04/08/12 Richard Lee

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Richard Lee, Pres of Oaksterdam Univ who was detained last week by Federal agents + Bill Piper of Drug Policy Alliance, Hou Chron LTE's w/DTN vs DEA & drug war debate drama

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Transcript

Transcript

Cultural Baggage / April 8, 2012

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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.

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DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. The following segment courtesy of Bay Area NBC out of Oakland, California recorded April 2nd.

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ANNOUNCER: In Oakland today federal agents raided one half of a dozen of medical marijuana businesses this morning. The raids the highest profile by the feds in recent crackdown on medical cannabis. NBC Joe Resato, Jr. shows us what was raided and the prominent Oakland man who’s at the center of it.

PROTESTORS: SHAME, SHAME, SHAME…

JOE RESATO: Amid the chants of angry demonstrators federal agents hauled away bags and boxes of evidence from Oakland’s Oaksterdam University. Several protestors were arrested as the pro-medical marijuana crowd tried to prevent agents from driving away.

The raid started at 6:30 a.m. Agents from the IRS, DEA and Federal Marshals served warrants at one half of a dozen medical marijuana businesses.

WITNESS: I’d say about 15 police officers – DEA, police, a bunch of vans…

JOE RESATO: The agents would only say details of the federal warrants were under seal.

AGENT: It’s an ongoing investigation so we’re not able to provide any details as to what we are doing here today.

JOE RESATO: Leaders of Oaksterdam University, the nation’s first medical marijuana school, say the raids were all connected to the school’s founder, Richard Lee. In addition to Lee’s home agents scoured Oaksterdam’s gift shop, a closed medical cannabis club and Oaksterdam’s museum where Lee operated a medial marijuana dispensary.

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DEAN BECKER: Here they provide a quote from Dale “Sky” Jones, the chancellor of Oaksterdam University.

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DALE JONES: I think they were going after anything and everything that they deemed affiliated with Richard Lee because Richard is one of the leaders of the movement to try to regulate cannabis legally.

JOE RESATO: Representatives said Lee was not arrested and was laying low. Oakland city leaders said they weren’t told in advance about the raid. Some showed up at the scene.

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DEAN BECKER: Next they have a segment from Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland city council member.

REBECCA KAPLAN: We have not had crime or violence associated with our dispensaries and that’s because they are tightly regulated.

PROTESTOR: Why are we wasting our resources on this cannabis club when there are actual crimes being committed?!

JOE RESATO: The raids come amid a growing federal crackdown on California’s medical cannabis industry which Lee was one of the most prominent voices.

CROWD: DEA go away…DEA go away…

JOE RESATO: To his supporters today’s raid were the biggest sign yet the Obama’s administrations crackdown isn’t letting up anytime soon. Joe Resato, Jr. - NBC News.

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DEAN BECKER: You know words cannot describe the outrage I felt earlier this week when my friend, one of the people who I consider to be a patriot here in America, had his home invaded, had his business raided as well. He’s joining us now. Richard Lee, how are you, sir?

RICHARD LEE: I’ve had better weeks but we’re hanging in there.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir, I understand that. Now they raided the University, the museum, couple of your store fronts as well, correct?

RICHARD LEE: That’s correct.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to ask you, Richard, I’ve read that they treated you with some degree of respect.

RICHARD LEE: Yes, they did, actually so…and the fact that they didn’t arrest me is a great thing.

DEAN BECKER: Now did they give you…describe the nature of the charges?

RICHARD LEE: No. I just got the warrant that says it is money crimes and cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: OK. I don’t think this is something that you would normally expect but, in a way, through your efforts it’s something that might have been in the back of your mind.

RICHARD LEE: Well, yeah. For many years we know that we’ve been on the frontline and that we’re in danger but we think that it’s important. We know we need to end this war as soon as possible. We need to stop the violence. We need to get the people out of prison who shouldn’t be there. Get cannabis to those that it can help medically. All the reasons we know that we got to stop this insanity.

So we’re doing everything we can and we know when you look at history that civil rights issues, social issues don’t come easy. Change doesn’t come easy. It takes sacrifice and people have to stand up and risk losing everything.

DEAN BECKER: Now a lot of folks may not know that you are a Houston “home boy”, if you will, but you moved out there, what, 15 years ago to start your efforts?

RICHARD LEE: That’s correct.

DEAN BECKER: What would you like to say to your friends and family…you’re doing alright?

RICHARD LEE: Yes. So far we’re hanging in there and appreciate all the support. My mom is there in Houston (mom and dad) and there are starting a new organization: Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, RAMP and joining Pat Robertson and other conservatives who are more and more realizing that cannabis prohibition is unjust and counterproductive.

DEAN BECKER: You’ve been doing this about 20 years or so and you’re going to step down from President of Oaksterdam and these other efforts in order to, perhaps, better educate people with personal visits, right?

RICHARD LEE: Yes. I’ve done my time on the frontlines. Have done my duty and so hopefully this will free me up to be able to help with the Colorado and Washington state legalization campaigns that will be happening this fall and working full-time on legalization.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve also read that there’s some consideration that you might write a book. You might participate in a TV series. Is that true?

RICHARD LEE: We’re looking to how we can get this story out for more people to see and hear about it. The amazing media response this week and show of support from all over the country…I started getting calls while the raid was still in progress from supporters all over the country. I think it shows that this is a story that a lot of people want to see and hear about.

DEAN BECKER: Again, we’re speaking with Mr. Richard Lee of the Oaksterdam University.

Richard, now the fact of the matter is you’ve had something over 15,000 graduates of OU. They’re going to become spokesmen as well but the sad thing is that Oakland is going to lose businesses. They are going to lose jobs, tax revenues and your vision which helped to clean up that downtown area. Your response, sir.

RICHARD LEE: Yes, that is a sad thing. So many people are going to lose their jobs and landlords are going to lose rent and the city of Oakland and the state of California are going to lose tax revenue but, hopefully, Oaksterdam will survive on just as it did after the Oakland Buyers’ Cooperative was closed in 1998.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Mr. Richard Lee. Any closing thoughts you’d like to relay, sir?

RICHARD LEE: Your listeners, supporters can go to http://change.org where we have a petition up there to lobby the President to end the raids and we could use all the support we can get.

DEAN BECKER: Richard, I thank you for giving me this time. The best of luck to you, my friend, I know it’s going to get better.

RICHARD LEE: OK. Thanks, man.

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(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international greed and corruption, stilted science and immense, unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact…

(gong)

Time’s up!
The answer: The United States immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing, evil addiction to drug war.

All approved by the FDA, absolved by the American Medical Association and persecuted by congress, the cops and in obeyance to the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses and the international drug cartels. 550,000 billion dollars a year can be very addicting.

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DEAN BECKER: Back in 2007 I participated in a debate at Houston Community College. One of my opponents was Stan Furce who then was head of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area here in Houston - in other words, a major player in the DEA’s effort to criminalize drugs.

I was a little surprised when the Houston Chronicle carried two letters to the editor – one from Stan Furce and one from your’s truly. This was in regards to an OPED from Bill King.

Here’s an extract from Stan Furce’s letter:

“I want to express my outrage, indignation and disgust at his intimation that we - who have risked our lives, we who have lost too many comrades in this battle, we who have devoted our lives to enforcing the law of the land, often to the detriment of our spouses and families, we who have led drug prevention efforts across this nation, and we who have saved countless lives from the menace of illegal and over-abused prescribed drugs - are in it for the salaries we receive.”

And here’s an extract from my letter to the editor of the Chronicle.

“Considering the corruption of the drug war, which includes empowering our terrorist enemies, enriching the barbarous Latin cartels and enticing more than 30,000 violent gangs to prowl our neighborhoods selling contaminated drugs to our children, what is the benefit? What have we derived from this policy that offsets this horrible blowback?”

Every day that phrasing seems brand new, certainly unique in this world of drug reform but then I went back to the tapes from 2007 debate…listen up:

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DEAN BECKER: In the early 20t h century corporate heads foresaw gleaming profits in prohibiting the use of certain plants. They claim that Chinamen on opium were a threat to a decent society. That Mexicans and blacks would rape white women after smoking marijuana. That prison or death were too good for users and that the religious underpinnings of these drugs were sacrilegious and evil.

These men of influence and wealth had the contacts to force through laws based on nothing more than rumors circulated through newspapers controlled by these same interests.

The American people were fooled into believing they were saved and that the control and distribution of these herbs and their extracts should be prohibited.

This prohibited drug commerce now exceeds 400 billion dollars per year. Today the U.S., through its drug convention treaties, forces its ideas of Judeo-Christianity and all the attendant drug laws and morals on the whole world.

U.S. media now ignores the ongoing drug reform in England, France, Spain, Portugal, Canada and much of the rest of the world. Research, experience and common sense have shown these enlightened countries that medieval drug laws are simply a mechanism that if left unchecked would someday devour the meaning, the very fabric of liberty.

MODERATOR: Mr. Furce.

STAN FURCE: Only I can say that I’m a Christian. I remember the last supper and I think Christ was drinking wine not doing a doobie – if I remember that correctly.

DEAN BECKER: We all want to stop the drug trade that sends billions of dollars to dangerous cartels in Central and South America every year. We all want to eliminate the reason for which most of these violent street gangs exist, the means by which they buy their high-powered weaponry to shoot up our city streets. We all want to curtail the street corner vendors that sell deadly concoctions to our children. We all want to eliminate drug overdose deaths. We want to cut back on the number of deadly diseases like AIDS and HEP C. Yet after 92 years of failure when the U.S. leads the world in our incarceration rate, when drugs are cheaper, purer and more freely available to our children than ever before, when binge drinking and prescription pill abuse is rampant (many times in order to foil urine tests), when preventable death, disease, crime and addiction are rampant and used as justification for more of the same hopeless policy – we have but to examine the evidence to ascertain that we are 180 degrees off track.

Those in positions of power who embrace the policy of eternal drug prohibition are the best friends the drug lords in Colombia could ever hope for. Their work enriches Al Quada and ensures continual funding for the gangs that prowl our streets.

Drug war is a killer. It is a destroyer of nations and basic human rights. Drug abuse is not a criminal matter. It is a medical problem. We lost the drug war on the day it began.

Let us stop the lies. Let us embrace the facts. Let us do it for the children.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dean. Mr. Furce, please.

STAN FURCE: I’m going to give up and legalize drugs.

There is no “War on Drugs.” There never has been a war on drugs. If there was a war on drugs we would have won years ago if we had applied all our resources but we never have and we never will be.

Joe Biden says the War on Drugs is kind of like his lawn. The lawn is going to continue to grow and unless you mow it consistently it’s going to become a jungle. What we do in narcotic enforcement on supply reduction is we try to keep the supply down by mowing that lawn.

Transform yourself back into time as a troglodyte walking through the jungle with your knuckles dragging and, for the first time, you encounter a chicken. Now, you’ve encountered many other animals but here is your first chicken. All the sudden something drops out of its butt.

Now you know what drops out of most animal’s butts. Now what would make you go over and eat that thing? In this case it’s an egg. What I’m saying by that analogy is people will try to do anything. Who was the first person who dried a marijuana leaf and smoked it?

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DEAN BECKER: I hope you heard the difference. I had put forward facts and, I think, valid information and all he could say was that Jesus “didn’t smoke a doobie” and “chicken butt.”

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[music: Amazing Grace]

DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.

Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it.

It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop. We like it.

It’s left a trail of graft and slime. It don’t prohibit worth a dime.

It’s filled our land with vice and crime…nevertheless, we’re for it.

Franklin Adams, 1931

Through a willing or silent embrace of drug war we are ensuring more death, disease, crime and addiction.

Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and dare not allow their stance taken to be examined in a new light.

But, for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven.

What Houston has done, in the name of drug war, will never be forgotten.

Please visit http://endprohibition.org Do it for the children.

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BILL PIPER: This is Bill Piper, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier this week the Oaksterdam University and its attendant buildings were raided by agents of the federal government…

BILL PIPER: Going after Oaksterdam and Richard Lee is kind of the latest in a series of attacks on medical marijuana and it’s getting worse.

DEAN BECKER: What concerns me is that most of drug reform focuses on a couple of issues – marijuana, medical marijuana is probably 90% of drug reform – is it not?

BILL PIPER: Yeah, that’s probably about right. There is definitely a lot of marijuana reform advocates. Of course it is the most widely used illegal drug and the one that they’re making the most arrests on. But definitely a strong focus on the marijuana stuff.

DEAN BECKER: Bill, I support all kinds of drug reform efforts. I think you’re well award of that. But what concerns me is that all too often the rebuttal, the response to what’s going on is limited in so far as looking at the root cause, looking at the widespread mayhem that’s caused by the overall policy of drug prohibition. Your response.

BILL PIPER: Yeah, I think when these raids on medical marijuana dispensaries happen people talk about how the Obama administration is undermining state’s rights or how he’s hurting patients. People will talk about how it’s driving the industry underground.

What people don’t say a lot is that the biggest winner when it comes to the Obama administration’s attack on medical marijuana is the drug cartels and organized crime who control the underground market. When the administration shuts down the dispensaries and drives people to the underground market that’s just going to increase the profits of the drug cartels who are already making billions of dollars per year off of marijuana prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Bill, I hope you’ve had a chance to see the exchange of letters to the editor, if you will, in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle. There was from Stan Furce, the former head of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area - in essence a big player in the DEA. And I had a response there that I think is ignored by most of reform and I think it’s something that really could help in our efforts if we were to just ask the question which was in the LTE.

I think that’s a question that needs to be addressed to the Drug Czar, Joe Biden and President Obama. I think it’s one to which there is no answer. Your response.

BILL PIPER: Yeah, they definitely can’t answer it because they know the truth that drug prohibition empowers organized crime and terrorists in the same way alcohol prohibition did. It’s transferring tens of billions of dollars per year into the hands of Mexican drug cartels or al Qaeda or FARC or, you name it. Pretty much any insurgent group or any criminal organization in the world is making an enormous amount of money off of drug prohibition.

We just look at what’s going on in Mexico. The War on Drugs there, you know, the last four years has led to the death to more than 50,000 people. Those cartels are making billions of dollars per year off of illegal sales to the U.S. – mostly marijuana. They are using that money to build private armies and to buy missile launchers and to bribe judges and entrap police officers and soldiers on their payroll…Drug prohibition is organized crime’s best friend.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. This is so true. The situation in Oaksterdam gets my gall, I’ll tell you that. The fact of the matter is I consider Richard Lee to be a good friend and, as some of the newspapers said, harmless as a house cat.

He has just been speaking the truth and hoping that others would listen and make use of it, correct?

BILL PIPER: Yeah. He’s an American hero. He’s put his life and his livelihood on the line and he’s raised money for the cause. He’s helping sick people. It’s just disgraceful to see how law enforcement raid his house and raid his businesses and raid the Oaksterdam University and to see the number of law enforcement officers involved from multiple agencies. It’s just shameful. What a waste of taxpayer dollars and a waste of law enforcement resources. Those resources could be used on other things.

DEAN BECKER: There’s no way, I suppose, that the local police or the federal police could have prevented that shooting at a nearby university – killed 7 people. But perhaps if a couple of officers had been patrolling the campus things might have turned out otherwise. Your thought.

BILL PIPER: Yeah, it might have turned out otherwise. It’s not just the federal law enforcement. I was struck by the number of Oakland police that came out to be a buffer between the protestors and federal law enforcement and so Oakland police were wasting their time protecting federal law enforcement from the American people while there was this manhunt for the shooter on that campus.

Oakland police, their time should be patrolling areas and being on the lookout for violent criminals instead of helping federal law enforcement shut down a medical marijuana dispensary. Federal law enforcement could be spending their time differently.

The U.S. Marshal was involved. The U.S. Marshals could be tracking down any number of escaped criminals. Certainly the IRS could be doing other things. The FBI was involved. You just think about all those resources and when you consider that we have all these laptops that justice department has that has child pornography on it and they don’t have the resources to track down where it came from.

You’ve got every major city has an enormous amount DNA that hasn’t been tested. You have rape victims that are still waiting for their DNA test to be tested. In some cases it’s months or over a year and yet all this money is being wasted on medical marijuana which isn’t hurting anybody and is helping a lot of people.

DEAN BECKER: You know I’m certain that it was a 6-month or a 2-year investigation of Richard Lee and Oaksterdam even though the man was as forthright as could possibly be. I’m sure it wasted tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars that, as you say, could have been used elsewhere.

You know, the fact of the matter is the glue that holds this drug war together was spun from whole cloth about one hundred years ago using fabrications and lies. Just a couple weeks back you and I were at a major conference up there in Denver where the future, where the change is coming forward from the Students for Sensible Drug Policy group. Your thoughts about what they were doing up there.

BILL PIPER: If you look at the polling…for instance proposition 19 – that initiative in California in 2010 that would have legalized marijuana – that got about 46% of the vote. But it passed among people under the age of 40. When you look at people under the age of 25 there is an overwhelming support for legalization.

I think that everyone who is a college student now – when their generation is in power – I think things will be a lot different. I think the future really is in their hands.

DEAN BECKER: Those who are working towards medical marijuana, marijuana, needle exchange, all these what I call incremental parts of changing the drug war – I commend them for their work, I support them for what they do but I would ask that they just go a little bit further. Be a little bit bolder and speak of the horrors that we inflict upon ourselves via this overall policy. Your response, Bill Piper.

BILL PIPER: We’re spending time to reduce the harms that drug prohibition is causing like syringe exchange programs, etc. like you were talking about but we’ll be here…I mean, as long as prohibition exists – we’ll be here a thousand years trying to reduce the suffering that it is causing.

Everyone needs to keep their eye on the big picture which is drug prohibition and this idea that we’re going to criminalize people who use drugs and that instead of regulating drugs we’re going to let them be controlled by organized crime. That an enormous number of nonviolent behind bars and we’re going to have an enormous number dying from HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis or drug overdoses and we’re just going to continue to have massive racial profiling in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately whatever it is that people are working on it comes back to prohibition and until prohibition ends we’re just going to be rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

DEAN BECKER: And, of course, until we regulate and control it Shorty Guzman will be counting his billions, the Taliban will be growing their opium and turning it into weapons that kill our fine soldiers.

We’ve been speaking with Mr. Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance. Bill, I think progress is on the horizon. Please, share your website with the listeners.

BILL PIPER: People can go to http://drugpolicy.org to find out more about the Drug Policy Alliance and to sign up for our action alerts so they can contact their member of congress.

I’m usually optimistic. All the polling numbers are going in the right way. We’re up to 16 medical marijuana states. Colorado and Washington state are voting to legalize marijuana in November. A number of Latin American Presidents have come out in recent months in favor of either legalization or in favor of debating legalization.

I think we’re at a tipping point. Prohibition is on its last leg. It’s not going to tip over by itself but the more people join the quicker this thing is going to end.

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DEAN BECKER: Dear listeners as we’re wrapping this up I got to ask you a question. For how long, for how many years, for how many decades will you expect people like Richard Lee to risk their lives, their fortunes, their futures so you can get high?

And, as always, I remind you – because of prohibition – you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

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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.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org