01/17/10 - Margaret Dooley Samuley

Margeret Dooley Samuely of Drug Policy Alliance + Mark Mauer of Sentencing Project & Phil Smith with Corrupt Cop Stories

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Guest: 
Margaret Dooley Samuley
Organization: 
Drug Policy Alliance
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Century of Lies, January 17, 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.

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Dean Becker: Hello my friends. This Dean Becker and this is Century of Lies. A bit later we’ll have a segment from Mr. Mark Mauer of the Sentencing Project. We have got a couple of other little things to share with you. But first up…

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Margaret Dooley Samuely: My name is Margaret Dooley Samuely. I am the deputy state director in southern California with the Drug Policy Alliance. The drug policy alliance is the nation’s leading organization working to develop alternative policies to the war on drugs. Policies based on science, health, compassion and human rights.

Dean Becker: Well Margaret I want to commend you and all the good folks at DPA and the other reformers in California for continuing to make progress, to continue the discussion about that need for change. It is breaking rather fast in California and Washington State, is it not?

Margaret Dooley Samuely: It is. The momentum to end marijuana prohibition has been building for years. But we really saw tremendous progress in 2009. We saw you know in April a field poll showing that sixty-six percent of Californians supported marijuana regulation.

And just a major development in California this week on Tuesday with the passage from the assembly public safety committee of assembly member Tom Amiano’s marijuana tax and regulate bill. And you know this debate is not going away. I think we can consider this vote the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition.

Next week in Washington a committee will hear two bills on marijuana: one to tax and regulate, to tax and regulate it and a second bill to decriminalize it. And Washington may not be ready to regulate marijuana but I think it’s very likely that they will come on board with many of the other states in the United States to decriminalize marijuana. So we’re really making a lot of progress in a short amount of time. It’s very exciting.

Dean Becker: Now there was a some other exciting news broke gosh in the past week in New Jersey where they came out to be the fourteenth state to legalize medical marijuana. They have a different framework I guess than California certainly but it is good news as well, right?

Margaret Dooley Samuely: It is tremendous. Our Drug Policy Alliance and other advocates have been working for years in New Jersey to do the right thing around medical marijuana and its success this week is is so important to that state and so important to the continued support for medical marijuana and patients around the country.

So yeah a huge success there, very long in the making and again reflects a changing sense of how we need to regulate this drug, make sure that we limit harm but also make sure that we don’t limit… that we take advantage of its medicinal properties for sick and ill people.

Dean Becker: And it’s just a few weeks back I don’t guess you can call it the fifteenth state but the district of Columbia also had their bar amendment that has been blocking the way for them to legitimize medical marijuana also fell in proper stance, did it not?

Margaret Dooley Samuely: Absolutely. Years ago the DC metro community voted overwhelmingly to allow medicinal use of marijuana. And it was one of those horrible political moves of the federal government to basically say to the people in Washington DC that they couldn’t do that. And so it was really important that the federal government get out of the way and let the people of Washington DC make that decision for themselves. So it was a fabulous development there as well.

Dean Becker: Now let’s talk about some of the possibilities that are being presented in California. There’s even a future referendum if you will that apparently has enough votes to allow adults to possess one ounce. That’s another possibility for the future as well, right?

Margaret Dooley Samuely: So in California that’s right we had just this week we had a vote on a piece of legislation. That legislation will probably not be heard in the health committee which means that that legislation has run out of time. So it just will it just will sit where it is. But the debate is far from over in California.

As you mentioned there, we are very likely to see a ballot measure in November asking the voters of California whether they want to see marijuana regulated and taxed much like alcohol for adults twenty-one and older. And as I said before you know we know from a field poll last year that fifty-six percent of California voters say that they support such a measure.

So it’s not as high as you’d like to see going in to an initiative campaign but it is a majority and so there we just don’t know what’s going to happen. But it should be a very interesting year to continue to discuss the benefits of regulation and the harms of prohibition. And we look forward to a lot of good discussion and moving that support up still further.

Dean Becker: Alright. Once again we are speaking with Margaret Dooley Samuely with the Drug Policy Alliance in based in California. I wanted to also talk about the the hearings and the discussion and the vote on the bill presented by Assemblyman Tom Amiano. Tell us a little bit more about the framework of what they were voting on.

Margaret Dooley Samuely: Well this Tom Amiano’s bill, AB 390 would have, would allow use, non medical use of marijuana, for adults age twenty-one and older. Very similar to how alcohol is currently regulated. It would keep in place penalties on DUI, sales to minors and penalties for sales outside the regulatory system. Really designed to eliminate the harms we see from prohibition, and a complete anarchy, lack of control of a market while still addressing things like DUI and sales to minors.

It would it is expected to bring in annual revenue of one point almost a billion and a half dollars. Now that was an estimate made by the state’s tax collectors, the board of equalization. So that’s about as official an estimate as you can get.

And that billion and a half dollars would go toward go to the drug prevention, education and treatment so that we can address some of the health impacts and make sure that folks are educated through this bill provides consumer protection. So the state of California would be able to insure that the one in ten Californians that are already consuming marijuana do so safely.

Dean Becker: You know Margaret it seems like you know this is on a roll, this idea of reexamining this policy and doing something different is gaining lots of traction. I mean there’s the prison overcrowding, there’s the fiscal failures if you will of the various states and there’s the fact that we are empowering those barbarous cartels. Some say that they earn sixty to seventy percent of their funds through the sale of marijuana in to the states. It’s it’s an issue whose time has come, right?

Margaret Dooley Samuely: Well absolutely. I think for all of those reasons you know. And I think despite the economic crisis you know generating revenue is probably the least important reason that we change our marijuana laws. The others that you mentioned are much more important.

Prohibition is not, you know some people consider it the total or that you be absolute in regulation, in fact prohibition is the absence of regulation. It’s not drug control, it’s drug chaos. And that’s when you you know we’re talking about California’s most valuable agricultural crop.

Marijuana is a fourteen billion dollar agricultural crop in California. It is a very lucrative market. It is an existing market. The government has no control over it, reaps no revenue from it and hands all of that all of that revenue over to individuals who may be violent, may be you know it’s the criminal element.

And they do not settle disputes through attorneys and courts, they settle disputes through violence. A regulated, we saw that with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone. And we know that the best way to fight that violence, the best way to get marijuana out of schools and off the streets is through a regulated system.

Dean Becker: You can learn more by visiting the website of the Drug Policy Alliance and that is drugpolicy.org.

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Criminals get so emboldened
Rip you off thinking your holding.
Can’t tell the policeman what you know.
Got no recourse to the law.
Bad guys duct tape and beat ya
They’re just looking for that easy score
They will rob, rape and kill ya
Cause we got no recourse to the law.

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Mark Mauer: This is Mark Mauer. I am the executive director of The Sentencing Project.

Dean Becker: Mark you have a chapter in a new release Tow Tiered Justice: Race, Class and Policy. Why don’t you tell us a bit about that volume?

Mark Mauer: Well it’s a collection of articles that look at this called the integration debate essentially asking whether integration is still or should still be a goal of American society. And it’s a series of essays including mine on criminal justice that that look at the impact of what is still in far too many ways a segregated society and the outcomes that that produces.

And in my chapter I look at the growth of mass incarceration, the impact of the war on drugs in producing that and what the effects of those trends are on family and community stability.

Dean Becker: Well yes you start your piece off with the fact that certain aspects of improvement are obvious. Much of is said about our new black president and the fact that there is a escalating number of blacks who are reaching in to the middle class and beyond. But you say just before the surface there is something else that’s lurking. Let’s tell a little bit more what that is that’s lurking.

Mark Mauer: Yeah well you know we’ve have had a half century now since the beginnings of the modern day civil rights movement, of of opening up of social and economic opportunity for many people who had for whom that previously been denied. And so while we see progress in many areas of society if we look at the criminal justice system is a very different texture.

Back in 1954 on the day of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision there were about one hundred thousand African Americans in prison or jail. Today that figure is nine hundred thousand. So there’s something wrong with this texture. You know how is it that have such advances in some areas of society and yet when it comes to the criminal justice system we’re seeing record highs across the board and particularly regarding communities of color.

Dean Becker: Well it often comes about as a result of if I daresay propaganda turning into hysteria turning into fear. And then people just striking out trying various means to quell their fears. And one of those ways is the rise in prison population, right?

Mark Mauer: Well I think it’s been you know a series of conscious policy choices by legislators across the board. You know you have a certain level of crime in society and how do you respond to that crime. Well the criminal justice system is part of the way we deal with that.

But it’s also a function of creating strong families and communities and creating opportunity in society, education, a range of factors. And what’s happened over the last three decades or so is that we’ve invested enormous resources in to the back end of the system, the criminal justice system and prison system at the expense of making the investments in more proactive approaches to dealing with crime and producing public safety.

And so that’s become almost a primary means by which we address socioeconomic problems that spill over in to crime problems. And and we end up setting up a very a real vicious cycle where the more money goes in the back end the less attention, the less resources are available in the front end and that produces the the numbers that we see today.

Dean Becker: Now you have in one of your chapters the thought that the dramatic shifts in the US economy have shifted the life prospects of many African Americans. Talk about that shift and that impact.

Mark Mauer: Well I think since the 1970s and 80s we have seen in our society a growing divide between the rich and the poor. You know as we saw the legacy is a financial crisis. You know the people at the top at least for some period of time became enormously wealthy and the differential between those at the top and those at the bottom grew by huge proportions during this time.

And conversely the people at the bottom in many ways are more poor than ever as jobs have gone overseas, as our manufacturing economy has disappeared in many ways. You know the result is that there are either no jobs or poorly paid service industry jobs that have taken the place of what used to be in many cases you know union wage manufacturing jobs.

And so in many communities as those economic opportunities have dried up it’s often created for a really desperate situation. Now it doesn’t mean that everyone turns to crime or that individuals are not responsible. But it’s created a set of conditions under which you know it shouldn’t be surprising that some people are going to turn to crime, that you know illegal drug selling could take place, a variety of social ills that in many ways I think flow from some of these broader economic changes.

Dean Becker: You have a sub chapter here, Segregation contributes to unfair and ineffective crime control policies. Why don’t you further define that for us.

Mark Mauer: Yeah well I think you know what we’re seeing is that crime takes place in all communities, not necessarily at the same level but you know it does take place in different ways. But how we respond to crime and what the criminal justice system does you know in many cases is effected by which communities we are talking about.

So for example in some of the law enforcement strategies particularly through the war on drugs you know we have seen very disproportionate rates of arrest you know for drug offenses in African American and Latino communities far out of proportion to the degree that those groups use or sell drugs. And so we have essentially neighborhoods in many ways are segregated by race or class and where drug use and abuse may be taking place.

But in communities with resources we tend to address those drug problems as family problems, as public health problems. In lower income communities it tends to be addressed as a criminal justice response. And so the we define the problem different ways often based on a segregated society and its impact and with very different results. One path leads in to a treatment system and one path leads in to a prison system and those are pretty stark changes that we’re seeing.

Dean Becker: Yes and I would say that you know those who are sent to prison may go for a non violent crime but after spending a substantial amount of time behind bars they often come out violent and perhaps through lack of opportunity are lead back to a life of crime. Your thoughts on that?

Mark Mauer: Well you know incarceration imposes many negative consequences on people. It is true that for some people being locked up sometimes gets them away from a life on the streets that was pretty full of fear and challenges and at least for a short period of time maybe it’s a relief of sorts.

But for you know most people going to prison this a pretty stark environment. It’s often a dangerous environment. It’s one that separates people from their families and communities. And this doesn’t suggest that no one should ever be sent to prison.

But it does mean that we should be very careful in making decisions about who should go to prison and how long they should stay in prison because these negative consequences mean it’s very even more difficult for people to make it in the community once they come out. So we should use prison far more sparingly than we do today and look for other ways of supervising behaviors, responding to that behavior, that don’t rely on costly and very heavy handed incarceration.

Dean Becker: Yes. We are speaking with Mr. Mark Mauer of the Sentencing Project. Mark you know I have heard it said that we should reserve prison space for those that are a threat and not those we’re quote mad at. Your response to that?

Mark Mauer: Yeah well you know the when people present a threat to public safety that’s a problem and we should deal with them. That’s why you have means of incapacitating people and protecting the public when that’s necessary.

You know if we have somebody who’s out on parole and goes in has to take a drug test and fails that drug test, well we’re not happy the person failed the drug test but there’s a question of whether we should be sending that person back to prison at a cost to the taxpayers of some twenty-five thousand dollars a year or whether other ways to respond.

So in the case of a person whose gone back to using drugs we can do more frequent drug testing, we might decide to put the person in jail for a weekend to just across the message that we’re serious, we might see if there’s a better treatment program that’s possible. There’s a range of ways we could respond. And a again we are not happy about the behavior but that doesn’t mean that prison should be the automatic solution. Often that’s the worst thing we can do.

Dean Becker: Now there are more disparate impacts across our society. One such impact is the fact that in many states at least for a time former prisoners are not allowed to vote, they are not allowed to run for elected office, they’re not allowed to hold certain professions. It has an ongoing set of ramifications, does it not?

Mark Mauer: Well it certainly does and you know it’s often the case that you know it’s said that well you know you have to pay your debt to society and people assume that well once you have completed your sentence that’s it.

But in far too many cases you never finish paying that debt, it’s with you forever. There’s the stigma of having a criminal justice record that goes with you when you’re applying for jobs or housing. In a number of states you lose your right to vote even after you complete the terms of your sentence.

If you have been convicted of a drug crime there are particular restrictions that are imposed on you. Federal law says that people convicted of a drug crime can be barred from receiving welfare benefits or food stamps for life depending on the state in which they live and whether that state participates, restrictions on public housing, restrictions on getting student loans if you attend higher education.

So many of these impacts do take place after you have already served your time and yet are still with you in this sort of life long restrictions that you face.

Dean Becker: 2010, the end of 2009 as well seems to be opening up this can of worms if you will and allowing people to examine it for what it truly is and progress seems to be very much on the horizon. Your thoughts, sir? Are people really beginning…?

Mark Mauer: Well I think we have… Yes I think we have opening for reform that we haven’t seen in quite some time. At the federal level the momentum for change in the crack powder cocaine sentencing laws has been very significant. There are actually real prospects for change this year.

We see as well Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has introduced legislation calling for a national commission to examine the prison system and that’s received bipartisan support. A number of states are reconsidering some of their overly punitive sentencing and drug policies in an attempt to reduce prison populations and save money.

So there’s certainly some encouraging signs on the horizon. And I think at the same time we don’t want to lose sight of the scale of incarceration. That you know we’re at unprecedented situation right now and so in order to turn this around requires much more than just tinkering around the edges. It requires you know very substantial change in public policy.

Dean Becker: Alright, Once again we have been speaking with Mr. Mark Mauer of the Sentencing Project. Mark before we go please share your website where folks can learn more about this.

Mark Mauer: Sure. We’re at The Sentencing Project and the website is sentencingproject, that’s one word, dot org. sentencingproject.org.

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Opening up a can of worms and going fishing for truth.
This is the Drug Truth Network. drugtruth.net

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This is Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle with this week’s corrupt cop stories for the Drug Truth Network. This week we have a sticky fingered meth snorting California cop and a trio of prison jail guards.

First in Glendora, California a former Glendora police officer was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail, three years of probation and a twenty-four month drug rehab program after pleading no contest to grand theft and methamphetamine possession charges.

Former officer Timothy Redogna age thirty-four was arrested in May in an integrity sting after supervisors received reports he was failing to book drugs and cash in to evidence. Police left meth and a thousand dollars in cash in a bait car and Redogna took the bait. He could have gotten up to nine years.

In Beaumont, Texas a former Texas department of corrections guard pleaded guilty Monday to trying to smuggle drugs and a cell phone in to the Styles unit in his lunch box. Eric [ ] cops pleas to bribery and having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility.

He got busted with tobacco in his socks, rolling papers in his underwear and marijuana and a cell phone hidden in a container of fried rice. He faces up to thirty years in prison when sentenced on February 16th but his attorney is asking for probation.

In Manchester, Kentucky a Quade county detention center guard was arrested on Sunday on charges she smuggled drugs to inmates in the jail. Guard Dawn Hays age thirty-one fell prey to an undercover investigation by the county sheriff’s office, taking drugs to be smuggled in to the jail from a confidential informant. She is now currently residing in her place of employment.

In Chesterton, Indiana an Indiana state prison guard was arrested January 2nd for trying to smuggled tobacco and marijuana in to the prison. Barb Roseboro a nine year veteran got caught when prison staff found a package wrapped in electrical tape hidden in the lining of her bag as she reported for work. A second package was later found on her person.

She has been charged with trafficking with an offender and felony marijuana possession. She faces from two to eight years on the first count and up to three years on the second. At last report she was being held in a LaPorte county jail.

As always there’s more corrupt cops stories and drug war news in general available online. Check it out at www.stopthedrugwar.org.

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Dean Becker: Earlier we were talking about progress on marijuana medical marijuana in the various states including Virginia and Texas is even talking about it and this from WFAA in Alabama.

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Reporter 1: The debate over medical marijuana use will soon be a topic on Alabama lawmakers’ agenda.

Reporter 2: A state lawmaker from Birmingham is again pushing a medical marijuana bill. [ ] report Robin [ ] talked to a couple about their use of marijuana for medical reasons.

Chris and DJ Butts are both users of medical marijuana.
“It dulls the pain.”
Both suffer from illnesses.
“I have got rapid disc degeneration in my neck and lower back.”
“I do use it for pain as well as unclosing spondolosis.”
Both believe it’s the best option for their pain.
“It’s a healthy alternative to what I am being prescribed.”

Married for twelve years and parents of three children they tell us their story in hopes that house bill 207 passes through the 2010 legislative session. The bill sponsored by Representative Patricia Todd of Birmingham wants Alabama recognized certain illnesses like cancer, anorexia and chronic arthritis are alleviated by the effects of marijuana.

The bill also states if passed doctors will not be penalized for discussing or recommending its use and those who qualify will be allowed to grow no more than twelve marijuana plants. But for the last four years it’s failed in the legislature which means the Butt’s do what they can to get it.

“Right now it’s a drug deal. It’s a street transaction just like anything else.”

They know their actions are not right and feel the choice to smoke is a better alternative than what their doctors prescribe.

“Well first of all there’s about five hundred and thirty pills a month that I am supposed to put in to my body, opiate based.”

“It’s a snowball and before you know it you’re taking ten pills a day, most of them to counteract side effects from the original pill.”

The Butt’s want to make it clear they’re not hippies looking for a good time.

“We’re not a bunch of pot heads. We’re member of the church.”

But instead Alabama citizens who want the right to make their own decisions with their doctors. In Coleman Robin, [ ] WAFF, 48 News.

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Dean Becker: I got a question for you. What are you going to tell your grandchildren you did to help end the hundred year drug war? After all there is no scientific evidence, medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. We have certainly been duped. It’s apparent the drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please do your part to end this madness, visit our website, endprohibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

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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