Clay Conrad a Houston attorney discusses drug policy at national, state and local levels, Jodie Emery of Cannabis Culture on Canadian cannabis policy + Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War & Alternet re US cannabis laws
Seattle Sheriff John Urquhart eviscerates drug war logic + Dr. Robert Melameade on forward/backward people
Ethan Nadelmann Exec Dir, Asha Bandele Sr Dir, Lynne Lyman CA State Dir, Tamar Todd Dir Legal Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance Conf on new cannabis laws
Congressman Earl Blumenauer joins Mason Tvert & Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project in media teleconference - whats next at federal and state levels
James Gierach, retired Chicago prosecutor, LEAP board member + Piper Kerman, author Orange is the New Black, Deborah Small, Johns Hopkins Public Health Fellow & Drug Policy Alliance’s Asha Bandele
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Terry Nelson of LEAP on the abject failure of drug war + Houston Chronicle: "Cartel Money Market"
Cultural Baggage / July 31, 2011
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “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.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a couple seconds we’re going to bring in our guest. In fact, I just want to tell you a little bit about him.
He’s been with the Drug Truth Network as a reporter, if you will, serving us on a rather continuous basis for many years now – I can’t even tell you. He took a little over a year off to serve the United States Government again as a Customs or a Border Agent over in Iraq. But he’s back with us now. We’re going to spend the bulk of this program talking about the need for change to these drug laws.
The man I’m talking about…32-33 years experience as a Customs, Border and Air Interdiction Officer. I think he retired as a GS-14 - the equivalent of a bird Colonel. With that I want to welcome my friend, Terry Nelson. How are you, bud?
TERRY NELSON: Hey, good to see you again, Dean. How’s everything going?
DEAN BECKER: Well, it’s going good. Terry, seems like the traction, the gathering of knowledge, if you will, is going strong these days. I don’t know about progress in the state house, the government house, but, the knowledge is growing isn’t it?
TERRY NELSON: Yeah. According to Ethan Nadelmann the wind is definitely at our back now – it’s not in our face. Good things are happening all over. The word is getting out there and people are letting their elected representatives and people know that they’re tired of failure – they want to see some success. After 40 years of failure they think the policies should be changed.
DEAN BECKER: You dang betcha. Terry, now, I don’t know if you got a chance to see it…maybe you saw it online. This past Monday the Houston Chronicle had a major story about marijuana being the money market fund for these barbarous cartels. I actually have a reading of it I’m going to use to close out the show. But, it is again indicative of the fact that, heck, the chronicle 6 or 8 weeks ago had a major editorial saying it’s time to get real on the subject of drugs. More and more of these broadcasters and publications are starting to speak their mind as well, aren’t they?
TERRY NELSON: Oh yes they are. You can’t…many, many of the major newspapers are now carrying it. It’s now on television. Anyone that watches TV at all. ABC has been running the Thompson specials on Mendocino County and the cannabis trade up in there. I saw on the news yesterday a good article about …in Mendocino National Forest they went in and did some big raids up there. They’re just amazed at how much cannabis is growing in the wild in government forest land. The word’s getting out and people are just fed up with policy that doesn’t work.
DEAN BECKER: Well, talking about that bust in the National Forest…I think I read 474,000 plants thus far and they’re still at it. But something that needs to be recognized and I think it’s going to be a major component of the forthcoming change and that is that Governor Brown signed a bill that says next year they’re not going to be able to fund those CAMP raids. They’re not going to be able to fund those helicopters going up into the mountains and it kind of means that next year they will not be able to control the growth of these marijuana plants because they won’t be able to afford to do so. Your response.
TERRY NELSON: Well, they’re not controlling the growth of those marijuana plants now so I know they’re not going to be doing it next year.
DEAN BECKER: (chuckles)
Here’s the thing. The article in the Houston Chronicle was a couple days ago which you said you were going to refer to…They talked about the metric tons of cannabis that’s being grown in Mexico and it comes out to about 47 million pounds they guestimate that’s grown in Mexico. You throw that in with the 10 million pounds of cannabis that the DEA estimates is grown domestically here in the United States – not counting what’s growing up in Canada.
You know, here in America and in Canada cannabis is the leading cash crop. It’s a bigger cash crop than corn or soybeans. So they’re not controlling anything now. All they’re doing is going out and occasionally making arrests and ruining someone’s life. To go out there and waste our assets on a gram or two grams or a half of a kilo of cannabis is absolutely ridiculous. It makes no difference tomorrow in your supply as there is just too much out there to even deal with. This is just another glaring failure of the drug war. After 40 years the production of cannabis has gone up significantly not to even talk about methamphetamine, heroin and coke.
So, no, it’s a total failure. There’s no way you can shine this monkey and make him look good.
DEAN BECKER: (chuckles) Alright, once again, we’re speaking with Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Terry, I was mentioning the publications and today the Houston Chronicle carried an OPED by Leonard Pitts. He based out of the Miami Herald and has been a guest on our show a couple times and I’m going to try to get him on next week. But the headline here in Houston says, “NAACP Joins Call to End Flawed War on Drugs.” And this follows on the heel of just last week, the National Conference of Mayors, a couple months ago the Global Commission on Drugs. More and more groups of stature are starting to throw their support behind this as well, aren’t they?
TERRY NELSON: Well, yeah, but of course our Drug Czar says these people are just misinformed people because he’s the only one that’s informed on this situation. I saw an article today that he is now worried about...all they’ve been talking about lately is prescription drugs. He went down to Florida and talked and he went to Ohio and run around talking about prescription drugs and how big a problem there is. Well, yeah, there is a big problem with drugs in the United States. Everybody recognizes that. And all this really says is, “Yes, and your policy has failed, is not working to reduce the consumption in America and even the legal drugs.”
And then I saw today that it’s a big problem to worry about now that the military guys are abusing prescription drugs. Well, Hello?!
DEAN BECKER: They’re camped in the middle of an opium field…
TERRY NELSON: None of this is new. It’s just …It’s a regurgitation of old facts..not even facts…old fables that they’re trying to put across – almost like propaganda. It they say it 13 times, the rule of 13 – if you repeat it 13 times people will believe it is true. They’ve repeated this lie way more than 13 times and people are no longer believing them. Now they’re just saying, “Yeah. We know you just want to keep your job. That’s about it.”
DEAN BECKER: Terry, you and I and all the members of LEAP don’t want people doing drugs. We don’t want them harming themselves. That’s part of why we do what we do. We want it controlled. We want regulations in place to prevent overdoses or diseases and all of that stuff, right?
TERRY NELSON: Of course. That’s our whole purpose. We don’t condone or encourage the use of drugs but our goal is to try to reduce the harm, the death, disease and destruction caused by these drugs and to get the respect that our police used to have back. Because today our police are not respected and for this reason…well, there are several reasons…you know, you see on a day-to-day basis on YouTube some cop being a real butt-head and somehow forgetting that he’s got a recorder on himself. And goes ahead and threatens people and beats them up, kicks them…The frustration is so high everywhere that we need a complete regrouping and to rethink this. And that’s why I’m a firm supporter Senator Webb’s call for a Blue Ribbon Commission to study the entire criminal justice system in America.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, there’s another problem and …coming back to we don’t want people doing drugs and all this but, there comes a time for common sense and let me reframe this, if you will.
Coca is …I think….cannot kill you. I don’t know, maybe if you ate a pound of it or something - I don’t know. But cocaine is a dangerous, a more dangerous substance…
TERRY NELSON: Excuse me, I think you meant cannabis not coca, right?
DEAN BECKER: I don’t know. Coca, I chewed a bunch of it and it didn’t seem to hurt me. The point I’m getting at here is that cocaine is a much more dangerous substance.
TERRY NELSON: Oh, you’re talking about the coca leaf. Yeah, you’re right. The coca leaf can be chewed pretty much on a regular basis all day long and it’s not much different….I’ve never done it but I understand it’s not much different than drinking caffeinated coffee or tea. And, as a matter of fact, at the American Embassy in Bolivia they actually drank coca tea in the evening at the Embassy. Of course you can’t buy it in America and drink it but you can drink it in foreign countries and that’s OK.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, when I was down there I bought a half of a pound for $3. But let me finish my point here. And that is, coca relatively harmless, cocaine dangerous. But what we have right now is a situation where people are making methamphetamine using, you know, Draino and battery acid and all this stuff – nobody knows what’s in it, nobody even knows what’s in the cocaine – it’s cut with who knows…Lavasa, all kinds of horrible household products.
But let me get to my final point here. Because of the prohibition, people have come up with…instead of marijuana they’re selling this stuff called K2 and Spice and instead of methamphetamine or maybe cocaine they’re selling bath salts and saying that it’s a substitute. I guess what I’m saying here is the prohibition drives us further and further into this oblivion of taking totally unknown products and putting people in even greater danger. Your response.
TERRY NELSON: You’re absolutely right. We only need to look at Portugal’s program and if I may share it with you I’ll read just a paragraph on something that just came out on idpc.net,
“Portugal's holistic approach had also led to a "spectacular" reduction in the number of infections among intravenous users and a significant drop in drug-related crimes, he added. A law that became active on July 1, 2001 did not legalise drug use, but forced users caught with banned substances to appear in front of special addiction panels rather than in a criminal court.”
Now in Portugal in 2001 they decriminalized all drugs. They cannot legalize them because of the United Nation’s treaties. But they have seen a reduction of over 50% and they had 50% of the drug use that we have in America. So, legalization or in this case decriminalization works. We have two models in the world today to show that it works. Our Drug Czar went to Portugal, came back and claimed that it doesn’t work.
So it’s just…you can’t believe anything they say anymore. We have a program that’s country-wide that’s been in effect for 10 years now and it works. No one can contest it – it works. So we should, at least, try something different here in America because what we’re doing doesn’t work.
And, to get back to your previous point, methamphetamine would not even exist today if it wasn’t for prohibition. They didn’t have meth labs cooking this stuff up …you just can’t get the speed of the 20s anymore because of the crackdown on it.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, when I was a kid it was a known fact, no one really cared…you could go into any truck stop in Texas and buy 10 Benzedrines tablets for a dollar. The truckers used them, students used them during exam week…it was just part of life here in Texas. It was the prohibition, or the frenzy in enforcing prohibition that, as you say, led to the bikers making these concoctions out in their garage.
TERRY NELSON: And we didn’t have near the drug use then that we do now. So, prohibition does not decrease drug use, it actually increases the drug use.
We can go back to our old prohibition. Let’s go back to the prohibition of alcohol. Very few women drank alcohol until during prohibition when it became the cool, outlaw thing to go to a Speakeasy, break the law and have a cocktail. That’s when women basically started drinking and that was caused by the prohibition of alcohol. So the prohibition of drugs has done basically the same thing – it has increased the use instead of decreasing it.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, I want to talk about this situation…You live up near Dallas, do you?
TERRY NELSON: I live just south of Fort Worth.
DEAN BECKER: I keep seeing these stories…it seems to be centered in Dallas as I don’t see the stories coming out anywhere else. They’re talking about this stuff called cheese that’s being sold up there. It’s combination of Benadryl and a touch of heroin and yet it’s creating deaths. My understanding of this is that the Benadryl, according to the FDA label, says it’s the cause of hallucinations, coma and death and other possible side effects for children. And they even warn that the effect is greatly enhanced by opioids. Your response.
TERRY NELSON: You’re right. Cheese has been a big problem for about 6 years now in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. There’s probably been, I don’t know the exact number, but I’ve heard DEA agents say 35 to 40 deaths of 12,13 and 14-year-olds.
Cheese is actually an 8% mix of heroin mixed with Tylenol PM or Benadryl and it’s snorted instead of injected. Because you can’t get a kid at 13-years-old to stick a needle in his arm. So the bad guys put it in a powder and they call it Cheese because it’s got kind of a yellowish color to it. And you can get 2 hits of this stuff for 5 bucks – that’s lunch money. And it’s killed scores of young children up here. I have not heard of it being in other parts of the country but Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex has it and it’s killed a lot of kids here.
DEAN BECKER: And with the main problem not being the opioids but the combination of the two drugs. This brings to mind another story that’s breaking out of U.K. Cannabis prohibition there is fueling child slavery. And what happens is these kids get sold by their parents, so to speak, from some of these Eastern European nations into slavery. And part of their duties is to tend marijuana plants, to bring them to harvest. And the fact of the matter is is the kids cannot go to the police because the police hold them accountable for being part of a drug conspiracy. So they’re kind of in a catch-22 and it’s another way that prohibition does not protect our children.
TERRY NELSON: Right. The very people that the drug war claims to protect, and you hear about it all the time, “What about the kids? What about the kids?” Yeah, let’s ask ourselves about the kids. What does a kid do when you bust his mother or father and put them in prison and the kid then has to go live in a foster home or institution.
25% of the prisoners that go to prison today come out of a foster home or institution. 1.9 million kids go to bed every night with one or more of their parents in jail or prison. Prohibition and arresting people for non-violent offences, breaking up the homes, actually harms the very people you’re trying not to harm.
So, there’s no way you can paint the monkey called prohibition and make him good looking. He’s going to be a monkey when you get through with it no matter what. Just gets dirtier every time you look at him because it’s not working, alright?
When you have a strategy that doesn’t work – you change it – and we need to. I would highly recommend something similar to Portugal or even Holland. And I would highly recommend that the heroin program that the Swiss have proven that they have great success with. Let’s treat addiction as a medical problem instead of a criminal problem and let’s stop calling casual use of drugs abuse of drugs because it’s simply not true.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, I end this program with the phrase, “Because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.” And, at least, in Switzerland when they use that heroin, they know what they’re getting. Whereas in America it’s a real crap shoot and it is major cause of overdose deaths, isn’t it?
TERRY NELSON: Yeah, it’s Russian roulette here in America because say you’re used to shooting 6 or 8 % which is what used to be street shot. I’ve been out of the business for a while. So, you’re used to shooting 6 or 8% heroin shot and the guy you’ve been getting from gets busted or he rips off some other guy and he doesn’t cut it right and if you end up shooting 25% heroin there’s a good chance it could kill you. It’s an unregulated and uncontrolled dosage.
What a lot of people don’t know because of the propaganda that’s out there…People can have heroin addictions for 30 or 40 years and function as functioning members of society. I don’t recommend it but you can have a heroin addiction forever and it not kill you. The problem is when you get uncontrolled and unregulated doses – you don’t know what the heck you’re putting in your body.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, a friend…I’ll just say a friend of one of my sons was in jail and the lady got out, did the dosage that she had been doing before she went in and it killed her. This is a situation where we fool ourselves into thinking that this is doing some good. Like you said, Terry, 40 years of trying to convince ourselves that this is a success – it’s time to take another look around.
TERRY NELSON: Well let’s just look at our 40 years of success – as they call it. In Afghanistan, opium poppy production there is something like 400 and some odd metric tons a year – twice the required supply/demand in the world. So the Taliban actually stopped the heroin to try to drive the price up – there’s just so much of it. And bear in mind, we occupy Afghanistan with a standing army and we can’t control it.
Here’s the sad part about that. In Afghanistan what a lot of people don’t know is a social issue. The people, their husbands have been killed in war because they’ve been fighting over there for decades and decades. Since the women cannot work often the women will have small patches of opium poppies to support their families. They’ve got 2 or 3 kids and they can’t go to work because they’re not allowed to work in certain countries. So, this their livelihood – this is how they support their families. And here comes the American military, the coalition forces, the Afghan military and they destroy their livelihood. And she’s sitting on the front of her mud shack with her three kids in her lap and seeing the money for their food for the next year being chopped down by the “good guys” supposedly.
DEAN BECKER: Terry, I tell you what, we do have to wrap it up. I’m sorry about that. We’re going to bring you back soon and we’re going to kick it around again. Once again, Mr. Terry Nelson of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Their website, http://www.leap.cc. See ya, Terry.
TERRY NELSON: Thanks, Dean.
(Game show music)
DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, sedation, unconsciousness, coma, tolerance, addiction, respiratory arrest and death.
This drug, 80-times stronger than morphine and heroin, is available via Schedule II prescription: Fentanyl, for major pain.
DEAN BECKER: A few weeks back the Houston Chronicle came out with an editorial calling for us to get real on drugs and this past Monday they had a major story above the fold on the front page: “Cash Crop of Mexico: Cartel Money Market Fund” And there was a picture which covered about one-quarter of the page of the Mexicans burning 134 metric tons of marijuana. It goes on to say,
“Ease of production, high demand make pot a sure bet for gangs despite the drug’s deadly legacy.”
The piece was written by Dudley Althaus and Dane Schiller of the Chronicle.
“Dateline: MEXICO CITY — But for its problematic pedigree, Mexico's marijuana might be hailed as a marketing miracle.
The much-maligned weed has suffered decades of punishment — burned, poisoned, ripped from the earth by its roots. Customers have been jailed, suppliers battered by literally cutthroat competition. Better products from Colombia, California and countless suburban back-rooms have somewhat eroded its popularity. Governments refuse to make it honest.
Yet, this pot has persevered. Production grows, quality improves and exports northward hum along. Despite decades of U.S. officials' efforts against it, Mexican marijuana remains widely available, frequently used and commonly disregarded as a danger.
"They are never going to stop it," said Dan Webb, a recently retired anti-narcotics lieutenant with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who now teaches drug enforcement at Sam Houston State University.
"It is just like Prohibition," Webb said, comparing Mexico's cannabis trade to the boom in liquor smuggling after the U.S. government outlawed alcohol sales decades ago. "As long as there is a demand, somebody is going to come up with a supply."
Then again, there's that dark legacy. Marijuana sales to American consumers largely finance the gangster warfare that's killed upwards of 40,000 Mexicans in less than five years.
'Commodity of choice'
Though its slice of the gangs' income may be shrinking — the thugs long have profited from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as well as kidnapping, extortion and piracy — marijuana remains a solid bet. Call it the money market fund of the Mexican mob.
"Marijuana remains the constant commodity of choice for the drug cartels because of end user demand and the ease of production," said Tony Garcia, South Texas director of an intergovernmental police alliance that keeps tabs on the illicit drug trade.
"When cartels lose large quantities of other type drugs to law enforcement, their money coffers are replenished through the trafficking of marijuana," he said.
Cheap to grow and relatively easy to bring to market, Mexico's marijuana provides sustenance for entire mountain communities and wide profit margins for the gangsters. One widely challenged U.S. government study five years ago estimated that cannabis exports provided some 60 percent of the gangs' revenues. Other estimates range from 15 to 40 percent.
In addition to trafficking their own loads, gangsters tax competitors moving marijuana and drugs through their territory. Contract disputes usually end in slaughter. Communities through which marijuana is smuggled have become some of the most violent corners of the world.
Acreage devoted to marijuana in Mexico's western mountains has risen sharply as troops once focused on destroying the fields — and those of opium poppies — have redeployed to fight gangsters along the border and in cities and towns.
Reliable estimates remain elusive, the latest U.S. government drug threat assessment notes, but Mexico is believed to be enjoying bumper pot harvests. It had the potential to produce 21,500 metric tons of cannabis in 2008, the latest year analyzed.
A metric ton, 2,200 pounds, of marijuana equals more than 35,000 ounces, or as many as 1.75 million joints.
"The big priority now is to try to stop the violence on Mexican streets," said Duncan Wood a policy analyst at ITAM, a Mexico City university, and several Washington D.C. think tanks. "This may backfire and cause a spike in violence."
In few places has marijuana smuggling proved a more enabling anchor for the gangs than along the Rio Grande in South Texas, where hundreds of Mexicans have been killed as gunmen from the Zetas and Gulf Cartel gangs battle one another and security forces.
U.S. agents captured 364 tons of marijuana last year — about a third of the total for the U.S. Mexico border — on or near the Rio Grande from Del Rio to Brownsville, according to federal officials. They've seized another 184 tons so far this year, a nearly 10 percent bump from the same period in 2010.
Over just 10 days this month, supposedly the low season for marijuana smuggling, Mexican soldiers seized some 19 metric tons of marijuana either on or headed for the South Texas border. U.S. federal agents since early June captured another 10 tons or more of the drug just north of the Rio Grande.
About half those recent seizures occurred near the towns of Mier and Ciudad Miguel Aleman, bordering the Texas community of Roma, where armed skirmishes and terror tactics drove hundreds of families from their homes.
"Marijuana seems to be the principal thing they are moving through the area," said Henry Mendiola, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol, whose duties include stopping illicit drug imports.
While exports barely have been impeded by interdiction, Mexican marijuana's legal status north of the border has been enhanced as cities and states put enforcement to the back burner.
Trends in United States
Fourteen U.S. states now treat low-volume marijuana possession much as traffic infractions. Others like California have legalized marijuana for medical use, a widely winked-at way for recreation smokers to obtain the drug.
"We're making a significant mistake when we think it's just a benign drug," Gil Kerlikowske, the U.S. drug czar, has warned in repeated meetings with reporters.
But surveys suggest at least 11 percent of Americans over age 12 regularly puff from a joint, pipe or bong. Overwhelmed federal prosecutors routinely dead-file possession cases of less than 100 pounds of marijuana.
"It is another example of fooling ourselves, pretending we are doing some sort of good," said Dean Becker, a Houston-based radio host and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which lobbies for legalization, "when truthfully all we are doing is ensuring inflated prices for these barbarous cartels."
DEAN BECKER: I want to thank Dudley Althaus and Dane Schiller of the Chronicle. Check out this week’s Century of Lies features Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance. We’ll be talking about Amy Winehouse and prescription drug abuse. Next week’s Cultural Baggage, Christian Parenti, author of “Tropic of Chaos”. And, as always, I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.
DEAN BECKER: 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.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
The James A Baker Institute
Sun - Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War & Alternet re US cannabis laws
Sat - Phil Smith re Trump nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
Fri - Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War & Alternet re Trump drug warrior nominees
Thu - Clay Conrad a Houston attorney re failure of bail bond system 2/2
Wed - Clay Conrad a Houston attorney re failure of bail bond system
Tue - Clay Conrad a Houston attorney discusses drug policy at national, state and local levels
Mon - Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau weasels on cannabis, Jodie Emery of Cannabis Culture calls him a liar