10/02/11 Adam Assenberg

Century of Lies

Ethan Nadelmann & Evan Goldstein of DPA, Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicle, Elvy Musika who receives 300 joints each month from the DEA and Mary Jane Borden of Drug War Facts

Audio file


Century of Lies / October 2, 2011


DEAN BECKER: 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.


DEAN BECKER: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We’ve got a great show for you today. We’ll hear from Ethan Nadelmann and Evan Goldstein of the Drug Policy Alliance. Mary Jane Borden, of Drug War Facts, will bring us a report of all the hundreds of law enforcement agencies out there looking for drugs in the hands of your children…Phil Smith from the Drug War Chronicle. We’ve got a segment featuring Elvy Musika, one of the four federally-supplied medical marijuana patients. And, last, we’ll hear from Mr. Adam Assenberg who’s been busted and maybe un-busted up there in Oregon.

This is some somewhat ragged audio I dragged off a YouTube video of Ethan Nadelmann, the director of the Drug Policy Alliance, speaking in New York City a couple days ago in the Police Plaze.


ETHAN NADELMANN: Thank you. I should say at the outset that I’m really standing here in place of my colleague Gabriel Sayegh who has worked night and day for the last few years on this issue to move this forward. I also want to say that I’m standing here as a student. Professor Harry Levine of Queens College.

…officials who have stepped up on this issue and none of this would have happened without the advocates standing around me and behind me and working together on this issue – so hard, so persistently.

Now for Drug Policy Alliance, we’re not just about marijuana, we’re not just about racial justice, we’re not just about the NYPD – we’re about honest and decent drug policy in the city, in the state and in this country.


DEAN BECKER: Alright and here’s some better audio in this regard from Mr. Evan Goldstein also of the Drug Policy Alliance.


EVAN GOLDSTEIN: Yes it really is a giant step forward in terms of reducing the unlawful arrests in New York City. Last Monday Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued what’s called an Operations Order which is an internal directive directed at all police officers that really clarified the marijuana possession laws in New York (state as well as the city).

He instructed officers to follow the law and that would really reduce….we hope it’ll reduce the number of arrests in New York City by tens of thousands.

DEAN BECKER: There have been studies, there have been write-ups, there have been articles posted in the past few years that have been bringing focus to bear on this need for change. What was the catalyst? What caused it to happen now?

EVAN GOLDSTEIN: What we really think is it’s sort of “the perfect storm”. A number of advocates such as the Drug Policy Alliance and the Institute for Justice Reform and Alternatives and VOCAL-New York as well as journalists and elected officials have really found that this is a very salient issue to the communities – especially communities of color. And that the cost can’t be borne anymore by New York City residents. It’s so egregiously racially biased – these arrests – as well as …you know, there’s a number of documented situations where the police unlawfully searching people and arresting them and charging them for “marijuana in public view.”

So it really just came to a cruck that the Police Commissioner finally had to respond to public pressure.

DEAN BECKER: I guess the hope is that other cities, other municipalities around the country will also have to reexamine their fiscal policies and where they’re “investing” their dollars, right?

EVAN GOLDSTEIN: Right. We hope that this is going to be an example for the rest of the country. But we also hope that we can expand this policy to the rest of the state. Currently there’s legislation in Albany that would make permanent this policy change in New York City and would also apply it to the rest of the state.

Because Commissioners come and go and their policies come and go. But if this legislative policy becomes law, and we hope it will, will really legislatively bind police officers from arresting people unlawfully as well as charging them for marijuana possession.

The police know every public sector is feeling the public pressure. I think the police a little bit less than other social services…I wouldn’t say I think, I know the police are not feeling the same pressure that other social services are feeling right now.

It’s really still up to advocates and officials to make sure that the police are really helping protect people and not putting them through the criminal justice system unjustly which will raise the final consequences and costs to the person as well as the city. So we hope that this will be taken by the police as a way to actually start community policing.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Mr. Evan Goldstein of the Drug Policy Alliance and if you educate yourself, embolden yourself, motivate yourself to do your part – please check out their website which is http://www.drugpolicy.org.


MARY JANE BORDEN: Hello drug policy aficionados! I’m Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts. This question for this week asks, “What federal agencies enforce drug laws?”

A new table based on a 2009 report from the RAND Corporation can be found Drug War Facts Interdiction chapter. This table lists a number of federal agencies that investigate and enforce drug laws.

Among these are the United States Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Under the Department of Defense, Defense Information Systems Agency’s Anti-Drug Network who engages in information sharing and data mining. The US Northern Command oversees the continental United States and Alaska. The Joint Task Force North, under the Northern Command, stops transnational threats like drug smuggling.

The US Southern Command operates counterdrug operations, etc, in South America. It’s Joint Interagency Task Force South prevents illegal drug trafficking within the Caribbean.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has several positions. Its National Security Intelligence Section interfaces with the intelligence community. The DEA’s Operation Pipeline targets private motor vehicles involved in drug trafficking with its counterpart Operation Convoy handling commercial vehicles.

The El Paso Intelligence Center is a major hub for disseminating drug-related intelligence data. DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams assist state and local drug enforcement challenges.

The ONDCP operates thirty-one High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HITDAs) that collect counter-drug intelligence. Each HITDA has a Regional Intelligence Center associated with it.

The Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force focuses on major drug-smuggling and money-laundering operations while the multi-agency Joint Terrorism Task Force brings together more than 3,000 other government agencies that collect and process terrorist intelligence.

A graphical map of these and other federal agencies created by the RAND corporation can be found at the bottom of the aforementioned table.

If you have a question for which you need facts, please e-mail it to me at mjborden at drugwarfacts.org. I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.

So, remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy, you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.


PHIL SMITH: Hey, this is Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicle. That’s http://www.stopthedrugwar.org. Glad to be with Dean and all of you listeners today. I’ve got a couple things to talk about.

The first thing is a memorandum that came from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms last week. In that memo the US Department of Justice has nullified federal firearms dealers to medical marijuana patients or addicts or unlawful drug users who cannot legally own weapons or ammunition.

A medical marijuana card is proof enough to deny a weapons sale, the memo said. Now this has medical marijuana advocates crying “foul” but, interestingly, national gun rights groups not so much.

This is a memo that came out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms written by the Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs. The author cited a section of the federal criminal code that prohibits anyone who is, “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from possessing firearms.

The letter went to federally-licensed firearms dealers and reminded them that they cannot legally sell guns to people they had reasonable cause to believe are illegal drug users or addicts. Anyone presenting a medical marijuana card is providing reasonable cause for the dealer to believe they are illegal drug users or addicts.

Now this isn’t a new law. This is the federal gun control law. That language has always been in there ever since the law existed but what is frightening is this rethinking of this comes with explicit reference to medical marijuana patients. So it’s a real issue for medical marijuana patients. Do they give up their 2nd amendment rights? Apparently the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms thinks so.

But that is just an opinion from ATF. This has never been litigated in the courts but that may be coming down the road. There was a case out of Oregon this year in which Sheriffs in two counties tried to prevent medical marijuana patients from getting concealed handgun permits. They lost those cases in Circuit court. They lost those cases in the Oregon Appeals court. And they lost those cases in the Oregon Supreme Court.

There is a chance, however, that the Sheriffs will take this…well, there’s more than a chance. The Sheriffs have asked that the US Supreme Court to review this. The Supreme Court hasn’t made a decision yet and the advocates I’ve talked to hope that it decides not to take the case given the current makeup of the court.

This seems to be yet another example of entities within the Obama administration going after medical marijuana despite the administration’s famous 2009 memo saying that they were going to leave it alone in states where it was legal.

DEAN BECKER: Phil, I think of it as just another reach into the “rights’ bag” to take away the basic rights and freedoms of Americans… to protect their second amendment rights, to protect their homes and maybe to protect their cannabis gardens.

It’s a means whereby, again, when guns are illegal – only criminals will have guns and I don’t consider pot smokers to be criminals. Your thoughts?

PHIL SMITH: No, I’m disturbed by this memo but what I find equally disconcerting is the lack of reaction from national gun rights groups. Earlier this week when I was writing this story I put in three calls to the National Rifle Association and got squat. I put in three calls to the National Sports Shooting Foundation (they’re the folks that first posted this memo) and got squat. I put in three calls to the Gun Owners of America and eventually got a response from them.

They are a very conservative group headed by a guy named Larry Pratt. He was kind enough to send me an email in response and his email, while attacking ATF for targeting medical marijuana patients, was more of an excuse to bash AFT from a conservative point of view and less about medical marijuana patients and their rights.

Now in Montana there was one gun group that got really angry about it and, in fact, a Montana congressional delegation is criticizing the AFT over this thing. But it was really striking the lack of response from these groups are supposedly protecting the second amendment rights of US citizens. I guess if you are a medical marijuana patient the NRA doesn’t care about you.

DEAN BECKER: Like too many groups, organizations in America, the NRA is very specific about what they support and fairly silent in regards to nearly every other issue. I find that to be disturbing as well.

PHIL SMITH: Second amendment rights is precisely what the NRA is about and when it comes to second amendment rights for medical marijuana patients – the NRA is silent. This seems to be within their purview.

I would really like to talk to them about that. They don’t seem to want to talk to us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Phil, a lot of times folks just don’t want to talk about something that goes against their history and their “belief system.”

PHIL SMITH: There’s something else I wanted to talk about too today, Dean. There’s a big Canadian Supreme Court ruling that came down this morning. It concerns Insight which is the safe injection site facility in Vancouver which has been operating since 2003, I believe.

It had gotten an exemption from the Canadian government- an exemption from Canadian drug laws to be able to operate. But the Conservative Harper government wanted to end that exemption. They were fought by activist’s groups as well as Pacific Coastal Health organization - that’s the province of British Columbia health organization.

And they won in the Supreme Court today. Insight can still stay open. Now that’s an important harm reduction facility. It’s been proven to reduce overdoses. It’s been shown to reduce criminality in the surrounding area. It’s been shown to put hard core heroin addicts on a path towards more stable lives. It’s the kind of good thing that we need to see more of and now the Canadian Supreme Court has sided with the forces of light and said that Insight can stay open despite the Harper government’s objections.

Oh, I forgot to mention, it has also been demonstrated to show that it reduces the spread of blood-borne diseases like Hep C and HIV/AIDS. That’s an important thing.

DEAN BECKER: And this is another example of “Conservatives” trying to ratchet up enforcement, trying to diminish harm reduction policies like this Insight location.

PHIL SMITH: In the face of the science and the evidence.

DEAN BECKER: But the fact of the matter remains that these factions, these representatives of the cartels are operating in more than a thousand US cities now and where does all that laundered money go from the banks that wash this money for the cartels.

PHIL SMITH: Apparently that’s not a problem in the United States – it’s only a problem in Mexico. Because we never seem to hear anything about that, do we?

DEAN BECKER: (chuckling) No. Only Mexico is corrupt, right?

PHIL SMITH: Apparently so. I think, you have to understand that we have all sorts of vested interests who have a state in maintaining the status quo. You have police agencies – we could probably reduce our police forces by one-third if we ended drug prohibition. Ditto for Prosecutors’ offices and the prison system. Not to mention defense attorneys. I know we like defense attorneys but they’re making all kinds of money off the Drug War.

And there are also people who are true believers. Who really believe “Drugs are bad, umkay?!” And that’s all there is to it. That’s a very simplistic view. I’m not saying that everyone is corrupt. Some people really believe that they’re doing the right thing by making things worse.

It’s a long, hard battle. It’s not going to be one that is won today or next week or even next year. This is the long war that we’re in.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I like to think back to nearing the end of alcohol prohibition and I can’t think of the gentleman’s name but he said, “The chance of ending alcohol prohibition is about equivalent to a hummingbird tying the Washington Monument to its tail and flying to the moon.”

PHIL SMITH: I remember that quote. That’s a good one to remember.

DEAN BECKER: And prohibition was ended about a year and a half later.

PHIL SMITH: I think the structure’s unsound. I think at some point somebody’s going to pull out one brick and the whole thing is going to come tumbling down.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed it will. Well Phil I know you’ll be working on that as will I – probably until our dying breaths if we don’t “get ‘er done.”

PHIL SMITH: I’ve always said I felt like I was in no danger of working myself out of a job.

DEAN BECKER: Alright folks, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Phil Smith of the Drug War Chronicles and you can check out all of their great work on their website which is http://www.stopthedrugwar.org


DEAN BECKER: The following is courtesy of KATU television, Eugene, Oregon.

ELVY MUSIKA: I get a nice little buzz from it.

ANNOUNCER: That buzz comes courtesy of the federal government. An Oregon woman says she part of a little-known government program that supplies her with free marijuana. Since the mid-1970s the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program has been supplying free, legal cannabis to a handful of people.

The program officially ended in 1992 but four patients still receive pot. Our Christina Nelson sat down with the Eugene woman who is part of that program.

CHRISTINA NELSON: You might call it her morning routine. With her lighter in hand the 72-year-old Elvy Musika gets a cannabis buzz every day courtesy of the federal government.

ELVY MUSIKA: It does give you a push. It makes you…the high is nothing but feeling good about things.

CHRISTINA NELSON: This grandmother who uses cannabis for her glaucoma is part of a very unique club.

ELVY MUSIKA: The tins that the government sends to the University of Miami and I have to go there, see my doctor and pick up my prescription.

CHRISTINA NELSON: Since 1988 Musika have been getting more than 3 and 1/2 pounds of pot every year from the federal government every year for free.

ELVY MUSIKA: This is what they send me. I call them my “green Pall Malls”.

CHRISTINA NELSON: She’s part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. It started in 1976 after a man sued the government claiming only pot helped his glaucoma. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provided rolled joints for sick people until the first Bush administration halted it in 1992.

ELVY MUSIKA: But every single one of us had to have reliable doctors that they would count on, extensive medical records. I eventually became the first woman to join the two men who were smoking legally at the time.

CHRISTINA NELSON: The program has been closed for almost 20 years but the FDA still allows the remaining four patients, including Musika, to receive the free cannabis.

ELVY MUSIKA: I’m just so glad I found this. I really think in the spirit of Thanksgiving every single day.

ANNOUNCER: Christina Nelson tells us the marijuana is grown at the University of Mississippi and then it’s taken to Florida where Musika picks it up every year. She’s also an Oregon medical marijuana card holder and receives pot through the state as well.


DEAN BECKER: You know folks, there’s all kinds of news going on in this Drug War, Mexican barbarians and Taliban-thriving and gang growing and all too often we hear the stories of the decent medical marijuana provider getting his door kicked in . Getting his stuff taken and that happen to our guest, fellow radio host. He does “Marijuana: Fact or Fiction” up there in the NorthWest.

It’s a pretty good story. Let’s just bring him in. Adam Assenberg, how are you, sir?

ADAM ASSENBERG: Hey Dean. I could not be better. It is just going great. I had my first day of court yesterday with the arraignment and everybody thought that all I would be able to do when I went into the courtroom would be to plead guilty or not guilty to four felony charges that they are trying to place on me - two for delivering marijuana substance to a patient, one for growing and one for transporting.

DEAN BECKER: And yet all that’s legal under your state’s law, isn’t it?

ADAM ASSENBERG: Yes it is. And, as a matter of fact, they’re not trying to get me under any felony charges as far as the federal prosecution goes. All this is based on state charges when it supposed to be legal to dispense medicine to one patient at a time and have 15 plants per patient. I’m a patient, my wife’s a patient and we cared for one other person so we’re allowed to have a total of 60 plants each.

The funny thing about this is that Dennis Tracy, the prosecutor on this case, and his subordinates which he’s trying to use to protect his political career – the two of them are saying that since I had 82 plants they’re going after me on that. 46 of those 82 were in a cloning machine, Dean. So I was actually legally under my limit.

DEAN BECKER: It’s amazing how political careers are built or, perhaps, ruined based on their interpretation of these laws, isn’t it?

ADAM ASSENBERG: Yes it is. It was so beautiful because I went ahead and I did not waive the reading of all the charges. I had the just go ahead and tell me everything I was charged with. And then I turned around and said, “Your honor, I do not understand the charges as they have been presented because I have a question of law that needs to be answered before I can plead guilty or not guilty.”

Which allowed me to open the door to just totally slam them with an argument right at the very beginning of the case and that is the fact that under Washington state law, we have the Washington state constitution, Article 12 that stipulates you cannot give a special immunity to one class of citizens without giving that same right to all citizens throughout the state.

Today they’re having a marijuana farmers’ market at the White Center Mall in Seattle and we have over 60 stores in Seattle that are dispensing this to patients without fear of prosecution so clearly Article 12, which stipulates that no law shall be created that violates the right of all citizens to be treated equally, is being violated in my case and I got the slam that right at the beginning of their arraignment.

DEAN BECKER: What was the judge’s response?

ADAM ASSENBERG: He looked pretty shocked that I would even know anything like that and he said, “Well you should go ahead and talk to your representative counsel and have them file a declaration because of it being constitutionally unsound of what they’re doing to you.”

I told him that was one of the first things I planned on doing. Another thing I plan on doing immediately is arguing the fact that since Washington state, as well as the federal government, still has marijuana as a Schedule 1 listing while having the federal Cancer Institute, the federal Veterans Administration, my dear friend Elvy and many others allowed to have the medical use of marijuana (a total of four patients federally) and so I might bring those people into court and have them testify to this matter showing that since 2002 the Department of Justice has been violating the law as Congress has set forth under 21 section 812 paragraph B where it says it cannot have any medical value to be a Schedule 1 narcotic.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Adam, this Drug War, this war on marijuana in particular has been a battle of a thousand cuts and I hope that yours strikes deep and aims for the heart of this wicked monster. I admire you so much.

ADAM ASSENBERG: Here’s a total mind-blow, too, Dean. It’s going to really surprise a lot of your listeners out there. This coming Friday, the next week, I’m actually getting an evidentiary hearing to where I can get my medical cannabis back.

DEAN BECKER: Now this seems only reasonable given the circumstance that between you and your wife you were under your limit of plants and clones, etc. They need to get off their high horse and do what’s right, don’t they?

ADAM ASSENBERG: I’ll tell you what. It’s going to be really tough for them this coming week because my intentions is I’m going to go ahead, sit in the courtroom each and every day that Superior Court judge, now that he knows who I am, and since I’m pretty much without medicine right now, I’m starting to have quite a few seizures now and instead of having the seizures in the privacy of my home where no one gets to see them – I’m going to go ahead and let the judge and everyone else in the courtroom see what the justice system is putting me through.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. “First, do no harm.” My oh my…all these politicians, all these law enforcement officials practicing medicine, aren’t they?

ADAM ASSENBERG: Well, not only that but they’re really helping the drug cartels and the gangs to get more ammunition and more guns because where are the patients going to right now if all the dispensaries are closed? They’re going out to the streets to get their medicine if there’s no place else to get it.

DEAN BECKER: I will be thinking great thoughts as you come back into that courtroom and I hope many of our listeners out there will as well. It’s time to face the reality of this.
This is a relatively harmless medicine that does, indeed, help many, many people and it could help a lot more, right Adam?

ADAM ASSENBERG: It sure could. It could completely help many people with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and many other things that are still being discovered. Recently it was just discovered in another country that cannabis actually helps build brand new neural pathways within the brain and there’s no other drug I’ve ever heard of that does that, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: It’s a miracle for some people and, you know, for those who suffer a stroke or head injury – they say the best component you can put in that bloodstream is some THC. Some cannabinoids because it helps stop the swelling, it helps prevent brain damage and saves lives as well.

ADAM ASSENBERG: It’s the only thing that helps pass the blood brain barrier known to science.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Adam Assenberg, give the folks your website. Maybe they can learn more there and we’ll certainly be updating them as this progresses.

ADAM ASSENBERG: Thank you, Dean. That is http://marijuanafactorfiction.net. If anyone wants to talk to me directly my number is (888) 812 – 0553 toll free.


DEAN BECKER: Please be sure to join us next week. We’ll be celebrating 10 years of Drug Truth Network. There’s no justification for this drug war. 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.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org