08/05/12 Lawrence O'Donnel

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Lawrence O'Donnel eviserates drug war logic, Alan Colmes w/ Terry Nelson of LEAP, Montel Williams re MJ, Oliver Stone re Savages/drug war, Vivian McPeak re Seattle Hempfest, Remington Alessi for Sheriff of Houston

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Transcript

Transcript

Century of Lies / August 5, 2012

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. If you heard the most recent Cultural Baggage program you heard me talk with several drug reformers in person, one-on-one kind of thing. Well today on Century of Lies we’re going to focus mostly on the news that’s brought to you by the major players who are beginning to sound quite a bit like we have provided here on the Drug Truth Network.

We’re going to start with this.

From MSNBS this is Lawrence O'Donnel.

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LAWRENCE O’DONNEL: In tonight’s Rewrite, “How long do you fight a war that cannot be won?”

That is first and foremost a moral question. It is also a political question because all wars are political and no war is more political than our longest war – the War on Drugs.

We fought the Vietnam war long past the point when we knew we could not win and, in the process, sent 58,193 Americans to die there in a 14 year period. Before we ended American involvement in the Vietnam war we started the War on Drugs which is now 41-years-old.

The objective of the War on Drugs is to end illegal drug consumption in the United States. The war plan was that in the march toward victory in the War on Drugs the price of drugs would be sky-high as the government seized more and more drugs and made drugs more rare and, therefore, much more expensive.

Eduardo Porter reported last month in the New York Times that according to Drug Enforcement Administration data the street price of one gram of pure cocaine from your local dealer is $177.26. That is a lot of money. That’s more than I’ve ever paid or will pay for one gram of anything.

It sounds like the War on Drugs is working - at least driving up the price of cocaine. But, the price of cocaine is, in fact, 74% cheaper than it was 30 years ago. There’s the retail price of pure cocaine tracked over the last 30 years. We have seen similar drops in the price of heroin at the same time.

The government has spent 20 to 25 billion dollars a year trying to drive that price up, bend that curve up. Every dollar spent on that war on drugs simply makes the failure of the War on Drugs more and more expensive.

The warriors against drugs would tell you that if the price of cocaine drops like that the use of cocaine will increase but cocaine use has dropped right along with the price. Every theory of how the War on Drugs would work has been proven wrong and the War on Drugs now functions as a massive transfer of wealth to drug cartels and the relentless destroyer of lives here and in drug trafficking countries.

The Rand Corporation has done a study showing that if marijuana were legalized just in California Mexican drug cartels would lose about one-fifth of their annual income from the United States which is now 6.5 billion dollars a year.

It makes you wonder how much money the drug cartels must be funneling into the California campaigns against legalizing their product.

The greatest tragedy in the War on Drugs are the innocent casualties – the men and women, boys and girls who end up in the legal system and our prison system because of an innocent exploration with marijuana and other drugs. That is the part of the War on Drugs that is manufacturing criminals – taking people who would otherwise never get arrested and ruining their lives, throwing them in jail, making them unemployable when they get out and moving many of them closer to a life of crime now that they are ex-cons instead of mere pot smokers.

That could have happened to President Obama but it didn’t. Not because he was lucky but because his experience with drugs is the normal American experience with drugs. Most people never come close to getting arrested for recreational drug use. Recreational experimental drug use in this country is normally a phase of a few years or maybe 10 years that becomes a faded memory or a very occasional pleasure after people turn 30 or get married or get pregnant.

The American experience is that people simply age out of drug use and most of them then spend the rest of their lives in a much more dangerous relationship with perfectly legally obtained alcohol.

But just by chance, by bad luck some recreational drug users get their lives ruined by the War on Drugs. Bad luck is not equally distributed in our society so the bad luck casualties are disproportionately poor and disproportionately African-American.

We call it the War on Drugs not the war on young African-American men. But if you look at the victims of our war effort our War on Drugs, the American government’s War on Drugs, the war that we pay for - it’s hard to continue to call it a war on drugs. Drugs have not suffered in this war. The war has not reduced the supply of drugs or increased the prices of drugs. The war has not harmed drugs in any way.

It is a war in which the only damage done is collateral damage. Drug addicts who need treatment are thrown in jail instead. Young people going through the now completely normal rite of passage with drug experimentation get their lives ruined for no good reason. We have sacrificed the lives of millions to a war that cannot be won.

We’ve gone from a president who tried to make us believe he didn’t inhale to a president who simply refused to answer whether he used cocaine to a president who honestly described his cocaine experimentation and marijuana phase. And, through it all, the War on Drugs rages on.

How do we let it happen? How do our presidents and politicians who know better let it happen? Why are we in the forty-first year of the merciless sacrifice of the innocence? Why do we sacrifice millions of lives to a war that cannot be won? And perhaps, most importantly, what have we sacrificed in ourselves that allows us to turn away from this crime against humanity day after day?

Ireland’s most renowned poet, William Butler Yates, wrote the answer in this line 96 years ago, “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.”

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DEAN BECKER: Lawrence O’Donnel, thank you.

Now we have this courtesy of FOX News and Alan Colmes.

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ALAN COLMES: I want to welcome Terry Nelson. He’s a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. His career spanned 3 decades before retiring in 2005. He was with the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Customs Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

I welcome you, Terry, to the program. The New York Times had a very interesting piece recently just the other day on this issue of marijuana legalization - how other countries, particularly in Latin America, are addressing it. Something we could take a page from, right?

TERRY NELSON: Thank you for having me on, Alan. You are correct. It’s trying something different instead of kicking a ball down the road for another four decades which is what it looks like we’re planning to do here the United States.
ALAN COLMES: What do you think we should do?

TERRY NELSON: We at LEAP believe in full legalization of all drugs because we don’t believe we can get control of our drug problem until we get rid of the crime and violence.

ALAN COLMES: So you would legalize all drugs from heroin to cocaine to…

TERRY NELSON: Because that’s the only way you can get control of it. As long as you leave any part of it in the controls of street gangs and drug cartels you’re going to have the crime and violence.

We certainly recognize that we’re not going to fix our drug problem by legalizing drugs. We think that’s a separate issue and is best dealt with through education and treatment instead of incarceration.

ALAN COLMES: So you’re not fixing it by incarcerating people as you point out either. Treatment is where the dollars can go and you probably save money.

You know Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, as Governor of New Mexico did a cost-benefit analysis. It doesn’t make much sense economically this drug war we’re fighting.

TERRY NELSON: Oh there’s no way it does and the cost that we’re spending now is miniscule compared to the part of lost income that we’re dealing with for people that are in prison that are minimized the rest of their lives – can’t get good, decent jobs and pay taxes.

The cost of the incarceration and prison sentence for these people far exceeds the cost of putting them in jail …about 80 billion dollars that we spend on that.

ALAN COLMES: Why did we learn anything from prohibition, as your group has pointed out, back in the 1920s when organized crime took over alcohol? Again, it was bad for the economy. It was bad for, you know, the crime issue. Why haven’t we learned from that and applied it to drugs?

TERRY NELSON: Well, I can’t answer that question except there’s just too much money being made. Obviously certain people are benefitting from the continuation of the drug war.

ALAN COLMES: Now you’ve been on the border. You’re a former Border Patrol guy. If we actually legalized it how would that affect what goes on on the border?

TERRY NELSON: The crime and violence would stop almost immediately. We’d go back to just dealing with the immigration issue of people trying to sneak across or perhaps terrorists trying to cross our borders but the crime and violence and the shooting across the border and stuff would stop almost instantly.

ALAN COLMES: As the New York Times pointed out…it went through a bunch of other countries. The prison of Guatemala, for example, is…this guy Otto Perez Molina, former army general, has called for a discussion about legalization. The President of Uruguay who is kind of a renegade, this guy, he wants it regulated and control of marijuana. These countries are a head of where we are in terms of addressing this issue.

TERRY NELSON: Well, it’s not just those countries – there’s Costa Rica, Argentina, there’s Mexico is now talking about changing. Every time one of them tries to say something we send someone down to arm twist them and threaten to withhold aid from them so they come back in line with where we want them to be.

ALAN COLMES: Why is our country so behind on this? Who’s benefiting from this other than the bad guys?

TERRY NELSON: I can only tell you our five major detractors that are hardest against us are police unions, private prisons, alcohol and tobacco distributions, big pharma and, of course, prison guard unions. Those are people that fight us the hardest. So it’s the people that make the most money off of it are the ones that want to continue it.

ALAN COLMES: Well the police aren’t going to make more money simply because people are, you know, because drugs are legal. Prison guards, there’s still going to be prison guards. Are they going to lose their jobs? Won’t there be enough people in prison in this country?

TERRY NELSON: I believe there will be plenty of people in prison and perhaps the prison guards can actually do what they’re hired to do which is to rehabilitate people instead of just incarcerating and putting one person in one door and out the other because their jails are so full.

Marijuana is just half of our problem. Our biggest problem is the deadlier drug like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and abuse of our pharmaceutical drugs.

ALAN COLMES: What about the argument that I’m sure you’ve heard dozens and dozens of times that if you legalize it you’re sanctioning it and encouraging people to go and do something which is wrong and bad for them, morally, ethically wrong and dangerous?

TERRY NELSON: I think that’s total bunk because when you legalize it what you do is you start an education program and you tell people and you give them credible education about what will actually happen and don’t blow smoke up them and try to threaten and tell them stuff that’s not really true.

ALAN COLMES: How do you regulate it? I mean, you’re still going to have bad guys and there’s still going to be a black market, right?

TERRY NELSON: Well, if you try to over regulate it, yes, there will be a grey market or a black market so it has to be regulated correctly which is a major challenge but I envision it and many members of my organization visualize it being sort of like sold through state-owned liquor stores. Perhaps you have to have a note from your doctor saying you’re healthy enough to use coke, whatever and maybe you’re restricted on how much you can get. I mean, I don’t know, that’s …But with 50 states doing it somewhere out there someone would get it right and the other guys could follow.

ALAN COLMES: It sounds like…you know people are still fighting for medical marijuana – people who could be relieved from pain – and they can’t even get that in this country.

TERRY NELSON: The more I study about that there are so many testimonials that some forms of cannabis oil, the hash oil actually cures some forms of cancer. If that’s true and our government is keeping that cure from our public that’s almost criminal.

ALAN COLMES: So your group is called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I guess a bunch of former and maybe current law enforcement people?

TERRY NELSON: Yes we have former officers that can freely speak and then we have some that do speak out. One of our board members, or board of directors, up in Canada and he is currently serving but many of them once they speak out they get in trouble so they try to keep their mouths shut until they get out of the service.

But we have about 70,000 members worldwide in 72 different countries where we have a presence so we’re an international organization not just in America because it is a global problem – not just an American problem.

ALAN COLMES: so http://leap.cc

TERRY NELSON: http://leap.cc or we’ve changed it to make it even simpler to http://copssaylegalizedrugs.com

ALAN COLMES: Terry, I thank you for your time on such an important issue. Thanks for coming on the program.

TERRY NELSON: Alan, thank you for having me. It’s a real pleasure.

ALAN COLMES: Thank you very much. Terry Nelson, a former law enforcement official, member of the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

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DEAN BECKER: Montel Williams has a stake in a cannabis dispensary that will be opening in Washington, D.C. here in the near future. Here he answers a few questions in that regard to CNN.

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REPORTER: So you actually use marijuana every day.

MONTEL WILLIAMS: Every single day and I’ll do so every day until I drop dead.

REPORTER: Before you came to the capital?

MONTEL WILLIAMS: Yes.

REPORTER: Did you tell Reverend Diaz that?

MONTEL WILLIAMS: No but I spoke openly about the fact that I medicate myself. I medicate myself every morning. I medicate myself throughout the day and I medicate myself every single evening. Just the same as anybody else does and just the same way as I did when I got up in the morning taking prescription medication that I was taking at inordinate amounts to keep track of the issues that I have that I’m using marijuana for.

REPORTER: So where do you get your marijuana?

MONTEL WILLIAMS: I’m a card carrying marijuana user in two of the fourteen states that it’s legal in. I’ll plead the Fifth as to how I take care my needs where I am.

REPORTER: [giggling] So let me ask you, then, right now as we are speaking you’ve already used marijuana?

MONTEL WILLIAMS: Here’s something that’s so crazy about this. People, again, don’t understand the drug. If you read any information about it – go back to the ’98 study that was commissioned by General McCaffrey<?> under Bill Clinton. We proved for a fact that marijuana doesn’t affect everybody the exact same way.

People who have illnesses like mine that have traumatic neuropathic illness – we don’t get the same euphoria like people who don’t have it. A study just came out three months ago from the University of San Diego in California commissioned by the government of California. For 10 years they studied marijuana and they studied seripticiously so nobody else would know that they were doing it and that study came back proving unequivacably that it is one of the most <?> struggle on the planet for the disease that I have, MS.

I don’t get the same euphoria that other people do. I get neuropathic pain lessening and that’s why I use it.

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DEAN BECKER: Recently Oliver Stone appeared on CBS This Morning.

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GAYLE KING: Oliver Stone’s new thriller, Savages, tells the story of 2 California pot dealers who share a girlfriend (yep, they share her) and get mixed up with the drug carel.

ERICA HILL: The Oscar-winning director has been entertaining, enlightening and outraging movie fans since the 70s. It’s a pretty powerful film. Gayle and I went to the screening together and there were a lot of moments where I had to turn away because it was kind of violent but it really grips you just as the novel does.

OLIVER STONE: It was about a subject that they don’t do in movies much – marijuana, the legal growing in California. Young people are operating on the fringes of the law. They live in a sort of paradise. They get visited by the dark side which comes from the offer of a partnership with one of the Mexican cartels.

It goes awry. Things don’t work out because one of the guys wants to negotiate and the other guy wants to fight. It’s a classic. They have a love affair with a beautiful girl called Blake Lively who’s a beach bunny. They live together equally and beautifully. She believes in the jewels and jamber, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid.

It’s interesting to see how Mikea comes in and she’s a pretty ruthless woman but she also has a heart and she tells Blake that, you know, “your love story is screwed up, baby.”

GAYLE KING: You seem to like the criminal element or the dark side. Do you?

OLIVER STONE: I like the sense of humor, too. There are some laughs in the movie and Travolta is very funny. Benichio Del Toro is very funny too I think in a dark way.

ERICA HILL: I have to say I’m fascinated by the fact that you did a lot of research for this film. So you and Don Winslow who wrote “Savages” and some of the other folks went to a number of different grow houses and then you actually convinced a Mexican drug lord to let you go hang out.

OLIVER STONE: Well, let’s not get too literal about this. Let’s say we hung out with some heavy people – Benicio and I on the other side of the border. Don Winslow knows that world because he’s written other books about it. These cartels are making so much money they’re not concentrating on small businesses like Ben and Shaun’s.

But the weed in California is like California wine. It’s well grown and high, high toxi…very, very effective. You should try some Gail.

GAYLE KING: Oliver, I’m not trying to be cute because I really have never tried it before. What does it do for you? Honest to God, I swear I haven’t. No, I’ve never tried it before.

OLIVER STONE: What was it Clinton who said, “I smoked it…”

GAYLE KING: …but didn’t inhale.” But I haven’t smoked it or inhaled it and you’ve been very open about your drug use and your perspective of it is what? What does it do for you? I’m not trying to be cute. I’m really curious.

OLIVER STONE: I’ve never boasted about it. I just don’t want to run from…For me in my time of life I went to Vietnam and, frankly, I was in the field. I was there for a long time. It made the difference between staying human, as Michael Douglas said, and becoming a beast.

I’m telling you it’s rough. A lot of those people in that platoon used it. Not in the frontlines but in the back just to relax and to stay in touch with themselves. So I look at it at that time in my life as really a lifesaver and I was a good soldier, by the way. I got decorated…

GAYLE KING: You were wounded twice.

OLIVER STONE: Yeah, I was not a slouch by any means. A lot of guys were like that and we walked out of it, I think, relatively whole. A lot of guys were drinking, were doing a lot of the killing that I think was unnecessary and the raping and all that stuff…burning down buildings…guys who did the dope were much more conscience of the value of life.

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DEAN BECKER: Well I think I proved my point. The major media is starting to get it. They’re not ready to gut the drug war monster like I am.

To close this out here’s a couple of interviews I did this week.

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VIVIAN McPEAK: This is Vivian McPeak. I’m the executive director of Seattle Hempfest. We are a couple weeks away from our 21st anniversary of our political rally here to change America’s cannabis laws and I’m pretty excited.

DEAN BECKER: Vivian, this is the biggest protest of them all and the fact of the matter is there is more reason to gather and celebrate and encourage and to motivate and educate each other, right?

VIVIAN McPEAK: Absolutely. This is an exciting time in national reform. We’re seeing many victories and we’re also seeing sometimes we take 2 steps forward and one step back but we’re still going forward and that’s what counts.

I think we’re making…the biggest progress is in the court of public opinion where it looks like we’ve reached critical mass but boy they’re fighting back. So, yeah, this is a very important year.

This state there’s an initiative on the ballot that some people are really excited about. We’ve got an incredible line of speakers and bands and right now they’re telling us we’re the biggest annual event in the city limits.

DEAN BECKER: Well that’s wonderful music to my ears. You know, Vivian, the fact of the matter is you guys have, over the years, become more and more embraced by your community, by the state, by the politicians, by the powers that be, correct?

VIVIAN McPEAK: Yeah, last year we actually had the mayor of Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn, speak and the city attorney, Pete Holmes. We had U.S, Congressman Dennis Kucinich last year.

This year Pete Holmes, city attorney, is lined up to speak again. I’m not sure if the mayor has got the time yet or not. But it has been interesting. It didn’t always turn out this way but we’ve worked really hard to be responsible and be professional and yet never compromise our ideas.

DEAN BECKER: Vivian, the fact of the matter is that over the last few weeks I’ve been reporting on first-hand accounts, human issue stories about children benefitting from cannabis, about others with severe maladies that benefit from the use of cannabis and you recently had an OPED published in this regard. Tell us what it was about, please.

VIVIAN McPEAK: We know that children with severe autism, children that are suffering from cancer treatments or the effects of cancer and some serious chronic pain and even some congenital issues can greatly be helped by this non-toxic, therapeutic, relatively benign herb rather than being bombarded with caustic, deadly, even addictive and cost-prohibitive pharmaceutical drugs.

And sometimes you need those drugs but marijuana can be a great compliment which is not going to cause any complications.

I wrote a series about my father who came home and when he died of cancer he weighed 100 pounds and couldn’t hold an egg down for three days and this was before medical marijuana was legal in this state. I gave my dad some strong marijuana brownies. Two months later the hospice nurse was going, “Bill you’ve been stable at 85 pounds for almost 8 weeks. That’s an anomaly.”

We’ve seen the power of marijuana. It’s undeniable. Now it looks like it actually retards cancer growth, cancer tumor growth which would explain why there’s pot smokers all over the place but there’s not pot smokers with cancer everywhere. There’s tobacco smokers with cancer everywhere.

This is a no-brainer. America is starting to wake up. We’ve got more than 50% of the people of this country think it’s time to change the laws. We just got to get the politicians to catch up with us.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed we do. You know I like the closing thoughts that were in your article that talked about how your father was going to live his life.

VIVIAN McPEAK: Well, yeah, you know, he asked me, “Son, you know when I’m going to die?”

I thought that was an odd question and I sheepishly said, “Sure, dad,”

He said, “The last fucking minute – until then I’m going to live.”

And that’s exactly what medical marijuana allowed him to do. He was amblitory. He was joking. He was watching TV. He was even designing a car with sensors that would avert a crash on the highway because that’s the kind of crazy guy he was. In the last weeks of his life. I’m convinced that if I hadn’t been giving him pretty strong dosage of medical brownies at the time that he would have had a very different experience and I would have robbed of at least of that two months I had with my dad.

DEAN BECKER: Well, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Vivian McPeak, head of the Seattle Hempfest and I know you’re excited about that and I think lots of folks across the country should be as well. Tell them where they can learn more and how they can attend.

VIVIAN McPEAK: Folks can go to http://www.hempfest.org, our website, and they can find out everything about Hempfest including a new store that we’re opening up here in Seattle.

I just want to say what a pleasure it is, Dean, to be on your show and the Drug Truth Network here and all the great work that you’ve been pioneering on the airwaves. Your like a beacon of light out in the wilderness.

DEAN BECKER: Wow! Thank you, Vivian. Best of luck on the Hempfest. We’ll be looking for stories coming out of there, my friend.

VIVIAN McPEAK: Alright, bud, you take care and toke it easy.

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DEAN BECKER: Here on the Century of Lies program we try to bring you the unvarnished truth about the drug war from around the world, from around the United States and even from Texas. Occasionally there’s some good news right here in Houston – gulag filling station of this planet.

We have a candidate running for sheriff of Harris County for Houston. His name is Remington Alessi.

You know, Remington, I’ve spoken to our current sheriff and police chief and heads of the patrolmen’s union and all kinds of folks and there is nobody that is willing to say that our laws are unbalanced in so far as the drug laws. The fact of the matter is they can’t justify what they do it’s just what their forefathers have done. Your thoughts there, please.

REMINGTON ALESSI: It’s a little bit typical of law enforcement. What they’ll do in races for constable or sheriff is typically you’ll have guys that are in the police force for 10 or 20 years and they decide, “Well, gee, I’ve been arresting people for a long time. I guess it’s about time that I’m in charge.”

And they have no grasp whatsoever on policy because often times they don’t have much of an education which makes it a little bit interesting because, of course, they’re going to do exactly what the guy before them did. They’re not going to really change anything because they don’t really understand the implications of the policies that they implement.

I actually went to school, studied criminal justice and graduated with honors.

DEAN BECKER: Remington, the fact of the matter is there is no one…I’ve tried hard…in fact just this week I contacted the offices of the ONDCP and the DEA - tried to invite the Drug Czar and the head of the DEA to be my guest. And, as always, as they have done for more than ten years – they don’t even call me back. They just take the message and that’s it. I never hear back from them. They can’t defend it. It’s aggravating. Your thought there, please.

REMINGTON ALESSI: There’s an old saying, “Never underestimate a man’s ability to not understand something when his salary depends upon not understanding it.”

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again, we’ve been speaking with Remington Alessi. He’s the Green Party candidate for sheriff of Harris County, Houston, Texas. Remington, please, share your website with the listeners.

REMINGTON ALESSI: http://remingtonforsheriff.com and it’s Remington like the gun or like the Remington steel…real easy to remember.

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DEAN BECKER: So, my friends, considering all the government bull-stick how long will the drug war last? Well, that’s really up to you.

Please visit our website, http://endprohibition.org Do it for the children. Prohibido istac evilesco!

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For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.

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