05/30/10 - A.R. Torsone

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

A.R. Torsone, author "Herb Trader - A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade" + Jamaican and money laundering clips from "Need to Know" on PBS

Audio file


Cultural Baggage May 30, 2010

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 edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m so glad you could be with us. I have, over the years, interviewed many authors of many great books and I want to bring to the discussion, to the table today, a gentleman who’s written one that I think is a very constructive, very powerful book. Talking about the drug prohibition here on this planet.

He has a great deal of experience, experiencing the highs and the lows of being, what his book is titled ’Herb Trader: A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade’. With that, I want to go ahead and bring in our guest, Mr. A.R. Torsone. Hello, sir.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Hello, Dean. Thank you.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Arthur. I’m going to call you Arthur. I’m going to reference the book as A.R. Torsone, so folks could find it. You and I had a great discussion a couple of times in the last week or so, talking about our history. Talking about the impact of this drug war, not just in our lives but on our nation; on the whole world. Am I correct, sir?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Oh, absolutely. It’s a failed policy that has caused more pain and anguish than the drugs could ever have caused and it has to be dismantled. It’s ruining the fabric of our nation.

Dean Becker: Arthur, I told you I was going to play a segment and I want to recommend to you folks. If you listen or watch PBS, check out that new show, ‘Need to Know‘. These folks get it and here’s a little segment I sliced from them. This is going to bring us to our further discussion about your book, Arthur. Hang with us, just about a minute.

Mr. A.R. Torsone: Sure.

The following is an extract from the brand new PBS program, ‘Need to Know‘. At last, somebody knows.

Unknown: There’s been a stand-off between police and the Kingston slum of Tivoli Gardens and supporters of a known drug lord, Christopher Coke, who are trying to protect him from extradition to the United States. Just how powerful are drug lords in Jamaica?

Frank Wuco: They have come to play an important roll in the politics of the country. Because some of the members of Parliament and some of the Ministers in both this Government and in previous Governments, have come to depend on the gang leader’s for helping them to mobilize support from the electorate. From turning out the voters on election day. So it’s useful to remember the International context.

What has made them powerful in the drug trade is not… Because very, very little of the drugs that are produced in Jamaica and the even larger share of drugs that are transshipped through Jamaica are actually sold in Jamaica. These are headed up to the markets of North America and that market shows no sign of getting any smaller.

The fight against the drug trade in Jamaica is bound to be very violent and ongoing. It’s not something you can turn off. Because even if they had success in reducing the flows, those flows are going to go elsewhere. Some other island will develop those problems.

Dean Becker: OK. We’re speaking with A.R. Torsone, author of ‘Herb Trader‘. Now you, if I may, began your smuggling career working in Jamaica, correct?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: That’s correct. We even had a farm there, where we grew our own herb.

Dean Becker: Now, tell us about your experience there. This book, as I mentioned earlier, is full of highs and lows. Talk about the highs and lows in Jamaica, please.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: In Jamaica, this was back in the late seventies, early eighties and there wasn’t too much transshipment going on then from other countries. It was mainly just the herb trade that was going on there...

Dean Becker: You always tried to stay with the non-synthetics, the herbs if you will.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Yes, and the only way that we were able to sly our herb; or sell our herb out was working with the military; working with police. It was the way that business was done. That’s how you did business. You worked with the authorities.

This is going on thirty years now. So ,I’m sure it’s still going on. Twenty years now? It’s still happening. So it doesn’t surprise me when I hear these reports coming out. Things must have expanded since I was there.

Dean Becker: As I understand it, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentarian’s there align themselves with the various gangs. They control the flow of drugs, they profit from it and they all benefit some how. Which is, if I may say Arthur, a continuing theme within your book, ‘Herb Trader‘. That there is always a cop, there is always some official willing to get involved, to help expedite and/or arrange the situation, right?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well, within small countries like Jamaica or Cambodia, the situation is always more intense. Because well, there’s just less people and it makes bigger news. Because you’ve got higher ranking people involved. They are also very poor countries and it’s just impossible to end corruption. It’s impossible. I don’t understand why intelligent people, who are the rulers or our land, don’t see that.

Dean Becker: Well that brings to mind, I tell you what. Let’s go ahead and roll track four. Because this kind of, I think, helps clarify it a bit.

Need to Know May 28, 2010

This past March, federal prosecutors in Miami announced the largest criminal violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, in history! Few were paying attention. Need to Know found that the case reveals an under reported pattern of failure in our banking system.

The story of one of the biggest money laundering investigation’s in recent history began in Miami in 2005. When a drug sniffing DEA dog at this airport hit upon a shipment of cocaine in a private jet. Little did DEA and IRS agents suspect, that the trail would lead them through the fourth largest bank in the United States - that millions of dollars that paid for drug cartel operations had gone through accounts at Wachovia Bank.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman: “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations by laundering at least $110 million in drug proceeds,”

One hundred, ten million dollars in drug money, federal prosecutors in Miami announced this March, flowed through Wachovia Bank. It’s the largest criminal violation ever of the Bank Secrecy Act, the federal law that requires banks to prevent money laundering.


Dean Becker: OK, now. {chuckling} We’re trusting the banks again. You see folks? That’s something we need to stop and realize. It is the banks. It is Wall Street. It is the Corporate interest. It is Government interest, Military… and it goes on down… Arthur and I were talking about this yesterday. It goes on down through the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol, the tobacco industries. All of these guys make contributions to maintain the status quo. Your thoughts there, Arthur?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well, it’s just that the War on Drugs has created spin-offs and these spin-offs have just become now, the mainstay in our lives. Criminal attorneys, most of the criminal attorneys that I know, tell me, after-business is generated by marijuana busts and drug busts. Everyone’s affected by it. Law enforcement, the courts, bail bondsmen, everyone. Everyone’s affected by it and it needs to be addressed. We need to change the way we live. We need to change the way we think.

In my case, it was just so perverted what happened. The DEA and their informants, what they did was called a reverse sting operation. This is where they supply the money, they supply the drugs, they supply the equipment. They orchestrate everything. At least, that’s why they call it a reverse sting operation. We didn’t go to them. They came to us, and they did it for political reasons.

There was an election going on in Southeast Asia and they wanted to alter that election. They knew that the person running for Prime Minister, had loaded our vessel the year before and they wanted to discredit this person. So they used me to discredit him. I don’t want to give away the plot or ruin a good read. But when you think about it, just using me to alter an election? That’s just mind boggling.

Dean Becker: Again, I’m not going to give away the plot either. I just want to say this, that this reads like a novel. But I saw the stats on the web. I have talked to Arthur Torsone repeatedly about this and really folks, it’s just a great read. It’s chock full of information. Very specific dates. You kept a diary on many of these occasions, to back this up.

Arthur, we talked about it. I had my smuggling career. I saw a few hundred pounds here and there. But I never had quite the reach you did, I suppose. Maybe not the contacts or I probably would have. But I guess the point I’m trying to get to here is that, young people go through a phase, a lot of them do, where they might sell a little drugs or a lot of drugs. For the most part it doesn’t make them a wicked person or deserving of jail. Your thoughts on that?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: That’s exactly right. I ended up doing a lot of time in prison here and a lot of, I say kids, because most of them were young. They were there doing long sentences. We were there on marijuana or drug related charges. My observation? They didn’t need prison guards. They needed doctors. They needed therapists and they didn‘t need prisons, they need clinics.

So if you were to take the, I say billions, it’s got to be over a trillion dollars that have been wasted, since this farce war-on-drugs has begun. Can you imagine the schools that we could have built? The teachers that we could have hired? I mean, we could have created such a better world and forget the medicinal uses of marijuana. What about the commercial uses of hemp? Over a hundred years ago when hemp was legal, it was used to make clothes. It was used to make building materials. It was used to make oil.

Dean Becker: Paper.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: This was a very valuable plant. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, this was one of the most valuable plants on the planet and that’s probably why it was criminalized. Because it was starting to affect folks like the Rockefellers and the DuPont’s and so on.

Dean Becker: I’ve seen it in the newspaper that they have found, buried in the desert, pairs of Levi Blue Jeans made out of hemp. That were still wearable.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Oh yeah, that’s another thing. The oil from the hemp plant that made paint, was always a higher quality paint. The clothes were always a higher quality than cotton, because the fabric was stronger. You’re not talking second rate materials here. You’re talking, the best materials are made from hemp. We could turn around our entire economy right now, if we re-legalized hemp.

Dean Becker: Exactly right. The list goes on there. A couple I’d like to bring up, one is the Cotton Industry. One of the main polluters of America’s rivers could decide to switch to hemp. Which requires no pesticides and other chemicals what-so-ever. The same holds true for paper making. Which uses wood and lots and lots of toxic chemicals and then flushes them down our rivers. Whereas if you use hemp, you need about one tenth that amount of chemicals.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well we have Randolph Hurst to thank for that. Not only did he consult the newspapers at that time, when they criminalized hemp. He also owned all the tree farms and the pulp mills and he worked with DuPont and bought the chemicals from them, to make the pulp. All this was unnecessary, if he had just grown hemp. But he demonized it in his newspapers, coined it marijuana and it’s been a destructive force in our society, ever since.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Mr. A.R. Torsone. He’s author of, ‘Herb Trader: A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade.’ Now Arthur, we were talking earlier about your initial foray into drug trading, if you will, was in Jamaica. But you kind of moved around the world to the Cambodia/Thailand area, getting a higher grade of bud while you were at it. Why don’t you kind of summarize that effort and then let’s talk about the result, what happened to you.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well, I had actually retired from the herb trade in 1988 and I had a construction business. I thought it was time to make a change, and I did. It was ten years later around 1998, that the individuals that I had worked with back in Southeast Asia when I was working, they approached me. They approached me at a time when I was very susceptible.

I had accounts receivable. My company was going under, my marriage was going under and the offer they made me to go back to Southeast Asia, it made sense and it made sense at that time. What it was, was they were not my friends. They were undercover agents working for the DEA and they had very self-serving reasons for bringing me back. So therefore, I was used. I was used and that is what my story is about.

Dean Becker: Now, let’s go to some of the time spent in Cambodia, the T-3 prison.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Yeah.

Dean Becker: I’ve been in thirteen different jails. I told you, I got busted thirteen times. Nine times for being drunk with drugs in my pocket. I saw some abuse and some bigotry. But I didn’t see anything near what you endured. Tell us a little bit about that time in T-3.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: You have to understand that the entire operation that the DEA was running, was orchestrated by the informants. One of the informants worked closely with the CIA. Which is why they were trying to discredit Prime Minister Hun Sen and they did not want him to win the election. They orchestrated my capture in Cambodia. They orchestrated my imprisonment in T-3 Prison and if I didn’t escape, I wouldn’t be here on the telephone here, talking with you right now.

T-3 Prison is not just a dungeon. But for Americans especially, who don’t have the immune systems the Cambodians have, you get very sick when you’re there. So that the malaria and the dysentery… I was very close to not making it back. Which is why I wrote my letters to my daughters, because I did not think I was making it back. Which prompted the book.

Dean Becker: A R, let’s talk about the… We talked about you and I are about the same age. I’m a couple of years older than you. But we have seen over the years, the feeble attempts. The rally, the hue and cry, ’We’re going to get rid of drugs on planet Earth.’ ‘Give us more money and we’ll get ’er done.’ But I have never seen anything that you could call success, in that regard.

Your observations in your lifetime, are you seeing anything different? Are we stuck with the same old plan, just a different face on it?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Politicians have used this so-called ‘war on drugs’ to get voted. Standing there on their soapboxes screaming, “I’m going to get tough on drugs!” “I’m going to make your streets more safe!” “I’m going to make your lives better!” People believe it and they vote them in and then they go and they make the sentencing laws. You know, Mandatory Minimum Sentencing.

If you go even into the Nixon Administration. He was trying to find a way to stop the anti-war protesters. The article that I had read one time. He was standing in the Oval Office talking to Spiro Agnew, ’How can we stop these hippies? They’re making a problem for us,” and Spiro Agnew said, “Well all we have to do is, is make marijuana a Schedule I narcotic and we can lock them all up.” “Hey, that’s a great idea!” Next thing you know, marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic.

So it just took a paranoid sociopath like Nixon to turn millions of lives into peril. It’s exactly what he did. I do book signings and some of the college towns that I’m in, the kids come up to my booth and they start telling me these stories about how, ‘The campus police arrested them and now their parents have to pay for an apartment… because they can’t stay in the school and how now they’re on their record, and they were going to go to medical school, and now it’s not going to work, because they got arrested with a joint and…’ The spin-off’s are endless.

Dean Becker: …and the profits are eternal for the defense attorneys, the prosecuting attorneys, the judges, cops and wardens.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well, sure. Yeah.

Dean Becker: You brought up the idea that you were set-up. The sting. The reverse sting, you were talking about.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Yeah.

Dean Becker: It reminded me of a story and I need to get back with him. I need to see if I can make arrangements with his warden, to interview him again. But a gentleman we had on years back now, here on the Drug Truth Network. His name is George Martorano. I think he was based in Philadelphia. He ran into a situation where he could get marijuana. Three hundred pounds - great price! So he bought it and he found a buyer that would take that, at an ever better price!

Then the people came back, ’I’ve got six hundred pounds,’ and he did that and sold it again. Then they came back with, I think it was, twelve hundred pounds. He was able to buy it and sold it again and again, the people he bought from, the he sold to, were the DEA. He wound up with a life sentence and he’s now in his twenty-seventh going on twenty-eighth year behind bars, for marijuana.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: That’s a very upsetting story. He probably could not have done what he did without their involvement. Which was the same with me, at the time. I mean I was out of the business, for ten years, without their involvement. They gave me a new identity, a new passport, cash. The vessels… The manpower… Without their involvement there would not have been a case. They created this case.

It was like the perfect storm of sting operations. Because it just so happens there were some aging DEA agents that were near retirement and they wanted their pensions effective, because they needed a so-called ’big bust’ in their file before they retired. It just so happens, the informants, they needed to clear their names overseas in Singapore. So they could get residency. So they could get a new apartment.

There were self-serving greedy reasons for this. It had nothing to do with keeping marijuana off the streets of America. It had nothing to do with that. It had to do with their own personal gains. So they used U S Laws for their own personal gains. Law Enforcement in this case, were the criminals.

Dean Becker: I’ve thought over the years that CIA, FBI, DEA, they’ve got little arrangements. They favoring one cartel, one gang over another. Little kick back, little extortion, little bit of money piling up into their black-ops-box and I’m sure that goes on. I’m still sure of that. But even more so after reading your great book ‘Herb Trader‘, I see now that it’s also used to manipulate the goings on of the political maneuverings in other countries. Because…

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Oh, sure. Well the foreign aid, they’ll go to a poor country like Cambodia and they’ll say, ‘Look, you’ve got to change your marijuana laws here.’ A place by the way, where marijuana for thousands of years, was used by the local people. They really thought it was a joke when they found out that the United States Government… The United States, which they can’t even imagine where it is, it’s on the other side of the earth to them. That they were being influenced by this other Nation and telling them that this plant, that they’d been living with for centuries, they’re no longer able to touch it or use it.

It’s amazing, just amazing how our influence over there, through foreign aid. They’ll just go in there and say, ’You change your laws and we’ll send you… half a million; two million… to re-educate your police force. So that you’ll know how to test for drugs (or something silly). All that money ends up in a foreign bank account of one of the politicians… and it’s a joke. They laugh. They laugh behind our backs.

Dean Becker: Well, they do. I recall one instance after most of the happenings there in Cambodia, that you heard from another police chief or official who said, ’Why didn’t you come to us? We don’t worry about weed. We could have helped you get it through, without all the hassles.’

Mr. Arthur Torsone: That was in Indonesia, when I was being brought to the United States. Yeah, that was… It is. It’s almost comical.

Dean Becker: If it weren’t so horrific. Yes, exactly. Once again folks, we’re speaking with A.R. Torsone. He’s author of, ‘Herb Trader: A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade.’ I highly recommend it. It gives you a good, not just a snapshot, a good overview of the mechanism. The deceit, the lies and the failure of this drug war.

I tell you what, we got just a couple minutes left and I wanted to come back to the thought that… you and I see this. We’ve had decades to observe this. A lot of young folks out there understand it. Beginning to perceive it’s failure. But it’s really going to take more folks daring to stand up. Daring to recognize, daring to do something about this. Because these are highly entrenched powers-that-be and they’re not going to give this up without a pretty good fight, are they?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Oh, I agree. I agree. There’s too much money being made by keeping it demonized and illegal. We have to vote out the people who are keeping this plant illegal. We need to vote them out. We need to vote into offices, whether it’s senators, congressmen, governors, the White House. We need to vote in people, who are intelligent enough and honest enough to see the damage that these laws created.

Dean Becker: Right. Right, indeed. Now once again I want to remind folks, this is ‘Herb Trader: A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade.’ I highly recommend it. It’s written by Mr. A.R. Torsone, our good friend Arthur, we’ve been speaking with here. It’s available from Woodstock Mountain Press.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Yes.

Dean Becker: Give it a read folks and maybe it will help give you some of that courage that Arthur and I are talking about. Because this thing’s lasted ninety/a hundred years already. People are afraid to speak up because they don’t have the knowledge with which to do so. Am I right, Arthur?

Mr. Arthur Torsone: We live in fear. We live in fear that the IRS is going to knock on our door. We live in fear that the FBI is going to knock on our door, if we speak our minds. That is, those are reflections of the cultural revolution in China. The Pol Pot Regime. Joseph Stalin’s regime, where it was neighbor against neighbor.

Dean Becker: Stasi in East Germany.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Yeah, yeah. We cannot allow this to happen to our great nation!

Dean Becker: If snitches are glorified, we’re all in trouble, folks.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Well, we have a crooked informant system here. Where informants are turning in lesser people. They’re turning in and creating crimes so that they can walk away from their sentences. It’s perverted. It’s terrible what’s happening.

Dean Becker: Well, it is indeed. I tell you what Arthur, let’s stay in touch. I may bring you back again to kick this around again. Because it’s a great book, my friends. I highly recommend it. ‘Herb Trader: A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade.’ A.R. Torsone, thank you so much.

Mr. Arthur Torsone: Thank you, Dean and thanks for all your hard work. It’s so important. Thank you.

Dean Becker: Alright, sir.

It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Fever, headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, influenza like symptoms, fatigue, edema, diarrhea, depression, hypertension, Plasmapheresis, thrombocytopenia, renal dysfunction and death.


Time's up! The answer: From Bristol-Myers Squibb:

Plavix! To fight blood clots.

Alright, my friends. That one goes out to my sweetie, Pam. She just had a heart attack. She’s going to be taking Plavix, along with a couple of their other concoctions made by those big drug barons and I wish you well, sweetie. We’re going to get through it, together.

(musical accompaniment)

Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.


Alright, my friends. I’m glad we got a minute here to talk. A couple of points to make here. First, we just got a station back, in Australia. NIM-FM (http://nimfm.org) is going to be carrying our 4:20 Report in their content. That brings us back to affiliates, totaling seventy-four that I know of and this is a message to all those stations out there that are using our shows and not telling us, it’s OK.

All I want to know is, what day of the week, what time it airs. BOOM! No paperwork. No Obligation. You don’t owe me a dime. Please, share this information. Let’s do something to end the madness of all this. I mean, it’s beyond recognitions, as far as democracy and freedom. We’ve got to do our part. I urge you to do so.

I want to thank Phillip Guffey for coming in, helping us on the board today. Hadn’t been around in awhile. It’s good to see him and well, I’ve got the time here. Let me tell you this. I do highly recommend this book, ‘Herb Trader‘. It’s a true story. ‘A Tale of Treachery and Espionage in the Global Marijuana Trade.’

It will give you a bigger picture, if you will, of what this drug war’s about. How it works on the international scope, if you will and again, perhaps give you the courage and motivation to ’Do Your Part’. Because that’s how we end this and always… I remind you, that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag, do you? 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