03/20/15 Howard Wooldridge

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Howard Wooldridge a LEAP speaker reports on his trip to Vienna and the UN Drug Conf, Christine Shuck author of The War On Drugs - An Old Wives Tale + Terry Nelson of LEAP, former cop Mike Knox & Dr. Elias Jackson

Audio file


MARCH 20, 2015


DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello my friends, this is Dean Becker. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. You know for the first ten year of producing these Drug Truth Network programs, I had to scramble most of the time to find content to fill a half hour show, but nowadays it's like I'm having to chop and squeeze and fit all of these stories in, because there's so much news breaking in this effort to end the stupid war on drugs. Today we're going to hear from Christine Shuck about her new book, we're going to hear from panelists on a recent medical marijuana debate in Houston, Texas, but we're going to start with a report from Vienna, my good friend Howard Wooldridge.

Once again I'm calling on one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a man who just returned from Vienna, Austria, where he attended the UN conference on drugs. I want to welcome Mr. Howard Wooldridge, how are you sir?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Dean, still suffering jet lag, but other than that, real good, how about yourself?

DEAN BECKER: I'm ecstatic these days, there's so much progress being made, not just on marijuana, but in recognition of the futility of this drug war, would you not agree?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah, my experience, two weeks in Vienna, this was my second trip to the annual conference on dangerous drugs, that there's more worldwide recognition that the drug prohibition is causing massive harm, pain, suffering and death toward children and adults, and under the UN political speak, they're saying basically we need to change this, because too many, especially young people, being hurt and killed by the treaties, the policy, versus the drugs htemselves.

DEAN BECKER: We discussed this briefly yesterday, that the, there is a conflict between the treaties and another aspect of the UN oversight, correct?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Yeah, that's the interesting thing. I was listening to a guy on a panel, a lawyer from Colombia, and he was urging the conference, there's usually about 500 people there, 600, that they should look at the idea, that the convention on children's rights takes precedence, it has more weight, than the treaty of 1961, which as you know, I'm sure your audience does, was the vehicle by which we have worldwide prohibition on marijuana and other, some drugs.

That the member states, like Uruguay, United States, Portugal, whatever, can ignore the treaty, because the treaty causes young adults to be hurt and killed, therefore it's okeh to not obey the treaty, be out of compliance as they say. And this is a legal argument, however, I think this is going to gain traction next year and beyond, and they should just say, we're, you can technically say I'm out of compliance but we think we're in compliance because the convention is more important than the treaty. I know that's splitting some legal hairs, but that's what they were saying.

DEAN BECKER: And it's kind of representative of the logic that's coming forward, if you will, the recognition if you will, that, you know, despite the expenditure of trillions, and the arrests of multi-millions, we haven't changed this, we haven't done anything to really protect the children from the harms of the drug war. Your thoughts, sir.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, and that's, the good news is, that is now, I would say, a slight majority of the nations represented there. There's about 120, 130 nations show up, and I'd say about half of them now are recognizing what you just said, and in diplomatic speak, saying, we need to change our focus because what we're doing is one completely and totally worthless in terms of keeping drugs away from anybody, and two, significant harm to our younger populations, who are usually the ones who are selling the drugs, being the mules, the drug smugglers, being involved in the whole thing, and this is not good for kids, anywhere in the world.

DEAN BECKER: You know, there are the presentations, like you say, 500 people at a time, but out there in the hallways, was there more bold speak going on, if you will?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Exactly, Dean, and what was important, you know, I speak a couple of languages, but when I didn't speak the language, I would hear this, you know, blah blah blah Colorado, blah blah blah blah Colorado blah blah. So Colorado, god bless them, really was the shot heard around the world, and now that it is an overwhelming success, one of my tasks I had was to pass out the good news, the cheerful news, from Colorado, which I did, because the other side is putting out information – I read a document, it was in French, that they're putting out that Colorado is being ravaged, and that's the word they used, ravaged, by the legalization of marijuana.

So there's a lot of propaganda going out to paint Colorado as a total failure, and disaster ,and so part of my job there for those ten days was to make sure that people had the bare information, the true facts, they could draw their own conclusion.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Howard, it gets so aggravating sometimes, that, I mean, I believe I know the whole, unvarnished truth about this drug war, and there are so many politicians who seem unwilling or unable to just look at the evidence to perhaps draw a new conclusion. Your thoughts, sir.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, Dean, the good news again, in talking, I had conversations with about 30 delegates, 30 nations, and, the good news is that they were very receptive to the idea that their law enforcement, their customs, their army, whoever deals with the drug problem, all three, often are in it for the money. It was a very short walk to get the delegate to say yeah, I can see where the police in my country might want to continue the war on drugs because it makes them a lot of money. And the army, and the customs officers.

I made them all suspect, saying, hey, it's they're all in it for the money, what else is there. They know that if they get 10 tons of cocaine each year, 100 get through, we all know this. So that was the good news, my audience was very receptive to people who want to continue this are in it for the money. And I would urge your audience, when you're talking to people, to emphasize how much the police want to keep this going because of the money.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, we're talking with Mr. Howard Wooldridge, one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He just returned from Vienna, Austria, attending the UN convention on drugs. Howard, you're headed back to DC, that's what you do on a more regular basis, you prowl the halls of Congress talking to Senators and their aides. What are you going to share with them from this UN conference?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, indeed Dean, I just went to a meeting today, there's about 12, 13 of us full-timers who get together once a month to discuss marijuana policy. Happy to report, Dean, in my ten years in Washington, this is the very best by far band of brothers committed to ending federal prohibition of marijuana. And you know, the Senate dropped the CARER Act, and we now have five on board, two Republicans, three Democrats, we're going to be looking for more support int eh coming weeks.

And, just, all good news, even on the Hill, as the libertarian wing and thoughts of the Republican party swing to Tenth Amendment states' rights, we're actually quite excited and a little bit optimistic that in this session of Congress, before the new president takes over, we can pass some significant legislation, I can't exactly reveal what because it's a strategy thing, but we're very, we have good medium to high confidence we can pass some substantial bills regarding marijuana in this session of Congress. Even with the Republican majority, because more Republicans are turning libertarian, like Rand Paul, etc. Governor Perry in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. All right, Howard, I do appreciate it, we'll be in touch here soon. Folks, if you want to invite a former cop or prosecutor, a spokesperson from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, please visit our website, LEAP.CC.

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As I mentioned, there was a debate in Houston sponsored by the Daughters of Liberty. That's a Republican women's group, and I was able to get interviews with three out of the four panelists.

It seems change is afoot, things are happening all around this country. Today here in Houston, Texas, they're having a debate about the legitimate use of medical marijuana. One of the speakers is another of my brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Terry Nelson. Hello, sir.

TERRY NELSON: Hello, Dean, how are you today?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Terry. It is amazing the progress, or the impetus that's just going on now, isn't it?

TERRY NELSON: Yeah, people are starting to think this through, and see that this is the best solution. I read today that 74 percent of the people want decriminalization on it, and up to 56 or 57 percent want total legalization. So we've turned that corner, we just need to figure out how to get it right.

DEAN BECKER: Terry, we have US senators kind of stepping forward, calling for medical marijuana. We've got people putting forward bills here in the state of Texas for comprehensive medical marijuana dispensaries and the whole works. What's going to push this over the edge?

TERRY NELSON: I think the genie's out of the bottle, I think we're going to get it. It's just a matter of, it may be next year or it could be as early as this year, but four or five more states are probably going to go legal this year, and if what the senators introduced, if they tell the federal government to stay out of the states' business, have medical marijuana, cannabis if they choose, it's a no-brainer that the states will then do it once the federal government's not going to prosecute them.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it seems from all corners, red and blue both. You know, we've got Cory Booker, we've got Rand Paul, we've got, people you never would have suspected, a few years ago are stepping forward rather boldly.

TERRY NELSON: Well, I think Cory and Rand have always been pretty much online with it, because Rand's more libertarian than he is a real rightwing conservative, so I'm not surprised on him. I'm a little surprised at the other Democrat that came out, but I think this is, it's going to happen this year because it just makes good sense.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. You're going to participate in this debate here in a shortly, you've got a doctor on your side, a doctor on the other side, you've got a working Houston cop on the other side as well. It will be curious to see what they bring forward, last I heard they were afraid about the longevity of the rabbit population, from the DEA. Your thoughts there, Terry.

TERRY NELSON: You're talking about the poor rabbits that might eat the cannabis out in Utah? Yeah, maybe they'd be happy rabbits, I don't know. That just sounds to me like about the lamest argument you can talk about. I mean, look what happened in Colorado: nothing happened in Colorado. The sky didn't fall, crime is down across the board, so you can't argue with results. I expect to see, I actually expect to see usage of cannabis decrease some next year in Colorado.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, we're talking with Mr. Terry Nelson, my friend, my brother, my ally, from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Another panelist on tonight's debate is former police officer Mike Knox. Tell us your stance in regards to medical marijuana, please.

MIKE KNOX: Well, I think medical marijuana is a red herring, I think it is a incrementalist opportunity to try to legalize marijuana, which is the real issue. And I think that by using this red herring, if you will, this magician's trick, that you damage the real reason for the legislation, which is the general use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

DEAN BECKER: I wrote a book, To End The War On Drugs. My, the name of the first chapter was Incrementalism Is A Killer, because I think with every slow movement, we still leave many of the harms of the drug war in place. It's time to address it as a whole, correct?

MIKE KNOX: Well, I think the real issue is whether we as a society want to permit the use of drugs for recreational purposes. I personally don't want to do that, but if the rest of the country wants to do that, then they need to pass that legislation. So incrementalism does a disservice to the proponents of drug use for recreational purposes, and it also serves as a deterrent for people to really understand the issue.

In my mind, the issue isn't so much medical marijuana, as marijuana in relation to other drugs. If we're going to as a society allow, take the position that people have the right to be stupid, then we should do that, and accept that people are going to make stupid decisions. In which case, there should be no illegal drugs in this country, because the same arguments that apply for marijuana also apply for heroin, methamphetamine, codeine, cocaine, oxycontin, you name it.


MIKE KNOX: Alcohol. Well, we already have the alcohol issue, you know, so, uh, we're already doing that, and of course that's historical, it's been part of our growing economy since the 1700s. But nevertheless, we do allow certain kinds of drugs, and if we're going to allow them at all, we want to allow all of them or none of them. Of course, we're not going to do away with alcohol or tobacco, that's too much of the American culture at present.

But, my opposition in this case is to the incrementalism. I don't think that we ought to encourage people to use drugs, and so I think it should probably remain illegal. And we've got to draw the line somewhere. In any event, I guess the closing statement I would make is that, if we're going to do this, we need to have the debate on the real issue, which is allowing people to be stupid or not, and allowing, whether as a society whether we want to allow people to go to the pharmacy and buy the drug of their choice, for any reason that they choose to do that, or not, and that's the debate that we really need to be having.

DR. ELIAS JACKSON: I'm Dr. Elias Jackson, president of Vyripharm Pharmaceuticals. We are a biopharmaceutical company, focusing on developing drugs to target PTSD, cancer, schizophrenia, and drug addiction.

DEAN BECKER: Can you summarize what you're going to bring forward tonight?

DR. ELIAS JACKSON: Tonight we're going to kind of discuss, you know, the pros and cons about medical marijuana. We're going to talk more on the positives from my side, which is the pro side, on how far seriously ill individuals with cancer, PTSD, drug addiction, epilepsy, how this particular drug can be, in most times, the only drug that actually works for them. And our goal is to send that message and hopefully gather support for that.

DEAN BECKER: Today I was talking to Alexis's father, I can't remember her name, the nine year old girl moved from Houston, uh, from Texas to Colorado. He told me today she's had 18 days in a row seizure-free. I know it's all anecdotal, but how many anecdotal instances do we need, sir?

DR. ELIAS JACKSON: Well, if you look across the country, we're talking hundreds of thousands of individuals who are seriously ill, who find that medicinal cannabis actually helps them, and in some cases, that's the only drug that really allows them to handle whatever disease state they're dealing with. The great thing about medical marijuana is that, we know the end point, we know that it works, we can see that it works, but we don't know the mechanism of action.

So it's important for us to open it up for medical and scientific study, so now we can backtrack and find out what elements are actually involved in neuroprotection, what elements are involved in appetite, to bring back appetite for individuals with cancer. What elements are involved that can give you that release of anxiety for individuals dealing with PTSD. This is very important, and it would be an easy thing to do because we know the end point, now we just need to figure out how is it happening, what is the mechanism of action.

DEAN BECKER: I hear some states are now legalizing CBD only, and limiting that to just children with epilepsy. It seems like a very microscopic approach to medicine to me, when I also hear from others that the THC is of benefit, in particular to kids with autism. So we do need the study, do we not?

DR. ELIAS JACKSON: Oh, absolutely. I'm of the opinion let's open it up, regulate, regulate it, control it, monitor it, take, you know, the criminals out of the system, and now we can focus on actually helping individuals, our citizens, here in the United States and in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it's been a few weeks, a couple of months actually, since we interviewed an author here on Cultural Baggage show, but this week I'm privileged to have with us Christine D. Shuck. She's author of The War On Drugs: An Old Wives' Tale. Christine, why did you write this book?

CHRISTINE SHUCK: Well, we were caught growing marijuana, and we were offered a great opportunity to avoid prison sentence by going through drug diversion program, and as we went through the program, my husband did, but I was kind of by his side in that sense, some of the things that were happening during the drug diversion program were just so ridiculous, that I just, the stories that were coming out of it, the things that were happening. And I, it just, more and more, I wanted people to know what it was like. It was partly to keep my sanity, I guess, during it, and also to, at the end, to share with others, just what is going on in our country.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Christine, I've got some young relatives who got caught up with minor amounts of drugs or otherwise involved in the criminal justice system, and you're right, the, uh, the levies, the fines, the fees, the appointment, the need to report on such a constant basis and to stay, to check all the boxes so to speak every week every month, just becomes ponderous, does it not?

CHRISTINE SHUCK: It does, I think, that, one of the things that comes to mind is, you know, at the very beginning, he was not allowed to work. This actually sent us into a bit of a tailspin, to which the only answer was full chapter 7 bankruptcy. But after he got to a certain point, then, he went through, he ascended to the next level and was allowed to work. And then it was, why don't you have a job this instant? Which was difficult to find, because not only did they expect him to have a job, but they insisted on speaking to whoever employed him.

Which just opens the door to all kinds of corruption on an employer level, in terms of, oh, if you don't do it, you're, you know, if you don't work these extra hours, or something, I'll just tell your parole officer you're not towing the line. The fact that they would actually insist on speaking to his employer was incredibly difficult. In the end, he gave up and he just, he went to school full-time, that was the other way around it, if he was in school full-time they wouldn't expect him to work. And even when he wanted to work he couldn't, because the jobs he was looking for, they certainly would not hire someone who was going through a drug diversion program.

DEAN BECKER: There's a lot more detail to it, right?

CHRISTINE SHUCK: Sure, absolutely. There was, there were fees that we paid on a regular basis, but also there were the daily call-in for your color, and if his color was green, that was his color, then he'd have to go and provide a urine sample. And so you never know when that might happen, obviously, that's the idea of the program. But then that could cause difficulties, if like it's a weekend, he would have to go down to the local jail, which was 26 miles away, and deal with them, and sometimes they didn't have the equipment they needed, they would do a breathalizer and a urinalysis.

And they were like, oh well, we'll just keep you until we have one. And he said, how long will that be, and they said, oh, we'll get them next week. And, it took the intercession of his parole officer, actually, and him calling, please can you call them and talk to them, for them to let him go and not keep him for a full week in prison, uh, in the jail.

DEAN BECKER: And Christine, this brings to mind, that there are so many people that he has to report to on a regular basis, and failure to do so, what happens?

CHRISTINE SHUCK: If you miss calling in for your color, you, the first offense is 24 hours in jail. The second offense is 48, the third offense can actually get you thrown out of the program and sent directly to prison.

DEAN BECKER: And let's talk about this program. This program is designed to put people back on the straight and narrow, right, it's supposed to give them a new chance at life?

CHRISTINE SHUCK: I believe that's the concept, yes. I do believe that they come from an honestly well-intentioned point of view. However, the program is meth addicts, for cocaine addicts, you know, for heroin addicts. These are people who have spent years abusing their bodies and putting poison into their bodies, and they, in many cases, are truly and deeply addicted. But to throw a marijuana user in with addicts is not particularly appropriate. They did do some wonderful things, like life skills, and trying to truly rehabilitate someone who, who is lost in a drug habit.

DEAN BECKER: This is, it just seems kind of Stalin-esque, or overkill.

CHRISTINE SHUCK: I'll agree with you on that one, Dean. It was a difficult time for us, mainly because we were not selling drugs to children, we were not, you know, I've seen, well, the prison time that we were being threatened with, I've seen child molesters get far less. I've seen it. And, so, I'm just kind of shocked that you can, you know, ruin a child's life, for example, and get a slap on the wrist, but my goodness, if you go and you raise a plant that is, to what many people believe – is harmless and possibly even therapeutic, they can't see that as being okeh.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Christine, I, you know, as I say, I have my younger relatives who are kind of caught up in this with paying all kinds of court fees, and, you know, late fees, if that happens. It just seems like, you know, they insist you go out and prosper, then they do everything to keep you from actually reaching that goal. Closing thoughts, Christine.

CHRISTINE SHUCK: Well, I would agree. I think that financially you are punished, and emotionally they treat you like the lowest of the low. They speak to you in that manner, they trust you in that manner, and I don't think that, at least for marijuana, that it is an appropriate way of handling it. I think that they could do a lot better, that if our concern is about reforming addicts, then let there be rehabilitation offered, but not at a cost. That further sinks them into a hole that they are already trying to climb out of.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I remember, I think the quote in the book that I've heard from others, is that they were forced to admit their addiction to marijuana.

CHRISTINE SHUCK: Yes. We were forced to lie, essentially. We were told that the program insisted on honesty, and immediately, they demanded that we lie, by, that if we did not, if he did not admit that he was a hopeless addict, that he was completely addicted to this horrible drug, then he would go to prison, and he was told that he was worse than a child molester by the judge, for refusing to admit his addiction.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Once again, The War On Drugs: An Old Wives' Tale, by the author Christine D. Shuck. All right, that's about all we can squeeze in today. As I mentioned earlier, next week, we will be interviewing Dean Bortell and his daughter Alexis, the nine year old Texas girl with epilepsy who moved to Colorado for the medical marijuana benefits, and has now gone 18 days in a row without a seizure thanks to medical cannabis.

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. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston. Drug Truth Network programs are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.