05/22/19 Ron Paul

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ron Paul
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Winning the War on the War on Drugs: Congressman Ron Paul, former NYPD detective John Baeza, Jacob Sullum Editor of Reason Magazine

Audio file


MAY 22, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, your host, I am the Reverend Most High.

This past weekend I was privileged to attend a conference here in Houston where a lot of folks were talking about the drug war very specifically. Ron Paul spoke, Paul Armentano from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Here in a little bit we're going to hear from another speaker, Mister Jacob Sullum, editor of Reason Magazine.

But the one who brought down the house, so to speak, was one of my brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, retired New York City Police Department Detective John Baeza. Hello, John, how are you doing?

JOHN BAEZA: I'm good, I'm doing good, Dean, thanks for having me on.

DEAN BECKER: Well, John, you know, the truth is writ large enough, I think more and more politicians, major media, folks everywhere, are starting to realize we have failed with this drug war. It is not what we intended, is it?

JOHN BAEZA: No, it is not. We have failed. It's a fool's errand, and I think that we've known about it for a long time. But, people are - hopefully people are starting to realize it more and more with our efforts to get the word out that this is just a failed - a failed war, not only is it a failed war on drugs, it's a failed war on people.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, John, this conference they had there, you know, to, well, to recognize that. The conference was titled The War On The War On Drugs. And I think it was a fitting title.

And I guess, John, you, I think more than anyone there, got a standing ovation. You were recognized for bringing forward that truth, for saying it out loud, for saying it with your credentials, your experience. It resonates really well, does it not?

JOHN BAEZA: I believe it does, I believe it does, I believe the truth always resonates, no matter what, and I think that if you don't, if something is a fraud, you see it's a fraud, like the drug war, and you don't call it a fraud, then you yourself are a fraud.

So I don't want to be a fraud, and I want to make sure that I'm telling the truth, and I want to give a different perspective, a perspective from the street level, and I think that, it seems - it appears that most people really appreciate that specific perspective, you know, from the street, and from somebody who's actually been making actual buys during the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that brings to mind, I think the part of your speech that really hit people in the gut was your talking about the amount of officers involved in the various types of investigation. I hope you understand what I'm alluding to there, and you'll fill in the listeners about that difference, if you will, please.

JOHN BAEZA: Yes, and I know what you're alluding to, and really I noticed it when I moved from the narcotics division to real investigations and I worked with the special victims squad, where we did child abuse and rape and so forth, and I had real victims to investigate and help.

And what I noticed was, for the entire borough of Manhattan we only had about twenty-two or so detectives to investigate thousands of cases of rape and child abuse, where there were at - six hundred to a thousand investigators who were assigned to investigate victimless narcotics so-called crimes, and I thought to myself, my gosh, you know, I have a stack of cases that are horrific crimes here, and I'm trying to juggle them, and there's no manpower here, but yet there's plenty of manpower, you know, trying to arrest people for this drug war.

And it really, it really hit home with me. People really don't understand that the manpower assigned to the drug war really is just a - it's just out of wack with what it should be assigned to, they should be really assigned to people who are really, you know, personally affected by crime, which is, you know, people who are robbed, people who are raped, child abuse, stuff like that.

That's where you need the investigators, not to investigate this victimless crime, of this alleged crime of the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, John, I look at it like this, that, you know, we've been, I don't know, what's the word, whipped into submission, or, over the century, in essence, that this has been going on, it's just become like leaning into a blustery wind. It's just something that we deal with, don't recognize that it's - its impact on us. It's hard to put into exact words, but it's just become rote. It's just become the way it is. Right?

JOHN BAEZA: It has, and people just think, you know, okeh, this is the drug war and it's just - but they don't look. People are not looking. We're trying to educate them, people like you, people like me, people that are [unintelligible], they're trying to educate people that, hey, listen, this war is a failure. It's, as I said, it's a fool's errand, and it's not working.

It will never, ever work, and it's a war on freedom. People want to put what they want to put into their bodies, and, you know, you're never going to stop that. That's not going to stop.

So, once people, you know, get to realize that at some point, and they must realize it, because this war can't continue. Too many people are getting incarcerated, their lives are just ruined by this, and we're not treating it as a medical issue as we've said, you know, so forth.

We really need to get this message out there and we need to break through to people and let them know that, hey, this drug war, and from my perspective, I was involved in it firsthand. It is a failure, you'll never, ever win it. You will never win it, and it's not even worth winning because it's a challenge to freedom, because freedom, that's what it is, really.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and John, that brings to mind that the stairstepping, or the ramifications, or the spin-off, or however you want to say it, this perspective that drugs are bad, drug users are bad, we must do whatever we can to rid the planet, blah blah blah, and it has led to incremental changes to law enforcement perspectives, law enforcement tactics, et cetera et cetera.

It's a means to slowly whittle away our god given and human rights, it's just an encroachment on that, is it not?

JOHN BAEZA: It is, and you see that, obviously with mass incarceration, with the arrests, with the, not only is it a war on people of color at this point, it's a war on the poor, especially. Especially a war on the poor, because you can't defend yourself, people take guilty pleas and their false guilty pleas, and all kinds of stuff like that happens.

And, you know, this is - we're faced with this tremendous war that just completely erodes all of our liberties and our freedoms. You know, it's just like you said, we really need to - people need to understand that it's - I really hope that what we talk about drives this home to them, and lets them know this.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yeah, John, you know, seventeen years I've been on air doing this, twenty years in total, and I am encouraged, and I'm also really disappointed. This truth we've been bringing forward, you and a hundred other LEAP speakers I've had on air with me, the authors, the scientists, the doctors.

We have kicked the concept of drug war in the teeth. We have stomped it into submission. If people would only listen. It's like, again, it's like leaning into that stiff wind, people just do it and don't even think about it. What can we do to, I don't even know, man, how do we motivate, encourage, kick them in the ass to do something? Your thought there, please.

JOHN BAEZA: Well, I think what we do is we continue to do what we're doing, see. We're leaning into the wind as well, you know, we're leaning into the wind in a different direction. Right?

So, we have to continue to do what we do, and what you do every day, and continue to open people's eyes, even if it's one or two or three people at a time. Spread this out like brush fires, and get this, get the ideas rolling, because, as Doctor Paul always says, you know, there's not too much stronger than a good idea, especially a liberty minded, freedom idea.

I think it just takes a - it takes time to hold, take hold, and, you know, as George Washington said during the Revolutionary War, you know, we've seen times of despair like this, and it's turned for the better for us.

So, you know, he told the army that, and you know what? That's what I kind of think about this. It's kind of - there's some despair, and it's very discouraging at times, and you get pessimistic, but you know what? Times can change, and they will, if we continue to work hard and people like you and people who want to spread this message out there, and I'm one of them, I know I want to spread the message, we have to keep leaning against the wind the other way.

DEAN BECKER: Well, well said. Folks, we've been speaking with John Baeza, he's a retired New York City Police Department detective. He's based now down in Florida, Brooksville, not sure where that is, but he has a website where you can learn about him, the work he does, he works as an expert for lots of folks on police practices and procedures, investigates homicides, murders, whatever, he still has the acumen and the intelligence and the experience to work with the public as an independent investigator.

John, any website you'd like to share, some closing thoughts?

JOHN BAEZA: Yeah, I think if people would like to they could check out the website, it's very interesting, it's NYPDTruth, all one word, NYPDTruth.com. And you can go to the website and see it, some people might need it, some people may just find it interesting, but I think it's a good website to take a look at, and I encourage them to go to NYPDTruth.com.

DEAN BECKER: And, if I may say, recommend that if you don't live in Florida and you'd like to find an expert, that might help in your efforts, be they criminal justice related, you can always go to the website of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and that's out there on the web at LEAP.cc.

John, thank you for your time.

JOHN BAEZA: Thank you, Dean. I appreciate you having me on.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers, or white spots on lips and mouth, unusual bleeding. Time's up! The answer, another FDA approved product: acetaminophen.

Again, I was at the Crowne Royale Hotel. I wasn't invited, they didn't really want members of the press there, so I paid the fee. I got to eat the breakfast, ate a lot of bacon, and I kept asking Ron Paul to do an interview with me, and, well, he kind of backed away a couple of times. Maybe it's my haircut, I don't know.

They didn't want me to record any of the event, and I didn't record much. Here's a little bit of what I did record. This is former Congressman Doctor Ron Paul.

RON PAUL, MD: There's a lot of people still suffering from alcohol, so, in other words, there's a lot of other problems there, since we don't agree with the direction of the war on drugs, we have to say, well, if you believe this, do you believe in prohibition of alcohol? Of course not, they don't.

And I poke fun at the members of Congress, in one of my speeches, that you're obsessed with the uses of drugs and here you come in and some of you are, you know, been drinking too much and here you are on the House floor.

It's - it is something that, the problem I have to question is, what's the purpose of government? Is the purpose of government to protect us against risk, against ourselves? And that's where we are flawed. It's the - people will say, no, it's to make you safe and secure, you know, we don't want you to get hurt and that is our job, that's our moral obligation to do it, even if we have to take all of your liberties away and we'll treat you like the cattle in the field but you'll be safe.

DEAN BECKER: Jacob Sullum, he's the senior editor at Reason Magazine. He's a nationally syndicated columnist, he's author of Saying Yes: In Defense Of Drug Use, and he was one of the speakers this past Saturday at an event here in Houston, the Winning The War On The War On Drugs.

First off, it's been a few days back, that was a pretty spectacular event, was it not?

JACOB SULLUM: Yeah, I was impressed by the turnout. I think they had a hundred to a hundred and fifty people there, and there was a very powerful talk I thought by a former undercover narcotics officer, who talked about how he had turned against the war on drugs.

And, we also heard about progress that's been made in reversing the war on drugs, we're scaling it back, and everybody there seemed very attentive and enthusiastic.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and Ron Paul, he had a rather lengthy discussion about our rights and maybe failings and some areas where we need to improve, but all in all, I was really impressed and I was impressed with what you brought forward as well, Jacob, that's why I'm having you on air with us today.

Now, Jacob, if you could, give us just a brief summary of, I realize it was a very wide stance taken, but, what did you present at this conference?

JACOB SULLUM: Well, I was trying to explain why Americans finally turned against marijuana prohibition. The polls currently show that something like two thirds of Americans now support legalization, according to Gallup, which is pretty striking.

That has happened pretty rapidly during the last half a decade to a decade, and I tried to speculate about the reasons why public opinion has turned around and what lessons we might learn from that experience.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and you, I'm sure you'll concur that it has a lot to do with good folks like you and me and Paul and even Ron Paul, that have stood up boldly and shared that truth in every which way we could. Right?

JACOB SULLUM: Well, I'd like to take credit, but honestly, my main hypothesis about why people changed their minds about marijuana legalization is that they became more familiar with marijuana.

And, if you look at the increase in support for legalization, it tracks pretty closely the increase in use of marijuana. And, it's much harder to demonize a drug that people have some personal experience with.

Most Americans at this point have tried marijuana, judging from survey data, such that if you allow for a certain amount of underreporting, and even if they haven't tried it, they almost certainly know people who have, and those experiences tend to contradict what the government has been saying about marijuana for decades.

So, it's hard to maintain the scaremongering when people know otherwise from their own personal experience. And so in a sense, that's encouraging, and I mean, one thing that happened early on, even before a majority supported legalization, is that most people came to the conclusion that using marijuana should not be treated as a crime. It's not the sort of thing you should be arrested for and go to jail for.

Now, unfortunately, the reason that happened I think is that they perceive the victims of that policy as being more like them. Right? So back when marijuana users were perceived as being members of racial minorities, out groups, foreigners, with possibly weird and threatening practices, putting people in jail for using marijuana seemed much more acceptable.

But once, you know, middle class white kids, basically, started using marijuana in the Sixties and the Seventies, it was no longer terrible to say, you know, we're going to arrest this college kid and put him in jail for, you know, a substantial length of time simply for using this plant.

So, that turned around, you know, and by the Seventies, public opinion on that had started to turn around and we saw a bunch of states decriminalize, meaning - mainly meaning that they treated possession of small amounts for personal use as a citable offense, or in some cases it was a low level misdemeanor, but at least was the sort you couldn't go to jail for.

And there was some, you know, there's a dip in support for liberalizing marijuana policies during the Reagan administration, but since the Nineties, it's been going up more or less steadily, especially in the last five to ten years.

And I think again that that has to do with people finding marijuana not as scary as they used to. Maybe they don't necessarily approve of it, but at least they don't see it as a dire threat to the nation and to the youth of America, and they don't think it's just, you know, to arrest people for using it.

And then of course the logical correlation, that it's, you know, it's not a crime to use it, why should it be a crime to help people use it. Right? That's - it took a while for that conclusion to follow, but it makes sense. You don't usually punish aiding abetting more severely than the crime itself.

So if there is no actual crime, if you don't think using marijuana is a crime, it doesn't make sense that growing marijuana or selling marijuana should be treated as a crime, either. So it's all pretty logical, but I think it's not - I mean, you know, the extension of that reasoning is pretty logical, but it took a long time, and it really required identifying that the victims of marijuana prohibition and having less emotion wrapped up in it. Right?

So that's part of it being more familiar, makes it less scary, and people are more willing to contemplate a more - a more tolerant approach.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I think tied into what you've been talking about here is the fact that yes, more people have been experienced with marijuana, or as you say have friends who have.

And I think it's also a result of, in the last five years we've had legal sales in Colorado and, was it Washington, that same year, that has given examples of legal use, no major ramifications, and that perhaps they hear about relatives or friends or others in these legal states, more states now of course, but where there have not, you know, there's been no repercussions to justify the prohibition. I hope I -

JACOB SULLUM: Yeah, I think - yeah, I think that's correct, I mean, I think the legalization in Colorado and Washington was crucial, because it went from being something that's purely theoretical to something that had actually happened in a couple of states in the US, and you could look and see. Was it a disaster, did the sky fall? And basically, the answer is no.

So, that is more reassuring than any amount of theorizing, and once you can say to people in a poll, do you think marijuana should be treated the way they treat it in Colorado and Washington, right, that's much more powerful than saying, do you think marijuana, you know, should be legalized or even do you think it should be treated more like alcohol, although that also tends to elicit more support, when you compare it to alcohol.

I think people tend to think, well, that's a model that seems to work okeh, and marijuana is not any more dangerous than alcohol, and in some respects substantially less dangerous. So that makes sense to people.

DEAN BECKER: And, I was - I was privileged to have my letter to the editor published. I want to read a bit of it. It was titled up by them "Avoid Pot Hysteria," and it's talking about, you know, how dangerous marijuana was and how it's deadly and more car crashes and all that, and I responded by saying:

"Powerful cannabis has always been around, ranging from Thai Stick in the 1960s to hashish, a powerful cannabis extract that has been around for thousands of years. The National Academy of Science stated 'conclusive scientific evidence available today, establishes the efficacy of the use of whole plant cannabis to treat a number of clinical conditions, among them chronic pain, nausea and treating spasticity associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis.'"

I go on to say:

"Cannabis use has never killed even one person. Nearly all hard drug users likely did start with cannabis and probably a beer or two but way more than 90 percent of pot users do not move on to other drugs. The author’s claims regarding suicide have no reference I could find anywhere other than within his organization SMART."

I go on from there, but it's an example of the media is starting to allow the truth to come forward, to counter this BS that's being put forward for decades by these prohibitionists. Your thought there, Jacob Sullum.

JACOB SULLUM: Right, and I - that's definitely true, they're recognizing that there's another side to these issues, in fact, I mean, this is a majority position now. They can't very well ignore it.

But even before then - before now, before it became a majority position, especially with the medical issue, that really helped pave the way, which is another point I made on Saturday, that you have sympathetic cases, people suffering from AIDS or cancer, where they say, this drug gives me some relief. My doctor thinks it's a good idea.

And you ask Americans, should doctors be allowed to recommend this drug, should patients be allowed to obtain it? And a large majority for years has been saying yes, of course, of course they should. Even people who don't necessarily approve of broader legalization.

But what happens is, once, and of course, you know, now they're at the, thirty-three states allow medical use of marijuana, and the polling is very, very strong on that issue in favor of medical marijuana.

And what happens then is that this helps also make the drug less threatening because you see that people who in some cases are quite frail and unhealthy, you know, which is why they're using marijuana, you have to worry about side effects, and when you look and say, well, what are the side effects of marijuana, they're not, I mean, they're, not that there are none, but they're, you know, they compare quite favorably to the side effects of many pharmaceuticals.

So once, you know, so that illuminates the issue obviously of is this a good idea for a particular patient to use it, but also the broader issue of what are the dangers posed by marijuana? And are they so serious that we need to contain - continue this prohibition policy?

So that has helped as well, and one other aspect to this is that in states where the rules for medical marijuana were pretty loose, so that anybody who was determined to get a recommendation letter could get it, people would say, on the one hand, that's not, you know, you're faking it, basically, there are too many people, they're claiming they have back pain or they have trouble sleeping and they can get legal access to marijuana, and that's not right.

But on the other hand, you know, look at California, since 1996, they've had legal medical marijuana, and if you assume that the rules are so loose that pretty much anybody who wants to get it can get it, then that means that really, it was, marijuana was already legalized in all but name. Right?

And if that's your position, well, what happened, you know, has California gone to hell? No. So, I think that also, even though on the face of it it seems like that would count against the reform movement, because it looks sort of shady, right? Dishonest, that you're saying, oh, it's for medical use, but then people are surreptitiously using it for recreational purposes.

At the same time, it shows that tolerating recreational use, even if you call it medical use, does not mean the end of the world.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and that brings to mind, we have a situation where Oklahoma just did a medical marijuana law that I think is even more lax than California's was, where you can come in with a back pain or can't sleep and get a recommendation.

And, it points out that Texas is just so far behind. New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, are surrounding us with better marijuana laws than we have, certainly, and the nation of Mexico to our south is wanting to legalize it outright. Your closing thoughts, there, Jacob Sullum.

JACOB SULLUM: Well, you know, it depends on how you look at it, I guess. I was surprised that Texas actually created a system where you could obtain CBD extracts. Granted it is from a very limited number of providers, and it is for a very limited number of conditions, but I figured Texas would do the same thing a bunch of other states had done, which is to ostensibly legalize CBD but provide no legal way for people to obtain it.

So the fact that they actually created a system of, with a licensed and regulated production and distribution, even if it is only one particular cannabis preparation, and even if it is for only very limited purposes, that surprised - was a pleasant surprise to me.

So, and I think, if you look at polling, you will see that there's broad support certainly for decriminalizing recreational marijuana so that people don't get arrested for it anymore. And then according to some polls there's support for general legalization as well.

Now, it takes a while for politicians to catch up with public opinion, and what you're going to see is that the states where - that don't have an initiative process, where people - where the voters can change the policy, it's going to be more arduous and it's going to take more time.

And you look at what's going on in New Jersey and New York, where I think people were overly optimistic about how quickly marijuana would be legalized, but you're dealing now with a process that involves lots of legislators who have all kinds of political concerns, and there's a lot of, you know, log rolling going on and a lot of concerns about political implications, and all sorts of barriers that don't exist when you present the question clearly to voters.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you very much. Friends, we've been speaking with Mister Jacob Sullum, he's senior editor at Reason Magazine. Jacob, please point them to your website.

JACOB SULLUM: Reason.com.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, that's about all we can squeeze in. I hope you are beginning to think about what you can do to help end this madness. It is really dependent on you speaking up, standing up, I want to remind you again, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, and I urge you to please, be careful.

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.