01/08/12 Phil Smith

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Phil Smith, reporter with Drug War Chronicle re top 10 Domestic Drug Stories + female pot user/snitches dead because of police ineptitude + Jr. Drug Czar Kevin Sabet

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Transcript

Transcript

Century of Lies / January 08, 2012

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DEAN BECKER: 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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[music]

DEAN BECKER: Darth Drug Czar…you’re a coward, a liar, demon and thief. Seems you can’t face the truth for just one hour…too busy looking at peeeee…

Dean Becker, DrugTruth.net

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DEAN BECKER: Alright friends, welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m glad you could be with us. I want to talk about the fact that in this age cops can’t do the job of enforcing the drug war without corrupting, without involving us and without involving our children, if you will.

The fact of the matter is that I object to the fact that they often recruit youngsters to do the job that they should be doing. Here’s a little story that tells us more about that.

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DEAN BECKER: The following is courtesy of the Associated Press.

Tallahassee, Florida - Tallahassee city commissioners approved a $2.6 million settlement Friday in the wrongful-death suit of a 23-year-old Safety Harbor native police informant who was fatally shot during a 2008 drug sting.

The parents of Rachel Hoffman, 23, sued after her death, claiming police were negligent in setting up the Florida State graduate as an undercover informant after she was caught with marijuana and pills without a prescription.

Rachel Hoffman was shot five times after police lost track of her during a purported drug deal in a rural area north of Tallahassee. Her body was found 36 hours later in a roadside ditch in Taylor County, roughly 50 miles away.

Deneilo Bradshaw, 26, from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and his stepbrother-in-law Andrea Green, 29, are serving life sentences for Hoffman's murder.

Hoffman, of Safety Harbor, was working for police in a "buy-bust" operation and had been sent alone with $13,000 in marked bills to buy Ecstasy, cocaine and a gun, according to records. Instead, the men killed her and stole her car, a credit card and the marked money.

Prosecutors said Bradshaw drove Hoffman's Volvo with her body in it to Taylor County, where he dumped it in the ditch. He later cleaned the inside of the car with bleach and went with Green to Orlando, where they bought jewelry and clothes with some of the marked money.

After her death, the Florida Legislature passed "Rachel's Law," requiring police to adopt policies to protect informants.

Tallahassee police had fired the investigator who was supervising Hoffman, though they later reinstated him. A Tallahassee grand jury that had investigated Hoffman's death found police negligent in sending her out by herself and letting her out of their sight.

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DEAN BECKER: Next, from the Detroit News January 6, 2012…

Three days before a local teen died, she made a decision that might have cost her her life.

Shelley Hilliard, 19, a transgender woman, was about to be arrested for possession of marijuana Oct. 20 when police offered a way out, according to testimony during a court hearing Thursday. She could set up a drug deal.

With the police listening on speaker phone, Hilliard used her cellphone to call Qasim Raqib, telling him she had someone (an undercover agent) who wanted to buy $335 worth of cocaine and marijuana, according to testimony during Raqib's preliminary examination Thursday in 36th District Court.

When Raqib arrived at the Motel 6 in Madison Heights 20 minutes later, police arrested him.

Raqib, 30, of Detroit, was released several hours later. Three days later, the mutilated body of Hilliard was discovered ablaze in the street on Detroit's east side.

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DEAN BECKER: This is an editorial comment.

The Drug War is designed to protect our children until they become 17 when they become “meat” for the drug war grinder.

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[music]

DEAN BECKER: He’s the Drug Czar waging eternal war on our free will….

How do you sleep at night, Gil?!

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, this is Dean Becker. You’re listening to Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network. The comment I made there is very serious. I have zero-tolerance left for the machinations of this Drug War and I hope it’s starting to wear pretty thin with you as well.

I know it is with our guest, a reporter from Stop the Drug War, Mr. Phil Smith. How are you, sir?

PHIL SMITH: Fine, Dean, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. Phil, I know you follow those stories of our youngsters set up by these cops, lead to slaughter, so to speak, right?

PHIL SMITH: Indeed. In fact I wrote about those two stories. I put them both together in one story noting that if Michigan had had a law like Rachel’s Law perhaps this young woman would still be alive today.

It’s unfortunate but the standard police practice across the country to make these small busts especially when it’s a kid they can intimidate and scare with tales of decades in prison and being raped by burly prisoners and they turn them into snitches and leave them to the mercy of criminals. It’s outrageous.

It’s also an indication of one of the problems with drug law enforcement. Drug law violations are not crimes where someone is directly wronged so there’s no complaining party. They have to create the snitchers to go in and make the deal to bust people because otherwise they wouldn’t be arrested. It’s a crying shame.

DEAN BECKER: It is, indeed. Well, when we first talked and I’m sorry if I’m getting us off track but I was just so outraged, Phil.

We’re here to talk about the top 10 domestic, U.S. drug policy stories of 2011. You want to start us off on that?

PHIL SMITH: You betcha, Dean. There’s a lot going on last year. I think probably the most interesting and important thing is the progress we’re making towards marijuana legalization.

I want to start out with an organization near and dear to your heart, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. One of the things they did was to get President Obama to respond even though he didn’t say he was for legalization but he did say that it’s an entirely legitimate topic for debate and that he believes in a health orientated approach.

Before LEAP’s intervention legalization was “not in the President’s vocabulary.” Now we’re glad the President learned a new word but would be more impressed if his actions matched his words. Later in the year the Obama Whitehouse clarified that it still opposes marijuana legalization.

But also in D.C., at the Capital, for the first time ever we had a marijuana legalization bill introduced by Ron Paul and Barney Frank. Now the bill hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing or otherwise advanced in the legislative process but this is something that takes years. It’s not going to happen this year but this is a first step and it’s got 20 co-sponsors so far.

The sad news is that both Ron Paul and Barney Frank are going to retire after this term so someone else, a new generation, is going to have to pick up the baton.

DEAN BECKER: Well, let’s hope Roger Goodman gets elected because he might be a good replacement.

PHIL SMITH: Jared Paul is in there too or if Dennis Kucinich can find a seat to run for, he’ll be there.

Throughout the year there are indications that the support for legalization is rising. We saw the Gallup poll, for the first time, support for legalization hit 50%. That’s a historic high for Gallup. We had an Angus Reid poll hit 55%.

Not every poll has marijuana legalization over 50%. Another poll, CBS, showed 41%, I think, but that’s sort of a downside outlier.

DEAN BECKER: And outstanding numbers compared to a decade ago.

PHIL SMITH: Indeed. The increase has been dramatic.

Then we can look at the state level. It looks certain now that Washington and Colorado will have marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in November. The groundwork for that was laid last year. Organizations in both states did really impressive jobs of first fundraising and B, signature gathering to get huge numbers of signatures – well above what they needed to make the ballot. It’s not official yet. The state bureaucrats in both states have to validate the signatures but both initiatives are well-positioned to make the ballot.

Then the question becomes whether they can win. According to polls recently it’s going to be a close contest. They’re both polling at around 50% but initiative experts will tell you you want initiatives to be polling at 60% when you start because you’re going to lose some in the process.

So it’s going to be a nail biter this year seeing if we can get these two initiatives over the top.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Phil, one of the top 10 domestic drug policy stories you have was the synthetic panic and I want to talk about that because despite the fact that the nature of these over-the-counter products have been determined in states and now the federal government are working against them, there’s an obvious out or was around these laws. Do you want to talk about that?

PHIL SMITH: Well, you just make new drugs. That’s what they are legislating against this year. In fact synthetic cannabinoids, fake pot, and synthetic stimulants, the stuff they call bath salts, are now criminalized in 40 states and they’re now criminalized federal by a law that was passed at the end of the year.

The problem is - just like they had to play catch up with these drugs they’re having to play catch up already with a whole new round of synthetics. There’s a lot of synthetic THC molecules you can spin off and people are doing precisely that.

So when the state-level prosecutors actually bust someone and try to prosecute them half the time they find out they don’t have a case because the stuff they busted isn’t illegal.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Phil, this frightens me a lot. The fact of the matter is that as they reach out to find new combinations of molecules they could find one that’s dangerous. That is more dangerous than the hard drugs they’re trying to replace. Your thought?

PHIL SMITH: Look at the synthetic pot. We have a perfectly good herb that we use to alter our consciousness. If we didn’t have marijuana prohibition there would be no market for synthetic marijuana.

And, you’re right, it’s an artificial chemical. It’s not a natural plant product. It doesn’t contain all the other chemical compounds that natural marijuana contains. And people do report some unhappy reactions with it.

DEAN BECKER: To me it boils down to we can chase this idea of prohibition forever but I don’t think there’s an end to it other than calling some sort of truce.

PHIL SMITH: That’s what we see with the prohibition of these synthetics. It just leads to a new round, a new escalation, newer drugs some of which, as you point out, could be more dangerous than the ones that are currently around.

DEAN BECKER: Do you want to move on to the next of your top 10? “The Drug War on Autopilot”

PHIL SMITH: We keep arresting a whole bunch of people every year. We did so last year, about 1.8 million. I guess the good news is the numbers are no longer increasing. We seemed to have reached a plateau. But the bad news is that plateau is 1.8 million drug arrests. That’s a horrendously high number which leaves us with the world’s highest prison population although that is also now starting to decline slightly - at least in the states.

The federal government, the federal prison system is a different story. It continues to grow fueled almost entirely by drug law violations and I have to add immigration violations. We’ve got more drug offenders and immigration violaters than violent criminals in the federal penitentiary system now.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, how long can we afford all this? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

PHIL SMITH: Well, we can’t. That’s part of the reason our federal government is in deep debt and it’s part of the reason state governments have their budgetary problems as well. Unlike Washington states have to balance their budgets and so that’s why you’re seeing…In the past decade you’ve seen some sentencing reforms and they’re beginning to bite a little bit and that’s why we’re seeing the leveling off and, actually, a decrease in the state prison populations.

DEAN BECKER: I want to talk about the next in your top 10 domestic drug stories and that’s “Congress reinstates the federal ban on funding needle exchanges.” Now I’m here in Texas and that state has never allowed it. We had a law that was passed but not quite and nobody allowed it to happen. So we don’t have any such needle exchange going on here so that’s going to costs us some lives and some complications for other families, isn’t it?

PHIL SMITH: Indeed, across the country Texas is unfortunate that it’s so unenlightened in regards to harm reduction practices that it doesn’t allow for needle exchanges. Those are a proven means of preventing the spreading of blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hep C. And they lives. And they save money for taxpayers.

Now it took years and years to get the federal ban undone. It happened a couple of years ago when the Democrats regained control of congress. Two years later it’s evaporated again. It’s really a defeat. It’s a defeat for the public health. It’s a defeat for common sense and it absolutely is going to cost lives.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Next up on your list, “US Drug War Deaths.”

PHIL SMITH: This is a project I took up at the beginning of last year. When I first started doing the Drug War Chronicle I asked how many people get killed in the Drug War each year. And there’s no answer because no one is counting. Well last year I decided to try counting and I took very strict criteria. They had to be deaths that were directly attributable to drug law enforcement.

We came up with more than 1 per week including three police officers, three law enforcement officers – 2 marshals and a Florida police officer.

Some of these people died in drug raids. Some of these people died as a result of undercover operations. Some of them died in traffic stops gone bad. Many of them - now this interests me – many of them were homeowners in their homes who picked up guns when someone broke down their door.

It seems like we have a real clash between our drug laws and our gun laws and we end up with people who are doing what they are told to do – defend your home – and you end up being shot dead trying to defend your home from the police. It’s a sad state of affairs.

DEAN BECKER: If I might interject a thought in here, Phil. This young lady in Detroit that was murdered for snitching – do you think she’ll make the list for next year?

PHIL SMITH: Well, she won’t make my list because she doesn’t’ fit my criteria. She didn’t die directly as a result of a drug enforcement operation. She died because the guy she busted decided to kill her.

She’s an example of the way my very strict count undercounts the people who die because of drug prohibition. There’s another case in California. It was a kid who was at somebody else’s house. He was tripping on ecstasy. The house got raided. He tried to hide in the bathroom. He fled. They tracked him down. He got in a fight with a U.S. Marshal so he was charged with assaulting an officer. He was on parole. They came looking for him for a parole violation. He ran away. They killed him in his car. This guy won’t make my count. This is a person who would be alive if not for the Drug War.

DEAN BECKER: Sadly too many of those incidental or ancillary cases of involvement and death and destruction…

PHIL SMITH: And we’re already off to a bad start again this year. Just a couple days ago in Ogden, Utah there was a SWAT team raid of an Iraq War Vet with PTSD who his father says was growing pot to self-medicate. When they busted his door down he open fired. He wounded five of them, killed one of them.

He was later arrested and injured. They didn’t say he was shot. They said he was injured. Reading between the lines he was probably beaten up by the cops after they caught him after he killed their buddy. That was the first drug war killing of 2012. It didn’t take long.

DEAN BECKER: No. And they will continue until we just stop and examine.

PHIL SMITH: That’s right. That’s one of the reasons I made this list. I’ll do a report one of these weeks on what it looked like last year – what kind of incidents people died in.

DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is that we reached a peak of people being arrested, people being behind bars a year and a half, two years ago, I guess it was. But the numbers have come down a bit and a small number of those coming home were the federal crack prisoners. Do you want to talk about that?

PHIL SMITH: A couple years ago…I guess it was last year, congress got around to passing the Fair Sentencing Act which reduced but did not eliminate the horrendous sentencing disparity between crack and powder cases. It took one hundred times of powder coke to get a mandatory-minimum sentence as it did crack, 25 grams of crack.

The Fair Sentencing Act changed the law, reduced the disparity down from 100:1 to 18:1 which is progress but not really scientifically justifiable. It should be 1:1. But we had all of these thousands of people doing federal prison time already for crack offenses.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission decided to make the sentencing changes retroactive meaning it effectively cut the sentences of lots of these people and they began walking out the doors of federal prisons in November - about 1800 of them then. There’s probably about some 12,000 people who will see sentence cuts from that and get out months or years sooner than they would have.

DEAN BECKER: This is, well, I’ve heard the term used: Drug War, a luxury we can no longer afford. I think that will be more obvious as the next couple of years come by and the fiscal demands stare us in the face.

Another one that seems preposterous to me is they’re wanting to escalate the number of people being tested before they receive unemployment and other government benefits. Talk about that, please.

PHIL SMITH: The drug testing of people seeking welfare or unemployment or, in some states both, has become increasingly popular especially among conservative Republican politicians as both a character-building and a budget-saving measure.

It’s a move that resonates with people. People say, “Well, I have to get drug tested for my job why shouldn’t these people who are getting tax dollars get drug tested.”

I understand that position but it betrays an understanding of our Constitution. Our Constitution provides us with protections from our government. The government can’t just search you for no reason and that’s what a drug test is. That’s what the courts have ruled. It’s a search. It’s a form of search.

Unfortunately for workers in the United States the Constitution doesn’t provide them with protection from their employers. They work at the will of their employers unless they have a union negotiate a contract that protects them.

So it’s arguably unconstitutional for the government to require welfare applicants or recipients or unemployment applicants or recipients to submit to a drug test before receiving benefits.

Last time that was passed and tried it was thrown out by the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals up in Michigan about a decade ago. Florida actually passed a bill this year and the ACLU got a preliminary injunction which is a good sign. So that program has been frozen.

Now these bills get introduced in different states but they very rarely pass because of these kind of objections. So, in a way it’s a lot of political theater and I hope it stays that way. I hope we get a final ruling out of a Florida court and it isn’t appealed or if it is appealed we continue to win.

DEAN BECKER: Alright friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Phil Smith of StopTheDrugWar.Org and of the Drug War Chronicle. He’s the only reporter I know that is as busy as me or, if not, busier reporting on this drug war. Lots of news and information you can share there.

Phil, I like to think that what I do is really to educate the listeners and in your case to educate your readers, to embolden them, to encourage them to do their part to end this madness of drug war. Is that your underlying reason?

PHIL SMITH: We want to educate so they will activate. We don’t just them to know stuff. We want them to act on that knowledge. On our website we have all kinds of tools for people so people can take action.

We have a legislative center so you can look up your state and see what’s going on with these issues. We have forms for you to contact your legislators.

Nothing changes in our political system unless we make it change, people.

DEAN BECKER: Phil, you’re aware of this. I’m going to play just a little bit of this from Kevin Sabet. He was a junior Drug Czar and he might still want the job. I don’t know. He’s no longer working for the ONDCP but he sure sounds like it. I’m going to play just a little clip and we’ll come back with Mr. Phil Smith of StopTheDrugWar.org.

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DEAN BECKER: The following comes to us courtesy of NPR.

ANNOUNCER: A group trying to legalize recreational marijuana use in Washington State turns in their signatures. And on our call-in news line right is Kevin Sabet, a former senior advisor to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief.

KEVIN SABET: We know from independent research form the Rand Corporation and other think tanks that legalization would instantly lower the price of marijuana and therefor increase use especially among kids.

We’ve seen the disastrous attempts of legalization form tobacco or alcohol and we know there’s increased promotion in advertising and we just know that more marijuana use isn’t good for any community.

We have prescription drugs which has more controls on it than you can imagine but their use far outweighs of the use of other illegal drugs. Same with alcohol. We have DUI laws, which we should, but the sheer fact that it’s legal and available, advertised and promoted makes it widely used and even with the best kind of restrictions around it will increase the costs of harms.

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DEAN BECKER: There kind of lies the heart of what it is. They object to the potential for abuse. They say that things will just get worse if we were to tax and regulate. Phil, your response – what are they doing there?

PHIL SMITH: Dean, I’m sorry to report that I didn’t hear a word of it.

DEAN BECKER: He was basically saying that if you tax and regulate it people will still abuse worse than ever before and that we’ll just go to Hell in a hand basket if we were to legalize it. That’s just been the mantra, the playbook of these drug czars and the drug czar wannabes for decades now, hasn’t’ it?

PHIL SMITH: We’ve never tried legalization – at least not in the past century. If you go back one hundred years or more you will find that before drug prohibition we had lower levels of drug use than we have now. Yes, we had some abuse. It didn’t seem to be as much of a social problem as it is today though perhaps because the abuse was located mainly among middle-class, white women as opposed to dark skinned, young men.

Mr. Sabet has also been making a lot of noise lately about how we need moderation in our drug policy debate as opposed to extremism. Well, I would like to counter argue that prohibition is exactly what an extremist approach to drug policy is.

It’s like saying, “We can’t deal with this. We’ll just forbid it.”

That’s an extremist approach.

DEAN BECKER: Phil, I got to interrupt you. That extremist approach is what got those two young girls killed as well. Those cops could not solve this problem by themselves so they had to enlist teenagers and young girls to go out amongst armed criminals to do the job.

Phil, real quick, your website, please.

PHIL SMITH: http://wwww.stopthedrugwar.org

DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, that’s Phil Smith of Stop The Drug War. Thank you, Phil.

I want to issue a quick challenge to my listeners. How do I approach, what actions should I take in trying to sway the opinion of U.S. Congressman Ted Poe to change his stance in regards to the Drug War.

I appreciate Phil Smith being with us. I urge you to check out the most recent Cultural Baggage which features interviews with Ron Paul and, as always, I remind you there is no truth, logic, no reason for this drug war to exist. 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.

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

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org

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[music]

He’s the Drug Czar.

Wages an eternal war.

On free will.

He knows all. The Drug Czar knows all.

He’s in charge of the truth.

So he tells nothing but lies.

He professes great sorrow for the thousands of his minions who died.

He’s the Drug Czar waging his eternal war on our free will.