10/09/19 Norma Sapp

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Norma Sapp
YES on 788

Happy Highlife Harvest time in Oklahoma. Norma Sapp, Max Walters, Doctor Jack Snedden, Grizzly, Uncle Grumpy, Troy from Herbal House.

Audio file



OCTOBER 09, 2019

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

MALE SPEAKER: It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD CHANT: No more Drug War! No more Drug War! No more Drug War!

My name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, this is Dean Becker. The Reverend Most High. We’re reporting this week from Oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and the waving weed can sure smell sweet.

We are here in Norman, Oklahoma, I am with my good friend Norma Sapp and her friend at this facility we are at. What is your name, sir?

MALE VOICE: Max Walters.

DEAN BECKER: Max, what is the name of this outfit here?

MAX WALTERS: The Friendly Market.

DEAN BECKER: Now you just celebrated a five year recognition of existence I guess is the way to put it, right?

MAX WALTERS: Yeah. We have been open for five years. We started selling pipes and accessories and tapestries and incense and things like that.

DEAN BECKER: And as of now there’s hemp flowers and hemp products galore. There’s some actual high THC marijuana, there’s hash and other goodies and a good crowd came to attend this opening or recognition –

MAX WALTERS: Recognition by the Chamber of Commerce. Yes.

DEAN BECKER: -- You are right and the Chamber of Commerce was here to recognize this which brings to mind I think the whole point of this interview that this boom if you will in Oklahoma, due mostly I think to marijuana is really enormous. It is having a huge impact is it not, Norma?

NORMA SAPP: Oh yes. I actually call it a renaissance because like we were talking about a while ago there is real estate now that hasn’t been occupied now for decades, there are new jobs, the ancillary businesses and employment is unreal. Garden centers – can you imagine what they made this year? So yes, it is a renaissance for Oklahoma – and good paying jobs.

DEAN BECKER: Give us some more jobs – more occupations that have benefitted from this in this past year.

MAX WALTERS: Even chefs that have been trying to get out of their old business are starting to get a new fresh look at life, a lot of them because they can actually run a kitchen like they have wanted to over the years. Also A/C repairmen because they have big warehouses that need to be temperature and humidity controlled, all sorts of electricians and building majors and engineering students are now probably getting more jobs to build a lot of these grow houses and things like that so it’s just really good for people to get in to an industry and then also get experience in to something else that might progress even if they don’t stay in the cannabis industry.

DEAN BECKER: Right. To throw out a couple more – you need lights for indoor growing, you need people to man the counters to sell the product. All kinds of new jobs are booming here.

Now Norma, you were very instrumental – one of the ramrods who made this all possible.

NORMA SAPP: Well that’s what they accuse me of.


DEAN BECKER: I think it is something to be quite proud of and I just want to say that what Oklahoma has done, and I have talked about it on my show many times is I think better than the legalization in many states because you can just tell the doctor that marijuana might help you and that he will then write you a recommendation and there you go. It’s just the fact that the Chamber of Commerce was here recognizing this – unafraid to embrace the idea of this facility existing and of the work that they are doing here. I would assume it is just one of many hundreds, maybe thousands in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Well yeah. We have got 2,700 dispensaries and I forget – like almost twice that much in grows. But Norman – this town here, 150,000 people – 69 the last I counted.

MAX WALTERS: It was 70 I thought.

NORMA SAPP: 70 dispensaries and last I heard there was a106 licenses so the rest must be grows and processors.

DEAN BECKER: Well that is one for every two thousand people if my math is right. Wow, it is something!

NORMA SAPP: Ask this man, do you run out?

MAX WALTERS: We never run out. No. We always have stuff in stock and we always have people coming in even though there are four dispensaries within three blocks of us. We still always have people coming in so it works. We were close to running out a few days ago but we just got some in yesterday so we were almost out – but I was finally able to get a couple of pounds in the other day. We always still have something.

DEAN BECKER: Well and it is early October and I am sure going in to November there’s going to be plenty coming forward, right?


DEAN BECKER: Now tell us one more time – the fact that this place exists – that it is favored by many in your community – do you get hassled by the cops? Is there any situation like that existing anymore?

MAX WALTERS: No. Not at all as far as I can tell. Everything has been good. We actually had officers show up trying to figure out if they had a call to that area and I had a good conversation with them rather recently and it has been all good.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Once again, the name of this place?

MAX WALTERS: The Friendly Market in Norman, Oklahoma.

DEAN BECKER: Well here in Norman, Oklahoma we have been touring all of the various facilities and looking at their THC buds, and hemp buds and talking to good folks about all the good progress and the jobs and the progress here in Oklahoma around this newly recognized industry and I am here with Mr. Jack Snedden. He is an MD, and he is set up here today to meet some patients here in Norman. Jack, how is it going?

JACK SNEDDEN: It’s going great. We kind of have to stay on top of the rules and regulations and the legislation as it is being passed and watch and make sure we don’t have any missteps in the process.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. You have got to jump through the hopes as they are set in place but as I understand it Oklahoma did not make it as onerous, as difficult as it has been in some other states. Is it working out fairly smoothly for your behalf?

JACK SNEDDEN: Oh absolutely. Because there are numerous beneficial, physiological things that go on with medical marijuana. Not just for seizures, but the things that you can address are vast. They are almost endless, so the Oklahoma law did make it easy for the physician to do just that – be a physician, talk to the patient, identify the problem, and make a determination whether cannabis is appropriate or that or not. They didn’t say you have to do it for any specific diagnosis so they are letting the doctor be the doctor.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier we were talking about how in Texas there is a very limited application of who can apply for CBD itself – there is not allowance for THC, but the fact of the matter is that you guys have a wide range of maladies and/or options or reasons why you can make a recommendation is that correct?

JACK SNEDDEN: That is correct. Yes.

DEAN BECKER: Now, my guest, you were not a medical doctor before – what is your prior experience?

JACK SNEDDEN: Before medical school I was doing breast cancer research in exercise physiology and nutrition in Denver, some of that was NIH granted research that is published out there and before that I was a professional student until I got my undergrad degree which opened the door for me to go to medical school.

DEAN BECKER: Here in Oklahoma I am aware that the realtors are happy. That so many occupations are really making great strides these days. How has it been for you – are you making an income?

JACK SNEDDEN: Yes. We definitely have to watch our P’s and Q’s, and make sure we cover all of our bases and have all of the appropriate malpractice insurance in place and things like that but yeah, we have to run it – it is a business. We are paying the bills.

DEAN BECKER: And that’s the obvious thing we gotta do, all of us. Jack, how long have you been doing this and do you see it as a career at this point?

JACK SNEDDEN: We are endeavoring to figure that out. There is still thousands of people that need their medical recommendations and until that process is changed by legislation, it is going to be business as usual. Of course there certain things that come in to play that make it more difficult to see the patient and we figure a legal way to address that and still see the patient and get the cards in the hand of the people that need it.

DEAN BECKER: Now this is a modern era. It is important folks know how to reach you. Can folks find you on the web?

JACK SNEDDEN: Absolutely. We have a website, it is:, and we do telemedicine – it is somewhat more difficult to do patient drives and see patients and there are a lot of patients that are homebound. I also want to be very discreet and not be seen out in public getting people on it there is still a stigma attached to it and telemedicine addresses all of that. We do have all HIPPA compliant software and hardware and we take care of business when we need to.

DEAN BECKER: I am a little ignorant here, telemedicine – what is it?

JACK SNEDDEN: Telemedicine is 100% online and it is a recognized form of establishing a bona fide patient/physician relationship. It is even reimbursable under Medicare and so we proceed with that but we do not process any Medicare payments. What I am saying is that if Medicare thinks it is a bona fide patient/physician relationship then everybody else should follow suit and think as well because that’s the way it works across the insurance industry.

DEAN BECKER: Now we are in Norman, Oklahoma. Is this your hometown?

JACK SNEDDEN: No. I am from Broken Arrow.

DEAN BECKER: And as I understand it that is a suburb of Tulsa some 50 – 100 miles?

JACK SNEDDEN: It is just over 100 miles.

DEAN BECKER: So you do tour the state a bit for those that maybe don’t have the web or access to that telemedicine.

JACK SNEDDEN: Absolutely. We are certainly open to patient drives. Of course we have to keep in mind the laws that we can’t physically be inside of a dispensary but there are lots of numerous ways to get around that to still get the patients seen that need to be seen but yes, we go pretty much all over Oklahoma plus the telemedicine. It is all about the patients.

DEAN BECKER: All right folks, once again we have been speaking with Dr. Jack Snedden. And once again that website is:

DEAN BECKER: We are hear in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. I am here with one of the folks holding this event together. The Happy Highlife Harvest Fest of 2019. We are here with Grizzly. How is it going, sir?

GRIZZLY: Doing good.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us about this event. What brought you here?

GRIZZLY: Well I just wanted to make sure that something in my local area went over well and so I volunteered to work to make sure that things went well.

DEAN BECKER: So you live nearby here?

GRIZZLY: Yeah. I live about 20 minutes away from here. I have got a commercial grow in the industry and just wanted to make sure everything went well and everything was thought well of this event.

DEAN BECKER: Now you say you have got a commercial grow. It’s okay to say so now I would suppose. Were you involved in the trade before this new law fell in play?

GRIZZLY: Oh yeah.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us about your history of growth.

GRIZZLY: 2005 I went to Amsterdam and met a girl in a coffee shop, she taught me how to grow. I went to the hemp college – or the marijuana college over there and learned how to grow. From there I got some seeds in Amsterdam, I bought me a George Cervantes book and I have been doing it since 2005.

DEAN BECKER: Well you are, I dare say – one of many, maybe many thousand here in the state of Oklahoma succeeding. Is that a true thought?

GRIZZLY: I think so. I am doing pretty good. I just took about 180 of my 360 outdoor plants – most of them were about a8 – 10 feet tall.

DEAN BECKER: That is yielding oh about a pound and half to two?

GRIZZLY: I don’t know yet. I haven’t really weighed it yet. In fact we just cut them down and started hanging them. It was a nightmare job to be honest with you.

DEAN BECKER: Well to get it right – you damned right!

GRIZZLY: Yes. To get it right it was a nightmare.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Now I see that smile on your face. I think there is some good weight in your future but that is legal, that is business right here in the state of Oklahoma. I keep talking to folks – it helps electricians, it helps doctors, it helps real estate agents. Everybody is benefitting. Let’s talk about how it is benefitting your community.

GRIZZLY: Well I got to buy a brand new air conditioner and put an air conditioner in my house. The guys that have the heating and air business – they sure appreciated it. I have gone down to the feed store and spent more thousands of dollars than I would have ever spent had it not been for this. I have been down to the hardware store more times than you can ever imagine and they all know you and appreciate it. They tell the same story – I am not the only one coming in spending this kind of money doing this. It has changed everything for everyone.

DEAN BECKER: Your trips to these vendors – these commodities are in effect necessary to have a good quality product. It is something that is a requirement to get it right.

GRIZZLY: Yeah. Last night I had to go to the grocery store to get dry ice to do some stuff.


GRIZZLY: Well I needed some cold for some of my plants so I was just dropping the temperature. It was just the easy way to do it – but yeah. The grocery store was helping out to grow some marijuana last night.

DEAN BECKER: The list goes on.

GRIZZLY: The list goes on. It doesn’t matter – there are so many businesses benefitting from this. Real estate people, the banks if they would get out of the way. They could make a—

NORMA SAPP: Packaging.

GRIZZLY: --Yes, packaging. Oh my god, packaging. That is huge business. If the government would allow it – advertising. Every one of these thousands of businesses need somebody to advertise for them but they can’t pay for advertising because you can’t deduct the taxes off the tax.

DEAN BECKER: Aren’t we leaving out one particular recipient that gets a hell of a lot of money. What is the tax rate on cannabis in these retail outlets?

GRIZZLY: Oh you mean the butt raping? The criminal tax raping of us at 40% - yeah, that’s right – 40% of your marijuana price goes to taxes – taxes alone. Taxes to somebody that does absolutely nothing to benefit this industry. They set a bunch of hoops that we had to jump through, a bunch of problems that it created for everyone in the industry but they have not provided one single thing that benefits us. What do they do to protect us?

DEAN BECKER: If I dare say, heretofore they wouldn’t mind locking you up and putting you in a cage, right?

GRIZZLY: And I get to appreciate the fact that now they are not going to lock me up and steal everything I own. That is what I get for my 40%.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Mr. Grizzly I thank you so much for your time. Is there a website or some closing thoughts you’d like to share?

GRIZZLY: Just stay safe and enjoy life.

It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effect. Does your idea of a fun night consist of playing German board games and going to bed at 10? Do you avoid looking at the news because you know it’ll make you sad? Do you get angry just knowing that they are teenagers on VINE who have made more money in the past two years than you will in your entire life? Do you enjoy drinking a beer right after getting home from work just a little too much? If you answered yes to even one of those questions, chances are you might have Adulthood. A serious condition that affects 7 billion people 18 and older worldwide and there’s no legal cure!

DEAN BECKER: Once again back to the Happy High Life Harvest Fest here in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. I am here with a gentleman, Uncle Grumpy. How are you sir?

UNCLE GRUMPY: I am doing good. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: I am well sir. First off – the name, please. Uncle Grumpy.

UNCLE GRUMPY: Okay. Well I grew up around bikers. It is an old biker thing. Some friends wanted to upset me so they started calling me Uncle Grumpy. They came up with a bunch of other names first but they didn’t really stick and the minute they said Uncle Grumpy – I went over and said you know what, I am going to stick with that one and I went out and had a patch made that night. So it has been like that ever since. Now it turns out that Grumpy also stands for Government Refusal United Many People to say yes. So I am who I am supposed to be.

DEAN BECKER: Well fair enough. We are here at this fest. You and Miss Norma Sapp are going to be a couple of the speakers. If you would, give me a brief summary – a half a paragraph. What are you going to be presenting this evening?

UNCLE GRUMPY: Well I will probably give a little bit of my own story but mostly I will talk about what I have been talking to everybody about all day and that is what I do. I told the law makers in the beginning it’s not that I am grumpy, it’s that I have been riding around the state on my motorcycle listening to people and they are all grumpy and they want me to come up here to the Capitol and tell you why they are grumpy. So I will just try and convey some of that. I have been talking to people all day today about what is next for the state whether it be a petition for full access, which you may know is recreational or some other type of petition. I have been trying to get the feel for what the crowd here thinks. I do a show on Facebook where I talk about these things and Norma comes on there frequently and I will just get her up on stage with me and we will just kind of wing it. We will do like we do it on the show.

DEAN BECKER: Well fair enough. I like to think about this – being grumpy. Letting these officials know – in Texas we have a problem. Everybody comes up very softly begging please sir – will you allow it? We know we need your cooperation. Without any influence – without any real determination. Just depending on the kindness of strangers so to speak. I have made a few enemies by saying we need to be bolder, we need to talk a little sterner. We need to expose their failings, their lack of knowledge in this area rather than just allowing them to stand there as pontificating idiots. Your response to that?

UNCLE GRUMPY: Yeah. I understand you guys have it differently down there. You don’t have the same petition process so you are kind of at the will of your government. But you are at that point as we are also back at that point again – we are at a tipping point where we can either let them try and appease us and tell us to calm down that they will fix things a little at a time.

DEAN BECKER: Trust them.

UNCLE GRUMPY: We just relax – and trust them. Government works slow – I love that one. The government works slow. We are at that point where we can say okay, we don’t want to upset them. I sit at the table with these people. I don’t’ want to make enemies but what choice do I have? They are not listening. They are not leaving us any option. So at this point we have no choice but to run over them with another petition. Down there in Texas unfortunately you guys don’t have that option. Now whether or not a petition here of any kind stands a chance at the ballot, we don’t know yet. But at the very least – as a chess player, we need that piece on the board during this session in February. So we will make sure that that happens.

DEAN BECKER: Well that is good to know. Everywhere we go today – we visit dispensaries, we are gonna talk to some growers again tomorrow. We are gonna visit some grow sites, look at some drying racks. I am sure it’s going to be a different day for me coming from Texas where that just doesn’t happen. It hasn’t happened in about 100 years – at least not legally and I guess the point I am wanting to get to is that you guys give me courage with what you did. You showed that even in the south it is possible and I want to thank you for that. Any closing thoughts you would like to share, Uncle Grumpy?

UNCLE GRUMPY: Yes, there is. You have got a whole lot of people in Texas and we have got a whole lot of people in Kansas that don’t have programs yet that need them and we have Arkansas which has issues. So I think Oklahoma needs to start figuring out ways that we can help our neighbors and I think you need to be looking to the CLA – the Cannabis Liberty Alliance, to help push those ideas during the next legislative session. I think we are going to have a way to solve this problem. I really do. I don’t want to let too much out of the bag right now but like I said, just watch the CLA. I think you guys will be pleasantly surprised down in Texas what is coming up in Oklahoma.

DEAN BECKER: Uncle Grumpy, I want to thank you. I think just the success I see here, the progress, the commerce is going to prove to a lot of other legislators that the sky didn’t fall.

UNCLE GRUMPY: That is right. No one is running through the street naked screaming. It turns out Reefer Madness IS the Reefer Madness. It’s not that you use cannabis and go crazy. It’s that if you don’t understand cannabis you are somewhat crazy. So it is a little backwards, but we are working on that.

MALE VOICE: So we are a medical cannabis dispensary here in Oklahoma. We have been here for about two months. Cannabis has been legal here for about a year and we came right in at the right time I think.

DEAN BECKER: It looks just amazing. Very professional and clean. Something to attract future customers. We are here with one of the leaders here in Oklahoma, Norma Sapp. Norma, I appreciate you taking us around and showing us these folks. We are from Texas where hemp is now legal. Where our district attorney is now saying well we can’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. We are just going to quit arresting people. The whole point boils down to Reefer Madness is dying down. It is dissipating is it not?

NORMA SAPP: Yes. Except for in a few small towns in Oklahoma that I guess haven’t read the newspaper.

DEAN BECKER: That would hold true in Texas as well. Can I get your first name?

MALE VOICE: My name is Troy.

DEAN BECKER: Troy, how is business?

TROY: It is great. I have been in the industry now for about a year and I have never been happier. These guys that I am working with right now here at Herbal House – I couldn’t ask for a better team.

DEAN BECKER: Well we have been talking to a few folks and talking about how it is just great for employment here in this state. There are all kinds of new jobs coming forward. In your back room I see signs of new construction, workers busy as heck making noises back there. There is a lot of potential, right?

TROY: Oh yeah. There definitely is. It is funny how far and wide it stretches. It is everything from electricians at grow houses to if there is some sort of niche that you think you fit in to this cannabis world – I am sure you can fill it. I had someone come to me the other day and they were like hey I had this idea – this thought about this thing that I would really like to do and I think it would be really specific for the cannabis realm and I told him you might as well try it because no one else is doing it yet. I think as far as economic growth in the state of Oklahoma I think it has been nothing but a plus. I just hope that our state spends the money right.


TROY: We don’t have a great track record with that yet.

DEAN BECKER: I hear you. Look it is my hope that the success here in Oklahoma and other states as well, but there has always been this competition. They don’t play each other in football every year anymore between Oklahoma and Texas it has always been an ongoing, macho thing but Oklahoma seems to have won this – not just the battle – they won the war!

NORMA SAPP: For sure. I had a Facebook page that was Oklahoma and Texas who will legalize first, and we won. Yay! Boomer Sooner, all that.

DEAN BECKER: No, you are right. It’s just another example of how wrong-headed the drug war is because it is nearing 50 million people arrested so far yet the only people that have profited in the past were criminals. Mexican cartels in the early days. It’s just a situation that never had any real benefit and you guys are proving benefit. What is your long term goal? Are you going to open up a chain of these?

TROY: I think if you had asked us a year ago that might have been the case. I think right now we’re happy with our flagship store here in Norman and we are just kind of taking it slowly. I think a little slower than I think we intended to initially but we are happy with our growth and where we are at right now has kind of given us the opportunity to be really hands on with the patients that we work with on a daily basis and to continue to go above and beyond as far as accommodating them. It never really feels like we are over reaching. I feel like we are always playing to our strengths here.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well I know that harvest time is here. I am predicting the hemp prices are going to fall. That is just my economist perspective on this – that there is going to be a huge over supply. Heck I understand in Oregon, weed is down to $50 an ounce because they have a million pounds of surplus so I am just urging you guys to be careful and sneak up on this. Any closing thoughts, sir?

TROY: In regards to what you just mentioned. We have got all of these outdoor grows – or greenhouse grows that are about to be harvested and I am sure those prices will be dirt cheap. The thing that I have yet to see in Oklahoma – there is plenty of good cannabis out there but the supply of it actually is not as large as one would think and so I would be really interested to see in the coming year how that develops and how fast it takes Oklahoma to catch on with that. Because once that expands then the prices can really come down across the board, but right now I can only think of a handful of companies that are really putting out top tier quality medical cannabis and as it stands with so few competitors, they are allowed to keep the prices high. It will be interesting to see how that changes over the course of the next year. It will be interesting to see where we stabilize as well. A lot of what if’s.

DEAN BECKER: There are plenty of them I am sure. Is there a website you want to recommend?

TROY: How about the most obvious choice here – you can find us at, you can also keep track with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Weed Maps. We are just Herbal House here in Norman, Oklahoma.

DEAN BECKER: Well that is about all we can include this week. Be sure to join us next week. We will have more from Oklahoma. We will have the story of Mr. Will Foster, who went from 93 years in prison to growing Norma’s Dream – that wonderful weed.

Once again I remind you because of prohibition, you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful!

To the Drug Truth 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 any abyss.

07/31/19 Norma Sapp

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Norma Sapp

Norma Sapp, Oklahoma reformer re progress, ease of new medical cannabis law, Steve Downing, Dep Chief of LAPD, retired and Adrian Garcia, former Sheriff of Houston regarding amazing bail reform

Audio file


JULY 31, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world, and this is Cultural Baggage.

Folks, it's been years since I've had a chance to talk to one of my compadres. He's the former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, a great producer of many of the MacGyver episodes, one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, now known as Law Enforcement Action Partnership, my friend, my compadre on the journey for -- across America with the Caravan for Peace, Mister Steve Downing. How are you sir?

STEVE DOWNING: Hi Dean, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Steve. We've been at this quite a while, but progress is afoot, happening all around the country, is it not?

STEVE DOWNING: I'd agree. I see that the public is getting educated, especially as to the drug war, and as to the harms of the drug war, and to the need for criminal justice reform, to the harms of mass incarceration, cash bail, all of it. I think that we're seeing a definite movement, state by state, not too much at the federal level, needs to be more.

We're seeing a lot of talk at the federal level, we're seeing a lot of Mitch McConnell blocking things from getting done, but I think that will change. I think we have a better educated public than we did ten years ago, and I feel very confident that we're going to accomplish a lot of very positive criminal justice reform.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you for that, Steve, and yeah, for what it's worth, within today's show, I have a segment about the situation in Oklahoma, where they now have medical marijuana with laws that are even way more lax than California's were, where you just say I can't sleep, I want to try some marijuana, and you get that recommendation.

And coincidentally, we have a story giving focus today by the Houston Chronicle on bail reform, calling what they're doing here in Harris County, Houston, Texas, to be an example for the nation. Even in Texas and Oklahoma things are really changing quickly, aren't they?

STEVE DOWNING: They sure are. The big problem in California, and I don't know whether it is in Texas, but, California, like a lot of states, because of the bugaboos that existed on the legalization, they throw a very, very high tax on it, and they think that they're going to get windfall tax income, but the result is that they really helped the black and gray market continue to thrive.

And what they have to do, just like, you know, cigarettes in New York, when you throw too big of a tax on it, it's going to be in the -- it's going to be peddled in the black market, smuggled in from other states, and that's what's happening across the country. And that's kind of the next step in all of this, is getting our politicians to understand that too high taxation is going to be -- is going to allow the black market to thrive and prevent the true implementation of a legal industry across the country.

DEAN BECKER: And, Steve, one other item that's really getting a lot of focus, it's seldom given the perspective it deserves, but that is why are these quote 'caravans' coming northward? Why are thousands, tens of thousands of people, coming to America, fleeing Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, let's talk about that.

STEVE DOWNING: Well, I -- I think that you have to say that these people, like many people in the world, are refugees, and they're running from horrible, horrible conditions in their countries. And in many of those countries the conditions that they're running from, we contributed to.

We poured money into fight the drug war, in a fashion that gave rise to these many gangs. We created refugee situations back in the '70s and '80s that brought people into the urban areas, like Los Angeles, like the Pico area of Los Angeles, where refugees came in, their children ended up in communities where they felt they had to defend themselves, and the emergence of MS-6 [sic: MS-13 aka Mara Salvatrucha 13, a gang that originated in Los Angeles], the -- those violent gangs. They emerged in Los Angeles, California, not in El Salvador or Nicaragua.

So, we have contributed to many of the conditions, and now our present government is withdrawing the kinds of funds that help solve those problems, and until we go to the source, and help those countries solve the problems that create the need for people to escape the danger of their country, it's going to get worse, it's not going to get better, and all of this falderol, caging children at the border and separating families, good decent people, is just going to reflect on the United States as one more country that has no compassion.

That's my view of what's going on with this refugee situation.

DEAN BECKER: Well stated, my friend. Again friends, we've been speaking with Mister Steve Downing, former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, and my friend. Thank you, Steve.

STEVE DOWNING: You're welcome, Dean.

How can you stop drug users from using?
How do you keep the sun from growing weed?
How can you end drug prohibition?
It makes the world go 'round.

Folks, we have with us today a former sheriff, former policeman, now a council member on the -- a county commissioners, I should say, here in Harris County, Houston, Texas, Adrian Garcia. How are you, sir?

ADRIAN GARCIA: Great, Dean, glad to be on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you. A lot of things happening of late in the criminal justice system. One that's really making a splash, certainly is being embraced by the Houston Chronicle, they titled up their article End Poverty Jailing - Harris County Bail Reform A Model For The Nation.

Your response to that thought, Adrian.

ADRIAN GARCIA: Absolutely. I am so proud of that depiction of what is Harris County today, and I am so proud of Commissioner Ellis and Judge Hidalgo for their leadership in helping to settle this frivolous defense of this important lawsuit that was really focused on an unconstitutional cash system that kept poor people in jail simply because they were poor but not because they were dangerous to our communities.

And so I'm very excited about that.

DEAN BECKER: I am too, sir, and they're even talking about how it can become a model for the nation, because, well, bail reform's needed across our whole country, is it not?

ADRIAN GARCIA: It is. In fact, you know, as an incoming Commissioner, I've recently attended the National Convention of Counties across America and they -- this was a big conversation. People want to understand how we were working through it, they want to understand some of the nuances, and the things that we were looking to provide as a part of the reform.

And so I'm glad that that conversation is already up and going, and now with the settlement underway, I'm hopeful that other counties will, you know, take a look at what we've done and follow us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I would certainly hope so as well. You know, it's been, in the time we've known each other now, I'm guessing 15, maybe almost 20 years, there's been a lot of change here in Harris County. We used to be the gulag filling station, I used to call it, but we have really backed down from that.

We have fewer and fewer people being jailed for misdemeanors and minor drug charges already, am I right?

ADRIAN GARCIA: That's absolutely correct. And Dean, let me, you know, remind folks that, you know, when I became sheriff in 2009, I inherited the most crowded jailhouse in our recent history, 12,400 inmates, and Commissioners Court had no problem approving lucrative contracts with private jails in Louisiana, at the cost of sixty million dollars to the local taxpayers.

And all the while, our crime rate remained unchanged. And so, it just showed that filling a jailhouse is not the way to provide public safety or justice in our community, but rather, you know, doing the things that we can do in providing the resources and programs that help people get on a better track, is the best way to provide public safety. And that's what this settlement is going to do for us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, again, folks, we've been speaking with Mister Adrian Garcia, now a County Commissioner, a former sheriff of Houston, Harris County.

Now, Adrian, we, by that I mean the good-thinking folks of this county, have backed down from our prior seeking of vengeance, so to speak, it seemed, and are now seeking justice instead. Is that a good closing thought?

ADRIAN GARCIA: Well, at least three members of the County are of that thinking. There's still two others that have not reformed their way of thinking, and -- but hopefully they'll get the memo and get on board.

DEAN BECKER: The kickbacks may stop, I don't know. Who's funding them, but, you know ...

ADRIAN GARCIA: Right? The bail bondsmen. Look, they're not going to roll over, they're going to fight this tooth and nail, Dean, and so this is -- this is a good day, but the line in the sand has been drawn, unmistakenly.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Abnormal dreams, confusion, coughing up blood, decreased sensitivity to stimulation, decreased sex drive, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, hepatitis, impotence, memory loss, and sensitivity to light. Time's up! The answer: Claritin. Another FDA approved product. Ah-choo!

We are speaking with one of my long time friends, Ms. Norma Sapp. She's based in Oklahoma, and, Norma, as I get older, and my circle of friends gets bigger than a wagon train, it gets harder to remember where I met folks. Where did we meet?

NORMA SAPP: Oh, gosh, I want to say it was in San Francisco, but it was at a conference.


NORMA SAPP: Several times.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, I know that's true, and I've always felt like you were a compadre, I was a resident of Tulsa for several years, and, you know, I liked Oklahoma. I lived there before the drug war started its abominable ways.

But, Oklahoma has changed. Oklahoma has outdone my now current state of Texas. Tell folks what you guys have done, in regards to marijuana.

NORMA SAPP: All right, well, we, last year, June 26, we voted for medical marijuana, and it was rolled out exactly as -- it was a statute petition, by the way, it was very short and simple, easy directions, no regulations, and it was rolled out just like that. Just like it -- we were told it would, you know, what it said in the thing we voted on.

And so, OMMA, our Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, started immediately, staffing and carrying out what they were supposed to do, issuing cards, medical marijuana cards, right off the bat, did it in time, good time.

In about six months they kind of got behind because there was a whole lot of people every week asking for cards, and we now, I think, outnumber per capita all the other states for people with a medical card. Is that weird?

DEAN BECKER: Well, I, and I heard a word or a half a sentence there that I think is the key, and there just weren't a lot of regulations, not a lot of constrictions --


DEAN BECKER: -- put in play. Right?

NORMA SAPP: Correct, yes. But now we've had a legislative session in the middle of this, and in August, the end of August, our new regulations are rolling out and we will have some changes.

The OMMA will take -- they will have 14 business days to issue your card, so they could take longer. Oh, and also they'll have 90 days to issue the business license, and that was two weeks before.

Let's see, there was a couple of other changes. Oh, we're still arguing about whether law enforcement needs any more access to the OMMA list. They want to be able to verify your card on the side of the road, and anybody can do that by calling this number at the OMMA and giving them that number, it's a 24 digit number, and it will say the name and it's verified if it's still good. You know?

And they're arguing over that. So, we think --

DEAN BECKER: Could I interrupt to --


DEAN BECKER: I think maybe the reason people are not enlightened to that concept is that that just gives them a list of names and addresses if they wanted to get more draconian.

NORMA SAPP: Well, if -- yes, if they go above what they're able to access now, that must mean that they want everything, names and addresses, and that maybe that would reveal their medical condition.

So, I can just envision some small town with a couple hundred people, the one cop is looking up everybody's name in that town so that next time you leave your house, he's going to stop you because you know he hated you since high school, because you stole his girlfriend.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you.

NORMA SAPP: It is not going to happen. We're going to occupy the capitol like the teachers did last year, if that goes into play.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and look, Norma, what you guys have done is take the bull by the horns.


DEAN BECKER: You have decided that this is the way it's going to be. These politicians, they're ignorant as hell, they don't want to learn, they've never read a study for sure, they've never talked with a scientist or visited a dispensary, I'm certain.

And they speak as if they have the moral authority, in fact, an obligation to keep going down this same failed path. Your response there, Norma.

NORMA SAPP: For sure, that's some of these towns. Now, we do have a lot of people that are on our side of the issue, because we are a Republican state our house members and the Republican caucus are all on our side trying to work the best with us, spent the whole summer last year in an interim study, and it was a bipartisan interim study, house and senate were there to listen to testimonies of all kinds, from us, from professionals, from the Oklahoma Medical Association, oh that was a fun day.

And, all interested parties, the Tax Commission, everybody wanted to talk about this and get it out. And patients, they heard from patients. And we know we are being visited constantly on our facebook pages by all these legislators because they comment, and then they react at the capitol.

The senate leadership was our problem last year. They are the moral high ground, and they saw certain people, you know, talking about how big the doobie was that they rolled, and seeing them, you know, live on facebook using a bong, and it insulted them, and so they would go back to the office and make stricter rules.

And so, you know, I'm not -- I can't tell everybody in the state what to do on facebook. I wish I could. But, it's been a fight.

And so I thought my fight was over on the 27th of last June, but it just got worse, the whole time since then.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, let's talk about implementation, logistics. How many growers are there and how do they get to be growers in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Twenty-five hundred dollars to the OMMA, and five hundred dollars to our Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and then they're a business licensed grower or processor, and they also are fighting with the county or the state -- or the, I mean the city that they're in.

Some cities, it was like -- it's still, today, it's like, did you not read the paper last year in June, when we legalized it? They're still trying to be, you know, non-friendly.

For instance, small towns that zone them out of town, where there is no real estate to rent. You know? So lots of lawsuits flying.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I bet so. But again, how many individual growers or businesses are there?

NORMA SAPP: A little over 3,600 growers and processors, and the amount of dispensaries are 1,673 as of last Monday.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Oh my.

NORMA SAPP: Yeah. And they're still doing it.

DEAN BECKER: Oh my, I -- that's wonderful. I'm so happy for you guys for having the courage to just kick them in the teeth and do what you think is right, and that's just wonderful.

NORMA SAPP: I got some great news, you'll not believe this.

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

NORMA SAPP: I am so honored. Someone named a strain in my name.

DEAN BECKER: Why, that's wonderful.

NORMA SAPP: Yeah. It's called Norma's Dream, and he's been working on it ever since he got out of prison. He was a grower, twenty years ago, and he moved to California.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, that's wonderful.


DEAN BECKER: And, righteously named. That's wonderful, Norma.

NORMA SAPP: Oh, it is, it's really cool. And I can only think of three other names, Ed Rosenthal, Willie's Reserve, and Jack Herer. Are there any others?

DEAN BECKER: There may be, but those are some good ones and you're amongst those good ones as well.

NORMA SAPP: It's quite an honor.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it is. Now, Norma, let's talk about the dispensaries for a bit. You have to have a medical card, this is not quote "recreational," right?

NORMA SAPP: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: You have to go to a doctor.


DEAN BECKER: You've got to have a malady and he's [sic] got to write you up a recommendation. That's --

NORMA SAPP: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: -- similar to the way California was, and I guess some states still are. But, correct me if I'm wrong, you don't have to be dying with cancer to get that --


DEAN BECKER: -- that recommendation?

NORMA SAPP: No. If you just have -- if you want to try it to see if it helps you sleep, that's a good enough excuse.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Okeh. Okeh. And do you have to be a resident of the state?



NORMA SAPP: That's easy right now. If you move here, get a state ID, you are a resident, you can get a voter card and you can be an Oklahoman and get a card.

DEAN BECKER: Well, heck, Oklahoma has some good farmers, I'm sure there's some good product and perhaps lots of it. I hear stories coming out of Oregon that there's such an oversupply that they're down to fifty dollars an ounce in some cases.


DEAN BECKER: How are the prices in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Well, take a guess what Norma's Dream sold for, the first -- the first craft grow, only ten pounds?


NORMA SAPP: Three thousand dollars a pound, and they bought it and they're selling it -- selling the s*** out of it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's -- that's really great news. Now, Norma, I think about, what's going on with this hemp situation? I think Oklahoma had legal hemp for a year or two, if I'm correct.

NORMA SAPP: Yes. And --

DEAN BECKER: And other states, now including Texas, are now legalizing hemp, and we have a situation here where they are unable to test that green stinky bag full of stuff to determine whether it is hemp or cannabis, high THC weed, and therefore district attorneys around the state are saying well, we're just going to quit charging people with, and I think they're going to take your bag of weed even though they don't know what it is, and to me, at least part of the time that's theft, and --


DEAN BECKER: -- a violation of our civil rights. Your thoughts in that regard, Norma Sapp.

NORMA SAPP: Well, I love your headlines, and I love the DAs standing up to the governor, that's cool. And as far as your hemp program, you've got a little way to go. The CBD is loose in the world and they can't stop it, so they might as well just get in there and try to facilitate it.

As far as our hemp program here, yes, we've had a limited program for two years. If you signed up under a university research program, if you paid five thousand dollars for a permit, if you met these certain, I think you can't have it in, you know, close proximity to anybody seeing it, oh, you had to have a buyer.

Things are changing now. The -- 2913, I believe was the bill for last year. It will open it up to much more, everybody actually can, if they want to pay the five thousand dollar fee, they can grow hemp.

Now there will be inspectors that go to the fields, and if your product tests hot, which is above five percent federal [sic: 0.3 percent is the federal limit for THC content in a hemp plant], then they can take your crop. But we all know that that can happen up and down in the cycle of growth, depending on the temperature and weather and all things, so they're going to have to work that out.

DEAN BECKER: Well, of course they will. Once again, friends, we're speaking with Norma Sapp. She's a reformer extraordinaire based in Oklahoma, and we're talking about their new marijuana laws, marijuana dispensaries, marijuana sales. Medical, mind you, but, with a very, I would say informed perspective, as to who deserves medical cannabis.

Now, well, Norma, I appreciate that, now, the fact of the matter is, the DAs here don't know if it's marijuana or not. And I guess the point I'm wanting to get at is, if they don't know, it's kind of like, how do they determine if somebody's high on the side of the road? They're trying to come up with a test, something under the tongue, a swab, a means to calibrate your breath, or your bloodstream, or whatever.

But that's never going to define whether somebody's too high to be driving.


DEAN BECKER: Because that's a mental thing, not a physical means to analyze that. Your thought there, please.

NORMA SAPP: Well, exactly correct, and this has really muddled the waters for testing as well, because, let's say you are in Section Eight and your housing authority will not allow you to have medical cannabis in your apartment or house, and oh, your job fires you because your piss test came out positive.

No one can say from a test whether that's legal, federally legal hemp, and you're taking a CBD preparation with hemp, or regular marijuana [sic: urine and blood screens detect the THC metabolite, not the CBD metabolite]. So, there's some lawsuits waiting, ADA lawsuits for job loss.

DEAN BECKER: If they can't tell, you know, marijuana has just been a bugaboo, it's just been something out in the weeds, it's going to get your children, and it just -- it's just so hard for them to let go of that need to control, to control. Right?

NORMA SAPP: Right. But, there is a school of thought, and this is the training that they're going through. We actually had an impairment testing event two weeks ago in Muskogee. One of the dispensary owners down there paid for a driver, a guy that teaches people to drive cars, got a car, did the parking lot, I mean the tarmac at the Muskogee airport with cones, and we had three sets of drivers.

We had three people that were going to use cannabis, three people that were drinking alcohol, three that were texting. The texters failed right off the bat, and the drinkers made it to shot number two, and they called the third one, they weren't going to let them drive on the third one.


NORMA SAPP: And so the cannabis users, though, I watched a few of the sobriety checks, and what they had was, all through the day they had different officers coming to observe. They had county, we had the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and we had of course the city of Muskogee police there.


NORMA SAPP: And so they all wanted to see what were the markers for seeing if someone was not able to drive. So the only thing that I saw that happened was, one man that was kind of a large man, he failed on one issue. There's a place in the sobriety check where they ask you to stand on one foot, hold your other foot up about ten inches off the ground, and see how long you can stand there.

Well, his leg was shaking because he had had a shot in his butt earlier for a disc, and so he had a health condition. But, that shaking leg, oh that officer jumped on that, he showed all the other officers, see, see, that's from dabs right there, that's dabs.

But, all in all, it was a wonderful day. They came over, all the police officers came over to the tents that we had set up to see, you know, what the items were, and see what these cannabis users, how much they were ingesting, and so at that point, one of them said, is that that crack of marijuana that I've heard so much about?

And so this young lady went into a 45 minute tutorial to teach all of them, this is dabs, this is concentrate, this is the reason you use this concentrate, this here is better for certain ailments, this is a dab rig, this is the parts that go with it, this is why you do this, and all these other things that they brought they showed them for 45 minutes and they interacted. They asked questions. They wanted to know, the police officers wanted to know.

DEAN BECKER: The writing is on the wall. It really is. And I think police are going to have to give up their -- their main tool, and that is the right to say, I smell weed, get out of the car, because --

NORMA SAPP: Yeah, that's over.

DEAN BECKER: -- that is the destructor of Constitutional and basic and god-given [sic: there is no god] rights, and it deserves no place in America.

NORMA SAPP: That one's over, and now that the, even the piss testing isn't going to work because of legal hemp. It's all gone and they don't realize it. It's gone.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Norma, it's been quite a ride. It ain't over, but by god --


DEAN BECKER: -- it's good to see some progress up there in our neighboring state of Oklahoma. Is there a website you might want to recommend?

NORMA SAPP: No, I just have my facebook page, well, I have several pages, but you can find me on my facebook page under Norma Sapp.


NORMA SAPP: And you'll find a lot of information -- yes, S-A-P-P. You'll find a lot of information there, and from there you'll find the other pages where things are happening.

DEAN BECKER: Just enough time to remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

06/28/18 James Gierach

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
James Gierach
Norma Sapp
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Former Chicago prosecutor James Gierach, Lisa Raville Exec Dir Harm Reduction Action Center Denver, Norma Sapp re Okla legal Cannabis & Rep Beto O'Rourke re failure of drug war

Audio file


JUNE 28, 2018


DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, welcome to Cultural Baggage. I am the Reverend Dean Becker. We've got a quick message for you from Merle Haggard.

MERLE HAGGARD [MUSIC: "Okie from Muskogee"]
We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don't take our trips on LSD
We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street
We like livin' right, and bein' free

DEAN BECKER: Today's show will feature the thoughts of former Chicago prosecutor James Gierach as well as that of Lisa Raville, who heads up the Harm Reduction Action Center in beautiful Denver, and a quick message from US Congressman hoping to be Senator Beto O'Rourke.

Okeh, I'm a former resident of the city of Tulsa. I like Oklahoma. I like those dry breezes sometimes in the summer time, but there's a bigger breeze that swept through Oklahoma, and here to tell us about it is Norma Sapp. Norma, what just happened in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Well, we made it, even though the opposition was pulling every dirty trick they could pull. For the last two weeks, they've been running -- well, they spent one and a half million dollars on running ads, it seemed like every three minutes, with this crazy crap that wasn't even true. I think it drove people to our side, they could see that it was just hilarious, the things they were saying, like, oh now everybody's going to be lighting up in the movie theater, in the restaurants, and, oh, a veterinarian is going to write you a prescription for pot for a hangnail, and just ridiculous crap.

DEAN BECKER: But, at its heart, what has happened is you guys legalized medical marijuana. Correct?

NORMA SAPP: We did. It's hard to believe, isn't it?

DEAN BECKER: Well, I live in Texas, and it -- yeah, you guys have a lot the same perspective, attitudes, I think we do here, but you did it, and I am quite proud of you.

But, give us some of the details. How constricting and how liberal is this?

NORMA SAPP: Well, okeh, so, 788 was written with the patients in mind. It's pretty simple. It's five pages, and now we have -- the legislature is going to come back into special session and codify it. Because it was done as a statute petition, they have to codify it.

The Health Department is what 788 directed to handle the issuing of licenses and patient cards, and they have written their own proposed rules. Well, we don't really care for them, so we're going to meet on Thursday night and come up with our own proposed rules and hand it to the legislature, and they should come back into special session about the middle of July.

DEAN BECKER: Now, as I understand it, your governor is two-term limited, but she's wanting to tinker with this and maybe do some things you guys wouldn't appreciate. Correct?

NORMA SAPP: She probably would, and I don't know what the backroom deals might be, but, you know, there might be threats of I'll help you with your campaign in November if you'll do this when they meet at the special session. I have no idea what's being talked about over breakfast today.

But I know what the people want, and we are going to occupy the capitol until we get our proposed rules in place.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yeah, it was a pretty good majority, what was it, 57-43?

NORMA SAPP: It was. I think it would have been like 70 percent if all the things that happened yesterday didn't happen. Do you know there were counties, or precincts, that were withholding the ballot. It was a separate ballot for 788, and they told people that they didn't get it in that county.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, back when Harry J. Anslinger said that marijuana leads to insanity, criminality, and death, but I think the laws lead to some sort of insanity, to try to thwart the people's vote.

NORMA SAPP: Oh yes, certainly. It did lead to that.

DEAN BECKER: All these restrictions are just based in nebulous BS, and they have no connection with science or actual medical benefit. It's just -- just delay and stall.

NORMA SAPP: I know. Well, we've got to remember that we've been educating ourselves for decades, and they are just now starting to see that news.

DEAN BECKER: And again, hats off to you guys. I hope it works out real well and real smooth.

NORMA SAPP: Yeah, me too. Thank you for calling.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you, Norma. Bye bye.

NORMA SAPP: Boomer Sooner.

DEAN BECKER: Ah yes. Boomer Sooner, I hope those guys have a great success, and we can prove to these Texas legislators that they have their heads so far up their posteriors, and they need to pull it out and look around at all the progress, all the money being made.

Well let's get to our next track, there.

All right, folks. We're speaking with Mister Jim Gierach. He's a former prosecutor in the city of Chicago, was on the board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but, he's finding information and sharing it with all of us that I think should give us some concern. The United Nations Office on Drug Control has just issued a report. How are you doing, Jim?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, very good, Dean, how have you been?

DEAN BECKER: I'm well, I'm excited. Oklahoma just went and legalized medical marijuana. [unintelligible] are being directed, or primaried, around the country. There is some hope on the horizon that we're going to recognize the futility of this drug war some day soon, am I right?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, for sure. Even Canada is coming home to roost. There are signs of hope around the world that this insane drug war will eventually end.

DEAN BECKER: The UNODC report does give it some hope, does it not? If you could summarize what you found there.

JAMES GIERACH: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime annually puts out a report that's called the World Drug Report. Actually, I can't really say there's too much good news coming from the United Nations, the United Nations is the fountainhead for drug prohibition for the world, and it's the nations of the world, which then have passed national laws that criminalize the recreational use of drugs, and so the United Nations in this report has noted that there's now over 200 million people a year using illicit drugs, and yet it insists on continuing to criminalize them.

Here's the, I pulled up my website, 275 million people using drugs, and there are only ten million people locked up in the world, and these UN drug treaties, and the United Nations on Drugs and Crime, continues to insist that we criminalize these people that use drugs for recreational purpose.

The report's not good news. The report shows that women are targeted by UN drug policies so that we have thirty five percent of the offenders in prison who are women are there for drug offenses, and 19 percent of men who are in prison are there for drug offenses, so, women get a raw deal in international drug law as a consequences of the UN drug treaties.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim --

JAMES GIERACH: The -- well, let me point out just one interesting thing that this report says, is that, each year when I would go to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, and the first year I went was 2012, and then I went each year through 2015, and every year when I would go, the International Narcotic Control Board would report increasingly new developed psychoactive substances.

And then, in this report of the United Nations that just came out yesterday, they showed that in 2012, there were 269 new psychoactive substances, whereas in 2016, the most recent year statistics are available, it nearly doubled to 479 new synthetic substances.

So, the drug health of the world has gotten worse, as these drug cartels continue to invent new drugs to try to avoid the penalties that are imposed by the United Nations [sic] and United States prohibition drug laws.

DEAN BECKER: I did see some numbers that I thought indicated a better perspective, and as you mention, about 200 million using these quote illicit drugs.

JAMES GIERACH: 275 million, it's about three and a half to five percent of the people of the world ages 14 to like 65 [sic: "5.6 per cent of the global population aged 15–64 years (range: 4.2 to 7.1 per cent)"].

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, hell, I'm over 65 and I'm still using, but, okeh. And there is no benefit, there is no rational reasons to go down the same path, yet, here we go. What the hell?

JAMES GIERACH: You look to see how many people were involved in the production of this. There's huge amounts of money that go to the people who are the quote unquote experts, who are feeding off this drug war gravy train, just as law enforcement in the United States feeds off the war on drugs as a way to get overtime, more jobs, more promotions, more money for equipment, the militarization of our police departments.

The 2018 report on world drug use and drug production says that we've got the highest rates of cocaine and opiate production in the history of the world.


JAMES GIERACH: So, they've been -- the treaty, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs went into place in 1961, so, what's that, 40, 58 years of continually more and more trouble, incarceration, racial discrimination, police abuses, the corruption of police.

Yesterday's newspaper here in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times, reports a six billion dollar settlement in police wrongdoing. They've got two stories in here on cops that are being incarcerated because of stealing drugs from gangs. There's another story in the same paper that a police dog finds ten million dollars worth of weed in a traffic stop on the south side of the city of Chicago.

We've got so many killings and so much violence and so many shootings that -- that a popular reverend of a Catholic parish, it's a black parish with a white priest, who's planning on closing the Dan Ryan Expressway, which is the interstate that travels through the city of Chicago, on July Seventh to bring attention to the fact that the violence is so epidemic here in Chicago.

DEAN BECKER: I am really puzzled by the lack of focus on why all these immigrants are coming northward, why their, you know, where their children are taken from them. Too few people realize that this is because of prohibition, a large part of the reason why these people are coming northward is fleeing cartel and gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, where villages and towns are overrun, are controlled, by these barbarous actors. Your thought there, Jim Gierach.

JAMES GIERACH: Well, Central America is just such a hot spot, because Central America's between South America, Colombia, cocaine producing countries, and the United States. Opiate products that are, they're coming from Afghanistan, will travel through South and Central America, Colombia, and other places. It makes life so, so miserable, so intolerable, that they flee, that, you know, if somebody's threatening to kill you, or somebody shoots you, or somebody kills your relative or cuts off -- there's a story yesterday, some woman had like four fingers cut off, as a threat, because she wouldn't pay the cartel.

When these horrible stories happen, people try to get away from the pain, to get away from the danger, and that has them migrating to the border between Mexico and the United States. Then we have a president who says we're going to put up a wall, well, walls aren't going to help one iota.

The problem is the United States has supported a drug prohibition system, and implemented it through the United Nations by threatening other nations not to get foreign aid unless you cooperate with the United States drug program, which is prohibition, which started with this guy Anslinger, who in chasing this dream, had some horrible experience as a kid, and he used that experience to warp his thinking and to demonize drugs and to really create a world war on drugs, which is now packaged and codified into three United Nations drug treaties: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, another UN treaty on drug trafficking, another one on psychoactive substances.

But we can't solve these problems of the world, whether it's the migration, whether it's the killing or the violence or the addiction or the overdose from opiates and fentanyl being mixed, without ending the drug war. And the fountainhead for this world wide drug prohibition is the United Nations, and the United Nations operative arm is the UNODC, that put out this report, and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, but, the real -- the, really the one that spends the most money of any United Nations agency is the UNODC, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

So, if you want money in some country, you cooperate with the UNODC, and what is it they want? They want prohibition. It's a failed policy and the world will not get better until it ends this prohibition system, and the United Nations is key.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, that was James Gierach, a former prosecutor in the city of Chicago, and I would urge you to please visit

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The challenger to Ted Cruz's Senate seat, US Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

REPRESENTATIVE BETO O'ROURKE: After more than 45 years of the failed war on drugs, where the profits are still going to criminals, the cartels, and the kingpins, finally the people of this country are taking the right steps for a more rational, humane, compassionate policy when it comes to drugs.

It's part of the urgency behind this Senate race, by getting in touch with your member of Congress, your US Senator, to let them know that you want them to end this war on drugs once and for all.

DEAN BECKER: That was my good friend Beto O'Rourke, a current US Congressman running for Ted Cruz's Senate seat. I hope the vote comes out well. Hope Ted answers my emails, maybe comes on this show sometime soon. We've got one more track for you.

LISA RAVILLE: My name is Lisa Raville, I'm the executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center. We're Colorado's largest public health agency that works specifically with people who inject drugs. We're located in Denver, right across the street from the Colorado State Capitol.

DEAN BECKER: And, Lisa, you know, you guys are trying to legitimize, or somehow get certified, safe injection facilities up there, am I correct?


DEAN BECKER: And, you know, I think it's Syracuse, and New York City, and San Francisco, and Spokane [sic: Seattle/King County], and even my city of Houston, there are rumblings and mumblings about doing the same thing, and I was going to say this, last week I had the police chief of Houston, Art Acevedo came on my show, and I asked him what was his thought in regards to, should Houston consider safe injection facilities, and he seemed to be all in, indicating his willingness to at least explore the option.

And that's starting to, similar perspectives are starting to develop around the country, people are seeing that it's okeh to speak out loud about that possibility. Right?

LISA RAVILLE: Absolutely. Yeah, it's a very exciting time in the United States. Now, these have been happening outside of the country for over 20 years, in ten countries, 63 cities, and a 102 total sites, and so we've been very excited to have these conversations in the Colorado and especially Denver community, and where we've found a lot of folks really being supportive is in the business community, safe community, treatment providers, recovery community, drug users, moms, so there's been a lot of great conversations happening in our community about pushing forward for a healthier and safer Denver.

Law enforcement has been neutral on this in the Colorado community, which has been really great for us, and as we have these conversations one by one people are starting to realize it's, you know, we need this in our community to keep people alive, to take injecting out of the public sphere and to put it into a controlled environment, to reduce the acquisition of HIV and hepatitis C, to reduce skin tissue infections, and to promote proper syringe disposal. So I think this is going to be the syringe access programs of twenty years ago.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I think about the, I don't know, the failings of the drug war, how, we have these drugs circulating now, made by untrained chemists in jungle labs, then it's cut with all kinds of stuff along the way before it's sold on the streets, and I guess what I'm leading to here, Lisa, is that we couldn't do this any worse if we tried. Every aspect of prohibition sets us up for failure, death, disease, and all of these things you're fighting against. Right?

LISA RAVILLE: Absolutely. And I think for far too long we've relied on stigma, shame, and incarceration, and we know that doesn't work. We know that too many people have died of overdose, we know that too many people have been incarcerated, and then are felons, and then it's very difficult to get housing or a job or to be able to flourish after that as well.

And so, I think there is a national shift of talking about what this looks like when we don't involve the war on drug users and we start pushing forward for healthier and safer communities.

DEAN BECKER: Right, and, you know, I just wrote a piece that basically deals with the reason why we have so many people coming north from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico itself, is the violence, the violence that these drug laws create, the drugs themselves do not hold the gun, and I guess I'm a LEAP speaker and to me that's really at the heart of all this, is that we're empowering criminals worldwide by believing in this prohibition. Am I right?

LISA RAVILLE: Yes. Yeah, and I think, you know, drugs sell themselves, and people have been using drugs for years and years and years, and what does legalization look like in different communities, and I think those conversations are really starting to happen now when people, used to be incarceration or bust, you know, and now people are able to have those conversations on what that looks like for our communities, and we've already tried the old way, that certainly hasn't worked. It's never worked, for over 40 years.

And so, you know, having these conversations now, to push forward for a healthier and safer community, is absolutely key.

DEAN BECKER: Lisa, tell me how to pronounce your last name?

LISA RAVILLE: "Ray-ville".

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we're speaking with Lisa Raville, she's with the Harm Reduction Action Center up there in Denver, Colorado, and Lisa, I was going to ask you, you know, you guys are the pioneers.

It's not exactly your forte, but, medical -- excuse me, marijuana has been legal there for a few years now. It has not created the blowback, the complications, the horror that was predicted by the other side, and I guess what I'm leading to here is that it shows that we can change these drug laws without the world ending. It's an example of how we, by that I mean drug reformers, were right. Your response there, please.

LISA RAVILLE: Yes, I mean, you know, they went for a long time not being able to do anything with pot, and then all of a sudden there was this national shift, and I think those are conversations, and I feel like as part of our messaging, it was very much like, talking one on one with folks and educating them. And so, you know, we've learned a lot from the marijuana movement in Colorado and drug policy reform in general.

But we want to, you know, have these conversations and be able to break down those barriers, and, you know, reduce stigma.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Now, Lisa, you know, we, earlier we were talking about the safe injection facilities, and, that's a good idea for any city in America, and there are many states where that is permitted. In Texas, we had a law that allowed it in one city but then the mayor said hell no, and it just never has happened. We do have a few underground, I guess you say, needle exchange programs in some of the major cities, but you have -- you guys have a working, legitimate facilities for needle exchange. Correct?

LISA RAVILLE: Correct, yes. So, we're the state's largest syringe access provider. We have over 7,800 folks signed up with us. We see between 140 and 160 people per morning, where they have the opportunity to dispose properly used syringes, get access to sterile syringes to prevent and eliminate the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C in our community, offered referrals, they get access to naloxone to save someone's life in the event of an opioid or heroin overdose, health education classes, street outreach, and then we do that advocacy.

So we've passed seven pieces of statewide legislation in the last nine years. Four to reduce the harms associated with overdose, and three to reduce the harms associated with syringe criminalization, which is why we continue to put forward that the street should influence the policies at the state level, and which is why we're pushing forward with the supervised consumption site here in Denver.

DEAN BECKER: And, you -- sorry. Yeah, you know, my goal is to educate the county commissioners, the city council members, you know, to speak with law enforcement officials, judges, to get people whose stature is respected, to speak up for the need, because we're going to have to work through the legislature here.


DEAN BECKER: And, I was going to ask you how did you guys legitimize, or certify, needle exchange programs, because I guess that will be our first step.

LISA RAVILLE: Yes. So, it became the perfect storm. So in 2009, our then-governor, towards the end of the year and beginning of 2010, said he wasn't going to run for re-election. So we were able to push forward and in 2010, 81 of the 100 state legislators voted in support of syringe access programs.

And it was very helpful because, you know, the -- non-elected drug users come out and speak on behalf in trying to push forward, but also physicians, and, you know, the larger community coming out and saying we need to be able to try this. It's not revolutionary, it's just good public health.

And so, I thought when a bill becomes a law, a bill becomes a law, and you move on with your life. Problem was, the -- we pass the legislation, and was signed May 26, 2010, however it took 21 months to be able to begin. So it was actually very frustrating, too, so step one is passing, you know, the legislation. Step two through ten are all about implementation.

So, that can be where people start dragging their feet, once it's actually passed, as well. So some people in the community think I'm an advocate, others think I'm a nag, but it's important that, you know, like, we've passed the legislation, and then push forward to be able to implement that legislation.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm proud, or, I don't know, hopeful, I guess, is that, you know, that the district attorney, the sheriff, the police chief, listen to me, and we came up with a law a little over, well it's a year and a half old now, Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, where they no longer arrest people. Stupid kids, mostly, out there on the street, for four ounces or less of marijuana.

And I guess what I'm hoping is that I can stair step from that to show that, hey, I was right then, at least think about, consider, you know, needle exchange and or a safe injection facility. Get the ministers and the cops and, you know, the muckety-mucks to go along with the idea, because, as you guys have indicated and as these safe -- and as these safe injection facilities around the world show us, it saves lives, it saves futures. It saves money. It saves law enforcement. Right?

LISA RAVILLE: Yes, absolutely. And I think when you, you know, when you have those conversations, you know, we work within the harm reduction movement, so sometimes you have to meet these decision makers where they're at on the spectrum of change, right?

And continue to have those educational opportunities, and people do shift, and do want to do the right thing, and so I think, you know, continuing to have those conversations is key, and it will continue to save lives in all of our communities.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again we've been speaking with Lisa Raville, she's with the Harm Reduction Action Center up there in Denver, Colorado, doing great stuff. Lisa, I hope that we can continue this, that we can, I don't know, combine forces with folks in Spokane [sic], New York City, Seattle, to learn from and help promote each other's efforts over the coming months and years.

LISA RAVILLE: I would love that. Thanks so much, Dean, for having me.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Their website, please visit

All right, folks, thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to thank Jim Gierach and Lisa and Congressman O'Rourke. I want to thank you for listening especially because you can help swing this cat, you can help make the change, so I would urge you to pick up phone, call your representatives, visit our website, There's nearly seven thousand of my radio programs available there for your listening.

Again, I would just hope you would do your part. Stand up. Speak up. Make the change happen, because otherwise they're going to devour all your rights and just rob us of a future. And 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.