05/04/14 Steven Gutwillig

DPA Conference: Steven Gutwillig of Drug Policy Alliance, David Borden of Stop The Drug War, Brandon of Cranfords Cannabis Cigarettes, Sam Salzazar of Marijuana 411, Shiloh Murphy of Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance. May Day: US Rep Sheilah Jackson Lee

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Guest: 
Steven Gutwillig
Organization: 
Drug Policy Alliance
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / May 4, 2014

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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.

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DEAN BECKER: Hello and welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Got a great show lined up for you this week - some reports from the Drug Policy Alliance Partners gathering up in New York City, a little bit from this week’s May Day parades as well. Let’s get started.

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STEVEN GUTWILLIG: I’m Steven Gutwillig. I’m the Deputy Executive Director for Programs of the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here in New York at the DPA gathering of our partners.

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: This is one of the single most convening that DPA does every year which is the gathering of our partners from around the country. It’s about 50 people from probably a dozen states or more – from Louisiana and California and Texas and North Carolina, Hawaii. People are coming thousands of miles.

What they are is the extended family of the drug policy reform movement that DPA has the privilege of leading to the extent that anybody is leading. With this grants program we are identifying what we consider to be the most effective organizations in this movement of a certain size.

Open Society Foundation funds a number of larger organizations but these are the organizations that are doing a lot of community organizing work and a lot of advocacy work on the ground in some of the hardest to reach states on our issues in the country. These are some of the most dedicated and effective community organizers and organization leaders who are coming together in New York City as they do every year with Drug Policy Alliance to talk about the state of the movement, the work that we do in common, to learn from one another and to help DPA identify what the crucial issues are for the coming years.

DEAN BECKER: This is a target-rich environment for us these days. I think the logic of drug war has been set up and ready to be knocked over. What is your anticipated moves for the coming year?

STEVEN GUTWILLIG: A lot of us agree that there has never been a moment of historic opportunity in ending the drug war as there is right now with the president and the attorney general themselves targeting the failed criminal justice system and specifically talking about reforming mandatory minimums, reforming felony disenfranchisement, naming the school to prison pipeline, talking about using clemency in ways that have never been used before on a scale that has not been used in modern times is extremely exciting but, of course, there is only so much that the executive branch can do unilaterally.

Obviously the world of marijuana reform from medical marijuana finally looking like it might be tipping in the south with a ballot initiative in Florida this year to the extension of legalization, state-based regulatory marijuana regulation ballot initiatives in a bunch of new states in the 2014/2016 cycles. It looks like reform is breaking out all over and yet we still have so far to go but we are winning in a way that we never have on so many fronts including the recognition that not only does this country maintain a bloated, completely a historic prison industrial complex but that people are dying unnecessarily of overdoses and disease and that we have a health structure that does so much to stigmatize but not help drug users while the criminal justice system is persecuting drug users across the spectrum regardless of how problematic or non-problematic their use is. Something is finally giving within mainstream culture around how much the drug war is an ineffective train wreck and that it is time to try something new.

The challenge for us in this movement is with the exception of ending the federal prohibition on marijuana outright most of the alternatives to failed drug war policies elude the public and that is because one of the greatest successes of the War on Drugs has been to convince and to school most of the public and, actually, most public officials that there are no alternatives. The alternatives that we propose – ending the criminalization of drug use outright, not just making syringes available to active injection drug users but actually making safe spaces, supervised injection facilities, heroin maintenance programs that are the kinds of interventions that have been successful across the world – those interventions are not even on the radar of most people in this country. That’s the work that confronts us now at this extraordinary historic moment of opportunity.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we’ve been talking with Mr. Steven Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance. Please check him out on the web. Please join forces with their efforts. They are at http://drugpolicy.org.

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DEAN BECKER: Introduce yourself. Tell about where your from and your organization.

DAVID BORDEN: I’m David Borden. I’m the executive director of Stop the Drug War in Washington, D.C. (http://stopthedrugwar.org).

DEAN BECKER: We’re here in New York attending the DPA gathering. We’re on day 2 here and going to wrap it up tomorrow. What are you seeing here? What are we sharing here?

DAVID BORDEN: It’s a really important time in the issue. Things are becoming possible that didn’t seem so possible a few years ago - this harm reduction legislation, marijuana process of becoming legal, sentencing reform. We’re seeing people from parts of the country like the south and from minority groups that haven’t been as represented in the movement now taking the lead on things, civil rights community getting very involved so it’s really amazing.

Unfortunately we’re also seeing how slow the process of stopping arrests or decreasing arrests and incarceration is but, hopefully, we are at a turning point on that as well even if it’s a slow turning point.

DEAN BECKER: We’re hearing voices as diverse as, well, Eric Holder at this point it’s almost to be expected. He’s been moving rather rapidly for the last year/year and one-half but Senator Rand Paul and others even are starting to get on the bandwagon for this need for change, correct?

DAVID BORDEN: There’s an unprecedented level of conservative support on certain parts of the issue – certainly for sentencing reform. Of course you and I know there are many conservatives that favor fundamental changes even legalization. You and I know that there’s more conservative support than people realize even for legalization on the political level and, at least, we’re seeing conservative groups start to get onboard for sentencing reform. I would almost say there is a new consensus in the political sphere on the issue albeit in a limited way.

DEAN BECKER: It’s like a scale that you start putting weight on one side and it starts tipping. As you start putting more weight on it it starts moving faster. I think as more people get on the right side, the legalization – actual tax, control, regulate situation – the more people will get on that side because they know that’s the winning side. Your thoughts?

DAVID BORDEN: Certainly with marijuana legalization I think this is going to continue to be the winning side. I hope that sentencing reform does as well. There is a possibility that if and when the economy picks up and budgets begin to grow again that could reduce the pressure that policymakers are feeling right now to reduce prison spending cost. I don’t think that’s a given that that will happen.

DEAN BECKER: I’m with you, Dave. It’s going to be a slow process. I do not appreciate and almost don’t understand incrementalism. I get it but the fact of the matter is if we take away the harshness of the mandatory minimums that we then are going to feel comfortable that we’ve done the right thing and people will still be going to prison for truthfully in my opinion inordinate lengths of time and we’ll be happy with that again for a while until we once again look at this that if something is draconian making it less draconian is not the solution. That’s an extreme position but your response, Dave.

DAVID BORDEN: I favor multiple tracts. It’s going to be a while before we can legalize drugs other than marijuana. Marijuana will probably take some time yet to fully unfold so I favor doing whatever we can to help people in the meanwhile but I think we should continue to talk about fundamental change – ending prohibition as a whole and not take our eye off of that.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Mr. David Borden of Stop the Drug War. Point them where they go on the web to join up or learn more from you guys.

DAVID BORDEN: http://stopthedrugwar.org. Sign up for our newsletter, Drug War Chronicle, which is used by various activists around the world. We have a Facebook and Twitter page as well.

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It’s time to play, Name That Drug, by its Side Effects.

Shortened attention span, hyperactivity, obesity, diabetes, diagnostic diseases, kidney failure, heart disease, hypoglycemia, tooth decay and death.

(((gong)))

Time’s up. For the answer, look in every bag of Halloween candy and in damn near every product we buy. Yep. It’s sugar. Happy Halloween!

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BRANDON: We’re Cranfords Cannabis Cigarettes – America’s first cannabis cigarette. I’m the cofounder of this company with Jason Cranford. He’s the other cofounder and we work with Chris Conners (senior and junior) who are CFO and COO.

We came up with this concept about 6 years ago. As a dispensary owner I was thinking which direction this marijuana would go and we looked at back at the end of prohibition of alcohol and took our cues from that time. Through the logical growth of industry I thought to myself, “Well, how is big business going to come into this? How are they going to approach this industry? and, for sure , they are going to.”

So I thought what’s the best way to beat them at their own game. We are just a small, organic company with our roots here in Colorado. I thought for sure Philip Morris and the big boys are going to try to get into this game and try to create a cannabis cigarette. My thought process was to create the very first cannabis cigarette and beat them to the market.

We’ve basically gotten investors together through the Conners who have a lot of experience on Wall Street and investing and taking companies public. A master grower and myself and Jason Cranford...Jason has won multiple Cannabis Cups and we had already had a friendship over five years just doing business together inside the Colorado market because we both owned dispensaries.

We basically produced a smart looking tin and we got the machinery together.

DEAN BECKER: You guys are based in Colorado but you are going to branch out to California and other states as the situation develops, right?

BRANDON: Absolutely. What we are looking for is states that have good legislation in affect and they have policies and procedures that we can abide to. We are looking for responsible states that come online. We are looking at Connecticut right now. They have some good rules and regulations that we can abide by there. California is a little bit of the “Wild West” right now. We’re definitely wanting to get into that market but we’re looking for the local governments to create the framework for us to do so.

DEAN BECKER: Share your website with the listeners and some closing thoughts.

BRANDON: http://cranfordscigarettes.com

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DEAN BECKER: Introduce yourself and your organization.

SAM SALZAZAR: My name is Sam Salzazar. I’m the cofounder and executive director of Medical Marijuana 411 (http://medicalmarijuana411.com)

DEAN BECKER: For those who may have forgotten Mr. Sam and I traveled across America as part of the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity back in 2012. That, to me, is still one of the great adventures of my life. Your thoughts in retrospect?

SAM SALZAZAR: Absolutely and it’s always good to see you again, Dean. The Caravan for Peace and the Movement for Peace, Justice and Indignity was among one of my greatest honors in my entire life’s work.

DEAN BECKER: Sam, we’re here in New York at the DPA gathering. What are you gaining from this? What are you going take back home?

SAM SALZAZAR: I like to see and going back to the Caravan for Peace and the Movement for Peace, Justice and Indignity I would never have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I can’t thank LEAP enough for the opportunity to put a voice to the voiceless during the Caravan for Peace in making a film about our journey through 27 cities starting in San Diego and ending in D.C.

One of the other strategic partnerships that LEAP has is the Drug Policy Alliance. Now that we are in New York City at a Drug Policy Alliance Partners meeting seeing the wide alliances, partnerships and the movement being built from the ground up and seeing the metric of where we were even last October at the Drug Policy Alliance in Denver and hearing news that LEAP’s executive director, Neill Franklin, went to go speak in D.C. to PERF...seeing the type of movement that we’ve built and the progress that we’re able to measure we’re able to take our message back to our communities and make change however we need to with those partnerships.

It’s much larger than on the ground where we live now. It is on an additional level in the ether. The collective consciousness of the drug policy failures has reached the highest levels of every branch of government and now we’re invited to the table to give them insight into how we can all move forward. So many groups are going to go through their own truth and reconciliation process. So many individuals are going to go through their own confessionals as they look back on what their body of work meant to them.

As long as we all create a safe space in our communities for sharing and for healing as we assume best intentions moving forward we are able to all walk together on this path. That’s the most exciting thing that I see.

DEAN BECKER: I know you have a couple of websites that you might want to focus on. Why don’t you share them with the listeners.

SAM SALZAZAR: http://medicalmarijuana411.com has some of the progress for the Caravan for Peace film. http://globalexchange.org, http://leap.cc, http://drugpolicy.org...the list goes on and on. I would be shortsighted if I left out the great work that Americans for Safe Access does advancing the research and therapeutics for cannabis.

This policy that we have created and forced the rest of the world to follow as it crumbles this conversation has reached a global plateau and it’s on its way down. Science will determine our policy on drug policy moving forward. Harm reduction will be how we achieve a healthier place in society for the individual.

Less incarceration – we’ve seem great strides even at the DOJ in their language and in actually moving forward with policy. It’s going to be interesting to see how much resistance we’ll see at the state level through...in my home state in California where the California Police Chiefs Association or the California Narcotics Officer Association are no longer really being listened to by the “rank and file” through the state legislators, through the city chiefs of police. This is an election issue in 2014 through 2016 and beyond. We’re not going to see a “tough on crime”, “tough on drug” criminal rhetoric anymore. We’re going to see a compassionate use of the word “drug”, the word “drug user” and we’re going to see a difference in the way people view drug use and drug abuse and find healthy mechanisms for creating a safe space for the drug user to eventually get treatment they might be looking for and, in the meantime, safe access to a safe, clean drug that they might be addicted to or use and not want to be criminalized in using.

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SHILOH MURPHY: My name is Shiloh Murphy. I am the executive director of the Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance. I’m also the national president of the Urban Survivors Union. I get to wear multiple hats.

DEAN BECKER: Where are you based out of?

SHILOH MURPHY: I personally am based out of Seattle, Washington. The Urban Survivors Union is in California, North Carolina and Washington and the Peoples Harm Reduction Alliance is located all through western Washington and four counties delivering needle exchange services.

DEAN BECKER: I’m from Houston and what you guys are able to do in Seattle and some of these other states they might be surprised by but I think they would be pleasantly surprised once they figure out what you are actually doing. Tell folks a little more about the work you do.

SHILOH MURPHY: In the needle exchange we started...it’s a 24-year long needle exchange program started by an illegal Canadian named Bob Quinn. About 6 years ago King County Public Health decided to cut all funding to needle exchange programs in Seattle so we were left with nothing and we decided that if we were going to go out we wanted to go out with our morals and our hearts.

We told the people we served that, “we have 3 months of funding and we don’t know if we’ll make it but we want you to be in charge of it. We want you to be on our board of directors. We want you to be on our staff. We are going to give you the volunteers. You run it. This is your organization.”

Any population that you work with or are a part of outsiders should not dictate the wants and needs. I feel like outsiders constantly dictate the needs and wants so we put the drug users in charge and what we found was they had really great ideas, thought outside the box, helped fundraising, help create policies and our organization changed so rapidly. Now we are the largest needle exchange program in the country and we operate in four counties. Most programs are very localized into their neighborhoods and their cities. We were able to do that by working with drug users and putting the people who use the service in charge.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here at the Drug Policy Alliance and they were doing some analyzing, polling of the attendees of this conference. One of the things I heard from you is that some of the funders that you have depended on over the years include the Hells Angels, correct?

SHILOH MURPHY: We have lots of different funders. Our big supporters have been the conservative movements. I truly sense harm reductions is a conservative issue. It’s a Libertarian issue. We have gotten funding and donations from lots of different groups. We work with anyone and I also feel like the Hells Angels and some of the other groups like that have their positives and their negatives. The biker groups that I work with and know love their neighborhood, love their community and they want to do great work for their community.

The thing that people should acknowledge is people aren’t these black and white people. They are very complex people. [inaudible] so negative because it’s trying to do a “one size fits all” to a complicated problem in a complicated country.

DEAN BECKER: When I mentioned the Hells Angels I meant as diverse as the Hells Angels because you can’t do this with just biker bucks. The fact of the matter is it’s almost become...well, hell, it is becoming a conservative issue, isn’t it?

SHILOH MURPHY: I think the concepts of conservative vs. liberal...harm reduction is really the laws aren’t making sense. The drug war doesn’t make sense. Individual liberties have been washed away therefore how can we call that anything but a conservative issue?! We don’t want the government in our lives. We don’t want the taxpayers’ money to go to a war on our own citizens. We have made this country more unsafe by the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: This is true. If you will, please, share your website with the listeners.

SHILOH MURPHY: http://thepeoplesharmreductionalliance.org and http://theurbansurvivorsunion.org Maybe next time we’ll talk a little bit more about the Urban Survivors Union. Have a wonderful day.

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[music]

Hey young America. We need to talk. You may think that this is uncool. You may even think that it is bogus but I want to tell about something that has everyone buzzing - something that concerns mature boys and girls just like you. Something called grass.

Not that grass. I’m talking about marijuana.

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DEAN BECKER: Yesterday I reported on Houston’s May Day March. Like hundreds of other such marches around the country there was a parade and rally and great speakers talking about the need to end these mass deportations, mass incarcerations and the machinations of an eternal War on Drugs.

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DEAN BECKER: We’re here with Representative Sheilah Jackson Lee.

Ma’am it seems the tide is turning insofar as how people are looking at this drug war. What is your thought there?

SHEILAH JACKSON LEE: I think that clearly we can’t use the old ways. It has turned violence against families. We know that we can approach these laws in different ways. Many states are looking at legalization.

I want to look at ensuring that we are not upside down with the drug war and that is that millions and millions of dollars...we need to secure our borders in the appropriate way but we need to be able to address the drug war from obviously those who are using but also need to address it from the perspective of the way that the Mexican government now handles the effort against cartels.

It really is that violence that must now cease so that we can have a decent and responsible discussion about the issue of drugs between the Mexican border and the United States border. I believe in the engagement. I believe the president understands the engagement. I believe that the way of getting the end user is not an ultimately solution to ending the War on Drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Yes ma’am. I belong to a group of current and former law enforcement officials (LEAP) and we think that the main focus should be on stopping those cartels, stop funding the terrorists. We’ve given reason for 3,000 gangs to exist here in the US. Your response, please.

SHEILAH JACKSON LEE: My response is that I absolutely agree that the cartels are creating the evil. We must find a way to end that evil but they are doing evil against their own people in Mexico and we must be the solution to that and not the problem by feeding into their system giving them more money by helping to promote gun sales. I say gun sales but reckless gun laws that allow these major gun sales to be compiled in with gun sales.

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[Music, how can you mend a broken heart]

DEAN BECKER: [Singing] How can you stop drug users from using? How do you keep the sun from growing weed? How can you end drug prohibition? It makes the world go round?

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DEAN BECKER: That’s about it. Please check out this week’s Century of Lies where Doug McVay is reporting on congressional machinations to continue this drug war forever.

Check out my new book at http://endthedrugwar.us or on Kindle and Amazon.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

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

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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