02/12/12 Sanho Tree

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies + Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition & Theresa Danielo of Ohio Medical Cannabis Amendment

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / February 12, 2012


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!”

DEAN BECKER: 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.


DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to read from the newspaper.

“Tony Bennett took the stage at Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy bash to make a political statement. He offered more than just happy memories of the late Whitney Houston. Bennett used the opportunity to ask that the U.S. government reevaluate its stance on drugs using Amsterdam as an example of a successful policy.

‘First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now the magnificent Whitney Houston.’

He began, ‘I’d like every person in this room to campaign to legalize drugs. No one’s hiding or sneaking around corners in Amsterdam. They go to a doctor to get it.’”

We’ll be back shortly with our guest, Mr. Sanho Tree.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition reporting on developments in the war on drugs, arguably the greatest public policy failure of the past fifty years. It has caused so much harm to our citizens as well as death and destruction in Mexico, Central and S0uth America. This policy has attributed directly to the spread of AIDS, Hepatitus C and the overdose deaths of thousands of people.
On Dec. 5, 2011, Merida, Yucatan - The 13th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Tuxtla Mechanism for Dialogue and Coordination ended. The summit was attended by the Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the First Vice President of Costa Rica. Also present were the Foreign Ministers of Belize, Colombia, and El Salvador. The Chilean President was also present as a special guest.
These Latin American countries issued a joint statement on organized crime and drug trafficking Point 7’s translation is: “What would be desirable, would be a significant reduction in the demand for illegal drugs. Nevertheless, if that is not possible, as recent experience demonstrates, the authorities of the consuming countries ought then to explore the possible alternatives to eliminate the exorbitant profits of the criminals, including regulatory or market oriented options to this end. Thus, the transit of substances that continue provoking high levels of crime and violence in Latin American and Caribbean nations will be avoided.”
This is basically LEAPs position for legalization, regulation and control of these substances.
The United States’ drug tzar responded to the Global Commission’s call for legalization as being “misguided” and pretended that they were right and the rest of the world was wrong. They have yet to respond to this latest American call for legalization and the silence is telling.

Now you have the global commission as well as the eleven Central and South American delegations all calling for a change in drug policy. Could it be that the rest of the world is wrong and the United States is right. That is not too likely is it. It’s way past time to set at the global table and work out a workable solution to the world’s drug use issues.

The world recognizes that after four decades of this failed policy, one that was intended to insure a drug free world, has failed miserably. All drugs are more readily available, easier to get and far more potent than they were when this war was last declared in 1972.

Over 75 percent of our citizens say this drug war has failed, 67 percent of our chiefs of police say it has failed and now over fifty percent of our citizens think that cannabis should be legal. When will our government functionaries wake up and stop causing this immense harm.

It’s time for a policy of regulation and control and education versus arrest and incarcerate. This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com signing off. Stay safe.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, this is Dean Becker. You are listening to the Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network on Pacifica Radio. We’re changing things up a bit. We had a lightning strike here at the mothership of the Drug Truth Network a week or so ago so I hope you can hear us well.

We do have with us Mr. Sanho Tree. How are you, sir?

SANHO TREE: Very good, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Sanho, I’m looking at, it’s actually a couple years old but, it’s Darwin’s birthday today, right?

SANHO TREE: Yes it is.

DEAN BECKER: You had this post up about what Darwin could tell us about the War on Drugs.

“Although it may seem counterintuitive, the law and order response by our politicians only intensifies the problem.”

Elaborate there if you would, sir.

SANHO TREE: It’s kind of like how public health professionals say you shouldn’t overuse antibiotics or those antibacterial soaps and detergents and stuff. What you end up doing is killing off the weak bacteria and allowing the super resistant strain to take over in that space and multiply. That’s roughly analogous to what we’ve been doing with the drug war for decades now.

Every time a politician clamors to increase law enforcement what we end doing is the kinds of people we typically capture are the kinds of people who are dumb enough to get caught. No offense to any of your listeners who have ever been busted for anything but the slang on the street is the dealer who uses loses. Right?

For instance, you get sloppy. You get careless. You get apprehended. Conversely, the people we miss when we keep escalating law enforcement are the people who are the most innovative, the most adaptable, the most cunning. They evolve faster.

So it’s like we’ve got this artificial selection process. We’ve been selectively breeding super-traffickers. More or less unintentionally but the dynamic is very predictable. Law enforcement tends to go for low-hanging fruit because they want to make their numbers and justify their budgets every year. These are not necessarily strategic busts but rather ones that make it look like they’re accomplishing something.

In the long run that is actually very counterproductive because you end up with very highly-evolved, very highly-sophisticated trafficking organizations.

DEAN BECKER: I would throw into that mix the thought that also the deadliest survive. Your thought.

SANHO TREE: Yes. Very often that’s the case. As we see in Mexico, though, some of the more …As we knock off the kingpins, for instance, the veteran leaders of these cartels or trafficking organizations, the ones that take over, their lieutenants, may not be as experienced or as wise so they often think with their testosterone. They have fights when they ought to be smoothing things over so they can make more money but their egos and their testosterone gets in the way. Their own violence sometimes becomes their own downfall.

It’s not in the interest of a drug trafficker to wage these incessant turf wars that they’ve been waging for so long now. It’s bad for business – not good for making money – which is the bottom line for drug trafficking.

DEAN BECKER: I think you got to hear that introduction where the guy I least thought would call for legalizing drugs stood up last night and said as much at a Clive Davis concert, Mr. Tony Bennett. What’s your thought to that?

SANHO TREE: I think it’s terrific. He’s going to reach a whole new generation and new demographic that wouldn’t necessarily hear this message otherwise. Also, again, it’s counterintuitive that because he’s of that generation he must be more conservative but he’s also been around the block for quite a few decades. He’s been told the drug war promises of victory around the corner for decades. In that sense there’s something new under the sun in his position to reach those conclusions.

It is wonderful that he’s come out and said this so publically at a moment when the country really needed to hear this.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I would agree. Here, again, he’s not alone. There’s 12 heads of state from Central and South America who got together (I think it was last month) and came to a conclusion that it’s time to regulate. They didn’t use the word legalize. It didn’t get much splash because I guess there’s just so many people talking about it these days. What’s your response to that?

SANHO TREE: Yes. This is the 13th regional meeting they’ve had. It’s called the Tuchala Mechanism for Coordination. It’s a very welcome step forward. It’s not a decisive statement in that they say the U.S. ought to reduce demand severely, dramatically and, if not, we should consider market alternatives which is a diplomatic way of talking about legalization, regulation. Taking the profits out of this economy.

There are…I don’t want to claim that this is a huge leap forward. These are some of the same governments who have very recently asked the U.S. for an increase in drug war funding to deal with crime and drugs. There’s a phenomenon called simul-opting that is quite common in government. Marcus Raskin who is the co-founder of the office I work at – the think tank I work at – and he was in the Kennedy administration. He coined this term simul-opting to describe Kennedy diplomacy where he would seek two divergent goals at the same time and at the very end you would know which way you would break.

It kept his adversaries on their toes but it was also very frustrating for his own staff because they didn’t know which way the policy would ultimately go with regards to Viet Nam or Cuba, for instance. This is not uncommon. On the one hand they may be putting out trial balloons to see how this will play at home because there isn’t a whole lot of polling in these very impoverished countries to test the waters for legalization. So that’s one way to put a trial balloon out there and see how the media reacts, how voters react. Maybe get some polls out.

On the other hand it’s also a way to turn the smooze on the U.S. “If you’re not going ti give us funding. If you’re cutting back your budget all the time, we have military and police forces that are very reckless sometimes and if they’re not happy, we’re not happy.”

On the one hand if they get more money that might satisfy some of them and there are a lot of them that would love to walk away from the drug war. So it’s not impossible to have two simultaneously divergent objectives going at the same time.

I think we also need to consider that their own domestic politics. It is very difficult to sell a counterintuitive argument to voters which is why we’ve had this problem in the U.S. for so long as well. The easy, knee-jerk solutions are the ones that are easiest to sell.

If you think the Rupert-Murdoch media is right wing and opportunistic and simplistic – think what some of the Central American media are. So if you think drugs are bad then why not have a War on Drugs? There are a lot of people who are calling for the iron fist approach to clamping down on these things because it’s the easy option it seems to a lot of people who haven’t thought this through necessarily.

There are an awful lot of people, as well, who have seen this go on for so long and they’re sick of it. They’ve done some reading and thought this through and think that ending prohibition is the best option which I would agree with.

DEAN BECKER: I’m looking here at another story. I think this is today’s Washington Pot maybe yesterday.

“Guatemalan president to propose legalizing drugs in Central America

President Otto Perez Molina said Saturday he will propose legalizing drugs in Central America in an upcoming meeting with the region's leaders.

‘I want to bring this discussion to the table,’ he said. ‘It wouldn't be a crime to transport, to move drugs. It would all have to be regulated.’”

It is beginning to seep through the cracks a bit, isn’t it? It brings to mind there’s a new outfit (can’t think of the name) that Sue Rush is sponsoring. They’re trying to propose how we legalize marijuana. They want to put in new controls and sanctions in all kinds of ways to deal with it because they see they’re losing their grip on controlling this scenario. Your response, please.

SANHO TREE: It’s a very interesting moment in drug policy right now. With regards to Guatemalan president, former General Otto Perez Molina – it’s a very early stage. He just came out with the statement yesterday and we need to hear more from him as to what his real thoughts are.

On the one hand he’s got a very difficult situation. He is a former General in Guatemalan’s military and has been linked to having played a major role in the genocide – particularly in the 1980s and early 90s. There’s a lot of blood on his hands and the Guatemalan military is also extremely bloody which is why the U.S. cut off their military aid beginning back in t 1978. So they’ve been problematic for a very long time.

One of his objectives has been to get that aid flowing again. So is he playing hard ball with the U.S. saying, “If you don’t open up the spigot and resume military assistance to my military we may just walk away from this drug war.”

On the other hand it may represent his genuine views. It’s not impossible to have this kind of Simul-Opting going on. I don’t know. I can’t read his mind. It’s an optimistic statement for him to say that sort of thing.

DEAN BECKER: And, again, regarding Sue Rush. Isn’t she head of Drug Free America or something similar?

SANHO TREE: The prohibitionists are very much panicked right now. With states like Colorado and Washington State and possibly Oregon and other states with ballot initiatives to tax and regulate recreational marijuana use this fall. This is a sea change.

The drug war overall, from my perspective, is really about turf. Turf is really about funding. The way you secure and maintain funding whether you’re part of the government drug war complex or Sue Rush’s type group (the so-called non-governmental pro drug war groups) it becomes an existential crisis.

The way you protect your budgets is through controlled doctrine which is why ONDCP and the DEA will never admit that they’ve made a mistake. Once you open up that can of worms you start second-guessing their other decisions so they want to portray this sense of infallibility. Otherwise where does the graveling stop? And it can start affecting your budgets after a while.

I think people really need to understand the importance of budgets in Washington with these federal bureaucracies. It is an existential crisis. If you’re a non-profit organization and I threaten your funding through your foundation you would move heaven and earth to make sure that didn’t happen. These bureaucrats are no different and they know how to play these games. They know who to run to in congress or their allies and FOX News and the places to scream “bloody murder”. “If you dare touch my funding there’ll be hell to pay.”

Michael Brown, the former DEA deputy, recently said, “There’ll be hell to pay if you don’t fund southwest border protection” vis a vis Hezbollah somehow is going to be mortal defector to the U.S. via the border. But he is now in private life and free of government salary caps and, of course, he has a consulting organization and that’s one of his objectives is to make sure he’s funded through Homeland Security and other places.

So there are lots of different interests involved and they play lots of different games.

DEAN BECKER: There is the flip side of that coin so to speak. I’m looking at another story here in the New York Times.

“As the stubborn economic downturn has forced this city to take painful steps to balance its budget in recent years that it has increasingly turned to one of its newer industries to raise much needed revenues – medical marijuana dispensaries.”

That’s becoming a lucrative income for these counties and states, right?

SANHO TREE: Absolutely. I think this is one of the reasons the DEA is particularly eager to clamp down on these things. The threat to them is a threat of a good, working alternative model. They went after the Humboldt County program where the Sheriff would give you a zip-tie to put around your plants once you were certified and following local restrictions, etc. They went after that when at the same time you’ve got cartels growing on public land in California - some of them with booby traps and high-powered weapons. And that’s not a DEA priority?!

Instead they go after the people who aren’t going to be violent, who are obeying the laws and all the rules. So that gives you a sense of what their priorities are.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve got just a couple minutes left. I want to talk about your organization. You’re still with the Institute for Policy Studies?

SANHO TREE: I am, indeed.

DEAN BECKER: Tell us a bit about that organization.

SANHO TREE: We have been around since 1963. We were founded by two former members of the Kennedy administration. At the time the idea of a think tank to do advocacy was quite a novel idea in Washington. Today there are thousands of think tanks but we were one of the earliest.

We’ve been doing stuff on progressive, international domestic policies for almost 5 decades now. I think the drug war is one of the major social justice issues confronting our society today. It is one that is tied to so many other social justice ills in this country whether it’s incarceration, lack of economic alternatives, urban development, etc., etc.

DEAN BECKER: It’s tied into a lot of stuff - if for no other reason money that could be spent elsewhere.

Sanho, you and I took a trip to Bolivia six or seven years ago but you’ve done a lot of travel to Mexico, Central and South America over the years, have you not?

SANHO TREE: Yeah, a fair amount.

DEAN BECKER: Let me ask you…have you observed in recent years a reluctance to go along with the drug war in those southern countries?

SANHO TREE: Oh sure, absolutely. There’s a world of difference between…I’ve been doing this for about 13 or 14 years now. At the beginning toward the end of the Clinton administration we saw the pendulum starting to shift towards reform and then Bush came in. And then 9/11 happened so we suffered several years of the pendulum swinging back towards a very reactionary way. Now it’s swinging back in the other direction with a great deal of momentum.

I think President Santos in Colombia is one of the people who really shook up the U.S. government when he came out and talked about legalization. This is one of our main drug ware allies and he was Defense Minister under President Uribe, the previous right-wing president. For him to question the drug war – and I talked to people in the ONDCP about this – they were basically blown away. They were taken by surprise.

I had to remind them that President Santos signed the 1998 New York Times ad to the United Nations with George Shultz, Milton Friedman and all these other people opposing the drug war. They had forgotten that.

DEAN BECKER: I understand that starting in just a couple days and running for a few days in Mexico City there’s another major drug conference going on. This time it’s got a lot of gringos down there – Ethan Nadelmann and others from the Drug Policy Alliance. It’s getting fair hearing. It’s getting “air” so to speak, isn’t it?

SANHO TREE: Yes and more and more traction through social media and all these other things. More and more people are educating themselves about this so that the right-wing, knee-jerk solutions don’t work. That ultimately these are complex problems and sometimes you have to do a little bit of studying to educate yourself about solutions that are very often counterintuitive. That being tough is not the same as being effective.

I think it’s taken Mexico 5 bloody years to realize what a lot of people realized a lot sooner. In terms of general public opinion people are very much turning. There’s still more rooting to go.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed there is. Friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Sanho Tree from the Institute of Policy Studies. Sanho, quickly, your website.

SANHO TREE: http://www.ips-dc.org

DEAN BECKER: OK, Sanho, we’ll be in touch as this year unfolds. I’m sure there’s going to be much more to talk about. Thank you.

SANHO TREE: Sure. Thanks a lot.


(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects.

Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, stomach pains, swelling of the hands or feet, unexplained weight gain, tinnitus, liver disease and death.


Time’s up!

This medicine, supplied by dozens of pharmaceutical houses is named: Ibuprofen.



DEAN BECKER: We all love Big Brother. He protects us from the evil one. Bow down to Big Brother – to his satellites and guns. We need him and adore him. Freedom is so over-rated.


THERESA DANIELO: My name is Theresa Danielo and I’m with the Ohio Cannabis Act of 2012.

DEAN BECKER: Now there are great things happening all around the country and they’re certainly happening in Ohio. The voters are going to get a chance to change the cannabis laws, right?

THERESA DANIELO: We’re working on that right now. We need to get 385,000 valid signatures to be on the November ballot in 2012. Right now our organization is fundraising and preparing our strategy to get that done.

DEAN BECKER: Right. That’s a large number but the people seem to want it so I’m sure you’ll get a lot of cooperation. What do you think?

THERESA DANIELO: The last poll we had done showed 73% of Ohioans that wanted it. What we’re getting from the public right now is extremely positive feedback. We think if we get this to the ballot we do believe that it’s going to pass.

DEAN BECKER: Give us some of the details. There’s a lot of them around the country. What will yours put forward?

THERESA DANIELO: One of the most important things to know about Ohio is what we’re doing is a constitutional amendment. We’re not passing a statute or any type of a bill. We’re looking at actually amending our constitution. Very few states have done this. Colorado being one of them and I think Nevada is somewhere in the process of amending their constitution.

What we did initially we went through the Ohio revised code and we implemented using medical marijuana which existed in Ohio revised code. We researched that for a couple of years. Then we brought this amendment to the table.

What we’re looking at doing is creating rights for the medical marijuana patients – the right to confidentiality, the right to be free of discrimination, the right to use medication, the right to grow your own medication and also for the right for the entire industry to exist in the state of Ohio.

Because this is a constitutional amendment our team doesn’t believe that we should put the entire industry and burden our constitution with that much language. We’ve put together approximately a 1200-worded ballot initiative that creates the rights and then provides a commission that will set up all the rules and regulations of the industry bypassing the general assembly.

DEAN BECKER: Now you’re not going to depend on the Taliban for hash or the Mexican cartels for the weed or the gangs to sell it. How’s it going to be distributed?

THERESA DANIELO: What we’re going to do is actually leave that up to our commission and let the commission sort out all the rules and regulations. Now I might mention that previously we had an initiative that we did file with the Ohio Attorney General and that was rejected. That was a 17-page initiative. We really submitted it so that we can introduce to the legislature what we are expecting as patients in the state of Ohio.

We did make provisions for growing permits and provisions for patients to grow their own, provisions for coops, provisions for caretakers and also provisions for stores. We would like to provide that outline amongst other outlines to our commission so when they do set up the rules and regulations they aren’t going at it blind.

We can present the current ballot language that Colorado is using with their regulatory system. We would want to have our commission as educated as possible when they do set up the rules and regulations for the industry.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, this sounds like a very doable thing. Certainly the people of Ohio have indicated as much but 300,000 plus signatures is a pretty long road to hoe. How are you going to get that done?

THERESA DANIELO: At this time, during this short time has been open to volunteers. We’ve had 300 volunteers come to us. We are actually getting ready to look for funders and be able to present our leadership team to the funders. We would like to be able to hire a ballot company to come in and professionally get this done and professionally run a campaign in the state of Ohio.

DEAN BECKER: And that website where they can reach you.

THERESA DANIELO: http://www.omca2012.org/ email is publicrealtions@omca2012.org


DEAN BECKER: I appreciate you tuning into this edition of Cultural Baggage. I hope you’ll join us next week and, as always, I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.


DEAN BECKER: 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.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.