12/26/14 Dean Becker

2014 in Review: Stephen Colbert, Diane Goldstein, BBC: US drug war laughingstock, Judge John Delaney, Alice Oleary Randall, Professor William Martin, US Rep Beto O'Rourke, Russia Radio interview of DTN Host Dean Becker & Houston Mayor Anise Parker

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, December 26, 2014
Guest: 
Dean Becker
Organization: 
James A. Baker Inst. for Public Policy
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

DECEMBER 26, 2014

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: hello my friends, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this holiday edition of Cultural Baggage. We're going to take a look back, a listen back, to the year 2014 via our daily 420 drug war news reports.

The big news for 2014 started on January First, but here's a report from January 14. It's the 420 drug war news, the following segment comes to us courtesy of the Colbert Report.

STEPHEN COLBERT: America's deviants are rolling a fatty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE VOICE: Some Coloradans have a lot to celebrate on January First. Colorado became the first state in the nation to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use and hundreds lined up to get up. One million dollars of recreational marijuana reportedly sold there on Wednesday alone.

STEPHEN COLBERT: A million dollars of pot in one day. This news nauseates me so much that I might qualify for medical marijuana. America's moral core is being gutted and the rest of our moral apple is being made into a bong. How dare, how dare Coloradans spend January First ruining their bodies with weed when they should be at home vomiting all the booze from New Year's Eve, like God intended.

Thankfully, yes, thankfully some patriots out there are standing up against big bud. And they're not just ignorant buzzkills; they're experienced buzzkills. Like New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote: For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together, I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.

Yes, David Brooks got high, which led to uninhibited frolic. Sometimes it bordered on unstructured merriment, even unfettered jocularity. But Brooks' column was more than just establishing his stone cold street cred. He also wrapped some positive youth messaging about the dangers of legalization, saying, I think being stoned is not a particularly uplifting form of pleasure, and should be discouraged more than encouraged, and that Colorado is nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.

So let that be a lesson to you, kids. You keep smoking weed, you keep laughing with your friends, you'll never grow up to be David Brooks. And David's not the only former pothead who wants to keep weed illegal, so does the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, who wrote in an op-ed, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. Well said! Kids don't need another legal mind-altering substance, it will screw with their adderall.

And like Brooks, folks, Ruth admits to being more than just roommates with her friend Mary Jane, confessing, I have done my share of inhaling, next time I'm in Colorado I expect I'll check out some Bubba Kush. Why not? Other than the column you just wrote.

I applaud Marcus and Brooks for taking a firm stance against legalizing the pot they smoked. I assume they're going to turn themselves into the police now and serve their time. Hopefully that will keep them from ever smoking again because they might get high and write something really confusing.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Stephen, and I know that I'm not alone in saying, we're really going to miss your report. The following is from the February 7th edition of Drug War News.

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Diane Goldstein, I'm a speaker and a board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Diane, you're also what I would call an activist. You're not just speaking about the war on drugs necessarily, you're talking about human rights, you're talking about medical necessity, you're talking about dignity. Is that right?

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Well you know, it's very interesting. I think one the things that we're seeing as we move further away from drug prohibition, one of the most compelling reasons to move away from it is that it violates human rights. And not just here in America, but across the world, if you look at the forced internment camps, that the UN did a newspaper article about last year, there's a critical link that the more we prohibit a substance and we use coercive means to try to be drug-free in whatever capacity, it does violate human rights.

Very specifically around marijuana, I think that drug prohibition itself is much more dangerous to our children and to other people who responsibly use marijuana, whether it's for medical purposes or for adult recreational purposes. The violence associated with the black market, the collateral consequences that surround what happens to people after you come into contact with law enforcement, it's those things that are very very compelling and really, clearly the reason that we need to bring our drug policy under a public health model, but not to do it in the sense of drug courts or coercive rehabilitation, but taking much more of the route that Portugal or other countries have done.

DEAN BECKER: And I've seen news breaking up in the northeast that they had a recent outbreak of overdoses from heroin that was, and I won't say cut, but mixed with Fentanyl, they say is twenty times stronger than heroin. This is a direct result of the black market, of prohibition itself. Am I right?

DIANE GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely, you're 100 percent correct on that. And so, what we see, and what we have seen traditionally in the past, kids would go to their local marijuana dealer and in fact they would become addicted because the day that there was not marijuana available, that drug dealer had a much more harder substance that was much more addictive. And so by controlling and regulating the market, we take the criminals out of it.

DEAN BECKER: That was Diane Goldstein of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. They're out there on the web, please check them out at LEAP.CC. Has the United States become a laughingstock internationally because of our belief in drug war? This is our 420 from March 3rd, 2014. The following is from the BBC.

STEPHEN FRY: Where are one percent of American adults.

JIMMY CARR: Oh, I imagine we could find out, couldn't we? We could use Google Earth, because some of them are quite big. There's Rolf, he's got his own post code.

STEPHEN FRY: One percent of the population, which is, what's the population, it's about ...

CLIVE ANDERSON: Three hundred million, isn't it?

STEPHEN FRY: So you're talking about between two and a half and three million, say.

ALAN DAVIES: Jail.

STEPHEN FRY: Yes. G for Gaol, English spelling of jail of course, bu it is G for Gaol.

ALAN DAVIES: Really, that many people. Three million people locked up?

STEPHEN FRY: Well, two point three which is one in every ninety nine point one adults. Americans imprisoned more than twice as many as South Africans, more than three times as many as Iranians, more than six times as many as the Chinese. No society in history has imprisoned more of its citizens than the United States of America.

CLIVE ANDERSON: We've done pretty well though, we sort of top the European League.

STEPHEN FRY: We're also – we're ahead of China, Turkey, and India, yeah, with 148 prisoners per 100,000.

CLIVE ANDERSON: It's the three strikes and they're out.

STEPHEN FRY: That's been the problem, yeah.

JIMMY CARR: I mean, a legal system based on baseball just seems bizarre. Well, no one seems to understand the law, it's all very complicated. What's simple, what do people like? Baseball.

STEPHEN FRY: What it means is, if the first two strikes, the first two crimes you're convicted of are serious enough, the third one, no matter how trivial, will get a life sentence, 25 years or more. So for example, Leandro Andre is serving two consecutive 25-year terms for shoplifting nine videotapes. Kevin Webber, 26 years for stealing four chocolate chip cookies. It is a bit bonkers.

But the racial numbers are a bit worrying, and the gender numbers. It's one in thirty men aged 20 to 34 is behind bars, but for black males that's one in nine. One in nine. There are more seventeen black people in jail than in college. So five percent of the world are American, twenty five percent of all prisoners are American.

JIMMY CARR: And isn't the real controversy with this the business end of it?

STEPHEN FRY: Well that's true, it's also, as you say rightly, it is a business.

JIMMY CARR: Because it's not just a license plate, they make loads of stuff.

STEPHEN FRY: Well, one of the things I should have said when talking about contraband, is that you're not allowed to bring into America anything that's been made by forced labor or prisons. But in America, you could almost say, if you were so minded, that they've reinvented the slave trade. They produce, for example, 100 percent of all military helmets, ammunition, belts, bullet proof vests, ID tags, and other items, uniform – 93 percent of domestically produced paints, 36 percent of home appliances, 21 percent of office furniture, which allows the United States to compete with factories in Mexico because of course obviously the workers can't refuse to work for twenty five cents per hour.

JIMMY CARR: I'd like very much like to say something hilarious but something must be done.

STEPHEN FRY: It is a bit amazing, isn't it?

JIMMY CARR: It's extraordinary. It's slavery by the back door.

STEPHEN FRY: Exactly. You get solitary confinement if you refuse to work. Yeah. More than one in 100 American adults are in jail.

DEAN BECKER: Really makes you proud to be an American, don't it? From April 4, 2014, the following speaker is Texas Judge John Delaney, speaking to Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.

JOHN DELANEY: Some guys in the park. Nah, park's bad. He's in his back yard. Picnic. Smoking some marijuana, he and his friends. Neighbor smells it. Not in our neighborhood, calls police. All his buds are arrested, he's arrested, they go downtown. He has no money, he can't bond out, so he's in there for two, three weeks, and finally a court appointed lawyer comes and says, if you'll plead out they'll give you time served and a fine.

So the schnook, the backyard marijuana guy, who doesn't have enough money to bond himself out, and his wife's mad at him, she won't ask her mother. He goes before the magistrate the next day, I plead guilty, marijuana under two ounces. Time served. Okeh. Phew, I got out. I really wasn't guilty, they just arrested me, everybody else had the dope, the cops just grabbed us all, but I've got to go back to work. But now he's got a marijuana conviction because he plead guilty. You don't get any take-em-backs, you don't get to say I plead guilty because I had to get out of jail, you plead guilty because you were guilty, we know it or you wouldn't have done it. Nobody would do that. Yes they will.

State of Texas knows that you'd be a good boy and wouldn't smoke dope, lots of people would be non-dope-smokers, because they know if they get caught they get their license jerked. So, this poor schnook no longer has his driver's license for six months. How many of you take public transportation to get to your work? Ah, there's one hand. Most of us depend on the American automobile. Supposing your license got taken away today, the day that you left jail. The judge makes you surrender it, right there, give me your license, it's gone, I'm mailing it to DPS. If they understand the law you're supposed to do that.

You go out and you get your car out of wherever it is, and you drive home. You got a bad tail light, you're arrested, I mean you're stopped, get a ticket, woo! Your driver's license was suspended, you're now under arrest for driving while license invalid. Put your hands behind your back, you're going to jail.

Now that you've been found guilty of that offense, surprise, we've got to extend your driver's license suspension for another 180 days.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was working Texas Judge John Delaney.

Alice O'Leary Randall is the wife of Robert Randall, the first medical marijuana patient licensed by the US government. The following is from May 16th. The following was recorded that month at the Cannabis Therapeutics Convention in Portland, Oregon.

ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: My name is Alice O'Leary Randall, I'm a medical marijuana pioneer. My husband was the first individual in the country to gain legal access to federal supplies of marijuana to treat his glaucoma, that was in 1976. So I've been at this issue for quite a while.

DEAN BECKER: Now, he was the first of what was hopefully to be many people afforded that opportunity to use medical marijuana but it was shut down. At this point we've got I think it's just four folks that are now approved through that program, is that right?

ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: That's correct. The Compassionate IND program, which was how Robert received the marijuana, at its peak I think there were about 15 people who were receiving supplies of marijuana from the federal government. The program was shut down in 1992 after there was a huge demand on the program made by primarily AIDS patients who were seeking legal access to federal supplies of marijuana to treat the nausea, vomiting, and wasting that's associated with AIDS.

The Bush Senior administration shut the program down, the fifteen people who were getting it at that time were grandfathered into it, they've received it, there has been various attrition over the years, like my husband died in 2001, and today I believe there are only four still in the program receiving federal supplies.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Ms. O'Leary, the fact is you have been observing, seeing this situation unfold for almost forty years now. What is your thought, what have we done to this point, what do we still need to do?

ALICE O'LEARY RANDALL: Well, needless to say, it's amazing right now. I've just come from a week in Colorado, Denver, where medical and recreational users can get marijuana legally. The situation is not ideal, I don't think, first of all there's only 22, 21 states, depending on how you're counting. I don't believe in medical care by geography, I think everybody should be able to get the medical care that they need, and if it happens to include cannabis, they should be able to get cannabis in whatever state they're in.

That being said, we've clearly come a long way. I think the genie is way out of the bottle at this point. It's not to say that the federal government won't try to clamp down on it again, they're always capable of doing that but I certainly hope that they won't. I think that as a movement we have got to push for rescheduling as soon as possible. It needs to be out of schedule one so that that big club of the federal government is lifted from the heads of patients, care providers, and researchers.

DEAN BECKER: Normally at about this point in the Cultural Baggage show I play some kind of Name That Drug By Its Side Effect, but today I'm just going to say something more general, and that is, many of the pharmaceutical drugs out there that are for various maladies can complicate and can kill you. Here's wishing that the future brings us better control of the so-called controlled substances.

The following 420 report is from June 28th, it features my boss at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, Professor William Martin. The most recent edition of Texas Monthly featured an article, War Without End, talking about our veterans and their post traumatic stress disorder. It was written by Professor William Martin of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Veterans also talk to me about being pilled up zombies, from anti-depressants, from opioid painkillers, from sleeping pills. As one put it, they were handed out like Skittles by VA doctors, and of course, that, they found relief in marijuana, which was not for them a gateway to other drugs but an exit drug from alcohol and prescription drugs.

We have, and Dr. Shaw will talk about this I'm sure, we have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies, which briefly is, we make cannabis and we use it, and when we run short or it gets overwhelmed, external help, external cannabis can help bring things back into balance. Most Americans, seventy seven percent of Texans, believe that medical marijuana should be available for therapeutic purposes. More than half favor legalization for recreational purposes.

Now there are several different alternative regimes, each one of them with some downsides. No one believes that if we legalize marijuana there won't be some downsides, notably some, at least some rise in use and abuse. But the call for change, fortunately, is bipartisan. Lots of the problems were bipartisan, of the policy. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are sort of equally culpable of ramping up the war on drugs.

But the late Milton Friedman, and William F. Buckley Jr., and Walter Cronkite were all for changing our laws. The Koch Brothers and George Soros, the Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution as well as the Baker Institute, the ACLU and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, George Schultz and Paul Volcker, the Nation, and the Wall Street Journal and the Economist, Grover Norquist and Richard Branson, the US Conference of Mayors, Rand Paul, maybe Ted Cruz. At least some, perhaps a number of significant politicians favor change but fear being primary.

Legislators are often more likely to be followers than leaders, and they need to be pushed. And now, veterans are deciding that they need to push for this kind of change. A movement is building.

DEAN BECKER: Right you are, Professor William Martin. There's a movement building all across these United States, hell around the world, to undo the madness of the war on drugs and especially the war on marijuana users.

In late July, my son and I traveled to Washington, DC, where Beto O'Rourke, US Representative out of El Paso, held a conference in regards to my new book, To End The War On Drugs: Policymakers Edition. Twelve people spoke in support of my book during that conference, and following that we gave a copy to every US representative, every US senator, the President, nine members of his cabinet, the nine Supreme Court justices, and we mailed a copy to all fifty US governors, challenging every major US official to a debate on the logic of continuing this eternal drug war.

This is Congressman Beto O'Rourke from August 8th. The following was recorded in Washington, DC, at a press conference for the summer reading assignment for all major US officials. All right, while he's here, I think we should take advantage of the fact that we have the Congressman from the Texas 16th District, Mr. Beto O'Rourke, with us, Beto, would you come up and say a few words please?

BETO O'ROURKE: Well thanks, you know, what kind of a politician would I be if I didn't accept an opportunity to speak at a microphone? Uh, so, but I really can't add and hopefully won't take away anything from what Dean has done with this book. I've known Dean for, uh, you know, since at least 2009, and I've got to just tell you that I'm very grateful for him and others who have been working in the trenches on this issue, on an idea whose time has finally come. And as the old saying goes, there's nothing more powerful than that.

And Dean has written something here that is critically important for me and my colleagues, as you just said, and our staffers, to digest and understand, and when we do it's really hard to escape the conclusion that the war on drugs has failed, that something far more rational, humane, and arguably fiscally responsible should take its place, and you know, recent events, whether it's closing in on half our states have adopted or are considering adopting measures to allow either the medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, or the New York Times editorial board taking this unprecedented step and campaigning for a federal end to the prohibition policies when it comes to marijuana, or people like me who, prior to my exposure to this issue, because of the drug violence and prohibition-related violence in Ciudad Juarez, this was something that I didn't really think about and care about, didn't think it affected me, and it wasn't until it came to my attention from the violence in Juarez and then I got a chance to listen to people like Dean and others, who pointed out that we imprison more of our own fellow citizens than any country on the face of this planet, that we spend billions and now well over a trillion dollars on this war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: The following is from the September 19th 420 Drug War News.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Radio VR – This is the Voice of Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS READER: The Global Commission on Drug Policy has proposed a non-conventional way to fight drug abuse. According to the Commission, legalizing a range of drugs like marijuana and various psychedelics including cocaine and heroin is the right choice to make, meaning a healthier approach that does not rely solely on violence is a key component of the new drug policy, according to the Commission. To discuss this I'm joined live on the phone from Houston, Texas by Dean Becker of the Drug Truth Network, it's a media production organization dedicated to exposing the fraud, misdirection, and wastefulness of the war on drugs. Thank you so much for joining us.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you so much for this opportunity.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS READER: Dean, let's talk about the status quo. How much is spent on the war on drugs, and what kind of effect has the war on drugs had, I mean, has, have we seen a decrease in some kinds of drug trafficking, smuggling, have we seen a decrease in drug abuse, in any countries?

DEAN BECKER: I think the answer would have to be no, pretty much across the board. There are fluctuations in drug use, cocaine use may go up, heroin use may go down, etc etc., but it changes year to year, decade to decade, generation to generation. But we have never really stopped the flow of drugs at all. At best, we might get 10-15 percent at our borders, but the other 85 percent comes in and is sold at highly inflated prices, which leads people to commit crimes to afford the drugs. So it's a real conundrum.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS READER: Eighty five percent get into the country despite everything that's done.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, and I want to mention that, I interviewed a gentleman, Anthony Placido, he was with the DEA, a few years back, he said it's three hundred eighty five billion dollars a year flowing into the pockets of terrorists, if they'll just grow the flowers we forbid, flowing into the pockets of these barbarous cartels in Central and South America, killing tens of thousands of people, and it has given reason here in the United States for 20, some say 30,000 violent gangs to be prowling our neighborhoods, selling contaminated drugs to our kids at those same, highly inflated prices. It has never achieved any of its stated goals.

DEAN BECKER: Well, 2014 worked out pretty good for the Drug Truth Network, it certainly has for drug reform. We were able to get an interview with our police chief Charles McLelland, that's fairly recent so I'm not carrying that today, but a little earlier in the year we did speak to the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker. From the 420 of October 17th:

ANNISE PARKER: Well, yesterday was a bit of discussions on policing, in general – the state of policing in America, what happened at Ferguson, what it means for cities, what it means for our police department. And part of that conversation was the militarization of police forces, particularly small town police forces. Today we’re in a conference on ports. A lot of the mayors went home but obviously Houston is a big port and so we’re talking about praising our ports today.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, ma’am. Now, there’s been a lot of, I don't know, media coverage in Houston of late, a couple of different proposals put forward by the current district attorney as well as her challenger, Kim Ogg, and how they were going to handle marijuana cases. I was wanting to ask, you know, I saw the press conference, it featured Devon Anderson as well as our sheriff, Adrian Garcia, and Police Chief Charles McClelland. Did they seek your opinion in this regard? Did you have any input in that new situation?

ANNISE PARKER: I was certainly aware of it. While I, as an individual I am supporting Kim Ogg for DA, I want to state that I'm happy that both DA candidates are looking to do a better job in how we deal with personal marijuana use and low-level, but, I think I prefer Ms. Ogg's proposal but I’m glad that they're both engaged and the chief and the sheriff as well.

Anytime we go after, or anytime we try to do enforcement around drugs, we want people to challenge, we want people higher up the food chain, and as public views about marijuana are changing in the United States - even in states that still have marijuana laws on the books for personal consumption – we have to be sensitive to that and I salute both of them for taking a bold stand.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, as 2014 is ending, a new year beginning, I've just got to urge you, to look at what's going on around you, the drug war logic is crumbling, the people who still believe in it look like the absolute fools they have always been, and those who stand boldly and declare the need for a change to these drug laws are being seen as heroes. I want you to be a hero this year. Once again, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, neither do your children. Please be careful.