04/05/09 - Roger Goodman

Roger Goodman, a Washington State Rep. and director of the King County Bar Associations' drug policy group, discusses regulation and rules necessary to end drug prohibition + US Senator Jim Webb outlines the need to reform America's prison industrial complex.

Century of Lies
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Roger Goodman
King County Bar Association
Download: Audio icon COL_040509.mp3


Century of Lies, April 5, 2009

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more, now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Join us this week. We’re going to Seattle to talk to our good friend, Washington State Rep. Roger Goodman.

We have, over the past few weeks, been trying to bring focus to bare on what must be done, now that the drug war is beginning to crumble and try to determine which direction; which tactics; which truths will stand the test of time better than this hundred year old drug war and to help us in that investigation, to outline, maybe, some better ideas and ways we can go about this, I’m proud to have with us a Representative from Washington State, Mr. Roger Goodman. Hello, Sir.

Rep. Roger Goodman: Hey, Dean. How are you doing? Good to talk to you again.

Dean Becker: Well, same here. We have the privilege to bring you back, every year or two, to kick this around. For those who may not know, you were elected a few years back as a state representative, right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: That’s right. I’m in my second term now.

Dean Becker: Second term and… Washington State has seen the light long before most of the other states, especially in regards to medical marijuana. Am I correct?

Rep. Roger Goodman: That’s true. We enacted a medical marijuana law, by vote of the people, eleven years ago. So it’s been a decade, now.

Dean Becker: You have over those years, kind of, mellowed out, if you will, I think. It was reported in many papers of late. They were talking about Gil Kerlikowske and the fact that during Hempfest, there are few, if any, marijuana arrests, despite the fact that it’s everywhere. Right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah. I guess we’re ahead of the curve, I mean, instead of good news/bad news, out here on the left coast, we have cranked the drug war down considerably, so the… you know, the people who are in prison; there’s are fewer of them now who are there, just for drug charges only.

We’ve got drug courts and diversion programs. We are definitely going easy on marijuana arrests, when it comes to the city of Seattle. A lot more treatment funding and that sort of thing. But you know, the bad news is the drug war grinds on.

We’re still putting thousands of people in jails and prisons for chips and rock, or small amounts of marijuana possession. So like I said, it’s good news and bad news. We may be leading the Nation in some of the reforms, but we’ve still got the structural problems; the fundamental problem of prohibition weighing down heavily on our criminal justice system and sapping a lot of money out of the budget.

Dean Becker: As it does all across this country.

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah.

Dean Becker: We first met up 7 years ago, I think, when you were involved, and I think are still involved, with the King County Bar Association? Right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: That’s right. The legislature here in Washington is a part-time legislature instead of a citizen legislature and so, in the off season, or for most of the year actually, I am working with the King County Bas Association. I’m actually the Executive Director of a Voluntary Committee of Lawyers and I want your listeners to know about the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. You should go to vcl.org.

Voluntary Committee of Lawyers is working with Bar Association’s all over the country to get the committee’s, task force’s, discussion’s started, to talk about the drug war and how damaging it is to the legal system and to our society at large and what we found, is that by getting the Bar Association’s to speak up, people listen.

So we’ve been making progress in Massachusetts, in Connecticut, New York, Colorado, Wisconsin, I could go all over the country. We’ve got projects up and running in a lot of different places. So, it’s pretty exciting.

We see things getting very close now to a major change and so, the idea is to get the Bar Association’s to speak up to give legislator’s comfort, that is not just a bunch of ‘fringy’ people, that this is really a main stream issue.

Dean Becker: Now speaking of which, it was a couple of years back, I think, that I went up to Seattle. I attended a conference and… (excuse me if I get this wrong, but) “After Prohibition, Now What?” What? Was that the title?

Rep. Roger Goodman: What did we call it? … … “Exit Strategy For the War on Drugs”.

Dean Becker: …and there was a gathering of Lawyer’s and Prosecutor’s, Psychiatrist’s , Doctor’s, Scientist’s; experienced people who’s expertise we should appreciate and you guy’s were able to formulate several tactics; game plans, if you will, on how to handle the situation after prohibition. You want to give us a couple of examples?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah. This is the message that… I talk about the ‘failed’ war on drugs. There’s no need to talk about, as far as I’m concerned, why it’s not working or the fact that it’s not working. It’s just not working and people know that. So what I do is, I talk about the ’failed’ war on drugs and then go right into the need for alternatives and this is what people are hungering for.

So yeah, we had a conference with all the respected professional and civic, religious leader’s to really get into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what an Alternative System of Regulation and Control would look like as opposed to the current chaos that we have with prohibition. The illegal markets out there are totally ‘out of control’ and so, you have to go drug by drug.

With marijuana, I think securing a medical supply at reasonable cost, for those who use it for medical purposes, growing your own; home production and consumption, non-commercial exchanges.

That would be sort of the next step and then availability, controlled availability to adults - probably through a strict state controlled system, would be the next step and then, you’d have a regulated market.

Of course, federal law is going to have to yield here and that’s one major project that the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers is working on right now, with the American Bar Association and when the US Congress… because right now, federal law doesn’t allow for this sort of, like I was saying, controlled availability to adults, in a state controlled system. Federal law would have to be changed to allow that to happen.

Dean Becker: All right, my friends. You are listening to the Century of Lies show on the Drug Truth Network. We’re talking with Roger Goodman. He’s a representative for the state of Washington. He’s been twice elected, while calling for the end of drug prohibition.

You know a lot of folks tell me, ‘How can you trust that it’s going to work out; that it’s going to be any better?’ There is a country that did decided to forego the draconian measures of the drug war and to treat it more as a health issue and that’s the nation of Portugal. Your thoughts, Sir? I mean, even the United States, a hundred years ago, is another example. Right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah. Portugal has seen the light. I mean, in the context of prohibition, Portugal’s done about the best you can do to intervene in a health related way, not a punitive criminal justice type of approach, so people get counseling and so forth. It’s still a paternalistic model, where you have the government watching you and telling you what you’re doing is wrong or bad for you.

I guess I’m more on the libertarian side. I think people should be able to do whatever they want, as long as they don’t harm somebody else; primary physical harm, to somebody else. But yeah, Portugal’s a good example of pragmatism. Of course, the Netherland and Germany and Switzerland and a number of other European countries have been much more pragmatic in addressing the harms of drug use.

Still, we have these markets of the perpetual problems is the markets, the drug markets and nobody, no one on the planet yet has figured out a way to undercut the profit for the markets and bring the drugs under control rather than leave them up to criminals. That’s something we’ve got to start working on now.

Dean Becker: We have a very barbarous situation down in Mexico. We’ve got the ongoing wars, in Afghanistan, that revolve around the production and sale of drugs, in order to buy bigger and better weapons with which to kill us, right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah, Dean. I have to say, we are almost there. The, and I hate to say… that, your listener’s in Texas might start to be a little bit more careful, because the violence in Mexico is about to spill across the border. Once it does, in addition to all the talk and the editorial pages and on the television about the drug war, about the important signals that the Obama Administration has made now to shift it’s focus. The violence, like I said, spilling across the border.

We are going to have to take some action soon and I think, we’re almost there, to take a critical look at the whole picture. Not sort of tweaking around the edges, but realizing that this is just a re-play of the 1920’s when we prohibited alcohol and all it resulted in was increased crime and corruption and harm to people and we can’t afford it anymore. See, that’s the thing.

The economy is tanked. States have no money. Local cities and counties, they don’t have any money. We’re working here; I’m working in the state legislature here in Washington State to find, desperately to find, ways to save money. So, we’re looking at criminal justice. So all these things together, I guess you could call it ‘Perfect Storm’. But the Texas border, take a close look. That might actually be the ‘spark’ that gets real reform going.

Dean Becker: It wasn’t that long ago that there were just a handful of elected officials, willing to even talk about this drug war; to talk about regulation control or legalization. But I think, if I dare say, there are several score, perhaps even a hundred now, nationwide that are like you, willing to address this issue and if I remember right, your opponent, in this last election cycle, had a lot of similar thoughts. It’s not that rare anymore, is it?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah. Let me tell you the timeline here. OK. So, three years ago I ran for office. I was the sort of renegade, grenade thrower, unpredictable, radical guy. Because if you ’Google’ Roger Goodman or Roger Goodman drugs, you’ll find all the things I talk about. ‘The fact that prohibition doesn’t work.’ ‘We need to assert regulatory control.’ People were sort of translating it to like… we’re going to legalize drugs and hand it out to kids in school yard or something.

But anyway, when my opponent, in my first election, hit me on that, my poll numbers went up. I got more votes after people found out what I’m working on to find this exit strategy for the war on drugs and so that backfired, for sure. The people get it, you know?

Now, just last year, I had an opponent who agrees with me that the war on drugs is a failure. He’s on the republican side but he’s also strongly libertarian and so he actually criticized me, in public, for not being aggressive enough… {laughter} … on drug policy reform.

So in a two year period, we had a switch all the way from one side to the other, where first of all I’m going to end civilization as we know it and then on the other side, I’m not doing enough. So again, the people get, the politicians are a little bit less afraid.

We still have a long way to go inside of the chambers of the legislature, but to a person, when I talk to them confidentially, my colleague’s in the legislature and other public officials all agree, that the policy’s broken and we need to change it.

Dean Becker: Even in Texas, in this last election cycle, many republicans were swept out and democrats were put in their place. Not too much talk about drug policy/drug reform, but I think it does show that we’re moving in a new direction, even here in Texas.

Rep. Roger Goodman: Well, I’m not sure, Dean. I hate to say that the drug war has been a bipartisan disaster. Democrats sometimes are more complaisant even than the republicans because the democrats are afraid of looking ‘soft on crime’ if they suggest any changes and in fact, if you go back to the 1980’s, it was Tip O’Neal, speaker of the House, responding to the death of Lenny Bias, the Celtic star, and he’s the one who got tough.

He’s the one who got the legislation passed to double and triple prison sentences. So I have to say that both democrats and republicans have been equally guilty in perpetuating this policy. So, sometimes you need kind of like a ‘Nixon to go to China’ right? In this state I have to say, it was the Republican County Prosecutor from the Seattle area who really led the charge a few years ago. So, sometimes we have odd bedfellows in these matters.

Dean Becker: Well, you’ll have to forgive me. When you live in Morador, you look for any glimmer of hope. {laughter}

Rep. Roger Goodman: I guess in Harris County, a democrat is better than… well, the alternative.

Dean Becker: You bet. You bet. We were talking about elected officials, more and more of them speaking up. We’ve kind of been looking for the ‘big guy’, the one with the clout. The one who’s words would be heeded and perhaps we have that man now, coming to the fore just this past week. Parade Magazine had a major article by Senator Jim Webb. Your thoughts?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yeah. Senator Webb has the credentials; military veteran, US Senator, highly respected, speaking very rationally and comprehensibly too, about the need to reform criminal justice. (Boy, I’m going to angle to get on that commission that he’s been proposing.) This is a critical step. Sit everybody down and talk about it and that will lead to statutory changes and changes in policy.

I absolutely admire and honor Senator Webb for stepping out on this. But you know what? Like we said, this is a mainstream issue, now. It’s not a fringe issue. This is in the media, everyday and people are really talking about it. We’re coming to a ‘tipping point‘.

So Senator Webb, of course, is one of the leaders in this and then all across the country other folks, I dare say like myself, in positions of the public trust, are talking about a lot more, too.

Dean Becker: Well, you know it’s on the local network channel news here, of course being in Texas, but I’m also thrilled that on all the major network news shows and the cable news shows, it’s not 24/7 but by God, it’s up there in the number of guests who’ve been on Drug Truth Network programs that are now out there on the mainstream. It’s day has come. Right?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Yes and while I, myself am a… you might have heard of the travel writer, Rick Steves, who’s a sort of a square looking fella. Well, he’s strongly supporting the need to change the marijuana laws.

Rick lives in the Seattle area and he and I are going on stage in some of the biggest cities across the states to ‘standing room only’ crowds and we’re not talking about sort of self selecting audiences of marijuana users, we’re talking about PTA members and school boards and city counselors and so forth, very enthusiastically greeting this message.

Like I say, it really is becoming more of a mainstream issue. We just have to keep talking about it.

Dean Becker: As an elected official, I want to ask you if you have a bench mark or if your cohorts in the legislature have a benchmark? How much weight do they lend to emails and phone calls and hand written letters, from their constituents?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Well, hand written letters of course, make more of a difference. We don’t get a lot of those lately. I get thousands and thousands of emails. I do actually read them and put them in piles. Personal visits of course, if you’re going to come all the way to the state capitol, are highly valued. So let me give you an example here.

The most emails I’ve received are about education. We need to improve our public education system. It’s pretty clear and we’re getting a lot of comments from the voters on that.

The second is probably, spaying and neutering your pets. People are concerned about that. You know, there’s maybe some group that got everyone to email me. But third on the list, is marijuana decriminalization. I have gotten so many emails on that and yet, in this legislature, we did not get that bill through.

There was a bill to decriminalize marijuana, similar to what Massachusetts’ voted on recently, instead to turn it into a civil fine and the bill did not make it through. Didn’t make it out of the Senate, didn’t make it out of the House. So, how come, if we’re getting all these emails?

Well, I see it as a cultural issue and I see that in this state, out here in the Wild West, we can put matters on the ballot, on a ballot initiative for the citizens to vote directly and where the question of marijuana legalization or decriminalization is more of a cultural issue than it is a legal issue, the people, if they speak directly on it, will have more of a force. So we will be able to change our law that way.

The other thing is that legislators here take risks only if it’s going to pay off and the risk of dealing with all of the opposition from law enforcement and folks who are afraid and relatively uninformed or haven’t thought this through, it’s just not worth it for most legislators.

Maybe we’d save a little bit of money in law enforcement but it’s not enough for legislators to step out and take a risk on a cultural issue like this where, if the people speak up, then everyone’s going to be comfortable and we can move forward on that.

So, it’s interesting you asked about input to legislators, letters and emails and so forth. It does make a difference, but it sometimes it depend on the issue.

Dean Becker: OK. Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Roger Goodman, a state rep. in Washington and a good friend of the Drug Truth Network, a man who understands this and who dares to speak the truth any and everywhere he goes, because the truth wins every time. Does it not, Roger?

Rep. Roger Goodman: You know what, my daughter is going to turn six next month and she’s going to be in Middle School and Jr. High School in just a few years and while the Jr. High School that’s in my neighborhood, that’s where you go get pot, right? That’s wrong.

If these kids are being exposed to this, I want the drug laws to change. So, if I’m not out there to promote drug use or to increase any harm or risk. We really have to change the laws and so, for my selfish purposes, I’m hoping we can change the marijuana laws, in particular, before my daughter gets to Jr. High School. Just to protect her safety and it’s legitimate.

We were talking about legitimate policy objectives here. Protecting our children, promoting health care instead of a punishment, for people who need health care, saving a whole bunch of money and promoting education and research and public safety.

It’s not really about drugs. It’s about all these other larger issues. So, it’s fascinating to work on ‘cause it’s really, it looks like it’s esoteric, but it’s actually a very strategic issue.

Dean Becker: Alright. Roger, any website you’d like to share with the audience?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Well, once again go to; a couple of them actually. One is the, like the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers. The VCL, vcl.org. That’s the organization that I had and we’re traveling across the country.

I hope to come to Houston this year, as a matter of fact, to make a few appearances and then, the King County Bar Associate website, kcba.org. Go to kcba.org/druglaw and you’ll find a huge amount of materials on all the work we’re doing, for about a decade now, on drug policy issues.

Dean Becker: Did you have some closing thoughts you’d like to relay?

Rep. Roger Goodman: Well, Dean, like I said, we are so close to that ‘tipping point’ when most of America is going to ’wake up’ to this and I look forward to working with you on the leading edge of this. We’re going to look back and say, “Wow! What were we doing?” We’re coming close to that rational ’wake up’ call.

Dean Becker: Once again, I want to thank Roger Goodman, a representative, up in the state of Washington, for that fine interview.

You know, we keep talking about Senator Jim Webb and his call for a Blue Ribbon Commission. I’ve invited the Senator to be on this program. Thus far, there’s been no response. But he did speak to some folks over on NPR, but it was on All Things Considered and though that airs on most of the same stations that carry this program, it’s worth repeating.

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I’m Jackie Lyden.

A National Disgrace. That’s what Virginia Senator Jim Webb calls the US Criminal Justice System. Seven million Americans are incarcerated or on probation or on parole. To start today’s show, we’ll take a look behind those numbers.

Senator Webb has become an outspoken critic of the status quo. On Thursday, the Virginia democrat introduced legislation to create a National Criminal Justice Commission, dedicated to retooling the prison system. Webb argues that American justice is out of whack, with huge inequities that punish non-violent offenses too harshly and lock up others for too long.

It’s something he’s thought about for years. When he was starting out as a lawyer, he defended a young marine wrongfully accused of murder. But the man took his own life before Webb could clear his name. We caught up with the Senator at his office.

Senator Jim Webb: We now have 2.38 million people in prison and we’re not solving the true challenges that we have, in terms of harmful crimes that threaten our communities. We have 5% of the world’s population. We have 25% of the worlds known prison population. So, something is wrong.

Jackie Lyden: It’s certainly no secret that in the last 20/25 years, longer incarceration rates and more prisons has been politically popular. In fact, no one could go wrong being tough on crime. What do you say to people who still feel strongly, that that is the way to go?

Senator Jim Webb: I think there is a genuine concern in the country about the implications of violent crime and organized criminal behavior and I think that has fed the political process in terms of the tendency toward higher level of incarceration. At the same time, they haven’t really been addressing the problem and we have to have the courage to step forward and say that.

We have exponentially increased the number of people in prison since 1980. But, a tremendous percentage of that increase has been for non-violent crime, crimes related to drugs and quite frankly, mental illness and they are not getting treated for their problems.

So, we’ve seen this huge increase of quadrupling of the people in prison. At the same time, our communities really aren’t any safer as a result of the increase of gang activity and transnational gang activity.

Jackie Lyden: When we talk about our own drug laws and the restructuring, you have a section in your Bill that talks about restructuring the approach to the criminalization of illegal drugs. Could you tell me a few specifics?

Senator Jim Webb: Well, first of all, I think mandatory sentences in terms of drug possession, is absurd. The notion that non-violent possession should have someone end up in prison, is probably not a smart thing to do and I would rather put this in front of a Commission and see the alternatives that they would want to bring back. There’s a lot of different ways we could be dealing with the drugs’ issue and there are a lot of different kinds of drugs, as you know.

Jackie Lyden: Uh-huh. Historically, punishment and rehabilitation have kind of swung back and forth, in this country. In the 1960’s, some concentration on rehabilitation. By 1980, an idea that certain people were never going to be rehabilitated. Do you believe that?

Senator Jim Webb: I remember when I was in law school. The big debates were, do you punish a crime? Do you put people in jail to punish them? Do you put people in jail to deter activity? How does society fit into this?

You can go back to when we were a colonial society. For a lot of things people go to jail for now, they put them in the stockades for a day and the community would walk by and throw tomatoes at them. The idea was, bringing some sort of accountability for your acts. That was suppose to be the major focus.

So that the real, to me, the issues that need to be examined are, ’How do we deter crime?’ and I think you deter crime by people having a fairly good assurance they’re going to get caught, rather than the length of a sentence. So, ‘What deters a crime?’ ‘How do you then say that you have paid your debt to society and move on?’ and this is where we really need.

We have a huge problem with 2.38 million people in prison, at any time. A huge problem in terms of being fair, to people who’ve paid their debt and allowing them the chance to re-enter, meaningfully, in society and there’s always going to be a small group of people who choose the other way, who want a life of crime, who are going to be incorrigible and those people need to be separated out.

But I think we have leaned way, way toward a process that does not allow proper re-entry and we can do better on that.

Jackie Lyden: So do you think there’ll be a fight over your bill? Do you expect a lot of opposition and who will it be coming from?

Senator Jim Webb: The first thing I would say about the Bill is that, I introduced it Thursday and we have sixteen co-sponsors the first day the Bill was introduced and I would imagine there might be a fight about the specific directions that would be given to the Commission, but I sense that everyone wants to come together and do this and then the hard work will begin.

We really need to do this, as a matter of great National concern. We need to get going on this.

Dean Becker: You know, for almost eight years, I’ve been preaching these same truths of the need to re-examine our policy. To look at the failed, hopeless situation and to ascertain the truth, of this matter. I welcome the initiative put forward by Senator Jim Webb.

My main regret, it’s very unlikely they’re going to have me on the panel, in making the determination about a safer, saner war on us.

Quick note to any defense attorneys or accused out there listening. I volunteer my services as a Court Qualified Drug Expert. Just pay my expenses, I’ll do it for free. You can contact dean@drugtruth.net. I’ve got consults with everybody from the UN Drug Czar, down to the head of the Houston Crime Lab. Let’s negate the drug war, in the eyes of the jury.

As always I remind you, there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data, in fact no reason, for this drug war to exist.

We have been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please visit our website, endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org