10/03/10 - James P. Gray

Century of Lies

Superior Court Judge James P. Gray (ret) re Calif Prop 19 to legalize cannabis, drug policy reform + Dale Gieringer, Ph.D of Calif NORML

Audio file


Century of Lies / October 03, 2010

(Upbeat music)

It’s the end of Drug War as we know it
It’s the end of Drug War as we know it
It’s the end of Drug War as we know it
And I feel fine


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.


Alright, it’s with a great deal of joy that I welcome you to this edition of Century of Lies. You know, back about ten and a half years ago, I got into drug reform and I teamed up with the Drug Policy Forum on The New York Times and invited all kinds of guests, Nobel laureates and judges and governors and all kinds of folks.

I think the very first one that I ever invited on The New York Times and onto the Drug Truth Network Radio was our guest tonight. He’s now retired, Superior Court Judge James P. Gray. Are you with us, sir?

Judge James P. Gray: Yes indeed, Dean and it’s nice to be with you, of course. I’m proud of what you’ve been able to do and by the way, that’s T-shirt you’re wearing looks really good.

Dean Becker: (Laughs) It does indeed. I wore it to an Astros game yesterday. Only one person there noticed what it was all about. I want to thank you for being with us Judge. It was your book, Why Are Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, a judicial indictment of the war on drugs that emboldened me.

It educated me and got me, you know, moving down this track because I knew from what you had written, a man of great respect, that we has so much in agreement and I just set to work. I just want to thank you once again for that great book.

Judge James P. Gray: Well, Dean and thank you. I did spend a lot evenings and weekends working on that with the exact hope of hearing something like what you just said and gosh, ever since then, when I continued to just marvel at how we can continue to perpetuate such a failed policy.

I really believe that this failed and hopeless policy of drug prohibition is the biggest failed policy in the history of our country, second only to slavery. I can guarantee that once we repeal it and go to something else. We almost couldn’t do worse if we tried.

Everybody in the country will link arms within a year or two and look back in astonishment that we could have perpetuated such a failed system for so long.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir. Judge Gray, I didn’t get a chance to check it. I heard something to the effect that you were on the Geraldo Show just a day or so ago?

Judge James P. Gray: Yes, it was last night actually. That’s right. There were actually four of us talking about Proposition 19 here in California to treat marijuana like alcohol.

Dean Becker: And what was your take on it? Were they fair? Was it given a fair stage?

Judge James P. Gray: Yeah, you know, it’s awfully difficult, Dean, in a short period of time, particularly with four guests to really develop very much but people around the state are talking about this whole issue. People around the country are as well, as witnessed by the Geraldo Show being interested and actually people from around the world are too.

So, the more we discuss it – and that’s my whole, whole view. I think I wrote that in the introduction of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed. All we need to do is legitimize the discussion and I really guarantee that people will agree that we should change away from this policy. So, the more we discuss it and get it out there, the better off we are.

Dean Becker: Right and I don’t know if you had a chance to hear that intro but it is “the end of drug war as we know it,” isn’t it? It’s making a change.

Judge James P. Gray: I think so. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, I heard make this statement and I quote him a lot. That for years now, we’ve been running into the wind that people just have been concerned and not listening but in about the last six months we’ve been running with the wind. People really are understanding. They’re not, they’re not fighting the idea. They’re just trying to grapple with all the rest of us as to the best way of going forward from here. So, I think the end is in sight.

Dean Becker: Ok, I think you for that. Now, Judge Gray, I – well, I think you have op-eds that hit the newspapers all the time but one of the more recent ones, you were talking about the fact that – let’s see if I can find it here.

“I belong to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. My fellow members are people like LAPD Chief Deputy Steve Downing, former San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara, Seattle Police Chief – former Chief Norm Stamford and thousands of others.”

Now, I’m kind of the black sheep of this group but I served as a cop and we both speak on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and they’re getting a lot of exposure out there in California now, right?

Judge James P. Gray: They really are and don’t you dare call your self the “black sheep” in my presence, Dean. You’re a valued member of LEAP and others. Everyone is a valued member. In fact, you really don’t have to be present of former law enforcement to join forces with LEAP.

You can find them at copssaylegalizedrugs.com but you know, we’ve been fighting this thing for decades. We’re fighting decades of rhetoric of pretty much everybody that was raised in the same way that I was. To equate heroin, for example, with bad, with evil, with prison without really giving it much thought but now people are understanding that those who take heroin – I’ve never in my life heard anyone say that being a heroin addict is a good thing. I mean, we all know that’s not true but it’s a medical issue. They are beginning to understand.

For example, I’ll just skip to Mister Robert Downey Jr. who will always have that craving, who will always be recovering form that heroin addiction. It makes as much sense to put him in jail for his heroin addiction, as it would have Betty Ford in jail for her alcohol addiction. It’s the same thing.

It’s a medical issue but if Robert Downey Jr., Betty Ford or you or I, honestly, drive a motor vehicle impaired by – you name it, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, which is my drug of choice or cocaine, whatever, then that’s a crime. It should be because now by their actions they’re putting our safety at risk. Otherwise, it just really isn’t a criminal justice issue at all. Eventually we’ll come around to that conclusion, just like with alcohol and we’ll be an awful lot better off.

Dean Becker: You know, Judge Gray, there are numerous opponents, if you will, of Prop 19 getting some press out there in California and I guess elsewhere. There was one recently by a Mister Walt Allen III. He was talking about – oh, by the way, don’t be fooled by the so-called law enforcement organizations, the proponents have popped up.

You don’t have to be part of law enforcement to be a member. Now, that is true. You and I are speakers. That’s a different designation within the organization, right?

Judge James P. Gray: That’s true. Yes, we only have people who were former prison guards, judges, prosecutors, police officers, whatever as speakers but anyone can join.

Dean Becker: Ok, he talks about, “the measure is so badly worded that everyone who has seriously looked at it – who has looked it is opposed to it. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Senator Diana Feinsten, both of the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor. Both US Senate candidates and both Attorney General candidates.” And he says, “How can a ballot measure be so bad that candidates who are running against each other can be joined in opposition.” What’s your response to that, sir?

Judge James P. Gray: Well, of course and we go back to 1996, Dean, as you know for Proposition 215 for medical marijuana. I can’t think of any elected official that was in favor of it. Certainly law enforcement was against it and the federal government was against it but the people understood and passed it by 56% of the vote.

We’re pretty much in that same position now. It’s just that politicians are realty just apoplectic about being labeled as soft on crime. So, here’s something that they feel they can show how tough they are and everything else. So, it’s not at all surprising.

Nevertheless, the Black police officers – National Black Police Officers has endorsed it. Actually, I think, it’s the Los Angeles Democratic Party that’s endorsed it. A lot of people are beginning to see this and endorsing it but it’s mostly the people that understand. The question to ask is – you know, are we in better shape today than we were last year or five years ago with regard to this whole issue of marijuana prohibition?

It’s the largest cash crop in California and also in many other states around the country. One way or another, if Prop 19 doesn’t pass, we’ll continue to have all of these people smoke marijuana or buy it, including making it much easier for children to get marijuana than it is alcohol because, of course, the illegal dealers don’t ask for ID.

So, it’s just a simple sense of practicality. Instead of trying to moralize about this issue, we’re trying to manage it instead and I for one and think that all other reasonable people understand that yes, if marijuana is going to be sold. I would much prefer to that the city of Burbank or the city of San Diego be in charge and gain the money, than juvenile gangs or Mexican drug cartels or other thugs. I think that’s a pretty straightforward analysis that will carry the day.

Dean Becker: I’ve been speaking with some high elected officials within Texas state government of late and without going on-air and without giving their name because I’ll protect them at this point, they say that the laws would change in Texas but the Republicans have a stranglehold on the discussion. Your thoughts there, sir?

Judge James P. Gray: Well, California pretty much leads the nation in many things and as I kind of jokingly say, “Some of them are good.” We led the nation in medical marijuana on Prop 215 and then it spread around the country. I think the same thing is going to happen here, that once California passes Proposition 19 to treat marijuana like alcohol, the other states are going to look around and say, “Wait a minute, you know, It’s working in California.”

Now, it’s not a reason to pass 19 because of the taxation issue but it certainly is a nice side benefit. They’re going to see that juvenile gangs and Texas has them, of course, as well, aren’t being – receiving less funding now that we’re taken the marijuana out of that funding stream for them. It’s going to sweep the nation. I think Texas will come right along with it.

Dean Becker: You know Judge, I think about it this way. You know, when I was in my youth, I started smoking weed. I was not a criminal. I never did brake the law in any other degree but I think for those people, especially those who get caught, whose lives are disrupted and turned upside-down are sometimes led to believe that they can salvage their life by doing something more violent or a property type crime. That once the law says you’ve crossed over, it kind of opens the door to people tying to, as I say, salvage their life through maybe some other types of crime. Your thoughts on that, sir?

Judge James P. Gray: I think you’re right in that, Dean. You know, there are a lot of people, a vast, vast majority of people that smoke marijuana and I don’t by the way. We can pass Prop 19. We could legalize it.

We could give it away on the street corner and bless it by every religious leader in town and I’m still not going to smoke marijuana, unless by the way maybe a medical doctor would recommend it for me for a medical problem but the vast overwhelming majority of people that smoke marijuana, do it in a responsible manner.

Now, I think, yes, marijuana has its harms. I don’t think we have any question about that but there are probably far fewer harms than my drug of choice, which happens to be alcohol. So, why should we make them automatic criminals? Even though marijuana has harms, by far the worst harm connected today to marijuana is jail.

We are ruining people’s lives. We’re taking young people, like you mentioned, by taking away their drivers licenses and making them ineligible for federal funding for education, actually taking away their eligibility for federal housing or anybody – that even their parents, if they’re living at home and doing that. So, it’s just an enormous harm that we’re inflicting upon ourselves.

I applaud Governor Schwarzenegger here in California yesterday for signing the bill to make marijuana now an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. I think that’s better but we still don’t have any control at all over the process of who grows it, who packages it, who ensures the quality, who ensures the quantity, the prices, the age restrictions, etc. All of those are controlled by the bad guys basically and except some righteous medical marijuana clinics.

So, it’s time to bring this drug, even though it can be harmful under the law. Deprive the criminal gangs of funding and then regulate people’s conduct instead of what they put into their bodies.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Judge James P. Gray. Judge, you weren’t there at the most recent NORML conference, I don’t believe. Governor Johnson actually showed up there and they had a big party, celebration and somebody broke out a joint that was about a foot long and an inch and a half diameter and lit it up.

Now, of course, the governor did not smoke it. He kind of walked away from that little gathering but you have been exposed to now, I’m sure, hundreds if not thousands of marijuana smokers who have been smoking the very best, the best extracts, the best product that they can develop. You can tell, I think usually, when people are a little high, but they’re not stumbling. They’re not falling down. They’re not creating havoc, so to speak.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that many of those now opposing Prop 19, say that it might lead to an increase of driving under the influence. Their problem, their main problem is that they can’t tell if these people are intoxicated.

Judge James P. Gray: Well, Dean, those problems are going to exist whether Prop 19 passes or not. Yes, it’s more difficult to determine the impairment of marijuana as opposed to alcohol. They don’t have any alcohol blood tests for marijuana so much. Although, I am reading but I don’t have a whole lot of information about this.

I am reading that science is developing a swab, that can be put inside your mouth and determine if somebody has smoked marijuana within the last four hours. I think that’s great but nevertheless, all of these things are just really kind of signs of desperation that, you know, I’m not going to smoke marijuana if 19 passes. Most people are not as well and if they were, they were probably smoking it already.

So, we can learn for the experience of Portugal for example, which I’m sure you’re aware of. Portugal determined in the year 2000 that they had the largest drug problem of any other country in the European Union. So, they did something really intelligent.

They impaneled a group, a commission of non-political experts to look into the situation. They came and they told the government, “We have two problems in Portugal. Number one is that the people with problem drug usages are afraid of their own government. So, obviously they won’t bring their problems to the government because if they do they’ll get punished.”

“Number two, the government is spending so much money on the investigation that prosecution and incarceration of problem users, they don’t have any money available for drug treatment.”

So, in 2001, the entire country of Portugal decriminalized all drugs and now the Cato Institute, who just last year came out with a study using all of the data from the first six years, from 2001 to 2007. They showed that contrary to the alarmist here that the drug usage in Portugal actually, if anything, stayed the same or went down by about half a percentage point but problem drug usage went down by 50%. Why? Because, like that commission said, people were no longer afraid of their own government. You always know if you have problem drug usages or a lot. So, they would come to the government and the government and the government would have money for drug treatment.

So, all of these alarmists that say that we’ll have a bunch of drug zombies, if we change our system or everybody is going to smoke marijuana and go drive a motor vehicle. It’s just that, it’s an alarmist, fear mongering type of thing. And most of those problems we have already, we’re now going to reduce those harms by passing Prop 19 in California and then around the rest of the country.

Dean Becker: Alright, Judge Gray, I think about it like this, the – as you say, the alarmist, fear mongering kind of thing that goes on, is based on, well, not much fact. I guess is really what I would like to state and the fact is that on most television programs and in publications, there is always a he said/she said kind of thing going on, lending credence to these rumors and innuendos and sometimes outright fables about drugs use, is there not?

Judge James P. Gray: Yes, yesterday, after actually the Geraldo Show, I was on the ten o’ clock news for FOX in Southern California and the Sheriff, Lee Baca, was on there as well and the two of use kind of had a short debate. The sheriff’s a fine fellow but even he continues to throw out this thing that, “Oh, the stepping stone theory. Everybody who used cocaine, used marijuana along the way.” Honestly, he’s probably right about that but most people who use cocaine probably did use marijuana probably at one time or another.

85% of anybody that’s ever used marijuana in our country has not gone on to use other drugs and before using marijuana, they probably used alcohol and before that, cigarettes. You can trace it back to Lipton tea or to mother’s milk, if you want to. So, it’s been exploded. It just isn’t true but it’s easy to say it. “Gosh, it’s a stepping stone and everybody is gonna go to hell if they smoke marijuana.” You know, it’s really easy to say that but it takes a while to explain that it isn’t true.

So the sound bites are more easier on the side of the others, of the fear mongerers and it’s a lot more difficult and that’s on us. So, that’s why it’s taking a lot longer, I think, to get people to understand. First of all, that it’s ok to talk about drug policy and secondly, that just because we would change our approach does not mean we condone drug abuse, not at all. But just like Holland, just like most of Western Europe, we’re just taking a managerial approach, instead of just moralizing about it. They’re doing a lot better than we are.

Dean Becker: Indeed, they are. Well, sir, we’re gong to have to and it there but I want to thank you once again for being with us on this ninth anniversary of the Drug Truth Network. We’ve been speaking with Mister – with Former Superior Court Judge James P. Gray. Thank you so much Judge and we’ll be in touch soon, you know that.

Judge James P. Gray: Well, absolutely, Dean and continued best wishes. If others have more questions too, you know, I do have a website. It’s judgejimgray.com. There’s a lot more information there, as well as in other places like with LEAP or the Drug Policy Alliance. There’s lots of information out there now. There’s almost no excuse for people not understanding what the real reality is here. All they have to do probably is listen to your show.

Dean Becker: Well, thank you and thank you for being part of it.

Judge James P. Gray: Good luck to us all.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir.

Judge James P. Gray: Take care. Bye.


(Slow hymn music)

Suffer and learn
Suffer and learn
The only way to be Ok
Suffer and learn


Dale Gieringer: I’m Dale Gieringer with California NORML at canorml.org.

Dean Becker: Dale, there’s been some big news again, breaking out in California. Just yesterday, the governor signed a bill that would change the laws in regards to a small amount of marijuana. Do you want to outline that for us?

Dale Gieringer: Yeah, the governor signed a bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less. That’s petty possession, from a technical misdemeanor to an infraction. It’s punishable by the same fine, a hundred dollars.

Basically, what this does is it means that all of the 60,000+ people per year who are arrested for petty possession of pot will no longer have arrest records of any kind and they will not have to go to court.

So, the bill saves the state some millions of dollars in court costs and for that reason and I think that reason alone, the governor signed the bill. He went on to say that he was against decriminalization and against Proposition 19 but he signed the bill. So, this is the first time in thirty-five years that pot penalties for non-medical use have been reduced in the state of California.

Dean Becker: Now, Dale, that’s a great positive in it’s own right, the 60,000 who will not be arrested, as you say, but it does nothing to take the power away from the cartels and the gangs that are growing and selling these drugs, right?

Dale Gieringer: No, it doesn’t have anything to do with that.

Dean Becker: Well, and I guess in that regard then, does it not take away a little bit of the necessity inherent in Prop 19. What’s your thought there?

Dale Gieringer: Oh, this is really minor stuff, to tell you the truth, compared to Prop 19. We really have to take on the distribution angle. People are not making a big fuss about the marijuana penalty, partly because even now with marijuana possession as a misdemeanor still, it’s a minor misdemeanor and people do not go to jail for it.

So, it doesn’t – unless you’re sending people to jail, it doesn’t really have a high impact or visibility to most of the public out here. Penalties for possession have not been a key issue in the Prop 19 campaign.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Mister Dale Gieringer of California NORML. Dale, a few days back, there was a marijuana expo, if you will, held out there in California and there was to be a debate between those in favor and those opposed to Prop 19 but it turned into more of a heckling and I don’t know. I just disintegrated. Did it not?

Dale Gieringer: Yeah, I missed it. It was as a real donnybrook though. I heard a lot about it. There’s a lot of controversy over Prop 19, especially in medical marijuana circles and there’s a lot of medical marijuana activists and some longtime supporters of marijuana reform who are leery of Prop 19 and are fearful that it might erode the rights of medical patients, specifically.

There’s a whole pack that’s formed of medical marijuana patients opposed to Prop 19. As I say, they’ve been pretty vocal although in the end, I don’t think it’s going to have much affect on the overall voter campaign because what we’re talking about is a minority of a minority here.

We’re looking at the minority of pot smokers who are medical marijuana activists, from the minority of those who happen to oppose Prop 19. This is well under 1% of the vote that we’re talking about. So, I’m not terribly concerned about it but it certainly makes for a colorful debate.

Dean Becker: There’s been come news breaking of late that the alcohol industry is trying to trying to support the NO –

Dale Gieringer: Well, trying. They stupidly gave $10,000. The brewers and distiller’s lobbying group gave $10,000 to the NO campaign. I think it’s totally stupid because it shows what kind of interests are involved against the campaign because the amount of money was not enough to really have any effect on anything either. If they had given a couple of million of dollars, I’d say, “Well, then that amounts to something.” $10,000 is peanuts and instead they just sort of blackened the NO campaign.

Dean Becker: Dale, as I’ve been following the numbers coming out of California, they have been fluctuating but currently they’re set at about 9% in favor of Prop 19.

Dale Gieringer: Yeah, they are. Yeah, it’s been doing pretty well.

Dean Becker: I guess, my thought, sir, is that the protest, if you will, at the recent expo. Does it indicate a push by the growers and maybe some of the distributors to maybe –

Dale Gieringer: No, no. I do think – they’ve never been political. Growers have never been political at all with very, very few exceptions. This is coming from patient advocates and some people who have cooperatives and collectives and some people who have been active in the marijuana legalization movement over a very long time and just have trouble, problems with some of the wording in Prop 19.

Dean Becker: Ok, once again, we’ve been speaking with Mister Dale Gieringer of California NORML. Dale, once again, please, share your website.

Dale Gieringer: canorml.org


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(Boat, water and frog sounds)

Opening up a can of worms and going fishing for truth.

This is the Drug Truth Network.



Alright, I hope you enjoyed this edition of Century of Lies. Judge Jim Gray is on the web. I hope you’ll get in touch with him and learn from him as I did. Be sure to join us next week on the Drug Truth Network when we’ll hear from Hanna Dershowitz. She’s written actually, an op-ed with Judge Gray about how to save our children, if we legalize drugs. We’ll also hear from Lady Beckwith from the Beckley Foundation, Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate.

Be sure to tune in this coming Thursday and Friday. I’ll be the guest host for Time4Hemp on the American Freedom Radio. That’s at 11PM Central. Be sure and check it out.

You know, I really want to say this. You guys have the answer. I say it every week. I’ve said it for nine years now. You guys have to do your part. We’re nearing the edge of solving this but we really need your participation. Please check out our shows at drugtruth.net.

As always, I remind you, there’s no reason for this Drug War to exist.

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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs, archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com