05/05/13 Mike Gray

Mike Gray's last visit with DTN, tribute to Mike Gray from Doug McVay, Steven Gutwillig, Deputy Exec Dir of Drug Policy Alliance

Century of Lies
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Mike Gray
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Download: Audio icon COL050513.mp3



Century of Lies / May 5, 2013


The insane are in charge of the asylum
The fox in charge of grading the hens
The cartels need drug war to make their billions
And Obama says let’s do the same thing again
O what will it take to motivate
to examine this century of lies?
What will it take to motivate
you to speak of what’s before your eyes?


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: Oh, my friends, do we have a show for you today. You heard the theme of this program, “What will it take to motivate you?” – to get off your ass and go over to your computer and sit back down and write a 50 word letter to your congressman, to your local paper, to your police chief and your mayor to explain why you no longer want to support these terrorist, cartels and street corner vendors.

We have with us today…first we have a segment from Mike Gray who had a major OPED published in the Washington Post just last week.

DEAN BECKER: Mike Gray, the chairman of the Common Sense for Drug Policy Organization, is the author of Drug Crazy – How we Got in to this Mess and How we Can Get Out. He’s a screen writer and a man I greatly respect. And just this past week he had a major op ed published in the Washington Post. Mike I think if an op ed can be a trailer for a book, this is it. We tried a war like this once before. Tell us about it please.

MIKE GRAY: Well it’s very interesting that you should say that. I just got an offer from a major Hollywood director who is interested in turning this op ed in to a documentary. So apparently it struck a nerve. I think and I got a lot of comments from people all over the country, many of them former law enforcement officers. One was a senior DEA agent in Virginia who said, thank god somebody’s finally telling the truth about the failure of the drug war.

So it it it did provoke a response but I… let me just quote the first sentence. I think this is what caught everybody’s eye. In 1932 Alphonse Capone an influential business man then living in Chicago used to drive through the city in a caravan of armor plated limos built to his specifications by General Motors. Submachine gun toting associates led the motorcade and brought up the rear. It is a measure of how thoroughly the mob mentality had permeated everyday life that this was considered normal.

And this was you know just two weeks before the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago. And I was struck by the similarity between the end of alcohol prohibition which was brought about by two things, violence and unbridled criminality and the present moment where we are going through an economic time not unlike the 1930s where you know the money ran out.

And and I think that that was the thing that ended our, one of the things that ended alcohol prohibition was the fact that it snapped everybody in to focus. In other words nobody, prohibition and the mobsters were cultural icons you know. They they were looked up to. They provided free soup kitchens in Chicago, to the poor during the depression. You know and Capone was a was a sort of folk hero to a lot of people and we see that now going on in Mexico, exactly the same thing.

The violence is totally out of control. The government doesn’t you know have a handle on anything that the everybody down there is seems to be either too terrified to face down the narcos or they’re on the payroll. So it just seemed to me that this was a repeat you know what I mean of of what we went through in 1933. And that in fact we may be witnessing the end of the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: And there is not to be ignored the fact that it’s less by certain factor but there is much that same bravado and control of neighborhoods here in the states as well.

MIKE GRAY: Sure yeah and the point is that I mean a lot of US officials have been agonizing over the fact that this violence in Mexico may spill over the border and that these guys may be headed in this direction. Well that’s nonsense. They’re already here.

The DEA just staged a big raid here throughout the United States. They arrested something like seven hundred people and it turns out that the Mexican cartels are already operating in two hundred and thirty US cities. That’s the DEA telling us that you know. So how can that be a success? I don’t care how many people they’ve arrested. You know if if the cartel Mexican cartels are already operating in two hundred and thirty cities inside the US, we’re in deep, deep trouble already.

DEAN BECKER: Right and Mike you know I’m with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. We’ve been getting quite a bit of exposure. Some of the longer serving members like Terry Nelson and Norm Stamper on the news networks these days. They’re beginning to use the word legalize.


DEAN BECKER: What’s happening Mike?

MIKE GRAY: This whole drug war was able to stagger on despite the fact that it’s pointless and has consistently made everything worse. Drugs are more available, cheaper, and more you know and and higher quality than ever before. And this is after we’ve spent a trillion dollars in the last forty years on trying to stop the flow of this stuff. And it’s we only made it worse.

And I think people basically didn’t pay much attention to the whole thing. They just you know I mean people said, well the drug war isn’t working but it doesn’t bother me. You know personally I am not involved. Now that the money had run out I think everybody understands we are all involved because the war the drug war on drugs is costing us according to LEAP sixty-nine billion dollars a year is their latest estimate on the, that includes all the criminal costs, courts, incarceration and prosecution and law enforcement and so forth. Sixty-nine billion dollars, oh my god. You know well we can’t afford that.

And it was just like alcohol prohibition. You know it was a lot of fun while it lasted. It made for good movies and and it was a lot of laughs you know as long as you weren’t actually one of the ones that was being gunned down. But once the prohibition, the full force of the depression hit people realized that we didn’t have any money, loose change to throw around on something like this. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now.


DEAN BECKER: Once again Mike Gray is chairman for Common Sense for Drug Policy. And they’re on the web at csdp.org. Next thanks to CBS Face the Nation and Bob Schiffer we have part of an interview they conducted with the Mexican ambassador to the US.


DEAN BECKER: A little deception to myself and to ya’ll. I’ll fess up I guess. That segment was recorded on March 19, 2009. Mike Gray has passed away on April 30. He was 77 years of age and I just had to share that with you one more time like he was alive.

He was a mentor of mine and even more so for Doug McVay, DTN reporter.


DOUG McVAY: Mike Gray was a brave man and an activist fighting for social justice and freedom. He was also a kind, generous man, a mentor to many of us in drug policy reform, a colleague at Common Sense for Drug Policy, and a good friend.

Mike was a writer, filmmaker, television producer, and political activist. Originally from a conservative family in Indiana, he attended Purdue University and in 1958 received a degree in engineering. Mike soon however became a journalist, moving to New York to become an assistant editor at Aviation Age magazine.

He left New York a few years later and returned to the midwest. In 1965, in Chicago, Mike, Jim Dennett, and John Mason co-founded a production company called The Film Group. They worked on TV commercials and used that money to create theatrical and film documentaries.

One of their first big releases was American Revolution II. Released in 1969, the film was a look at the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, the police-provoked riots there, and the beginning of an alliance between the Black Panthers and a group of white leftists called the Young Patriots Organization.

In 1969, while working on another project documenting the Black Panther Party and the civil rights struggle, one of the subjects of his film, local Party leader Fred Hampton, was murdered by Chicago police. Mike and his film crew were able to get to the scene of the killing and film, securing evidence which would help prove that the official story – of a shoot-out started by the Panthers – was a lie, that in fact the Chicago police, the state attorney's office, and the feds had conspired to murder Hampton. Eventually it was learned that there had been an informant inside Hampton's inner circle who drugged him the night of the raid. He never woke up, the police murdered Hampton in his sleep. The film changed direction that day, and became the 1971 release The Murder of Fred Hampton.

Mike moved to Los Angeles in 1973, where he continued writing and working in the film and TV industry. He developed a screenplay about a nuclear accident which became the film The China Syndrome. Two weeks after the film's release, life nearly imitated art at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Mike went to Harrisburg immediately after to interview locals and to cover the story for Rolling Stone. He also co-wrote with Ira Rosen a book on the disaster, “The Warning: Accident at Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Omen for the Age of Terror.”

Eventually, Mike turned his attention to the war on drugs. He spent several years researching and in 1998 his book Drug Crazy was published by Random House. In 240 pages, Mike took apart the drug war, detailing its origins and analyzing its impact. Around that time Mike joined with Robert Field, Melvin Allen, and Kevin Zeese to create the nonprofit organization Common Sense for Drug Policy. I came to work for CSDP in 2000, which is when I first met Mike.

Some time in the last decade, Mike was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He survived treatment and as far as I know was in remission. Still, it's a harsh disease, a harsh treatment, and the lingering after-effects of both can be misery-making and debilitating. He always put on the brave face for the public so not a lot of people realized that he had gone through serious illness.

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time with Mike during the 2012 NORML conference in Los Angeles. He put on a good show for the public but behind the scenes, his hands were trembling badly, he had great difficulty pouring a glass of water. He was in great spirits though. Mike was showing off a video that his son – who is a story-board artist for the cartoon show The Simpsons – and some of co-workers created to encourage voters to support President Obama's re-election. The last night we were together I got out my recorder and microphones and a couple bottles of good Oregon wine, and taped a conversation with Kevin and Mike as we talked about drug policy, marijuana legalization, the reform movement, and social justice activism. Part of that conversation was used as a segment on the Cultural Baggage show in October 2012.

His body may now be laid to rest, but Mike's words, ideas, and work will continue to live on and to inspire new generations. He helped bring us a long way, now it's up to us to carry on and keep up the fight.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay.


DEAN BECKER: I had Mike Gray on DTN programs at least 14 times. All I can say right now is I wish we could have him on for one more but, as Doug said, it’s up to us to make sure this truth wins out.


STEVEN GUTWILLIG: I’m Steven Gutwillig. I’m the Deputy Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, this country’s leading organization working to end the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here in Oakland attending the MAPS conference. What’s your take? Who’s here and what are you learning?

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: This is the first MAPS conference I’ve been to. I’ve been hearing about it for years. I’m really struck by it’s big. It looks to be on the scale of the conference that Drug Policy Alliance puts on every other year – our International Drug Policy Reform conference. It’s really interesting. It’s a fascinating mix of people across ages and disciplines so you’re seeing a lot of researchers and therapists and clinicians who are interested in the benefits of different psychedelic substances in their work and then there are a whole lot of young people who are looking to match their personal experiences with the science of psychedelics in 2013.

There isn’t as much of an advocacy component to this although it’s pretty clear that everyone here are big supporters of ending decades of failed drug prohibition or, at the very least, to allow the science to move forward that’s been systematically impeded by punitive policies, by the trumping of science by politics even as recently as the last couple of years we’ve seen the attempts to reschedule marijuana one more time has been stomped over by the DEA.

It’s a really interesting group of people who are sort of marrying science to advocacy that they’re basically doing professionally.

DEAN BECKER: I think to answer Jimi Hendrix question, “Are you experienced?” I think these people are.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: I think they are. I think that we’re looking at a range of people. There are folks in their early 20s to folks in their 80s who represent the spectrum. I mean certainly people who knew and worked with Timothy Leary, with Albert Hoffman, with the Sholgans.

What’s moving for me is it’s the history of psychedelic research in the United States from the pre-World War II era to the present all embodied by the panelists and the attendees of this conference.

DEAN BECKER: I’m here in support of these people. I go to the 420 events and support every aspect of reform. There are so many leaders and organizations working on certain aspects to improve the situation. What’s your thought though? It seems that we’re fragmented and perhaps if we were more cohesive we could make better progress.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: I think that there’s a fragmented nature to every movement. That when you’re on the inside looking out you often find yourself struck by the different approaches that different individuals and groups and leaders are taking and you wish that we were speaking with one voice at the same time but I think that that’s the nature of movements.

We don’t all come from the same place. We aren’t all doing the same work although that the uniformity at this conference which is primarily made up of clinicians and scientists and researchers and not primarily an advocacy conference but there is a consensus that there is a degree of failure in American and global drug policy that represents just how big our movement actually is.

These are all people who probably consider themselves part of the movement to end failed drug prohibition and whether they spend a lot of their lives doing advocacy to end the drug war they consider that the work that they are doing professionally to be about demonstrating that drug prohibition doesn’t work in part because the drugs that they are working with on a day to day basis are making people’s lives better. That’s their focus.

Their focus is basically taking psychedelic substances that have been marginalized or even banned by federal government via the drug war and showing what their actual applications are. This is fairly well-known applications such as medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder to MDMA (known mostly as ecstacy) also to treat PTSD but also psilocybin (mushrooms) to treat smoking, for smoking cessation. Ayahuasca to deal to treat all manner of substance misuse disorders.

These folks are on a similar but different barricade than those of us who are doing advocacy work to change the laws on a day to day basis. They’re providing the science that is behind so much of the advocacy that we are doing.

It’s another way of looking at how a movement is actually made up of different people doing different kinds of work.

DEAN BECKER: Late October up in Denver the Drug Policy Alliance will be holding their major conference and for the listeners and viewers out there this is a chance for them to attend, to learn, to participate and help bring this madness to an end. Talk about that.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: Every two years the Drug Policy Alliance and our partners which is dozens and dozens of organizations around the country convene the largest gathering of drug policy reformers from around the world. It’s somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000 people, primarily Americans, but there are participants from countries internationally.

It’s in late October in Denver this year – the site of one of the first two jurisdictions in the world to end decades of failed marijuana prohibition. This conference, as it occurs every two years, is extraordinary gathering of the reform community. It’s the only and the largest of its kind and it is transformative so it’s this opportunity to hear from folks working in criminal justice reform, harm reduction, marijuana reform and all the interrelated fields talking about issues related to addiction, advocacy, syringe exchange, criminal justice reform, sentencing reform – within the entire extraordinary range of the most brilliant advocates.

This is 20-somethings who are working in the urban core in Los Angeles to scientists from around the world talking about the alternative approaches that exist in Europe, Australia, South America. We’re having folks talking about what has been happening in Portugal for the last decade where they have successfully decriminalized all drugs as both an effort to increase public safety and public health and the incredible impacts that have occurred when you basically stop making criminals out of people possessing drugs for their own use.

This conference is just a one of a kind opportunity to hear about and to share best practices in the work that we’re all doing to end the scourge of drug prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: California has its problems, its situations with medical marijuana – certain towns are still kind of up in arms but we’re in Oakland (Oaksterdam) and they’re going to have a 420 celebration today with absolutely zero chance of police interference. If folks come to Denver and join us at that conference they, too, can smoke like a free human being. Your thoughts on that.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: For a lot of folks who have been in this movement longer than I have it is an amazing thing to have lived to see. We are here at the tipping point – the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States is on the horizon. I’m not going to make any predictions about how long it’s going to take because it is still going to require a bunch of campaigns in different states and the what will likely be some kind of drawn out process with the federal government but marijuana prohibition is collapsing under its own weight of failure and just the sheer disgust that the American people whether they’re marijuana consumers or not have for this failed policy.

We shouldn’t delude ourselves. There are still hundreds of thousands of Americans who are being criminalized for marijuana offences – the vast majority of them for possessing tiny amounts of marijuana for their own use with incredible race-based disparities in police practices all across the country.

Yet here we are in California which is looking to be one of the next states to legalize marijuana. We’re hoping that that’s going to happen as soon as the 2016 ballot. Drug Policy Alliance is planning to play a major role in making that happen.

This is falling apart and there’s never been more of a sense of momentum, success that this is within our grasp. The victory against marijuana prohibition is here and it’s more than taking shape. It is just a question of how and when but not if. The biggest question that we’ve got is what’s it going to take to move as many elected officials as quickly as possible to follow the lead of Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, Jared Polis, Dana Rohrbacher and a handful of officials increasing on both sides of the aisle.

That’s really the missing piece of it now. We’ve got majority support of Americans across the political spectrum. We now have polls that are basically indicating that marijuana prohibition days are numbered. We’ve got several jurisdictions most prominently Washington and Colorado that are showing us what’s actually possible if you put the vote in the hands of the public.

What’s missing, of course, is elected officials who are being cowardly the way they often are on issues like this where they’re not entirely sure what the impact is going to be on their careers so we all are going to make it more and more clear to them that they should have more to fear by being on the wrong side of history.

That is going to be the big question – who is going to be the next high profile elected official? Who is going to be the first of the 2016 presidential candidates to step out and say what is right and what needs doing which is to end marijuana prohibition outright, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act – not to reschedule it as far as we’re concerned – but to de-schedule it and to end criminalization of marijuana consumers once and for all.

DEAN BECKER: You talked about not reschedule but de-schedule and I hear many within reform talking about the need to undo these marijuana laws without controls, without regulations because by allowing, permitting parameters to be defined by politicians the level of nanograms within one’s system being used to convict a person that perhaps in the future we should just, as you say, de-schedule. Take these laws off the book and let marijuana, in particular, just be an herb with no political oversight.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: Sure. Drug Policy Alliance has had a long standing position that marijuana as by far the most widely used substance is also widely available needs to be removed from the criminal justice system, not criminalized. We don’t, however, have a whole fetish around regulation – what regulation needs to look like.

It is, however, unrealistic to expect at this point in the history of drug policy that we’re basically going to be able to remove marijuana from the criminal justice system without some form of regulation replacing it. What we’re seeing in various states as modeled in Colorado and Washington following their ballot initiatives in 2012 is a fairly robust system of state licensing and regulation that is balancing…an attempt to balance the needs of consumers with public health, public safety and the role of state government.


DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Steven Gutwillig, the Deputy Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. That was recorded in Oakland at the psychedelic science conference on 4/20.

For those wondering about all the reports from the psychedelic science conference they’re still in storage being worked on. It’s been a busy several weeks here but we’ll have more from that in the coming weeks.

By the way I’m headed to New York attending another drug policy gathering. I hope to have much more of that to share with you next week.

As always I remind you prohibition sucks. It has no reason for existence. Please help to bring it to an end. 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