05/20/12 David Sloane

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Atty David Sloane re TX Med MJ patient who received $100 fine, 1 day probation for possesion + Tony Newman of DPA re widespread drug war news & Doug McVay of CSDP re election of Oregon AG to make MJ lowest priority of state

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Transcript

Transcript

Cultural Baggage / May 20, 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: Hello. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Alright, once again we are speaking with Mr. Tony Newman. He of the Drug Policy Alliance. Tony, there’s so much news happening in drug reform, drug policy, hell, around the world isn’t there?

TONY NEWMAN: It’s exciting times, Dean. There’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of momentum. It’s always this weird juxtaposition where more and more people know the War on Drugs doesn’t work. 50% of Americans now say they want to tax and regulate marijuana, legalize marijuana. There’s more and more states on the verge of passing medical marijuana laws. There’s more consciousness of the violence that’s happening in Mexico and other parts of Central and Southern Latin America due to prohibition.

So that’s the good news. Unfortunately at the same time the War on Drugs grinds on. 800,000 Americans are still arrested every year for marijuana possession. 50,000 people were killed in Mexico in the last couple years because of the drug prohibition. So that’s the irony that both things are happening simultaneously. Progress, openness, more consciousness and at the same time more deaths, more arrests and more incarceration.

DEAN BECKER: Now the DEA is killing innocents in Honduras. Your thoughts on that.

TONY NEWMAN: Yes, a tragic case and 4 people were murdered including 2 pregnant women. The DEA, as you said, is now on the ground traveling with the Honduran military. This is a war. The Drug Czar likes to say there’s not a “War” on drugs and we don’t like to use that terminology but from what we’ve seen in Honduras this is a war with innocent people getting slaughtered and killed and what’s happening in Honduras is happening in Mexico. The U.S. is now sending people down to Mexico. There’s a big New York Times’ story saying they are trying to take the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and do these counterinsurgencies. So it’s scary. Under the War on Drugs we see more U.S. tanks, more soldiers, more advisors and it is literally a war.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s go for the good for a moment. I think it was just yesterday that a New York City, New York Supreme Court Justice had a major OPED in the New York Times. Tell us more about that.

TONY NEWMAN: It was a very, very powerful piece. Yesterday’s New York Times had a piece by Gustin Reichbach who’s a Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge, who’s been on the judge a couple decades wrote a piece that would bring tears to your eyes. He wrote about him suffering from cancer and how hard it’s been with the chemo and how hard it is to hold your food down and how hard it is to sleep. He said that what gives him relief is medical marijuana. Smoking marijuana allows him to get the food down which is a struggle, allows him to go to sleep.

It was very courageous. He’s basically admitting to breaking the law while being a sitting judge. I think the reason …That piece is under hundreds of stories now about the judge coming out like that. The reason why is that it touches people. It’s courageous to speak out and share your story.

The government always tries to say, “Oh, there’s no evidence that medical marijuana works.” This guy is sharing his story and not only him but all medical marijuana patients sharing their stories. You know it moves people and that’s why 70 to 80% of people across political parties, across ages, across ethnicity – people support medical marijuana because they know it helps their families and their friends.\

DEAN BECKER: It was recently reported that Treyvon Martin, the youngster shot down in Florida, had marijuana in his system. It kind of shades of Reefer Madness that somehow he deserved what he got. Your response, Tony Newman.

TONY NEWMAN: Well, first of all, just because he had some THC in his system doesn’t mean he was high when this happened. As people know marijuana stays in your system for weeks or even up to a month. He originally….the reason he was even in that community and killed that day was because he was suspended from school for having a trace of marijuana in his backpack.

So the crazy drug war that suspends someone and kicks them out of school for a little bit of marijuana and now this guy is killed. What’s implied that that had anything to do with what happened that day is ridiculous. We don’t know the details. Regardless, it doesn’t matter whether he was smoking or not. The tragedy is that this young man is now killed and away from us.

I think it’s a clouding of the stats. It’s not really relevant to the case at all and, again, the bottom line is that it’s a tragedy. I think more, you know, what it does bring up is people’s racial profiling. George Zimmerman said he looked suspicious. Just seeing a 17-year-old kid walk down the street and that’s the War on Drugs – all about racial profiling.

I live in New York where there were 800,000 “stop and frisk” last year. 90% of the people who are “stopped and frisked” are black and Latinos – mostly young men. For your listeners who may not know this, marijuana is decriminalized in New York. Anything under an ounce is supposed to be a ticket instead of being arrested. The exception is if you are smoking it in public or it’s in plain view.

So what the NYPD does is they stop 800,000 basically poor black and Latinos. They go through their pockets. They trick them and say, “Empty your pockets.” When the people pull out the marijuana out of their pockets they say, “Oh, now it’s in plain view. We get to arrest you.”

So now because of those tactics 50,000 New Yorkers were arrested last year leading the world in marijuana arrests. Once you’re arrested you can lose your financial aid, you can get kicked out of public housing. It can follow you around. You can lose your job during the 48 hours you’re sitting in a cell.

So, basically, the irony is also that, of course, white people smoke as much as black and Latinos but what we have because the cops are stopping and searching certain people – they’re the ones getting arrested. It’s a huge issue now in New York. Now there’s going to be a class action lawsuit around it. But, again, the racial profiling that George Zimmerman did with Treyvon Martin is what the NYPD does every single day stopping and frisking 800,000 young New Yorkers a year looking…and they say they’re looking for guns. Less than 1% of the time they find anything. What they end up doing is arresting 50,000 black and Latinos under the law on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Here in Texas just earlier this week we had a situation where a gentleman was caught with marijuana – a MS patient – given one day’s probation, fined $100 because the court realized that he needed the medical marijuana to protect his health and his life. Common sense is even popping up in Texas. Your response, Tony.

TONY NEWMAN: Well I’m glad to hear that the judge was sympathetic and realized this person needed his medicine. The good news is that there are 16 states (17 if you count Connecticut) that have medical marijuana. But what I want to point out is there was a huge victory for medical marijuana patients around the country this week.

There’s high-profile Attorney General race in Oregon between two Democratic candidates. There’s no Republican on the ballot so whoever wins is going to be the next Attorney General. One candidate, Ellen Rosenblum, was very supportive of medical marijuana and Oregon’s program and also said that marijuana arrests, in general, would be a low priority for her office. She wants to focus on real issues and her opponent was Dwight Holton who comes from the whole Democratic establishment. Worked under the Clinton administration. Dad was a governor. His brother was a governor.

It was a clear case - one pro-medical marijuana candidate, one hostile medical marijuana candidate. It ended up becoming one of the biggest issues during the whole race was around this distinction around marijuana. The Drug Policy Action, where I work, teamed up with local activist and medical marijuana patients in Oregon and put a lot of money to support Ellen Rosenblum. In the end her case got 63% of the vote. Wasn’t even close – was a landslide.

We think it’s a very important message to attorney generals and the federal government. If you mess with medical marijuana and patients’ access to their medicine there will be consequences. You will get a pink slip. We are not taking this anymore. We have watched the stats. The Obama administration actually being worse now than Bush was on the medical marijuana. There have been more raids and leaving uncertainty and intimidation.

We needed to strike back and say, “You know what? You have to respect the will of the voters. You have to respect sick people getting access to their medicine.”

This Oregon attorney general race has gotten hundreds of stories around the country about the significance of this. The message is very clear. We need the candidates to know that if they’re going to push the War on Drugs and go after patients there’s going to be serious consequences. I’m very hopeful that what happened in Oregon will be an example and send a message to both the federal government and these other attorney generals. Stop attacking sick patients and respect the will of the voters.

DEAN BECKER: Tony, one last idea I want to kick around here and that is we’re in the political season here – six months away from the November election, if you will. And we have several candidates including Ron Paul. I guess he’s not going to win the Republican nomination but he may be able to bring forth the topic of discussion and I’m certain that the Libertarian candidates for President, Governor Johnson, and for Vice President, Judge Gray, will bring focus to bear on the issue of drug policy reform. Your response.

TONY NEWMAN: I’ll put on my Drug Policy Action hat when we’re talking about elections. You’re right Ron Paul and Governor Johnson and their Libertarian streak are one of the few brave candidates to point out how much a failure the War on Drugs is. Why we need to put all options on the table. Why we should debate legalizing drugs.

It’s sad that the 2 major parties are so…You know, think about this issue. 50% of Americans now want to legalize marijuana yet there is not 1 senator (0 out of 100) who will say they’re supporting legalizing marijuana. There’s less than 5% members of congress who are willing to say that yet 50% of Americans want this.

There’s no other issue in our society when you look at issues where there’s passionate debate and they’re split. Whether it’s same sex marriage, whether it’s pro-choice or abortion, whether it’s when it comes to legalizing marijuana. All these other issues you have representation of the will of the people. On our issue we have 50% who want to legalize marijuana and not one senator.

So we have people like Ron Paul and former governor Gary Johnson who are willing to open it up and that’s courageous. It’s just so sad that our elected officials are so behind the people and that’s why we need the people to lead and the leaders will follow. That’s why we’re …we see in Washington state and Colorado state where we have to go around the politicians and put it to the voters directly. Both those states are going to be voting on taxing and regulating marijuana on the November ballot. I think both states have a 50/50 chance of winning.

If one of those states wins it will be the vote heard around the world where we now have a state saying that we want to treat marijuana more or less like alcohol and tax and regulate it. So November is a very big deal. I don’t have hope from our Presidential candidates and elected officials on this one at this moment. We need the people who are ahead of the politicians and we have to be hopeful.

But one area where we can be inspired and this is something …you know, while the United States elected officials are so backwards. Thank God that elected Presidents around the world are starting to say, “No more of this madness. This is ridiculous.”

Last month there was the Summit of the Americas. The big news that came out of it was the prostitution scandal but before that story happened the major, major issue at the Summit of the Americas was the Presidents of Latin America saying, “We want an open and honest debate about legalizing drugs and ending the War on Drugs.”

These are the countries that have the 50,000 killed. These are the countries that are on the verge of collapse because the cartels have more money and more guns than the government. And they say, “We are tired of just taking the U.S. line and having to play this game when we see the consequences of what is happening here.”

And now, for the first time…You know 5 years ago it was academics and activists talking about the need to open up the debate and end prohibition. A couple years ago with the leadership of the former President of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia became the first former presidents saying we need to open up the debate and legalizing drugs is the way to deal with the violence. And now for the first time ever it is a current President happening right now.

That’s where I get my hope. The debate is starting to happen. Even Obama was forced to admit that it’s a legitimate debate that we should have a discussion. So, you know, we see…we have Colorado and Washington State having an opportunity to say what we want. We have world leaders starting to say the time for debate is right now – no more drug war madness.

That’s what gives me hope that we’re going to see changes in the near future.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance. Tony, thank you so much.

TONY NEWMAN: And Dean I have to say you’ve been hammering away at this for so many years – week in, week out – educating people about everything from the failures of drug prohibition to the needs for medical marijuana to the corruption that happens from the drug war to the racial profiling to the racist impact of the War on Drugs. You are invaluable with what you do. Keep doing what you do and we thank you for what you do.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, Tony. Folks please go visit the website of the Drug Policy Alliance at http://www.drugpolicy.org

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(Game show music)

It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Body odor, headaches, thinning hairline, decreased sex drive, depression, mood disturbances, agitation, high blood pressure, severe anxiety and rage, kidney and liver disease, suicidal thoughts, rape, murder and war. Nearly 50% of the world’s population produces large amounts of this drug and seeks to inject into the remaining population.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: Testosterone. It’s in the bag.

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DOUG McVAY: On May 15, Ellen Rosenblum won Oregon's Democratic primary to become
that party's candidate for state Attorney General. It was a 63-37
percent landslide.

It was not supposed to go like that.

Her opponent, Dwight Holton, was a shoe-in. He's the son of a former
Virginia governor. His brother-in-law, Tim Kaine, is Chair of the
Democratic National Committee and former governor of Virginia. Holton
worked on the Dukakis campaign and in the Clinton administration, his
donors included Mike McCurry, John Podesta, and other nationally-known
Democrats.

Holton received the endorsement of not only most of the state's
newspapers, sheriffs, district attorneys, and police associations, he
also received the endorsement of several traditional Democratic allies
including the Oregon Education Association, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon
PAC, Basic Rights Oregon, the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs, and
several labor unions.

On top of everything else, Holton just looks like a prosecutor, and at
6' 5” has an imposing presence. Judge Rosenblum overcame tremendous
odds by winning at all against Dwight Holton, but taking 63 percent of
the vote is impressive. Rosenblum was a good candidate, to be sure, a
retired judge with a long distinguished career. She is also a longtime
Oregonian - Holton had only been in Oregon since 2004. Yet the smart
money said Holton had it in the bag.

Rosenblum trailed in fundraising throughout the campaign; even the
roughly $200,000 she received from legalization advocates and groups ­
as reported by the media - didn't bring her even with Holton.

But Holton had been acting US Attorney for Oregon and bears
responsibility for a series of DEA raids on legal patient gardens in
southern Oregon in 2011. He described the state's medical marijuana
program as a quote “trainwreck” end quote, asserting that the program
had grown too large and that thousands of pain patients and others
were malingering. An ad hoc coalition led by Voter Power and Citizens
for Sensible Law Enforcement launched a “Dwight's Not Right” effort.

The policy debate in the race was dominated by the marijuana issue in
part because, sadly, it was practically the only serious issue on
which there was any real difference between the two. Rosenblum said
that she would consider marijuana to be a low enforcement priority.
Holton disagreed and mischaracterized Judge Rosenblum's position.
Holton also ratcheted down his rhetoric about the Oregon Medical
Marijuana Program, presumably because he saw that it was hurting his
campaign.

The protests by medical cannabis and other reform activists against
Holton's candidacy raised the profile of the contest significantly and
helped Rosenblum over the finish line in grand style.

No Republican stood in their primary though at the last minute the GOP
mounted a write-in campaign and thus have a candidate for the general
election, however a Democratic victory is believed to be inevitable.
Presuming she is elected, Rosenblum will be Oregon's first female
Attorney General.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for
Drug Policy.

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DEAN BECKER: Thanks Doug and the website for Common Sense for Drug Policy is http://www.csdp.org

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DAVID SLOANE: My name is David Sloane and I’m a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, Texas. Practice area is primarily criminal defense in the Fort Worth Metroplex.

DEAN BECKER: Now Mr. Sloane, there was a recent decision affecting a medical marijuana patient here in Texas. Tell us how that unfolded and the results.

DAVID SLOANE: Well we’ve had a variety of instances here in Texas where people that use cannabis to treat medical conditions have found themselves arrested for possession of marijuana. In Texas we had a bill before the legislature a couple years ago. Well, we’ve had several bills.

One, of course, to pass medical marijuana and then also there was an attempt to just build in an affirmative defense for somebody who had a medical condition requiring marijuana and, of course, both of those bills died in committee. It hasn’t been too popular among the Texas legislature.

But in Texas law we do have a justification in the table of defenses that deals with necessity and that can apply to any crime that a person has been accused of. That basically says that if it’s necessary for you to break the law to prevent a greater harm (with a few exceptions) that’s OK.

A good example would be if you are stranded in ….well, I don’t think we have any deserts but let’s say you found yourself stranded in the desert and you happened upon a cabin and you need sustenance and you need water and you need this that and the other. You could feasibly force your way into that cabin just for the purpose of keeping yourself alive.

The law basically says that if you have to commit an offense because the desirability and the urgency of it is to prevent a greater harm than the law that was written (that you’re breaking) was designed to prevent then you can certainly present that issue to the jury and let them decide whether or not you had the justification of necessity.

I’ve employed that several times here in North Central Texas with people who had legitimate medical needs for the use of cannabis – people treating neuropathy, pain, sleep disorders, in this case Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, these type of things. I’ve had a fairly good degree of success getting the state not to even prosecute the case or, in this case, it had been filed and we got the state to fashion a remedy that I think works best for everybody with the law written as it is.

Juries are like politics – you don’t ever know what they’re going to do. But I also know that the prosecutor has that same doubt that I do going into a jury trial. I think that if you believe national polls and national statistics I think that the majority of Americans – certainly better than 51% - don’t really see the point in our criminal marijuana statutes and the tremendous expense and everything. I think that when they see a situation where the government is trying to intrude upon a patient/doctor relationship or something where somebody is trying to use a safe and natural product holistically to treat ailments which have been reported to treat much more effectively than a lot of the ineffective products put out by the pharmaceutical industry. I think that it’s a very stark and real possibility that the jury is going to acquit that person.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Mr. Sloane, I think it was Jeff Blackburn in Midland/Odessa who had a similar circumstance – medical marijuana patient was set free…

DAVID SLOANE: There was a case in Amerillo, Texas. It’s been a couple years ago and in that case there was an HIV patient that was using cannabis to treat some form of ailment that he had. You need only present some evidence of a defense and then you’re entitled to receive a jury instruction.

And a jury instruction basically tells the jury, “Ladies and gentleman if you find what this man did was necessary and the harm he sought to prevent outweighed what the government was seeking to prevent you must find him not guilty.” And that’s what the jury did.

I don’t really think, in terms of a jury pool, that you could probably get much more conservative than Amarillo, Texas. I believe that if it’s going to fly in Amarillo then it’s going to fly in virtually any county in the state of Texas if you educate the jury and you present the facts accurately.

DEAN BECKER: You are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. This is an interview I conducted with Fort Worth Attorney David Sloane. The fact of the matter is here in Texas we even have a law on the books that says for under 4 ounces of cannabis it is no longer necessary to arrest or jail anybody yet prosecutors across this state continue to perform those arrests. What is your thought there? When will they accept this new law?

DAVID SLOANE: There just a natural human nature to be reluctant and resistant to change. It’s been my experience and there are, indeed, people in smaller jurisdictions that are being caught by municipal police with very, very small amounts of marijuana. I’m talking about certainly less than 5 grams and in those incidences the police are just writing them a paraphernalia ticket.

But there is still a lot of officers that buy into the old Andrew Ansliger myths that they’re doing a great good for society by arresting this person who’s basically smoking a plant that grows naturally in the dirt. I think there’s always resistance to change any time there is but I think that, especially in the last year or two, we’re seeing attitudes – even here in good ‘ol Texas – that are starting to change.

I didn’t tell you before and I probably should disclose to you that I’m on the national legislative committee with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I’m also a local board member on Dallas/Fort Worth NORML here so perhaps I have an inside view of what’s going on nationwide and what’s going on, also, here locally.

I’m really pleased to see that Texas is finally coming around. I would like to see the legislature get in step with the populous of the state.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you, sir. The fact of the matter is in large municipalities like Houston they continue making those thousands of arrests for minor amounts of weed and other drugs as well.

I took a look at your website which had some stories posted there about some of your recent endeavors. Any chance you’ll have a summary of this marijuana case soon?

DAVID SLOANE: I believe it’s already up on several of the NORML blogs and things like that. You’re talking about this particular case, the Federspiel case that you called about.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.

DAVID SLOANE: I believe that probably all the information about that case that’s available is out there. Mr. Federspiel gave me permission to discuss his case publically frankly because he wants other prosecutors throughout the nation to see that if they’re thinking this they are not alone. There are prosecutors in other jurisdictions that are looking at this and going, “Wow, we’d better revisit this issue.”

It was his intent by allowing me to discuss….obviously a lawyer can’t discuss details of the attorney/client relationship or certainly the client’s medical condition and such …that’s not the kind of thing a lawyer is allowed to be discussing about their client without their permission and he freely and voluntarily encouraged me to share this so that others would see it. Others in positions to make decisions that affect the quality of life for the citizens of their jurisdiction. So I think that was very generous of him to do that.

The story on this can be found at http://www.dfwnorml.org I believe also the state NORML website and blog has picked it up. Basically what the prosecutor did with Mr. Federspeil was …Well, you’ve got a difficulty as an attorney when you’re defending a cannabis patient. You’ve got a state bar rule and certainly ethical rules in consideration that tell an attorney that you can never counsel, encourage, aid or abed anything to encourage your client to break the law. I mean we are, indeed, officers of the court but yet we’ve got somebody there with obvious physical conditions and painful physical conditions and they’re saying, “I use this substance to make me feel better.” It’s automatically a very difficult situation to …what do you tell this person.

In trying the faction of remedy that’s going to be satisfactory to your client and to the state they obviously don’t want to go to jail. But if they continue to use cannabis to relieve whatever ails them you’re setting them up for failure in any terms of probation because there’s drug testing involved in probation.

So in Mr. Federspeil’s case what we were able to do was get together with the state and first of all prove that if it weren’t apparent just looking at him prove to them that he, indeed, was a Multiple Sclerosis patient and, with that, the state said, “OK, with that we can defer to judication a very short term. How about one day? And if you’re client successfully completes that we’ll dismiss it. We’ll charge him a $100 fine.” And that’s what we did.

Mr. Federspeil is now off probation. He was placed on last week and removed from it the very next day. I think that…given the prosecutors don’t make the law. They have to enforce the law that’s on the books. I think that that was a very good outcome for both sides in this matter until the legislature gets in step with what’s going on in this community.

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DEAN BECKER: Please be sure to join us on next week’s Cultural Baggage. Our guest will be J.R. Hilton, author of the great new book “Drugs” - a starkly honest book about drugs.

And, as always, I remind you, my friends, 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