07/13/14 Neill Franklin

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Neill Franklin Dir of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Steph Sherere of Americans for Safe Access & former Chicago prosecutor James Gierach

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / July 13, 2014


DEAN BECKER: You are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. I’m Dean Becker and no time for our standard introduction. Here we go...


DEAN BECKER: You know it’s with a great deal of satisfaction and pride that we bring in our next guest here. He is the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He is a retired major. He worked up in the Maryland area and he is now our executive director, Mr. Neill Franklin.

How are you doing, Neill?

NEILL FRANKLIN: I’m doing pretty good, Dean. Thanks for having me on the show.

DEAN BECKER: I’m proud to have you on the show. There is so much happening in this drug war. Let’s just start with this. The big news that’s broken this week is Washington State’s new legal market and how it’s unfolding and, yet, different from what happened in Colorado. Your thoughts there, Neill.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, obviously one of the things that we always talk about is this is a great opportunity to have actually 50 different laboratories across the nation. We only have two right now for legalization of marijuana but I’m sure we are going to have more to come online within the next couple of years.

This is what we need, you know? We need to be able to look at different models of regulation and control. We need to be able to look at different ways of implementing a system of taxation, regulation, control and legalization and that’s exactly what we have.

It’s interesting that in the media they talk about, “It’s a nightmare. They weren’t ready. They are not prepared. There’s not enough marijuana to go around for the stores that are open.” And so on. Come on...really?! This is the beginning – you’ve got a long way to go and that will correct itself.

I guess what bothers me is people expect everything to be perfect from day one – from the beginning – even though marijuana had been legal once before this is all new. It’s going to take time to get things where they need to be. Be patient, people.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. In the same regard we were privileged this week that the LEAP Speakers’ Group ( I guess there’s about 100 of us) were able to listen to and ask questions to the leader of Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana people. Miss Steph Sherer came on and gave us some lessons on how to speak in this regard, correct?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. I really appreciated Steph Sherer giving us an hour of her valuable time. She’s been extremely busy as more and more SAFE groups are coming online with medical marijuana so I’m very grateful that she dedicated that time to us and all of our speakers so we could ask some very important questions.

Even though LEAP’s message is primarily about ending the prohibition of all drugs we need to be able to, within our circles, talk about the medical cannabis industry and what beneficial regulations...what’s problematic...what would be advisable to stay away from. Basically, what’s good for the patient. What’s going to benefit the patients because that’s really what it is all about – maximum benefits for the patient community. Hearing from her I learned quite a bit and I think it is important for me and others to have that knowledge.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. I agree with you, sir.

We also had a recent release of the government’s new drug strategy report and though it speaks a little kinder there’s no real change of direction that I could see in there. Your thoughts on that new drug strategy report.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah this is one area where I am somewhat surprised. I really thought there would be some significant change - even if not some change in the allotment of dollars for different things. I expected to see some significant change in where the administration would be heading but I didn’t see much change at all – at least not what I expected to see in light of the administration seems to be paying more attention to this issue.

We know that there is more activity in congress and in the senate on the Hill. I also expected to see that reflected in the policy that was just released.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I’m being facetious here but, you know, maybe we’re stop arresting 1.5 million a year and arrest 1 /2 a million and that would satisfy them but it sure as heck wouldn’t satisfy us here at LEAP would it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: [chuckling] No, it wouldn’t. Thank goodness for Colorado and the state of Washington. At least we’re not adding what used to be thousands of people being arrested for marijuana in those two states. At least we extract those from the databases that we have. Hopefully Alaska and Oregon will come on board, California by 2016...hell, if we were able to just make some significant difference in California that would be great.

We got to move what is happening out west to the east - all the way over to the east coast and down south. We have significant arrests taking place down south. Again, it doesn’t end there. It doesn’t end with marijuana. This is just the beginning. We have got to focus on these other drugs. We have got to focus on the addicted population who are still bearing the brunt of these policies of “Arrest first and we’ll think about your health later.”

Those addicted to heroin, those addicted to cocaine and crystal meth and the many other drugs that are out there. We have to flip this thing. We have to put health and education at the tip of the scale and we have to move law enforcement all the way to the end.

DEAN BECKER: Just finished up an interview with our good friend, LEAP board member, James Gierach and we were talking about Chicago. It occurs to me that what is not being recognized at all at any level of government is the fact that the driving factor behind the violence is the drug war.

We’ve got this situation on our southern border now where these kids from Guatemala, Honduras and elsewhere are sneaking across to escape the violence from those countries south of our borders. It is the primary factor in the violence worldwide, isn’t it?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Oh, my God, yes. Two quick points...Chicago, of course, our board of directors will be meeting for our annual meeting this year in Chicago in October. Hopefully for those three of four days that we are there we will be able to make a significant impact in that community and get them to...I know they realize...I know they realize there is a direct connection between the drug war and the violence that they experience up there so our goal is going to be to get them to talk about that.

The other comment that I want to make is that about the border at Mexico. The immigration problem that we have is that oh my goodness here, again, the nexus between the immigration problem that we are having at the Mexican border and the drug war – the violence, the people that are fleeing Mexico and other states in Central America because of the violence, these children that are coming across the border because of the violence.

The other reason that they come across the border is there is no meaningful employment in Mexico. Why is that? Because of the violence, because of the power control and the influence of the cartels. End the violence by ending the drug war and businesses will invest in the northern states and there will be meaningful jobs for the Mexican citizens. You know what? You may find that people from the United States will then be going to Mexico and Mexico may have the problem of immigration – not the United States.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. We got just a few minutes left and I want to touch upon what we are going to do on July 29th. We call it the “Summer Reading Assignment for All Major US Officials.” We are going to give a copy of my book, “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition” to every US representative, to every senator, to the president, to his cabinet, the Supreme Court Justices and from DC we are going to mail a copy to all 50 US governors.

I think we may not make a huge stride with this but perhaps we can wake up a few politicians, maybe a few publishers to take another look at this and try to determine what the heck is the benefit, what are we deriving from this 100 year policy. Your response, Neill Franklin?

NEILL FRANKLIN: [chuckling] That’s a lot. First of all I think that this Summer Reading Assignment is a good idea, Dean. I’m really glad that you came up with it. I’m glad that you wrote this book! For those who have not read your book I think it’s important that they get it, read it. It’s a “one-stop-shop” for what has transpired over the past 4 decades. These interviews that you have done and just making the case for ending prohibition quite clear.

I think we will have an opportunity with your book and this reading assignment to really start the meaningful conversation among our representatives on the Hill and others. This is going to be a good tool for doing that. With this anniversary coming up in December for the 100th anniversary of the Harrison Narcotics Act I think the timing is right and I’m just looking forward to it.

From my interaction with these folks on Capitol Hill the vast majority of them get it. Howard Wooldridge has been pounding the halls of Capitol Hall for years and I know the vast majority of these policy makers get it. The goal here is generating the conversation within those hallways, within the meeting rooms, within the chambers and getting folks working towards a solution for the real problems and no longer wasting time, money, resources on these symptoms that we are dealing with.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Neill, I think about my hope from this is that it will allow these politicians to perhaps have secret conversations with one another and say, “You get it too?!” It’s like it’s a secret that they know this truth but through a type of ... I don’t know if it’s cowardess but through ...they are just afraid to say what they know to be true, aren’t they?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah. I remember a meeting with one of our policy makers down there and he says, “Yeah, I get it. I understand it but I’m not going to be the first or the only one to step out. You get me six others and we can do it together, fine.”

The problem is you can’t get them to talk to each other – at least not within your presence. I think what it all boils down to, Dean, is following the money - who is donating to who’s campaign. I hate to say it but it is what it is. There is so many people in so many companies making so much money on the backend of this drug war and they contribute to so many campaigns. The lobbying, the heavy lobbying that is occurring in Washington and our state capitols is just an enormous difficult uphill battle for us who are trying to do this work, trying to compete against so much money flowing through the halls of Capitol Hill in support of “status quo” drug war. That’s what our biggest hurdle is.

How do we deal with that? How do we expose that? How do we get the people to recognize that and to take action in calling and writing letters to their policy makers and getting them to recognize the power of the vote.

I guess we just need to keep on doing what we are doing – educating people and getting the people to move these policy makers. We’ve had the conversations among our ranks now it is time for the people to send the message at the ballot boxes.

DEAN BECKER: There you have it, my friends. That’s executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, former major in Delaware and Maryland, my good friend, Neill Franklin. Thank you, sir.


(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects

Works directly on the brain by interfering neurotransmitters and dopamine levels, because of drug prohibition, this product is made with over the counter cold medicines, matchbook covers, hydrochloric acid, drain cleaner, battery acid, lye, lantern fuel and antifreeze.


Time’s up!

The answer: Tina, chalk, go fast, zip, Christie, crank, speed, meth amphetamine hydrochloride.


DEAN BECKER: The following is from the LEAP/Americans for Safe Access Teleconference. It features Steph Sherer and Mike Shelbo. I ask them to clarify a situation wherein because of all the processes and tax regulations and control the price of marijuana is some several times more than it will be once it is truly legal and I ask them to address the conundrum wherein the prohibitionists can look at the failure to get rid of this black market as reason to go back to our old draconian ways.


MIKE SHELBO: If the regulations cause marijuana whether it’s recreational or medical to be significantly above street price or even the same in some instances that’s not going to cause patients to through the regulated system. They will go outside that system so the regulations have to be drafted in a way that they don’t drive up the prices needlessly.

The other thing specific to forcing grows to be under lights is it’s not only economically inefficient it is a drain on the environment needlessly. The amount of resources involved...you can get the benefit from growing outdoors or even greenhouses would be a better option than forcing the grow to be indoors and under lights.

STEPH SHERER: The challenge we’re debating right now is that we still have competition between law makers of who is going to pass the most restrictive law on the planet. It blows my mind that we finally get...”yes, medical marijuana but we’re going to make sure only 13 people get it.”

What we’ve been doing in working with the American Herbal Process Association and folks who have a history in regulating herbal products for commercialization, regulations that people can follow, A, and B, I think that one of the challenges around the outdoor grow scenario is it is coming from that space that we have to hide this away from everybody at all times or it is going to blind children’s eyes or something.


[music, Dragnet like]

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

Please visit http://leap.cc


DEAN BECKER: Well, friends, it was just a couple years back and I was with the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity. We toured all across America. I was really astounded when we made it to the city of Chicago and there I got to meet a great speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He’s a former prosecutor there in Chicago and he’s been monitoring what’s been going on up there for years.

With that I want to welcome James Gierach. How are you doing, James?

JAMES GIERACH: Very good, Dean. It is good to be with you and your listeners.

DEAN BECKER: It’s not just Chicago that is suffering from the horrors we inflict via this drug war but it is, again, a central point...a good touch zone to show what is going on with this drug war, right?

JAMES GIERACH: It is and the reason is Chicago is the home of prohibition, the home of alcohol, the home of the Tommy Gun, the home of the intolerance for people’s weaknesses and liking of substances. We’ve jumped from 1929 and the Al Capone days to the 21st century and we have exactly the same thing happening again.

The violence in Chicago is just epidemic particularly on the west and south sides and the poor and minority communities. There’s an article today in the Chicago Tribune and the headline is, “City Violence Worse Than in 1929.”

Over the July 4th weekend here in Chicago there was one period where we had 82 people shot in 84 outbursts. We have had homicides coming out of our ears day after day. Last night was three killed and another dozen or so shot.

I became interested in drug policy reform after I had been away from drug prosecution in the early 70s as an assistant state attorney in Cook County for many years. The reason I was brought back was because in approximately the early 90s we were killing a dozen people in the streets of Chicago in a single weekend and I would listen to the politicians – Republican and Democrat, alike – and they would say nothing about prohibition which is why the gangs are in control and the kids are shooting each other and quitting school. The dropout rate in some schools is as high as 90%.

The cartoons are bullet holes through science and baby dolls and kids laying in the street. I mean, it is just epidemic and now we are having a relapse where it is just so horrendous in Chicago where every single day is a report of the killing and the violence, drugs and gangs.

Chicago has an estimated 200,000 gang members. We tore down the “project” buildings which lined the lakeshore in Chicago where the Dan Ryan separated the African-American folks on the east side of the highway and the white folks on the west side. When we tore down those “project” buildings that used to be the structural organization so one gang would control one building and drug sales there and another building, 16-stories high, roughly – would control the drug sales in another building.

People would get off the expressway, drive through the “project” buildings, buy their drugs, get back on the expressway for their party for the weekend and there was some order or control to the distribution of illegal drugs but because the buildings became so old and such an eyesore to Chicago they had to be torn down. When they tore down these “project” buildings and then dispersed people from public housing into low-rise housing throughout the city of Chicago what it did was destroy the organization of the illicit drug business so now on one street in one low-rise public housing you could have a member of the gangster Disciples, a member of the Latin Kings, a member of the Insane somebody or others and there was no order to who was in control of drug sales in that particular area of Chicago.

Now you got the kids shooting at each other until some order is reestablished on who is going to be in charge of selling drugs. The government doesn’t decide who is going to sell drugs – when and where and what the drugs are – the street gangs and the drug cartels decide. That process is just so unbelievably violent.

Then because we entice so many of these kids to go into the drug business they have to have a gun because somebody is going to try to take their corner or take their drugs which are the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth because of prohibition. Now kids who have guns which they need to have in the drug business are armed for any purpose so somebody is disrespectful (“He dissed me!”) so we shoot him or they have a fight about a girlfriend and somebody goes to the car after getting beat up, gets the gun and comes back and shoots the other guy. It looks like it’s just a domestic thing or a boy/girl thing when, in fact, the reason the gun is there, the easy access to the gun is because we’ve got this crazy war on drugs going again.

The people who are in charge who are the leaders of the newspapers and the columnists and the politicians will talk about anything and everything except drug policy. So here in Chicago the guy who is the head of...I won’t say the paper – there are only two choices – but the guy who is the editor of the paper put the clamps and kibosh on the discussion of drug policy where the editorial board has previously said we need another Wickersham Commission like that that preceded the end of alcohol prohibition. They buried articles like that and editorials like that in Chicago.

You mentioned when Javier Sicilia came through Chicago and we had all these events in different parts of Chicago. We had parades through the west side. We had press conferences in City Hall, etc. The cameras and the TV and the radio people were there to record what was happen and yet not a foot of that tape was played on TV, not an article in the newspaper that Javier Sicilia was ever in town.

The people who are in control of the press are crushing and black balling the information on the other side of the story – that prohibition is the reason for the violence, the crime and a list of crises that we are seeing across Chicago, across America and throughout the world.

Mexico – 100,000 people killed - people don’t get excited. You don’t see the blood. You don’t see the bodies hanging from the tree. You don’t see the icepick through the guy’s chest with a note from the drug cartel but here in Chicago we got black and minority kids laying on the west side and the south side and nobody is saying anything. We have a leading preacher in town who gets called on all the time about what we are going to do to stop the violence. Not a word about drug policy.

Yet the superintendent of police in Chicago says 80% of the homicides, the murders in Chicago are from drug gangs shooting each other, kids fighting over turf and drugs. If we want to stop 80% of the murders we have to end the drug war. We need to legalize, control and regulate drugs.

You caught me on a day when I’m really fed up with the violence and fed up with the recalcitrance of public officials and preachers and people who control the press and the TV and the radio, the columnists who don’t say whether they are for or against the war on drugs, who will talk about guns, talk about the need for equality and better wages and better educational opportunities but will not go near the subject of drug policy. Everybody knows the war on drugs is a failure but columnists, Mr. “so and so”, Miss “so and so”, tell me are you in favor of the war on drugs or not?! Tell me which is worse – drugs or the war on drugs? Tell me are you in favor of the United Nations prohibition treaties that require the nations of the world to criminalize drugs, that builds the world with prisons – the United States especially with 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prisoners.

You caught me on a low day. I don’t mean to be so exercised or enthused but it just breaks my heart to see what is so obviously the cause and is so consistently resisted as a topic of even discussion.

DEAN BECKER: There you have it, my friends. You see why I called Mr. James Gierach.

Folks, we all have to reexamine what’s before our eyes. We all have to make a new determination about what must be done about this violence and this ongoing destruction of logic.

Again, Mr. James Gierach, former Chicago prosecutor - now a profound speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Thank you, James.

JAMES GIERACH: Dean, good to be with you.


DEAN BECKER: That’s it. Please take a look at my new book. Go to http://endthedrugwar.us.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s 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.

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