03/06/19 Judge Gray

Superior Court Judge James P. Gray, (ret) discusses failure and futility of drug war. Tex House Hearing on HB63 Marijuana Decrim with Ronny Moore Asst Police Chief, David Sloan of DFW & Natl NORML, Senior District Court Judge John Delaney

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Judge James P. Gray
Download: Audio icon FDBCB030619.mp3



MARCH 6, 2019


DEAN BECKER: Hi folks. This is Cultural Baggage, I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High, and here we go.

A gentleman who inspired me, going on 20 years ago, through his knowledge, his experience, and his stature. He publishes a weekly release, a blog, I suppose you might call it, Two Paragraphs for Liberty. He is the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs, a book that inspired me some 18 or 20 years ago.

And at that time, I was lucky enough to meet the gentleman who wrote that, a gentleman who became the, I think it was 2012, vice presidential candidate for these United States, my friend, James P. Gray. How are you doing, Judge?

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Dean, good morning, and the last accolade was the strongest for me. I am a friend, and I'm proud to be your friend.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I thank you for that. We had a little bit of, I don't know what you want to call it, disagreement, I guess, to start with, but, a couple of weeks back you had one of your paragraphs for liberty that talked about Mister Roger Stone and how perhaps law enforcement had overdone it in the way they treated him, they way they arrested and, you know, brought him under control, and I disagreed.

You had indicated, sir, that you wanted a more even handed approach for folks like him, that we need to be more respectful, and in heart, I agreed with you, but I also wanted to disagree with the fact that, still to this day, drug users are treated as if they were pariahs, as if they were better off dead in many instances during those arrests.

And we had a little quarrel there, did we not, sir?

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Well, actually, Dean, I don't think so. What I was talking about, without going into the merits whatsoever of Roger Stone's case, he was well known, and so when you need to call attention to a problem in society and this is a big problem, you have to discuss issues that people are aware of.

So, I talked about Roger Stone and the whole institution. You do not arrest somebody, you do not punish anyone until they're convicted of a crime, unless they're either a flight risk, that is, they won't show up for court, or they're a threat, a physical threat or danger to society.

And he wasn't. He was charged with lying and the rest of that, and so I said he should never have been arrested. He was arrested for heaven's sake at gunpoint by 12 armed FBI agents in their SWAT gear, with helicopters overhead and the rest. You know as well as I do that if police forces have SWAT teams, they can only train so much, and then they have to get in their ninja warrior outfits, and you know where a lot of SWAT teams around the country are used? Medical marijuana dispensaries, for heaven's sake.

So what you do is call attention to something that people are aware of, and then as you agree, I said, in my article, that, now, look, we know this happens time and time again to numbers of people around in our society that cannot protect themselves. This shouldn't happen with them either. So I was trying to address exactly what you are, using a rather infamous example, because exactly what you say is correct.

DEAN BECKER: And, thanks for that, Judge, and I've got to say this, that the flip side of that, the horrible treatment of, you know, low level criminals and especially drug users. They're just given this, you know, label that they're just unworthy of respect. I think that plays out so many times.

And, another classic example I hope you did a little studying on was the situation on Harding Street here in Houston going on about a month ago, where two adults and their dog were shot based on shoddy, shoddy police work.

An informant that wasn't there, a warrant that wasn't deserved, a no-knock broaching of the house, and the immediate killing of the dog and a gun battle with the occupants. Five policemen wounded, and it's still unfolding, this fiasco.

But, sir, it represents, I think, what happens every day, many times a day across this country. This belief that drug users are just unconditionally exterminable. Your thought there, Judge Gray.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Dean, when you said, in your prefatory comments, I held a press conference back in 1992, as a sitting trial court judge here in Orange County, California, saying our nation's drug policy is not working and said that we should put our heads together to come up with something better. And I said we can't fail, because anything we would do is better than what we're doing now.

Since that time, and I've been talking about this now for years and years, I say that drug prohibition, the policy of drug prohibition in our country, is the biggest failed policy in our history second only to slavery. And so that is addressing what you just said, that there's so many tentacles, as I call them, as to drug prohibition that are imposing disasters upon our society.

And, you know, just look only at Mexico, where all of this violence, all of this corruption, all of these beheadings, have nothing to do with drugs whatsoever. Nothing, zero. It's all drug money that causes those, and the drug money is causing huge problems in our society here as well.

And then, you get into police, and I admire police, they are a noble profession, but, and as I say, for prosecutors and police, they're required, mandated, to do the right thing for the right reason every time. And if they do that, I will back them up.

Sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes in the spur of the moment they think their safety is at issue, and I can't say that sometimes it isn't, but, if they go off the track, if they do not act professionally, you know, then they should be held accountable.

And they should be trained. You know, I mean, if you were arresting somebody and he spit in your face, your immediate response would be to hit the bastard, you know, but you can't do that because you're supposed to be professional, you're supposed to be retrained. We have a right to expect that. We have a right to demand that. And when it doesn't happen, it should be resulting in all of our frustration, pain, and response.

This cannot happen in our world. Now, it will, but we've got to reduce it as much as possible, and I think it's incumbent upon all of us, Dean, you, me, and everyone that's listening, to take a step toward that direction, firmly.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, and, you know, and we had a brief discussion, I guess it's been a couple of weeks back, when I first objected to your post that time, and I talked about what had happened to me.

There's a house, or actually the house is torn down now, but we called it The Sad House. The cops had a warrant the first time the came to their door. The next five times they did not have a warrant. They often showed up quite literally near fall down drunk, looking for drugs in our house, pointing guns in our face, you know, just terrorizing us without a warrant for those last five times.

And I guess what I'm saying is, that happened back in the '70s. It's happening in the Two Thousand Teens now. It's happening every day across America, and sir, it's not just the cops, you know.

In Houston alone I can recount several, there's been prosecutors caught up in bad decisions, judges demanding more bail bonds so they can get funds from the bail bondsmen for reelection. Crime labs that are fiascos that are way off track. And that's just Houston.

But the same thing happens in cities all across America, every day of the week, and it's always forgiven in the name of drug war, in believing in the potential of this forever war. Your response, Judge.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Well, Dean, you sure convinced me. But actually, I've been convinced quite a while ago.


JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): I would recommend, and I was aghast when I heard of your experience, you know, the idea of this happening is just terribly painful, and its outrageous.

I recommend that people in this position actually keep on their cell phone the emergency number for the FBI. You know, I have thought, if I were to be pulled over by some rogue cop, that I'd call 911, and that's probably true as to a traffic citation, just call them and say there's this rogue officer that's, you know, threatening me with whatever.

But, if you're in a situation like you described, you should tell the officer, okeh, this is my cell phone, I'm calling it right now and I'm calling the FBI, because they should come out and oversee something.

A search without a warrant under those circumstances is anathema. It's the wrong thing in our society. You can't really call that a police force because they planned it and they're doing it, maybe you should call the FBI, and that would be my suggestion.

Body cameras are a really big step forward. If people know that they're being filmed, videoed, the police will act more responsibly and so will the citizens. So that's a good thing all around. And then you'll have, most of the time, I've got to tell you, if there were body cameras, we would find that the police did the right thing under sometimes trying circumstances.

But, if everybody knows they're being filmed, accountability reigns, and many, many, many fewer problems will be experienced, and that's a good thing.

DEAN BECKER: You know, a lot of folks have called for the police chief here in Houston, the one that was in charge during this fiasco here on Harding Street, to be, to resign. But I don't think so, because it's like an impossible task to control the, you know, thousands of officers, thousands of search warrants, thousands of, you know, investigations from a lofty perch.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Got you. You know, I disagree with you slightly on that. Of course it's an impossible thing, Dean, but it starts at the top. You have to train, you have to let your officers know. You know, it can be a wink and a nod that, oh, you know, you have the blue silence, that sort of thing. It starts at the top.

That doesn't mean the chief by any means should know all the details, but, these procedures should be in place and people should know that they'll be upheld if they do it right and held accountable if they don't. So it's a blending.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and there have been two officers that have been fired. The chief now says any no-knock warrants will need his approval before they can --


DEAN BECKER: -- be enacted. And, that any of broaching of the doors from, now on, there will be working body cameras. So I think he's doing the right thing.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Good. And, you know, I'm still remembering in Plano, Texas, where they had all of those arrests and this renegade police officer, it's just --

DEAN BECKER: That's Tulia, Texas.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): -- just inherently awful. And even recently, and you know there was a political race for a justice of the peace in, I think it was Waco, Texas, and the justice of the peace before that put a million dollar bond on every member of a motorcycle club that was in town. I mean, that sort of thing.

You cannot have that. It's going to happen, it happens in Cuba, it happens in, you know, East Germany before and stuff. It's going to happen, but we've got to take steps to reduce it, and, you know, it's our government, Dean, and if it isn't working, we can blame no one but ourselves. We have to be vocal, and we have to be stalwart on this whole regard.


JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): All of us.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, certainly, you're right, judge. Again, we are speaking with Judge James P. Gray, author of one of my favorite books, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment Of The War On Drugs, a now-retired superior court judge out there in California.

Judge Gray, I know you're aware of this. You've got your eye on the ball. More and more magazines, newspapers, articles, are beginning to speak more boldly about the need to end this war on drugs.

More newspapers in particular are latching onto the idea of safe injection sites, that the way to end the overdose deaths is through science and a better perspective. Your response to that, please.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): The thing that people do not look at is quality control, and I say, the term controlled substances is the biggest oxymoron in our world today.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Because as soon as you prohibit a substance, you give up all of your controls to the bad guys, and that means quality of the drugs, which is not that difficult to maintain if it's not illegal. But if you push it underground, you have no conception of what the quality control problems would be.

And this whole fentanyl epidemic now, and it's a killer, is caused by drug prohibition. By the way, parenthetically, I believe, because most of the fentanyl comes in illegally from China and North Korea, and you may remember, oh, probably fifteen, twenty years ago, the Coast Guard intercepted a freighter from North Korea, and it was laden with methamphetamines.

You know, every dictator around the world is making money on this. Erich Honecker did in East Germany, Fidel Castro did in Cuba, you know, North Korea. I believe that the North Korean nuclear bomb program was funded by the war on drugs. I believe that sincerely. I can't prove it, but I'll bet you.

Look at all the harm that drug prohibition has caused, but as soon as you regulate it and control it -- after we finally came to our senses and repealed alcohol prohibition by passing the Twenty-First Amendment, homicides went down fifty percent in our country, nationwide, the next year. I think there's a connection with that.

And you're going to have the same phenomenon when we finally repeal drug prohibition. The problem is, everyone knows that the war on drugs has its quote "problems" unquote, its difficulties, unquote, but we continue with it because we want to protect our children, we want to keep our children away from a lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling. Admirable.

But, do you know that drug prohibition puts our very own children in harm's way for two extremely important reasons that people don't focus on.

Number one, don't take my word for it, ask the next ten teenagers you find. Hey, my son, my daughter, what is easier for you to get, if you want to, marijuana or alcohol, and every last one of them will say oh, it's easier to get marijuana. That's not to say they're doing it, but if they wanted to, they'd know where to go. Why? Because the bad guys, the illegal drug sellers, don't care about, you know, ID. They just care about selling the stuff. Oh, no one wants my twelve year old daughter to get cocaine. Oh sure they do, because they make money on her. So that's a problem.

And then secondly, look, Dean, most young people know, they have aspirations to go into the NBA, or whatever, but they know that there aren't many Kobe Bryants or Stephen Curry's or Michael Jordans in this world, they know that odds are strongly against them, so the best way they can look forward to making any money, big money, is selling drugs.

So, juvenile streets gangs use drug sales as a recruiting tool, for heaven's sake, and I've seen this in juvenile court time and again, and then if you're going to have a fifteen, sixteen year old selling drugs, who is he or she going to be selling to, Dean, you and me? Not a chance. They're going to selling to their twelve, thirteen, fifteen year old peers, thus recruiting more children to this same lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling that we say we want to keep away from them.

And it is caused by drug prohibition. I warrant you, Dean, no one is selling Jim Bean bourbon on their high school campuses today. They could, but there's no money in it. But they're selling marijuana, methamphetamines, and who knows what, all the time. We must repeal this evil of drug prohibition.

Why don't we do it? Because most people, it's been a landslide different now in the public conception of this, and the favor is to repeal it. Why do we not? And the answer is one word: It's called money. And it's big, big, legal money in the government system. You have police forces, the drug czar, for heaven's sake.

When I wrote my book, and thanks again for mentioning it, the same year I wrote my book, the United -- excuse me, American Airlines, no, I'm sorry, United Airlines purchased US Air for something like one and a half billion dollars.

Okeh. The drug czar's budget that year was something like five billion dollars. The drug czar himself could have bought three airlines that year with money left over. You're talking huge amounts of money and they don't want to give it up.

So that's the problem, and it's inherent in our system. It's up to us to show that, to shine a light on it, and show that this is an evil that we're inflicting upon ourselves from every way imaginable.

Other than that, I have no opinion whatsoever.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Folks, we're speaking with Judge James P. Gray. Judge, we're wrapping it up here, but I want to, I mentioned earlier, the newspapers, magazines, they're all starting to speak more boldly about the need for change.

And if, as far as I understand it, every Democratic candidate that's stepped forward so far is calling for the end of the war on marijuana in one fashion or another, and some, like just yesterday, Beto O'Rourke, who hasn't declared yet, but came out with a major email describing the horrible failures of the drug war, calling for legal marijuana, and he says the end of the drug war, which, I guess, is tied in there somehow.

He didn't quite speak of how it would, you know, rob from the terrorists, cartels, and gangs, or how it would stop much of the immigration coming northward, but he had a good list of reasons why we should do it. And I guess what I'm saying, sir, that's indicative of the truth, finally stepping forward, finally being recognized. Right?

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Well, Dean, politicians are really, really good at one thing, and that is followership. They will follow where the votes are. Now, if you look back, George W. Bush basically acknowledged that he used marijuana when he was young and flighty, and he also, I believe, kind of implied that he'd used cocaine.

Clinton, Bill Clinton, of course, oh, said he used marijuana but he didn't inhale, which has been the joke of the century. And Barack Obama, when he was running, I even read his book before he was, while he was running for president, and he acknowledged while he was a student smoking marijuana regularly and even did use cocaine as well.

And when he was running for office, he said, oh, did you smoke marijuana? Yes. Did you inhale? Yes, I thought that was the whole idea. So I was thinking, okeh, once he's finally elected, we'll make some progress. Did we? Of course not. You know, once he gets inside the Beltway, he gets this disease, or a power, whatever it was, and they turn their back.

Even Trump, I believe, was saying during his campaign that oh, the war on drugs is a failure and the rest of that, and then look what happens when they get in office. So, it's up to us, again, to push that level a lot more, justify it, and then get rid of this incestuous problem of money in government maintaining the status quo.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, we've been speaking with Judge James P. Gray. Judge, do you have another book on the horizon? Any closing thoughts you'd want to relay?

JUDGE JAMES P. GRAY (RET.): Probably going to make an electronic book of Two Paragraphs For Liberty, but if people would like to get on my emailing list, send me an email. It's JimPGray@SBCGlobal.net, and request to be on my distribution list for Two Paragraphs For Liberty.

I've also, by the way, just written a new musical called Convention: The Birth Of America. It's about the Constitutional Convention, and of course they had many problems and disputes all around.

What people do not realize, and what's important for us with this conversation, each delegate to the Constitutional Convention believed that the most important function, the most important function of government, was safeguarding our civil liberties and our freedoms from the encroachment of government. Number two was security, so they, that was critically important.

We've gotten away from that now. Let's listen still to the founders, and get back to having our safeguarding of our freedoms and liberties, because that is the soul of our country, and our soul is under attack today by our very own government, really led by this war on drugs drug prohibition.

So thank you for what you've been doing now for numbers of years, Dean. You're a stalwart. We appreciate it. Accolades to you, and for heaven's sake, keep it up. Good luck to us all.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, shallow or absent breathing, dizziness, sedation, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, weak or absent pulse, heart failure, death, thousands of deaths. Time's up! Designed to sedate adult elephants, this drug is one hundred times more deadly than fentanyl, ten thousand times deadlier than morphine. A portion smaller than a grain of salt can be fatal. The drug lord's dream fulfilled: carfentanyl.

On Monday night, the Texas House held a hearing about House Bill 63, which would decrim marijuana.

RONNIE MORRIS: My name is Ronnie Morris, assistant chief of police with the city of Grand Prairie, and I'm here to speak tonight in opposition of this bill.

The Texas Police Chiefs Association, of which -- they've done their due diligence in researching the issue of decriminalizing marijuana and the relaxing of marijuana laws, and compiled the objective data in that packet from states that have previously decriminalized or legalized marijuana and or loosened marijuana laws.

There are numerous myths regarding this issue, and it can be confusing for some and lead them to believe that there is no harm in the decriminalization or loosening of marijuana laws.

This bill seeks to decriminalize quote unquote "small amounts" of marijuana by making possessing one ounce or less a civil penalty. What this bill would effectively cause is desensitizing citizens of this state to the dangers of the harmful, this harmful and dangerous drug, one small step at a time, until complete legalization or decriminalization is achieved.

This has been the MO of highly funded marijuana advocacy groups, which unfortunately have succeeded in the states that decriminalized or legalized marijuana.

One ounce of marijuana can produce forty, over forty, marijuana cigarettes. Until you hold an ounce of marijuana in your hand, I don't think you actually understand what an ounce of marijuana is and the harm that it can actually do to people.

DAVID SLOAN: Madame Chair, members of committee, my name's David Sloan and I'm a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, and I'm also on the local board of directors for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and also on the national NORML Legislative Committee, but I'm here speaking really as myself.

Before I went to law school, I was a law enforcement officer. I'd worked my way up through the ranks, and I'm here in favor of the bill, of course.

Every time somebody comes in here, the naysayers, and they want to talk about cannabis, and how it should be illegal, they can't ever just talk about cannabis. I want you to notice that. They start talking about the banditos, or let's drag in some crack, or let's -- they start, they have to go and find something to mix with the marijuana to dilute the issues and make it, and vilify it, because on the marijuana alone it just doesn't work. It's harmless.

They say, well, heavily funded. Heavily funded? In NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, there's only two paid positions in the entire national organization. How heavily funded is that? We're not funded. We're here because we believe in it.

My practice is over ninety percent defense of cannabis cases. It's insane for me to come in here asking for you to reduce the penalties on this. It's going to put me out of business. But you know what? It's the right thing to do. [applause] It's the right thing to do.

JOHN DELANEY: Madame Chair, members, my name is John Delaney, and I am for the bill.

I am a retired state district court judge. I live in Bryan, Texas. I've been a judge for 35 years. This is my third trip to speak to this committee, first on House Bill 507, then two years later, 81, and now 63. The year I graduated from high school, it's got to be a good omen.

So, I handle child abuse and neglect cases. That's what I do. Three counties. I'm what's called a senior district judge. I'm assigned to these counties. That's what I do all day long. Fifteen, twenty cases.

The people who come before me, the parents of abused and neglected children, have one thing predominantly in common. The common denominator is that they're poor. And the reason that they're poor is they don't have any money. And the reason that they don't have any money is because they don't have jobs. And the reason they don't have jobs, often, is because they have a criminal conviction in their background that happened when they were 17 or 18.

Possession of the drug, and the use and consequences of using a drug, physically, can be bad, but the legal consequences of being arrested and convicted for possessing the drug are far more draconian.

I have enormous respect for these men who wear blue uniforms and a badge and a sidearm, and they're sworn to protect the law. They run toward trouble. God bless every one of them.

But I tremble, frankly, when I think about them exercising their discretion about whether to arrest a college kid and ruin his life, compared to a 17 year old minority kid who is full of attitude and spunk. Which one's going to get taken down to the jail? I'm sorry. They're wonderful people, but they get angry. These are police officers, and they can ruin a kid's life in an instant.

And we're not talking about whether marijuana's good for you or bad for you. We're talking about what the consequence of a low-level possession is going to be. Are you going to go to jail tonight, and get a record for a lifetime? Or are you going to get a citation and a penalty.

There's nothing wrong with this bill. There's everything wrong with the status quo, and this bill would change a little bit of it. It's all good. It's not bad.

DEAN BECKER: Wrapping it up for us, there was Judge John Delaney, speaking to the Texas Legislature. I am Dean Becker, thanking you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I urge you to please check out our website, DrugTruth.net. Thousands of radio shows there for you to listen to. And once again I remind you, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. I urge you to please be careful.