01/06/2021 Maia Szalavitz

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz, author, reporter joins host Dean Becker to discuss forthcoming Video series "Seeking The Moral High Ground" and to kick the drug war in the teeth.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER: Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud misdirection and the liars who support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies and enriches Barbara's cartels and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent, new as games who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is cultural baggage.

Hi, there I am Dean Becker, and this is cultural baggage. The following is taken from a video production seeking the moral high ground. Well, it's been my pleasure over many years now to run into Maya salvage at various conferences and get togethers. If you will. Uh, she's a reporter, a great author. She has several books. I would recommend you read if you want to understand the nature of, uh, Oh, I don't know, drug treatment and, uh, uh, addiction and, and hell life in America these days. Uh, I want to welcome Maya Maya. Hi, thanks so much for having me. Oh, thank you for being here. I it's, uh, you know, this zoom thing has really taken off. I think a lot of folks are doing it. We're trying to outdo CNN with our Becker's buds productions and, uh, I appreciate you being one of the Becker's buds.

I really do. We have in America kind of a wake up call, it started to really rattle the cage. I think once, uh, uh, everybody witnessed the murder of George Floyd, that racism is, is evil. Racism is obvious, and it, it has grown from our, uh, uh, drug policy. It has made it for lack of a better word appropriate, uh, to treat people with, uh, less than proper dignity, because they might be druggies and druggies, or just bad. Your, your thought there, Maya.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, absolutely. I mean, it's no coincidence that the horrible racist stereotype is almost identical to the horrible drug user stereotype, right? That's because our drug laws originate in racist stereotypes and drug laws have been used for Reese's purposes. Now, not everybody who was in favor of the drug war or supporting these laws, realize that that is how they're being used. But in reality, the fact that we lock up a huge proportion of people, of color compared to white people for drug crimes is not an accident. And the fact that as soon as we have a white overdose problem, we want to do harm reduction, kinder, gentler treatment, instead of sending people to prison, kind of us a clue that There is something else going on here.

Right? Well, and, and right there, you'll see in, um, I'm not gonna say every courtroom, but in many courtrooms that a black defendant gets a heinous sentence, whereas a white, uh, defendant might get a probation or a, at least a second chance in some facts.

Well, I can speak to that personally because in the late eighties I got arrested for cocaine and my lawyer being, you know, lawyers always want to drag things out because that works. And so oftentimes I would go for these court appearances and I would literally be the only white defendant. And I would see these people get sent away for really long periods of time. And I didn't. And part of the reason that I've always been so passionate about fighting the drug war has been that that's just outrageous to me, that should not happen. That is not the way justice should be, and it is not fair

Well, and that plays out every day, all day and courtrooms all across this country. Many States are much worse than others. You know, I, I, I think there are those few that were as maybe more balanced, but, uh, there are those States where Texas and Alabama and others come to mind where it plays out the more severely Louisiana. Um, well even maybe more so, uh, that, uh, they, well, they're not called plantations anymore, but they put those blacks out there working in the fields, uh, making money for the prisons.

No, it's really, I mean, you know, Michelle Alexander really got it across well by calling us the new Jim Crow, because that is how our drug was acting. And once we see this, we have to do something about it because it's just not right,

Right. It, it doesn't, uh, it doesn't fit the bill of equal rights in any fashion. No, it doesn't

No will. And also the, you know, if we actually want to solve addiction, if we actually want to reduce harm related to drugs, locking people up is a really stupid way of doing it. It doesn't work. In fact, addiction is defined by compulsive use that continues in the face of negative consequences. So negative consequences if they were going to work, uh, the problem itself would not exist in the first place. So this is just ridiculous. We know that this doesn't work. We know that it does harm. We know that it's extraordinarily expensive and racist. So,

You know, I, I find myself, you know, on Facebook, uh, just really agitated sometimes, you know, I make a meme, you know what I'm saying? Just to post a sign, so to speak out there and just express my opinion to them. One that I think we really need to all think about. And that is the major harms of the drug war are caused by the drug war. And it's, it's like the politicians, I think most of them know this now, but they just, they don't seem to grasp the handle. They don't seem to know how to turn this thing around. It'll your thought there, Maya?

Well, I mean, it's really interesting as somebody who has followed this for a really long time, like in the late eighties and nineties, basically saying anything against the drug war was seen as treason, we were seeing pro-drug evil and you were a bad person. And even suggesting that, you know, we might try doing things differently. Oh, that was too soft. You are going to, you know, cause some kind of disaster. And you know, I looked at the presidential debates for the Democrats this summer or was it last summer at this point? I can't even remember it was last summer. But anyway, the contrast between that and that time when everybody was like, I want to give them 10 years, no, let's give them 20 years. No, let's like execute them. Like it was like a bidding war to make it like even worse. And now we had literally all of the democratic candidates except for Biden saying they want to legalize marijuana outright and that we can't arrest our way out of this and that the drug war is a failure. And so to see them sort of trying to outbid it, I support safe injection sites. You know, you saw like these kinds of things that like in my wildest dreams back then, I wouldn't have imagined democratic candidates saying because they would be so timid and so afraid to be seen as soft on drugs. They didn't care if it wasn't working. It was working for them because what worked for politician is what will get them reelected.

Yeah. And then, you know, and you mentioned the, all of them are adhering to the thought of, you know, legalizing or controlling marijuana in a better fashion, at least except for Biden. And he wants another study. And I want to share this with you. I interviewed my district attorney Kim Augur, uh, and she said, I mentioned her. I said, yeah, it seems like every time a new, uh, a city or locale wants to legal or consider, uh, changing their marijuana laws, they want another study as if the first 10,000 just weren't enough. And that's that kind of is the conundrum or the problem. Isn't it?

What I think is ridiculous here is that like marijuana, in terms of safety, we have a federal Institute, the national Institute on drug abuse, which has literally spent many millions of dollars looking for marijuana related harm. And it hasn't found the stuff that is looking for it doesn't turn people crazy. It does not turn people into, um, people who are addicted to heroin or other drugs. It does not, you know, make you, um, unproductive or unable to live a productive life. Like all of these things. It doesn't cause lung cancer, all of these things that they looked for, they have not found. And it doesn't mean it's, it's completely harmless. Nothing is completely harmless, but compared to other substances is much less harmful. And so when you think about every single FDA approved drug, nobody spends 20, 30, 40 years looking for harms before it gets approved. Like we spend, we do like maybe three clinical trials. And if there's no harm that turns up in those trials and there's no harm that turns up post-marketing we allow them. Um, so to say that we need another study is just to hold it to a standard that is ridiculous. Um, we have had 50% of the population trying it for the last 50 years.

Well, and I'm real proud of my da Kemo when I told her, well, you know, we've already had the 10,000 studies. She said, yeah, we've already had enough studies to choke a horse. So she at least gets it. And you know, I'm proud of that here, here in Texas,

I was actually happy to see that, um, Guidon was saying that like, he doesn't, he does want to reschedule marijuana. Now everybody would prefer if it was D scheduled, but rescheduling is a major step forward because that would really pretty much allow the States to deal with it. Like legitimately instead of just like, Oh, well we'll overlook it the way it is now.

Right now, a little while ago, you mentioned that you had a little balance with cocaine back. When was I right. And I have my Dallin's with a speed, a hell of a lot of LSD back in the sixties and seventies. Um, and, and I guess what I like to point out is, you know, I, I probably, and some folks probably think I'm crazy. I did about 400 hits of acid or payoti or psilocybin or what. I love that stuff back when, uh, I went on to have a great career as a inspector, uh, you know, quality control manager, finally, as a project analyst analyst for, uh, Exxon with, uh, a major project in Nigeria. And I was responsible for $120 million of expenditures. I did a great job. I was much beloved within the company. And I guess what I'm saying is these drugs, they made debilitate you while you're taking them some, you know, and you don't want people out driving on alcohol, certainly. And you know, maybe if you're doing speed for a week, well, you probably shouldn't be driving either flip. The point is it does not ruin your potential in life. It does not. No, you can, you can Odie on some of these drugs, if you're not careful, but in general, taking them is that should not be considered a, a ruin.

I mean, the thing is that we make it into that because if you have, certainly there are drug related harms, you can become addicted and you can overdose in the context of addiction. Even if you have absolutely pure known drugs, as we've seen with the opioids, but the reality is making possession illegal. Doesn't protect you from those harms and making people move from prescription opiates, where at least you have the chance to know the dose and the purity to street drugs, where now it's all contaminated with fentanyls pretty much. And you have no way of knowing if this is going to be a shot that like gets you high or kills you, or does some bizarre thing that you were completely not expecting. So if we, I feel like, and I'm currently writing a history of harm reduction, and I feel like this is how our policy should be made.

The idea should be to reduce harm. The idea should not to be, we must not have people getting high. That is immoral because if that were our goal, we would have to illegalize cigarettes and caffeine and alcohol as well. And we already know that would be a disaster. No, the reason that the drugs that are illegal are illegal has to do with racism and historical contingency, not to do with what's more dangerous. So if we want to save our kids, make sure that they have a chance of surviving their adolescents when they are going to do dumb things, no matter what parents want. We need to make sure that we reduce the harm that they are exposed to. And we don't do this by the current drug policy. It doesn't work. What it does is expose them to more harm. So the way we look at this, we have to take a look at, you know, what are the actual dangers associated with the pharmacology of certain drugs? What are the dangers associated with taking them in certain settings? I eat driving, which is bad and, you know, work at it from there, like look at it as a practical problem. Not a problem of, I disagree with people having honored pleasure.

DEAN BECKER: (13:45)
That is the heart of the other side. If I can sum it up that way, they have this fear that, that drugs are just bad as Nancy Reagan said. And then if you take them harm will come. The nation will crumble. Morals will dissolve. And, and that is where I'm trying to bring focus to bear on our special we're producing that, you know, seeking the moral high ground. All right, this is Dean Becker. And I interrupt to say, you are listening to cultural baggage on Pacifica radio and the drug truth network. I'm interviewing Maya salvage, uh, author of the unbroken brain. We're talking drug war, uh, um, morals, if you will, as part of my forthcoming, a series of videos seeking the moral high ground, which will feature the likes of, uh, uh, mr. Roger Goodman, a Washington state rep, as well as Ethan Nadelmann, former director of the drug policy Alliance and dr. Kristoff Berkey, the pioneer of the Swiss heroin program and the drugs are of Portugal, dr. JL Gullo gonna toss in a name that drug by it's side effects. And then we'll go back to our interview with Maya salivate. It's time to play name

Speaker 5: (15:05)
Side effects. Does your idea of a fun night consist of playing German board games and going to bed at 10, looking at the news because, you know, make you sad, do you get angry? Just knowing that there are teenagers on vine who have made more money in the past two years and you will in your entire life, do you enjoy drinking a beer right after getting home from work? Just a little too much? Huh? If you answered, yes. Even one of those questions, chances are you might have adulthood, a serious condition that affects 7 billion people, 18 and older worldwide. And there's no cure.

DEAN BECKER: (15:38)
Again. This is Dean Becker interviewing author Maya salads. We've waged this drug war for a hundred years, more or less. Now it's just gotten worse and we're empowering terrorist, cartels, gangs, overdose deaths are increasing. Children have easier access than ever before. What is the,

What makes it more

DEAN BECKER: (16:00)
In a year, your response to their Maya salvage?

Sure. So I think that, you know, people have this fear that other people, if given access to things that give them honor, and pleasure will never work, will be lazy, will be unproductive, will not fit themselves into the capital's wheel. Now that's actually generally not true because the vast majority of people want to participate and be productive. And in fact, most people don't end up being addicted because even if they have the most euphoric experience in the world, they're like, I don't want to give up my kid. I don't want to give up my job. I don't want to just spend my whole day and my whole life chasing this thing. However, if your life kind of really sucks, then that thing's going to become overwhelmingly powerful for you and you are more likely to become addicted. So our fears that like all those people can't handle stuff.

I mean, there's some very interesting polling. I think this is from the nineties where they asked people, Oh, if cocaine was legal, would you do it? And most people were like, Oh no, I wouldn't touch that stuff. And then other people were like, then they ask them, well, what do you think about your neighbor? Oh, my neighbor, we told him. And so it's kind of like, we have this idea that like, we have, you know, freewill and responsibility and we are moral, but you can't trust those other people. And until we realize that that kind of moralizing actually doesn't help. Like, I think one of the things that is amazing about harm reduction as an idea is that it flips the moral calculus on its head. It basically says the most important moral value is saving lives. Nothing is more important than doing that. It's not more important to prevent people from maybe becoming lazy than it is to save their lives.

We need to save lives first. And so once you sort of see that and the immorality is not in the, Oh my God, they're going to take this substance and have some fun or do something that's going to make them, you know, not work or not take care of their kids or all these things that we want them to be doing. Um, if instead we're like, well, you know, they can't recover if they're dead. Um, we get that, you know, life comes first. And so understanding that, you know, sure, we really don't want kids like smoking pot in high school when they should be in class. Like, that's really not a good thing, but putting them in jail is not going to increase their educational opportunities, right. Need to figure out why are they doing that? Are they just kids being kids? In which case we need to come up with ways to deal with that creatively.

Do they have some kind of emotional or psychological problem in which case we need to teach them coping skills around that, but we need to realize vast majority of human beings throughout history have taken some kind of drugs, whether it's alcohol or caffeine or mushrooms, or, um, you know, bring your PE in Southern like human beings. Like we have always, you know, we get high in music, we get high on all kinds of things, and that's a good part of human culture. There's nothing wrong with wanting to experience joy. The problem is if our lives are so empty, that the only way we can experience joy is through chemicals. And we have no social connection and no, you know, et cetera. So what we need to be asking when we want to consider problems related to drugs is first of all, is this drug making your life better or worse? If it's making your life better, we shouldn't care if it's making your life worse, we need to figure out what the alternatives are and how do we deal with that instead of being like, Oh my God, you're a bad person because you're taking a drug.

Sure. And, and then, you know, I want to circle back to the one thing you, you mentioned that, you know, we want to prevent these people from killing themselves. And then there's the flip side of that coin. That is, well, at least now they're better off dead. I mean, I don't know that that comes up too often, but you know, the fact that they're no longer suffering with their,

I mean, I think like, you know, the, um, a lot of that comes down to dehumanizing people who use drugs because a lot of people feel as though people use drugs are just worthless and that we can't be good parents and we can't be good at our jobs and we can't contribute anything to society. And, you know, you just think about some of the amazingly famous people who have suffered from addiction. Most people, if you're like, well, Oh, would you want to kill Janis Joplin? Uh, you know, do you want to kill like, um, yeah, I mean, right. Um, you know, should we, um, get rid of F if we got rid of every actor or musician or intellectual that had taken drugs and that had some kind of substance misuse problem, our culture would be very, very, um, much poorer for that. And when you think about people on, you know, I often have this experience when I'm interviewing people who are like homeless and on the street and actively using, and they're really smart and they have stuff to say, and they are talented in various ways. And it's like, what a waste? Like, why are we just throwing away this human talent that we could be using? If we were recognizing that stopping people from taking substances is not a sensible goal just by itself, sensible to try to help people be healthy and to have less harm, but it is not sensible to hurt people in order to help them.

No, my, I know that, um, before we began our discussion, you, you were doing some writing, uh, you, you have written several books. Uh, the one that's caught most people's attention on broken brain, uh, um, cutting, um, extrapolates on too much on what we've been talking about, that, that, uh, taking drugs does not make you a bad person or ineffective or incapable, or, Oh, I have a shirt I like to wear that says, uh, nice people take drugs because it's so true. We were just talking about Robert Downey or whoever, and we just need to walk away from those racial fears and propaganda, the hysteria that was put forward. And that, that seems to percolate up through the halls of Congress every five or 10 years, or at least it did up until about the last 20, but they had to increase the penalties in the, you know, the outreach and the, you know, the, the long, longer terms and, uh, mandatory minimums and three strikes, you know, just on and on just we're going to teach those druggies. And they haven't taught us a damn thing. I don't know. You either thought they're my

Well, yeah. I mean, just like, again, you know, if you're trying to fight addiction, addiction is resistant to negative consequences, so that's a really stupid way of doing it. If you're just trying to fight drug use, you might be reducing people's drug use if you're really horrible to them, but if you're reducing something that isn't harmful, why is this a good idea? You know, I mean, like we might want to eliminate telephone use or something. Um, but, um, you know, it helps people communicate, like why would you really want to do that necessarily? So I think, you know, what's important to realize is that human beings are going to do lots of stuff that other human beings, disapprove of the only place in which the government should be involved is if that is harming someone, if it's not harming someone, just leave it alone and work. We have plenty of problems that are causing real harms to lots of people. And we have plenty of money that we should be going to those things that we are wasting on the drug war.

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and, and that's the heck of it. Most people just don't stop and think about it. We're empowering terrorists. If they're brave enough to grow flowers on a mountainside somewhere we're enriching. These Barbara's cartels that are driving these caravans northward because well, hell they take over those small villages. They, they run the police out of the building and, and become the police, uh, extorting the whole village and little wonder those folks want to come northward. And of course, Chicago is once again, like the prohibition, you know, uh, um, uh, shootout capital of the world, uh, and, and little wonder because this prohibition creates so much incentive, um, to, to control the market, to, to make the profits. And, and I don't know, I'm not going to preach to you, but it just is freaking crazy. Isn't it?

Well, I mean, the thing is that, like, what we really don't recognize is that drugs serve multiple purposes. Um, and so in a situation where people have no jobs and no hope, and a lot of chaos drugs can either anesthetize that for you or they can serve as a job and a source of income. And we are not going to solve this problem by putting people in jail. When the demand, when that's going to traumatize people and increase the demand, the only way to solve this is to provide people meaningful alternatives, and to help people find ways that are healthier of dealing with whatever their issues may be. And also in some cases, they may have no issues and just be having fun. In which case, why do we care? We should not care if people are just enjoying themselves. Like, you know, why should I care if somebody is having fun doing something I really don't like to do. Like, it's like, okay, that's nice for them. Like, I don't want to stop them as long as they're not bothering me. Like please.

Yeah, no one of those means I put up on Facebook when, when you Foria is a crime, the whole world suffers and that's, that's just what we have going on. That's what the agitation of the drug war is all about. Um, well, myself, it's, I want to thank you for taking time to visit with us here on Becker's buds and, and to be part of the seeking the moral high ground. Uh, we hope to have a 90 minute

DEAN BECKER: (26:44)
Special. We're going to release on September 11 with a lot of great names and a lot of great reasons why we should end this madness, but also with an invitation to a Donald Trump, as well as to mr. Joe Biden to come on the drug truth network, tell us why we need to do this forever. Uh, what would you say to those two candidates if you could?

Well, I would just say that our policy should be to reduce harm if we want to not spend money on things that are a waste of time. And if we want to have happier, healthier, more productive people, and we want to have money to spend on things that we all recognize we need to spend money on, then we should stop the drug war. If we want to fight addiction, if we want to help people feel safer, happier, more productive, we need to focus on reducing harm, not on stopping people, getting high, and the best way to make the world safer for people in general is not to prohibit things for which there is a massive and infant thing.

DEAN BECKER: (27:54)
Very true. Well, is there a website or where maybe some of your next writings will be next book you're gonna publish?

Uh, sure. So, um, Maya xe.com has most of my stuff. Um, and I am, yeah, the book is not going to be out for another year or so, but I am just desperately trying to use the darn thing done

DEAN BECKER: (28:14)
Well. Well, thank thank you for your time. My, I hope to see, I hope someday there is a conference we can meet.

Yes, I do too.

DEAN BECKER: (28:23)
Thank you. All right. Once again, I want to thank Maya salivate. So I want to thank you for listening to cultural baggage. And I want to remind you once again, that 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, the third Institute for policy studies,