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Stephen Gutwillig of Drug Policy Alliance + Jaime Haas of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Century of Lies / May 27, 2012
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.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us here on Century of Lies. I am Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our first guest. We’re going to have Jaime Haas, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in the second half. But, to start, we’re going to have…I’m going to have him give the full thing. He’s like the West Coast Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Saw him a couple weeks back on Bloomberg Television and he blew me away. Wanted to bring him in here to talk about this drug war, the crazy stance we’ve taken against marijuana, in particular. With that let’s welcome Mr. Stephen Gutwillig. Hello, sir.
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: It’s great to be with you, Dean.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you for being here, Stephen. The fact of the matter is with every day more and more evidence is coming forth that shows us this drug war is a fiasco. Am I right?
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: Oh, absolutely. 40 years into it since Richard Nixon declared the drug war and a trillion dollars later we have so, so little to show for it except bursting prisons and bankrupted states and the federal government. It is a consensus that exists in the country that forcing people to use less drugs is never going to work, that all we’re doing is running the country into a ditch but no one has much of an idea, given the amount of censorship that’s going on even within the mainstream media and certainly among elected officials, there’s very little popular understanding of what we would replace prohibition with.
Since, in the last fifteen years, since the advent of medical marijuana that’s like one area that more and more people are familiar with that you could actually regulate marijuana for medical use to the point that we’ve got 16 states and homes of 90 million Americans and that that’s had the influence that legalization, full-out legalization – tax and regulating marijuana for other purposes – might be a good idea too.
But, other than that, it’s still quite a struggle to un-ring the bell on this catastrophe of the drug war.
DEAN BECKER: Isn’t it though?! Steve, let me talk about we have just south of our border in Mexico some say now 55,000 dead. These are not all gangsters. These are not all cartel members. And this is truthfully right on our doorstep. Your response.
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: Absolutely right. This has been one of the biggest examples of the road the drug war leads us down is the increasing military response to the failures of prohibition. What we’ve seen, of course, is prohibition takes substances whether they’re organic substances that are made from plants the way, you know, marijuana or heroin, or synthetic drugs and makes them worth an enormous amount more than they otherwise would be.
So, of course, you have organized crime the likes of which we saw during alcohol prohibition in this country in the 20s and 30s but we have it exponentially. The dollars are so much greater than they ever were driving the consumption of psychoactive substances underground which is, of course, what banning them does. It creates this enormous black market and underground economy which becomes controlled by whoever is the toughest, whoever has the most guns and whoever can push people around the most and dominate the market.
So the levels of crime, violence and corruption are unlike anything the world has ever seen and Central and South America and Mexico as well are, at this point, seeing the worst of it.
Mexican President Calderon when he came into office 6 years ago decided, with American support, that he would militarize their response to their organized crime that was making a good chunk of their money selling drugs and moving it northward. The carnage that has ensued, as you mentioned, is on a scale that is completely historic. There has never been anything like the tens of thousands of all walks of life who have lost their lives over the last couple of years.
The only good that’s come of this is it has raised the visibility of the drug war and the failures of prohibition certainly across Mexico where there is now a very potent social movement. Marches of tens of thousands of people in the streets demanding a different approach and that the results that we saw over the course of the last couple months as increasing numbers of sitting Latin American Presidents are all saying the same thing. That we have to start looking at different approaches, at decriminalization and potentially at legalization, market solutions to how we deal with drugs and pushing back on one of the biggest exports that’s embed in U.S. foreign policy which is a prohibitionist orthodoxy when it comes to dealing with drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Alright folks, once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Stephen Gutwillig of the Drug Policy Alliance. Stephen, you know, you’re talking about the militarization in Mexico. We’ve had very similar escalation of militarism here in these United States - mostly by law enforcement officials. Your response.
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: That’s absolutely right. One of the things that folks may not recall – particularly folks under 30 – is how different this country was before the War on Drugs in terms of what kind of money and equipment local law enforcement had. Because, of course, the foot soldiers of the War on Drugs are not primarily federal agencies. There is a significant role that the DEA plays but a lot of that is some of the more higher level cases that they pursue.
But what happened in the 1980s when the Reagan administration decided that they were going to substantially upgrade and really invest in the drug war, when the drug war really took off, one of the ways that they did that at a time when drug use and drug misuse was hardly considered a priority in the country and they hired PR agencies in order to change that but the other obstacle that they had was that local law enforcement didn’t want to play a significant role. They didn’t want to. They didn’t think that going after a lot of low-level, non-violent drug offenders was good use of local and state resources.
So the Reagan administration made them an offer they couldn’t refuse and started funneling tens of millions of dollars directly to local law enforcement that could only be used in the prosecution of drug cases regardless of what a low level those cases were. The result is the status quo that we’re familiar with which is we now, in this country, have somewhere between 1 and a half million to 2 million drug arrests every year – half of them are just for marijuana offenses. But, most shockingly (that’s very shocking but as shocking) is that 80 to 90% of all the drug arrests in this country are for people possessing small amounts of drugs for their own use.
An incredible waste of resources. Scarce law enforcement dollars that really could be spent pursuing violent crime. The results are that we’ve filled the prisons with low-level drug offenders many of whom are people with addiction issues. A lot of them aren’t. It’s to the point that we are now arresting drug offenders at many times the rates of all serious and violent crimes.
We arrest, in this country, somewhere between 750 to 800,000 people every year for possessing small amounts of pot for their own use – triple the number of arrests for all violent crimes combined. That is made possible because of the federal dollars that are directed specifically at state and local governments for these purposes.
DEAN BECKER: It’s a telling fact, indeed, Stephen. I look at it this way. We have created this sense of hysteria, if you will, around the subject of drugs. Many of the television shows still dabble in “reefer madness” but many of the networks, many of the news programs, many of the publications are beginning to speak part of that necessary truth.
They’re not saying quite as cleanly as I do – that it is an absolute scam, flim-flam – but they are beginning to say, maybe not that “the emperor has no clothes”, but his ankle sure is ugly.
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: I agree. I think we are starting to see that these truths are seeping into popular culture and shows that many of us know. But we’re starting to see sympathetic portrayals of medical marijuana patients becoming not so much a staple of mainstream culture but certainly you see it in all kinds of different shows. But we’re also seeing more sympathetic portrayals of people with addiction issues and of law enforcement that have a real problem on their hands because they know, as most of us suspect, that “rank and file” cops know that this is a terrible use of scarce resources. That they shouldn’t be chasing after folks whose only crime is their addiction and who know that using force to decrease the amount of drugs that someone consumes is just a losing proposition to begin with. And that addition, in of itself, involves an inability to respond to punishment. So if punishment actually cured addiction - addiction wouldn’t occur at all.
So as experience of addictive illness and drug misuse becomes increasingly common in families across this country, a lot of it involving prescription drugs, more and more people realize that the use of criminalization, that a criminal justice response to the problem that drugs cause instead of a health response actually makes things worse.
It drives that drug consumption underground. It pushes people to make choices that actually are going to magnify the harms that drugs cause and in many cases, as we all know who listen to your show, that you can get over an addiction but you’re often never going to get over a felony conviction. That the cure is worse than the disease.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, Stephen, we got about 90 seconds here. I wanted to share with you…I learned a new word over the weekend it’s iatrogenic. The Drug Czar and the President talk about now that the drug problem is a medical problem though their focus of their monies does not agree with what they are saying. The fact of the matter is the problem here, as I see it, is iatrogenic. The definition is that the treatment is the cause of the problem.
STEPHEN GUTWILLIG: This is something that we all need to start paying close attention to which is that the failure of the drug war is so pervasive that no one can, with a straight face, talk about prosecuting the drug war as if they’re going to get complete support for that. So certainly Democrats, in particular, and the Obama administration and the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, have gone out of their way to say we no longer use the term “War on Drugs”. We are shifting towards a health approach. Yet, exactly as you say, Dean, it is overwhelmingly rhetoric.
Those of us who follow what has gone on in the Obama administration, particularly in the medical marijuana, know that there’s not a whole lot of “there” there but more significantly where they want to put a lot of the money is into drug courts which are a way of keeping people within the criminal justice system rather than actually treating drug use as health issues that it needs to be treated as.
We all need to start paying very close attention to when elected officials “talk the talk: about drugs as a health issue but we need to look at how. We need to follow the money and we need to talk about the actual policies because that’s where the rubber meets the road. At this point with the Obama administration we have three budgets that we have seen where they’re focus on interdiction and criminal justice is the overwhelming use of the lion’s share of the budget. They are not putting money into treatment and education where it belongs.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, Stephen Gutwillig, we do have to go. Thank you very much my friend. The Drug Policy Alliance website is http://www.drugpolicy.org
We’ll be back in just a second with Mr. Jaime Haas.
[screams of terror amongst rattling chains and then, the dreaded slice of the guillotine]
“It’s time… to Face… the Inquisition.”
DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.
Today I want to read a quote from retired judge Dennis Chalene about sending the addicted to prison.
“We want them to have self-worth so we destroy their self-worth. We want them to be responsible so we take away all responsibility. We want them to be positive and constructive so we degrade them and make them useless. We want them to be trustworthy so we put them where there is no trust.
We want them to be non-violent so we put them where violence is all around them. We want them to be kind and loving people so we subject them to hatred and cruelty. We want them to quit being the tough guy so we put them where the tough guy is respected.
We want them to quit hanging around losers so we put all the losers in the state under one roof. We want them to quit exploiting us so we put them where they exploit each other. We want them to take control of their lives’ own problems and quit being a parasite on society so we make them totally dependent on us.”
DEAN BECKER: Make them totally dependent on us, on our morals, on our good prison morals.
Alright friends we do have with us Mr. Jaime Haas, a man with a great deal of law enforcement experience. We’ll have him tell us about it. Hey, Jaime.
JAIME HASS: Hi Dean. Appreciate you having me on here.
DEAN BECKER: Well, no, no…glad to have you with us. Some of your writings in Huffington Post and Alternate caught my attention. You are with my band of brothers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Tell the folks a little bit about your law enforcement experience.
JAIME HASS: I started with the federal government in 2002 with the U.S. [inaudible] Service. That agency was pretty much absolved in 2003 when the huge Department of Homeland Security was created. At that time I went to a uniformed position as a Customs and Border Protection officer in Charleston, South Carolina which is basically a sea port. You know, check in and inspect a lot of containers.
From there I became a criminal investigator special agent out of Baltimore (BRICE) and I spent about 5 months on the border in Laredo, Texas in 2009. I resigned in 2011 to try to get involved in the drug reform movement because I see what’s happening south of the border because of our horrific drug policies. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
DEAN BECKER: Well that’s sufficient, certainly. Now, the fact of the matter is, Jaime, your piece in the Huffington Post, “Drug Lords Demise Has Only Led to More Havoc in Mexico.” They talk about how they took out the big boss and everything is going to be OK. It doesn’t make a bit of difference does it?
JAIME HASS: Not at all. If anything it makes it worse.
I was in Laredo when Alturo Biltran, the drug lord who that article is about, he’s one of the kingpins in that whole south Texas corridor when I was there. Coincidentally they took him out, he was killed – a pretty big operation – as soon as I got back to Washington, D.C.
Ever since that happened there’s nothing but chaos. The Zetas and the Sinaloa cartels are duking it out for territory yet taking out the high-level leaders doesn’t do anything. It makes it worse because we all know that kids over there that’s what they aspire to be and there’s not much other opportunity. So it just reeks havoc, you know, taking out the leaders
DEAN BECKER: Well, at the heart of it there’s so little opportunity. Commerce is dying in much of Mexico in “mom and pop grocery store” whatever because of all the extortion, the lack of tourism and the fear, the violence has just driven the economy down into a hole, right?
JAIME HASS: Yeah, it sure has. And that’s one of the things that I argue the most. You remember LEAP as we advocate for ending all prohibition and I’m for that too but I specifically think cannabis is so important by itself because anybody can grow that on any patch of land in Mexico. They’ve been doing it forever. You know, a patch of ground and an AK-47 and you’re a smuggler.
They’re all fighting and competing over cocaine and crystal meth. A lot of these drugs the usage is on the decline so that’s why I think marijuana is such a big issue. I think that substance alone has drawn so many people in Mexico into smuggling and drug running in the first place.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I read a story in the Houston Chronicle 8 or 10 days ago something to the effect that they are now recruiting 13, 14 and 15-year-olds to drive small loads of cannabis across the border.
JAIME HASS: Yes and becoming killers through the…El Ponchis was his nickname. He was over in Tijuana area and came into San Diego. He was 12 or 13-years-old and I can’t remember how many people he admitted to assassinating and things like that.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah and I look at it like this. You have written on the horrors, the scenarios around who’s the killer, why they’re killing in Mexico. Sometimes it’s just to create a huge number, right?
JAIME HASS: Yeah, sometimes it is. You know one group will just try to heat up another problem so they’ll come in and just cause chaos. One happened two weeks ago on Mother’s Day. You know with the 49 bodies from…while that’s story is still coming out I continue to read more details. Those people who were killed were not criminals for the most part. They were young. They were kidnapped from their homes. Their lives were just taken so easily just to create press to show the bigger cartel that the Sinaloa cartel is moving into south Texas – to still hold that ground, you know.
When I talk to people and I go do speeches and things like this, you know, drug reform rallies and such I try to get them to really pay attention to what’s happened in Mexico. I think a lot of us are for legalization and for so many other common sense reasons that I think the situation south of the border is overlooked too often.
DEAN BECKER: I’m hearing reports that the Presidential candidates running down there in Mexico looks like the PRI is going to come back. Early indications are that the PRI is going to gain the office and the fact of the matter is they’re indicating that they’re going to curtail some of the military mission, if you will, to cut back the scale of their interdiction and to allow the drug market to function somewhat like it used to do before President Calderon. Your response.
JAIME HASS: I agree. I’m not sure of the pronunciation but I’m following quite a bit Enrique Tenan who is a candidate who is leading by a substantial margin right now. He is hoping to, like you said, withdraw a lot of the military and basically I know what he’s hoping for is to get a pact back with these drug cartels where a truce is made between them but I think the cat is too far out of the bag at this point. I don’t see how that’s going to be possible – it’s going to take a couple years at the least.
He’s in pictures with Tomas Yartington who’s the former Governor from Tamaulipas who’s under investigation by the U.S. right now for making money. The PRI is definitely the most corrupt out of the three major parties down there. But, if anything, he gets elected he’s going to try to get those cartels and those organizations to have some kind of peace agreement and we’ll see if that happens but I think it’s going to be pretty hard because we’ve never had it like from Calderon’s election, you know, when he took over in December 2006 until now – we’ve never seen this level of violence. I personally don’t think it’s going to be possible at this point.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, that genie’s not going back inside that bottle. There’s too much revenge afoot for this to just peacefully die down. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that before President Fox it was a whole lot smoother.
There were these corridors. They call them plazas where the drugs were just allowed to come through. The people who controlled that plaza would tax the shipment coming in or the money coming through and everyone was happy. Everyone got a share and it went along a whole lot more peacefully, didn’t it?
JAIME HASS: It sure did. To be a skirmish in there some independent smuggler would try to get a load across, like you said, a corridor without paying that quota and some violence, again, some skirmishes were here and there but, for the most part, there was an agreement. Felix Gallardo was the main El Padrino, the godfather, and he kind of kept peace. He was arrested after the killing of the DEA agent, Enrique Camarena. I think it was in 1989 when he pretty much lost all his power.
But, then again, we had the Tijuana cartel, the Sima Loa cartel, the Juarez cartel and the Gulf cartel – those factions, again, they would rival here and again but for the most part there was peace and they were operating in their independent corridors. Now it’s a mess. Every man for himself.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, it is. Now, as I mentioned earlier, you are a speaker for LEAP. You have the credentials. You speak to organizations on our behalf. When I started speaking on behalf of LEAP, now almost 10 years ago, there was a lot of squabbling, quarreling, contention within the room. These days you might get one or two who say, “Oh, America’s a moral nation.” Or something. But they’re not going to argue with you. I think the vast majority once they hear 10.20, 30 minutes of LEAP presentation – they pretty much get it these days don’t they?
JAIME HASS: Yeah, they do. I left the government in 2011. I was a member of LEAP before that but not a speaker. I didn’t become a speaker until I went to an event in Atlanta and they….this was this past November so November 2011…They told me about becoming a speaking so then I joined so I’m still a rookie.
I know you were a speaker when this organization came out?
DEAN BECKER: Yep, I think I was the ninth member.
JAIME HASS: That’s awesome. You know it’s different based on my crowds. I live in South Carolina, very conservative environment and atmosphere. I love to colleges. I’ve got a great PowerPoint called “Evolution of the Cartels” and marijuana’s role and all chaos. So that’s fun.
I did my first Rotary…[chuckles] a couple weeks ago so that’s definitely a different crowd. Probably about 16 people there – really small town in South Carolina outside of Columbia, a farming community. Everyone was against any kind of legalization of marijuana. I hope I changed some minds. I know they were engaged. I talk to them for about 30 minutes – gave them the spiel, talked about Mexico a lot. I know when they left there was something so this area, again, is a little different than other places. I think I’m going to have my hands full in the Carolinas and Georgia but…they’re coming around, though. I could definitely tell they were engaged. They were listening to me and it was open for debate.
DEAN BECKER: I think part of it, Jaime, is that…what’s it called…crowd mindset…I’m looking for the word here. But, people tend to group-think. And they don’t want to step outside the boundary when the friends who are listening to them though I would imagine that of that...those objecting or speaking counter to what you presented – most of them know the truth.
I talk about it often on the show here. People can’t talk about drug reform at work, at church, at school…so many places where it’s just not allowed to be talked about.
We got about a minute left here or less than that. Mr. Jaime Haas with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Your closing thoughts, sir.
JAIME HASS: Going back to that topic…I think it keeps coming around. We look at the past couple months and see the judge in New York coming out. He’s using illicit marijuana to help him medicate – the judge from Brooklyn.
We have Marc Emery…The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the Canadian citizen Marc Emery, John McCay, he’s come out for us. I think there’s more people in these prominent positions who are coming out with the common sense reasons to end this futile prohibition. I see the tide is turning.
The President, you know, like I wrote about in that article. I don’t know what his deal is. He’s timid to bring this subject up. He wants to avoid it. I see the Obama administration now as…you know, that’s…
DEAN BECKER: Jaime, Jaime…
JAIME HASS: I know we’re running short but the DEA is an obstacle too…they don’t want to lose the power and budget too that they have.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, Jaime, we got to go there but folks please check out Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, http://leap.cc There is no justice to this thing. .Prohibido istac evilesco!
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.
The Century of Lies.
This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
The James A Baker Institute
Sun - Doug McVay interview of Morgan at Cannabis Collaboration Conference in Portland
Sat - Doug McVay interview of David Rheins at Cannabis Collaboration Conference in Portland
Fri - NBC interview of Aaron Justiss of Buds & Roses + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Thu - KTUL report on cannabis in Oklahoma + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Wed - KTUL report on cannabis in Oklahoma + Promo for Baker Institute panel: "Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition"
Tue - CATO Institute report on drugs & Heroin PSA
Mon - Debby Goldsbury re forthcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco, Feb 13&14