06/24/12 Ethan Nadelmann

Century of Lies

Ethan Nadelmann re forthcoming Caravan for Peace, US Reps Polis and Cohen quiz DEA head Leonhart, Tommy Chong on Fox

Audio file


Century of Lies / June 24, 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: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Man, there is so much drug war news. It used to be what to put in. Now it’s what to take out. Here’s a major, breaking story. Put your ears on.


This August a transborder caravan for peace and justice will travel across America featuring poet and peace leader from Mexico, Javier Sicilia. Here to talk about it is the director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Mr. Ethan Nadelmann. How are you, sir?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Good, Dean. Good to be back on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Ethan, this is a major event. It should shake up, wake up America perhaps, right?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, I hope so. Initially I was skeptical that Javier Sicilia’s caravan in the U.S. could have anything like it had in Mexico last year but I have to say watching the way that even his few visits to American cities and universities a few months ago received media attention in the United States gives me some hope that it will really get significant coverage.

I think the most important, perhaps, will be the Spanish language media because that, on the one hand, is the most likely to follow Javier Sicilia’s caravan closely. On the other hand significant because the Latino population in the United States has been relatively behind the curve in so far as supporting drug policy reform.

So I’m optimistic that it can have a very significant impact on the Spanish speaking and Latino community in the U.S. and then it should also have a broader impact. It’s notable that he’s going to be traveling through the south. I think that it will be very effective in educating people in that region of the country. So I’m feeling fairly optimistic about it.

DEAN BECKER: And, Ethan, besides Javier Sicila and his contingent, if you will, from Mexico we will have speakers from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, NAACP talking about the horrors that we inflict on this side of the border as well, correct?

ETHAN NADELMANN: That’s right. We held the first press conference yesterday or a couple days ago announcing the forth coming caravan in the summer. The drug issue is really only supposed to be one of four or five issues that will be raised by Javier Sicilia and others during the caravan but in the telepress conference it was a dominant issue.

I think what’s happening is that we’re evolving from the period where other organizations engaged in civil rights and civil liberties and social justice that used to be wary about talking about the drug issue or the drug war are now embracing it. They are now seeing it as a cutting edge issue that they want to be identified with.

So that sense the fact that dozens of organizations, both U.S. and Mexican, are taking part in this caravan and that they’re all on this message around the need (or almost all on board) this need to change the drug policy is, in itself, significant.

DEAN BECKER: And, Ethan, we will, here at Drug Truth Network, be giving this weekly coverage up until the event begins and it is my intention to travel with this caravan from start to finish to inform the public about this need to reexamine what we’re up to.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, Dean, I’m glad to hear you’re going to be on that caravan. That sounds very exciting. One thing Drug Policy Alliance is doing is that we have a network of drug policy advocacy organizations all around the country including in the south. We will be hoping to connect advocacy organizations in virtually all the stops where the caravan is going to be present to engage with it and to help local media, to help bring local activists and elected officials. So there’s going to be quite a significant integrated effort on this. DPA’s media team is taking the lead on providing the media assistance for the caravan.

I’ll also say I take some pride…I’m not certain, but I think it’s the case that the seeds for this caravan were planted in Los Angeles last November at the International Drug Policy Conference hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance. That was one of the first times that Javier Sicilia had been in the United States.

I think that the days that he spent at our conference in Los Angeles were a real eye opener for him. I think that it gave him a sense of the dynamism of activism around drug law reform in the United States and gave him a sense that maybe there was really a potential to do something. And that he could take what he had done in Mexico and have some impact with it in the United States.

Javier Sicilia is a remarkable human being. The fact that right from the get-go he was including the need for major drug reform in his message just showed his good instincts. But what was even more significant was his willingness to come to Los Angeles to listen, to learn, to really increase his own knowledge and sophistication in talking about these issues.

So, increasingly Javier has become a very powerful spokesperson – not just for the broader social justice issues that he’s raising in Mexico but also for the need to change the way we deal with drugs on both sides of the border.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Ethan Nadelmann. He’s the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Ethan, I think it appropriate…we’re trying to encourage other, as you say, local organizations to get involved. I’m just going to give a quick synopsis of the cities involved.

It starts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Santa Fe…I’m not reading all of them…Brownsville, Austin, Houston, Montgomery, Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. I left out a half dozen of them.

It’s going to be a chance for people around the country to get involved, to show their awareness of the need for change.

Well, Ethan Nadelmann I want to thank you for being with us. If you folks want to learn more there’s much more information about this caravan available at http://drugpolicy.org

ETHAN NADELMANN: Dean, thank you very much and thank you for everything that you are doing. Enjoy the caravan.


DEAN BECKER: The following is from a recent judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security. The questioner is Congressman Cohen Here he’s speaking to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michelle Leonhart.


STEVE COHEN: What’s your budget?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Well, currently, uh….

STEVE COHEN: Approximately.

MICHELLE LEONHART: 2 million, uh…

STEVE COHEN: 2 million?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I’m sorry, 2 billion dollars…



STEVE COHEN: So about 2 billion dollars.

MICHELLE LEONHART: salary and expenses and then we have additional with a fee account for our diversion program. So total budget is…

STEVE COHEN: So over 2 billion dollars.


STEVE COHEN: Do you get any confiscation money? Do you get any monies from confiscations?


STEVE COHEN: Do you get any money from confiscations of properties?

MICHELLE LEONHART: There is money that the Department of Justice gives from the Asset Forfeiture…

STEVE COHEN: And how much money do you get from that?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I would have to, uh…

STEVE COHEN: Do you have any idea at all?

MICHELLE LEONHART: uh, if you give me a moment I could…

STEVE COHEN: I’d rather not take the time to research your files. You don’t know. Maybe one of your staff members can give it to you.


STEVE COHEN: Let me ask you this. What is your #1 drug you are fighting? What’s your priority?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Well our priority right now is pharmaceutical drugs.

STEVE COHEN: Alright. And what’s your second priority?

MICHELLE LEONHART: We don’t prioritize specific drugs because the organizations that we are going after are poly-drug so…

STEVE COHEN: So you are not going after the drugs for the harm they do you are going after the drugs because the effect it has on these organizations and you’re going after the organizations. Is that right?

MICHELLE LEONHART: We’re going after the organizations that are having the most impact on our communities…


MICHELLE LEONHART: supplying the most drugs and the most violence.

STEVE COHEN: Right. So you’re going after …If the fact that meth or crack or heroin is causing the most damage to individuals if that’s not the number 1 choice of the crime syndicate it’s not your number one choice. Your number one choice is the crime syndicate – not the fact that heroin and meth and crack are destroying people’s lives?

MICHELLE LEONHART: No, not correct. The organizations now have…they’re poly-drug. So the, for instance, the Colombian cartels which are a priority…

STEVE COHEN: Right, they have all the drugs, right?

MICHELLE LEONHART: …are a primary source for methamphetamine, cocaine and a good amount of the heroin on the streets.


MICHELLE LEONHART: They’re a priority

STEVE COHEN: So that’s your number one priority is going after that cartel?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Going after…Our number one priority is going after those that most impact the United States. Right now it would be…

STEVE COHEN: And do those cartels emphasize…What are the drugs they emphasize in their arsenal?

MICHELLE LEONHART: The Mexican cartels, uh, poly-drug. It’s cocaine, meth, heroin, marijuana…

STEVE COHEN: Right and marijuana is fourth. Would you agree that marijuana causes less harm to individuals than meth, crack, cocaine and heroin?

MICHELLE LEONHART: As a former police officer, as a 32 year DEA agent I can tell you that I think marijuana is an incideous drug.

STEVE COHEN: That’s not the question I asked you, ma’am. Does it cause less damage to the American society and to individuals than meth, crack, cocaine and heroin? Does it make people have to kill to get their fix?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I can tell you that more teens enter treatment for…

STEVE COHEN: Can you answer my question? Answer my question, please.

MICHELLE LEONHART: I’m trying to. It causes harm because it’s young people that are using it. If you’re talking about…

STEVE COHEN: It’s not just young people but you’re trying to answer the question like I’m Jeff Sessions. I’m not Senator Sessions. I’m asking you a question.

Does meth, crack, heroin cause more damage to society and cause…does meth and heroin cause more deaths than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: All drug trafficking causes deaths. I don’t have a breakdown of how many…

STEVE COHEN: Aspirin? Does aspirin cause deaths?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I’m talking about the illegal drugs. I don’t have a breakdown for you of how many deaths are caused by cocaine and how many…

STEVE COHEN: Let me ask you this. Have you ever seen a person who had cancer and used marijuana to help them eat or to aleve their condition of…somebody that’s suffering from terminal cancer?


STEVE COHEN: And if you had, and I have, and seen that it helps them with their appetite and makes them smile – would you agree that it has some benefit to society for somebody that’s dying…maybe a Navy Seal who spent his life working at defending this country and is emaciated to 120 pounds and that marijuana is the only thing that makes him eat and makes him smile according to his 80-year-old mother. Is there not an efficacious situation there?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I think that’s between him and his doctor.

STEVE COHEN: Well, if it’s between him and his doctor why does the DEA take a position that medical marijuana is wrong? Which you’ve taken. You’ve taken the position that it’s not between him and his doctor you have a publication which on page 6 of your publication in 2011 has the most insane but banal paragraph:

“The legalization movement is not simply a harmless academic exercise. The moral danger…

SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIR: The gentleman’s time has expired.


DEAN BECKER: The following discussion took place in the U.S. halls of congress between Congressman Jared Polis and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michelle Leonhart.


JARED POLIS: Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I believe all illegal drugs are bad…

JARED POLIS: Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I don’t think any illegal…

JARED POLIS: Is heroin worse for someone’s heath than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Again, all illegal…

JARED POLIS: Yes, no or I don’t know. I mean, if you don’t know you can look this up. You should know as the Chief Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency. I am asking you a very straight forward question.

Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: All illegal drugs are bad…

JARED POLIS: Does this mean you don’t know?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Heroin causes an addiction that causes…


MICHELLE LEONHART: that causes many problems and is hard to kick.

JARED POLIS: So does that mean the health impact of heroin is worse than marijuana? Is that what you’re telling me?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I think you’re asking a subjective question…

JARED POLIS: No, it’s objective - just looking at the science. This is your area of expertise. I’m a layperson but I’ve read some of the studies and am aware of it. I’m just asking you, as an expert in the subject area, is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana.

MICHELLE LEONHART: I’m answering as a police officer and as a DEA agent that these drugs are illegal because they are dangerous, because they are addictive, because they do hurt a person’s health.

JARED POLIS: So heroin is more addictive than marijuana? Is heroin more addictive than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I’m really, generally, the properties of heroin, yes, it’s more addictive.

JARED POLIS: Is methamphetamine more addictive than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Both are addictive.

JARED POLIS: Well, is methamphetamine more highly addictive than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: I think some people become addicted to marijuana and some people become addicted to methamphetamine…

JARED POLIS: You mentioned your top priority, I believe you indicated to us, is prescription drugs. Is one of the main classifications of prescription drugs pain killers that you are concerned about?

MICHELLE LEONHART: That’s correct.

JARED POLIS: And are those pain killers addictive?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Yes they are – very addictive.

JARED POLIS: Are those pain killers more addictive than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: All illegal drugs are in Schedule I…are addictive.

JARED POLIS: Well, again, this is a heath-based question and I know you’re a ….obviously with a law enforcement background but also familiar, given your position, with the science of the matter and I’m asking, again, clearly your agency has established abuse of prescription drugs as the top priority. Is that, therefor, an indication that prescription drugs are more addictive than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: All illegal drugs are addictive.

JARED POLIS: OK. Your agency has established abuse of prescription drugs as its top priority. You’ve indicated as much to us. Does that mean abuse of prescription drugs is a greater threat to the public health than marijuana?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Because it’s an emerging threat, because people are turning to prescription drugs faster than any other drug, um, that is why we prioritize it.

JARED POLIS: Well, in many states, including my home state of Colorado, we have a legalized and regulated regime of medical marijuana. We have found some great degree of success in combating the abuse of prescription drugs by making sure the patients have access to medical marijuana which the science indicates (and I would certainly encourage you to look at the science) is less addictive and less harmful to human health than some of the narcotic prescription drugs that are abused and also when they are used on-label they can be very harmful to health as well.

Would your agency consider supporting medical marijuana provisions when that can be used in pursuit of your top priority - which is the reduce of abuse of prescription drugs – when it can be documented that the use of medical marijuana helps reduce the abuse of prescription drugs. Is that something you are willing to pursue?

MICHELLE LEONHART: Well, congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance and DEA’s task is enforcing…

JARED POLIS: You mentioned priorities, though, and you said top priority is reducing the abuse of prescription drugs. One tactic to do that would be the use of medical marijuana. And I wanted to make sure, again, your top priority. Are you willing to look at the use of medical marijuana as a way of reducing the abuse of prescription drugs?

MICHELLE LEONHART: We will look at any options for reducing drug addiction.


DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy of FOX News.


REPORTER: President Obama planning an October surprise. Will he call for relaxing laws against pot smoking to court the youth vote? Who better to ask about that than marijuana advocate and legendary comedian, Tommy Chong?

Now President Obama has, you know, he’s tried to bring in Hispanic votes by relaxing the laws on deporting young illegals. He’s, perhaps, tried to court gay votes by his advocacy for gay marriage. I’m just throwing this up in the air. What’s the chance of relaxing the pot laws come September to pull in the youth vote.

I’m sure approve of that. What’s the chance of it happening?

TOMMY CHONG: Yeah, I think it’s a 100% chance. I think that if he wants to get elected he has to legalize pot. I mean there’s no other way.

REPORTER: Really? I’m surprised to hear you say that because in California when they had a vote on either legalizing it or extending medical marijuana it’s gone down to defeat. And in California that’s a real surprise.

TOMMY CHONG: Well, not really. There was a lot of right wing money poured into the campaign to stop the legalization. You know a lot…There’s a lot of companies that don’t want marijuana legalized. The medical industry for sure because pot has been proved effective in serious diseases such as cancer, MS and I think what Obama has to do or any president that gets in there is they have to reschedule the drug. All he has to is an executive order. Just has to add his name to an executive order rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I (which has no medical benefits whatsoever) to a Schedule II which has medical benefits and should be approved by a doctor. So that’s what’s going to happen.

REPORTER: Am I right in saying that you have prostate cancer?


REPORTER: You were diagnosed not to long ago with it. Are you using marijuana in the treatment of that condition?


REPORTER: How are you doing? What’s the treatment?

TOMMY CHONG: [chuckles] Well, there’s a joke there. Because it’s prostrate, you know, you have anal examines so…using suppositories to be nice about it.

REPORTER: [chuckles] I have to ask the question. Does it work?

TOMMY CHONG: I don’t know yet. I haven’t checked it out yet. But I’m sure having fun using it. I’ll tell you that.

REPORTER: You and I look to be about the same vintage. I’m in my early 60s and you’re roughly the same. Are you still smoking weed?

TOMMY CHONG: Oh yeah, yeah but not as much as I used to.

REPORTER: Why not?

TOMMY CHONG: Because you don’t have to because the pot is so strong now you don’t have to smoke a whole joint.

REPORTER: Is that true? Different from 40 years ago?

TOMMY CHONG: Yeah, absolutely. You take a toke and your good to go. That’s all you need.

REPORTER: Do you smoke every day?

TOMMY CHONG: I try to and sometimes I forget and then I try to make up for it.

REPORTER: [laughing] now you’re in comedic fall…three times a day? Four times? Remember that expression “maintaining”? I believe that was in use 50 years ago. You maintain.

TOMMY CHONG: Oh, they still maintain. I’m not up-to-date with any of the new stuff, you know. But the reason I think it’s going to be legal now is that right wing talk show hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller and Mike Huckabee – they all smoke pot.

REPORTER: No, no, no. I can’t have you say, look, this is Fox. I don’t know whether these guys smoke weed or not and…

TOMMY CHONG: Oh, no, I know you can’t say that on Fox but the truth is I’ve smoked dope with these guys so I know, you know. I was at a topless bar with Mike Huckabee and he was not only smoking…

REPORTER: No, you were not. [laughing]

TOMMY CHONG: I swear. Hey, would I lie?! Would Tom Chong tell a lie about Mike Huckabee?! And Dennis Miller? I mean Dennis Miller has been…

REPORTER: Wait a second. If it’s right wing guys who are defeating legalized marijuana how come you’re saying that right wing guys are out there tokin’ up,smoking weed? What’s going on?

TOMMY CHONG: Because they’re hypocrites. They’re total hypocrites. The police industry…all the cops…a lot of cops smoke pot. It’s the safest way to relax. It’s a medicine. So the reason it’s illegal is the jail system, for instance. The reason I got prostate cancer is I was put in jail for selling bongs – that’s a glass pipe. I did 9 months in jail. And, thanks to Fox News, by the way, because…

REPORTER: Now, now wait. You’re a wonderful guest on Fox News and I’ve just been told it’s time to wrap. You know what that means – very much time to wrap. Tommy Chong, my pleasure. I hope you’re going to come and see us again.

TOMMY CHONG: Let me finish…OK, I’ll finish next time.

REPORTER: Yeah, you’ve got to come next time and I want to hear about the progress with your prostate cancer.

TOMMY CHONG:I will and I’m waiting to hear from Bill O’Reilly, too.

REPORTER: You will probably hear from him. Thanks very much.


DEAN BECKER: The following comes to us courtesy MSNBS, “The Last Word” and Lawrence O’Donnel.


LAWRENCE O’DONNEL: Every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested for marijuana possession violations – far more than all those arrested for violent crimes in America. Societal costs dealing with the War on Drugs concerning marijuana exceeds 12 billion dollars annually.

Since the War on Drugs began 85% of the arrests for marijuana have been for possession only. Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Recent polls show over 50% of Americans believe marijuana should be decriminalized.

While arrests for marijuana since 1965 have been over 20 million citizens marijuana is more prevalent than ever before. There is no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to the use of more lethal drugs. 75% of citizens arrested for marijuana are under 30. Minorities account for a majority of those arrested for marijuana. Criminal conviction permanently scars a young citizen for life.

Every single word you just heard – every one of them – is in the platform of a state democratic party. A few years before he became a presidential candidate Barack Obama called the War on Drugs, “an utter failure.” And earlier this year President Obama called the debate on criminalizing marijuana “entirely legitimate.”

In the meantime, however, medical marijuana is currently legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia but the state where democrats want to go beyond allowing medical marijuana and go to full decriminalization of marijuana for everyone is one of the most conservative states in the Union.

Texas democrats urge the President, the Attorney General and the congress to support the passage of legalization and to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and to regulate its use, production and sale as is done with tobacco and alcohol.

It is not exactly a fringe party in Texas. It is not the Green Party or the Libertarian Party – the Democratic party in Texas controls 48 state representative seats, 12 state senate seats and 9 seats in the United States of Representatives.

Every important movement requires a first step and now the Texas Democratic party has taken its first step toward fairness and justice in our drug laws.


DEAN BECKER: A few months back our good friend, Richard Lee, chancellor of Oaksterdam University, owner of a couple of great shops there in Oaksterdam, California, had a run in with the feds but it hasn’t slowed him down. He’s still working very much for the truth and with that, Richard, tell us, if you will, what you’re up to these days helping the folks in Colorado, right?

RICHARD LEE: Yep, we’re trying to support the Colorado and Washington State initiative for complete, total legalization for all adults and also hoping Oregon makes it on the ballot this year so we’ll have three states voting for legalization and continuing to support them any way we can.

DEAN BECKER: Now, in Colorado they have their, what is it called? Amendment 64? What is it going to do? How will it change things?

RICHARD LEE: It will set up a state licensed system for the sales, cultivation, distribution of cannabis to adults. There’s been some really good polls out there lately that show it ahead as well as the Washington State initiative which will do similar change to the law and it will challenge the federal law against cannabis and be a first step toward ending federal cannabis prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: It seems to me that the truth is beginning to reveal itself rather more boldly of late. Hell, the head of the DEA (what’s her name, Leonhart) got scalded by the U.S. Congress a few days ago. This business about “Fast and Furious” is beginning to wake up a lot more folks as well, isn’t it?

RICHARD LEE: Yeah and, in general, we’re seeing more progress than ever. We have the mayor of Chicago as well as the governor of New York coming out for decriminalization lately. We’ve won some elections with the El Paso city councilman, O’Rourke, beating a long-time incumbent and the winner came out for legalization and that didn’t hurt him and that did help him win. So, I think we’re starting to see progress but, unfortunately, we have a long way to go because there’s a lot of bureaucracy built up to keep the status quo.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you know, Richard, you being from Houston originally and the fact of the matter is just recently the Texas Democratic party, in their main plank, I guess you call it, came out for – they called it decrim – but they said they want to treat it like alcohol and tobacco. It is astounding, isn’t it?

RICHARD LEE: Yes, I think they were one of five or six state democratic parties and I think there was one republican as well that came out for legalization this year.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I think politicians out there would be well-served if they would begin to talk, to share the truth about cannabis and, hell, the whole damn drug war. It’s not going to lose them votes, is it?

RICHARD LEE: The polls show that we’re right around 50-50 at the moment - which, in some ways, the war is just starting. We’ve got a big battle to go and we have to fight for those politicians to get and keep their votes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Richard Lee – alive and well and doing quite well, I would say. Richard, is there a current website you would like to point folks towards?

RICHARD LEE: If you would like information about Oaksterdam you can go to http://oaksterdam.com


DEAN BECKER: That’s about it but since there is no justification for this drug war I gotta ask you what are you doing to help bring it to and end?! 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