01/19/14 Grant Smith

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Grant Smith of DPA re futility of drug law, Michael Bolen Canadian blogger for HuffPo, James Capra of DEA testilies before US Senate.

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Transcript

Century of Lies January 19, 2014

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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: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Century of Lies. You know the idea of perpetual, eternal drug war gets more ridiculous with each passing day.

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GRANT SMITH: My name is Grant Smith. I’m with the Drug Policy Alliance. I’m a policy manager at the Office of National Affairs.

DEAN BECKER: 2014 has awakened the nation to the potential for change to our drug laws and especially in regards to cannabis. What’s going on around the nation?

GRANT SMITH: Let’s start right here in the nation’s capital. Yesterday a panel of 5 council members (this is the equivalent of the city council here) passed a bill and moved it to the full council that would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and no longer treat it as a criminal offense, as a crime that would be punishable by up to 6 months in prison or a $1,000 fine and, instead, treat it as the equivalent of a traffic ticket or a parking ticket – a $25 fine for possession of one ounce or less and a $100 fine for smoking marijuana in public.

DEAN BECKER: The house in the state of New Hampshire also very recently did something new as well, right?

GRANT SMITH: Yes. The first legislative boding to affirm taxation and regulation of marijuana in the country – historic day in D.C. and New Hampshire.

DEAN BECKER: There’s a ground swell just going across the nation following what happened there in Colorado. I even heard that one of the top senators in Maryland was going to put forward a similar proposal, right?

GRANT SMITH: Yes. My understanding is that this morning legislation was unveiled. The organizing around Maryland has been progressing substantially in recent months. We had a candidate running for Governor who is has a shot at winning, Heather Mizeur. She’s actually one of my delegates in the state of Maryland. She came out with a platform early in her campaign to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and use the proceeds from the sales to fund preschool education across the state – something that the state of Maryland doesn’t have yet is free education for young children.

DEAN BECKER: Politicians across the board – Democrat/Republican – are beginning to realize they can bring this subject forward without suffering horrible consequences, right?

GRANT SMITH: I think politicians on both sides of the aisle are coming to that realization that the public isn’t going to punish them for stepping forward and addressing the harms of marijuana prohibition. They’re not going to suffer for being smarter about drug policy. In fact, we’ve seen the opposite in recent elections such as the well-known outcome of the election in south Texas in the El Paso area where congressman Beto O’Rourke beat out his opponent after his opponent attacked him for his pro-drug policy reform positions and the public there didn’t like it.

I think we’re starting to see more of that. As more candidates for office and more lawmakers step forward that’s going to encourage even more lawmakers who are right now quite reluctant to come out on the issue for various reasons – either they don’t see any personal gain by doing so or their constituents aren’t speaking to them enough. It never hurts to contact your representatives whether in the state house, in congress or even city council and voice your disapproval of marijuana prohibition or the drug laws in general.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Grant Smith of the Drug Policy Alliance. I urge you to check out their website at http://drugpolicy.org.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment comes to us out of Youngstown, Ohio courtesy WFMJ.

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ANCHOR: We first told you yesterday about a north Lima family uprooting their life here in the valley to move to Colorado – that’s the only state with a new type of medical marijuana that they believe could save their son’s life.

Tonight Danielle Cotterman introduces us to more valley families pleading for Ohio to legalize the drug.

DANIELLE COTTERMAN: 7-year-old Hunter, 6-year-old Cameron and Kyia and 3-year-old Paige – all valley children with medical conditions their families believe could be alleviated by a new marijuana oil known as Charlotte’s Web.

AMY WOLLET: The doctors tell you that they have no more options, that there is nothing left to do and you see these children that are taking the medications and they are improving so much. It gives you hope again.

DANIELLE COTTERMAN: The drug that’s made specifically for children with diseases such as epilepsy or cancer only has a small amount of the ingredient that gets you high.

DANA SHAFFER: The kids will put it in their food, they put it in their gums and they swallow it. They do not smoke it.

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MICHAEL BOLEN: I’m Michael Bolen. I’m a blogger for the Huffington Post, Canada which is where I work. I recently wrote an article about why the arguments that marijuana prohibition protects children don’t really make much sense at all. (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/michael-bolen/canada-marijuana-laws-prohibi...)

DEAN BECKER: I would venture to say that nothing too much about the drug war makes any sense either but let’s talk about that situation. They’re always saying, “We can’t do this. What about the children?!”

What about the children, Michael?

MICHAEL BOLEN: I think that the counter argument is that actually marijuana prohibition creates crime and particularly creates crime within a school environment. When I went to high school it certainly wasn’t difficult to get your hands on marijuana. The kids who did end up getting involved in the drug trade in school tended to be the ones who came from sort of more difficult economic backgrounds, who were having trouble at home. If you wanted to get alcohol you would get your older brother to buy it or you would steal it from your parents or...it was legal so these problems just didn’t happen.

I think what we see in schools in the United States and in Canada is just like a smaller scale crime like you see in Mexico where literally tens of thousands of people have died over the last 10 or 15 years due to a drug war that just seems to go on and on.

DEAN BECKER: You did reference our folks south of the border. What happens down there is those cartels recruit 14, 15-year-old kids, give them a gun and a motorcycle and set them to work. It’s not for the children anywhere is it?

MICHAEL BOLEN: No. I think it’s particularly disturbing that we’re allowing kids in Mexico to go through those sorts of experiences essentially so that middle-class white parents in America and Canada can pretend that their kids aren’t smoking pot which isn’t even the case because it’s not very difficult for them to get their hands on marijuana.

Clearly prohibition isn’t working. In my story I cite a recent UNICEF study which states that Canada actually has more young people between the ages of 11 and 15 smoking marijuana more than anywhere else in the Western world so that’s more than in Amsterdam, more than in Portugal – both places have very liberal drug laws in comparison to Canada and the United States and yet, somehow, their teenagers are actually doing less drugs.

DEAN BECKER: My friend Neill Franklin talks about the spill-over affect - that people in search of cannabis sometimes are unable to acquire it and then somebody says, “I’ve got some cocaine” or some other more dangerous product for you to sample but there is no real gateway so to speak, is there?

MICHAEL BOLEN: No. In my article I say that the gateway of anything would be to criminality. Regardless of what your feelings are about whether pot is a good thing or a bad thing I’m inclined it’s not particularly dangerous compared to alcohol or cigarettes. Regardless of what you think it’s certainly by being illegal it pushes the trade underground and that leads to violence invariably. It also leads to a loss of possible tax revenue.

Luckily we’re seeing now a couple of states take the lead on this and it will be very interesting to see how the experiment in Colorado goes. It will be a good opportunity for those who believe that prohibition is the wrong course of action. We’ll actually have some strong evidence to show the critics.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Mr. Michael Bolen. He’s with the Huffington Post. He’s there Canada blogger.

Michael, one last question for you here...I look from a distance at what’s going on in Canada and it seems like we were draconian and then we mellowed out and Canada was mellow and now they’ve gone draconian again. What is going on up there?

MICHAEL BOLEN: Believe it or not we’ve had a conservative government here in Canada since 2006 so it’s been quite a time now that we’ve had the Conservative party in power and they are very much against liberalizing drug laws for the most part so they’ve actually tried to bring in stiffer mandatory-minimums and those sorts of rules. They did recently signal that they would be willing to maybe make a possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticket-able offence but they don’t want to go for full-scale decriminalization and certainly not legalization.

We have a strange political situation in Canada where the vote on the left is split into two parties whereas the vote on the right is not split at all so the Conservative government here manages to win elections between 35 and 40% of the vote so that’s sort of the way that it is up here.

In the ‘90s we did actually try to decriminalize marijuana. The government introduced legislation to that effect but we got a visit very quickly from a United States diplomat who told us essentially that the border would be shut down so I think that’s one of the problems for Canada. The vast majority...well, not a vast majority but a majority of Canadians support liberalizing laws regarding marijuana but the governments feel that if we actually went ahead and did it the U.S. federal government would still take a very dim view of that.

I think that’s still the case. Even with all the states taking the action that they are the federal government still remains pretty opposed to liberalizing drug laws even with Obama in power.

We’re not super hopeful that things are going to change anytime soon.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, we were speaking there with Michael Bolen. You can check him out on Huffington Post. He’s their Canada blogger.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

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REPORTER: For pot smokers in Colorado it was a very cheery New Year’s Day as the first legal recreational marijuana shop open its doors. If there is one group excited about the new Colorado pot shops you can bet it’s the readers of High Times magazine. Their senior cultivation editor, Danny Danko, joins me now.

Hi Danny.

DANNY DANKO: Hi Sarah. Thanks for having me.

REPORTER: Thanks for being here. Let’s talk first about the opponents of this law. They are not very excited to see these shops opening in Colorado in part because they think it’s going to fuel even more drug use. What do you think about that?

DANNY DANKO: The alternative has not been working. Clearly prohibition of marijuana is not working the same way that prohibition of alcohol wasn’t working in the 30s. What I would say to them is the voters have spoken, the people have spoken, this is a democracy and this is what people want and they are just going to have to get used to it.

REPORTER: Right now the government says that marijuana is a Schedule I drug which basically means a dangerous substance that has no medical use. What do you think are the benefits?

DANNY DANKO: There are immense benefits for medical marijuana for all kinds of ailments and illnesses. Post Traumatic Syndrome is a big one right now with all the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. All the studies show that even the things that they make fun of like “munchies” is something that really works for people who have nausea due to chemotherapy or Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Clearly medical marijuana works for many, many people and now we have recreational marijuana in Colorado. The benefits are many and far outweigh any other risks to society or to the user of legalization.

REPORTER: What about concerns that we really have kind of a piecemeal approach to these laws and if you are opposed to legalizing marijuana you’re pretty worried that now that it’s legal in Colorado you’re going to buy it and take it somewhere else. Do you see that as a problem at all?

DANNY DANKO: That’s still technically illegal to do. I’m sure that police in the surrounding states will remain vigilant. We’re hoping for federal change in that policy.

They’ve already said that they won’t raid places in states where people have decided to do this and they are complying with state law. We’d like them now that there is 18 states and the District of Columbia where they are based out of which are all allowing medical marijuana and now two states with recreational. We’re just hoping that at some point they make a federal change to that schedule and just de-schedule marijuana completely because clearly the effects of marijuana are much less harmful than most of the pharmaceutical drugs that are on lower schedules.

REPORTER: Obviously your magazine is High Times. You guys pay pretty close attention to what states are doing when it comes to pot. What’s your prediction? Do you think we’re going to see more states legalizing recreational use or at least making it easier to get it for medicinal use?

DANNY DANKO: I do. I believe that responsible adult usage will become more legal in more states as they see the revenue that is generated and as they see that society is not falling apart, kids are getting less access to marijuana because it is a regulated and taxed industry. There is billions of dollars to be made in this new industry. I think they are going to see the benefits and the benefits far outweigh any potential risks or harms.

REPORTER: It’s interesting mentioning the tax because I think in Colorado it’s like a 25% tax that’s on top of the pot sales that partly regulates the industry but also partly goes towards educational efforts and things like that.

DANNY DANKO: Educational efforts, road building...all the things that we need to build our infrastructure. We’re not saying that this industry is going to change the world but we do believe that. We are saying that it’s a huge, multi-billion industry and it’s been underground for so long that there is a lot of anticipation.

As these dominoes are falling they are falling quite quickly. Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined it being where it is right now. We worked hard for it and we still have a long way to go but I do predict that more states will legalize, for sure.

REPORTER: Alright, Danny Danko, thanks for being with us.

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BILL O’REILLY: First story tonight Mary Catherine Ham you may remember last week she and I shouted out over the marijuana kid situation. She joins us now from Washington. To be fair your opening statement, please.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: A couple of things. I’m glad that you pointed out that some 56 to 58% of Americans are pro-marijuana legalization. I stand with that majority of Americans and also such radicals as William F. Buckley who once said, “Look, my position on this should not be confused with somebody who is indifferent to drug use. I’m not – especially with kids.”

I stand with you on that issue but there are a couple other stats with that as well. First of all when it comes to the drug war some percent of Americans plus when polled about it find that it’s a failure. We spend huge amounts of money on it. 70+% of Americans are for medical marijuana legalization and 70+% of even Texans, a very conservative state, are pro-leniency for non-violent drug offenders.

We spend hundreds of billions of dollars since the DEA was formed on fighting this war. We incarcerate many, many people. We arrest 1.5 million some, I think, marijuana convictions – the majority of those for possession only. People look at it and go, “This is a cost-benefit analysis. Is what we are doing working?”

Many people disagree and that’s where I stand.

BILL O’REILLY: You ran into the adult precincts very quickly. These...

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Well, that matters when talking about legalization.

BILL O’REILLY: It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll tell you why in a moment.

90.8% of federal prisoners sentenced for federal drug offenses were non-marijuana people so that means only 0.2% in the federal system.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Right, arrests are high and incarceration is low. You are correct.

BILL O’REILLY: Very few people...usually a summons, a traffic ticket.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: But arrests have serious social costs as well.

BILL O’REILLY: The social costs of having legalized marijuana as you’ll see in Washington State and Colorado will far outweigh the banning of it because you are going to have a mass, a mass of people on the roads causing problems there, school problems, employment problems and on and on.

This THC is a very powerful intoxicant. It’s not a beer buzz. It’s much, much more but I’m going to bring it back to what I brought it back to last week when you and I had a shootout.

You and I have a child.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Yes, who, by the way, did not sign up to brought up on national TV in a drug debate.

BILL O’REILLY: If you are to advocate the legalization of marijuana then you are going to have to answer questions about children and you child is – I’m sure you love her more than anything in the world – you don’t want that child at age 13 to 17 to be using marijuana. I know you and I know you don’t want that.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: And I answered that. I said that specifically.

BILL O’REILLY: So, let’s start there. You don’t want that, OK?

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Correct.

BILL O’REILLY: That is the proper point of view but by your stand, by your acceptance – because that’s what this is – it becomes socially acceptable. All the polls say that. The kids, the teenagers think it’s more socially acceptable now than ever before in the history of this country and the use of marijuana is rising in all the high schools across the country. By the time your daughter gets to the teenage years pot will be like chewing gum, smoking a cigarette. That’s what it’s going to be. That is going to harm the fabric, the motivation, the everything of this.

One in six teenagers now gets addicted to marijuana once they try it. That number is going to go to 3 in 6. That’s what’s going to happen.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: A couple things. I do not want my daughter – since we’re talking about her – to maybe drink a bunch of alcohol or have a tattoo when she’s a teenager. Those things are legal. They might be inadvisable for my child but I do not necessarily think that they have to be illegal especially if it takes billions of dollars to keep them illegal.

Further, when it comes to alcohol and THC I disagree with you fundamentally on the idea that I think that people can enjoy marijuana and alcohol in moderation...

BILL O’REILLY: Are we talking children now?

MARY CATHERINE HAM: No...

BILL O’REILLY: Then why are you zeroing out on children?

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Because we are talking about legalization for adults. We’re not talking about legalization for children.

BILL O’REILLY: I clearly said...see, this is what you did last week and ...

MARY CATHERINE HAM: When I answered the question last week? That’s exactly what I did last week.

BILL O’REILLY: Your petty fogging the issue by taking out of the children realm and into the adult realm. I clearly said that if adults want to use it I have no problem with it and they shouldn’t be bothered. I clearly said that. You dodge the children issue because you can’t justify it.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: I just frickin’ answered it for you.

BILL O’REILLY: It is a plague. More than 10% of American....children all over the place.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: Do you want to be a lady of temperance?

BILL O’REILLY: No. You want to add to what already is a bad problem.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: You want to perpetuate to a system that already is not working. Is it working properly right now, Bill?

BILL O’REILLY: All you have to do is decriminalize marijuana and send the message to children in a heavy duty way this is not a good substance. We, in this country, are doing the opposite. We are saying that it is OK. You are part of the problem, Mary Catherine, but you will not acknowledge.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: You have a pretty dag-gone platform and you can continue to say that and...

BILL O’REILLY: I will.

MARY CATHERINE HAM: By the way they are not legalizing it for children. It’s just as illegal now as it was before. Colorado has not fallen apart in ten years of medical marijuana use so we’ll see what happens.

I look forward to the studies which you do not have yet.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment was recorded before the U.S. Senate Drug Caucus. The speaker is DEA Chief of Operations, James L. Capra, speaking to Senator Grassley.

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CHUCK GRASSLEY: You are the senior DEA official in charge of enforcement and the department announced that they weren’t going to enforce some drug laws in states that voted to have other type of marijuana policy. A lot of this is finding its way into my state of Iowa even though their state laws say it can’t happen. What’s your view on the department’s new policy?

JAMES CAPRA: Thank you, Senator. The department put out a policy by which the attorneys and prosecutors would consider 8 different factors in prosecuting cases relative to marijuana.

Marijuana is still a Schedule I substance. It is illegal. We’re still enforcing law. I’m glad you asked me this because I have to say this. I’ve 27 years as a DEA agent, 34 years in federal government, father of 6 great kids and a wife who has hung out with me for 32 years. I’ve been serving the country since I’m 18-years-old.

I have to tell you this and I have to...and I served in the great state of California for 9 years as a new agent. I went with you to Redding, California when we established an office up there for meth. I must tell you this because it would be wrong for me to tell you...going down the path to legalization in this country is reckless and irresponsible.

The department has set up factors, sir. I get that. I am talking about the long-term impact of legalization in the United States. It scares us. The treatment people are afraid. The education people are afraid. Law enforcement is worried about what is going to happen. In every part of the world where this experiment has been tried it has failed time and time again.

Here we are...the voters have decided to do this. It’s going to impact the state, the surrounding states and California...you know that, man...California has turned around and done a lot of great things...what they are doing and what they are seeing and I wish some people would take example of what’s happening.

There are more dispensaries in Denver than there are Starbucks.

CHUCK GRASSLEY: I think you’re telling me that federal law ought to be enforced.

JAMES CAPRA: What I’m saying, sir, is the idea somehow that people have in our country and to the extent that some legislators do, country elected officials do that this is somehow good for us as a nation, sir...that this is good for the next generation is wrong.

It’s a bad thing and we will, this body will get its door knocked on 10 years from now and say, “How did we get to where to where we get?”

People are going to ask us 10 years from now, “How did we get where we’re getting?”

Can I just put it in context with Afghanistan? At the International Drug Enforcement Conference that was held in Moscow which is a planning and an operational meeting that we have every year where we partner with new partners...last year we were in Moscow. Can I tell you...we’re sitting there, the administrator and I are meeting with everyone whether they be political leaders or law enforcement leaders. Almost everyone looked at us and said, “Why are you doing this? You are pointing the finger at us as a source state and yet you turn ...”

I have no answer for that. I don’t have an answer for that. I just don’t. 27 years ago working in Washington Heights as a young agent senior agents told me we could never work with Colombia. 27 years later we have Algerians going to Colombia for best practices.

I apologize for how my excitement but this is a bad experiment...it’s a bad experiment and it’s going to cost the United States in terms of social costs. It’s going to cost us in terms of criminality.

We have....you need to know this. We have organizations...we just took it down to Bakersfield...a group that took a marijuana dispensary as a front to launder its meth proceeds. We just...a great case with San Francisco DEA, Bakersfield, Colombia and Miami...This is...I’m worried about the more states that happen to...you’re going to demand from me...you’re going to demand from DEA, “How are you going to stop that?”

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DEAN BECKER: Of course Senator Grassley didn’t ask this head of the DEA why the U.S. government allowed the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel to carry out its business unimpeded between 2000 and 2012 in exchange for information on rival cartels. This according to an investigation by El Univerial and as reported by Time Magazine. Neither did Senator Grassley ask this DEA chief why U.S. forces stand heavily armed to protect all the opium being grown in Afghanistan.

Hypocrisy – thy name is drug war.

That’s about it. If this is your first week tuning in I can understand why you haven’t stepped forward to make a difference but if you are a long-term listener I gotta ask what the hell is wrong with you?!

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 Pacifica Studios at KPFT, Houston.

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