01/12/14 Maria McFarland

Century of Lies

Maria McFarland Deputy Director, US Program for Human Rights Watch, Doug McVay report on racial disparity in drug war, John Stewart V. Bill OReilly & tour de force from Jodie Emery on Canada's Sun TV

Audio file


Century of Lies January 12, 2014


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: Forget shooting fish in a barrel. Producing a show that eviscerates the logic of drug war is ...hell, I don’t know – easy as pie?! This is Century of Lies.’


MARIA McFARLAND: My name is Maria McFarland. I’m the Deputy U.S. Program Director at Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch is an international human rights organization. We work on abuses all over the world. We also work on problems within the United States.

Among other issues we cover here are problems with the criminal justice system with regard to immigration policy and, of course, national security issues. We have been very involved with abuses related to the various drug wars around the world including here.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve had your associate, Jamie Feldner, on. Earlier this week I saw your boss, Mr. Ken Rock. He was on the Colbert show and he basically eviscerated the logic of drug war. That led me to you because you have been following this not just in the U.S. but internationally as well, correct?

MARIA McFARLAND: That’s right. I used to be the Colombian researcher here. I covered the drug war there for several years. I also worked on U.S. foreign policy so I got a sense of how drug control policies played out in places like Afghanistan and other countries like Mexico. Now I’m seeing it within the U.S. and the impact that the current approach focusing so heavily on criminalization has had on people within this country – the many people who end up in prison for drug offenses, mostly low-level offenses and the damage that it causes to so many communities.

DEAN BECKER: I feel we still have a very long way to go but what recently was put forward or started sales of cannabis in Colorado has really shaken the tree, has moved many politicians from their prior positions. Would you agree with that?

MARIA McFARLAND: I think it’s opened the door to a debate that before people were terrified of engaging in. I think for a long time the whole issue of drug laws and whether drugs should be legalized was simply considered taboo politically. It was sort of a fringe issue that some organizations were talking about, that advocates that dealt with the people caught up in the system talked about but mainstream politicians were just too afraid to touch.

I think now it’s possible for them to talk about it and they really should because the harms that we are talking about are tremendous and, of course, the cost is tremendous. I’m sure that that’s going to get a lot of people’s attention as well.

DEAN BECKER: I think about it like this...the squandering of our treasury is being recognized at last, the futility of arresting 45 million people is being recognized.

Earlier this week I was invited by another, more major, radio station to come on one of their noon talk shows and I was thrilled at the opportunity but as it turns out they could not find anybody in local, state, or federal government willing to come on and debate me. Your response to that, please?

MARIA McFARLAND: That’s unfortunate. At this point I think that there is an ongoing discussion in state after state – obviously Colorado legalized and Washington will be implementing it soon. More and more states are looking at it. New York is looking at allowing medical marijuana to be used.

Internationally there’s very strong pressure for this. Uruguay in South America has legalized marijuana not only its use and possession but also production and distribution. Countries like Colombia and Mexico that have been at the forefront of what was known as the War on Drugs are asking the U.S. and others to please reconsider because all this has done is put lots and lots of people in prison, led to many deaths and extraditions and fumigations and huge expenditures of resources and it has ended up strengthening the organized crime that supposedly it’s trying to combat.

DEAN BECKER: Maria, I don’t expect you to fully embrace this but I use a phrase on the radio quite often that war of terror (and, certainly I think there is terror inflicted on both sides) but the war of terror is the War on Drugs with afterburners...that the mechanism of drug war has just been kind of extrapolated and immediately put in play with this war of terror.

I feel the diminution of our rights and so forth that has been coming forward with the War on Drugs was just cloned, if you will, and immediately put in play for the war on terror.

MARIA McFARLAND: Yeah, I think there definitely are a few parallels. Certainly when you create a lot of fear in the public, when so many people are terrified of something like initially drugs and crack and people who look different that’s sold to them as something that they should really worry about and that they need to address in a very draconian, aggressive way people are sometimes willing to look the other way when civil rights are violated and human rights.

I think you see similar patterns with the handling of terrorism. After 9/11 people were understandably so horrified by what had happened and so afraid of what could happen that they didn’t ask too many questions and, unfortunately, that led to a great deal of abuse. It is precisely when you are dealing with issues that are scary to people that you need to be most vigilant to make sure that there isn’t an overreach and that you don’t have abuse.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Maria McFarland. She is with Human Rights Watch. Their website is http://hrw.org. I urge you to check it out. It’s time we all step forward and speak a little louder about what is legitimate democracy, liberty and freedom.

Maria, I wanted to ask you about the work of Human Rights Watch. You guys try to cover all bases so to speak not just the drug war. You are trying to support liberty and freedom, correct?

MARIA McFARLAND: Yeah, we basically fight for human rights, for respect to human rights principles which include basic values like liberty and freedom. There’s certainly a lot of overlap with civil rights. It depends on how you talk about it but you get the idea.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. The situation in Colorado is one end of the spectrum. I live in Texas where we have a law on the books that say you don’t even have to arrest people for under 4 ounces but yet 95% of the law enforcement offices continue to do so. What about equal justice...you know...this disparity, again. What’s your thought there?

MARIA McFARLAND: Unfortunately the way drug laws have been implemented in this country law enforcement have overwhelmingly focused on African-Americans and so there is this huge racial disparity in arrests for drug offenses and in convictions even though African-Americans and whites engage in drug use at basically the same rate. There’s this huge difference in who gets arrested.

In New York we have also documented how huge numbers of people arrested simply for use and possession of drugs, small amounts of marijuana...the police have argued that it’s a way to reduce violence but my colleague Jamie Feldner who you mentioned before has shown how there’s very little overlap between people who are caught for possessing small amounts of marijuana and people who go on to commit violent crimes. They are not the same group of people.

You have to ask very real questions about what is the point of these arrests especially when you are talking about offenses like use and possession of drugs for personal use where there is no harm to anybody else. It’s your decision about what you are doing to yourself. Governments may have an interest in encouraging you to take care of your health and not harm yourself but you shouldn’t be thrown in prison for what you do to yourself.

DEAN BECKER: We got just a couple minutes left here. I wanted to focus on the fact that we ( by that I mean the American people) have been lazy, have been falling down on the job in so far as protecting our rights. Would you agree with that?

MARIA McFARLAND: Well, I’m not sure that I want to say that people are lazy. I think people are very busy with their own lives. People have jobs and they are focused on other things but I think it’s very easy to accept what you are told, forget when it’s not affecting you directly, when it’s just people in the other neighborhoods who you don’t really know well.

We have seen people wake up when they are directly affected and it would be great if people would pay a little more attention to this very serious crisis because it is millions of people who we are talking about who are affected by these extremely hash policies. Ultimately all of us are affected when you are feeding criminal organizations so much wealth through illicit drug markets that could otherwise be used for other purposes.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, something more positive, indeed.

Maria, I want to thank you for being our guests. I want to encourage folks, once again, to visit Human Rights Watch at http://hrw.org.

Maybe lazy isn’t the word. The truth is perhaps people are overwhelmed or fearful of getting involved because often times drug reformers get in trouble for speaking up.

Your closing thoughts, Maria McFarland?

MARIA McFARLAND: I think this is an exciting time. There is movement in the air. We’ve seen federal governments say that they are willing to let Washington and Colorado go forward with legalizing marijuana within certain limits. I think it’s time to capitalize on that and press policy makers to review other drug laws and to reduce this extremely harsh approach that has been used so far and look at other options.



Building the prisons nationwide
More drug war, more.

Stuffing the prisons deep inside
More drug war, more.


DOUG McVAY: It's the 420 Drug War News.

Newly published research shows that African-American males in the United States have a much higher chance of being arrested by the time they reach the age of 18 than do whites.

According to the news release from the University of South Carolina, quote: “The study is an analysis of national survey data from 1997 to 2008 of teenagers and young adults, ages 18-23, and their arrest histories, which run the gamut from truancy and underage drinking to more serious and violent offenses. The study excludes arrests for minor traffic violations.” End quote.

According to the article, quote: “it appears that non-Hispanic, Black males have the highest risk of arrest by age 18 (29.6%), followed by Hispanic males (26.2%) and non-Hispanic, non-Black (White) males (21.5%). The MAR (or Missing At Random) estimates for the females are much more tightly clustered (all three race groups between 11.8% and 12.0%). Although the MAR arrest rates are higher at age 23 (Panel B), the between-group patterns are the same (e.g., the Black males have an arrest rate of 48.9%, Hispanic males, 43.8%, and White males, 37.9%). The MAR CIs tell us that the males as a whole are significantly different from the females as a whole and that the Black males have a significantly higher arrest rate than the White males. Neither the White nor the Black males differ significantly from the Hispanic males. ” End quote.

For those who aren't sure, think of a confidence interval as like the range of error for a survey, the plus or minus percentage. What they're saying is that the odds for Hispanic males being arrested fall somewhere in the range of error for either black or white non-Hispanic males. So, while there's a big difference between arrest rates for black and white males, there is technically no significant difference in arrest rates for blacks and Hispanics, nor for whites and Hispanics. What's missing from the analysis are subgroups for Hispanic males – that is, the research talks about non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks yet leaves Hispanics lumped into one group. I think there would be some value in examining whether the arrest rates for Hispanic males and females differ based on skin color.

The way we police today leaves more than half of all violent crimes and more than 80 percent of property crimes uncleared, that is, no one even gets indicted. We've made slight improvements over the past 40 years since we've been keeping records – possibly because we've been keeping records. We arrest millions of people each year, and we incarcerate a greater portion of our population than most any other country on earth, so it's not for lack of effort. The problem is with who we're arresting and incarcerating. Prohibition is a failed, counterproductive system, yet more than that it's a breeding ground for racism, sexism, classism, and corruption. Legalization of marijuana or any other controlled substance will not in and of itself end these societal problems, yet it would be a great help.

For specific, up-to-date data on arrests and incarceration, go to drug war facts dot org.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

This has been a production of the Drug Truth Network, online at Drug Truth dot net.


JON STEWART: In most instances where America is slightly changing the most interesting take came from our friend Bill O’Reilly’s “The old timey Americana Restoration hour.”

Break up the grumpolodian...

BILL O’REILLY: If you use any intoxicating agent your goal is to leave reality. You are not satisfied with your current state of mind. You want to get high, buzzed, blasted – whatever.

Some adults can handle that on occasion others cannot so it’s literally Russian roulette.

JON STEWART: Literally Russian roulette. Bill, what are you talking about?! Literally?!

In fact I think the only difference between a bong hit and pointing a loaded gun at your own skull is that the gun can kill you instantly and must never be criminalized or restricted in any way ever...EVER!!

[audience applauds]

I just want to point out to the audience at home that they are applauding ironically.

Then the “just say no” part of the program took a bit of a hairpin turn.

BILL O’REILLY: Now more bad news. Combine the drug aspect with the internet. According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics 75% of 12 to 17-year-olds in the USA have cell phones and virtually all of them text.

[audience laughs]

JON STEWART: What the hell just happened? How do we go from “just say no” to “what’s with all the beep beep boom boom machines?! And the LOL and the TTYK and the music and the dancing and ...”

What happened?

You wouldn’t happen to have a surprising exemplar of a society and a culture that’s getting it right here...that perhaps undercuts the message that everything else you and your colleagues at Fox have ever said?

BILL O’REILLY: In China people are encouraged to compete, be disciplined to live in the real world – not here.

JON STEWART: Why can’t America be more like the People’s Republic of China?! And, while the truth is the Chinese use text messaging more than anybody else in the world I guess the thought behind this is you could keep kids from texting so much by restricting the size of their families through central planning.

My favorite part, however, was watching a Columbia professor and expert on drug policy take in this new drug and texting phenomena.

BILL O’REILLY: Kids and pot...you don’t recommend that, right?

CARL HART: Of course not. I don’t recommend kids taking alcohol or smoking...

BILL O’REILLY: Alright, thank you and I appreciate that. Uh...texting...you know it’s an addiction and it’s going crazy. Are you aware of that, right?

CARL HART: No, I’m not aware of that it’s an addiction.

JON STEWART: Wait....wait....smart black guy with dreads disagrees with me. I will do the opposite. Get me a bald, white idiot...

BILL ABLOW: Texting, the insistent use of Facebook, the use of marijuana ...

JON STEWART: You’ll do just fine...I’m sorry I interrupted you. You were railing against the marijuana-texting industrial complex...by the way, for extra bonus pleasure watch the guest reaction to Dr. Ablow’s expertise.

BILL ABLOW: Even the people who can identify this as a huge problem are using texting. It deposits them in a virtual world where their feelings don’t need to have integrity, where their intentions can be the same as a pot smokers – non-motivational, looking for the next high.

BILL O’REILLY: And you say to that?

CARL HART: Well, I don’t know what to say...

[audience applauds/laughing]

JON STEWART: I guess I could say you’re a fucking idiot.


DEAN BECKER: The following segment comes to us courtesy of Sun TV out of Canada. It features Jodie Emery, the wife of Marc Emery, who was sentenced to 5 years in a federal pen for the sale of marijuana seeds via the internet. Jodie now has a regular segment on this program kind of like the U.S. morning programs.

Again, Jodie Emery in an absolutely tour de force. She could be a LEAP speaker - that’s for certain.


JODIE EMERY: Tougher sentences and even the threat of being murdered in the streets doesn’t deter people from getting involved in gang violence. It’s very true. It’s tragic. There are police and people out there that respond to bloody scenes of violence and it’s horrific and they do great work.

I know the police are trying their hardest to use what they have to stop this gang violence but they can’t. You can only address the symptoms of the problems. We need to look at what’s causing the problems and for a lot of young people they cannot resist the lure of huge amounts of money in the drug trade. It’s hard to get a job as it is and when they see all the flash and money and bling it’s hard for them to not want to sell drugs.

The drug trade, again, they know that they could get arrested. They know that they could go to prison for a long period of time but that doesn’t deter them. You have to address the problem source and that’s prohibition of drugs which creates the criminal underworld that sells them.

REPORTER: Right, but clearly you’re not asking for cocaine to be legalized...methamphetamine...

JODIE EMERY: Yes, I am actually. There are Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that believe all drugs should be legal. I know it sounds crazy. People can look up Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

Here’s the thing. We sell a lot of drugs that are dangerous and kill people. There are pain killers and alcohol and all sorts of substances that are hurting people every day and yet there are few substances made illegal and that doesn’t protect anyone from using them. It only allows for a criminal market to sell them. If you criminalize something the distributors will be criminals.

REPORTER: So...legalize meth, legalize heroin, legalize crack...

FEMALE: I know Jodie has invested so much thoughtfulness in terms of her position but I just can’t go there. As a mother of 3 young kids and seeing the devastation that illegal substances like crack and heroin...the easy addiction...young women using it for weight loss and then being addicted ...

JODIE EMERY: We should ban, probably, all alcohol from anybody because young people use that far more than illegal drugs. It’s not...it’s about the principle here. We’re talking about substances that are dangerous for society and if so we need to make them all illegal.

Clearly making them illegal doesn’t make it safer...legal drugs are more available in schools.

REPORTER: Teenagers are all over alcohol and pot and even cocaine.

JODIE EMERY: You need educate them to make responsible choices. Threatening people with arrest doesn’t protect our children. It endangers them.

REPORTER: Is there any country in the world where all of these drugs are legal?

JODIE EMERY: Yes, not legal but decriminalized and they did it in Portugal a decade ago. All drugs – cocaine, everything. They found that youth use dropped, criminal organizations lost money. All the research has shown that when you make the drug laws less severe young people use drug less often.

FEMALE: I feel like there would be a spike before you get to those results. There would be a whole lot of kids using...

JODIE EMERY: How does prohibition protect us now? Decades of task force...decades of...

FEMALE: I understand that but I think one of the questions that should be asked and I’m not an expert so I wouldn’t know the answer to this but the addictive quality of the drug for each drug is significant.

JODIE EMERY: Oh, yeah, but teenagers aren’t going out and buying methamphetamine. Parents don’t need to be worried about that. Teenagers are getting drunk. Teenagers are ...

FEMALE: but if you legalize cocaine and heroin which I think is strange...

JODIE EMERY: Which would make it more like alcohol and tobacco where you can have age restrictions. Drug dealers don’t ask for ID and when kids...

FEMALE: Addiction doesn’t look at age...

JODIE EMERY: How many people are addicted to meth? There aren’t young kids injecting heroin. They end up on the street because of a policy that puts them there because they are failed by a system and it’s the drugs that are illegal that we’re talking about here but they are no different than drugs that kill people every single day that the government sells.

FEMALE: We’ve had 15-year-old girls killed by heroin.

JODIE EMERY: Oh, absolutely, it happens...peanut butter kills people, too, you know. Water kills people. Cars kill people. That doesn’t mean you arrest your way out of the problem.

FEMALE: I think the drugs that you have mentioned here are significantly differently than alcohol or...

JODIE EMERY: We’re not talking about legalizing it to give it to kids. We are talking about legalizing it so we can control it and restrict and have age restrictions because right now when it’s illegal drug dealers don’t have any restrictions. They don’t care who they sell it to.

FEMALE: No, they don’t, but, as you pointed out, even with restrictions on alcohol kids are still using it.

JODIE EMERY: But, again, criminal penalties are not solving any of the problems. If we want ...

FEMALE: If we do proper criminal penalties for people who engage in various crimes like assault...

JODIE EMERY: But it doesn’t stop them from doing them.

REPORTER: I have to agree with Jodie in that I don’t think ...because I think so many things happen in the heat of the moment and that you aren’t thinking, “Oh, I could go to jail for life.” People don’t think that way.

FEMALE: But you do need to realize that when you are choosing a certain lifestyle where you are either selling or hanging out with ...

JODIE EMERY: Let’s get rid of that job...

FEMALE: Jodie, it’s not even just that particular job. It’s people...

JODIE EMERY: But it is. Drug dealer is a job and we need to get rid of that job position. If young people want to sell drugs they better go to pharmacy school and learn how to sell them over the counter legally but right now...

REPORTER: I think what we’ve done is muddle a whole bunch of issues here. We’re talking about stiff penalties for people who are committing crime so they don’t have an opportunity so they commit them again.

The whole legalizing of drugs is a conversation that I think is taking place around marijuana which I think at this point from all the research that I’ve seen is pretty defensible and debatable.

But to talk about heroin and cocaine...throwing that into the mix ...

JODIE EMERY: But it’s all tied in. The gangs would not exist without a drug trade.

[all over talking each other]

FEMALE: The gang role is not just about drugs. It’s about stolen property. It’s about extortion.

REPORTER: 75% of the federal budget used in courts deal with drug cases...

FEMALE: What about treating those people when they first come to the doorstep of the court...I do think that people are being failed by the court system. You should get the support and the treatment so you’re not engaging in domestic abuse or gang activity. Court reform is something I’ll talk with you but legalizing cocaine and heroin is just not...

JODIE EMERY: It’s the only way to take it out of the hands of gangs...prohibition benefits gangs and they are the ones that want it to stay illegal. Trust me – they love it.


DEAN BECKER: That is how you eviscerate the drug war. Motivating you to do something about it, well, that’s another story, perhaps another day.

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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

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