08/24/14 Chris Goldstein

Chris Goldstein re forthcoming new mag to help end war on weed + Diane Goldstein re Substance.com article tying drug war to police overkill Plus Houston DA Candidate to stop wasting dollars on drug arrests

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Guest: 
Chris Goldstein
Organization: 
Freedom Leaf
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / August 24, 2014

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DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the liars who support the drug war, empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels and gives reason for existence for tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

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DEAN BECKER: Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. We’ve got a great show lined up for you today. We’re going to have an interview with Mr. Chris Goldstein here in just a moment. A little bit later we will hear from Diane Goldstein who is talking about the need to end this madness of drug war. We will hear from the Democratic candidate for district attorney as well.

First up let’s go ahead and bring in our guest Mr. Chris Goldstein. Are you there, buddy?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: Hey, Dean. It’s great to hear you. It’s so funny it’s like an all Goldstein show tonight on marijuana so cool.

DEAN BECKER: Diane is talking more on the LEAP aspect on this but, yeah, she gets it as well.

Chris, you’ve been our guest many times in years past. You kind of took a hiatus to...well, you were still working on reform up in New Jersey, right?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, absolutely. I used to work at National NORML and did the NORML podcasts and online media but then I started working on local reform with Philly NORML in Philadelphia. In NORML New Jersey I was the executive director there for about 6 months and with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana for New Jersey. We’ve got a lot going on on the east coast.

DEAN BECKER: I don’t know how much you want to talk about it but a joint got you in trouble up there as well, right?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: Indeed. Last year we took on an unique protest where we went out in front of the Liberty Bell which is on federal property and we were holding a monthly demonstration against marijuana prohibition and we at 4:20 at these monthly protests were lighting joints in civil disobedience. For the first 4 months there was no response. We didn’t expect to have too much policing and the police sort of left us alone but then after that we had this massive police response. It was the Department of Homeland Security, the National Park Rangers in riot gear and they all came out to stop us from smoking our joint. I ended up getting a citation and ended up getting 2 years of probation. Right now I’m on federal probation for 2 years and I had to pay a $3,000 fine. For those listening in Colorado and Washington don’t take those legal joints on any federal land because you could end up with the same penalty.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. That’s just something. You do have some great news though to share with the listeners getting back into the fray so to speak on a national scale, right?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely. It’s a really cool new project. Dick Cohen who used to be an executive director at national NORML for many years called me a few weeks ago and talked about a new project. I am now writing for a magazine that is going to be on newsstands in Colorado come October of this year. It’s also going to have a smaller version – a 30-page version – that 200,000 copies will be distributed throughout all the NORML chapters in the United States.

It’s called Freedom Leaf. Freedom Leaf magazine is going to be written by marijuana activists for marijuana activists. We are going to try to propel this issue forward. We are talking about it being sort of a time of victory right now and we have got to move this issue forward for consumers out there in the country.

DEAN BECKER: I hope to contribute a few ideas to this. Here in Houston we’ve had some really outrageous situations. They keep finding major marijuana grows in the suburbs of Houston – 100,00 plants, 10,000 plants. They tend to think these are Mexicans up here growing it on our lands. I’m not certain if that is true or not but the fact of the matter is they keep reporting that it is multi-million dollars’ worth when they find this stuff thus far it has been green leaf which does not convert to millions very quickly. Your thought there?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely. What’s funny about that is they overvalue a marijuana grow. Oftentimes they’ll say, “Oh, one marijuana plant will produce one thousand pounds of marijuana on the streets.” Which, of course, is isn’t true. The other side of that is what you’re seeing is an interesting trend.

Back in the 1970s most of the marijuana that was smoked in the United States was actually brought in over borders from South America or from the north from Canada. But now, today, in the year 2014 90% of the marijuana that is smoked in the United States is grown right here in the United States so we are talking about a very domesticated product.

Now who is involved with the growing of that? Well, it could be cartels or something like that but more often than not these are our fellow Americans, our neighbors, our friends, our family members out there in this country involved in this underground economy and that’s why we want to legalize it. We want turn this underground economy into an above ground economy so that everyone can benefit.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve said it on air before and I’ll say it again. 15 years ago when I got into drug reform I was a grower. I usually would harvest about 15 to 30 pounds per year but once I got into radio and put my name on the air I gave it up. I’ve had to buy and I hate to admit it from criminals. Some of them are my friends, mind you. You know what I am saying but I would much prefer to have a regulated marketplace where I would know what I was buying more specifically and the price would be standard and I wouldn’t have to put myself in danger out there on the streets.

For most of us around these United States we have to get involved with the criminal market in some fashion or another and that’s just wrong isn’t it, Chris?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: I agree with that, Dean. It’s also important to realize that as we talk about legalizing marijuana we can’t forget that a lot of the underground economy is our friends and neighbors. There are a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be criminals if they were just growing marijuana in a regulated market – they’d be business people just like folks who operate bars and who make micro-brew beers out there today.

What we have here in New Jersey with the medical marijuana program is only 2 medical marijuana dispensaries operating and they are run by Governor Chris Christie’s best friend.

[Dean chuckling]

Having a cartel for marijuana isn’t what we want. We don’t want to go from the Mexican cartels to a bunch of state-run political cartels in America with marijuana. We want to find a way that low-income people and people who are already involved with the underground marketplace have a way to benefit from this as well.

DEAN BECKER: I was a criminal – at least in the prosecutor’s eyes back when I was growing – but I was providing a good product better than anything else that was around at the time at a very reasonable price. My dream – I don’t guess it’s going to happen – was to someday open a little shop called “Becker’s Buds” with some high quality stuff.

What we are seeing now is a big corporatization of the marijuana industry – high dollar entry fees just to get a license and all of this kind of stuff – so it’s kind of squeezing out the little guy who might want to open up their own little bud store.

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: This also cuts to another particular problem. Somebody I have a great amount of respect for, Michelle Alexander, whose book, “The New Jim Crow” takes a look at the impact of the war on people of color. She pointed out a few months ago that one of the big problems with legal marijuana in a lot of the states that have done it is it is largely a white industry. There just isn’t much color in the people who are able to get into this market because, as you say, there are these high licensing fees and let’s not forget the political influence.

This is becoming a politicized operation for legal marijuana and places like New Jersey and other states. Delaware has had its medical marijuana law for 3 years and in a very big political give away they are just opening their first center this year. It really can’t be like that. We really have to find a way to regulate marijuana so that it is regulated for the people and, again, can’t forget about the underground market.

If the whole point is to get rid of the underground market, bring everybody above ground this kind of cartel system that is running out there with high taxes, high fees, a whole lot of corporate influence that’s not going to help get rid of the underground market. That’s just going to create parallel markets out there.

Again, what we’ve got to do as advocates is make sure that everyone has access to regulated marijuana in a reasonable fashion.

DEAN BECKER: If they got rid of most of the scientific analysis and unnecessary government oversight I could sell homegrown, outdoor grown for about $20 per pound and make a profit. That’s something that is so seldom recognized. This is just a weed and it grows real good down here in Texas. Your thoughts, Chris Goldstein?

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: I used to live in New Mexico and high altitude marijuana does pretty well as well. That’s the other interesting part of it. The price that people pay today is not the price of production. It is the price of prohibition. It is a huge markup. It is essentially a tax in and of itself. That’s what keeps this underground economy going just like alcohol prohibition back in the day.

I was watching this old James Cagney movie about the Roaring Twenties and they’re making this cheap liquor for 50 cents a bottle and selling it out there for $6 per bottle. Part of the problem...I’m a consumer advocate. I want to make sure that the consumers of marijuana out there have the best possible product for the most reasonable price. When we talk about the best product it is something that is well grown, isn’t covered in pesticides, isn’t grown with harmful fertilizers. We’ve got to start thinking about that as consumers today.

I know some people have the price options just like you can eat all organic food. You can spend more money and have all organic marijuana. At the end of the day it is important to realize that so many people in the United States use marijuana not just for recreation but also for medication. During the year that can switch off. You can be smoking marijuana today for recreation and for medication a couple months from now if you get diagnosed with cancer. People are getting it from the same source out there on the street.

I envision a world where legal marijuana has sort of different tiers. The recreational market is both affordable and accessible but there is also a medical market. People often say to me, “Chris, you know, why bother having a medical marijuana law if we’re going to end prohibition overall?”

Well, let’s say the federal government did that tomorrow. Let’s say that marijuana came out of the Controlled Substances Act and got deregulated just like Governor Schafer said in 1972 that it should be and Nixon fought that. Let’s say that it was completely legalized at the federal level. We would still need state medical marijuana laws because at the original point. There are a lot of people out there who can grow a high quality product locally. Unlike pharmaceutical medications which are produced in one factory somewhere and then shipped all over the country each state would have domestic medical marijuana product to serve those most at need.

DEAN BECKER: Chris, I hate to interrupt you ...please share a website. We’ve got to sign off. I’ve got a lot of stuff to share.

CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: I can’t wait to hear from Diane. Check us out at http://freedomleaf.com/ My Twitter handle is @freedomisgreen

Thanks, again, for having me on, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Chris.

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[music]

MAN: This pot’s so good that when I smoke it the government freaks out...

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

Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicide, zombieism….

(((gong)))

Time’s up! The answer according to law enforcement from some crazy-ass chemist somewhere – methedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.

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DEAN BECKER: “Take it from a cop...the drug war poisons community policing. Events in Ferguson expose U.S. law enforcement’s long-standing abandonment of its founding ethical principles. Rebuilding relationships with the people we’ve harmed won’t come easily.”

So says a 20-year policewoman who put this on http://substance.com. With that I want to welcome one of my band of brothers and sisters from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Diane Goldstein.

Hello, Diane.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Hello, Dean. Thank you, so much, for that great introduction.

DEAN BECKER: The truth is you are not the only one speaking in this regard. I think millions of Americans are starting to realize there is something happening here, right?

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: I think Ferguson is going to be very interesting and it’s going to be something for us that I hope we can reflect back on where almost kind of the nexus of the War on Drugs and its impact on communities of color and the militarization of law enforcement finally exploded in a fashion that is demanding attention from not just us at LEAP or other social justice organizations but Americans in general.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right. It was 25, 30 years ago that the U.S. government decided they were going to pawn off or hand off their excess military equipment and it’s kind of led us in this direction.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: What I want to do is I want to kind of compartmentalize a couple of things and say we need good law enforcement. We, in fact, need good, highly trained SWAT teams and people who can respond to things like civil unrest and we can do it in a way that supports the constitution and people’s rights.

The problem with the 1033 program was...and it really ramped up post-9/11 after a couple wars and all the excess equipment and a large number of these agencies who are getting them are really very small agencies that shouldn’t really even get them. What comes with the equipment is caveat that you must start using it within a year, you have to maintain it but on top of that is nowhere are their guidelines for training or transparency or accountability and that’s the problem with it.

So what you have is towns in, for example, Keen, New Hampshire who justify them getting a $400,000 Bearcat through grant applications because there may be a terrorist attack on pumpkin festival.

DEAN BECKER: [chuckling] I want to come back to your thought that we need these well-trained SWAT teams. I agree with you. In the beginning there were just a handful of SWAT teams being sent out to curb ultra-violence. That’s what it was about. Now we have a situation where they send them out to break up poker games or to stop unlicensed barbering and all of these other means that push them away or cause the people to feel they are not being truly represented. Your response there, Diane Goldstein.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: I would completely agree. That is the issue with the drug war’s failure in totality. So what’s happened and for those who haven’t read the article I really go back to the purpose of law enforcement in regards to we police by consent. We need the support of the public. We need your help in solving crimes in America but what’s happened is the drug war has diverted critical resources from violent crime, from things like untested rape kits. We are more likely to arrest 1.4 million drug users and sellers and we ignore 400,000 untested rape kits.

What has happened in our quest for a Drug Free America is we’ve completely destroyed what law enforcement was set out to be and to do which is to fight violent crime and not victimless crime.

DEAN BECKER: Too often we have driven people away from wanting to be an informant in a proper way – to report on violence or abuse. You’ve heard that song, “This is what happens when you call the cops.”

It is such a perversion of justice that the people and the cops cannot cooperate because too many people don’t trust the cops.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Yes and I think that you go back to when we started using SWAT teams it was to protect people and to save people and now pretty much 80 to 90% SWAT team deployments are in the service of narcotic search warrants. Now we’re killing them to save them from themselves.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. It is such an issue that too many people have ignored for too long. I think what happened in Ferguson and now St. Louis, Los Angeles and New York and all around the country is starting to wake people up that they need to get in touch with their elected officials. They need to tell them to tone it down and to find a more moderate way of policing our streets right, Diane?

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely. I think that we could, in fact, continue to use the 1033 program if there were really some rules of engagement that are set out that are done to basically work with communities in order not to deploy these pieces of equipment. The equipment should go to places like an LAPD SWAT team that actually have the resources and the time and the training to more than likely use it versus an agency of 10 or 12 officers which is a large part of where it is going. It is going to a lot of rural communities as well.

We need to desensify law enforcement from the drug war so instead of creating grants for narcotic task forces we should be creating grants for violent crime task forces that go after people who hurt or harm somebody.

DEAN BECKER: If I might suggest as well that using camouflage bulletproof vests and being outfitted as best or better than our servicemen are in Iraq or Afghanistan....this is America. We didn’t like the Red Coats. We didn’t like their harsh treatment. It has driven a huge wedge between us when they wear the mask of overlord.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: I’m not going to begrudge law enforcement having equipment that makes certain that both themselves and the community are safe but there is a caveat. I always used to wonder when we deployed with the SWAT team to do search warrants that the SWAT team would wear masks to hide their face – why? I don’t understand that. Law enforcement is supposed to be fully accountable and transparent. We’re supposed to give the people we serve our names and our badge numbers and a way to complain about us if they need to. We are not supposed to hide behind masks. That was done as sheer intimidation.

There were times and places where maybe we should use those types of tactics but on the majority of cases we should not.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you, Diane, and perhaps I was overstating it but when you got the situation in Ferguson where they are wearing all this battle armor and air respirators it just doesn’t seem like they are part of the community.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: You are right. They are not. That is a huge part of the problem. There is this perception ...you go back to the best practices and what makes a good law enforcement agency. One of the things that makes a good law enforcement agency is diversity. In a town like Ferguson when you have 53 officers and maybe 10 or 12% are minority that is problematic.

There is a lot of different things going on. It is a combination. It’s the drug war. It’s the propaganda surrounding the drug war. It is how do you create diversity in all of our law enforcement organizations and changing the tactics of how we train law enforcement.

There is a big fight going on within law enforcement itself right now and that is how do we train them starting at the academy. There is a lot of back and forth on we should not even be having a high stress, military style academy that emphasizes that law enforcement is one of the most dangerous things in the world.

I’m not saying that it is not but every time you train a young cop what you are telling him is every single contact that you have is that person may kill you so the young police officers are going to have that kind of mentality because they are being taught there is no one in your community that is worth dying for.

I’m not saying that cops should die in any way, shape or form but I’m also saying that we chose the career. We understood that’s one of the risks in our career and if you are not willing to potentially have that happen you shouldn’t be getting into that career.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Well, friends, once again we’ve been speaking with Diane Goldstein, a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Her piece is out there on http://substance.com and it’s called “Take It From a Cop: The drug war poisons community policing.”

Diane, thank you so much.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: No problem, Dean. Thank you so much for having me on again.

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DEAN BECKER: We are here at the University of Houston. Here in a few minutes the Democratic candidate for district attorney for Harris County will be speaking to a gathering here. We have a few moments to talk to her about what she is going to present.

KIM OGG: I’m Kim Ogg. I’m the Democratic nominee for Harris County district attorney. This November our public is going to decide what the future of prosecution and public safety in Houston is going to look like.

We’re the fourth biggest city in the country. I think if you talk to anybody in the public they will tell you it’s time to reform drug policy and our way of doing business here in the county. If we are going to fight crime and make our city safer for everybody we’ve got to get the focus off small time drug possessors and on to gangs, human traffickers, and fraudsters. It’s that simple.

In a time of dwindling police resources we need cops out on the street protecting us not taking three hours out of patrol to take somebody to jail for a joint. Last year we spent 10 million dollars doing exactly that. Over the last seven years we have convicted 100,000 people of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana giving each and every one of them a criminal record.

That makes it harder for people to get a job, harder to get a school loan, harder to find housing – basic rights that shouldn’t be denied somebody for possessing a substance that is legal in 2 states and medically available in many more.

I bring you the future of prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana in Harris County. I’m proud to do it. It is time for a change. Together we can reform our justice system.

DEAN BECKER: I know that this gathering today is in part as a result of the African American Forum and they are wanting to bring focus to bear...I’m not saying it’s happening in Houston at least to the degree that it has happened in Ferguson but we have to kind of look out that that kind of thing doesn’t happen in our fair city as well, right?

KIM OGG: Of course. Race relations are critical to public safety. It is important that every community – white, African-American, Latino, Asian – have trust and faith that the police are going to protect us not prey upon us. That’s why when police officers commit any kind of transgression it is important that they be held accountable just like the rest of us.

Likewise if we are stopped by a policeman we have to show respect. It is not the time or place to challenge a police officer’s authority out on the street. It is important to be respectful and submit. If you want to prove them wrong do it in court.

Ferguson could have been avoided through simply good leadership. Whether a police officer made a mistake, whether he acted intentionally or whether he was right on will be decided by somebody else’s jury in Ferguson. We need to make sure that our neighborhoods and especially young people here on campus and elsewhere in this city trust and have belief that the justice system works for them not against them.

DEAN BECKER: For folks that would like to learn more about your campaign and your efforts what would they do?

KIM OGG: They should go to http://kimoggforda.com

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, that’s about it. I want to thank Chris Goldstein, Diane Goldstein. I want to thank you for listening.

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