04/22/12 Deborah Small

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Deborah Small of "Break the Chains" + Robert Platshorn leads "Silver Tour" to educate elders about weed + Tribute to Willie on 420

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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / April 22, 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: Man do we have a busy set of shows for you this week. I urge you to tune in to Century of Lies which follows next on many of the Drug Truth Network shows. We are going to be interviewing former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson who’s seeking the Libertarian candidacy for U.S. President.

A bit later in this show we’ll hear from Robert Platshorn, the author of the “Black Tuna Diaries.” - a gentleman who spent 29 years behind bars for smuggling weed into the United States.

But, first up, I’m proud to have with us the director of the Break the Chains organization. A lady whose courage and commitment just makes me proud to know her and with that I want to go ahead and bring in Miss Deborah Small.

Debra, how are you doing?

DEBORAH SMALL: Good afternoon, Dean, how are you? It’s wonderful to be with you today.

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. I’m going to ask you to really get into that phone as it’s not coming in too clear. Deborah, first off, tell us about Break the Chains.

DEBORAH SMALL: Break the Chains is an organization that’s committed to advocacy and engaging communities that have been disproportionately impacted by drug law enforcement. So, in the U.S., that’s primarily black and brown communities and to engage them into becoming advocates for ending drug prohibition and replacing the failed drug war with alternatives that are based on science, compassion and human rights.

We really believe that the War on Drugs is a complete failure as a policy to address the problems of substance abuse. But what it is is a success of a policy at marginalizing and continuing to hold a whole group of people in poverty.

DEAN BECKER: Deborah, please stay in that phone. It’s fading on us here. I hear you but I hope the radio audience can as well.

Deborah, the fact of the matter is that these truths which you recognize, which you try to bring forward to debate and to bring forth change are becoming more obvious on a daily basis to more and more Americans, to more and more people around the world, are they not?

DEBORAH SMALL: Yes they are. I believe they are. In fact I think that what’s true and becoming more and more evident is that for the majority of the public they have reached the same conclusion that we have – that the War on Drugs has failed and that, quite frankly, the idea of having a War on Drugs is a futile one because more and more people realize that what we call the War on Drugs is really a war on our own people who may or may not have substance abuse problems.

But I think that the principle problem that we face is that inspite of the fact that the public agrees with us we are living in a time where increasingly government has proved incapable of responding to the needs and desires of the people and that’s not just an American problem that’s a global problem.

When you look around the world you see that all of the major uprisings have in common this frustration that people feel with the fact that their governments are not doing what they want them to do and, instead, are serving the interests of others – primarily corporate interests as opposed to the people’s interest.

DEAN BECKER: Deborah, there were a couple days after 420 here that across America, heck around the world, that people held celebrations in favor of the weed, so to speak, and I spoke yesterday here in Houston here at a gathering and on stage I don’t carry notes or anything and I found myself wondering into the thought that 75% of Americans think that the drug war is a failure and yet there are so many reasons – mostly of being ostracized – that prevent people from speaking up at work, at church, in the neighborhood, at school, anywhere. That discussion is somehow taboo despite the horrible ramifications. Your response, please.

DEBORAH SMALL: I think that’s true. Increasingly I’ve been thinking a lot that the kind of situation that we face around drugs in the U.S. is very similar to where we used to be 20 years ago around people who were gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual who also felt like that they had to live closeted lives for fear of the stigma that was attached to engaging in behavior that was criminalized in many parts of the country and even in the places where it wasn’t heavily prosecuted it was certainly very much marginalized and looked down on.

I believe that in the same way that one of the things that really help shift attitudes in this country about this was when people started coming out voluntarily and folks realized that people that they knew, that they felt close to, that they had relationships with actually were gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual. I think that the same is true with respect to drugs – that many, many people in their lives that use drugs responsibly that because of the criminality and stigma attached to it they don’t know about it.

I think that on a certain level it’s going to require a generation of us being willing to come forward and face all of the things that come along with that in order to create an environment to have policy be reflective of what people already know to be true.

DEAN BECKER: Deborah, are you, by chance, using a speaker phone?

DEBORAH SMALL: No, I’m not actually and this is probably the best phone that I have. Maybe if you might want to call me on my iPhone it might be a better reception.

DEAN BECKER: It’s coming through good now. I just ask you to stay in there. We want to hear what you say, Deborah.

DEBORAH SMALL: Unfortunately I live in one of these weird cell phone areas where, again, everyone has multiple phones in their houses but no one wants to have the additional technology in the neighborhood that you need to support all the phones that we have.

DEAN BECKER: You were talking about people being bold enough to talk about their experience, to talk about progress made despite, you know, drug use and it brings to mind for me that the last three Presidents of the United States were known drug users.

Obama snorted that coke and smoked that weed and said he enjoyed it. That was the point. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve used drugs, a lot of them in my youth, still occasional use them and the fact of the matter is I’ve succeeded quite well as an accountant, an auditor, project analyst and, even though it don’t pay, as a radio host. I guess the point that I’m getting at is that fear is the prime mover. Fear is the job of the drug war, isn’t it?

DEBORAH SMALL: I’m not sure that I think it’s fear. I think a lot of it is that it’s rooted in hypocracy. To be honest I think that our behavior about drugs and drug use and drug prohibition is very similar to the behavior and attitudes and experiences that we had with alcohol prohibition in that almost all of the Presidents who were President during alcohol prohibition drank. And people knew that they drank.

Harding came in as President at the beginning of prohibition and they maintained the illusion of being teetotalers but it was well known that alcohol was regularly served at the White House at dinner parties and other kinds of social events. And none of the people who were running the country, who were the elites at that time, really believed that they had to discontinue drinking during the period of prohibition. If anything, they just did it more privately. And, yet, at the same time they supported enforcement that was focused on immigrants and low-income people and bootleggers and the people that supplied the liquor that they were happy to buy and drink.

To me we have a very, very similar situation where those people who are the elites in our society use drugs. They use all of the illicit drugs. They know that they use the illicit drugs. They know that their friends and family use the illicit drugs. But the issue of the drug war is not really about that. It’s about using it as a smokescreen for being able to criminalize certain portions of the American population.

I say that they are the people for whom we don’t have a role for economically. We don’t have the jobs for them. We don’t want to invest in them. So it’s easier to either warehouse them in prisons or send them off to war or otherwise marginalize them. By calling them drug users we can forget about everything else they may be – whether they’re unemployed, undereducated, without decent health care or whatever. None of that matters once we call you a drug user that’s all you are.

DEAN BECKER: It’s a big blanket that’s covering too many people. That’s for sure.

Now it brings to mind that the mechanism of drug war puts that stigma on people but what it also does is enable police to shortcut what were previously civil rights, basic constitutional rights. It keeps whittling away at those rights – all “justified” in the name of drug war. What happens is that now in this other eternal war, the war on terror, they’ve taken many of those same tactics from the drug war and applied them to the war on terror to cover all of us for non-drug-related issues. That keeps escalating. What I’m trying to say is the impetus to continue eating away at our rights, using the drug war, using the war on terror to frighten us into submission. Your response, please.

DEBORAH SMALL: It’s interesting because I listen to you and on one hand I think it’s true but on another hand I think it’s not true. In the sense that for the people of color, you know, we never had rights that were recognized by law enforcement to begin with. So it’s not like we needed the drug war to whittle away rights that we didn’t have.

If anything, the War on Drugs has codified a process of criminalizing black and being able to justify having them on the targets of law enforcement and surveillance and arrests. In that respect what the War on Drugs has done, in a way, I agree with Professor Monique Gweneer who says that historically blacks have been like the canary in the mine for America. If you want to have an idea of what’s in store for the country you should look at what’s happening to poor, black people.

And so to the degree that the War on Drugs has precipitated I would say the increasing cohesion and melding of the military industrial complex with the prison industrial complex that that thing is now no longer directed at just ensnaring poor, black people. It is also growing like a cancer to ensnare increasingly poor, white people. It’s one for whom society does not have a clear place for or want to invest in.

Again, once you use the frame of criminalization you can apply it to anyone. So when I look at the kind of books that are coming out now by Charles Murray who talks about the declining white working class and their lack of moral values and the degree to which their behavior is starting to become more and more like inner-city people of color. I’m like, “Whoa, they’re setting these people up for being criminalized too.”

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. You know, Deborah, I think about from the time I was ten-years-old to now (let’s say 50 years) the police when I was a kid were basically nonexistent. The crimes compared to now were basically nonexistent. The prison industrial complex was a drop in the bucket compared to what it is now.

Have we become that much more evil? What is the glue that holds this process of “lock ‘em up” together? Again, I got to come back to the word fear.

DEBORAH SMALL: I think it’s the combination of punishment and economic change - those two things. This belief in America that if you have not made it, if you are poor then you must have done something wrong. And that that something wrong should be punished as a way of getting you to change your behavior and that somehow that behavior change will cause you to become more successful.

So there’s that one frame of thinking that we’ve had in this country for a long time that’s coming up against a period of rapid technological and economic change which has ended up with the displacement of huge segments of the population. We could go one of two ways in addressing that – that economic displacement of change.

We could say we are going to invest in people. We are going to respond by coming up with a massive program of education and retraining and public jobs to make sure that people are employed and have a decent standard of living or we could say, “You’re on your own.”

The way that you justify having people be on their own in that circumstance is to begin to call them felons. To say that the reason that they’re in this situation is because of the criminal things that they do whether it’s using drugs or skipping out on school or not paying their debts or whatever. All of those things have now become crimes that are punishable by many, many things including incarceration.

Then we have a whole other set of punishments that we add on to people once they’ve been incarcerated that guarantee that we really don’t have to do anything for them because they’ve been permanently felonized.

DEAN BECKER: Deborah, we’ve got 2 minutes left here. I want to just kind of get a summation from you. You’re out there in the Bay area. You understand what’s going on as far as the medical marijuana wars. What do you see on the horizon for California or maybe some of these other states considering legalization?

DEBORAH SMALL: I was just at an event yesterday that was dealing with those issues. It was called the Deep Green Festival. A lot of people were there talking about that. One of the things I was saying it that I think that as a movement we need to become a bit more sophisticated in both our analysis and our strategic development in the sense that not everything that the government does is because they are drug warriors whose only goal is to crush us. Some of it has to do with geo-political issues like the kind of criticism that they are getting from Latin America about the fact that we judge their prosecution of the War on Drugs while we allow for legal marijuana here. That’s embarrassing for the U.S. and they don’t want to admit that they are wrong.

But it’s also the fact that if you look at where we started with medical marijuana in California, for instance, which was focused on being non-profit enterprises that were supposed to be primarily for the service for patients that’s not what has happened. They are very much motivated by profit.

So not really thinking about developing a market that was going to be consistent with the intent of the law people left themselves open for the government charging them for being criminal enterprises. So what we have is this massive federal crackdown that allows them to clear the way for big business to come in and take over medical marijuana by not really thinking strategically about developing public/private partnerships with health providers and others operating in an above-board, non-profit way and really developing the broad-based public support that would have it be more than just activists who show up when the government comes to close down a dispensary.

DEAN BECKER: With that we’re going to have to close it out. Deborah Small, please share your website with the listeners.

DEBORAH SMALL: http://www.newdrugpolicy.com People can reach me at my email, Deborah at breakchains.org. Please go to our website and sign our petition to President Obama asking him to initiate a national conversation on ending drug prohibition. That’s at http://www.newdrugpolicy.com/

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Deborah Small.

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It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!

Side effects may include next day drowsiness, dizziness and headache. Sleepwalking and eating or driving while not fully awake with amnesia for the event have been reported. In rare cases, severe allergic reactions can occur.

{ gong }

Time's up!

The answer: [rooster crows] Two-layer Ambien CR

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DEAN BECKER: On Friday, 4/20 at 4:20 p.m. an 8-foot statue of Willie Nelson was unveiled in Austin as a tribute to this perinially pot smoking outlaw.

[music]

WILLIE NELSON: Roll me up and smoke me when I die.
And if anyone don’t like it just look ‘em in the eye.

I didn’t come here and I ain’t leavin’
so don’t sit around and cry

Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

Just roll me up and smoke me when I die.

[speaking]

I wanted to thank Austin. I want to thank Texas. I want to thank everybody for this wonderful day and all my friends here helping us celebrate.

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DEAN BECKER: Will you still love me when I’m 64? Well that’s fixin’ to happen this October. A lot of us are seniors, retired, getting up there in age and there’s a Silver Tour going on down in Florida which involves the author of the “Black Tuna Diaries.” A man who spent 29 years in prison for his youthful indiscretions, Mr. Robert Platshorn, is here with us today. How are you, sir?

ROBERT PLATSHORN: I’m great. Thanks for having me on. I love your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you, Robert and I appreciate what you’re doing. You have the occasion to work with one of the friends of the Drug Truth Network, one Mr. Irvin Rosenfeld whose joining you on that Silver Tour, right?

ROBERT PLATSHORN: Irv is with me on the Silver Tour. He has been since I came up with the idea a year and a half ago. We did some small shows and now we’ve been doing big shows. We’re very likely to be going to different parts of the country to support some of the bills that are on state’s agendas this year.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about the Silver Tour. This is the demographic that perhaps knows about medical cannabis but it’s not something they focus on or really care about. What are you guys doing to change that attitude?

ROBERT PLATSHORN: Well, actually it’s a generation that knows about cannabis but not medical cannabis. Here’s the story. A year before last I was out in Seattle appearing at the Seattle Hempfest. I was doing a book signing and talking about the movie. I was up on stage and had about 2,000 people in front of me and they’re sending me up all kinds of love, laughing at my stories. I was having a great time.

I looked down and I said out loud, “I’m wasting my damn time here.”

It got deadly silent. People looked up at me. It had just hit me that not only was I speaking to the choir but that’s virtually almost all the national organizations ever do. They wait to attract people who are for marijuana. I looked out at the audience and said, “You guys are all on my side now. If you go out and talk to some people who aren’t on our side yet – we might make a lot more progress a lot quicker.”

I thought I had to change my M.O. and do something different. It took me a couple months of thinking about it and then when I saw the exit polls from California Prop 19, when it was defeated, it became very obvious that nobody was talking to seniors.

The exit polls showed seniors were 65% against. And, you know, that’s my generation. We invented marijuana as it’s known today. I mean we really did. It wasn’t popular before that. We were Woodstock. We were responsible for this country having a great volunteer army. We knew that the government’s stories about marijuana were more than slightly less than truthful.

So I wondered why didn’t they come down on our side. I thought it was a great tragedy that 19 didn’t pass because it was obvious to me that at the time the government would have taken that as a mandate to come down on medical marijuana. And, of course, they did.

It was clear that nobody was talking to the seniors except for the beer lobby. And they were telling them a very short message, “You don’t want stoners out on the road.” Seniors are easy to scare.

I live in Florida and often go out to California, Colorado, Arizona and these are places with thousands of over-55 communities. Every place has a clubhouse. If you give them a free buffet they’ll come in and listen to anything.

I live in an over-55 community, a very conservative one. I was getting some exercise on the tennis court one morning and somebody came over – he was about 75-years-old – and he said can I talk to you and pulled me aside.

He said, “My wife has MS. She’s bedridden. They give her Oxycodone and other opiates for the pain. They give her anti-depressants which always seems to make her more depressed. Basically she’s in a fog lying in bed all day.”

He said, “She does have good days.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, ”Well, if I can find her something to smoke the pain diminishes. She takes much less opiates. She can get out of bed. We can go shopping. We can go to a movie. But I got a serious problem. I’m scared to death to go out on the street to find something for her to smoke. If I get arrested – who’s going to take care of her? If she gets arrested she’ll die.”

That hit home pretty hard because I live in a state that doesn’t have medical marijuana. As you may know I’m also director of the state for NORML. I was already involved in trying to change legislation.

I had gone and pitched a meeting with the legislatures from Palm Beach County and got them to put in a bill in Tallahassee that one of the legislatures, Jeff Clemens, and then we were able to get a companion bill in the Senate in Tallahassee.

So we got some bills that we’re pushing. Everybody said we’d never make any progress in Florida. But, thanks to the Silver Tour, my ability as a vista we got the state initiative going. We’ve been able to do a successful decrim in Miami Beach thanks to the producers of my movies Clair Rupert, Raktonur. They put up the money for the petitioners. We’ve been able to decrim two other townships in south Florida.

And this is from a situation where people said it was hopeless. We accomplished a lot.

You know, seniors vote. Seniors can give you the power to outdo big pharma and all of their money because if somebody can’t get elected all the money in the world is not going to help them.

Without a lot of money we can accomplish more by organizing the senior vote than we’ve ever accomplished before.

It’s frustrating when I go to the Hemp Fest and Cannabis Cup and they’re mostly young people. Most don’t vote. Many can’t vote because they’ve got a record for pot. Nobody was talking to the group that does vote in all elections.

So that’s how the Silver Tour came to be born. At the last show we had about 240 people on a Sunday afternoon. At the end of the show…you know, we have a doctor who comes and explains the medical side. We have patients who give their own experience. We have an attorney or even a legislator come and talk about how the law can be changed.

In the end I asked everybody to hold their cell phones up. I put two numbers up on the screen to Republican committee heads in Florida. I said, “Next Tuesday at 9 o’clock I ask you all to call the office.”

Now there were 240 people in the audience. Each of those offices got 200 calls. That’s amazing. The Silver Tour is amazing in terms of results. In fact CNN covered that show. They did a fabulous piece, CNN Money. They interviewed the seniors coming in and they were saying things like, “Well, my grandson made me come.” Or “I came out of curiosity.”

He interviewed them coming out and what they said was, “I think I’m old enough to decide for myself.”

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Robert Platshorn, author of “Black Tuna Diaries.” Featured in the forthcoming movie, “Square Grouper” which is going to be released on 4/20, is that right?

ROBERT PLATSHORN: “Square Grouper” had a great theater run, got great reviews and it’s been available on Netflix and Video on Demand on cable for quite a while. It will go on a schedule on Showtime starting on 4/20 and my book is available at the http://thesilvertour.org

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DEAN BECKER: Just enough time to remind you that 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