12/24/08 - Stephen Frye

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Dr. Stephen Frye, author of "We Really Lost This War - Twenty Five Reasons to Legalize Drugs" + Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies re war in Mexico & Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project

Audio file

Cultural Baggage, December 24, 2008

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

It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American….. ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘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.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this holiday edition of Cultural Baggage. Today we’ll hear from Sanho Tree, of The Institute for Policy Studies, about the horrible situation going on in Mexico. We’ll hear from Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project but first, we’re privileged to have with us the author of a great new book.

He’s written, "We Really Lost This War - Twenty Five Reasons to Legalize Drugs" and with that, let’s go ahead and welcome Stephen Fry. Hello, Sir.

Stephen Fry: Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be with you, Dean. I want to wish you and your listeners a Wonderful Christmas and a Phenomenal Holiday Season and let’s hope that in 2009 we can see an end to this catastrophic war.

Dean Becker: Well, I like the heck out of that. Stephen, now, your book, I admit, is so massive, I didn’t have time to finish it, before we conducted this interview…

Stephen Fry: I’ve been told it’s an encyclopedia of drug war facts and drug czar lies.

Dean Becker: Exactly. It boils down to this, that it kind of compiles all the various reasons that this drug war has gone wrong. All the ways that we can change our society and even the whole world, if we just redirect our efforts. Right?

Stephen Fry: Absolutely. It’s a catastrophic failure. Catastrophic for children, for women, for men, for African-American’s, for other countries. We’re now exporting death. There’ve been 5000 deaths in Mexico this year so far, due to our drug war. The drug war kills far more people than drugs, Dean.

Dean Becker: Exactly and there’s, sadly, the chance that Mexico’s going to go over 6,000 before this year is over. They keep finding the bodies, the headless bodies, just all over the place.

Now, you have a very powerful chapter in there that talks about, ‘The Big Lie’ and that’s the big lie spread by drug czar and his minions, that the Netherlands has gone to Hell in a hand-basket, with their drug policy…

Stephen Fry: Right.

Dean Becker: …and explain that for the listeners.

Stephen Fry: Well, ok. I’m a retired medical school professor and so, what I did was to do a medical evaluation of the war on drugs. The way we deal with every drug is to look at the benefits and the side effects and the toxicity.

So, I decided to take a look at the toxicity of the drug war and the toxicity of prison and compare that with the toxicity of drugs. What I found that in every case was, the drugs are more benign than the drug war and the drugs are more benign than prison.

As you point out, then I said, ’Well, what does work?’ and when I interviewed people from the Netherlands and researched in great depth, I found that the Netherlands has had legalized drugs for 32 years.

We have 6 times their rate of incarceration. Six hundred percent more people in prison per hundred thousand, than they do. We have five times (five hundred percent) more hard drug use, than they do and we have four hundred percent, four times, their murder rate.

Everything they do works. Everything we do, does not work. We are never going to get to zero drug use.

I have a chapter in my book called, “Even Animals Get High’. From Ants thru Elephants, brains love to be intoxicated. So we are not going to eliminate drug use. We are not going to eliminate alcohol use.

The question then becomes, harm reduction and how can we get the minimum amount of damage out of drug use? Marijuana is the safest recreational, over the counter or prescription drug in history. It is impossible to die from marijuana.

Dean Becker: You mentioned how deadly the prisons are and I’m trying to remember the stat, that a third of the pris….

Stephen Fry: OK. Let me refresh your memory on this. It shocks everyone. One third of prisoners are dead by age 45 and two thirds are re-arrested within 3 years and others are re-arrested in years 4 and 5. Which means, in essence, that prison kills more people than it rehabilitates.

Prison is career college for criminals. When a person goes into prison, just for smoking some pot or even selling some pot, when he comes out he’s a convicted felon. He cannot get any other job. All that he can do is return to crime and selling drugs and that’s one of the three ways that our drug war has perpetuated our drug epidemic.

We have created this huge problem. The United States has 5% of the worlds population but we use 60% of the worlds drugs now and the drug czar tells us, ‘We‘re winning the war on drugs.’

Dean Becker: Well, just last week, Ethan Nadelmann kind of went mono o mono with John Walters on the op-end page of The Wall Street Journal and Walters started off his soliloquy with the thought that the success of the drug war is the least known secret in Washington D.C. Your thoughts.

Stephen Fry: It’s the least known secret because it’s the biggest lie. My letter was published last Saturday, in response to the lies of Czar Walters. Unfortunately they cut out about half of my letter.

There has been a book written by two professors called, “Lies, Damn Lies and Drug War Statistics - The Failure of the ONDCP” (Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy) and they go through the detailed analysis of the lies of the ONDCP and conclude it, as a massive failure.

The war on drugs is catastrophic. We have more drug use than any other country in the world. We have more teenagers selling drugs than any other country in the world. We have a million teenagers now, selling drugs as a result of the Rockefeller Laws.

When the drug dealers and drug cartels were told that they were going to get high sentences for sending, for adults going to prison for selling drugs, they then use teenagers, 16 and 17 year olds as mules and as drug dealers.

It was a gift to the drug cartels because it opened up an entire new market and we now have a million teenagers selling drugs. We have teen gangs that are out of control.

Our teenage murder rate, I decided to check our teenage murder rate against the Netherlands. Our murder rate is not twice as high as theirs, Dean. It’s not ten times as high. Our teenage murder rate is nineteen times as high. But because it predominately African American’s, we don’t get upset about this.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Stephen Fry: If a white kid’s being killed in these numbers, man this policy would change in fifteen minutes.

Dean Becker: As I indicated earlier, we’re speaking with Dr. Stephen Fry, author of a great book, "We Really Lost This War - Twenty Five Reasons to Legalize Drugs”.

Steve, you have in there a chapter on, The Extreme Environmental Toxicity and they’re complaining about here, they’re growing marijuana up in National Parks and leaving trash and stuff but, it’s beyond that too. We have the same thing in Columbia, where they tear up parts of the jungle and then they make this concoction and then drain all of these chemicals into the Amazon. It’s…

Stephen Fry: You have read more of my book than any. I’ve been on at least a dozen radio shows and you have read more than any other interviewer, Dean. Congratulations.

Well, one corner of the Amazon Rainforest has been deforested as a result of the drug war. That’s equivalent to the entire state of Connecticut, Delaware and two Rhode Island’s. Six million acres have been deforested. That contributes significantly to Global Warming.

Then we put millions of tons, 600 million liters which is 300 million 2 liter bottles (everybody knows what a 2 liter bottle of Coke looks like), 300 million 2 liter bottles of Coke worth of chemicals, had been spilled into the ground during the processing of these drugs.

Every meth lab in this country is a toxic waste dump. OSHA does not go into meth labs and check. They just pour the chemicals into the rivers and streams in the backyard. It’s unbelievable the ecological damage that has been done and then we waste, the other side of that is, we waste the huge benefit of hemp.

Hemp could take care of most of our energy needs. We grow four crops a year and we have 20 states that have the right climate to grow it. It’s an amazing Global Warming powerhouse that’s wasted. The drug war says that hemp is a variety of Cannabis and therefore we have to keep them both illegal.

Well, you can never get high on hemp and you can never grow fuel or paper or wood, out of marijuana. Marijuana’s the biggest cash crop in the United States and the biggest cash crop in Canada, which is indicative of how badly we’ve lost this war.

Dean Becker: Well, there’s this situation that, in Afghanistan, where they are the worlds leading producer of Opium and Heroin...

Stephen Fry: Right.

Dean Becker: …and they’ve also come back to be the worlds leading producer of Cannabis now. Tell us about the fallacy of that whole situation.

Stephen Fry: Well, here we are. We have an army on the ground in Afghanistan. So you would think that, with in addition to the billions that we pay them ’not’ to grow Poppy (which makes Heroin), you’d think that with an army there, we would really be able to control it.

Well, while we have an army there, they increased production last year by 50%. Another example of the failure of the war on drugs and how catastrophic it is.

Dean Becker. We have, over the years, invested over a trillion dollars and a lot of folks don’t look at the fact that over that same time frame, we’ve given about 10 trillion to the terrorists, the cartels, the gangs and the street corner vendors.

Stephen Fry: We fund terrorism. How immoral is it for us to fight a war in Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children while at the same time, we fund terrorist with our drug war? To me that’s just gross immorality.

Dean Becker: We had a guest, just a few weeks back, Mr. Cele Castillo, a former DEA Agent, Iran Contra whistle blower and he got caught selling guns at a gun show, without the proper paperwork and they’re going to send him to prison. Now, we’re just loosing all our Constitutional Rights because of this ‘war’ in Mexico and the hopelessness of it all.

Stephen Fry: It’s another chapter in my book and by the way. The book is available on my website, 25reasons.org and it’s also got the table of contents and we’re nominating the Netherlands for a Nobel Prize. I’ve initiated that action, because of their huge success.

So, anybody that’s interested in nominating the Netherlands, that’s a judge or professor or several other categories, can go to the website, 25reasons.org and get the information about nominating the Netherlands.

Maybe since it’s the Christmas season we should talk about partying and marijuana a little bit.

Dean Becker: Well, alright. What have you got to offer?

Stephen Fry: Well, marijuana is the safest party drug in the world. You cannot die from marijuana. Two thousand college students die every year from alcohol, yet we will not allow them to legally do marijuana. That means, two thousand families are devastated this Christmas and every Christmas. It’s unbelievable.

We have a hundred thousand vehicular deaths due to alcohol, you can drive safely under marijuana. There’ve been two studies. One done by the United States Highway Traffic Safety Commission and one done in New Zeeland and there’s no increase in accidents doing marijuana, because you drive much more slowly. Actually, it’s safer to drive on pot than it is on Orange Juice. {chuckling}

Dean Becker: Well it’s…

Stephen Fry: Marijuana is a miracle drug. It’s harmless. It’s not addictive. It’s absolutely not a gateway drug. Everything the United States government has told us about drugs is an absolute lie, without any question.

Dean Becker: One of the early chapters deals with that fact that it was a member of the American Medical Association who protested the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937...

Stephen Fry: The AMA testified against the original criminalization. The only thing that has ever worked to reduce drug demand and drug use, is treatment and education. Nothing else has ever worked.

There’s a fabulous study out of Switzerland that I love. Just came out last year. The Swiss Government decided to give it’s worst hard core heroin addicts, free heroin and needles.

Heroin, Poppy and Cocca and marijuana are all weeds. They grow anyplace. It’s not like growing expensive Orchids. They’re cheap to grow and cheap to process.

So, the Swiss Government decided, instead of making these people criminals and having to rob people to get money for their drugs, they would give them free Heroin and free needles.

Now, these are the worst methadone resistant, treatment resistant cases. They gave them the free Heroin and free needles and five years later, 80% cleaned up their act. Just last month, the Swiss people overwhelmingly voted to make this a permanent program. Isn’t that amazing?

Dean Becker: It is amazing and we have, through this process of prohibition, created a situation where it’s bulky to import Cocca, let alone smuggle it through Customs and the same would hold true for opium vs. heroin. So, we’ve created this situation where only the most deadly and dangerous drugs make it to our shores. You thoughts on that.

Stephen Fry: What happens is, it’s the drug cartels are able to hire pharmacologists and chemists to make more potent drugs, to make it easier to smuggle them in. I mean, they’ve got billions of dollars. Just like our universities can create new cholesterol and blood pressure drugs, the cartels can create new and more dangerous street drugs, and they have.

I mean, the entire meth epidemic occurred while our drug war was in full testimonial and was in full offensive and the failure of us to control meth, as a testimonial to the failure of the drug war and a testimonial to the victory of drug cartels and drug dealers, over this failed war.

Dean Becker: I have a friend here, a law professor, who likes to draw the analogy that, ’Given the proper circumstance, that you can make a diluted version of cocaine that would be priced, pretty much at the same as that instant iced tea. ’Cause they’re both just derived from leaves.

Stephen Fry: Well, sure. When I was in South America at Machu Picchu, high in the mountains, when you get off the airplane they give you a cup of Cocca tea to help you with altitude adjustment. It’s perfectly fine. It tastes like any other tea and it helps your blood pressure control with the fact that you’re at 9,000 feet or some very high altitude without an opportunity to adjust to it.

So, I mean Cocca… Sigmund Freud experimented with cocaine. It’s used for pain relief. I’m not in favor of people partying with cocaine at all, but it’s much better than going to jail and having your life ruined by a record and becoming a career criminal.

If somebody chooses to get drunk, so be it. If somebody chooses to party with cocaine, so be it. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to spend billions of dollars to put them in prison and destroy their lives and their families’ lives.

Dean Becker: I like to look at this drug war, to observe this drug war, as in essence, a real life ‘minority-report’ scenario, if you know what I’m talking about, that movie where they see into the future and to prevent those future crimes, they’re going to stop you now, while you’re testing these drugs.

Stephen Fry: The only problem is that it doesn’t prevent crime, it creates crime. Every judge will tell you that, 80 to 90% of all crime, is committed to get money for drugs or in the process of selling drugs. That’s why we have six times as many people in prison as the Netherlands and four times their murder rate.

Dean Becker: We’re talking to Dr. Stephen Fry, author of, "We Really Lost This War - Twenty Five Reasons to Legalize Drugs". Steve, we’re going to have to wrap this up here in a few minutes but, I want to delve into this one issue and it deals with,

‘We have, over the years, created this situation that was based on propaganda, hysteria, fear and yet over those same 30, 50, 90 years, however you want to look at it, there have been many commissions and independent organizations that have looked at this situation and they have never recommended that we continue down this same road.

Stephen Fry: That is correct. All twenty-three commissions, in five different continents that have looked at this, including the DEA’s own judge, have said that we need to reform this system. Every single one. There is not one commission that says that we’re winning the war on drugs, that we need to contend. The United Nations keeps coming up with these plans under the influence of the United States.

They are all catastrophic failures. We were going to eliminate drugs by 2008. That was the 10 year project starting 10 years ago. Well, not only have we not eliminated them, we have more drugs available, more people using them, than at any time in history.

So, they’re all gross failures and the Netherlands has the answer and Switzerland and other European countries are starting to follow them because they realize that the criminalization and drug war approach is a total failure and can never win. It just perpetuates crime and puts money out there for the criminal element and even funds terrorism.

Dean Becker: Steve, you’ve created, I think, a very fine book, a good map, for all of us to study and learn from. The truth is, we need to redirect our efforts and I think your book will help get that done. Your website, Sir, please.

Stephen Fry: Our website it 25reasons.org and I think that we have an opportunity now with the Obama administration and the need for change, to make a major change. The two marijuana initiatives that were on the ballot last month. Both passed by two to one margins including decriminalization in Massachusetts.

The $80 billion we spend a year on the drug war, could pay for half of a National Health Plan and actually give us some value for our money instead of the wasted money we have on the drug war.

I want to thank you very much for having me on your program. I would love to be with you again in 2009 and I want to wish you and all your listeners, a fabulous Christmas season and a very successful 2009.

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I’m Sanho Tree. I’m a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. and I run the Drug Policy Project.

Dean Becker: Sanho, I live here in Texas and everyday, I’m seeing the stories about more deaths, more beheadings, more people caught in the crossfire. What’s your observation, there in D.C. of what’s going on? Do you hear the news?

Sanho Tree: Yeah. It’s all over the media. All over the country and the world, in fact. The blood bath is just, it’s unmitigated and it’s something that unfortunately was predicted.

I recall, last year, before the Merida initiative was passed, telling staffers on Capitol Hill this would happen. It’s counter intuitive, but when you have this kind of a turf battle going on between rival cartels, the worst thing the state can do, is get in the middle of that.

It’s somewhat analogous to our domestic drug war. For instant in our cities, it’s not the best idea to close down an open air drug market necessarily, in cities in the United States, and that’s because that’s a known place where people go to buy drugs.

It’s a drug trafficking area and if you pull a small time dealer off that street corner, you’ve opened up a very valuable piece of real estate and so other groups move in to try to take over that space. Because, that’s where people go to buy drugs and you can’t really go a judge and say, ‘Your Honor, I’ve been dealing drugs in the city for fifteen years and here comes this up-start gang across town moving in on my turf.’ So, the way they settle that is with violence or threats of violence.

You can see that in the macro level in Mexico where you have The Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel are having this ongoing turf battle and President Calderón’s reaction, when he first came into office, was to be Mr. Tough Guy. ’I’m going to go down there and kick some butt and put the army in there.’ and all it does is keep these rival cartels off balance. Because the profit is so extreme, they’re going to keep struggling to get the upper hand. So, this is an endless cycle.

Dean Becker: It has ratcheted up the level of violence to the point where the cartels now even hang bodies from the bridge with a big banner, telling the cops, ‘You’re next.’ It’s just not working out, is it?

Sanho Tree: Yeah. Not only hanging bodies, but decapitated bodies as well. The level of violence go well beyond the kinds of stuff I’m dealing with in Columbia and that’s a very vicious conflict. It’s too bad, because so many of the solutions to these problems, or the way to manage these problems, are counter intuitive.

When you have these criminal organizations running amok like this, the knee-jerk response is to bring in law enforcement to make them stop. But, as long as you have the two variables, one is high demand in places like the United States and the second is the economics of drug prohibition, which makes these thing so incredibly profitable.

As long as you have those two and you can’t get rid of those two variables, than if you’re concerned about reducing violence, the best thing the state can do is, get out of the way and let the rival cartels settle this. One will get the upper hand and will go back to the status quo ante and they’ll go back to the business of trafficking drugs.

They’re not in the business of killing each other, their in the business of making money and as long as there is this imbalance in Mexico, you’re going to see them fighting over that turf.

Dean Becker: The impact of this, I mean, it’s spreading to South Africa, it’s spreading to other locals around the world where, heretofore it just didn’t exist. Right?

Sanho Tree: Yeah. West Africa’s a very good example. In places like Guinea-Bissau where you have a very, very weak state and very weak law enforcement and very low public salaries, it becomes very easy for drug trafficking organizations to take over those kinds of countries and challenge their national sovereignty.

Right now, these countries are open for business and that’s become a major trafficking corridor now, from South America to Europe. So, it’s plaguing countries that never before had these kinds of drug problems.

Dean Becker: So the harder we fight it, the just the worse it gets, eh?

Sanho Tree: Yeah. Again, the solutions are counter intuitive. But being tough is not the same as being effective. That’s where the politicians, they don’t know how to communicate that.

Dean Becker: Alright. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Sanho Tree of The Institute for Policy Studies. Sanho, please share your website.

Sanho Tree: It’s www.ips-dc.org

Hi, I’m Bruce Mirken and I am director of communications for The Marijuana Policy Project.

Dean Becker: Well Bruce, 2008 is drawing to a conclusion here. 2009 on the horizon. Looking back, what do you observe from this year?

Bruce Mirken: Well, 2008 was a really successful year, for marijuana policy reform. We didn’t solve all the problems but, we took a couple of big steps in the state of Michigan. Michigan became the 13th state to allow medical marijuana, passing it by the biggest margin ever, 63% of the vote.

In Massachusetts, voters voted to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce, replacing criminal penalties with a $100’s, basically a traffic ticket. First time a law like that has ever been passed by a vote of the people, again by a whopping margin, 65%.

We got ourselves a new President, who is not somebody who’s has made drug policy his number one issue, by any means, but shows glimmers of reasonableness, which we haven’t seen in a very long time and who has specifically said that he would end the DEA raids in medical marijuana states, like California.

So, we’ve got a bunch of very solid political developments. Also, several unfriendly members of congress got kicked out of office and there was some interesting new data that came out through the year too, which further bolsters our case.

We haven’t solved anything completely yet but we can genuinely feel, I think at the end of this year, like we’ve made some real progress.

Dean Becker: …and the impetus is there to continue. The state of New Jersey shows some indications they might become the 14th state, right?

Bruce Mirken: Well, the medical marijuana bill there just passed a crucial committee vote yesterday, by a vote of 6 to 1. Several newspapers in the state came out to editorially, just in the last day or two, in favor of the bill.

So, yeah and the governor said he will sign it if it reaches his desk. So there seems to be some momentum there. We are anticipating that there will be some progress in a couple of more states, when their legislatures comes back into session next year. The most obvious possibilities being New York and Minnesota.

The fact that there’s now a democratic majority in both houses of the New York legislature, is very helpful. The republicans, in the Senate, were being difficult and we‘ve got a governor who appears to be sympathetic, in New York.

So, we’ve got definite possibilities for progress and it’s worth mentioning, I talked briefly about data. It’s worth mentioning on the medical marijuana front, we’ve had three studies, from The University of California, published in the last two years, showing that marijuana relieves neuropathic pain, pain from nerve damage, which is a type of pain that is not easily treated by conventional pain drugs. It’s safe, it’s effective, it works. Three different published studies have shown it.

So we now have recent, solid, state of the art, clinical evidence to hold up in front of these legislatures and say, ’This is real. This is not a game. This is actual relief of suffering that you can help us bring about.”

Dean Becker: You know, there is this new administration and they have indicated a willingness to accept science over dogma. So perhaps, there is hope.

Alright. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications for The Marijuana Policy Project. Bruce, send them to your website, please.

Bruce Mirken: Absolutely. Please check out our website at, mpp.org

My friend, the change you are seeking this holiday season, is waiting on you.

As always, I remind you, that 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.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org