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Following deaths of Pete Seeger and KPFT's Jimmy Carper, Ray Hill Pacifica patriarch and Prison Show founder visits with DTN's Dean Becker re activism and the need for drug reformers to reach beyond incremental changes
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Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam Univ, Bulldog Coffee Shop & more in studio + Terry Nelson of LEAP
Cultural Baggage / November 25, 2012
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.
DEAN BECKER: Proud, I’m happy. We have with us in studio a good friend of drug reform in general, a good friend of marijuana reform in particular, a former Houstonian, Mr. Richard Lee. How are you doing, Richard?
RICHARD LEE: Good. Good to be here.
DEAN BECKER: Richard, as I say it’s a treat to have you here. You’ve been based for about the last 15 years out in California, right?
RICHARD LEE: Yes, in Oaksterdam, California – our part of Oakland.
DEAN BECKER: You had a lot or maybe everything to do with that name – Oaksterdam – did you not?
RICHARD LEE: Actually we give credit to another guy, Jim McClelland, who’s no longer with us. He was an AIDS patient. Back in the 90s that was the first thrust for the medical marijuana was for the AIDS patients. He first came up with the name Oaksterdam for a variety of cannabis that was called Oaksterdam Goo.
DEAN BECKER: For those who many not know Richard was very instrumental in not only creating Oaksterdam University where thousands of people were taught the proper way to grow and harvest and medicate with and sell cannabis…
RICHARD LEE: …and still are.
DEAN BECKER: …and still are…
RICHARD LEE: A lot of people think Oaksterdam was closed when we were raided by the federal government last April but it’s still open and still having classes so people can go out to Oakland, California and learn about the cannabis business and politics.
DEAN BECKER: I was privileged to be a part of that, to take the basic and the advanced course. The caliber of the professors, if you will, the years of experience, the knowledge they are able to parlay is amazing.
Your thoughts? Do you still have some of them great teachers?
RICHARD LEE: Yeah, we’re real lucky because we are in the Bay Area to have people like Chris Conrad and Paul Armentano from NORML. He has a great class on the medical benefits of cannabis. You hear from prohibitionists often that we need to do more research, more studies when actually there’s already hundreds of studies that show that cannabis is beneficial and can be used medically for a number of conditions.
DEAN BECKER: I was privileged to catch a class with Ed Rosenthal. My gosh, you talk about a man who knows how to grow – the guru of ganja, right?
RICHARD LEE: Yep, yep, we have classes on horticulture to teach people how to safely and responsibly cultivate cannabis. We’re proud to have Ed Rosenthal on the faculty.
DEAN BECKER: Let’s go back a couple years. I want to talk about what happened this April but in 2010 you and a group of friends were instrumental in putting forward a resolution for the voters of California to do what just happened here in 2012 in a couple other states but you were very instrumental in putting forward that attempt at legalization in California, correct?
RICHARD LEE: Yeah, I’m very proud of all we accomplished with Prop 19 even though we didn’t win. We did help contribute, I think, to the wins this year in Colorado and Washington. A lot of the coalition that first started supporting legalization continue to support the initiatives this year like the NAACP. That was the first time that they came out for legalization was during 2010 in the Prop 19 campaign. Also unions like the UFCW #5 and we got a lot of Latin America to start talking about it like the presidents of other countries were praying that Prop 19 passed and we’re seeing a lot of that carry over now. There’s four, five, six other countries now south of the border that are calling for legalization. Uruguay has actually got a bill that the president of Uruguay has been promoting and sponsoring to legalize in Uruguay.
DEAN BECKER: It’s had a spill-over effect in so many ways around the globe. They haven’t had major proponents but even Canada and Great Britain have kind of had new mumblings and grumblings about this need for change as well. Then we have several states in the United States that are…they have state legislators…maybe they won’t make it through this session but they’re putting forward bills to legalize or medicalize in other U.S. states beyond what’s already done. Your thought there?
RICHARD LEE: Right. In the Northeast – Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire – all have legislators who are going to introduce legalization bills this year so it’s going to become more and more difficult for the federal government to stop the states from pushing ahead and it’s going to put more pressure on the federal government, on Obama and the justice department to change their strict intolerance of cannabis.
DEAN BECKER: I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance. Alright, friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University.
Richard, you’re here in Houston, the gulag filling station of planet Earth, but you’re visiting with your parents. The local FOX TV reporter came by the other day. No matter where you go you’re creating news. He was talking and, I guess, we were talking about the need for change here in Texas but, heck, they voted for in in Arkansas for medical. It didn’t make it but …
RICHARD LEE: It only lost by 1%. 49% voted for medical marijuana in Arkansas and that’s the first southern state to vote on it. We know the south is going to be tough because it is the Bible Belt but it only lost by 1% in Arkansas. That was without a well-funded campaign.
DEAN BECKER: Which brings to mind Oregon did not pass but as I understand it they only had some 70,000 dollars invested into that effort. Some say there was trouble with the bill itself. I didn’t read it that carefully so I can’t tell you but the fact of the matter is money and support, people’s involvement is really what swings this cat because the truth is there just waiting to be recognized. Your thought, Richard Lee.
RICHARD LEE: As they say money is the mother’s milk of politics. You may not like it but it’s part of the political process. But we’re seeing more and more people willing to donate and support legalization. It’s kind of a snowball that’s happening. As more people support it more people are willing to support it.
DEAN BECKER: This brings us to this year, this past election. The fact of the matter is this is a prime example nothing succeeds like success. The fact of the matter is Washington State and Colorado passed by fairly overwhelming numbers…
RICHARD LEE: 55%
DEAN BECKER: And that should give comfort to others who may think about investing in future endeavors like this. What’s your thought?
RICHARD LEE: Yeah, it’s just a matter of time. A question of whether it will be 2014 or 2016 that California legalizes and other states come on board. The one thing about waiting until 2016 is you get a higher turnout of younger voters so we have better success on presidential election years. But the way things are going I think we could win in 2014 because with 55% in Colorado and Washington it shows that we actually have room to still win even without the larger presidential turnout.
DEAN BECKER: A couple of things they were showing on the FOX TV the other day…there was a couple of these items that I think…well they’re empty certainly at this point but they’re talking about Sour Diesel fortified with kief and Gilly Bean, Orange Velvet Skunk and Space Queen fortified with kief. These things are available in California?
RICHARD LEE: That’s something I’d like to tell everybody is that while the federal crackdown in California has gotten a lot of press and media that Obama closed everything down when really that’s not true. They’ve hit a few high profile people like me but they’re still over a thousand companies open and dispensaries and lots of companies producing these products like you were just talking about. Those are pre-rolled cigarettes or joints. Then all the food products – it’s amazing – all the different food products that are available.
DEAN BECKER: It’s not just cookies. It’s jelly beans. It’s soda. It’s teas – you name it, right?
RICHARD LEE: And with very professional packaging. It you look at the packaging it will have the ingredients. It will talk about the percentage of THC or CBD versus the other cannabinoids. It’s hard to believe it’s illegal sometimes when you see all these well packaged products and how available they are.
DEAN BECKER: Richard, this brings to mind…it’s like…I was going to do a comparison but I don’t even want to go there. The fact of the matter is for every person who gets discouraged, busted, whatever it creates an opportunity. It is, as they have said, the new gold rush. It is the means by which a lot of young people because there ain’t that many jobs, there’s not a lot of opportunities – this is an opportunity for people and no matter the danger somebody’s is always going to step in there. Am I right?
RICHARD LEE: Right and then you were talking about the economic aspects. The local governments, the state governments are getting behind this because they need the tax dollars and they need to prioritize their law enforcement. Every year the clearance rate of murders and rape and robberies goes down because the police are spending more time looking for people like you and me instead of the real criminals out there.
They have a financial incentive to do that because of the seizure, the forfeiture laws. A lot of the police are out there just basically committing highway robbery – pulling people over and taking their money. It’s a way they can get around having to go to the legislature for their budget. This way they can afford the latest new toys – battering rams and tanks and SWAT teams and all that.
DEAN BECKER: This is exemplary. I can’t think of the exact pronunciation – Tenaja, Texas, a little border city near Louisiana – where they primarily stopped black folks, took their money, sometimes took their car, made them sign “We’ll let you go if you’ll sign this piece of paper.” They were just caught. Thank goodness somebody got caught at this. They are now paying millions in fines and penalties to those people.
They’re not the only ones. I remember Karen Tandy – she headed the DEA for a while – she was talking about they almost funded their multi-billion dollar operation through forfeiture money.
RICHARD LEE: Did you hear about the town in Florida who were sending agents across the country. You didn’t even have to go to this city in Florida for them to seize stuff. They were sending people out…the Justice Department just told them they have to give 2 million dollars back and they don’t know what they’re going to do because they already spent it all.
DEAN BECKER: Can’t squeeze blood out a turnip.
RICHARD LEE: Another thing I wanted to mention. You told me ahead of time, before we got on the air, was that we were talking about how this policy affects African Americans and minorities disproportionately. All the statistics show that while all races consume cannabis at the same amount a much larger proportion of African Americans and Hispanics are arrested for it. That’s why it’s so great that we got the NAACP on board.
You were telling me about a Texas group that is getting on board. Just thought that would be good to mention to your listeners.
DEAN BECKER: It’s a newly formed group. I did have one of their reps on a few weeks ago. It’s called the National African American Forum. Basically, to those who have read the book you’ll understand this, their goal is to undo the “new Jim Crow: the mass incarceration in the age of color blindness.”
If you haven’t read the book I encourage you to do so. It exposes this ugly thing for what it is.
Once again, folks, we’re speaking with Mr. Richard Lee of Oaksterdam University – a prime mover, a gentleman who understands this need for change. He’s worked for years with the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. He’s with the Fully Informed Jury Association.
RICHARD LEE: I’m glad you brought that up. I’d like to…
DEAN BECKER: Right, tell the folks more about it.
RICHARD LEE: The Fully Informed Jury Association educates citizens about their jury rights and the fact that the jury system is part of our political process. The main thing that people need to know is that jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts despite the fact that judges will usually instruct juries that they must follow the law as the judge gives it to them. That’s not really true because if you think about it jurors cannot be punished for their verdicts. So the judge is giving a false threat there.
The other thing people really need to be aware of is not to allow themselves to be screened off of juries. During the voir dire or jury selection process often the judge and prosecutor will ask the jury pool, “Are you willing to convict for a cannabis offense?”
A lot of people will put their hand up and say no and then they get to leave and they think they’ve won but actually in the long run they’ve lost because then that only leaves people who are more prone to convict. So we need those people to stay quiet during jury selection, to get on juries and then exercise their right to refuse to convict someone for cannabis offences.
DEAN BECKER: There have been some very notable cases where that has happened in the last few months. A few weeks back we had Ed Forchion (NJ Weedman) on. You followed this closely. Tell us your thoughts on what happened with Ed, how that transpired.
RICHARD LEE: Basically the jury acquitted him of possession for sale. He had a pound in his trunk when he was pulled over in New Jersey. Even though he’s a California medical patient - he has a doctor’s recommendation and so he’s legal to have cannabis as a medical patient in California - New Jersey’s law hasn’t gone into effect yet.
New Jersey passed one a number of years ago but it’s been held up with the bureaucracy and the governor. He didn’t have any legal right to have any cannabis. The jury still acquitted him of possession for sale.
DEAN BECKER: Richard, I look at it like this. You and I and our greater family and neighbors and co-workers and people we know – people we’ve run into – are for this. They have a brother, they have a sister, an uncle, a niece, a nephew – somebody who smokes pot and it hasn’t been a bit of a problem.
You know what I’m saying? They know he smokes. But now the time has come, I think, where people are beginning to realize that …
RICHARD LEE: …they’re not alone.
DEAN BECKER: …that it’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to mention this because others understand. It doesn’t have the taboo…
RICHARD LEE: There was actually a poll done on this. They asked people “How many people do you think are for legalization?” And the numbers are always a lot lower for the number of people think are for legalization than the people who actually are. So you have this kind of thing where the people are scared to come out “closet” because they think nobody else is for it.
DEAN BECKER: My engineer, Otis Clay, just gave me a good question here. He’s asking us about the commercial “for profit” results in Colorado. I guess for the medical side it unfolded. It happened. No major problems. Kids got jobs, whatever and on down the line. I guess the question is that kind of helped towards the legalization vote as well. Your thoughts there…things that unfolded medically alright helped the legalization vote.
RICHARD LEE: Sure, exactly. When you go to Denver you will see…or there has been for a couple of years now lots of dispensaries, lots of store fronts that openly sell cannabis to medical patients and also are allowed to make a profit. This is America. We do live in a capitalist society. That’s one of the problems we’ve had in the past as a lot of people have said, “Well, it’s alright as long as it’s non-profit. As long as nobody makes any money or no money changing hands.”
That’s not the way America works – not the way the world works. If you work hard and provide a good product you should be able to make good money.
DEAN BECKER: That is kind of the difference in the situation between Colorado and California – it’s got that not for profit ringer in there which kind of complicates things more than it does in Colorado that not for profit is not in the bill. Your thought there.
RICHARD LEE: I think that going forward we do need to embrace capitalism when it comes to this, that we cannot think of it as some kind of altruistic thing that people are going to grow cannabis and give it away for free, that everybody needs to pay rent, everybody needs to eat. We got to pay the bills like everybody else and so people need to be able to make a living out of this.
That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about for a couple of years now is that this industry can provide jobs that pay taxes and provide health insurance so that people can make an honest living.
DEAN BECKER: Imagine trying to hold Merck or Pfizer to non-profit or Budweiser or any of them guys. They do it to make a living because that’s what America is all about.
Once again, friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Richard Lee, former Houstonian back in town during the holiday here.
Are you headed back to California soon?
RICHARD LEE: Yep, I’m headed back tomorrow.
DEAN BECKER: Richard, the fact of the matter is you have stepped down as chancellor or president of Oaksterdam but Oaksterdam continues. The opportunity to gain that education to become part of this new “gold rush”, if you will, is still there.
RICHARD LEE: Yeah, actually there’s more places open now than there were back in April when we were raided. The gift shop is still open. If you’d like Oaksterdam T-shirts or sweatshirts or swag you can go online and order those. Our Measure Z clubs that already cater to adults because back in 2004 Oakland voted for legalization on the city-wide level so we have lots of places that are open that people can come and enjoy cannabis without fear of arrest.
DEAN BECKER: That’s amazing stuff. We’ve just got a minute or two left here. Richard, here in Houston – I always say the gulag filling station of planet earth – things have gotten a little better but, then again, we’ve got a new District Attorney and they may just get worse again.
RICHARD LEE: The good news, though, we do have some state reps who I think are going to introduce some bills to either reduce penalties or otherwise try to improve things in Texas. I’m not sure if they have the best chance of passing but at least it’s a start.
DEAN BECKER: And that’s I think the real telling point and we were talking about it earlier. People are more willing to talk about it. They see those around them, they know those around them are aware and willing to address this subject and I guess that’s where we’re at. You, dear listener, you need be a little more willing to talk about it with your friends and relatives. You need to write a letter and send it to your elected officials – state and national – and just do your part to help end this madness.
Richard, is there a website you’d like to point folks towards so they can learn more about what you’re doing?
RICHARD LEE: You can go to http://oaksterdam.com and that will link you to Oaksterdam University and the Oaksterdam gift shop and the other Oaksterdam businesses.
DEAN BECKER: We’ll hopefully have a few seconds to close this out but I got a couple of little segments I want to run for you. Hopefully we’ll be back for a brief moment with Richard Lee.
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Bad cops, bad cops, whatcha gonna do when prohibition comes for you?
TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s been three weeks since Colorado and Washington State legalized personal use of Cannabis. While it has been mostly quiet from the U.S. government there has been some noise from the United Nations. The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has called on the Obama Administration to take action against the two states that have legalized cannabis.
Also, former drug czars have called for the government to crack down on these states in which the voters have, by a large margin, voted to legalize cannabis. The voters recognize that the myth surrounding cannabis use is just that. They know that the drug is not nearly as dangerous as alcohol, tobacco or copious amounts of junk food.
Of course the U.N. has no jurisdiction and must ask that others do their dirty work. This even after many nations of the UN have called for change in the current policy. A relatively recent Supreme Court decision, Bond vs U.S., holds that states are not subject to International Treaties entered into by the central government. Therefore, as I read the decision, the states can pass laws regarding their citizens and not have to be concerned about the International community.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional
Government and is Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for
Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute writes;
“In view of these principles, the Court ruled that individual citizens can sue the federal government when it violates the Tenth Amendment. But the Court went even further than that—it declared that the states themselves may advance the goals of federalism through “positive law.” Bond expressly declared that our system of federalism empowers “[s]tates to respond, through the enactment of positive law, to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times without having to rely solely upon the political processes that control a remote central power.” And all of this took place within the context of a case that challenged a federal law stemming from an international treaty.
We live in interesting times and must wait patiently for further actions by the government as to whether the right of these states’ voters will be honored or not. I think that we may well be near the end of the prohibition of cannabis for personal use. And ending prohibition on any drug can only help to decrease the harms caused by prohibition and the influence of drug cartels and street gangs in the distribution networks.
You can help to insure that good policy comes out of our government by actively influencing your elected leaders by calling, writing or emailing them that you want to see a change in policy regarding prohibition of drugs. A policy of education and treatment instead of one of arrest and incarceration. We can educate our way out of these problems but we will never arrest our way out.
This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com. Signing off. Stay safe.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, that was our good friend Terry Nelson.
We have with us in studio Mr. Richard Lee. Richard, your thoughts about LEAP.
RICHARD LEE: Yeah, that’s great that you just had that spot from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It’s police officers who realize the futility and the counter-productiveness of the drug war. The fact that it’s just making problems worse – not helping it – making police officers’ jobs more dangerous. That’s great that you got that spot in there and I encourage all of your listeners to support LEAP.
You can go online and find the information on them and send them a few dollars and join the organization. The only real opposition we have is law enforcement now – the cops who see it as an easy money making …
DEAN BECKER: LEAP was very instrumental in California, helping your vote there and in Washington and Colorado as well.
RICHARD LEE: Exactly.
DEAN BECKER: Richard, we’ve got less than a minute. If you will quickly tell us about the position of your case. Where does it stand?
RICHARD LEE: So far the government doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to prosecute me. They raided us last April and the complaint that the warrants were based on is still sealed and we haven’t heard anything else about them indicting and prosecuting us so I think that’s a good sign that they don’t feel they’re going to be successful or they would be successful if they did.
DEAN BECKER: Good luck finding a jury out there I would think.
Friends, we’re out of time. I’ve been speaking with Mr. Richard Lee. Please check out http://oaksterdamuniversity.com.
That’s it. I got to get out of here. As always, I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
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
The James A Baker Institute
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Mon - How US drug war is seen on British TV, laughter, horror.