12/12/10 - Matt Elrod

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Matt Elrod of DrugSense re escalation of drug war in Canada + Vermont state Rep Jason Lorber re effort to decrim marijuana

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Transcript

Century of Lies / December 12, 2010

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The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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You are listening to Century of Lies. My name is Dean Becker. We’re on the Drug Truth Network. We’re going to have a couple of guests for you today. Here in a bit later we’re going to hear from a Vermont State Representative, Jason Lorber.

First up we’re going to hear from Matt Elrod. He’s based in Victoria, Canada. He’s a computer guru extraordinaire. Works for DrugSense and Map Inc. and with that, let’s welcome Mr. Matt Elrod. Are you there, sir?

Matt Elrod: I am, Dean. Season’s Greetings.

Dean Becker: Thank you, Matt. Good to hear your voice. Now Matt, you and I had a talk the other day and jeez, Canada is starting to sound like the United States twenty years ago. They’re starting to sound like they just got their fangs ready to just rip into these drug users right?

Matt Elrod: It is as though cannabis has taken a page from the playbook out conservatives of the eighties and the nineties in the US. They are trying to push through a number of these “tough on crime” bills.

Primarily, it’s a political sort one-up-man-ship and game of chicken with the opposition, daring the opposition too be soft on crime in opposition to these sort of half-baked laws. Among the laws that they proposing is one that would impose mandatory minimums for drug related offenses for the first time in Canada.

Dean Becker: Yeah and for not a hundred plants but a handful. How many are they talking about?

Matt Elrod: When they first introduced the bill they talking were talking about two plants, I think. Then they decided to be a little better and went up to five. So, if you had five or less you wouldn’t trigger a mandatory minimum but – and there was an attempt made by the Senate in the last sitting of parliament to raise that limit up to about two hundred plants.

The Conservatives accused the Liberals of watering down their bill and reintroduced it again with the five plant limit and that is the bill that is currently before the House. Then we have a week to see it and the Conservatives are basically insisting that a number of crime bills be pushed through very hastily in this last week.

Dean Becker: And that’s how it’s always done. Hasty to get it legislated and then reap the bloody harvest for the next twenty years right?

Matt Elrod: It’s a knee jerk reaction almost always. Yeah.

Dean Becker: Yeah and I was going to suggest that, you know, we had also talked about members of LEAP have gone up there. Eric Sterling who worked for Peter Rodino in crafting the US minimum mandatories and so forth to try to convince the Canadians that this is not the road to go down but it doesn’t seem to be having any effect does it?

Matt Elrod: No and the Conservatives that are pushing the bill have actually complained that it’s a waste of time to hear critics of the legislation but it hasn’t been and most of the testimony and I urge your listeners to look it up on YouTube on-line.

We heard from experts in the United State as you mentioned Eris Sterling and others who severely warned us not to go down that road and explain why we shouldn’t. Nonetheless, it seems to have all fallen on deaf ears, as have all the peer reviewed studies and government commissioned reports that have advised against it.

Dean Becker: This brings to mind, I mean, the fact of the matter is that more scientific studies are being presented. More data is being accumulated like the positive results in Portugal where they have decriminalized drugs. The fact of the matter is that California it’s quasi legal if you can go to a doctor and pay that $200 fee. Amsterdam, they’re cutting back on the number of clubs but they’re not going to do away with them.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that a constant ebb and flow going on here that doesn’t ever clear the beach, so to speak, that doesn’t ever give us a clear perspective on what legalization would do to the black market and to its actors. Your thoughts on that?

Matt Elrod: It’s as though the conversation can’t advance point. There are a number of underlying assumptions made in the debate. One is that criminal prohibitions suppress drug use and suppress availably and this just a non-spoken assumption that is often times accepted by reformers. They won’t challenge it.

There is zero evidence to support that hypothesis, as you point out. We’ve been doing an experiment between jurisdictions, between cultures and different law and of course different ways all around the world.

We can see that there’s very little relationships between those laws and usage rates and availability. So, nonetheless that underlying assumption about drug policy is rarely questioned. It almost goes without saying in the debate.

For example, when we talk about legalization our opponents will say, “Drug use will inevitably spiral out of control and the social costs associated with it” and so on and so forth and again that’s completely unsupported by the evidence.

Dean Becker: Right and it’s do you want another drug in the mix?

Matt Elrod: “Add to the mix to the proverbial list,” they say.

Dean Becker: Yeah, as if it’s not there already but yeah and I guess what gives me a lot of hope these days is that the mainstream media is no longer willing to just swallow anything that the government says. That they don’t change it as well and we do on the Drug Truth Network mind you but they are at least starting to challenge some of the basic suppositions, right?

Matt Elrod: I think you are right. Having an integral media awareness project, a drug new clipping service, for what’s it been now sixteen years now, fifteen years. I have seen the trend of improving journalism on the Drug War and some journalists asking tougher questions. Some editorials are asking tougher questions and making painful observations. Yeah, I think there is a general trend in improvement that’s not to say that there still isn’t a lot of bad journalism out there.

Unfortunately, I think more and more people are becoming sort of monocultural. They are just turning on to one TV news network that shall remain nameless for example and not getting their news from a lot of different sources and consequently they are able to maintain their delusion that of drug war victory being on the horizon.

Dean Becker: Now matt you mentioned Matt Inc. its sister organization DrugSense and you guys have, as you say, been at this fifteen or more years accumulating this data. Is it now several hundred thousand documents that have been published worldwide, right?

Matt Elrod: Yeah, coming up on 300,000 news clippings that we have archived on sort of an online library. It’s all drug related news from the English speaking world.

Dean Becker: And matt, what this has been therefore – what is hoped that it will do is to give other reformers, perhaps newbies, if you will, getting into understanding the futility and horrors of the drug war and that they begin to write letters to editor, use some of the facts that are available through the archive of Map Inc. to craft letters to their congressmen or other elected officials, correct?

Matt Elrod: That is one of the primary objectives and always has been to encourage people to write letters to the editor and to correct the bed journalism and praise the good journalism.

I would like to think that we have helped in pushing along that trend toward higher quality journalism over the years through hour letters to the editor and educating editorial boards and journalists.

Dean Becker: And this brings to mind, again I was speaking about it earlier that there is some hope that the major media is beginning to get it, beginning to open the dialog so to speak and there was a great and recent publication of The Nation, which had on its cover “DARE to end the war on drugs” and it had many fine writers in there outlining exactly why. Do you want to talk about that publication?

Matt Elrod: Well that was quite extraordinary and I noticed that they did an interview with the Drug Czar, the US Drug Czar which is available on a podcast if you want hear it.

Surprisingly, he was asked a lot of very difficult questions, mostly pertaining to the recent developments south of your border in Mexico.

Yeah and he tried to put on a brave face but simultaneous to that was the Wikileaks with the candid documents coming out of Mexico and the US admitting that the Mexican Drug War is not getting any better.

Dean Becker: Right, there was even the reference to the Vice President of Afghanistan. I think he was going to Saudi Arabia and the customs found $54 million in his suitcases, which he couldn’t explain and they him go on through.

Matt Elrod: Uh huh, yeah.

Dean Becker: It just shows the power and the influence that the drug money has that through the magnitude it just keeps working its “wonders” does it not.

Matt Elrod: Yeah, I’ve often wondered when Obama got his first briefing taking office in which they told him about Area 51 and the hoax moon landings and all the others top secret stuff they have to brief presidents about when they take office. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Yeah. (Laughs)

Matt Elrod: Among the things they have said was, “By the way, we can’t end the Drug War because it will ruin the economy of the third world we’ll no longer be able to fund black ops.” You know, I think that the economy, the underground economy, sort of takes precedent over the more lofty goals of protecting kids from drugs that we are sold on.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: It’s so corrosive and so corrupting that entire governments become gangsters.

Dean Becker: Well, I often wonder how many politicians – how many contributions to politicians are laundered back north if you will, to maintain this because it’s a – I’ve heard it said $70 billion a year invested in the United States to stop the flow of drugs and worldwide people spend $385 billion, that according Anthony Placido, Assistant Head of the DEA $385 billion to purchase these drugs. It is a big money machine, is it not?

Matt Elrod: It is. It is almost alchemy that you can make plants that are literally weeds worth their weight in gold.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: And that’s a sort of economic law that you can’t fight against whether you are coming from the Left or the Right, there’s also facts and –

Dean Becker: And you know, Matt, to me a prime example of the stupidity of this product that is out there now called K2 or “spice” is just some chemical, made in a factory and sprayed on the guiana of whatever that stuff is, that fake weed and they sell it for up to $50 a gram. So, again this fake weed product is worth more than gold because we are so afraid of these flowers. It’s crazy

Matt Elrod: It’s more harmful for you than cannabis.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: Plus, as fast as it can outlaw it they’ll tweak the recipe of it and they will have to start again. It’s just the drug providers are always two or three steps ahead of the countermeasures. There is almost a rock solid law that no matter what we do it makes matters worse. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Well, that’s the real conundrum. I mean, the fact that so many millions – hundreds of millions of people cannot see the utter futility of this and are unwilling to even reconsider and look at the facts. It’s just how it’s supposed to be and they are not going to listen, right?

Matt Elrod: We have in hard economic times suddenly on our side and that has a way of sobering people up, when you have to get out the credit card to pay for your futile cannabis eradication campaigns.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: That has a way of smarting people up. We had gangland shooting in Vancouver last night in which ten people were injured, two critically and when I think the public begins to connect the dots about what is in the drug shooting it was a prohibition related shooting, then perhaps, you know, again people will sort of sober up and realize that we can’t afford to legislate morality.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Matt Elrod: You know and they are surprised to be paying for it.

Dean Becker: Yeah, ok friends, once again, we are speaking with Matt Elrod of Map Inc. and DrugSense. Matt, please share your website with the listeners.

Matt Elrod: My website is drugsense.org and from there you can find our blog and links to the aforementioned news clipping service and all sorts of tools and information and about what we do and how we can help you.

Dean Becker: Alright Matt Elrod, thank you so much. We’ll be talking to you in the New Year and happy holidays my friend.

Matt Elrod: Have a good night, Dean.

Dean Becker: Ok.

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(Acoustic guitar music)

This is how it started
It’s not hard to understand
From coast to coast
They’re lying at a CEO’s command

From Nationalist Public Radio
CNN and NBC
Big Brother is spewing propaganda
From the disinformation industry

They say the economy is booming
We hear the homeless beggars cry
They say we help poor countries
We see bombs falling from the skies

Reality doesn’t exist
They’re trying to say
But some of us decided
There is another way

Seize the airwaves
Seize the time
Because lying to the people
Is the real crime

When it’s all owned by corporations
And there’s is the only word
We will seize the airwaves
Speak freely and be heard
We will seize the airwaves
Speak freely and be heard

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(Traditional Christmas music)

Billions and billions flushed away
No one knows just why but do it everyday
The drug lords smiles
The cartel thrives
The gangs come out to play
Oh tidings comfort and joy…

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Dean Becker: Alright, that first bumper was Mister David Rovics, the gentleman that most – many folks call Democracy Now! with a guitar. We do have with us a State Representative out of Vermont Jason Lorber, are you with us sir?

Jason Lorber: I am.

Dean Becker: Hello Jason. Thank for joining us here on Century of Lies.

Jason Lorber: Well, thanks for having me on.

Dean Becker: Jason, I saw a piece that caught my attention the other day and it was written by you talking about strong support for decriminalization in Vermont and nationally. Why don’t you tell us about the framework of that piece?

Jason Lorber: Absolutely, well we’ve been talking about decriminalization in Vermont. Right now we have a very limited medical marijuana law but one of the exciting pieces is we have a new Governor, a Democrat that ran and actually talked about decriminalization of an ounce of marijuana or less and this is strictly for possession.

He and I were on a panel discussion together before the election. So, this was a solidified position. So, I’m excited and hopeful that we can get decriminalization this coming year or this biennium.

Well, and you know the fact of the matter is that I have a phrase that, don’t take this wrong, but incrementalism is a killer. We have across this country a hundreds, a thousand organizations working incrementally on one small portion of fixing this drug prohibition problem.

I guess from my perspective, I support each of every one of these people and what they do, but it is the incremental nature of undoing this hundred years of prohibition that’s going to cause more disease, more destruction and more death if we are not careful, if we don’t move a little quicker. Your thoughts there, Representative Lorber?

Jason Lorber: Well, that argument is certainly a valid one to say, “Let’s go for it all or we’ll take nothing at all.” I don’t share that view.

I know that that same argument was used – I’ll draw an analogy – to marriage equality and Vermont was the first state that ushered in domestic partners – civil unions rather. We created the term and after we did that that became the new bar.

Suddenly you had Conservatives saying, “We don’t want gay marriage. We want civil unions.” And it just changed the dynamics of the landscape. So, now we have thirteen states that have some form of decriminalization.

If that becomes the standard and everyone is used to that moving towards legalization, I would imagine, would be seen in a different light.

Dean Becker: Don’t get me wrong, sir. I don’t mean to disparage these folks or hat I am 100% right. I’m just saying that there is the flipside of that coin that the longer that it takes to undo these harms, the more damage that will happen. Let me ask you this, sir.

Marijuana has now been decriminalized and medical marijuana has been set in place now in fifteen states, now if I am right, Arizona and there hasn’t been an increase in well, there’s deaths certainly deaths certainly associated with marijuana. There hasn’t been an increase in crime or children’s access or any of these other portended horrors that have delayed this progress. You thought on that, please.

Jason Lorber: Well, one of the things that we’re looking at is decriminalization. When we are talking about decriminalization, we’re not really looking at the medical marijuana piece but rather what is the experience been in other states.

If we can then point to the facts, and I believe that we can that after decriminalization in other states there was not seen to be an increase in crime or even marijuana use if we had decriminalization.

Then the question is why are we using police time, court time, time from our district attorneys, time from our defender generals, time from our prisons and parole officers? Then the case is largely a fiscal one. Why are we spending this money on a failed policy?

So, what we’re going to – what I’ve done this last week, I realized a report that I have been working on with the number crunchers in Vermont government. This is an unbiased, non-partisan group that’s just part of state government. We turned to them and said we need some numbers, we need some research and can you please quantify for us – and this is what I did back in May – I said can you quantify that the true costs are for police, courts and all the stare government going after folks, Vermonters, who are caught possessing one or two ounces of marijuana.

What they did was they just asked all of the different departments how much are you spending. It turned out to be $700,000, which in Vermont is a lot of money because we’re a state of only 620,000 people.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Jason Lorber: So, you also have some people in Vermont that are raising the arguments like, “Well, we don’t really prosecute it” or “It’s really usually not that much of an issue.” Well, the fact of matter is that we are sending over a person a week to prison for this crime.

We are arresting over 800 people a year just for possession of one or two ounces of marijuana. So, now that we have those numbers I think that’s going to change the discussion, plus the fact that we have a new governor who is willing to sign this legislation.

Dean Becker: This wonderful news that a Governor could be intelligent enough to have delved into this to have formed his own opinion rather than just taking the hand me down from the prior generation of elected officials because that’s the really what stymieing that slowing down progress more than anything.

I think that many politicians fail to look at the evidence and realize that it’s a win/win. If they are willing to speak the truth that there are willing people willing to fight them on trying to curtail the death and disease and the violence, right?

Jason Lorber: Well, a big portion of the equation is what does the general public think? This has to do with excuse the pun, the grass roots politics, when we commissioned this – there was a study that was commissioned in January 2009 that asked Vermonters about what they felt about decriminalization.

It had overwhelming support more than 2-to-1, 62- 67% supported this including 49% of Republicans versus 41% Republicans that oppose this.

So, you have support from republicans and others throughout the state. I believe that is going to be a big tipping point and it also allows politicians to be more courage and out there.

Dean Becker: Well, friends, once again we’re speaking with Jason Lorber. He’s a State Representative in Vermont. Jason, I want to talk with you about the numbers and helping people to step away from their old agenda and old stance taken. In Texas there was a Zogby Poll done in regards to medical marijuana.

It was 76% in favor of and yet we don’t have a referendum here we don’t have a means for the people to put this on the ballot to bring it to the fore. I think there are similar numbers all across this country that people realize it is not the danger, it is not the threat that was purported to be some hundred years ago. Your response, please.

Jason Lorber: Well, people need to do the work and to step out and say yes this is an issue that I want to spend a little time and energy and potentially some political capital but again many politicians are blinded by their past experiences and people say that first impressions are hard to shake. Well, if your first impression is, “Marijuana, you can’t talk about that” then people just shy away from is and are scared of it.

What people need to realize is that times have changed. Public opinion has changed and we also have a better understanding of marijuana and that it’s not what these 1950s films say marijuana is.

The challenge is for politicians to shake off those old ideas and to recognize reality that there’s not only a diminished rift for them to do this but there’s actually a political upside, because this a popular stance that Americans and people in most – I’m not familiar with the polling data in Texas but I am in Vermont that this is politically a popular issue.

Dean Becker: Right and I think that the point of it is. I’ve talked to a few Texas State Reps and so forth and State Senators. They get it. They understand it. It’s such a legacy in that it’s just hard to go against a hundred years of going back to Sam Rayburn, you know, blast Sam Rayburn out of the saddle for what he said back in the US Congress for what he said. It’s a whole history of “belief”.

Jason Lorber: Change is hard and it takes energy and you’ve got to fight entropy and we’re going to do it. Again, to draw an analogy back to the marriage issue, people were very concerned.

Vermont was the first state in the country to legislatively enact gay marriage that means other states it was through their judicial system. Their state supreme courts would say, “You have to have gay marriage.”

Well, in Vermont we did this as members of the legislature and it was a highly contentious, as you can imagine. People was very worried about losing their seats but the fact of the matter is, almost everyone who supported marriage equality was reelected, including our new governor who ran very strongly on this issue.

Dean Becker: Wow.

Jason Lorber: So, I would guess the same is going to be with marijuana, that it might seem like a scary issue.

Dean Becker: I’ll tell you what Representative Lorber, we’re out of time. I’m going to be calling you next year. I want to kick this around again. Thank you so much for your time.

I want to ask the listeners out there to do their part. You know that’s what I really – that’s what motivates me is that maybe this week that I encourage one or two or ten or a hundred people to do something, to write a letter, to get involved, to participate in changing these stupid and failed laws and to bring an end to this madness as I have said so many times before.

Jason Lorber: If folks have thoughts you can find me on Twitter @VermontJason.

Dean Becker: @VermontJason?

Jason Lorber: Yep.

Dean Becker: Ok. We thank you so much Jason. Happy holidays to you, sir.

Jason Lorber: Ok, you too.

Dean Becker: Alright, my friends, as always I remind you. There is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this Drug War to exist and it is really up to you to do your part to help bring an end to this madness.

Please, visit our website: endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker. Asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

Drug Truth Network programs, archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com

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