06/30/13 Emily Brady

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Emily Brady author of Humboldt - Life on America's Marijuana Frontier + Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / June 30, 2013



DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of the Cultural Baggage. Perhaps Houston is no longer to be the gulag filling station. I want you to call your friends and tell them to listen to the second half of the show which will feature a show with Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland who sees a need to change our drug laws.

But first up let’s talk about Humboldt County nestled up in the redwood groves and the Pacific Ocean in national forestland north of San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places in California. It’s also the epicenter of marijuana production in the state that one study estimated produced 79% of all marijuana consumed in the United States in the year 2010.

For many people the county’s name alone is synonymous with the illegal crop. We have the author of a great new book, “Humboldt - Life on America's Marijuana Frontier”, Emily Brady. Are you with us?

EMILY BRADY: I am. Thank you for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Emily, the book is a great read. It tells a lot of personal stories. It gives some details about the mechanism of the marijuana trade up there in the Emerald Triangle specifically around Humboldt County.

The fact of the matter is you lived with these people. This is a non-fiction book, right?

EMILY BRADY: Correct. I spent over 14 months living in the community reporting and gathering the story about the people in the book.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about the …the fact of the matter is they weren’t so much in favor of the 2010 vote on marijuana.

EMILY BRADY: California was the first state in 30 years to have a recreational use law ballot measure and it was called Prop 19 and that’s when I arrived in Humboldt County. The majority of the people in the county voted against it and that struck a lot of people as shocking since that was the county where the economy is very much reliant on marijuana and it seemed counter-intuitive to a lot of people.

The majority of growers in southern Humboldt County voted against it. There are multiple reasons why. Not all growers – about 60% voted against it and 40% for. I think many people were scared…People were making a good living in rural America because it’s illegal and many people were scared that their economy would come crashing down. Some people viewed it as a way to draw tourism and many people were afraid that it would become just like any other crop and become agribusiness and they would no longer have a place in it.

DEAN BECKER: Let me read a bit from your book:

“Legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic bust in the long boom and bust history of northern California.”

I think it would be. It would have a major, major impact wouldn’t it?

EMILY BRADY: Yeah, that quote comes from a woman named Anna Hamilton who organized a meeting where I begin my book. My character, Mary, is an old school grower and goes to these meeting which is like the first public meeting in the community where everybody is talking about the economic dependence in the area on marijuana and what’s going to happen if it becomes legal.

The name of the meeting is “What’s after pot?!” Anna was saying these words that many people thought and nobody really said out loud, “This is going to cause our economy to crash.”

DEAN BECKER: Contained in that same chapter was the thought that it might be dropped from its current rate of say $2,000 a pound to as low as $500. Let me tell you something. I used to grow here around Houston. I could produce quality for a whole lot less than $500 if I was allowed to grow the quantity necessary to make the profit.

I think the idea that $500 is a cutoff point is not quite right but, just the same, it’s still TBD isn’t it?

EMILY BRADY: Yeah, that $500 comes from a study of the RAND corporation which is a think tank in Southern California and that’s what they came up with. What’s been happening is marijuana prices have been dropping over the years.

California approved the medical marijuana law in 1996 and then the prices started speeding up and they’re decline in the mid to late-2000. Right now they are at like $1,400 / $1,200 per pound for outdoor marijuana.

The decline is continuing. I think as legalization continues the $500 mark might not be…

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I don’t know who at the RAND Corporation has ever grown.

The book talks about the trimmers – the people who trim the buds. They come up each harvest season. I like the quote in here, “Like the growers who employ them they are predominantly white.”

This is kind of a different kind of immigration isn’t it which accumulates up there in the Emerald Triangle.

EMILY BRADY: Yeah, I describe them in that chapter as (at least in California) the last white migrant farm workers. The trimmers are predominantly white. They come from around the country and sometimes from abroad. They usually come to visit people that they know and have met and trust. They come up usually for the outdoor harvest season although there are harvests throughout the year but the big harvest is outdoors in the Fall from September/October.

They live with the farmers and are fed and are housed and sit around in circles and trim the marijuana for hours and hours on end.

DEAN BECKER: You said at first it’s like going to camp because the first few days are fun until the tedium just wears them out, right?

EMILY BRADY: Yeah, that’s what it looked like to me.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to talk about the mindset of the locale. They have been doing this for decades – since the 70s, 60s perhaps, right?

EMILY BRADY: Right – late 60s, early 70s. Sensimilla which is the really potent marijuana started about 75 or 76.

DEAN BECKER: This is, as I referenced earlier, up to 70% of the nation’s supply comes from that area.

EMILY BRADY: Actually that statistic (and it’s so difficult with black market materials) but that statistic was California – not just Humboldt – so one study I read said up to 79% of America’s marijuana comes from California.

Humboldt used to be …Humboldt is very well known but they are growing marijuana everywhere in California now thanks, in large part, because it is easier and less risk with the medical law.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, 79 I grew a crop out there near Lake Isabella. It’s not as lush, not as forested as it is up there in Humboldt.

Again, we’re speaking with Emily Brady. She’s author of “Humboldt - Life on America's Marijuana Frontier.” I recommend it highly if you want to learn the mechanics of this marijuana trade, how it came to be and a general understanding of where we are headed now.

You talk about the fact that when Washington and Colorado legalized it it kind of was on the footsteps of what Richard Lee had tried to do in California - that he awoke people to the possibility. Is that a fair assumption.

EMILY BRADY: Yeas, I think so. Drug policy experts that I spoke with said what happened in California even though ultimately it failed in the large part it was seen because the ballot measure was held in an off-year election when less young people show up to vote. It helped pave the way for Colorado and Washington.

When I started reporting the book 3 years ago there wasn’t the national conversation about marijuana legalization taking place like there is right now and I think Prop 19 and that ballot measure helped start that conversation.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is that many of the people involved in this trade have spent many years in prison. I’m not saying it’s a large percentage but a number of people there have and it has kind of challenged that notion that the laws work in the user’s favor.

EMILY BRADY: It’s really interesting when you look at statistics that 88% of marijuana arrests which I think three-quarters of a million people are arrested every year for marijuana charges – 88% are for possession only so it is small amount that arrested for cultivation and sales.

Sadly, our laws are used in racially biased ways. Blacks are arrested at 4 times the rate as whites. Some do go to jail but less now that the laws…At the moment people are just wondering how they can continue to make a living.

DEAN BECKER: I would think that for those busted in Humboldt County the chances of being convicted are pretty slim.

EMILY BRADY: Yeah and I think the people who are busted don’t tend to be the smaller “mom and pops”. They tend to be bigger, industrial growers causing environmental problems.

If you look at Google Earth and look at Humboldt County - and some news organizations have done this - there’s a lot of marijuana grown and a lot of greenhouses and I think the law enforcement tends to concentrate on the bigger grows.

DEAN BECKER: We’re just about out of time. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Emily Brady. She’s author of “Humboldt - Life on America's Marijuana Frontier.”

Emily, is there a website you might want to point folks towards?

EMILY BRADY: I have a personal website which is http://emilyebrady.com

DEAN BECKER: Emily Brady, thank you so much.


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DEAN BECKER: I’ve wanted to speak with Police Chief McClelland for a while now. He’s been busy. I’ve been busy but a couple of weeks back he had a letter, an OPED in the Houston Chronicle. They titled it “McClelland: Congress Needs to Act Decisively if War on Drugs is to be Won.”

Chief McClelland, you made some powerful statements in this letter some I’ve not heard too much here in Texas. Primarily you were talking about how the drug war has not produced the results the country had hoped for.

CHARLES McCLELLAND: Well, yes. Back in the 1980s when then President Ronald Reagan declared a War on Drugs it was all about eradication, “Just say No.” It has not produced those type of results because we know that the drug cartels are just as powerful as ever, there’s many individuals who have been convicted of felonies and went to prison. They got out. They’re still drug abusers, substance abusers.

There was a lack of resources that was put into rehabilitation and I don’t think law enforcement has been given all the tools necessary to win this war and certainly there has been a lack of clarity when it comes to the federal government defining the national drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Chief, you mentioned that there was a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union which showed that whites and minorities are arrested at very disparate rates.

CHARLES McCLELLAND: First of all whites and minorities are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system for all types of crimes. Minorities certainly are disproportionately represented when it comes to murder, rape, robbery as suspects and minorities are disproportionately represented when it comes to victimizations of those same type crimes.

Marijuana is no different but it’s not because of the actions of the courts. One has to look at the actions of the offender. Marijuana use and when officers target marijuana violations it’s because they can see it. People have marijuana in their vehicles. People are smoking marijuana in the open and that’s what generates complaints.

So when citizens, residents call in drug complaints where they can actually see these violations in the open this is what officers are going to target. I think that the analogy if one was to use marijuana in the bedroom of their home in River Oaks and one was to use marijuana in their bedroom in Third Ward the arrest rates would be no different.

DEAN BECKER: According to an ACLU report Texas has some counties with more than 30 times as many blacks arrested as whites for marijuana. I think that speaks to a larger problem. What your thought there, Chief?

CHARLES McCLELLAND: Well, it is. I think the ACLU’s analogy is somewhat flawed because, again, minorities and especially African-Americans are disproportionately represented as far as arrested for any type crime or charges, incarceration, on probation – 1 out of 6 vs. 1 out of 10 for non-minorities but it’s not because of the marijuana law.

Now what congress and the federal government has to take action and show leadership on this issue is marijuana (for those who don’t know) is still classified as a dangerous drug – the same as cocaine. Because marijuana is still illegal from a federal standpoint many states have decided to come up with their own hodgepodge of laws to make it legal, class C misdemeanors but it’s still a federal violation.

We’re going to get into the same boat that we have with immigration. States are trying to come up with their own laws and rules to address this when guidance and leadership needs to come from the federal government.

DEAN BECKER: Even in those states that have the medical marijuana laws the federal government still is involved in enforcing the federal law and even, I guess, in Colorado and Washington State there’s still some battles to be waged there in the near future.

CHARLES McCLELLAND: There is but, you know, law enforcement is part of the executive branch of government. We’re not part of the courts. We’re not part of the legislative branch of the government but we have to know with some consistency what does our government want us to enforce.

Do they want us to write citations? Do they want us to put individuals in jail? Incarcerate people? We’re going to enforce the law but the laws need to be consistent.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we are speaking with the Houston Police Chief, Charles A. McClelland, Jr.

Chief, you had written in your letter that you have to live with the decisions of the judicial branch of the government. Whatever they decided you guys, as you say, are good soldiers. You are going to do what the law requires.

CHARLES McCLELLAND: Yes, absolutely. We’re going to enforce the law without fear or favor and whether that be a minority, non-minority the laws are the same to me. If you are driving down the street smoking marijuana in your car and you are observed engaged in that activity by a police officer I expect one of my officers to pull you over and arrest you regardless of your race or ethnicity.

DEAN BECKER: Chief, I’ve spoken with the last three District Attorneys about a situation and I’ve discussed with them that we have this law on the books came through as House Bill 2391. I think it’s about 5-years-old now. It says it is no longer necessary to arrest or jail anybody for under 4 ounces of marijuana here in the state of Texas.

Only the Police Chief of Austin makes use of that law. Lycos, Rosenthal and Anderson all told me it just creates too much paperwork. Could I get your response to that?

CHARLES McCLELLAND: Well, again, that’s something that I cannot enforce or make that policy decision on my own without permission of the District Attorney.

Officers are not concerned necessarily about paperwork. They are concerned about being consistent. If the public and our legislative branch don’t want us to enforce marijuana laws or they want to decriminalize it and the federal government says this is what we should do we can adapt and make that change but it’s not up to me to decide whether low levels of marijuana should be legal or illegal or a ticketable offence because I still have concerns about long-term health risks and if people are under the influence of marijuana and they are driving vehicles what quantity and what level causes impairment? One joint? Two joints? How do we measure this and how do we keep the public safe?

DEAN BECKER: You also talked about the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Recent studies have shown there’s not much difference molecularly or chemically between these two products it’s just the state that it’s in when it’s used.

We in Houston and Texas have our problems with cocaine because we are one of the world’s biggest distribution hubs. It comes north from Mexico and gets cut up here and sent to the rest of the states. How will we handle that situation regarding crack vs. powder cocaine?

CHARLES McCLELLAND: This is what started the sentencing disparity in the 1980s. You are right for the chemical compound composition of crack vs cocaine is basically the same.

Crack is a form, a hardened form where it is actually diluted with other chemicals but it is a cheaper form of cocaine. It is very, very powerful in the rock form that it is sold on the city streets but because of the violence that was associated with crack cocaine in the 1980s federal sentencing guidelines caused those individuals who were using and selling crack to get harsher sentences than powder cocaine.

Crack cocaine in its rock form is predominantly sold in inner-city neighborhoods across America. It is no different than in Houston. Powder cocaine is not really sold on street corners like rock cocaine.

That’s what disproportionately affected a lot of young minorities particularly African-Americans.

DEAN BECKER: Chief, Houston I’m told is America’s fourth largest city maybe third I don’t know we’re dealing with Chicago there but the fact of the matter is we’re dealing with this ACLU report showing that Houston was the fourth leading city in so far as the number of blacks being arrested for marijuana possession.

I guess what I’m saying is New York leads the way with their population and their “stop and frisk” policy. It’s not something necessarily to be proud of but, then again, it just represents what’s happening across the nation. Am I right, sir?

CHARLES McCLELLAND: You are exactly right. First of all you can’t get arrested with marijuana if you don’t have any in your possession or in your car or your home – number one.

Two it’s going to take some type of direct observation usually by the police officer if we don’t have a warrant to search your home or car so it’s more important to look at what was a person doing when they were arrested and charged with marijuana. Again, if you are standing on the street corner smoking marijuana or if you are riding down the street and marijuana smoke is billowing out of the windows of your car and you get stopped for a traffic violation and the officer smells marijuana odor more than likely then you will be arrested.

But if you are smoking marijuana in your bedroom and we have no knowledge of that and no one is complaining about you smoking it in your bedroom more than likely you are not going to be engaged by the police.

DEAN BECKER: Chief McClelland, a few months back I was at a conference at the University of Houston sponsored by the National African-American Forum and speaking there was the then DA candidate Mike Anderson.

The idea was brought forward that perhaps we should re-examine this – that I requested that Mr. Anderson talk to our state officials about this scenario – the impropriety of the aspects of the drug war. He didn’t promise to do so but what you have done here, sir, I commend you for because I think it more important to speak to our national officials about the need to re-examine our drug war policies.

CHARLES McCLELLAND: I totally agree with you and you are exactly right. Although I am a police chief and a law enforcement officer I also understand the dynamics. If you have a 20-year-old African-American male that gets arrested with a piece of crack cocaine that is a felony. That person will go to Texas State penitentiary for a number of years – not long but maybe 2 or 3.

That person is going to get out and now you’ll have a 23/24-year-old that is a convicted felon that gets out and had probably dropped out of high school before he or she was arrested and they are unemployable. They have no job skills. They are a convicted felon and they still have a substance abuse problem.

They were not put through any type of rehabilitation so what are we to do as a society with someone that’s in their early 20s with no job skills that now has the title of convicted felon on their resume and still has substance abuse problems?

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is, as you say, this young man 23-years-old has limited aspects, limited potential in life that we need to perhaps take away some of that stigma of that drug arrests…what’s your closing thoughts?

CHARLES McCLELLAND: It has to be a multifaceted approach when it comes to winning the War on Drugs.

One, the reason why drugs float north of the border in large quantities is because America’s insatiable appetite to use drugs. If there was no drug market north of the border drugs wouldn’t flow north.

Two, we got something about the drug habits of the people in America. We’ve got to put more money in rehabilitation, substance abuse. We certainly got to do everything we can to enforce border enforcement and stop the flow of drugs and money going back and forth across the border.

And we have to do something about sentencing disparity and how this is affecting the young people across this country.

DEAN BECKER: I want to thank HPD Police Chief Charles McClelland, Jr. for his astounding works for this city of Houston. Folks if he can call for a change to our drug laws so can you. I urge you to do so.

Please check out this week’s Century of Lies show which features Rob Kampia, the director of the Marijuana Policy Project as well as Dr. Rob Kingsley-Brown and a couple of other doctors and scientists from the Psychedelic Science 2013 Conference.

I want to thank Emily Brady for her great book “Humboldt - Life on America's Marijuana Frontier.” Quick quote from it:

“As long as there is a black market somewhere the issues of criminality associated with the marijuana industry will continue. The only way it was ever going to change was to legalize it.”

I guess that’s the point, friends. If we want to stop funding terrorists because they’re still …Afghanistan is still the number one marijuana grower on the world, the cartels in Mexico are thriving and, of course, 30,000 violent gangs exist here in America primarily to sell marijuana to your children.

It’s time to legalize it. Tax it for adults. Let adults be judged by their actions not the contents of their pocket. It’s really that simple.

It’s really up to you to do something about this. Again, I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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