05/26/13 Nuno Capaz

Nuvo Capaz Portugese Drug Commissioner, Neill Franklin Dir of LEAP, Terry Nelson of LEAP & NYT look at crack baby hysteria & lies

Century of Lies
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Nuno Capaz
Drug Commissioner
Download: Audio icon COL_052612.mp3



Century of Lies / May 26, 2013


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. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. Our first segment comes to us courtesy of the New York Times – their retro report for September 12, 1985.


REPORTER: There was another warning about cocaine today. Crack now has spread to almost every American citizen.

It is a problem in Houston, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Tucson, and Sacramento.

In the 1980s the media sounded the alarm that a new drug, crack cocaine, was taking over American cities and that it had an especially devastating effect on pregnant women and their newborns.

“A new study says that babies born to women who use cocaine during pregnancy are 3 times as likely to be born with birth defects.”

DOCTOR: They tend to be what we call jittery.

NURSE: They’re very high risk for Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation.

REPORTER: They are prone to hypertension, strokes and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

DOCTOR: This children are the most expensive babies ever born in American and are going to overwhelm every social service delivery system that they come in contact with throughout the rest of their lives.

SOCIAL WORKER: Drugs take away the dream from every child’s heart and replace it with a nightmare.

REPORTER: Were these infants really doomed? Nearly three decades later what is the true legacy of the crack baby era?

In the early 1980s Doctor Ira Chasnoff, a young researcher at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, decided to study what he saw as a worrisome trend among his pregnant patients who had used cocaine.

IRA CHASNOFF: Women were coming in and their babies were looking different when they were born. They had higher rates of prematurity and they had higher rates of newborn seizures and other complications.

A lot of the babies exposed to cocaine are quite small. We think that is related to the use of cocaine during pregnancy.

RESEARCHER: We had seen the effects of alcohol and other substances on children so we were certainly open to the idea that this was a problem. Cocaine was epidemic. I think that it was something that the media…it became an exciting thing to talk about.

DAN RATHERS: We call our broadcast, “48 Hours on Crack Street.”

RESEARCHER: Soon after our paper was published within days we were getting calls from media all over the country and started hearing the term “crack babies.”

ANCHOR: Spotlight tonight – our investigative series on cocaine kids. Despite all the warnings a growing number of babies are being born already addicted to cocaine.

RESEARCHER: As it got out into the world it became this phenomenon.

REPORTER: 23 babies were born to the cocaine-using women in this study.

REPORTER: This problem appeared so suddenly we have few reliable statistics.

REPORTER: The number of so-called “cocaine babies” is growing at an astonishing rate.

RESEARCHER 2: The number of babies born addicted has risen more than 500 percent.

IRA CHASNOFF: I had lots of people interviewing me.

REPORTER: Dr. Ira Chasnoff of Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital runs the oldest program researching cocaine and the newborn.

IRA CHASNOFF: It appears that cocaine has just as devastating effect on pregnancy and the newborn as heroin.

REPORTER: Chasnoff told reporters that cocaine exposure was causing some babies to be born with brain damage and that others were overwhelmed by even simple eye contact with the mother.

IRA CHASNOFF: These children are not normal in the sense that they are going to be able to enter the classic schoolroom and function in large groups of children.

REPORTER: Other researchers and doctors echoed Chasnoff’s conclusions and a host of seemingly recognizable symptoms took hold.

IRA CHASNOFF: One of the things that we see about babies who have been exposed to cocaine is they tend to be very tremulous and shaky, very fine kinds of tremors.

CLAIR CODE: We looked to see if we would find the effects that were reported and we were saying, “Well, we’re not seeing this.”

REPORTER: As Chasnoff’s star rose Doctor Clair Code was reaching a different though equally startling conclusion about “crack babies” based on her study about infant behavior at Emery University.

CLAIR CODE: The effects didn’t seem consistent with the action of the drug itself. Many of the children who are the so-called classic cocaine babies were premature babies. The symptoms that were seen on the videos on television (the tremorring arms and all that) that was prematurity. You could have taken any premature baby and gotten the same image.

I think that people got very focused on cocaine as the cause of this rather than thinking substance abuse is the cause of this, maternal lifestyle is the cause of this, social issues are the cause of this.

REPORTER: But Code’s findings didn’t fit with the narrative of what had become a national scare.

TV AD: Cocaine, crack…if you use drugs while you’re pregnant your baby can die.

CLAIR CODE: There’s a whole lot of people who feel if you can just scare people sufficiently about something that that’s better than actually telling them the truth about something because that will prevent them from doing bad things.

REPORTER: The American Agenda tonight poses this question: What would you do about pregnant women who use drugs and pass those drugs onto their babies?

REPORTER: By the late 1980s Chasnoff’s findings were begin used to justify cases charging pregnant cocaine users as child abusers, drug dealers and killers.

IRA CHASNOFF: I was at first stunned and then angry that they would distort the information. That’s when I started realizing how a lot of this can be taken out of context and used to bolster any kind of argument.

CLAIR CODE: People may have felt that they were doing the right thing but the idea that one would prosecute a pregnant woman and use this kind of not very accurate research to do so is very disturbing.

REPORTER: As the prosecutions continued “crack babies” grew to toddlers.

REPORTER: No one knows how many there are or even how best to identify them. Educators suspect that tens of thousands of “crack babies” are in kindergartens in inner-cities, in suburbia and even small town America.

REPORTER: It now threatens to create an entirely new class of children unable to care for themselves, of infants born to suffer.

ANCHOR: In the United States this year at least 100,000 “crack babies” will be born. Today the government said it will cost 5 billion dollars per year to care for such babies and it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.

YOUNG WOMAN: I’m supposed to be a victim of that era. I’m supposed to be disruptive, mentally unstable. I wasn’t supposed to reach the point where I am now. The initial hypothesis is that drug abuse will lead to huge physical deformities, huge mental deformities in children. In myself I didn’t see any of those things so it will be easier for me to believe that science doesn’t hold true.

REPORTER: Almost 3 decades since Chasnoff’s research which focused on must 23 babies. Long-term studies have found only subtle changes of cocaine-exposed research subjects like Stone.

CLAIR CODE: There’s no particular evidence of this social, emotional deficit. You’re not seeing really broad scale severe developmental problems as was predicted. The schools have not been overwhelmed by the flood of cocaine-exposed children.

REPORTER: In fact Stone became the first in her family to graduate from college.

YOUNG WOMAN: In learning that I had been exposed I kind of told myself that I’m not going to make this an issue. Whatever I have to do to get around what the effects may be I’ll do that.

CLAIR CODE: The paper was a very preliminary kind of finding and it really shouldn’t have been generalized to the extent that it was. I believe that Dr. Chasnoff eventually came to himself and said the he felt that this didn’t really represent the whole of the situation.

REPORTER: Doctor, let’s go to you on this question. You were perhaps one of the first people to study this. How does cocaine use effect newborns?

IRA CHASNOFF: There is no question that cocaine use during pregnancy has some real effects on the unborn and on the newborn child. These effects are not devastating and can be addressed through treatment for the pregnant woman and for the child.

REPORTER: Over time Chasnoff did distance himself from some of the extreme pronouncements he was quoted as making during the early days.

IRA CHASNOFF: I probably talked too much or gave long-winded explanations which were completely cut out. It was one of those feelings where you just feel completely out of control.

REPORTER: But the hysteria that followed his initial research had already taken its toll.

YOUNG WOMAN: It wasn’t even a natural disaster or war. It was a drug that caused so much harm among my generation and my parent’s generation.

CLAIR CODE: Certainly cocaine was contributing to this problem but they got very focused on it as the only, sole cause of it. I think people still believe the cocaine story but alcohol is much more of a problem than cocaine because there’s much alcohol used and it has much more severe effects.

I think if you say something 3 times out loud people take it as fact and also I think there are certain ideas that people want to believe that fit in with cultural stereotypes and it’s hard to get rid of those.


[electric can opener]

Opening up a can of worms and going fishing for truth – this is the Drug Truth Network.

Drug Truth dot net


NEILL FRANKLIN: Hi, l’m Neill Franklin, Executive Director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is an international, non-profit organization of criminal justice professionals – that’s police officers, judges, criminal prosecutors, corrections officials, and federal agents who have spent the majority or at least a good portion of their career on the frontlines of the War on Drugs.

We have come to realize that it doesn’t work. We equate it to alcohol prohibition of the 1920s. This is the only other time in our nation’s history when violent crime has literally been through the roof.

We currently advocate with our Speakers Bureau to end the War on Drugs, to end the prohibition of all drugs – a form of legalization, regulation and control is what is needed.

This convening that is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance is a very good program because even though we are effective as individuals in our individual work organizations and the wonderful work that we do (and we cover a broad spectrum of work that is needed for criminal justice and treatment and education) but collectively when we’re working in unison with each other we have a more powerful voice, a voice of influence for change.

Obviously in this business of the drug war we die in many different ways. We have our drug wars in our streets, our people are killing each other on the streets with gun violence but we also die in prison.

A life sentence or just a few years in prison is also a death sentence in of itself. Decriminalization would affect that drastically. It would save many lives with reducing the number of people going into prison and hopefully bring some of the people out of prison.

I am cautious about the possible distraction that we may have away from ending prohibition in its totality and that is what is needed to end the violence in our streets. That’s how I come to this fight. That’s the reason I come to this fight is for the violence that we have in our streets and I just don’t want us to lose sight of the power we have to end prohibition. I just don’t want it to be sidetracked.

Decriminalization has got its value.

Let me focus New York real quick. Since the 1970s New York States has had a marijuana decriminalization law on the books yet law enforcement has been making thousands upon thousands of arrests for marijuana possession.

This is one of the dangers of decrim – there are so many variations in the law and law enforcement itself is extremely creative. Although the law may be on the books law enforcement will find a way and a reason for making the arrest even under new policies of decrim.

DEAN BECKER: It’s akin to the situation with alcohol prohibition. It was decrim. Was it not?

NEILL FRANKLIN: I was speaking with someone earlier today about if we were to be successful with decriminalization here in the United States that would mirror alcohol prohibition of the 1920s. Many people think that alcohol prohibition of the 1920s dealt with use also but it was legal to use. It was legal to drink. It was just the distribution – the selling - that was illegal and that’s where we would be under policies of national decrim.

So the two times in our nation’s history when violence was literally off the charts are alcohol prohibition and today’s drug prohibition. We’re going to mirror that again. I caution us. We have to keep in mind that if we want to be effective in reducing violent crime and with a focus on true public safety we can’t lose sight of ending prohibition. We can’t lose sight of moving forward to a form of regulation and control and as quickly as we possibly can.

Portugal has had wonderful success. But, again, Portugal does not have the illicit trade at the level that we do. They do not have the level of violence at the level that we do in our many cities across this country.

No one know what decrim will look like if successful in this country. With a potential uptick because people may feel a little more comfortable in using because they feel there’s little chance of being arrested – does this mean a slight if not more or moderate increase in initial use which means an uptick in sales and there is only one place for those sales to take place and that’s in the illicit trade which means more problems with potency level, more problems with cutting agents and, again, more problems with potential violence as these gangs continue to compete against each other. It also strengthens the foothold of the cartel potentially.

I would like to make sure that people understand that these policies of prohibition number 1 are the reason for the vast majority of violent crime in this country and we will not have a significant reduction in violent crime until we end prohibition.

Number 2, children are important. These policies of prohibition as we’ve been under them for the past 4 decades has made drugs more available to our children, to your children. We have more drug dealers on the street corners than ever before. They do not card our young people. As long as our young people have the money they will make the sale. They recruit and hire young people into their business to sell these drugs in high numbers. They sell in our schools to other children.

Liquor store owners do not higher kids to pedal booze. That’s a direction we need to head in.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition reporting. There’s lots going on in the actions against the drug war. ABC news reports that in Mexico, local citizens groups are banding together to protect their towns from a Mexican cartel group called “Knights Templar”. The citizens, who are not allowed to own guns, are tired of having to pay protection money to the cartel and have taken up arms. This is what happens when the government is weak or so corrupt that they cannot or will not protect their citizens. Of course this really alarms the Mexican government as they are as afraid of their own citizens as they are the cartels.

The OAS, Organization of American States, has completed a two million dollar study on how to deal with the drug issues. Reuters reports that the OAS received its mandate at last year’s Summit of the Americas in Cartagena following a discussion among the presidents about the need for new drug control policies that could better reduce the violence and other negative consequences of prohibitionist policies.  With some presidents speaking openly in favor of legal regulation of currently illegal drugs, President Obama acknowledged that ending prohibition is “a legitimate topic for debate” and also stated: “I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.”

The OAS scenarios report will also be presented and discussed, in Washington, D.C., at the bi-annual meeting of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).  Two weeks later (on June 4-6), the OAS will hold its General Assembly in Antigua, Guatemala, with drug policy as the principal item on the agenda.  These developments and others will undoubtedly shape the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, currently scheduled for 2016. LEAP will have a representative, a former judge from LEAP Brazil, at this meeting in Guatemala to present our views on ending Prohibition.

LEAP is in New York this week working on getting consultative status with the United Nations so that our voices can be heard in meetings that deal with the drug war and we will be able to present our ending prohibition as a way to end the drug war and all the violence, corruption and destruction of lives, that in engenders.

The world is waking up to the total failure of the United States led war on drugs and all the harm that it has caused to millions of people. And, countries are beginning to stand up against the bullying of US drug warriors. It’s easier to do when their economies are better than ours and they are gaining confidence that they can stand up and be counted as equals in the hemisphere instead of lackeys of our drug warriors. The drug war, perhaps while well intended, has not met any of it’s goals and needs to be scrapped for a policy that works. LEAP believes in a policy of strong regulation and control coupled with credible education. We know that the policy of prohibition, arrest and incarceration has not worked and will not work.

This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.leap.cc, signing off. Stay safe.


[Dragnet-type music]

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first-hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition.

Please visit http://leap.cc


NUVO CAPAZ: My name is Nuvo Capaz. I’m one of the members of Commission of Dissuasion working under the Ministry of Health in Portugal.

What we did in Portugal we decided to decriminalize all drug usage in 2001. If any person is caught in possession of any illegal substance with less than what we consider 10 days usage (there’s a chart that identifies for each substance what should be considered for 10 days usage) instead of being referred to a court of law and the criminal justice system it get referred to the dissuasion commissions which work under the Ministry of Health.

What we do is we access the sort of user we have in front of us and eventually we have to decide if we should apply or not any type of sanction to that person.

DEAN BECKER: Has it increased drug usage? Are there more children using?

NUVO CAPAZ: No. One of the issues that was very lively debated while we were changing the law and making these steps forward was that eventually it would increase all drug usage and eventually we would have some sort of drug tourism coming down to Portugal. It didn’t happen at all like that because it’s still considered illegal. The substance is still apprehended from you if you are caught by the police forces. The only different is that you are not channeled into the criminal and justice system. You are channeled through the public health system in Portugal.

Dean, we’ve actually noticed a decrease in usage especially between the ages of 14 to 19-years-old but I personally don’t think that’s the cause of the decriminalization itself. It’s more a cause of the changes that we also made in terms of prevention and harm reduction campaign.

Politically there was a very lively debate when we decided to decriminalize drug usage. There was a lot of misconceptions and misinterpretations especially and it still happens today. I still get this today in this type of conferences and meetings. People tend to have some difficulties to make the distinction between legalization and decriminalization.

Decriminalization basically means that you remove the criminal sanctions from one act. It is still illegal but it is not considered a crime so you don’t get a jail sentence or a criminal record. You don’t get referred to a court of law.

We are empowered to apply sanctions to our citizens. The sanctions we apply are normal initiative ones like financial ones, community service, regular presentation. If a person is receiving any benefit from the state you can revoke that benefit. We can revoke the driver’s license temporarily. We can revoke the license to bear arms. There is a wide range of different sanctions which we can apply which don’t include the jail sentence and it don’t include the criminal record.

Personally I think that’s one of the reasons why our Portuguese so-called model actually worked because around 2000/2001 when we decided to decriminalized what happened was the government put together this group of experts to make recommendations regarding drug policy.

They made all sorts of recommendations regarding prevention campaigns, harm reduction, accessibility to treatment and decriminalization was one of them. They made one to the decriminalization because everything else made more sense.

I think the good results we saw in Portugal was mainly because we took a comprehensive approach to a very compact phenomenon so you need to take some very complex measurements. If you just decriminalize drug usage what you do is you remove the criminal penalties and you criminal record but it doesn’t solve any problems regarding usage or HIV infection or anything like that. To do that you need to take these other steps.

One of the reasons I think things worked out in Portugal pretty well was because we took the comprehensive approach. We took the whole package of different measures and put them in place more or less at the same time.

We changed the law in 2001, 12 years ago, and since then we’ve had 4 governments in office, 2 right wings and 2 left wings, there was no talk or debate to revert this decision of removing this sort of population from the criminal system.

In the beginning there was some discussion about it but then I think everybody more or less are in agreement that things work better this way.

I think the main thing I would like to stress is what I said earlier about the difference between decriminalization and legalization. People are afraid to debate things like decriminalization because they make that confusion between decriminalization and legalization and it’s not the same thing.

It’s still illegal and I also would like to stress that decriminalizing by itself doesn’t bring….well, it does bring some benefits and some good results but you don’t solve the whole problem just by decriminalizing.

For me, personally, I would say that the key factor in terms of drug policy is the accessibility to treatment. Drug addicts are people who need treatment and easy access to a wide range of treatment opportunities. We manage to do that in Portugal and I think that’s one of the reasons that things work out in Portugal.

The Ministry of Health in Portugal does have a link where most everything is translated to English so you can have access through there.


[bagpipe music, amazing grace]

Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the Abolitionists moment. We must stand. We must speak. We must demand an end to the madness of drug war. This 94 year old prohibition of non-Fortune 500 drugs, must be brought to an end.

This prohibition has no basis, no dignity, no embrace of reality, no reason to exist. As the Abolitionists’ stand against slavery and alcohol prohibition, so too must we stand for truth and reality, itself.

Do your part. Join forces with other Abolitionists. Please visit, endprohibition.org. Do it, for the children.


DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Nuvo Capaz, the Portuguese Drug Commissioner. I want to thank Neill Franklin of LEAP. I want to thank the New York Times for that excellent report. I want to thank Terry Nelson, also of LEAP, for standing tall as do all my band of brothers of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

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