett, the first drug czar under the first President Bush. And, you know, my background is, as you said, is I worked for Rodino, who was a leading civil rights advocate in the Congress, and Father Drinan, a former law school dean, organized crime, gun control, money laundering, pornography, and of course drugs.

And I saw, you know first hand the inhumanity of some members of Congress, as drug policy was getting started, you know, being intensified under the Reagan days. You probably recall, maybe your listeners recall very early in the AIDS epidemic, when people didn't even know the name of the disease, and they were aware that people who were injecting drugs and sharing needles were getting AIDS. And there was a briefing, and a member of Congress kind of suddenly brightened up, and he said oh my gosh, you know, this is going to solve the heroin problem. You know, he saw this is as a good thing, you know. This is an example of the kind of inhumanity that I think for a long time many policy makers had about people who use drugs and who, and the tragedy of drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Right. You know, Eric, I opened the show with, you know, those KKK and nazis marching, and a lady sang a song about it, and the thing that is now being recognized with the heroin and the downer overdoses going on amongst the white population, has given new awareness, new focus, on perhaps the ability to provide treatment rather than arrest those white folks out there. And I hear folks talking about back when, when it was the crack cocaine epidemic, nobody gave a damn, let's lock up all them blacks for as long as we can. And I guess what I'm saying, sir, is that racism is a huge part of the drug war. It always has been, and it wasn't -- it's not the singular focus of racism, but it is one of the means by which we have waged this war on drugs. Right?

ERIC STERLING: Yes. I -- this is a piece of history and analysis that I think we often talk about, you know, the, I think the, you know, you were reminding me recently of the New York Times article from 1914, at the time of the first federal drug prohibition.


ERIC STERLING: Do you have that handy there, that quotation from the New York Times?

DEAN BECKER: I think I do, let's see if I can find it. Well, let's see.

ERIC STERLING: Because in those days, you, we were at the period when the grandchildren of the people who were formerly enslaved are now entering into economic power, they were becoming professionals and businesspeople, and professors at Harvard University, and so forth. And there was a very powerful white reaction. This was the period in the early nineteen teens, that the KKK was really being ramped up. This is when lynching was becoming much more widespread, and this was a time when the -- when race was -- race of drug users was said to be black drug users and the problem was created as a way to control blacks and bring in the punishment model, and the collateral -- the early kinds of collateral consequences against blacks, through the drug wars.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, I did find that, and just to kind of tie into what you're saying, the racial bias not being now, it was in 1914, the New York Times, quote: "Negros on cocaine become invincible," end quote, thus requiring law enforcement to upgrade from 38 caliber bullets to 45s. The Wyoming State House in 1929, one of the legislators stood up and said, quote, "Give one of these Mexican beet workers a couple puffs of some marijuana, next thing you know he thinks he's been elected president of Mexico and sets out to execute his enemies," end quote. A big laugh was held by all of them and they slammed the gavel down and passed that marijuana bill.

It's -- it is entrenched in racism, isn't it?

ERIC STERLING: A way to look at this is that, from 1920 until 1970, the rate of incarceration in America was level, at about 110, 120 per hundred thousand. This represents decisions in, you know, 48 states, the greater 50 states, of prosecutors and judges and police chiefs and sheriffs. The rate of incarceration is level. And, when it begins to rise in 1970, what was the big change?

Well, 1970 is essentially the high water mark of the civil rights movement. No longer can blacks be punished through Jim Crow. They can no -- they, you can't discriminate against them in employment, housing, transportation, education, and with the breakdown in those forms of control of the status of being black in America, where Jim Crow exists during this entire time. Jim Crow was like the punish -- is a form of punishment for being black in America.

And so, when the legal system couldn't do that, it took -- another kind of approach was taken, I think this becomes the rise of the war on drugs. You quoted Nixon earlier, in Haldeman's diaries, and so the rate of incarceration is now over 700 per hundred thousand, and the disparity of blacks being prosecuted for drug offenses, you know, is many, many times whites. They're mostly criminally prosecuted, they're much more frequently convicted, and then even more frequently incarcerated.

So the culture has put a black face on the drug problem, it's a species of urban problem. So now, so, if, you know, more than a half century ago, if you were African American, you couldn't attend the state university in a certain state, well now, you can't attend the state university because Congress has said you're not eligible for federal financial aid. So, now if you have a drug conviction, you can be banned from getting food stamps for your family, you can -- there are all kinds of punishments that arise from this, aside from actually being incarcerated. And these are disproportionately around race.

So we're, I think it is very important to recognize that we're not going to solve the drug problem, we're not going to solve the problems of race discrimination and the disadvantages that white society imposes structurally on people of color, but this is an important one. We need to think about, what are the reparations for the families in communities that have been victimized by the war on drugs. This is an issue that is not yet getting sufficient attention in public policy discussions.

DEAN BECKER: Eric, I want to interject the thought that it is in California, or certainly in Oakland, where they are making arrangements for those who were previously arrested, incarcerated, for marijuana sales or growth, to actually become part of that industry, which is a step in that direction, right?

ERIC STERLING: I think that's a very positive corrective step. It seems absurd to me to say that people who worked in these -- in, you know, who were selling drugs illegally now can't get involved in this industry when it's legal. As long as they follow the rules in this new industry, they have a passion for it. They shouldn't be disqualified because they have a drug conviction, in my opinion.

DEAN BECKER: No, I would agree, there's a, I don't know, a similar scenario up in Canada, where all of the people who helped change the laws, helped change perspectives, insofar as cannabis, are now being denied the ability to participate in the industry. It's just not right.

ERIC STERLING: Well, many states, you know, have drug law, have cannabis laws like in Maryland, the medical cannabis law forbids people who've had a felony drug conviction from working in the legal medical cannabis industry in Maryland.

DEAN BECKER: I don't understand the logic, but again, there's not much logic in drug war laws in the first place. Well, Eric, I know you have worked with the US Congress, Congressman Peter Rodino, was that it? The year was '86, about, was it, sir?

ERIC STERLING: So, so in '86, 1986, a Maryland basketball star who was very, very well known inside the Beltway, signed with the Boston Celtics, who'd won the NBA championship. And the night that he signed with the Celtics, he came back home and he was partying and he died from a cocaine seizure in his dormitory at the University of Maryland. This really shocked the country, and it shocked members of Congress, and the Speaker of the House, who was from Boston, Tip O'Neill, figured out that perhaps the Democrats could take advantage of the drug issue instead of the Republicans, and a huge Democratic inspired drug bill was put together.

I was the drugs guy for the House Judiciary Committee, and so I started, I was drafted into these meetings, and I was involved in writing the, what became the very infamous mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. The five grams of crack cocaine to get you a minimum of five years, up to 40 years in prison, the fifty grams of crack cocaine that would get you a minimum ten years up to life imprisonment, whereas, you know, for powder cocaine, the quantity would be one hundred times larger to get the same punishment.

Those laws, you know, consistently we found that they were being disproportionately imposed against people of color by federal prosecutors around the country. The US Department of Justice has been outrageous in its -- way it has prosecuted low level offenders and given them the sentences that, Congress made a tremendous mistake in imposing long sentences for small quantities.

In 2010, there was an effort to fix this. It only changed the small quantities of crack cocaine slightly, so that the five year sentence is triggered by 28 grams, about an ounce, instead of five grams. But the focus was never on high level offenders, and so still, low level offenders are getting long sentences, and very long sentences.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, up to 20 years and beyond, at times.

ERIC STERLING: Way beyond. Life. I mean, Clarence Allen, who was let out a couple of years ago, had his sentence commuted by President Obama, Clarence Allen was a college student who drove some cocaine to his cousin's business in Mobile, Alabama. He got three life sentences running consecutively for, because he didn't plead guilty. You know --

RAY HILL: Yeah, I had a conversation -- this is Ray Hill, and I'm a guest on the show, with Dean.

ERIC STERLING: Yeah, I -- good work you've done over the years, I've heard all about you, man.

RAY HILL: Oh really? You read those wanted posters at the post office, apparently. I had a discussion with a fellow by the name of Eric Holder. I started, end mass incarceration and the idea was to reduce sentences, and of course the first target is your mandatory minimum laws, because --


RAY HILL: -- because I was of the opinion that, federal judge friends of mine were telling me, well, Raymond, I can't do anything, my hands are tied.


RAY HILL: And so, we had this ongoing conversation with him, and so I told Eric, and of course, you know, I'm selling a hog, here, so, I may not be a hundred percent right, but I said basically what you're getting is really low level people and mules. You're not really touching the people in the business.

ERIC STERLING: This was documented very thoroughly by the US Sentencing Commission in their report to Congress in 2007. This is online, you can look in the data, you know, a third of the federal crack cases involve less than 25 grams, less than an ounce.

RAY HILL: Low level.

ERIC STERLING: You know, a few hundred dollars worth of crack.

RAY HILL: Yeah, but some guy gets paid $600 to drive a truck from Harlingen to Corpus Christi and gets pulled over with a truckload of Mexican marijuana, he's going to get life.

ERIC STERLING: Well, this is the point, is that there is a, there's a federal law called the Kingpin Act, the Continuing Criminal Enterprise. The federal government not only uses that ten or twenty times a year, you know, and yet they're doing, they're doing 20,000 drug cases a year, and the data shows these are low level offenders. They're wasting, you know, even if you thought the war on drugs made sense, you'd realize that the strategy is being carried out improperly.

RAY HILL: Yeah, but there's a value to be placed on even laws that are reform laws.

ERIC STERLING: Of course. There's value -- when you say there's value to be placed on reform laws --

RAY HILL: Yeah, because you get down to the prosecutor level, and he's got a mantra problem about getting a good clear conviction and getting a big sentence, and so that becomes his bargaining chip, and so even if you raise the consciousness that we're hitting low level users or mules, then, that may not play in that particular court room on that day.



DEAN BECKER: Well, I'll tell you what, gentleman, this is an issue we're just going to have to address later. I've got a couple of other guests. Eric, I want to thank you so much for being our first on air guest today. He, again, he works for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. You can find their website at CJPF.org. Eric Sterling, thank you, sir.

ERIC STERLING: Dean, thank you. Congratulations on getting your hour show of Cultural Baggage, I'm honored to be your first guest in your new hour format, and we'll just, I've been following your work for so many years at KPF -- KFP --

RAY HILL: KPFT. Keep Putting Frogs Together.

ERIC STERLING: Keep putting -- Keep Putting Frogs -- KPFT. Thanks so much.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir.


DEAN BECKER: All right, bye Eric.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Time's up! The answer is forthcoming.

ANNOUNCER: Do not drive or operate machinery until at least four hours after taking Intermezzo when you're fully awake. Driving, eating, or engaging in other activities while not fully awake without remembering the event the next day have been reported. Abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion. Alcohol or taking other medicines that make you sleepy may increase these risks. In depressed patients, worsening of depressing including risk of suicide may occur. Intermezzo, like most sleep medicines, has some risk of dependency. Common side effects are headache, nausea, and fatigue. So if you suffer from middle of the night insomnia, ask your doctor about Intermezzo, and return to sleep again.

DEAN BECKER: If you smoke pot to help you sleep, you'll go to jail.

All right, folks, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. I am Dean Becker. We have in studio with us Mister Ray Hill, 32 years on the prison show, my mentor. And here in just a little bit, we hope to have another guest to join us. I believe he's out in Seattle as we speak. That other disc, the only track, let's play it. Doug sent this to me earlier today, he was backstage at the Hempfest there. It's a major event, and he's going to fill us in on some of the happenings out there, but he got a chance to do this one interview before he left, and we'll play it for you here in just a second.

The truth of it is, marijuana is a harmless herb. If you compound it too much, well, you might get woozy, you might pass out, but it's not going to hurt you, and yet the government continues to claim that it's --

RAY HILL: Class A drug, right?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Schedule One, Schedule One.

RAY HILL: Schedule One, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Right up there with heroin, and it just seems so ridiculous. We having any luck there, Mike?

TIM PATE: My name is Tim Pate. We're at the Seattle Hempfest backstage right now, on Main Stage. This is my twenty-first year on this stage with this event. So, you are at currently, listening backstage to the largest protestival of its kind in the universe.

DOUG MCVAY: You just had me sign a guitar after I got off the Main Stage a moment ago. What's up with the guitars?

TIM PATE: Well, for many years, we've been giving away prizes on stage, and a long time -- twenty guitars ago, I came up with an idea that if we gave away guitars on Main Stage and we had everybody sign them up there, that that guitar would really be worth something and we could raffle it off for a little bit of money and help raise money for Seattle Hempfest. So far, we've raised a lot of money, over those, you know, the 20 guitars, and all of the waterpipes, and pieces of glass, and everything else we've given away, and so, this year we've got again a whole slew of prizes from a whole bunch of different people, and this -- also, a very nice Guild guitar, a Junior Jumbo, that's mahogany and finished spruce, so it's like, oh, really nice stuff.

And now it's getting covered with signatures, and, from everybody, all the luminaries and all the bands that are playing, you can hear one in the background right now playing. But we've got speakers from all over the planet, we've got activists from all over the planet, we have lawyers from all over the planet. They're everywhere, everywhere. And we have music from everywhere, too. And this stage is by far one of the most entertaining stages, and significant political active stage, on the planet, and it's just been an honor to be able to be here, to speak on this stage, to help make it happen, and to be Santa Claus at the end of the weekend and give away, you know, a whole bunch of stuff to a bunch of stoners. It's really fun.

DOUG MCVAY: I love coming here, this is a -- you've been doing these festivals for a long time. What's the difference between Hempfest and some rock festival?

TIM PATE: Well, I first started with the Grateful Dead. I worked with the Grateful Dead from 1988 until Jerry died, I was chairman of the board of directors of the rock medicine team. And so, meeting the nurses and doctors, EMTs, crisis workers, all of that, usually have 130 on staff when we, you know, go onto a show, a major event like a Grateful Dead show. We'd have 60 to 180,000 people in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, if they weren't in, they were close, right? So it's -- that's a major city in most countries, that's a major city, and so, you've got to be ready for that.

And that was our job. So, yeah, 30 years in a row I've, you know, been running, working, making happen a major festival of one kind or another. Almost everybody here on staff has a certification as a crowd manager, and I do too. And it -- we take great pride in making certain everybody comes to the party, plays safely at the party, and goes home safely. That really is important. I've already had to have one emergency run this week, an ambulance for, you know, somebody, I had to save a hand the other day. Bicycles can be so cruel when they hit the ground and you're on them, and so, anyway, that's our job. We pay great attention to every detail, and we hope that when you show up and you have a good time, you think about it, tell your friends, and come back next year.

DOUG MCVAY: What does Hempfest mean to you?

TIM PATE: Hempfest means to me that I, as a single individual, can have a political voice in the maelstrom of idiocracy out there, and that if I make my voice clear and strong, it can be heard, and this gives me that opportunity to make that voice heard. And gives us a chance, as a society, to listen to others' ideas and perspective, and perhaps we can make changes in the laws that we feel are wrong. And that's where Hempfest gives me my strength.

DOUG MCVAY: Backstage live at Hempfest.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again, that was Mister Doug McVay. I get it?

RAY HILL: You punch the top button.

DEAN BECKER: Punch the top one?



RAY HILL: You're there.

DEAN BECKER: Hey, Doug, how you doing, bud, you still at Hempfest?

DOUG MCVAY: Hey, Dean. Yes, the VIP slash speakers party is well underway. Anyway, they're doing an award ceremony, Pete Holmes, the city attorney, was being given a lifetime achievement award. He can't make it but Doug Hiatt, a good friend, another criminal defense attorney here in Seattle, a good friend of the program, both of our programs, actually. Anyway, and of Pete Holmes, as it is, so accepted it for him. And then, yeah, this will, this will go on for a little while, and then it's back in the morning.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I want to bring up something. I mean, I've only been able to attend Hempfest the one time, about, I don't know, 8 or 10 years ago. But the fact of the matter is, that's a gathering of our friends, family, and fellow reformers. I don't think many people realize that there are 2,000 people whose job pretty much 24/7 is trying to end the drug war. Would you agree with that assumption, sir?

DOUG MCVAY: Oh, absolutely, I mean, there are -- well, there are more and more these days, my gosh, I remember when you could fit everybody in reform in one room in a hotel. That was the '80s, and things were, you know, things were different. Yeah, it's kind of a reunion of sorts, and what's very cool is, all the speakers are coming up here, I mean, we're all paying our own way to get up here, and stay here in Seattle, they're not paying honoraria to any keynotes, to get us here, and yeah, I mean, it's a labor of love, and it's -- we love coming up here.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to bring up a couple of things, maybe I've got them crossthreaded, but I think it was your home state of Oregon that's going to put on the ballot to, or wait, no, Oregon just made all minor drug possessions a misdemeanor, is that right, sir?

DOUG MCVAY: Well, first offense -- first offense possession of small personal use amounts of various drugs, like methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, et cetera, will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. It's a partial decriminalization, it's certainly a good step on the way towards it. It's first offense only, but by bringing it down to a misdemeanor, you're taking that off the table, I mean, it -- you know, the district attorneys at worst argue that they don't really charge that anyway and no one really goes to jail. Okeh, well find, but that's what the penalty is, and that's what the, I mean, it's a serious thing, if they're treating it so trivially, so if they won't be going to jail, why not make it a misdemeanor?

They complain about drug courts, but possession offenses aren't really for drug courts, for that, just, that's just a strawman. So yeah, I mean, it's got a lot of potential, and it's important that the decriminalization, or defelonization, was coupled with a racial profiling bill that requires the state to gather data and, from the very basic beginning level with the police officer stopping and searching, whether in a vehicle or on foot, starting with that and then going on to analyzing the data, training officers, reporting on the data.

In fact, for the first time, they're going to be required to report on ethnicity. Up until now, whether or not a person was Latin American never entered into the equation when it came to the criminal justice data in Oregon. They're reporting arrests of whites, blacks, Asians, and Native American, but Latino, or Latina, people, are simply called white. Now, that is -- that's almost falsifying the numbers. This bill will require them to gather data including ethnicity, which is a -- it's -- nobody else is talking about this, frankly, but it is a huge step forward in trying to address what's really going on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, a couple of weeks back I interviewed Neill Franklin, director of LEAP, and he brought forward a statistic out of Baltimore that they did a study of stops done in their fair city, and to determine how many stops were for a ticket, how many stops were for an arrest, and how many stops were just stopping people because they looked suspicious. And they determined that 99 and one half percent of the stops were just looking for suspects. There was no ticket, no arrest, nothing, they drove on down the road. And it kind of exemplifies the disparity, does it not?

DOUG MCVAY: Absolutely. I think that the, I think the term for that is "a shakedown." And, and it, you know, it's -- wow, by coincidence, targeting the African American neighborhoods. I mean, there are all kinds of statistics out there, but, you know, I look at the numbers. I mean, we target enforcement against communities of color and people of color, and unfortunately, you know, in terms of the number of incidents, well, by dint of our population, white folks are the victims of crime, and report that other white folks were the offenders, so by targeting communities of color, we're ignoring a lot of the people who are actually committing crimes.

And it's just because we're good at bringing in the usual suspects, but if you look a certain way, you may not even raise suspicion. And you know, people take advantage of that. It's one of the worst parts of the criminal justice system, frankly, that racial bias that is so pervasive prevents us from having real enforcement.


DOUG MCVAY: And that's why we don't clear crimes. I mean, that's, you know, that's public safety.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I mean, you think about it, the print media has started this. I was talking to Eric Sterling about the fact the New York Times talked about negroes becoming invincible on cocaine, that sort of thing, but over the decades following that, the entertainment media has taken this upon themselves to put forward big black powerful men using drugs and white SWAT teams busting them. And --

DOUG MCVAY: It's true -- sorry, go ahead.

DEAN BECKER: I don't know, you've got some background noise there, I guess, I'm not sure what that was.

DOUG MCVAY: They just announced a, they just announced another award. They're doing three awards this evening, so they just announced another one. It's, and, it's, I couldn't step very far away from the party. Sorry, I'm at the very back fence, though.

DEAN BECKER: No, that's fine.

DOUG MCVAY: You're absolutely right about the entertainment industry, but there's also, they get the underpinning of -- the appearance of some, of being reasonable. The Wall Street Journal had a writer talked about 90 percent of violent offenses by blacks are committed against black people, and that's, first of all not what the statistics say, but more importantly, it's, really it's just so falsified you may as well call it a lie.

Ninety percent of the people arrested for homicides where the person who was killed was African American, are also African American, but then again, if you were African American, according to new research, it's much less likely that your murder will be called a murder. It will be called a justifiable homicide, it will be called other, but there's discrimination even within there. So, and then you're not even talking about violent crimes. When you go to the other numbers, they're much different. And that's the reality of the criminal justice system. We -- some people misuse the data to try and say, you know, and it's just a lie.

RAY HILL: Are those things discussed at the Seattle event pretty sensibly?

DOUG MCVAY: I'm sorry, what?

DEAN BECKER: Did you hear Ray, he was ask --

RAY HILL: Are those things discussed at the Seattle event pretty extensively?

DOUG MCVAY: Well, some of us are. I mean, it's a variety of folks. My message was that, well, my message is centered around Charlottesville.


DOUG MCVAY: And, the -- you could argue that a drug policy organization, I mean, I do Drug War Facts, I'm here on behalf of Common Sense for Drug Policy. The -- you could argue that a drug policy thing, I mean, it's not about drug policy. But, you know --

RAY HILL: Yeah, but if you know the history --

DOUG MCVAY: It's why we do this stuff.

RAY HILL: If you know the history --

DOUG MCVAY: We don't do this because we want to get high, we're not doing this because we want to make a build a business and build an empire and make a bunch of money off the -- make a greasy buck off the backs of people who've given their all. What we're here for is the cause of social justice.


DOUG MCVAY: That's where all this comes from.


DOUG MCVAY: And that's -- and so, I've been talking about it, several other speakers have, too. In fact, several of the folks involved in cannabis, Betty Aldworth from SSDP, Shaleen Title, formerly SSDP, now with the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and others, have gotten together with Amanda Reiman about this Cannabis World Business Expo thing that's coming up in Los Angeles. They have Roger Stone as a keynote speaker.


DOUG MCVAY: Of course, he's probably being paid, we don't know, but, he's offensive, it's objectionable, Amanda Reiman announced that she's pulling out, she announced it publicly. Mara Gordon, a cannabis business person and activist, announced that she also was pulling out. Jesce Horton, the president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, earlier today pulled out. And now, there's a twitter and facebook campaign, which is #JustSayNoToHate, which is urging the CWBCExpo to dump Stone, drop him like a rock.

DEAN BECKER: Here's hoping they do. Well, Doug, to be fair to my next guest, I'm going to have to cut you loose. We've been speaking with Mister Doug McVay, he's editor of Drug War Facts, and you can learn more about the work he does by going to DrugWarFacts.org. Doug, thank you sir, we'll talk to you next week.

DOUG MCVAY: Thanks Dean! Cheers.

DEAN BECKER: Bye bye. All right. Here in just a moment, we, do we have our other guest on line already? Would you hook him in, please? Or, just hit that one? Yep. Oh, I think you cut him loose, Ray. Ah. Would you get him again, please?

RAY HILL: It's the top button that will get you to him.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, but. All right, folks. Well, I tell you what, this will give me and Ray a chance to talk, here.

RAY HILL: Well, see, I found that very interesting. I didn't ask him how they compared and contrasted the Seattle event with the Amsterdam seed auction, because there's also a lot of politics going on in there, and basically what it is is a brokerage of the quality seeds from sources all over the world.


RAY HILL: But, all of this is inherently, as long as this war goes on, everything is a political event.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, look, back when I went there, 8 or 10 years ago, it was all just about weed. I mean, there was no, I don't know, delving into the rest of the drug war. It was all about weed. And they talked about the, what was it, city attorney Peter Holmes.

RAY HILL: Push that top button.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, let's see, we do have our guest here. Mister Phil Smith, are you there sir?

PHIL SMITH: I am here, I was there earlier, and now I'm back.

DEAN BECKER: Well, we've, bad finger punching here. Yeah, Phil, you work for the Drug War Chronicle, Stop the Drug War, and for AlterNet. Tell us a little bit about the work you do, please.

PHIL SMITH: Well, I report on all aspects of drug policy, and in drug culture for AlterNet. Drug policy more for the Drug War Chronicle, ranging from marijuana legalization to the opioid epidemic, to what's going on in drug producing countries, what's going on in the Philippines, for example, where Mister Duterte is killing people at a very rapid clip these days, this week, in his war on drugs.

RAY HILL: And bragging about it.

PHIL SMITH: That's right.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. He's a friend of Donald Trump's, apparently, they seem to have hit it off. I, yeah, I don't know. Well, Phil, many times over the years you've given us a corrupt cop story of the week. Do you have one this week?

PHIL SMITH: Well, Dean, I don't. I want to talk about the DEA, but I want to say something about corrupt cops.

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

PHIL SMITH: It's, you know, I've been doing this for a long time, and it's gotten to the point where it's almost banal. I see week after week, I see crooked jail and prison guards, smuggling dope into prisoners in exchange for cash. And week after week, I see junkie cops getting caught ripping off the evidence room for drugs they're using themselves.


PHIL SMITH: You know, I don't see so much the huge racketeering kind of police corruption that, you know, we associate with scandals like the Rough Riders in Oakland, or the Tainted Badges in Philadelphia, or the Bad Boys in Tulsa, I mean, these still pop up every once in a while, but it's, I guess I'm kind of worn down by the day to day dreary, you know, repetition of the same kind of offenses over and over.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, I, just last week, I, well, you're aware of this, I reported about they have two instances where cops in Chicago were caught on video planting drugs. I think it was two LA cops that were narcs, they would bust the grow rooms and they would take the top, the very top of the plants and put it in a bag and take it home and sell it. And, those cops that stole that weed, they cried in front of the judge, they brought in their wife and kids, and they got three years probation, whereas I'm sure the people they sold that weed to, if they got busted, got much worse treatment than that. It is, it's two-faced. I don't know.

PHIL SMITH: Yeah, it's endemic, and it's, you know, as long as we have drug prohibition, we're going to have this kind of police corruption, I mean, it's an inevitable result.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well --

PHIL SMITH: As I said, I want to talk about the DEA, because --

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

PHIL SMITH: It's not an agency I usually have much use for. In fact I think it should be abolished. But these days, in the day to day crazy that is the Trump administration, and when we're talking about drug policy in particular with Trump and Attorney General Sessions, well, those guys are pulling off the bizarre feat of making the DEA look downright reasonable by comparison.


PHIL SMITH: I mean, they, I have three things that I want to point to, to support my argument here.

DEAN BECKER: Please do.

PHIL SMITH: Well, let's talk about letting researchers grow their own marijuana. For years, scientific researchers have complained that the government monopoly on marijuana grown for research purposes has both stifled research and illustrated the DEA's role in hindering science. I mean, we've been complaining about that for years. Well, late in the Obama administration, the agency relented, and said it was going to take proposals from researchers to grow their own crops.

And it did so. But as the Washington Post reported last week, they've approved 25 research proposals, but they're stuck. Why are they stuck? Because they need Department of Justice approval to proceed, and they're not getting it.

So here we have a case where the DEA is finally trying to do the right thing, and they're being stifled by Jeff Sessions and his marijuana-phobic policies. Jeez.

DEAN BECKER: He is phobic.

RAY HILL: Man never got out of the '50s. He got stuck there, back there somewhere.

DEAN BECKER: Your second point?

PHIL SMITH: The second point: You'll recall Trump's speech a couple of weeks ago. I mean, it's hard to keep up with all the things that happen with the Trump administration, but a couple of weeks ago when he spoke before the police in Suffolk, Long Island, New York. And he made his remarks about how police shouldn't be too gentle with suspects.

Well, you know, he caught crap from a lot of police organizations for that, including the DEA. The Wall Street Journal got ahold of an email that Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg sent out to the staff, in response to Trump's remarks, and he said he was writing, quote, "because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong." And he said, quote, "Trump had condoned police misconduct." And instead of heeding the president, Rosenberg said, that DEA agents must quote "always act honorably by maintaining the very highest standards," end quote, in the treatment of suspects.

Now, that's a, you know, that's the right thing to say, but it's a very strange state of affairs when an agency many people consider to be the very embodiment of heavy handed policing has to tell its employees to ignore the president of the United States because he's being too thuggish.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. And your third point, please, sir.

PHIL SMITH: Third point: The DEA is having to fend off the Trump Sessions obsession with MS-13. You know, that's the Salvadorean, actually Salvadorean American gang.

DEAN BECKER: Tattooed up real good, yeah.

PHIL SMITH: Yeah, not really a nice bunch of folks, and Trump loves to fulminate against them. But he never mentions they're origins, and I want to take a moment to mention their origins. I mean, MS-13 is the result of Reagan's policy of interfering in the Salvadorean civil war in the 1980s, generating, you know, siding with a rightwing military dictator -- dictatorship, which generated hundreds of thousands of Salvadorean refugees, going to places like Los Angeles, where the kids growing up there formed gangs in self-defense because they weren't Mexican or black.

And then some of them would get deported, because they get, committed crimes in the US and got sent back to El Salvador, and created a criminal milieu that's now international. So, I just want to point out the origins of MS-13 have large, long roots in US foreign policy decisions. Something for us to keep in mind.


PHIL SMITH: Anyway, Trump and Sessions both have declared war on MS-13. They both insist that breaking up MS-13 will be a great victory in the war on drugs, and they're pressuring the DEA to specifically target them. This is really dog-whistle politics. Trump's using highly emotive rhetoric, the victims are beautiful, MS-13 are horrible, animals.

RAY HILL: Yeah, they're an easy target to, hey, look at this bright object rather than deal with what else is going on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and the, what's never included in that equation is the fact that they busted El Chapo Guzman, and the drug flow didn't stop, it didn't do a dang thing, at all. It just meant a little more violence to determine who was going to actually smuggle the stuff, but it certainly didn't slow the flow, so to speak. Phil, we've got just about a minute left. I want to give you a chance to tell us what you're going to have on the Drug War Chronicle here in the coming days, and maybe share your website with the listeners.

PHIL SMITH: Well, I'm going to have the story about the DEA looking good in comparison to Trump and Sessions, that should be up at some point this weekend. I've also got a story, a nice little story about how a Colorado county is now sending 200 students to college with scholarships based on marijuana taxes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I tell you, Phil, I do got to cut it there, I guess, we've got to get out of here pretty quick. Once again, folks, you've been listening to Mister Phil Smith. You can check out his website, StopTheDrugWar.org. We've got to get out of here so I'll just say this, that as always, I remind you folks that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful. And join us next week.

PHIL SMITH: Good night.

DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.