02/19/12 Neill Franklin

Century of Lies

Neill Franklin Dir of LEAP re failure of drug war to protect lives + Meagan Ralston of DPA re OD's on rise & Adam Assenberg who refuses plea bargain on Med MJ case in Wash state

Audio file


Century of Lies / February 19, 2012


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: Hello my friends and welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I am Dean Becker. I’m glad you could be with us. We’re going to bring in our guest here in just a moment. My boss, the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Neill Franklin.

I wanted to talk first about this situation with Whitney Houston. It’s in the news. It’s everywhere. Recently the Huffington Post carried an article written by Mr. Neill Franklin in cooperation with Katharine Celentano and it talks about Tony Bennett and what he said the night that Whitney Houston died.

With that let’s bring in our guest, Mr. Neill Franklin. How are you, sir?

NEILL FRANKLIN: I’m well, Dean. How are you tonight?

DEAN BECKER: I can’t complain a bit. I just wanted to get with my boss. I think this is a great article you guys put together on the Huffington Post. It kind of descrambles some of the myths and situations regarding these overdose deaths.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the important things that we still need to push is that we still need to educate people regarding those suffering from addiction. Our policies throughout the past four decades have been such where we alienate people. We attach stigma to them. Because we’ve driven this whole thing underground people aren’t able to get the medical attention that they so seriously need. They try to hide their addictions and it leads to other things.

We need to, again, another reason for changing our policy so we can bring all of this stuff out into the open for those who are suffering from addiction so they feel so much more comfortable in seeking the help and guidance that they need from one another.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to bring up something. I’m working on a third book. I haven’t issued the first two yet but I’m working on a third one. It’s called Drug War Frenzy. It revolves around the fact that every aspect of the drug war has a certain amount of expedition to it. What I’m trying to say is that a group of drug users may learn that a shipment of drugs came into town. They get into a frenzy gathering money, trying to put together enough money to get a discount to buy a bigger package to make it last a little bit longer.

Once it comes back to the house everybody rushes to get their share. Everybody rushes to do their fair portion to make sure it doesn’t get taken by others who didn’t contribute or otherwise lose their share. That frenzy leads to overdoses. It leads to situations where, as you know so well, nobody knows for sure what’s in that bag of the street drugs. And even these pharmaceuticals can be counterfeit or contaminated as well.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. It’s a good point. I kind of like that approach that you are taking here – the frenzy. Last week I paid a visit to a place here in Baltimore called the Baltimore Station. It’s a home for 90 men who are homeless. Some came out of prison. Some came straight from the street but they all suffer from addiction to various types of drugs.

I met with one of the clinicians there and he said, “You know, for these folks it’s about chasing.” As you said, Dean - the frenzy. It’s that life of chasing the drug that they need. Gathering the money and getting up in the morning and that’s their day. Their day is about getting up at 6 and what have you. About how their life changes dramatically when they no longer have to do those things and create that frenzy and chase that next fix.

Like they’re doing in Switzerland and Canada where they have heroin maintenance programs – it’s supplied for them. So they’re no longer in that frenzy which is more challenging for them than the actual addiction itself.

DEAN BECKER: The other side of that is it is the black market which necessitates these huge profits. As I understand it, in Afghanistan opium sells for 6 cents per gram. The fact of the matter is in the United States it would be 6,000 dollars a kilo or 6 dollars a gram.

The black market creates those high prices which then leads people to first scour up the money, find the drugs and to commit crimes in many instances in order to afford these black market drugs. It’s part of that same frenzy, isn’t it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. It really is. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a crazy lifestyle - all spinning off of the black market. You don’t have that same type of frenzy with those addicted to alcohol for the most part.

DEAN BECKER: I hear folks talking about…Bill O’Reilly was quoted the other day as saying that 75% of the problem with abusive parents stems from the abuse of substances. What’s not included in that is that 95% of that abuse is alcohol. They leverage things. They disguise what they are saying or hide what they are saying, don’t they?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. That’s very true. You’ll find that a large majority of that does come from the use and abuse of alcohol. The abuse that we have upon our children, at least from my perspective, my decade of law enforcement – I find it to be more about the environment, the history of the family unit. This behavior being passed on from one generation to the next without the proper intervention.

We miss the opportunity for intervention in such cases because in law enforcement we are just so busy with this drug war. 60 to 70% and in some cities even more of our work is about the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Your piece in the Huffington Post is titled, “Tony Bennett Is Right That Legalizing Drugs Would Save Lives.” It triggers in me the thought that they are a couple of states here in the U.S. that have what they call the Good Samaritan laws. That basically means that if you’re with some friends and one of them OD’s you can call the police and they will show up and no one gets arrested, no one goes to jail no matter what drugs might be found in that room.

NEILL FRANKLIN: There’s only a handful of states that have that. I find that hard to believe but it’s true. There’s legislation in a number of various states right now including Maryland where we’re trying to get that passed. It’s an important law to get passed because every second counts. When you have an overdose and those who are with that victim and they call this person or that person or they hesitate because they are thinking of criminal sanctions – every second counts to saving that person’s life.

That’s why we have so many overdoses in the United States. One of the main reasons – right there.

DEAN BECKER: People are just afraid to call for help.


DEAN BECKER: I boggles the brain sometimes. I don’t want to go off on a tangent here but I do want to state this. I was talking to someone the other day about the medical profession and I feel that they are complicit. They are involved if they’re not standing up calling for the end of this drug war because most of the kids that end up doing drugs have some sort of history of abuse. They get caught. They get punished. Their lives are fractured once they go to prison. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is the doctors should stand for treatment. The doctors should stand against all this incarceration which is doing nobody any good.

NEILL FRANKLIN: I think you’re absolutely right. For some reason doctors, just like many other people, are disillusioned that we can do this sort of thing and have this type of intervention under our current policies of prohibition. That’s not going to happen. I think once they come to the realization of that benefit we will move forward much more quickly.

But we are finding quite a few doctors are beginning to come forward. But like in the law enforcement profession even though we have some cops and judges and prosecutors and others coming forward it’s not nearly enough and not quickly enough.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to alert folks to the fact…I mentioned my boss is the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Let’s tell them what is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a non-profit organization, international organization now, of cops, prosecutors, judges, correction officials, prison wardens and some retired federal agents who have spent decades fighting the War on Drugs from the frontlines and have come to realize that goals are not being accomplished and, as a matter of fact, the War on Drugs is counterproductive to reducing addiction, death, crime and disease.

Five cops ten years ago started the organization. This is our 10 year anniversary, by the way. It’s also a leap year – imagine that. We’ve now grown to over 60,000 supporters worldwide. We have branches around the world – in Canada, Costa Rica, Brazil, Poland. We’re working on the U.K. and Australia and a couple other places.

We have a Speaker’s Bureau of 160 men and women who go out and educate everyone – no matter what group you are with, no matter what political party – because it affects everyone…College Universities, Rotary clubs. If you’re are listening and what to have one of our speakers come speak just go to our website: http://leap.cc. You can order up a speaker right there and you’re in for a real treat.

DEAN BECKER: This past Friday I spoke to a Rotary group in the rich part of town. It was the 40 richest people I’ve ever spoken to – I’ll tell you that. They got it. There was at least 25% of them who were speaking up and supporting what I was saying but I did see kind of a – I don’t know how to put it – just a reluctance to speak for many of those there. The sad fact is the drug profits, the enforcement, the framework of this drug war enriches a lot of people at various levels, does it not?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. It does. I was speaking to that yesterday at an event – Students for Liberty – in Washington, D.C. We were talking about how the drug war began decades ago the ones profiting from it were organized crime, cartel, organized gangs in our own community. But now we’re profiting on both sides of the fence. The prison industrial complex – people have invested money in prison privatization. That’s one example.

There are pharmaceutical companies and the many who invest in pharmaceuticals. I’m sure they don’t want to see marijuana become legalized. They don’t want to see it continue to move forward for medicinal purposes. We know that when people are using marijuana they don’t have to take a lot of these opioids and all these other destructive products from the pharmaceutical companies. And the list goes on.

DEAN BECKER: There’s even been some discussion that the death toll from the pharmaceutical products is a lot higher than the death toll from the street drugs. They just remain at a flat level. I think about 3,000 per year and I think the pharmaceuticals are up to about 15.

It occurs to me that one other aspect that you did leave out there is the forfeiture money. That’s running rampant all across this country. State’s rights laws to prevent the various municipalities from collecting these funds but the government has made a backdoor where they can route it through the federal government and then it’s granted back to them. So it just goes on and on.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. We did talk about that yesterday. The CATO Institute produces a report called “Policing for Profit.” You can get it in pdf-form from the CATO website. It grades every state across the nation. By far most of the states have failed in their asset forfeiture policies. Even those states that have made advances in improving their policies the law enforcement just goes to the feds. They circumvent the state and go directly to the feds. They give up about 10% of the proceeds.

There’s always a loophole somewhere. Here’s the thing. In many of these cases when they seize money and property it’s in direct violation of the fifth amendment of the constitution. Before the government takes your property and your money you have to have due process. They can’t do it without due process. Many times they don’t charge you with a crime and they make you prove….you know, you have to go out and get an attorney, go to court and prove that you acquired this property legally. It’s ridiculous.

DEAN BECKER: On our Cultural Baggage show we had a discussion about the fact that the new drug war budget is coming forward out of the Obama administration and it’s just like the one before, the one before and the one before. Our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, tours the nation saying, “Oh, we’re ramping this down. It’s now longer a drug war. It’s something more gentle.”

But the fact is it’s still the same old drug war, isn’t it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes, it’s still the same old drug war. They shifted their funds just a little bit but it’s still heavily weighted on enforcement even though their rhetoric is health and education. By far there money is still invested in enforcement and not treatment and education.

DEAN BECKER: It really boils down to…I feel that people understand this need for change but they’re afraid to discuss it with their friend, their partner, their neighbor, their co-worker. It’s just a taboo topic, isn’t it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: It amazes me that as I continue to travel this country and the first question I ask whether it’s 10 people or 1,000 is, “So, are we being successful with the drug war? Is prohibition working?”

No one says, “Yes, it’s working. Stay the course.”

But for so many people, we’re talking about the high 90 percentile, know and agree that it’s not working but yet to force the proper discussion in our nation’s capital or even in their state capitals - I don’t get it.

Am I missing something?! Is there something that’s right there in front of me that I’m not seeing?

DEAN BECKER: It’s all the profit. It’s all the people whose mortgage payments depend on it.

Neill, we’re going to have to let you go. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin. He’s the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Our website is http://www.leap.cc

Thank you, Neill.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Thanks Dean. I always enjoy being on your show.


MEAGAN RALSTON: This is Meagan Ralston, the Harm Reduction Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance in the Los Angeles office.

DEAN BECKER: Meagan, there’s been a couple of development in the last few days. One you posted on Alternet. Why don’t you tell us about that one first.

MEAGAN RALSTON: I think what you’re probably taking about is my piece that I wrote about Whitney Houston and what our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, referred to in her death being a “teachable moment”.

There was actually one about the role that naloxone is now playing in helping to reduce overdose deaths. A lot of people speculated that Whitney Houston might have died from an overdose. A report came out just yesterday by the CDC that confirms that a drug called naloxone can be an important way to prevent overdose deaths.

DEAN BECKER: The sad fact is that’s also a prohibited drug, isn’t it?

MEAGAN RALSTON: It’s very curious, Dean. Naloxone is a normal prescription drug just like any other prescription drug. It’s not a controlled substance, for example, the way that Oycontin is. It’s just a normal prescription drug. You are allowed to possess it if a doctor prescribes it to you but naloxone is kind of interesting. There’s some certain precautions that doctors have to take and some laws that have to be written to make it more widely available.

A lot of people don’t know about it because some doctors can’t prescribe it in the way that they want to.

DEAN BECKER: It’s on most ambulances. It’s in emergency rooms, etc. for an instance where there is a drug overdose but it’s not available to the average drug user for “just in case.”

MEAGAN RALSTON: That’s right. It’s curious. It’s available in something like 15 states in the U.S. that have naloxone distribution programs. It’s a little bit available but these programs are typically only affiliated with syringe exchange programs that typically serve people who inject drugs. We don’t really have access to naloxone in mainstream kinds of places for people who might be at risk of overdose from taking a pill, for example, like Oxycontin.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Let’s talk about the other piece on Alternet.

MEAGAN RALSTON: There was so much response within the days following the death of Whitney Houston and because I work on overdose issues almost exclusively I’ve been around a long enough time that I’ve seen a lot of stars die from alleged prescription drug overdoses that turn out to not actually be caused by a prescription drug overdose like the case of Britney Murphy. She died from pneumonia – not a drug overdose.

So I waited a little bit to respond to the death of Whitney Houston. While I was waiting to think of what to say our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, made a statement talking about the tragedy of drug addiction and referred to the death of Whitney Houston as a “teachable moment.” But then didn’t say anything about what we were supposed to learn or what we’re supposed to teach when someone dies from a drug overdose.

So the piece I wrote…it wasn’t taking him to task, he’s a good guy – his heart’s in the right place. I don’t think he did a bad thing. It was sort of just pointing out that when we say that an overdose death is a “teachable moment” let’s not stop right there. Let’s keep going and teach people how to recognize and prevent and respond to an overdose.

DEAN BECKER: There was the comment from…what was her name…Andrea Bartwell following the death of thousands of children in Mexico and saying how that shows that we’re making progress. It seems almost preposterous some of the stances taken by those who support the drug war. Does it not?

MEAGAN RALSTON: It really does. It’s very curious that people…one of the points I made in my pieces is that it’s really hard to justify when someone dies like this. It’s hard to justify our current position, as a nation, that it’s better to not give people the basic life preserving information that they need in order to keep taking their drugs safely. That we’d rather not tell them that because we believe it’s better that people don’t take drugs at all and we think if we don’t tell them how to be safe that they will not use drugs. We almost feel that it’s better to just let them dies than to give them the tools and the information they need to simply stay alive if they choose to use drugs.

DEAN BECKER: There’s a strong parallel there to sex education. It’s better not to teach the kids how to have safe sex so maybe they won’t have sex and never mind the fact of the countless teenage pregnancies.

MEAGAN RALSTON: Yes, that’s exactly right. And the concept that you just described is the concept of harm reduction. It’s essentially saying that we don’t have to like what you do, we don’t have to condone what you do but what you’re doing presents risks. It’s more important to preserve your health and prevent disease and prevent your death than it is to withhold this information from you and put you at risk for all those terrible things.

So we’re going to give you the information and the tools you need to be safe and stay alive. It doesn’t mean we like what you do. It doesn’t mean we condone what you do. But it does mean that we value your health and your life above placing a moral judgment on what you’re doing.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, we’ve been speaking with Meagan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance. Please be sure to visit their website which is http://www.drugpolicy.org


DEAN BECKER: Alright, if you would like to learn more, hear more voices about the situation involving Whitney Houston, please check out our most recent Cultural Baggage show.


ADAM ASSENBERG: This is Michael Adam Assenberg. I like to go by Adam. I really wanted to thank KPFT, Dean Becker and everyone else who has stood behind me with this battle I’ve been going through with the state and federal government.

I was running a medical cannabis dispensary in Washington State. I got raided back in May and it’s been an ongoing battle. I’ve just had my pretrial on February 3rd and at that pretrial they offered me an incredible deal. That was to drop 4 felonies down to 1 simple charge of possession of less than an ounce of medicine which is a misdemeanor. They didn’t want to charge me any court fees and they told me I could still sue them for damages. I told them, “No, I want a jury trial.”

DEAN BECKER: I think that kind of underscores the need for more people to fight for their rights to not take that plea bargain – that lesser sentence.

ADAM ASSENBERG: That is why we’ve had an endless War on Drugs which is really a war on the American people because there’s been too many people who have rolled over and taken a plea deal because they’re worried about what’s going to happen if they don’t. We need more Americans to stand up for their rights and bring the constitution back to the American people..

DEAN BECKER: It’s the kind of thing that they just need to justify their actions somehow. Do they not?

ADAM ASSENBERG: They really do. What’s hilarious is the fact that since I am bringing in the mayor of Seattle and the local newspapers of Seattle just said that there’s 108 shops dispensing medicine locally so under the constitution they can’t charge me under Article 12 – equal protection under the law. That’s why I’m fighting it all the way, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: You were doing everything exactly under Washington State law.

ADAM ASSENBERG: I was even dotting all my I’s and crossing all my T’s by calling the doctor’s office to verify that it was a legitimate piece of paper that the patient was handing me. Then I’d get on the Washington State Health Department database and verify that doctor was in good standing with health department before I ever helped a patient.

DEAN BECKER: What do you think underlies this arrest and what were they up to?

ADAM ASSENBERG: Like they said when they put the handcuffs on me, “When we come up to your house how much money are we going to find and how many pounds of pot?”

It all is about the money that the police departments make on these raids and it keeps funneling this war on the American people.

DEAN BECKER: A patriot- a true citizen in my eyes. Please, share your website, Adam.

ADAM ASSENBERG: It’s http://marijuanafactorfiction.net .com or .org

They have moved the trial until July 16th.

DEAN BECKER: And we will be covering that trial for you. He’s a patriot. He’s a true citizen. He’s standing for his rights and trying to stand forth against these massive bulworks of bureaucracy.

I want to thank Neill Franklin for visiting with us. I want to thank Meagan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance and, of course, Adam Assenberg. We’ve got some great 420s to share with you this week. I’m hoping that you will consider inviting a LEAP member to come speak to your organization.

As always, I remind you that there’s no truth, justice, logic, no reason for this drug war to exist. Please visit our website, http://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 the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.

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