01/23/15 Greg Gladden

Greg Gladden former head of Texas ACLU, Jason Miller of Texas NORML, President Obama on "The Hill", Houston Sheriff Garcia + NBC Houston & CBD for Texas

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, January 23, 2015
Guest: 
Greg Gladden
Organization: 
ACLU of Texas
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

JANUARY 23, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: All right my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Glad you could be with us today. We'll have an in-studio guest, Mr. Greg Gladden, an attorney, former head of the ACLU of Texas. So please stay tuned for Cultural Baggage.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends. This is Dean Becker. As I said, we have in-studio with us Mr. Greg Gladden. How are you sir?

GREG GLADDEN: Dean Becker, I'm glad to be here, I'm doing fine. Thank you so much for, uh, inviting me.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Greg, it, it seems that more and more people, uh, even legislators and cops, are beginning to realize the futility of this drug war. Not a whole lot of great shakes taking place as yet, but there's a great awareness that's uh, that's ongoing, would you agree?

GREG GLADDEN: I am in – surprisingly optimistic, uh, when I was a teenager, I asked my dear old dad who was a real good lawyer up in Fort Worth if he thought marijuana would ever be legalized, because in the sixties and 70s, in the 60s and early 70s, it was a felony to have any, any little smidgen of it, uh, in Texas, and he told me that he thought that in our lifetime it would become like gambling, where, you know, you could have your parties at your house and they wouldn't mess with you but maybe the big casinos they might mess with or big organized events. Uh, we've come a lot further than that.

DEAN BECKER: Yes we have, and I guess, uh, you know, it's the action, or maybe the inaction of Attorney General Eric Holder in regards to those medical marijuana states that gives me a little bit of confidence that that change is ongoing, and, well, I don't know, it's not necessarily irreversible, who knows what could happen with the next president, but it seems to be on its way. Would you agree?

GREG GLADDEN: I'm going to miss him when he's gone.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, he's been a friend to me. I sent him a copy of my book, one of the first, uh, you know, off the press, and uh, he liked it so much he sent it on to the DEA and made them write me a letter, uh, in support of this book, so I have that letter framed at my house.

GREG GLADDEN: I understand he's going to hang around until, uh, his replacement is approved by Congressional, uh, leadership, and so maybe he'll be here for a while.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, may take quite a while, you never know, given that circumstance. You know, I, today I caught this uh, story coming out of, well I don't know where I grabbed it, but it's saying, uh, that Sonia Sotomayor stands up for the fourth amendment in drug sniffing dog case. And that there's, there's been new rulings that, you know, would tend to indicate that dogs are omni, omnipotent, or something, that they're to be trusted no matter what, but that's, that's starting to lose its luster as well.

But, uh, the Supreme Court argued, uh, in defense of the police, and saying law enforcement is entitled to wide leeway when it comes to determining the amount of time that's reasonably required to conduct traffic stops. Uh, what is a reasonable amount of time, what do you think?

GREG GLADDEN: Well … … If you stop them for a lane change – the, the problem is, uh, it's a pretext, in many event, many times. Many times there have been confidential informants deliver drugs to someone, or there've been tipsters giving tips, and, or there've been narcs following people around. Uh, and they have uniformed officers, uh, perform a quote traffic stop, uh, because they didn't use their turn signal to change lanes or they weaved in a lane, or something else that's not recorded anywhere to justify the initial stop.

And, uh, then they just accidentally stumble into whatever contraband the person's charged with, and the defense lawyer doesn't get to go back past that traffic stop to explore what the heck was going on, and they don't have to identify the confidential informant, they don't have to, even if it's acknowledged there was one involved, uh, the law is such that if he, if he broke that traffic law then the police officer had a right to stop him and it was a legitimate stop, and, and in Texas you can be arrested for virtually anything except speeding, in a car, and the cop has, uh, the, the, can make a decision to take you downtown for not wearing a seatbelt, uh, or any other traffic infraction, and therefore the search of the car is incident to a legal arrest.

And, uh even if you, even if they acknowledge there was some sort of informant involved that got them to that point, uh, if there was a traffic violation, then, uh, you don't necessary get to find out who that person is because they're not necessarily a witness to the events that, uh, surrounded the arrest. So, it's a, it's, it's a systemic problem with our system.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and was it a week ago, approximately, that Attorney General Holder did come out with a new interpretation of the forfeiture laws, how they can be utilized, and I was really ecstatic about it, I thought it was going to quash most of that uh, effort, but I've learned in the last week that it's going to diminish the forfeitures a bit but it's not a big major blow. Your thoughts sir.

GREG GLADDEN: I think it's important to have the focus on the problem, that people were either not aware of or not paying much attention to or were, uh, cheerleading for, uh, basically it's piracy. Uh, little law enforcement outfits from the very smallest of towns can join these task forces and get a piece of pies that, uh, come from forfeiture seizures, virtually always from minority groups. Uh, oftentimes when there's no contraband involved, uh, and, uh,, they fund everything from luxury cars to, to militarization of their little podunk police force out in the country, to uh, all sorts of things.

Basically it creates an incredible slush fund, and it's just like, it is like piracy. They split the proceeds, they have contracts that have percentages where they're divvied up among the, each of the law enforcement organizations that are involved, both federal and state. Uh, and, and, for instance, at Houston's intercontinental airport if you come through there and you get caught with a bunch of drugs and a bunch of money, the district attorney prosecutes, the state of Texas prosecutes, and the state of Texas tries to forfeit that money as being illicit.

If you come through that airport with a bunch of money and they, uh, stop you and you're a taxi driver and you've got several thousand dollars from, and you're New York and, maybe Jamaican or whatever, uh, and you don't have any drugs, uh, well, it's hard in Texas to prove that money was drug money so the DA doesn't forfeit it, they turn it over to DEA where in the federal system, a certain amount of money in, in and of itself is probable cause to believe it's somehow illicit and then you have to prove not only it's not the fruits of crime or in, but you have to prove that you didn't intend to invest it any sort of illicit activity, so you have to prove a negative of your own intent. Now how you do that is, is difficult.

But, but, so, but then the state, because they stopped the person, found the dope, then turned it over to DEA, they're still going to get a significant portion of that money when it's forfeited in the federal system. That's what Holder said we're not going to do anymore, he said we're not going to enter into contracts where the state can violate state law, maybe, and, where they can't enforce state law to get that money, uh, they can't just turn it over to the feds and have them do their dirty work and then get 80 percent of the proceeds. And, and, it's a bad system and it doesn't correct it but it, it, I think it went a long way toward opening some people's eyes to some of the problems.

DEAN BECKER: We do have Mr. Greg Gladden with us, uh, an attorney here in, uh, Texas, former head of the ACLU. Greg, I find the, uh, I don't know, the temperature, the uh, the pulse of this drug war is, is getting healthier. As I was talking about earlier, I have interviewed the sheriff, the mayor, the police chief, and, and uh, it just seems that people are beginning to step up to the plate. They're not taking a full swing yet, but they're starting to address these issues. Uh, what is your thought sir, I mean, what's it going to take to break the back of the drug war, to prove that there's just no benefit to it? Is it happening as we speak?

GREG GLADDEN: Well, it's – the problem is it's not a question of whether there's no benefit, uh, the problem is it's a disaster, it's, it's a lot worse than not having any benefit. And as, in my experience as several states legalize marijuana, and we see a shift in the ocean, uh, it helps me in representing my clients, certain of my clients. Uh, if I have a, uh, poor uneducated minority person, it doesn't seem to help them as much, that marijuana is being legal, legalized around the country, as uh, you know, some well-educated white person, uh, in the same situation.

You know, I think that judges and prosecutors and police, uh, can justify going easier than they already do on, uh, people like themselves, uh, but it, I don't see the relief for the, uh, the class of people that it's always most uh, negatively effected.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yes, this is true. Uh, we will be speaking on a panel here in just a, what, a week and a half, on behalf of NORML, N O R M L, the national organization for the reform of marijuana laws right here in Houston. And I've got a segment I want to play to kind of fill people in on some of the details of how that's going to transpire.

This is part of a discussion I had with Jason Miller, who heads up Houston NORML. There's going to be a gathering in February not just of Houston NORML but of folks from around the state. Tell us about that, please.

JASON MILLER: We're having an event February 5th, that's on a Thursday night, and this event is uh Legalize Texas 2015. So, this is actually an educational event as well as a social event and a fundraiser for Houston NORML, and this is going to have, uh, content on multiple different topics. So, part of what we're going to be talking about are the legislative efforts that are going on right now and the House Bill 507 is, you know, an important, important bill because that's been introduced by a coalition of organizations including Houston NORML and many others across the state of Texas. That is something that we're supportive of.

Potentially a medical marijuana bill being introduced, and even possibly a full legalization bill being introduced towards the end of the session.

DEAN BECKER: All right, uh, kind of fell down on the job, they didn't have a whole lot of details there on when where how and why etc., but I urge you to please go to HoustonNORML.org, that's HoustonNORML.org to get more details. We do have with us in studio Mr. Greg Gladden, Texas attorney, former head of the ACLU of Texas. Uh, I, I tell you what, I want to play one more track here, uh, to share with the listeners and then get your response to it, it kind of ties into what I'm saying that the change is occurring. Let's go ahead and do track three.

The following interview with the president of the United States comes to us courtesy of The Hill newspaper, based in Washington, DC.

HANK GREEN: So, I, sometimes people think I do but I don't smoke pot. And I, it just is not for me, I think that it's bad for my brain, I'm not into it but people think I do smoke pot because I'm, I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana. And, we're in a really weird place, with marijuana right now, like it's illegal in some places but it's, it's illegal everywhere but in some places it's kind of okeh, and, but if the state thinks it's not okeh then let's throw those people in jail. I feel like it, you know, it leads to excessive incarceration especially among minorities, and in places where it's been legalized, everything's doing okeh. How do we move forward out of this legal gray area weirdness.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, uh, what you, you're seeing now is, Colorado, Washington, through state referenda, they're experimenting with legal marijuana. The position of my administration has been, that, we still have federal laws that, uh, classify marijuana as a, as an illegal substance, but, uh, we're not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is, is that you're going to see other states start looking at this. What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders.

Because I think you're right, uh, you know, what we have done is, instead of focusing on treatment, the same way we focused, say with tobacco, or, uh, drunk driving, or, uh, other problems where we treat it as a public health problem, we've treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. I think that it's been counterproductive and it's been, you know, devastating in a lot of minority communities. It presents the possibility at least of unequal application of the law, and that has to be changed.

Now the good news is, is that we're starting to get some interest among Republicans as well as Democrats in reforming the criminal justice system. Uh, we've been able to initiate some changes administratively, and last year you had the first time in forty years where the crime rate and the incarceration rate went down at the same time. Uh, I hope we can continue with those trends because, uh, there's just a smarter way of uh, dealing with those issues.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, you're listening to Cultural Baggage, this is Dean Becker, I have with me in studio attorney Greg Gladden. What's your response to the president's words there, Greg?

GREG GLADDEN: Well, I hadn't heard that interview but it certainly feeds into what I was talking about earlier, the class war aspect of the war on drugs. Uh, you know, if we, if we really wanted to correct some of the systemic problems in our system we might go all the way back to the 13th amendment which did away with slavery in this country but unfortunately there's two commas with a phrase in the middle of that amendment, and it says it shall not exist, comma, except for conviction of misdemeanors and high crimes after due process of law, comma.

So if you can make a gram of white powder, uh, illegal and you can convict someone with due process of it, you can bind them into slavery and you still can, so we did not do away with slavery in this country, uh, and that's, that's been an ongoing problem and the war on drug, drugs is a way to, uh, maintain the slave state that, uh, we've always been.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah, it's always about the dollars. I, I tell you what, I've got another track I want to share with you, and uh, and uh, get your response to. It's time to Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Dry skin, hair loss, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, anemia, joint soreness, weakened immune system, kidney disease, liver damage, emphysema, cancer, and a shortened life span. Time’s up! The answer: Cadmium. I couldn’t find a medical use for cadmium but I wanted you to know that prisoners across America are working in factories smashing computers and being given the chance to inhale cadmium vapors for six cents an hour.

Yeah, Greg, your response to that.

GREG GLADDEN: Well, the prison system is a industrial complex that is out of control. We've got private prisons, you know, we've got for-profit, uh, prisons, we've got, uh – the prison system in Texas has always been gigantic, we've got more land to work, uh, there's, uh, like I say, it's a, it's a, continuation of the slave state that we've always been, we haven't actually graduated from that in my opinion.

DEAN BECKER: No, I, I have to agree with you on that, sir. All right we do have with us in studio Mr. Greg Gladden, a good friend of, uh, well, logic and common sense, I would say. He was former head of the ACLU of Texas and a gentleman who, uh, has the experience and the knowledge to, to speak about this drug war. He's, he's seen it from the ground up and he understands that uh, it's just not working out. Greg, we've got, well, we've got a few minutes left. I wanted to get your thoughts, you know, we're going to have that, uh, event for NORML on February 5th. And, you know, it's like a debate, we can't find anybody from the other side to debate.

I guess I want to point out, over the 13 years I've been doing this, I have contacted the offices of the ONDCP, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, I've contacted the heads of the, well the offices of the DEA, seeking the heads, the administrators, or at least an assistant administrator, somebody with the uh, oversight, somebody with the, the hammer that says all this is necessary, somebody who's responsible for this belief in drug war. And for the, uh 13th year in a row the DEA called me back and says, we can't find the time. And I wanted to get your response to that scenario.

GREG GLADDEN: Well, they're under fire, they're, they're, they're losing. Why would they uh, why would they participate in promoting someone like you or me in our, in our efforts to try to draw the public's attention to the problems? I just wanted to mention the, the, I've not only been a member of the ACLU for all of my adult life, but I've also been a member of NORML since the mid-70s and NORML's legal committee since becoming a lawyer, and uh, both organizations have been against the drug war because of the civil liberties violations and the stupidity of it all.

The event on February 5th is going to be at Fox Hollow, and that's at 4617 Nett Street, which is right off of Washington Avenue over in the, I guess north part of Montrose or the south part of the Heights, and it's from 6 to 11 on February 5th, and uh, I would certainly invite all of your listeners to come out and, uh. Keith Stroup, I say stroop, I've heard it different ways.

DEAN BECKER: I think it's Stroup, he told me it rhymes with cop, so, yeah.

GREG GLADDEN: He was one of the founders, very founders of NORML back in the early 70s, is going to be in town for that. And, uh, the current executive director that's been, uh, in that job for probably ten years now is going to be in town for that.

DEAN BECKER: Allen St. Pierre.

GREG GLADDEN: Yeah. So, uh, there's going to be some heavy hitters and uh, aside from the panel that you and I and Kim Ogg are on, and some good folks and uh, some momentum, uh, among NORML activists locally is going on now that I have never seen before, and folks ought to come out and join us.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly, and you know the thing is Greg, that represents what's going on around the country. I'm seeing people in Missouri, in, you know, other states that are going to their state representatives, that are having these similar, uh, seminars and rallies, to motivate and embolden the populace to do something. Uh, we were having a discussion out at the coffee table before the show began, we were talking about the fact that it seems that just about everybody gets it, they at least understand about marijuana, and uh, it's just getting them to, motivated, maybe getting them to vote for the right people, or, somehow getting involved in educating their, their politicians, calling them up, or sending them an email, paying them a visit, just letting them know it's okeh, we want this change, and it, I think it's going to happen. Your thoughts, Greg.

GREG GLADDEN: Oh, I've been to a couple of the meetings, and Jason is leading up the, the, Houston NORML, and is a very high-energy, very talented, uh, personable young guy. We now have local chapters in the suburbs, from Galveston to Katy to Liberty to all around, uh, the neighborhood, uh, and those people do come to our meetings, or the meetings that are held in Houston, they have their own meetings out in the outlying regions as well. I expect to see those people coming into town for this uh, February 5th event, and, and I hope to see you guys there too.

DEAN BECKER: All right. I tell you what, I've got one more track I want to play, we've got a couple of minutes left, uh, play that track five, please.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the abolitionist's moment. War is over, if you want it. The Drug War is over as well. It’s just awaiting your approval. The evidence is overwhelming: the science, the ramifications, the injustice, the lost lives, the families fractured and forfeited. Judges handcuffed to inequity. Politicians trapped by the bones they made. The great wall of Blue, corrupted and inbred. All await your approval, your thoughts, your voice before they will stop feeding their evil cornucopia the lives of their fellow man. Please, do your part to end the madness of Drug War. Visit endprohibition.org. Do it for the children.

Greg, any closing thoughts you'd like to relay.

GREG GLADDEN: I received a gift book called To End The War On Drugs, by Dean Becker, and I haven't read it, I just got it in my hands as I came in the studio today and I wanted to put out a plug for that thank you and I'm sure I'll enjoy it.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.

GREG GLADDEN: Uh, I think we need to end the war on drugs, not necessarily for the, for the, people that like to do drugs, recreationally or medically or anything else, I think we need to do it to end the class war that, uh, that it's been, uh, the most powerful tool to, to uh carry out, and uh, I think that's, in my opinion, and being a criminal defense lawyer, that's the most damning part about the, the abuse of this, uh, prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: All right, thank you Glen Gladden. The following segment courtesy of NBC Houston.

DOMINIQUE SACHSE: Right now, a Houston area mother is in a battle to help save her teenage daughter's life. The woman is one of many moms across the country taking up the fight to legalize a chemical that's found in marijuana.

RYAN KORSGARD: To give you an idea, this one teenager with epilepsy takes all of these drugs, plus these, plus these, everyday. Well her mom hopes that, with the help of Michelle Obama, she can take one more that might cut down on all of this. Seventeen-year-old Caroline DeLuca suffers from a disorder that causes catastrophic epilepsy. Her mother, Elizabeth DeLuca, said Caroline has too many seizures, daily, to count.

ELIZABETH DELUCA: And it's an epilepsy that cannot be stopped with the traditional medications that are available now.

RYAN KORSGARD: So Elizabeth DeLuca and other moms across the country are asking states and the federal government to lower the pharmaceutical level of CBD oil, a compound in cannabis, and make it legal in Texas and other states.

ELIZABETH DELUCA: Which is the chemical in marijuana that does not produce the high. That has been removed. And then it's made into, it's mixed with oil, and then the oil is administered to the child either orally or through their feeding tube.

RYAN KORSGARD: DeLuca says that she and others plan to flood the White House with cards asking for the first lady's help getting the president's support.

ELIZABETH DELUCA: Ours says #cannabisismedicinetexas. And then on February 5th, we're all going to mail out those cards. And then on or about February 9th, Michelle Obama will be receiving hopefully a deluge of just thousands and thousands of postcards, of children and young adults, and adults, from across the country.

RYAN KORSGARD: Caroline's situation is worsening, she can no longer walk or swallow. Her mom wants to give her the best life possible, but she says she needs help from the federal government.

ELIZABETH DELUCA: She would just love to have a few seizure-free days, it would be great,

RYAN KORSGARD: The idea is to bombard Michelle Obama's office with postcards from all over the country, and hopefully persuade the president to help make a change.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment is with the sheriff of Houston, Harris County, Adrian Garcia. Houston has for decades been the lead horse, pulling the drug war wagon. Our proximity to Mexico, and our numerous interstates along with a large metroplex to hide in, means we are one of the largest drug distribution hubs in the world. And heretofore, officials have somehow remained surprised and outraged at the number of our young people who are led to lives of crime or addiction. And, uh, you know, the city has served as a virtual mousetrap, built not by the young people being caught, but by generations of their elders. But it’s time to undo that trap. It’s time to find a better way. Correct?

SHERIFF ADRIAN GARCIA: Without a doubt. I mean, I think uh, we have recognized that, uh, you know, we are – I think part of the justice system should be about being able to make lives whole, uh, rebuild lives and uh, change circumstances to be, to try to find uh, results from our respective strategies and uh, and given the fact that, you know, our jail systems have gotten bigger, more costly, our dockets have become much more stagnant and, and burdensome, things have slowed down and almost come to a screeching halt. I think all of these things that people have looked at and have, I think, very courageously said, You know what, I can’t deny that we need to do something better.

DEAN BECKER: Do something better. That's the sheriff of Houston, Harris County. The mayor told me she thinks the drug war needs to end. The police chief told me it is a miserable failure. Why cannot these other reporters ask these pertinent questions?

As always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful. To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.