08/18/13 Doug McVay

Doug McVay report from Hempfest with Vivian McPeak and Kari Boiter, Eric Holder, Roger Christie religious cannabis, Doctor says "a bud a day", Presumed Guilty, Canada bans growing weed, Rabbi Kahn opens dispensary in DC, Okla lifer for 3 Oz of meth, LEAP goes everywhere

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Guest: 
Doug McVay
Organization: 
Common Sense Drug Policy
Download: Audio icon COL081813.mp3
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Transcript

Century of Lies / August 18, 2013

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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.

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DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of the Century of Lies. This week we’ve got a great report for you from the 2013 Seattle Hempfest thanks to our good friend, Doug McVay of Drug War Facts.

The first speaker is the director of the Seattle Hempfest, Vivian McPeak.

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VIVIAN McPEAK: We have a cadre of luminaries in the cannabis reform field here to speak for you after I give you a brief introduction. When we started the Hempfest in 1991 a lot of people thought that we were basically jousting windmills – that it was never going to happen. We heard words like it’s a pipe dream, pissing in the wind, prohibition is here to stay.

What we’ve seen with the passage of I-502 and Measure 64 in Colorado is that change is definitely in the wind.

The mean that prohibition is an iron curtain and here to stay and is inpenetrable has been shattered and replaced with what looks like prohibition is a brick wall and we’ve taken a few bricks strategically out. We take the next couple bricks out and you never know we compromise the structural integrity and it might come crashing down.

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DEAN BECKER: Next up a former guest on the Drug Truth Network, Kari Boiter.

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KARI BOITER: I was invited here to speak to you about the War on Drugs and explain why our work is not over yet.

Obviously we all know that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and that means that state law is completely irrelevant in federal court. You don’t get to talk about it.

Right now here in Washington there are entire families who are facing indictment for medical marijuana. These aren’t people who are trying to get rich quick. They weren’t growing hundreds of plants. These are legitimate patients who are seriously ill.

I know of at least three cases right now that are active in our state. One of them is for just 44 plants. There is another guy who is being threatened with prison right now for 15 plants in our state where it’s been declared legal.

Despite the fact that voters have overwhelmingly approved recreational marijuana U.S. Attorneys are aggressively pursuing patients here. And while the state of Washington finalizes plans to manufacture and distribute cannabis commercially people like Jerry Laberty are in prison for doing the exact same thing.

Jerry is on this poster behind me. He owned a legitimate, state-licensed dispensary in Spokane, provided medicine to the sick and he’s now in prison for doing so.

Behind Jerry in this poster is Chris Williams. Chris went into business with a criminal defense attorney and the lobbyist who wrote the medical marijuana law. He thought for sure that this would mean he was on clear and unambiguous compliance like President Obama and Eric Holder had talked about.

It wasn’t until Chris went on trial in federal court that he understood how the system really works. They use your banking records to prove that you were laundering money. They use your utility bills to prove that you were manufacturing drugs. They use business contracts and they prove that Chris was conspiring to distribute marijuana.

As a result he was convicted and he faced 90 year mandatory-minimum for a state-licensed caregiver company. Life in prison for a crime with no victims.

Chris’s story pales in comparison to Richard Floor. Richard’s last moments on earth were spent shackled to a hospital bed. He died from medical neglect four months into his federal prison sentence. He was the first registered caregiver in the state of Montana. His widow, Sherry, remains behind bars.

She is unable to grieve the loss of her husband from prison. She was recently asked by her prison counselor to write down 5 negative things in her life. I’ve included those in your media packet to read about what the most negative things are for Sherry Floor and it’s not prison.

So why is it that Sherry and Chris and Jerry are rotting in prison while businesses right up the street get to advertise $200 ounces and sell them with no problem? How can the state of Washington legally issue licenses to produce and process and distribute marijuana when the federal government considers it illegal?

The message is really clear to me. They can sell drugs. The government can regulate drugs. They can control it and they can do a better job than the cartels but you and me, us common folks, we can’t.

If we grow marijuana we go to prison and they use our friends even though lawyers would advise us and they take our testimony and they use it to seal our fate.

So Eric Holder’s plan to get smart on crime doesn’t talk about rolling back the system of informants that rewards treachery and punishes those with little or no information to trade. He didn’t have anything to say about the hard working Americans who are having their property seized without ever having a single criminal charge filed. He didn’t talk about the DEA Special Ops program. When he was speaking in California not once did he mention hundreds of prisoners who are now on day 40 of a hunger strike to protest inhumane conditions.

There is a lot of things that Holder left unsaid. What was most clear to me is that he didn’t talk about marijuana. He applauded states for leading the way on ending mass incarceration but there was no mention on us leading the way when it comes to decriminalizing cannabis.

So while Dr. Sanjay Gupta apologizes publically for misleading the public on this topic our country’s Attorney General has nothing to say about something that half the country agrees on.

If Holder is serious he can start by respecting the medical marijuana laws in 20 different states and the District of Columbia. If he wants sweeping change he can remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.

If these leaders really want to slash the 83 billion dollar budget for imprisonment in this country they can start with the immediate release of every prisoner who is being held for a cannabis crime.

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DEAN BECKER: This is the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder.

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ERIC HOLDER: As the so-called War on Drugs enters its fifth decade we need to ask whether it and the approaches it comprises have been effective and build on the administration’s efforts by the Office of National Drug Control Policy to usher in a new approach.

With an out-sized, unnecessarily large prison population we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate but not merely to warehouse and to forget.

Today a viscous cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. Many aspects of our criminal justice system exasperates these problems rather than alleviating them.

We also must confront the reality that once they are in that system people of color often face harsher punishments than their peers. One deeply troubling report released in February of this year indicates that black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20% longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. This isn’t just unacceptable it is shameful.

AUDIENCE: [applause]

ERIC HOLDER: It is unworthy of our great country. It is unworthy of our great legal tradition. In response I have directed a group of U.S. attorneys to examine sentencing disparities and to develop recommendations on how we can address them.

We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory-minimum sentences for drug-related crimes.

AUDIENCE: [applause]

ERIC HOLDER: Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences (and this is regardless of the individual conduct that is at issue in a particular case) reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges and to juries. Because they oftentimes generate long sentences they breed disrespect for the system.

When applied indiscriminately they do not serve public safety. They (and let’s be honest, some of the enforcement priorities that we have set have a destabilizing effect on particular communities – largely poor and of color) applied inappropriately they are ultimately counterproductive.

This is why I have today mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies so that certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer be charged with offences that impose draconian mandatory-minimum sentences.

AUDIENCE: [applause]

ERIC HOLDER: They now will be charged with offences which the accompanying sentences will be better suited to their individual conduct rather than excessive prison sentences more appropriate for violent criminals and drug kingpins.

By reserving the most severe penalties for the most serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers we can better promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation while making our expenditures smarter and more productive.

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DEAN BECKER: The following clip is taken from the movie “The House I Live In.”

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[guitar]

SINGER: If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me?

KEVIN OTT: My name is Kevin Ott. My number is 203093. I’m in here for trafficking methamphetamine.

I start my 14th year in just a couple months and I will be here until I die. I have life without parole for 3 ounces of methamphetamine.

Yep, i fucked up but I don’t think I should die for it. I have life without parole which means I stay in prison until I die – that’s a death sentence in my opinion...a slow death sentence. I have to wait until I die.

The reason I started with meth was because I got laid off. Somebody said, “Here, try to sell some of this and get you a little extra money.”

Then I started using it and then I had to sell it to pay for it.

REPORTER: How much is three ounces of methamphetamine?

KEVIN OTT: It would fit into a small envelope. If you had been busted for 2 prior drug charges....smoked pot or having pot or meth or whatever it is and then you get a trafficking charge they give you life without parole – it’s mandatory.

When I first came in there was only a few of us – 5 or 6 at the most. A couple of years ago I heard there were 92 people in the state of Oklahoma that had life without parole for trafficking drugs and it just keeps growing.

I fought it and it’s over with. It’s been over with for probably nine years. I took it all the way to the Supreme Court and they wouldn’t hear it so here I am waiting for the law to change or something...commutation from the Governor – I don’t know.

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MALE REPORTER: It has been 1,133 days since self-professed marijuana minister Roger Christie last saw daylight but now he and his wife are celebrating some good news.

FEMALE REPORTER: That’s right a federal judge just ruled that the Christies will be allowed to use religion as part of their defense and they are also getting a boost from a change in federal law. KITV 4 Andrew Parara explains.

ANDREW PARARA: For Roger and Share Christie marijuana is a matter of faith. It is their sacrament.

SHARE CHRISTIE: It would get me in a place that I felt closer to God and it would help make much more loving decisions in my life.

ANDREW PARARA: But it’s also what has landed them in legal trouble eventually facing up to 40 years in prison if they are convicted on possession and distribution charges.

Their defense just got a boost however. Federal Judge Leslie Kobyoshi recently ruled the Christies are allowed to use their THC Ministry as a defense.

Roger Christie received the news while behind bars in federal prison. Share wants him out.

SHARE CHRISTIE: They’re saying OK. Now we’re wanting to ask for bail. He’s been in there over three years now without bail.

ANDREW PARARA: Public Safety Chairman Senator Willis Sparrow is among those who say it is time for Roger to get out as he and his wife await trial in October.

WILLIS SPARROW: I personally think that it is a shame because in our state today we are releasing alleged murderers, alleged rapists and people who have done sexual crimes. They are being given bail.

ANDREW PARARA: The Christies also received a boost from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. On Monday Holder said low-level, non-violent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels will no longer face stiff mandatory-minimum sentences.

SHARE CHRISTIE: Of course we didn’t have guns. We’ve also never had records. They keep calling him a danger to the community. He is a danger to the DEA’s community not to ours.

ANDREW PARARA: Andrew Parara, KITV 4 News.

FEMALE REPORTER: Roger Christie is also pursuing an entrapment defense claiming that both the state and federal officials knew of his activities but never said it was against the law.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy Reason TV. It features an interview with Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, owner of Tacoma Wellness Center in Washington, D.C.

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JEFFREY KAHN: We’ve got lots of licenses on the wall. It’s very easy for anybody to see that we’re not a criminal organization and so for the government to treat as one....uhm...i’ll try not to use too bad of a word on television but it is not nice at all.

REPORTER: Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and his wife are opening a medical marijuana dispensary in the nation’s capital this summer.

JEFFREY KAHN: We’re hoping to be able to safely and effectively get quality medicine to people who are suffering here in this part of the District of Columbia.

REPORTER: For Rabbi Kahn the issue is personal.

JEFFREY KAHN: When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and as a result engaged in a very aggressive form of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. We sat with her in her physician’s office who suggested that marijuana would probably be one way that she would get through all of that and be able to keep up her strength and her appetite but she didn’t know any place to get any and we didn’t know any place to get any and she wasn’t able to get any.

She lost 40 pounds in two months and didn’t survive it.

REPORTER: Medical marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C. and in 18 states however being able to get a bank account for these small businesses is a different story.

The rabbi and his wife have been turned down by every bank – big and small.

TIM LYNCH: Marijuana dispensaries are having a lot of trouble with bank accounts because financial institutions are either licensed or they are insured by the federal government so even though they may be in compliance with state law marijuana is still against federal law so they can get into trouble with money laundering regulations and this sort of thing with the federal government. The banks have been very skittish about taking that type of business.

REPORTER: However if it weren’t for federal regulations most banks would benefit from investing in the largely untapped market of marijuana dispensaries.

JEFFREY KAHN: We would find branch managers who were understanding and sympathetic and appalled and, “We’re so glad you came to this bank because you’re a business and why wouldn’t we?”

Then one month later or 6 months later we’d hear from the branch manager, “You know what? The main office has just decided that your account has been closed.”

REPORTER: These federal regulations also pose practical problems for dispensary owners.

TIM LYNCH: If they cannot maintain ordinary bank accounts with a financial institution it’s forcing them to stay into a cash only business environment and that opens them up to potential theft and crime because everybody knows that’s the nature of their business.

REPORTER: Being cash only also opens them up to more IRS audits. For dispensary owners trying to run a legitimate business this is unwelcome news.

TIM LYNCH: The ironic thing is that a lot of these medical marijuana dispensaries are a little bit more anxious than your average business in that they want to pay taxes to both the state and federal governments. They see it as a way of legitimizing their industry.

JEFFREY KAHN: We’re treated pretty much like we’re not a legal organization that is licensed by the District of Columbia that’s regulated by the Department of Health.

REPORTER: But Rabbi Kahn won’t let federal regulations stop him from running his business.

JEFFREY KAHN: From my own faith tradition what I’m doing is right. Amelirating human suffering is more important than just about any law.

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ANCHORMAN: This week Attorney General Eric Holder called for what amounts to a seismic shift for the criminal justice system - a roll back of mandatory-minimum sentences - harsh penalties that have packed America’s prisons, now at 2 million and climbing. With this country’s prison’s spilling over we’ve seen the rise of a new industry. It’s the business of private imprisonment.

Here’s MSNBC’s Ari Melber with a new edition of Presumed Guilty.

ERIC HOLDER: Too many Americans got to too many prisons for far too long and for no truly good law enforcement reason.

ARI MELBER: Attorney General Eric Holder took a rare step to curb the War on Drugs in a speech to the American Bar Association launching a policy to seek less jail time for certain non-violent offences.

Over the past 30 years mandatory-minimums and harsh sentencing have driven up the prison population by 700 percent. Policies the Attorney General says disproportionally impact the poor and minorities.

As governments have run out of space to house them they are increasingly turning to corporations to pick up the slack. Michael Skolnik, an advocate for criminal justice reform, has visited hundreds of prisons.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: The War on Drugs is not a war on drugs it is a war against black and brown America and now in the past twenty years you’ve allowed that war to be profited by private prisons.

ARI MELBER: For-profit prisons began winning contracts to run entire jail facilities in the 1980s when the inmate population was spiking. From 1990 to 2009 the private prison industry ballooned by 1600% according to the ACLU.

MICHAEL SKOLNIK: We look at these for-profit prisons they are now making contracts with states saying, “Guarantee that our prisons will be filled. Guarantee we’ll make a profit.”

How do you guarantee that? You create drug laws...

ARI MELBER: The companies that run these prisons say they are meeting a public need created by policies that pre-date their business model.

Governors of both parties have looked to private prisons to address overcrowding.

Take CCA, founded in 1983 and now the largest private prison group in the country with 80,000 inmates in 16 states. The company says it provides the cost savings of business with the oversight of government.

CCA spent almost 15 million dollars lobbying in 32 states between 2003 and 2010. Yet CCA officials say they do not lobby for longer prison terms. In SEC filing the company was required to submit in 2010, however, it conceded that its business may be hurt by policies with “leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices.”

And that’s the point. The War on Drugs has spawned a powerful business model that needs more crime and more jail time to survive. A system that presumes guilt as a business model and recidivism as a bonus.

REPORTER: Ari Melber, co-host of The Cycle, joins me now to talk more about this.

Ari, great piece there. Let’s talk about the numbers because since mandatory-minimum sentencing we’ve seen a 700% rise in the general prison population, a 1600% jump in private prison populations and that really does add up to this dramatic real-world implication of the profit off of private prisons.

ARI MELBER: Yeah, you have one out of six federal inmates in these private prisons – they are not here to work on public safety, they are not here to rehabilitate, they are here to make money off this war on drug policy that has warehoused so many people.

REPORTER: So when we talk about the warehousing of this MSNBC reached out to CCA for comment on those lobbying numbers that you just showed us. The company issued a statement saying, “We do not take a position on or in any way promote policies that determine the basis for an individual’s incarceration.”

But when it comes down to it, as you point out, basically incarceration means higher dividends.

ARI MELBER: Exactly. This is where their profit comes from. We spoke to CCA. They and other private prisons insist that they don’t have a position on whether there should be more or less prison in these sentences but they’ve worked with groups like ALEC which for years have pushed the mandatory-minimums and the tough drug reforms that basically say for the first time in American history over the past 30 years we’re going to treat private drug use on par with manslaughter or sometimes rape – put people away for 10 years and that’s proved very profitable for them.

REPORTER: When we think about what’s driving it it’s very obvious. The money trail will take you wherever you need to go.

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REPORTER: We’ve all heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” One doctor recommends that same portion for pot. It certainly got our attention. We sent Sabrina Rodriguez out to see if this doc is for real and what he says the health benefits are of taking a daily dose.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: We all know the saying about apples and your health but one former heart surgeon is saying ditch the apples and turn to marijuana.

DAVE ALLEN: It is near impossible to come back from mini-strokes.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: For years the hands of Dave Allen operated on the hearts of patients. He also knows a thing or two about strokes like even if you survive one...

DAVE ALLEN: ...represent a real social problem and a financial problem.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Some people take a daily dose of aspirin so if they do have a heart attack or stroke the severity of their problems are lower but Allen says there is a better alternative.

DAVE ALLEN: No other medicine made by man can help in this manner.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: He’s talking about pot. Allen says a patent assigned to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proves it - albeit in rats.

DAVE ALLEN: Animals given either THC or cannabidiol had a decreased size of their stroke by 50%.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: While the results are promising the problem lies in that it’s never been tested on people so as for the dosage he doesn’t know.

DAVE ALLEN: We think that the more you take the more protection you have.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Now i know what you’re thinking but Allen says the high only happens when you light up.

DAVE ALLEN: If you just eat raw cannabis it will have great medicinal effect and won’t get you high at all. When you dry the plant out and heat it it becomes psychoactive.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: That also means no edibles like brownies or cookies. His prescription is...

DAVE ALLEN: Eat a bud a day will keep a stroke away.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Allen hopes there will be human clinical trials. It has to be pointed out that he doesn’t do heart surgery anymore. As a medical marijuana advocate he now does evaluations and writes prescriptions for pot.

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[guitar]

NEILL FRANKLIN: Hi, I’m Neill Franklin. I know where LEAP’s thousands of law enforcement professionals come from. Like me they’ve been patrolling the streets, the courts, the prisons and the communities.

When folks want to hear from us, when they ask where LEAP goes well, I just reach for my guitar and...welp....I’ll let someone else tell you that...

[to the tune of “I’ve been everywhere, man”]

LEAP goes everywhere, man
LEAP goes everywhere, man
In the lion’s lair, man
Across the country fair land
We do our share, man
LEAP goes everywhere.

We’ve been to Arden, Austin, Fulton, Brattleboro, Burton, Boston, London, Camarillo, Lyndonville, Gainsville, Waterville, Bucharest, Sarasota, Minnesota, Manatoba, Hillcrest, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Santa Fe, Jamestown, Johnsontown, Hackettstown, every day...

LEAP goes everywhere, man
LEAP goes everywhere, man
In the lion’s lair, man
Across the country fair land
We do our share, man
LEAP goes everywhere.

We’ve been to Sammanish, Martinez, Natchitoches, Cherry Hill, Aspen, Copenhagen, Durham, Charlottesville, Covington, Dixon, Arlington, Annapolis, Cincinnati, Alburquerque, Tallahassee, Memphis, Hollywood, Lakewood, Kingwood, Syracuse, St. Louis, St. Paul, St. George, no excuse....

LEAP goes everywhere, man
LEAP goes everywhere, man
In the lion’s lair, man
Across the country fair land
We do our share, man
LEAP goes everywhere.

We’ve been to South Orange, South Haven, South Jordan, Waterbury, East Bremerton, East St. Louis, Eastsound, Surrey, Atlantic City, Cathedral City, Iowa City, Tampa, Riverforest, Ocean City, Waterville, Tempe, Sunland, Tolland, Cleveland, Milan...

LEAP goes on and on and on and....

LEAP goes everywhere, man
LEAP goes everywhere, man
In the lion’s lair, man
Across the country fair land
We do our share, man
LEAP goes everywhere.

NEILL FRANKLIN: And those are just a few places throughout the world where LEAP has spread the word that drug prohibition must end.

So contact us now. Set up a speaking gig. You’ll never look at drug policy the same.

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{howling winds}

The winds of prohibition howl
As the irrational maelstrom blows.
Pipe-dreaming warriors raise their eternal chant
Dancing for rain in the eye of a ‘drug war’ hurricane.

DrugTruth.net

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DEAN BECKER: Dang if it ain’t easier reporting on the drug war – it’s what to leave out and not what to leave in these days. The drug war has no basis in reality. It’s waiting on you to speak up, stand up, to do your part to end this madness.

Please do something. Prohibido istac evilesco!

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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