01/01/20 Inge Fryklund

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Inge Fryklund
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Inge Fryklund board member of Law Enforcement Action Partnership & David Borden of Stop the Drug War / DRCNET + DTN Editorial for New Year

Audio file



JANUARY 1, 2020

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars who support the drug war which empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent U.S. gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.
DEAN BECKER: Hi folks I am Dean Becker the Reverend Most High this is Cultural Baggage, thank you for being with us. This is our New Year show with hope for the coming year for progress, for change, for sanity. Here we go.
FEMALE VOICE: Hello. My name is Inge Fryklund, I am a lawyer. Back in the 80s I was a Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) Assistant States Attorney prosecuting drug cases among other things. I then spent about a decade overseas including five years in Afghanistan and saw the disaster that we have made of that country by insisting that their main cash crop which of opium poppy be illegal. It has led to massive corruption within that country. Now I am semi-retired and living in Oregon. I worked on a legalization campaign there a couple of years ago.
DEAN BECKER: Inge, I think we are leaving out one important fact. We are here at the Drug Policy Alliance Reform ’19 gathering. You are one of the speakers that sits at the Law Enforcement Action Partnership table inviting others to learn about LEAP, perhaps to get on the mailing list, and to learn what they can do to invite our speakers to their conferences, their meetings to enlighten and hopefully embolden their community to help end this madness of drug war. Is that a fair summation?
INGE FRYKLUND: Yes, that’s correct. For I think four years now I have been on the board of directors of Law Enforcement Action Partnership which is an organization of current and former police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, sheriffs; people who have seen the drug war from the prosecution end of it and saw how much damage it caused and are now trying to stop the war on drugs. We have something like 1,400 speakers around the country. We find that people with this kind of credibility are usually very good at talking with city councils, police organizations because we have the credibility and we understand what life is like if you are a prosecutor or police officer.
DEAN BECKER: I would say, too, that you had the firsthand experience and knowledge of the futility and the failing of this drug war. Correct?
INGE FRYKLUND: Oh, absolutely. When I was first in a Cook County courtroom many years ago we would see the same people coming in to court day after day. Usually it was something like a marijuana conviction and I would look at the rap sheet, which might be pages of these and you knew that that person was never going to get a job in the legitimate economy. All we were doing was making things worse and cycling them back in to a street economy where drug dealing was likely to be their only option. We’ve cut them out of everything else. I also noticed that even though I knew that drug use of all varieties is pretty similar across racial groups; almost everybody who got hauled in to court was either black or brown. So a combination of the futility of it and the racial disparities is when I started thinking that we are making a big mistake here and of course also being from Chicago, I certainly knew all the stories of prohibition of alcohol and Al Capone. When there is something that people want and it is made illegal the natural and inevitable consequence is that there is going to be crime and corruption and the day that prohibition of alcohol was repealed in 1933, Al Capone’s outfit lost market share. They were no longer needed to enforce the deals for alcohol. All of the beer dealers went back to suing each other in circuit court of Cook County and they quit shooting. So much of the violence that we are seeing is a direct result of illegality.
DEAN BECKER: This is so true. We have this situation now as you indicated in Chicago where I would think it is ten times worse than it was under Al Capone with the daily shootings, the revenge shootings and the continual disruption of these neighborhoods to ensure one gang sells their drugs over another I suppose. It is a constant battle with gun fire every night and deaths every week, is there not?
INGE FRYKLUND: Yes. Though it actually is not as bad as it was back in the 80s when I was a prosecutor. We were running about 900 murders a year. I think it is 600 – 700 now which sounds terrible but it is actually an improvement. As you pointed out, most of these are simply business disputes over the territory for sales and if your business is illegal you can’t turn to the courts to enforce your distribution agreements. All you can do with an illegal economy with the self-enforcement is to start shooting and kids are getting themselves in the crossfire. At least Illinois is moving in the direction of legalization but it is going to be a long time for them to dig their way out of this hole because once these groups have gotten entrenched and you have a bunch of adults who have no other experience, though now maybe they will put more of their efforts in to hard drugs, prostitution, and gun running. Just like so much of the mafia in this country; it goes back to prohibition days.
DEAN BECKER: That is where they got their start. I had the chance to interview Anthony Placido about 10 -12 years ago and he was the Assistant Director of the DEA, something to that affect. He told me that they had done an approximation since there is no way to do this very specifically but they determined at that time that it was 370 billion dollars a year that flow in to the pockets of terrorists brave enough to grow flowers in to the pockets of these barbarous cartels in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras and in to the pockets of thousands of U.S. gangs who profit by selling these contaminated drugs to our children. I have heard now that it is closer to 500 billion dollars a year. There is no way that we are going to stop that market from existing through prohibition laws, is there?
INGE FRYKLUND: Well we are not going to stop a market in marijuana, and why should we any more than we want to stop a market in alcohol. Think of all of the craft beer businesses that have sprung up around the country like in my state of Oregon where our main business seems to be selling beer to each other. So yes, there is always going to be a market for it but by taking the illegality away you are taking the business and the market share away from these various cartels. There is very little in the way of illegal alcohol trade. Why? Why do it when you can just buy something and so many of the deaths that are happening we are referring to as heroin overdoses, but very few people are overdosing on pure heroin – you know, too much of a good thing. What they are dying from is the additives, particularly fentanyl and in an illegal market where you have got no FDA regulation of the purity of your product these illegal sellers have every incentive to cut the product with whatever is going to increase their profits. Back during prohibition of alcohol literally hundreds of people died of poisoning from alcohol that was adulterated.
DEAN BECKER: Bathtub Gin I think they called it, right?
INGE FRYKLUND: Yes. That was one of the things. People brewing their own may have been okay but the bigger problem seemed to be bigger dealers who were brewing up batches with God knows what in it. The number of deaths we have had I think would go away with legalization not just of marijuana but I think we also need to be legalizing heroin. I would love to see the U.S. follow the European model. In Switzerland since 1994, a heroin addict who hasn’t been able to get off of it by other means can go to a government clinic and shoot up with pharmaceutical grade heroin and if they can transition and get off it that is great; but if they can’t this becomes a maintenance program. Since ’94 they haven’t had a death associated with one of these when we are killing 40,000 people a year. The Swiss have found that HIV and Hepatitis transmission is down, burglaries are down something like 80% because people no longer have to scrounge illegally, and people who are able to get the fix for what their addicted to if they are on this maintenance program don’t have to spend their days scrounging for the next fix; they can have a more normal life. Maybe they can get off of it but if they can’t well maintenance may be the solution. In the U.S. we have no problem keeping people on long term maintenance of drugs for high blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol but oh my God; if the problem is heroin well we aren’t going to let you do maintenance for that one. I keep thinking maybe it is our puritan heritage that we get clean and we have got to have this perfectibility of human beings; even if it kills them trying.
DEAN BECKER: I have been developing this quasi scenario over the last year or so that about a hundred years ago the alcoholics banded together and decided they wanted to claim the moral high ground and they saw a target audience, mainly those that were doing other drugs that they could say were immoral, in need of correction, punishment, and perhaps a death sentence if they couldn’t stop them from their youth. That has panned out to be true pretty much over the last century. Your thought?
INGE FRYKLUND: It seems to be a uniquely American approach which is why I am wondering how much of it is our puritan heritage. Europe takes the harm reduction approach. We have got the Swiss model, Portugal decriminalized everything back in 2001 and the sky didn’t fall. In fact the crime and corruption calmed down.
DEAN BECKER: We have been speaking with Inge Frykland of Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Inge, I want to thank you. We have a good group of LEAP volunteers here at this conference. I just have to say that we get a lot of respect these days. Do we not?
INGE FRYKLUND: I think we do because people understand that it is current and former law enforcement and we have seen this from the prosecution side and we have seen the damage which has more credibility in trying to stop the drug war than simply people who want to be able to use drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Alright. Friends I can advise you that you can learn more about this fine group by going to their website at: Thank you, Inge.
INGE FRYKLUND: Actually, a better website is
MALE VOICE 1: I had a bad experience with drugs with that golden weekend between summer school and regular school. Hey Homie, wanna smoke some marijuana?
MALE VOICE 2: They say it’s a gateway drug.
MALE VOICE 3: Well, well if it isn’t the doobie brothers!
MALE VOICE 1: Uh oh! Crush the weed, man!
MALE VOICE 2: Smell any drugs Sgt. Scraps?
MALE VOICE 1: The 60s ended that day in 1978.
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. Times Up! The answer: another FDA approved product, Acetaminophen.
MALE VOICE: Hello. I am David Borden. I am the Executive Director and the Founder of Since the old days – I think we are going to be talking about the old days – we were known and still are to a lot of people as DRC NET, a drug reform coordination network.
DEAN BECKER: My first inkling or interweaving back in the day was with you guys and with MAP, Inc., a fact gathering site I believe it was and it was great to find any content back then. Drug reform was not a big watering hole at that time.
DAVID BORDEN: Yes. The movement was smaller then and our organizations were part of the growth of the movement compared with before but there is far more going on now. In our reporting on the Drug War Chronicle newsletter which Phil has been doing for over 20 years and the organization was not completely new when he started doing that. Sorry, Phil has been doing this for almost 20 years. The newsletter has been going on over 20 years. So much now is happening on the issue and the movement that he can’t write about everything any more so we partially switched our format so we published these daily round ups; that’s the only way we can touch on everything.
DEAN BECKER: David, it is one of a continual, seemingly eternal series of horrendous happenings. The situation just south of Arizona with a three car caravan of some Mormons was brutally attacked and burned in their cars proving once again that prohibition isn’t working and that it doesn’t seem that these horrible happenings are going to end any time soon. Your response to that thought, David?
DAVID BORDEN: Of course. I think the way the question gets debated maybe in the academic sphere where many of them see things the same way, some of them will see that as a horrendous cost but other things going on and maybe there are ways to improve that. Scholars will talk about transitions and we can’t expect to transition away from prohibition to be smooth so there could be violence there, too. We have to be prepared for that. I think that if we continue to push these tremendous financial resources in to the hands of organized crime then they will keep building. They will use the wealth to diversify and things will get even worse.
DEAN BECKER: So true, David. I strayed there but that was on my mind with the death of these nine people being so recent.
DEAN BECKER: Let’s get back to the history.
DAVID BORDEN: Sure. That is sad though. We heard today from one of the speakers – I didn’t realize that this community, maybe members of this family were involved in the campaign for taking on the injustice of the Mexican movement that arose after the drug war violence really escalated.
DEAN BECKER: In essence legalizers, am I right?
DAVID BORDEN: They are. They came here to this conference at that time so when I heard about this tragedy it made me very sad and I didn’t even realize that we were connected to them through their community that intersected with our movement.
DEAN BECKER: I don’t know what to say, David. The lives that are sacrificed every day through contaminated drugs because some people don’t care that these users are forced to buy from some sorted black market. Not gonna start preaching, David. I am at a loss at the moment. That just knocked my socks off – the thought that they are us. They are us, dammit.
I had to stop for five or ten minutes to just regroup in thinking that that family was one of us – one of us. I am trying today to reach back to the early days. I started in Houston. I stumbled upon Al Robison and the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, and thank God there were other people who saw this like I did because I was so full of vim and vigor. I had studied the information and knew how stupid and evil it was and I had to do something. There I met Dr. G. Alan Robison. A very learned man who educated me; who gave me the courage and motivation to do what I am doing truthfully. David, you knew Al, didn’t you?
DEAN BECKER: Tell us about your work with him.
DAVID BORDEN: Well I saw Al at conferences and I am sure we had many emails. He was a stalwart, important leader of Drug Policy Forum of Texas. He is a wonderful person to be around. He was part of the strength of our movement. Of course he got older we all knew he was not well when we met him and I remember the last time he came to a conference he said that it was time to spend time with his grandkids and that we could reach him online. He made that choice while he still had some time left.
DEAN BECKER: He designated me the liaison of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, which I used when I wrote letters to the editor. My very first time I got a letter published, it was published in four different papers at once. From there I began to challenge the logic or the failings and the fallacy of this drug war and put it in to words. David, you have been at this a long time. It is good to see progress being made, but by god we got a lot more to go, don’t we?
DAVID BORDEN: We have a huge amount to go but it is really phenomenal to be able to look at all of the changes and marijuana is being legalized in front of our very eyes.
DEAN BECKER: Psychedelics are coming.
DAVID BORDEN: Psychedelics are opening up. That was a subtle drug pun I guess.
DAVID BORDEN: Which I don’t know from personal experience.
DEAN BECKER: No, no, Dave.
DAVID BORDEN: I have seen the art.
DEAN BECKER: I want to throw in a thought here. Dave here ain’t never smoked weed. I don’t think he’s done any drug other than maybe what his doctor gave him or an aspirin when he had a headache, not sure if he even did that; but he cares a lot about this. He is not doing it because he wants to do drugs – he wants you to be able to do them safely and with true regulation, safety, and control. Right, David?
DAVID BORDEN: Yes. Definitely. You wanted to talk about history so I got in to this in the 90s when the issue was just starting to open up. In 1993 I started posting bulletins online the early days of the commercial internet when online advocacy was still innovative and right around that time Joycelyn Elders who was the Surgeon General made her comments at a press event.
DEAN BECKER: Remind the listeners what she said.
DAVID BORDEN: You have interviewed her, right?
DEAN BECKER: It’s hard to say. In the early days it gets fuzzy. With over 3,000 different interviews it is hard to keep up. Tell the folks what the thought was that she was presenting.
DAVID BORDEN: She became a little controversial for being willing to express her true opinions on things and one day at a press event someone asked her a question about if drug legalization would reduce crime and her response was from her understanding she felt it might and she was not sure what the ramifications would be of that, but it ought to be studied. That prompted an uproar of attacks against her, most of them opportunistic, none of which was smart or commendable. She stood her ground but it wasn’t quite time for the issue to get treated with the respect it deserves but it was a moment that helped to open things up. For me personally it spoke to my motivation. I should be serious about this. That helped me continue on to form this organization and not long after that funding became available with the grants program of the Drug Policy Foundation, a predecessor group to this organization that we are here with now. That enabled me to make this my work and not just something in my spare time. DPF extended me an invitation that if I were to move to Washington to work for free from their office for a period of time indicated that this would help to cement the relationship.
DEAN BECKER: Sure. Well Dave, There are just so many details that we are not even touching on at all and we are going to have to wrap it up for today but I just want to tell you that over the years you and your cohort, Phil Smith have been an inspiration. You guys were blazing the trail and I tried to glom on to that concept and take it to the radio. I just want to thank you for the help that you guys have given me over the years. Thank you, David.
DAVID BORDEN: Like Al Robison and others have shown up and added to our strength, you certainly did that and it has helped us continue, too.
DEAN BECKER: All right. Share your website with the listeners.
DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentleman, this is the abolitionist’s moment. Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it. It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop. We like it. It has left a trail of graft and slime, it don’t prohibit worth a dime, and it’s filled our land with vice and crime. Nevertheless, we’re for it. – Franklin Adams, 1931
Through a willing or a silent embrace of drug war, we are ensuring more death, disease, crime, and addiction. Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and they are not allowed their stance taken to be examined in a new light but for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven but what Houston has done in the name of drug war will never be forgotten. Please visit Do it for the children.
This is the last Cultural Baggage for 2019, and once again I remind you that because of prohibition you do not know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.
Drug Truth Network transcripts are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy More than 7000 radio programs are at

We are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

08/09/18 Inge Fryklund

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Inge Fryklund
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Drug Policy Alliance

Inge Fryklund, LEAP board member re reason for migration, Mary Jane Borden re Ohio medical cannabis situ, Jag Davies of Drug Policy Alliance re success of decriminalization in US

Audio file


AUGUST 9, 2018


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.

I am Dean Becker, the reverend most high, this is Cultural Baggage. Today we'll hear from Jag Davies, he's with the Drug Policy Alliance, regarding drug decriminalization. We'll hear from Mary Jane Borden regarding legalization of cannabis in Ohio.

But first up, Inge Fryklund is a former assistant state's attorney in Cook County, Illinois. She's a former policy adviser regarding Afghanistan. She's now an executive board member for Law Enforcement Action Partnership, LEAP, otherwise known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and she's with us now to talk about this situation on our border, what is driving family migration to these United States. Hello, Inge.

INGE FRYKLUND: Hello, thanks for having me on again.

Well, the question that I've raised is, even though we're focusing on sort of the current facts of children being separated from their parents at our border with Mexico, we haven't really asked the question why are so many people so desperate to leave their home countries, especially in Central America and Mexico, that they would take risks of having their families torn apart and maybe losing their children.

And I think that's the question we need to be focused on, rather than these short term fixes about, hey, how do we reunite these families.

DEAN BECKER: They're willing to take their kids, many of them travel a thousand miles or more, riding on top of freight trains.

INGE FRYKLUND: Yes. They obviously seem desperate to escape their home countries, and these people are not fleeing some act of god, like a hurricane or a earthquake, that no one has any control over [sic: earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes have from time to time been responsible for some refugees]. Most of what they're fleeing is government's failure and the violence and the corruption.

The New York Times article that you referred to, the reporters had interviewed some parents, and their answer almost uniformly was, my kids are in danger of being killed by the drug cartels, and that's what we're trying to escape.

And, my argument, as I put in this article, is that it is the US that in the pursuit of our war on drugs has insisted that these poor Central and South American countries and Mexico fight our war on drugs. And we don't seem to care how much crime, corruption, and violence results from that. And if we, you know, really cared about what was happening with the people in this country and stopped the war on drugs, that takes market share away from the cartels right there.

Now, we already know that the marijuana industry in Mexico is dropping, because of competition from legal production in the US. So, my argument is that a lot of the problems that these poor families are fleeing from are caused by US policies, very specifically our failed war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: It was charlatans, I think they were moralists, considered to be at the time, but they toured the world and proclaimed the need to do this, they insisted that the United Nations join forces with the US, and make this a global jihad, if you will, against the use of drugs, and it just hasn't panned out. There has been no benefit to speak of, has there been?

INGE FRYKLUND: I can't think of any benefit, and the downsides are there for everyone to see. But, it's particularly interesting, I think, if you compare the drug war situation with our war on alcohol, back during the days of prohibition, 1920 to 1933. Remember Al Capone and all that violence in our big cities.

Back then, we never attempted to get the rest of the world to join up with our crusade. In fact, European countries and Canada were happily shipping liquor into our three mile limit. And all of the violence and corruption came home to roost, you know, with massive corruption of our own big city politicians and police.

I think that's one of the reasons why prohibition of alcohol lasted only 13 years. Whatever we thought the benefit was, the downside, and we suffered from that, was a lot more than anybody had counted on.

But with the war on drugs, there's really not all that much drug related corruption within the US [sic]. I mean there's kind of minor stuff, you know, police taking stuff from evidence lockers, and extorting some criminals, but the big violence, where the cartels are, are in the producer countries, you know, the people who produce the cocaine, opium poppy, marijuana, and the transit countries, and the full weight of the violence comes down on them.

And the US government has essentially held a stick over their governments. You know, you either fight our war on drugs or we're going to withdraw all the foreign aid you're getting. So this is also undercutting democracy. Citizens there can't vote to stop this nonsense. The US has got too big a hold on them.

DEAN BECKER: It often seems that the criminals are running both sides of this equation, I mean, I don't know how true that may be, but --

INGE FRYKLUND: Certainly a lot of profit to be made in this country by illegality.


INGE FRYKLUND: Think of all the people employed by DEA, the police getting surplus military equipment, the grant money that goes to fight drugs, the private prison industry, which seems to be booming.


INGE FRYKLUND: A lot of people have a financial interest in keeping this nonsense going, no matter how many people are dying.

DEAN BECKER: We have this situation in those transit countries where one gang will round up the wives of the competing gang and take them on a dirt road somewhere and chop them into little pieces and put that video on the web to show their domination. We don't have that in these United States, but, that's what's driving these people northward, am I right.

INGE FRYKLUND: Right. But those people and those practices are what's essentially necessary to feed the drug habit in the US. If we would legalize, which then makes it possible to regulate, we could do something about the quality control on these substances. You know, when we say heroin overdose, people aren't actually overdosing on too much good heroin, what they're really dying of is all the stuff it's cut with, like fentanyl.

In an illegal market, the seller has every incentive to cut the quality in order to inflate his profits. And then our citizens die.

DEAN BECKER: It has no solution, without some type of decriminalization, legalization, of these drugs, because otherwise we leave control of the manufacture and distribution in the hands of inept criminals and we're just not going to win this war that way.

INGE FRYKLUND: No, and I think we should just recognize that human beings are susceptible to these substances. You know, if you look back through a couple thousand years of history, if there is any product, or fruit, or grain, which can be smoked, distilled, brewed, in order to produce a high, people have done it. That's just who we are as a species, and rather than pretending that we can be a drug free America or drug free world, let's acknowledge who we are and figure out how to manage it, and that requires legalization.

Can't regulate something if it's illegal. So legalization in order to regulate, I think would deal with a lot of this, cut our fentanyl deaths, cut the cartel violence, cut the police corruption in Central America and Mexico.

DEAN BECKER: And do away with much of the violence in our cities like your city, past city of Chicago, where it kind of resembles the situation under Al Capone once again.

INGE FRYKLUND: Yes, people shooting each other trying to divide up the drug territories. I remember back when I was a prosecutor in Chicago in the '80s, we'd point out that when the violence level dropped, that was something to be nervous about, because that meant somebody had consolidated territories.

Violence went up when they were all squabbling with each other. But, inevitably, lots of bystanders, very often children out on the streets, were getting killed in the midst of this warfare.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I guess as long as euphoria remains a crime, we're going to have these types of problems. We've been speaking with Inge Fryklund, former state's attorney in Cook County. Inge, any closing thoughts you'd want to share?

INGE FRYKLUND: No, just keep pushing at legalize for the purpose of regulating, and instead of putting all our money into locking people up, let's put the money into some of those problems, especially in our rural areas, that drive people to start using heroin. If they didn't have lives that seemed otherwise empty, there might not be the demand that's being fed by the cartels right now. So, there's nowhere to go but up if we legalize, regulate, tax.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Again, Inge's a member of the board of Law Enforcement Action Partnership, out there on the web at I urge you to please check it out.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, changes in sex drive, seizures, hallucinations, memory problems, confusion, problems with speech, thoughts of suicide. Time's up! The answer: Xanax, for anxiety.

Over this past year, we've kind of looked into what's happening in the various states with their medical or recreational marijuana laws. Today we're going to take a look, take a listen, to my friend up in Ohio about what's going on up that way. I want to introduce Mary Jane Borden. Hello, Mary Jane.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Hi Dean, let's see, this would probably be my hundred and third or fourth radio interview with you.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is, you have been attuned, ear to the ground, so to speak, to what's going on in Ohio. Please tell us what's happening, or not quite happening, up there.

MARY JANE BORDEN: Well, in 2016, the Ohio legislature passed HB523, which went into effect on September, I believe Eighth, 2016, and the legislature gave the state of Ohio two years to set up a program and have it operational.

The program in Ohio consists of three entities. There's part that's managed by the Ohio Department of Commerce, part is managed by the Department of Pharmacy, and then part of it is managed by the Medical Board, and of course the Medical Board, as you can well discern, is the entity that certifies the physicians recommending marijuana in Ohio.

I think things are rolling on pretty smoothly. This time last year, I was very optimistic that the state would meet its deadline. I was pleased to see that they had the rules set up by September 2017. They had submitted -- had cultivation license -- licenses for applications out, they had processing, you know, procedures and testing procedures out, there's testing sites, they had a bunch of information out on the website that I thought was pretty comprehensive.

November of last year, they announced the cultivation licenses. The state of Ohio has two tiers of cultivation licenses. They have a tier two, which is up to three thousand square feet, and a tier one, which is up to 25,000 square feet. Now, what I'm talking about is the announcement of the level one cultivators, which are the big guys.

Well, they -- you look at the list, and it has disqualified, oh, I'd say most, it appeared, of the applicants. They were to issue twelve licenses, it seems like they wanted to award -- issued licenses were mysteriously quote unquote "disqualified."

I think that just started a tumble, whereby the state found out that -- they found out that the state's scoring methods were problematic, they -- there were all kinds of very weird things going on there and ultimately stalled the issuance of the actual licenses, and the start-ups, the ones that did get licenses, kind of have put barriers between them and being able to get the operating licenses that I think were just awarded to maybe three cultivators within the last month or so.

So one month from now, one month from now, we're going to have a fully operational program, with, you know, cannabis that is grown, processed, and available to patients. I think it's pretty clear that's not going to happen.

When it's going to happen now, when this is actually going to be implemented, there will be products on the shelves? That's an open question that the Department of Commerce does not want to answer. It's really, it's an open question.

Fifty six provisional dispensary licenses were issued in July, so they're -- dispensaries are doing build-out, and, you know, setting themselves up to serve patients. But to do that, you have to have the product, and then the product has to be processed, the product has to be tested. So it's -- it's problematic.

I guess the only way I can sum it up, Dean, is to say, you know, we're coming out of a situation where we had just total, complete prohibition. Think about where we were when we started doing this work, Dean, maybe 20 years ago.


MARY JANE BORDEN: Think about how far we've come, when we're debating cultivation facilities of 25,000 square feet. You know, when I see the problems in Ohio, I back up a little bit and I think to myself, wow, this is really cool.

I guess I'd say start with Ohio Rights Group. And so that's

DEAN BECKER: Jag Davies is the director of communication strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance, based up there in New York, but he recently had an opinion piece published in the Washington, DC newspaper, The Hill. It was titled up A Push For Drug Decriminalization Surges In Countries Around The World; Could The US Be Next? With that, I want to welcome Jag Davies. How are you doing, sir?

JAG DAVIES: I'm doing good, thanks so much for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jag, last week I had Mister Dana Larsen out of Canada saying very much the same thing. It's having a great impact, influence, around the world, this thought, is it not?

JAG DAVIES: Absolutely. I mean, so many people have heard of Portugal now. Portugal's the best example of decriminalization, and that implement -- they implemented probably the most comprehensive version of it, but a lot of other countries, particularly in western Europe, have some form of drug decriminalization.

The Netherlands, the Czech Republic has a very impressive system that's been quite successful with decriminalization, Switzerland and several other countries as well, and now, the past year there's a whole bunch of other countries where, at the senior levels of government, they're making serious moves towards drug decriminalization.

These countries include Norway, which has got quite a bit of press in the US, France, even some countries outside of Europe and North America, like Ghana in western Africa. And then, it's -- I've been amazed the past few months how much progress has been going on in Canada. You have two of the three main political parties in Canada all of a sudden endorsing and campaigning on decrim.

You have the public health authorities in Toronto and Montreal, over the past month, calling for drug decriminalization. The city of Vancouver and their mayor have called on the federal government to decriminalize drugs.

Now, Justin Trudeau, as Dana probably said last week, has not come out in support of drug decriminalization. He's been asked about it pretty regularly in recent months, but just even the fact that the prime minister is getting asked about drug decriminalization seems pretty significant.

And what's, I think, striking about all of this is that, in a lot of the ways, where, you know, a lot of the conditions that have led to this, these calls for decriminalization in Canada, are similar in the US, and a lot of people might think that, you know, drug decriminalization sounds like this pie in the sky idea for the US, but actually in the United States already, this is a concept that a majority of the public already supports.

You know, you always hear politicians saying things like we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem, and we need to treat addiction as a health issue, but we haven't quite just taken that next step of saying, well then let's just stop arresting people who use drugs. We're still arresting as many people who use drugs as ever, 1.3 million drug possession arrests we're making a year here.

So, it kind of seems like really an opportune moment right now to really generate public debate and put it out in front of people, and this is an issue that, you know, the Drug Policy Alliance is going to be exploring in future years, potentially doing ballot initiatives or legislative campaigns at the state level for decriminalization.

I mean, at the federal level, the federal government's always the last one to move forward with drug policy reforms, but, there's a lot of states and cities and municipalities around the country that have already taken significant steps towards decrim, and I think it's likely in the next few years we're going to see a lot of movement at the local and state level towards decriminalization.

DEAN BECKER: A lot of politicians are getting this. It's kind of hard to maneuver when state and federal legislators don't open up the possibilities. Your thought there, please.

JAG DAVIES: Well, there's actually a lot that can be done at the local level without state and federal support. One of the closest things we have in the US to decriminalization is a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, also known as LEAD, or also known as pre-arrest diversion programs.

And it's not an ideal situation, because it still gives the police some discretion in some situations to make an arrest, but there's a whole handful of countries [sic: municipalities] around the country that have already implemented this program and there's another twenty or thirty cities, and Houston is one of those cities, that are in the process of developing a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, and, which are already up and running in more than a dozen cities.

So, it's -- so yeah, we're moving pretty close towards that. The district attorneys have a lot, and local law enforcement have a lot of discretion over, you know, low level misdemeanor drug possession arrests. I think, you know, when it comes to marijuana, even in places, you know, cities in the south or in places that may have lagged behind the northeast or west coast on marijuana policy, they're starting to catch up now.

But, I think the next step is also going to be, you know, dealing with other drugs, because in some ways, you know, the, about half of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession, so eliminating that is a huge part of it, but the harms of drug possession arrests, for drugs other than marijuana, you know, in some ways are even more harmful and insidious, because, you know, with drugs where, you know, like opioids or stimulants, where, you know, there's a risk of overdose, criminalization drives people into using drugs in more isolated and unsafe environments, makes it less likely that they're going to -- people are going to call 911 for help in the event of an overdose.

So in some ways, drug decriminalization, you know, is one of the factors -- or you know, the criminalization of drugs, I should say, is one of the factors, you know, contributing to the overdose crisis.

Decriminalizing drugs alone wouldn't save, you know, by itself, end the overdose crisis. What's so significant about what Portugal has done is that at the same time they stopped arresting people for drug possession, they also significantly ramped up their health and harm reduction services, so that's also important too, to be able to redirect those resources into health and treatment services.

But, I -- yeah, there's already, you know, there's nothing really stopping a local municipality at this point from moving forward with, you know, with decriminalizing drugs. And another step actually that a lot of states are taking that I should mention, that's a really important incremental step, is what's called de-felonizing drug possession. It's something in about 30 states around the country, possession of drugs other than marijuana is still a felony.

So, there were a few states that never made drug possession a felony, but a number of states in the past few years, Connecticut, California, even some conservative, more conservative states like Oklahoma, have passed laws or passed ballot initiatives to reduce the penalties for drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Which is, you know, it's an incremental step, but it's an important one, because right now in most states, you know, you can get hard prison time and really get, face a lot of criminal punishment just for small possession of drugs.

As I mentioned in my piece, there was an ACLU and Human Rights Watch report a couple of years ago on drug decriminalization, and they found that there's about a 130,000 people behind prison bars -- behind bars, you know, simply for drug possession, which is out of about half a million people behind bars for drug offenses overall, so it's a, you know, it's only maybe a third or a quarter of the overall number of people behind bars for drugs, but, it's the majority of the arrests, you know, and there's a huge amount of churn of people cycling through the criminal justice system, and getting stuck in -- with collateral consequences and under criminal justice supervision due to drug arrests.

So, you know, it's -- yeah, I think part of it is about reframing what we're doing too, from talking about mass incarceration to also talking about mass criminalization more broadly. You know, incarceration is so massive in this country, we have 2.3 million people behind bars [sic: just under 2.2 million according to the most recent data], but then you look at the total number of people under some form of criminal justice supervision and control, and that's seven and a half million people [sic: just over 6.6 million according to the most recent data].

That's another five million people who, you know, if they miss an appointment with a parole supervisor, if they simply fail a drug test for marijuana, anything like that, they're back in jail again, and cycling in and out, which of course is incredibly detrimental to people's lives, their ability to support themselves and their families.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and not to mention very costly to the government to keep them locked up and, you know, feed them and house them and take care of their medical problems. It's outrageous.

Once again, we're speaking with Mister Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance. You know, earlier this year I got the chance to go to Portugal and to Switzerland to talk to the head of the heroin injection program there in Switzerland, and to meet with Doctor João Goulão, the, in essence the drug czar of Portugal.

And we talked about, you know, what has happened once they decriminalized, and the number of gangs has diminished, the number of violent crimes has diminished, the number of overdoses has diminished, the number of diseases being shared has diminished significantly.

It seems like a win win win, and with no downside. Your closing thoughts, there, Mister Jag Davies.

JAG DAVIES: Yeah, I mean, we need to be careful not to overstate the benefits of decriminalization. It's not a panacea for all of our drug policy problems. It doesn't address the problem of, you know, adulteration in the drug supply. It does make test -- checking drugs for fentanyl easier. But, so it does help to some degree with that, but it doesn't completely solve the problem of, you know, adulteration of unregulated drug supplies.

And of course it doesn't deal with the problems around people who sell drugs, and respecting their humanity. A lot of the devil is in the details. DPA released a very comprehensive report on decriminalization last year, called It's Time For The US To Decriminalize Drug Use And Possession. You can find that by going to

We have the political support for this here in the US, we have the scientific support. We just need to compel our policy makers and our leaders to start taking up this issue, because we have the winning hand here, we just need to play it.

DEAN BECKER: I've been sitting here with a royal flush, nobody from the government wants to play with me. Again I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. 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.