01/20/13 Roger Goodman

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Roger Goodman Wash state Rep, Sen Patrick Leahy on mistake of Mand Min senteces, Tex Rep John Whitmire on failure of Justice system in drug war & Terry Nelson of LEAP: too many politicos out of touch w/drug war reality

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Transcript

Transcript

Cultural Baggage / January 20, 2013

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[music]

Pfizer and Merck kill more of us than the cartel’s crap ever could. They thank us for our silence, each year’s hundred billion dollars and the chance to do it forever more.

Drugs – the first eternal war.

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DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Thank you for being with us. Here in just a moment we’re going to bring in our guest. He’s a state representative up in Washington, Mr. Roger Goodman.

He’s been speaking against this drug war for a decade and many other politicians are starting to do that as well. I think it’s about time. I think more and more politicians should speak up. He’s been with the King County Bar Association and their committee of lawyers who have sponsored many events in this regard.

Let’s go ahead and bring him on. Roger Goodman, how are you doing?

ROGER GOODMAN: Hey Dean. It’s good to be back with you.

DEAN BECKER: I am thrilled that no longer is it radical for Seattle lawyers to stand up and say this drug war is a failure. A lot of people of high esteem are now beginning to say as much, right?

ROGER GOODMAN: Well, not only that but …I’ve been speaking up for a dozen years to end the drug war. We started a voice for the professionals – the lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, religious leaders – more than 10 years ago. Just a few months ago marijuana was made legal in Washington State. Washington and Colorado are the only places on the planet right now where it is legal. That’s the first major step.

The other development is I have just been named chair of the Public Safety Committee in the House of Representatives, the Criminal Justice Committee so I’m an avowed drug legalizer and they had the courage to name me chair of the committee that oversees the criminal justice system.

DEAN BECKER: Congratulations.

ROGER GOODMAN: We made it a long way.

DEAN BECKER: Roger, congratulations. This shows common sense. Even in Texas…we’re going to have a report a bit later from Senator John Whitmire talking about the stupidity of it all. We’ll even have a section from Senator Patrick Leahy who stood up as head of the House Judiciary Committee (a job maybe similar to the new one you just got) and said these mandatory-minimums aren’t working. They’re a mistake and we’re locking up the wrong people – kind of echoing what that committee of lawyers in Seattle was saying 10 years ago.

ROGER GOODMAN: We have a long way to go. I need to caution your listeners. Marijuana is legal now in Washington and Colorado and I’m sure very soon in California, Oregon and Nevada and Montana and Iowa and Rhode Island and all over the country it’s going to start sweeping across but that is just the first step. It’s a big step but we have to end the prohibition of all of these drugs and the mandatory-minimum sentences and all the prejudicial effects it has on particularly vulnerable people – people of color and the poor who get caught in this web of the drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. The cool thing is more states are reevaluating their stance in so far as marijuana, medical marijuana. Hawaii is thinking of improving their medical marijuana laws. West Virginia is thinking of starting one. There’s talk in Alabama and Arkansas. It’s not the taboo subject it was when we were first kicking this around, is it?

ROGER GOODMAN: Right. If you look at the polls anywhere between 70 to 85% of the public believe that people should be able to use marijuana. We call it cannabis out here and the rest of the world calls it cannabis so I’ll kind of alternate between marijuana and cannabis.

People really benefit from it. It is not a charade. People who have infirmities and suffer from pain are really able to benefit from it. It has been a medicinal herb for thousands of years. It ought to be continued to be used that way.

DEAN BECKER: The fact is a lot of columnists are now stepping up in this regard, are now facing down this lion and speaking truth and saying it is not the threat it once was, we all know it. It is time to quit pretending that we’re protecting the children and so forth. There’s just no nexus with reality left is there?

ROGER GOODMAN: Our policy has just been completely upside down. We’ve been trying to protect the children and in the course of trying to protect the children we’ve arrested 800,000 adults every year for possessing vegetable matter – stuff that grows out of the ground, a weed, we call it weed – and meanwhile where do you get it? You get it at the junior high school. You get it on the street and that’s all wrong.

We need to regulate it as we regulate other potentially hazardous products. We regulate alcohol. We regulate tobacco. We regulate pharmaceuticals. We regulate dynamite. We regulate uranium.

What I’m really excited about is out here in the Pacific Northwest we are actually taking those steps right now. I’m on the inside of the process where in the government we are asking all those kind of boring regulatory questions – location, transportation, storage, labeling, age limits and amounts – all the rational stuff that we should have been doing a long time ago. We’re finally taking those regulatory steps that should be worldwide and eventually it will be.

DEAN BECKER: Is Washington State the one with the 5 nanogram limit or was that Colorado?

ROGER GOODMAN: Yes, Washington does have the 5 nanogram limit – the blood limit for THC and that is a big concern. As a matter of fact in my committee I’m going to be holding a hearing in Olympia, Washington at the state capital on February 6th. We’re going to take a look at this so-called, per se limit and see if it really makes sense.

I’m going to bring in all the experts and see if there is a better way that we can do it. You know, marijuana or cannabis affects people differently. It’s not like alcohol. As a matter of fact people who use marijuana a lot are less impaired when they are driving and yet their blood levels are higher and the people who don’t use marijuana that often are more impaired and their blood levels are lower. So it’s exactly the opposite of what it should be so we might be measuring the wrong thing.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed we are. I want to share with you this personal story. One morning I went to a local, major oil company to get a job as an accountant. Went in, did the interview – they loved me and put me to work the next day. They said I had to go take a urine test. I had smoked that morning like I do most mornings. Again, I got the job even though I had smoked that morning.

I went and took the test. It was one of those immediate results things. I had 25 nanograms and yet … let’s back up to your situation in Washington. If I had 25 I would have been arrested and yet I had just gotten a job. I just wanted to throw that into your evaluation/equation.

ROGER GOODMAN: We have a situation here where the patients, the people who use marijuana medically, a lot of them can’t smoke. They have to ingest or drink it or take it in some other form and when it gets into their digestive system and their blood system the levels stay pretty high and they are not impaired. They are so-called psycho-motor functioning. They are not impaired when they are driving yet their blood levels are high.

I’m very concerned about marijuana patients being caught in the web of this legal net.

DEAN BECKER: I’m with you, sir. I think about the situation that I was 5 times over the limit and yet was …I wasn’t incapacitated. It’s got to be rethought.

ROGER GOODMAN: I do have to say let’s not be encouraging getting high and driving. For about 2 hours…if you’re going to smoke pot don’t drive for a couple hours.

DEAN BECKER: I’m not suggesting that. I guess what I’m saying is for me, in particular, if it’s a new strain – something that I have not smoked in a recent time frame – it impacts me. I feel it. I’ve got to use it a couple of times before the body adjusts to it.

I wanted to bring in this. For those people using pain killers, opiods – very powerful narcotic types – they become…I won’t say immune but they get to the point where they take enough that would kill a normal person and yet it just helps them to feel normal. Your thought there, Roger.

ROGER GOODMAN: that’s the point. They just want to relieve pain. It’s not like getting high. It’s a true medical use. There isn’t any impairment as far as judgment calls or motor skills. We’re kind of mixing it up here. You really have to deal with it more distinct about the people who…the difference between per se the blood limit automatic threshold above which you’re considered to be impaired and actually measuring the effect of the that person at that time.

We actually have measures to do that. We have law enforcement officers who are trained to see whether you’re impaired. I mean, my car was hit by a guy who has Parkinsons. He has tremor, right? He shouldn’t be driving. He wasn’t impaired by drugs. He was impaired by a physical condition so any type of impairment ought to be measured and is measurable.

There are other types of limits other than the blood limits that we could be using in the future. I really am encouraging looking at alternatives and as we move forward we may move beyond this sort of automatic blood level as sort of an arbitrary number.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and it would vary that amount that would impact people across the board. Those, as you were saying, who smoke every day vs. those who smoke on occasion. Why can’t we just have people walk a straight line or recite the alphabet backwards, remember their address – the kind of things that drunks certainly have a hard time doing.

ROGER GOODMAN: I’ve been enacting legislation for years now …driving under the influence. I’m proud to say that Washington State we have reduced deaths by 35% in the last couple of years because 95% of impaired driving is alcohol not pharmaceuticals and certainly not cannabis – it’s alcohol.

We put these breathalyzers in the cars now and if you’re a known drunk driver and you get convicted you got to blow your car start, basically. A lot of cars have not gotten on the road and we’ve avoided death and injury that way.

A lot of people who are older adults they can’t walk the line. They are not physically able to do that. That does not mean that they are impaired as to driving. I’ve worked with our Washington State Patrol up here to develop new ways – exactly what you are talking about – new ways of measuring impairment - even a test sitting down. You don’t have to get up and walk a line. So there are new ways to test impairment and I want to refine those methods so we can be much better about allowing people to drive if they’re not impaired but holding people accountable if they are driving impaired.

DEAN BECKER: We got just a minute and 90 seconds left here. I wanted to give you the chance to speak for any organizations you think the folks should tune in to on the web – where you think they ought to go.

ROGER GOODMAN: For students the number one organization is called Students for Sensible Drug Policy, http://ssdp.org – a fantastic organization. It has chapters in universities and colleges all over the country.

Another great group is called LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition which is former law enforcement officers who are speaking up against the drug war.

Of course there’s the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance. We’ve really sort of mainstreamed this conversation. It’s a very strategic issue. This isn’t some esoteric matter. This is about public safety. This is about health care. This is about properly educating our young people. This is about fiscal responsibility. We’ve been wasting literally hundreds of billions of dollars on this failed drug war.

Finally I think America is catching up with us. You and I, Dean, have been on the leading edge. We got to keep moving. I think America really gets it now. Public opinion is there and now we just have to get the right laws in place.

Up here in Washington we’re starting to put the right laws in place to regulate this rather than to prohibit it which creates a violent black market and makes it available to young people and impure substances and so forth.

Marijuana is not all. Remember that we have to take a look at other prohibited substances and bring them within the law as well so we can protect the public, save money, buy better health care, educate people with more accurate scientific information.

We have a lot of work to do but we’ve made a lot of progress. I think you should be proud of the work you’ve done and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do up here as well.

DEAN BECKER: I’m proud of drug reform in general. We’re getting there.

Once again, folks, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Roger Goodman, Representative in the state of Washington, head of their Judiciary Committee now.

Roger, thank you so much.

ROGER GOODMAN: My pleasure, Dean. We’ll talk to you again later.

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[game show music]

It’s time to play Name that drug by its side effects.

Time’s up. The answer is forthcoming.

Do not drive or operate machinery until at least four hours after taking Intermezzo and you’re fully awake. Driving, eating or engaging in other activities while not fully awake will not remember the event the next day have been reported.

Abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion. Alcohol or taking other medicines that make you sleepy may increase these risks.

In depressed patients worsening of depression including risk of suicide may occur.

Intermezzo, like most sleep medicines, have some risk of dependency.

Common side effects are headache, nausea and fatigue.

So if you suffer from middle of the night insomnia ask your doctor about Intermezzo and return to sleep again.

Editor’s note: If you smoke pot to help you sleep you’ll go to jail.

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DEAN BECKER: Folks it seems that more and more people are beginning to wake up to the situation we’ve created via this policy of drug war and even some elected officials are seeing some need for change. Here to talk about that possibility is Texas Senator John Whitmire.

How are you, sir?

JOHN WHITMIRE: I’m fine.

DEAN BECKER: You’ve been quoted many times, recently as well, talking about the fact that we need to stop locking up people we’re mad at and go after those that are a threat. Is that a fair summary?

JOHN WHITMIRE: That’s very accurate. I routinely point out and document that we locked up a lot of people that we’re just mad at. Today we have about 380 prostitutes (believe it or not) locked up in our state prison. If you get convicted of prostitution three times they will send you to prison for 5 years.

These individuals don’t need to be in prison they need to be in the community in a life skill’s course, getting GEDs, drug and alcohol treatment – get them out of that lifestyle. Because we’re mad at them. We’re not afraid of them and that’s a real good example.

A lot of other offenders particularly low-level drug users, property crimes versus those we are afraid of – a rapist, murderer or child molester.

You got to distinguish who you are placing in the criminal justice system. We lock up a lot of people that could be in a diversion program, in drug and alcohol…not to mention…let me emphasize another area – mental health cases.

People with mental health problems do not belong in prison. They belong in a mental health program.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. The fact of the matter is we’re realizing more and more that our treasury is not what it once was. Our possibilities are not what they once were.

JOHN WHITMIRE: Obviously money is an issue but that’s about the second issue for me. The first one is just how you treat fellow humans. It’s a waste of human life to lock people up who don’t need to be locked up. It cost a lot.

Some of my colleagues, some business groups are focused on the cost and that’s fine. We shouldn’t waste money. We should save the money from not locking up people who don’t need to be there and plow that money into drug and alcohol treatment, education, help some that are leaving prison in a re-entry program.

It’s just the wrong thing to do to lock up somebody that is not a threat to anyone.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. There’s a situation. I can’t remember the exact year – 2008 or 9 or so – where House Bill 2391 saying it is no longer necessary to arrest or jail anybody for 4 ounces or less of marijuana, for graffiti and check writing under $500 and yet only the police chief of Austin has taken advantage of that.

When I interviewed DA Lycos here in Harris County she said it would create too much paperwork and yet the legislature passed it, the governor signed it and they choose to ignore it. Your response, sir.

JOHN WHITMIRE: Obviously I voted for it and I think it makes a lot of sense. We got to keep people with their families, on the job. Let people be taxpayers instead of a burden to the state.

Prisons, jails ought to be for public safety. You don’t have to lock people up…you should not lock up people that pose no public safety risk. Place them in other programs.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. As I indicated when I started off here more and more politicians, newspapers, broadcasters…people are recognizing the futility of this hundred war, aren’t they?

JOHN WHITMIRE: Sure. We sure as hell tried to build our way out of it and lock as many folks as we could and that didn’t work. Actually treatment and diversion and alternatives to incarceration have proven a lot more effective.

Now, you’ll always have a bad element, a dangerous element that you need to lock up but you need to identify those individuals and don’t paint the defendants with a broad brush. You got dangerous ones and then you got some that for lack of better word are just a nuisance and you can fix those people.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. All too often like say for instance somebody busted for a check for $20 – he can’t get out of jail, he loses his job, maybe his apartment, maybe his car, his girlfriend and if it’s a marijuana charge he can’t even find a job henceforward. Your thoughts, sir.

JOHN WHITMIRE: Well, I believe in rehabilitation. I believe in giving people a second chance...sometime a third chance so it speaks for itself.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir it does.

Senator Whitmire, I want to tell you once again how I admire your courage to stand up and say the things you do here in Texas. We are empowering these cartels. We give reasons for these gangs to exist through this drug war and, yet, so few politicians are willing to recognize what’s before their eyes.

JOHN WHITMIRE: Sure. OK, well I enjoyed talking with you.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Senator.

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DEAN BECKER: The following is from a speech given to Georgetown University Law Center last Wednesday by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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PATRICK LEAHY: We’re going to work to promote national standards and oversight for forensic labs and practitioners. We must forge improvements that far more effectively identify and convict people guilty of crimes, while avoiding the too-common tragedy of convicting the innocent. If you have labs that do not give you the right results and you think you can close a case by sending the wrong person to prison you’ve done nothing for the safety of people. You have won the tragedy of having an innocent person in prison and the same time you have loose on the streets the person who committed the crime. We all suffer from that.

We will also examine fiscal issues related to our high rate of imprisonment and mandatory minimum sentences to make sure that we are conserving law enforcement resources, while prioritizing approaches that most effectively reduce crime and target violent offenders.

Let me say – I say this as a former prosecutor and as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee – I think our reliance at the state and federal level on mandatory minimums has been a great mistake. I’m not convinced that it has lowered crime. We have imprisoned people who should not be there and we have wasted money that would be better spent on other things.

At the federal level and at the state level get rid of the mandatory minimum sentences. Let judges act as judges and make up their own mind what should be done. The idea that we protect society by “one size fits all” or the idea that we can do this kind of symbolism to make us safer just does not work in the real world and there are too many people, too many young people, too many minorities, too many from the inner city who are serving time in jail where people who might have done the same thing but had the money to stay out and are not there.

What I say is inner city buying $100 worth of cocaine, for example, could end up going to prison for years. If you have someone on Wall Street buying the same $100 from their local dealers if they’re caught they’ll be reprimanded and they may even have to do on Park Avenue a week of public service. That’s not right. That’s not right.

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TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The big buzz now among many that are not in favor of legalization or those that are just not sure how it is going to work is that Medical Cannabis is being sold on the street. They think this because it is relatively common to see buds of cannabis instead of the bricks or baggies of old. To me this only means that much of the cannabis is now being grown domestically and is not compressed for ease of smuggling across the international border.

While there are no reliable numbers about the amount of cannabis grown domestically it probably ranges in the millions of pounds. In 2006, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, almost 5 million plants were destroyed. This was approximately a 8% increase over 2005. So, I think it is safe to say that they did not get them all which means that millions of pounds of cannabis is being grown domestically.

The big difference is that medical cannabis or legal cannabis will be strictly regulated. This means that the plants will each be banded, bar-coded or otherwise identified so that they product can be tracked. There will never be total control as there is no way to know for sure how much each plant will produce. Outdoor grows generally yield more than indoor plants.

Cannabis has been illegal for decades and millions of people have been arrested an incarcerated yet there are still millions of pounds of cannabis being grown here in the U.S. Any law enforcement officer or politician that cannot see the futility of trying to eliminate the growing of a weed has to be a little out of touch with reality.

The citizens of Colorado and Washington State have made the right decision. Let’s hope that other states will soon follow suit. There is no reason to spend resources on something that you cannot control. It is far better to legalize cannabis and regulate and control the market place rather than leaving it in the hands of criminal drug gangs and international drug cartels with all their death and violence.

By fairly taxing cannabis the states and localities can see a tremendous increase in revenues instead of throwing more money into the endless drug war hole. And far fewer young men and women will be arrested and incarcerated. Our jails can be used for dangerous criminals and we might even be able to rehabilitate a few of them but for sure we will have enough room to keep the dangerous ones locked up and not released to make room for a non-violent cannabis user.

The policy should be to educate our population on the harm of abusing substances and medically treating those that do. We will never arrest our way out of the drug war but we can educate our citizens and not incarcerate them.

This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, www.leap.cc signing off. Stay safe.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, I want to thank Terry Nelson for that – 33 years serving the U.S. government as a U.S. Customs, Border and Air Interdiction officer.

Join us next week. We’re going to have Dr. Mitch Earlywine come in and talk about the new marijuana laws, the changes across the country. Just today we began working on our new TV show. It will be airing in February. It’s going to be a weekly one hour show called the Unvarnished Truth.

Check out Century of Lies, Jodie Emery, available on most of the Drug Truth Network station.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

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DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org