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Neill Franklin Dir of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, goodbye to Romney & crew, Mason Tvert visits Maher, NYT covers Montana MJ trial
Century of Lies / November 11, 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: Alright. This is Century of Lies. I am Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we are going to bring in our guest. He is Neill Franklin. He’s the Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. There’s much to talk about but I think our primary focus may stay with the two states that have now legalized recreational marijuana. With that thought let’s bring in our guest. Neill Franklin, how are you doing, sir?
NEILL FRANKLIN: I’m doing good, Dean. How are you?
DEAN BECKER: I’m real good. I’ve been on kind of an upbeat mode since Tuesday when…
NEILL FRANKLIN: That makes two of us, man.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. This is not just about marijuana. This is about opening the discourse, isn’t it?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes it is. It really is.
DEAN BECKER: Tell us your perceptions. How you heard about it, what you think and where it’s going to take us.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Obviously LEAP has been working with both campaigns in Washington and Colorado for some time now. Election night I was at home. I couldn’t travel. It would have been nice to be in either of those states during the election process and voting process but I was home.
I had the TV going, had the computer fired up and just steadily watching the numbers. It got to a point where I knew it was imminent. I celebrated by myself but it was a great celebration.
DEAN BECKER: Same here. It was pretty cool that the presidential returns came in pretty quick – didn’t have to bite our nails all night long.
NEILL FRANKLIN: No, not at all. I’ll tell you I was also happy to see the medical marijuana pass in Massachusetts. That was great to see, too.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, that makes 18 states now and the District of Colombia. We are starting to show these politicians that it is not a “third rail” at all. It’s not a danger. It may be a power rail but it’s not going to hurt you to touch it, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: It really is and, Dean, I just think that so many people who feel that the time has come for this I think that so many people still feel that they are the minority when, in fact, that are the majority.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah and I think that’s the real heart of it at this point. You many feel that like this and you’re afraid to speak about it and you don’t think your boss, your wife, your kids, your parents feel the same way but you might be surprised that they feel exactly the same way, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, it goes back to that basic question about the drug war – is it worth it? Has it worked? Will it ever work? We know, of course, by now after over 4 decades that it won’t work. It’s not even close. It’s actually not even just failed it’s actually counterproductive to public safety. It’s counterproductive to just about everything we want to solve as it relates to drug use and abuse.
There’s only one alternative. There’s only one and that is some form of legalization, regulation and control. Prohibition is just that – prohibiting drugs from people, from them using. There’s only one alternative and that is to end it.
DEAN BECKER: A lot of folks like to talk about decrim and decrim might be a better thing because maybe then users might not be getting arrested but it’s much like the original prohibition – prohibition of alcohol where you still left the production and control in the hands of gangsters, criminals. That’s not going to work out in the long run either, is it?
NEILL FRANKLIN: A lot of people don’t know that. They don’t know that it was OK to drink alcohol back then. It was just prohibited to manufacture alcohol itself and that is what decriminalization is. It didn’t work then. They still had a very violent society. They continue to funnel tons of money to organized crime back then and Al Capone and his buddies and it would be the same scenario today if we were to just decriminalize.
One of the major goals here with our drug war is to remove the power, the control, the money away from criminals and the violence that they bring.
DEAN BECKER: This brings to mind that we have…Washington State is a prime example where politicians stood up in favor of changing these laws. Both the candidates for Sheriff were in favor. So was the city attorney. The former U.S. Attorney – people with great stature and influence were in favor.
Even in Texas on the Cultural Baggage show I broadcast the recent editorial talking about it is a perfect scenario – these two labs to serve as examples for the nation to find a better way. Your thoughts there, Neill Franklin.
NEILL FRANKLIN: And I think it is just that. I think that our policy makers in both those states also realize something. This isn’t something that they’re not going to turn out new policy next week or two weeks down the road. They’re going to take some …they’re going to take months and they’re going to look at this thing appropriately and they’re going to put forth the proper regulations and controls.
They’re going to look at our current alcohol policies. They’re going to see what works with them and what doesn’t work. They’re going to do the best that they can to slowly put this into effect.
As far as I’m concerned will it be perfect when they’re done? Probably not but they’ll continue to adjust it until it is the best for those two communities and that’s what it’s about. As you said, Dean, two laboratories here to figure out where do we go from here not just as a country but globally because it’s not just other states looking at this but it’s Central America, it’s Europe, it’s Australia, it’s Canada – they’re all looking at this and they’re all waiting to learn from it.
DEAN BECKER: You know it’s ironic that Tuesday of the election two states vote to legalize here in the U.S. – that’s the day Canada put in place a set of laws to put forward mandatory-minimums for growing weed. Chasing the wrong rabbit there I think.
NEILL FRANKLIN: We tried to tell them that they were. We tried to plead with them not to follow the United States and make some of the same mistakes that we made beginning back in the 1980s when we started our mandatory-minimums. Now we’re reversing those decisions because we realized that mandatory-minimums did not work. They caused us more grief than anything else. Not only that they, unfortunately for minority groups, those seem to be the people who were catching the brunt of the mandatory-minimum sentences.
DEAN BECKER: There’s no doubt about that. I’ve been working here with a new group, the National African-American Forum, and trying to focus on or to undo the harms of the “new Jim Crow” and that has become just a major ramification, spin off, complication of this drug war the way we have saddled so many in the minority community with records and basically prevented them with succeeding in life. It’s a horrible situation.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes. I think we’re on the road to change all of that. There’s a few people that I’ve talked to who don’t see what we see. They still have a pessimistic view of what has just happened just a few days ago with Washington and Colorado but I don’t, man. I tell you I think this is huge. I think, for me, it is the tipping point and I think from here…now don’t get me wrong – we got a lot of work to do. We have to not just keep the momentum going but to increase the momentum.
We have a lot of work to do but I think that this is really the tipping point for those who haven’t quite decided to embrace ending the prohibition of marijuana I think that this now will just move people over the half way mark, per se.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I would agree.
Friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin. He’s the Director of my band of brothers – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Please check out our website which is http://leap.cc
I think you will be surprised at the caliber of supporters and speakers that we have – people with decades of experience in law enforcement and in the criminal justice system.
In fact…I’m proud of this. I want to bring this forward. The two Libertarian candidates for President and Vice President (James Gray and Governor Johnson) are both LEAP speakers, correct?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes they are.
DEAN BECKER: That’s something to be very proud of. They both, of course, have spoken for this desperate need for change.
Neill, this late summer going into fall you and I took part in the Caravan for Peace, Justice and Dignity led by Mexican Poet Javier Sicilia. 26 cities, about 7,000 miles in the LEAP mobile. What’s your remembrances? What do you take away from that?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Wow…it’s interesting I wrote a couple pieces since then and one of them I was asked the very same question. There is just so many things that I took away from this.
Number one is that we weren’t the only ones concerned about ending this nonsense called the drug war and for many of the same reasons. Number one is the violence. Meeting these mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters from Mexico and hearing them speak of their challenges and of what they and their families were and are subjected to was just unbelievable. The violence….
What really struck me was the courage that they had. What I mean by that is they put their lives at risk number one to speak about this issue and to bring this issue out in public in Mexico but then they took it another step forward to cross the border into the United States and to speak about what is happening in their country and to their families and to their friends and how they are subjected to the violence at the hands of the cartel and not just the cartel but the army, the federal government and how they don’t get the assistance that they need to locate family members or to find out what has happened to one of their family members and not get any assistance from the government and their lives have been threatened.
Then they cross the border and put their selves into the hands of complete strangers to carry this message to Washington, D.C. I mean…you know they are true champions.
DEAN BECKER: They are courageous souls – every one of them. I think we should underscore the thought that they had prior Caravans for Peace in Mexico and of those participants some 3, minimum, have been killed by the cartel since for speaking out. To so publically say what they needed to say…I still have horrible thoughts, reminders of some of the things that they said…the one that comes to mind is the lady who was looking for her daughter and had to go to various morgues, unair-conditioned morgues where the bodies were lying about just kind of willy-nilly and trying to locate her daughter amongst these…
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah and bodies decapitations and I think you’re speaking about the same mother who …the one that comes to mind is the one who was talking about the conversation that she had with individuals who said they murdered her daughter and how they decapitated her and were using her head as a soccer ball. It’s just horrific.
DEAN BECKER: I don’t even want to go into what they did with her daughter while she was alive but this is the kind of thing that goes on every day in Mexico because of America’s desire to prohibit drugs. Am it right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Not just at the end of the caravan but throughout the caravan of 30 days going from city to city they were so thankful for all who joined in here in the United States and there were so many organizations that joined in along the way – some traveling the whole distance, some joining in from city to city. They were just so thankful and full of gratitude for those who expended themselves. Many people opened up their homes and churches and just embraced these mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters from Mexico. I just thought it was great. It was fantastic.
DEAN BECKER: It brings to mind…we just got a couple minutes left here, Neill. When we were in Phoenix and visiting “Tent City” – Joe Arpaio’s memorial to eternal drug war – 118 degrees and we had about a dozen of the caravaners pass out, needed to go to the hospital for heat stroke and all that kind of stuff – they stood there until they just couldn’t take it anymore. They wanted to make a statement. Am I right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes they did. There were a couple other places in the south where the heat was quite extreme but they kept coming back day after day after day. Not one gave up – not one. Two busloads and not one gave up all the way through the end.
In the piece that I wrote in the end I said it gave me a new perspective. I was already committed to this but now I’m more committed than ever before. If they can do what they do and continue to do what they do in Mexico there’s absolutely no way I would ever consider giving up on ending prohibition in this country and around the globe.
DEAN BECKER: It’s so true. The fact of the matter is I felt much the same way. It reinvigorated me. It gave me more arrows in the quiver. It gave me more reasons to do what I do and more information with which to make my point.
NEILL FRANKLIN: It did in fact – it did. So I’m charged and now after this past Tuesday I’m charged even more and I finally got enough juice in the battery now to go for ten years but I don’t think it’s going to take that long.
DEAN BECKER: No, I don’t either, Neill. I think given the current circumstance the fact that more politicians are going to be willing to step up to the plate and say, “You know, this isn’t working. No catastrophe is happening in Colorado or Washington.”
We begin with marijuana. It is an incremental thing but, eventually, we’ll realize that heroin and methamphetamine and whatever are best left to Merck and Phizer and Walgreens rather than the Crips or the Sinaloa cartel or the Taliban.
NEILL FRANKLIN: This President Obama’s chance to begin to right the wrongs that have been occurring in this country for at least 4 decades. We know it’s even longer than that but I’m just going back 4 decades.
DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Well, we’re going to have to wrap it up. Again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin – the boss of my band of brothers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Our website is http://leap.cc Please check it out. There’s lots of good info there – stuff that you can put in your quiver of arrows.
Neill, thank you so much.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Dean, thank you. Thanks for having me.
DEAN BECKER: OK
DEAN BECKER: The recent guest on the Bill Maher Show was the head of the marijuana legalization effort in Colorado, Mason Tvert.
BILL MAHER: You had a big victory. How do you feel? Did you get high?
MASON TVERT: It feels good to know that there’s 10,000 people in Colorado that are not going to be arrested and made criminals next year just for using marijuana.
BILL MAHER: Well, you know, here in California we still have to pretend it’s all medical. I have a trick knee myself. It’s always acting up on me.
I guess we want to know how did you do it? How can we do it here and how did you do it there?
MASON TVERT: What we really did is we inspired a long discussion in Colorado over the last 8 years about marijuana and about the fact that it is safer than alcohol which is really important point that a lot of Americans do not understand yet.
BILL MAHER: Really, still?
MASON TVERT: Yeah. We looked at survey data and see that almost one-third of Americans think that marijuana is more harmful than alcohol which is just insane, obviously. Once we make sure people understand that fact the vast majority understand that this is insane and we need to make marijuana legal, allow adults to use it, regulate it. So that was our goal – increasing the percentage of people who understand that.
BILL MAHER: Because it’s not even close. Alcohol costs 200 billion dollars per year first of all in law enforcement, health care costs, not showing up at work because you can’t find your pants…but they have lobbyists – that’s the whole difference. The alcohol industry has lobbyists, right?
If the FDA were to look at these drugs tomorrow as two new drugs they would certainly allow marijuana before alcohol, correct?
MASON TVERT: Absolutely. Alcohol kills 40+ thousand people every single year in this country. Marijuana has never killed a person in history. You don’t really see someone go home, get high and then hit their wife. That just really happen.
I think that people are beginning to understand this more and more. California – I think you guys are poised to do it and I certainly hope that…
I know that you made a very generous contribution to Barack Obama I think that if you and 20 of your friends want to get together and make a similar contribution – we’ll have this done in a year or two.
BILL MAHER: Will you move here and do it?
MASON TVERT: I will do it.
BILL MAHER: Ok, that’s a deal.
BILL MAHER: The governor of the state of Colorado where you just passed this he was against it – Governor Hickenlooper… by the way, I think the word “hickenlooper” should become a word you use when you take too big of a bong hit.
Like santorum is a word…
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it’s not all fun and good times. The drug war rolls on.
Following the recent passage of marijuana legalization bills the New York Times produced a video from which the following audio is taken.
REBECCA RICHMOND COHEN: On the morning of March 14th, 2011 federal agents executed 26 search warrants on medical marijuana businesses across Montana.
FEMALE PATIENT: I have no access to my medicine. How can they do this?
CHRIS WILLIAMS: I’m one of the owners of Montana Cannabis. We care-give for hundreds of people who are sick and right now their medicine is being destroyed. They are cutting it down, taking it for evidence. We’ve operated clearly within the state law so are all of the other caregivers that they are raiding all across the state today.
REBECCA RICHMOND COHEN: Chris Williams is now facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison. If he had good reason to believe that he was following Montana law how could this be?
Last year I set out to make a documentary film to explore, in part, how such legal inconsistencies have contributed to the failure of the War on Drugs.
Let’s go back to the beginning. I met Chris Williams 7 months before federal agents raided his medical marijuana business – one of the largest medical marijuana providers in the state.
Montana Cannabis seems to be complying with Montana state law. Chris acted on the advice of a lawyer and relied on conversations with county attorneys. He and his partners even gave routine tours to state law enforcement and community leaders.
CHRIS WILLIAMS: To walk through a greenhouse over 100-feet-long full of cannabis and to have our local sheriff deputies come and do tours with me, to have our drug task force come and do tours with me…that was amazing.
DEPUTY: When you harvest this plant, do you harvest the whole plant? Look at the size of that. That really looks good.
CHRIS WILLIAMS: It does. It smells good, too.
DEPUTY: Well I never imagined that I’d see a plant this big. This is just …in Montana…
REBECCA RICHMOND COHEN: In 2004 Montana had passed a voter initiative to legalize medical marijuana and today 18 states and Washington, D.C. have these laws on their books but there’s a big catch – medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 makes that very clear and the federal government has discretion on how to enforce laws in medical marijuana states.
The Obama administration seemed to make federal policy more lenient for medical marijuana. A 2009 memo from the justice department indicated that the federal government should not focus federal resources on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws.
So Chris Williams had good reason to think he was safe from federal prosecution. Fast forward 7 months from the time I first met him and it was clear that he was wrong and Montana Cannabis is not the only place affected.
Last year without warning the feds began to crack down on growers in medical marijuana states across the country. Suddenly it appeared the Department of Justice’s 2009 memo was no longer in affect. It was an unexpected return to the failed policy of prohibition and punishment.
In a subsequent memo last year the Justice Department clarified the policy to say that medical marijuana patients would be free from prosecution but not industrial growers. Congress, the department noted, has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug. So now, apparently, those who grew is on an industrial scale were dangerous criminals which meant that large growers like Chris Williams in spite of their efforts to follow state laws were not safe from federal prosecution.
CHRIS WILLIAMS: After the raid it was really hard on my son continuing school. My son’s teachers had open class discussions about whether or not medical marijuana was right, about whether or not I should go to jail.
Folks that I felt great support from just within the community have turned their backs on me completely.
The most grim thing that I could think about would be for my son having to go into state care. That’s really what I fear the most.
REBECCA RICHMOND COHEN: In the end Chris Williams decided to take his case before jury. On September 27th he was convicted on marijuana charges and for possessing firearms during a drug trafficking offense.
He is currently behind bars and he faces a minimum-mandatory sentence of more than 80 years in prison.
Today about 75% of Americans support legalizing medical marijuana.
FEMALE: I am viewed as a criminal. I do not feel like a criminal. The people I work with are not criminals. We are following laws. We’re not breaking them.
REBECCA RICHMOND COHEN: If the vast majority of us believe that legitimate patients should have safe and reliable access to cannabis we need to reform federal law to be consistent with the states – lifting the cloud of uncertainty that puts growers and patients at risk.
DEAN BECKER: This amazing video for the New York Times was produced by Rebecca Richmond Cohen. Thank you, Rebecca.
Folks what have we derived from the policy of drug prohibition that offsets all the horrible blowback? Is it possible to ignore the 70,000 dead and the tens of thousands of disappeared Mexican citizens? How about the more than 40 million U.S. citizens whose futures are forever constrained, saddled with a criminal record for doing no more than their current President did in his youth?
A trillion dollars flushed away in our attempt to stop the flow of drugs. Billions of dollars laundered and no one is arrested. Corrupt politicians, judges and cops – prejudice abounding. Drug war corruption is world rot wide.
What are the benefits? Which is the greater threat – drugs or drug war?
Thanks for listening to this edition of Century of Lies. 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