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Neill Franklin, Exec Dir of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Utah heroin story, is MJ ok for OK, Abolitionists Moment
Cultural Baggage / February 9, 2014
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: Hello, my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in a moment we’re going to bring in our guest. He spent more than 30 years up in Maryland working for the police departments and highway patrol. Additionally he is now my boss...well, he’s the boss of my “band of brothers” – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. With that I want to go ahead and welcome Mr. Neill Franklin.
Neill, are you there, sir?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Mr. Becker, how are you doing this evening?
DEAN BECKER: I’m good. Good to hear your voice. It’s been quite a year, quite a month, quite a past week as well hasn’t it?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes it has. A lot of unexpected things - mostly good. A couple not so good but for the most part I am extremely happy about the progress that we are making not just here in the United States but around the globe.
DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about some of that progress. Maybe most noteworthy was U.S. Representative Cohen out of Tennessee basically scolded the Deputy Director Drug Czar didn’t he?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes he did. Not only did he scold him but he also got a piece of the director of the DEA, Michele Leonhart.
DEAN BECKER: She’s been postulating bogus stuff for quite some time.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yes. It looks like everybody is taking a shot at scolding her for her vague comments and her skirting – not answering the questions that they have regarding marijuana and its comparison to other drugs such as meth and heroin.
DEAN BECKER: Speaking of which – just the word heroin...I’m looking at the front page of today’s Houston Chronicle, ”Heroin’s Peril Not New to Houston.” That’s very true but it’s like they still don’t quite focus on the heart of the matter and that is it is the prohibition that is creating all the madness and danger, right?
NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely. Here on the east coast from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Baltimore, New Jersey we’ve got some bad heroin on the streets that’s laced with phentanol. We’ve got people dropping like flies overdosing and it’s not because people are using heroin but it’s about the policy of prohibiting it which drives it underground therefor no regulations, no control, you have no idea of what’s in it. You don’t know that it’s laced with phentanol. You don’t know how potent it is.
You cannot regulate anything you do not control and since we decided to prohibit heroin you can’t control it therefore you can’t regulate it.
DEAN BECKER: I think about we have over the years demonized people for that use but I think with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman that people saw him on screen, consider him to be a decent human being and it began to change the thought process.
NEILL FRANKLIN: You’re absolutely right. I think that’s one of the things that we have to continue to work on is to show that people who are addicted to heroin are not demons, they are not the underbelly of our society. They are people who have challenges just like anyone else.
I just want top point this out real quick. I spoke to a congregation this morning, a Union Baptist Church in Baltimore and we talked a little bit about this issue of heroin. People from poor communities do not have the same access to health care as some of our more affluent communities do. What does this mean? It means that when you are dealing with pain and I don’t necessarily mean physical, bodily pain - I’m talking about psychological pain – a death of a loved one, some other psychological pain you might be dealing with. You call up your doctor. Today they will email a prescription to your local pharmacy. You’ll go pick up your pain killer, your opiate-based product, your Vicodin, your Valium...whatever you need to take, whatever your doctor prescribes for you. You take it and you relax and you try to get beyond the pain that you are dealing with whether it’s physical or psychological.
When you are in a poor community and you don’t have health care and you don’t have a prescription program or a doctor to write you a prescription and you need some relief from your suffering. What do you do? You go to the young man on the corner or you send someone to meet the young man on the corner to get you what you need.
In most cities especially like Baltimore that drug is heroin. Before you know it you are addicted to street heroin like people are addicted to their opiate-based pain killers and your gated communities in suburban America and your more affluent America – same based product, same effects but from different sources.
Those people for self-medication who have to resort to the illicit drug trade to soothe the pain we demonize them. We stigmatize them and that’s what we need to keep working on.
DEAN BECKER: It’s such a wide ranging means by which we punish people. We’ll take their house, their car, their kids, their cash, their licenses and on down the line. We’ll do everything to destroy their potential in life and then expect them to thrive.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Absolutely and Dean you are talking about a group of people who virtually have little to begin with. At the end of the day after we, the police, get done with them from seizing their cars and property...we’re towing their car if we don’t seize it and that’s a $230 to $300 bill if you happen to get it out the next day and then there’s the attorney, the court costs, the missing work and basically we just drive them into the downward spiral of economic depression that they never recover from.
DEAN BECKER: And part of that depression would tend to make someone want to do some heroin, so...
NEILL FRANKLIN: [chuckling] Absolutely. So you’d be right back out there trying to soothe your pain again and it’s just....well, the cycle begins and it never ends for these folks.
DEAN BECKER: You were featured in the Baltimore Sun – a bit OPED, “Former Cop is Lynch Pin to Legalize Marijuana: Ex-trooper with Baltimore roots works to convert War on Drugs to a legal drug industry.”
Give us a little summary of that piece. That was a big article, buddy.
NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah it was. It kind of came out of nowhere which was interesting. We had been doing some work and I think it is important that I mention how this kind of came about.
We formed a ...I think this is a model that we need to use across the country. We formed a coalition in the state of Maryland and it’s called the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland. Here are some of the groups that make up this coalition – of folks who are working to bring an end marijuana prohibition in Maryland. We’ve got the ACLU, CASA de Maryland, the Criminal Justice Foundation, the MAN Progress, Equality Maryland, the International Women’s Cannabis Coalition of Maryland, Job Opportunities Task Force, the League of Women Voters of Maryland, Marijuana Policy Project of Maryland, Maryland Justice Project, Maryland NORML, Medical Marijuana Advocates of Maryland, the NAACP, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veterans for Peace and others and, of course, LEAP.
DEAN BECKER: Oh man...
NEILL FRANKLIN: Because we brought these groups together under one umbrella for a common purpose we are having a significant impact upon the legislature in moving this policy and that’s how this piece in the paper came about from the work that we are doing. Even though it featured me on the front page of the Baltimore Sun it’s really about the coalition that we put together to make this happen and this is what we need to do in every state where we don’t have the voter referendum process.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, folks, we are speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin. He’s the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
I wanted to mention that before the Martin Luther King parade the group I’m with – End Mass Incarceration – and during the parade we had Black Panthers, three churches, a couple of Latino groups join us – we were the largest contingent in that parade under the banner “End Mass Incarceration” and, of course, our LEAP banner, “End the drug war to stop the killing” and that got a lot of attention.
I guess what I’m trying to reach to here is the time is now. People are beginning to realize this. You got to get out of your “hidey ho”. You got to participate. You may feel these drug laws are wrong but unless you’re audible you’re not going to make any difference.
NEILL FRANKLIN: You’re absolutely right. I realize something that I think people have a challenge with. I did a presentation early today at Union Baptist Church here in Baltimore – the most prominent Baptist church, black church in Baltimore. It goes back in time. It’s been a staple in Baltimore forever.
During this prayer breakfast presentation I realized something. What people have a problem with is they think we’re moving to create a policy of legalization. Most people have a problem with what they believe is the message that that sends and so I gave them something else to think about.
I’ve never presented before a group of people who haven’t collectively agreed that the drug war has failed. Even before you start talking and you ask the question they all know that it has failed. They know that we haven’t reduced the amount of drugs coming into the country. They know that they are more potent than ever before. They know that we’re just increasing our prison population like crazy. They know that the violence surrounds the drug trade. They know all this stuff and they right off the bat say, “Yeah, it doesn’t work. The drug war doesn’t work.”
But they still have a problem with that term “legalization.” I posed this to the group I said, “Look how about if you think of it this way and it may help you when you are explaining it to your children. You are not instituting legalization. What you are doing is ending a policy that has not only failed to work and produce the intended goals...not only has it failed but it is counterproductive to your safety as my son, as my daughter and this is how it is counterproductive to your safety. It creates violent communities where you are in danger every time you walk out of the front door. It puts more drugs...it makes more drugs available to you by the many drug dealers that you pass on the way to and from school. It makes more dangerous drugs flowing out there on the streets.”
So, basically, you are ending a policy that is cancerous to your society, to your community, to your neighborhood. That’s what we are doing. From ending that policy we’ll decide what works best and we all know that’s one of health and education, treatment.
DEAN BECKER: I’ve been trying to sum it up, a sound bite you know. We’re always limited in what the TV stations will pick up. I boiled it down to this. “The drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches these barbarous Latin cartels and has given reason for existence to more than 30,000 violent gangs so I must ask What is the benefit? What have we derived from this policy that offsets this horrible blowback.”
I submit there is no answer.
NEILL FRANKLIN: None.
DEAN BECKER: No, no. I am so proud of the work that we have done. I know we aren’t the sole reason for this change but I think we have helped to bulwark or otherwise support many other organizations to step forward boldly to bring us to, I hear, end of drug war – beginning of the end or whatever. It’s losing steam fast.
NEILL FRANKLIN: It is. I really is. We still have a long way to go obviously but it is good to see that we are at least getting this train out of the station and we are moving the issue. We’re building momentum and I think momentum is key to anything that you need to do. Once you gain momentum you cannot relinquish it. We have to keep pushing, keep pulling.
Listeners if you are not already a part of this movement against the most problematic policy since, disastrous public policy since slavery – if you are not a part of it then I encourage you, I implore you to join with us in ending this. No one, absolutely no one escapes the negative effects of drug prohibition.
DEAN BECKER: No, sir. They do not. I think more folks are beginning to realize that. I always come back to this thought they did that polling, “Who believes in legal marijuana?” 56% across America, 56% here in Texas but they ask the people here in Texas, “How many of your friends, family and neighbors would agree with you?” and they thought only about 20%.
There is that disconnect. I think even that 56% number was lower than it ought to be because people were worried about answering such a question. It just seems preposterous...well, it’s less preposterous now in the last week or so that starting to hear elected officials speak some rather bold truth. It made me smile. It made me cry.
NEILL FRANKLIN: I agree. I’m not just seeing it on the national level but I’m also seeing it on the local level here in Maryland and states like Pennsylvania, neighboring states, Washington D.C. on the local level at the city council. I’m starting to see folks get that courage to speak what is obviously on their minds. We’ve had the conversations behind closed doors and as we sip a cup of coffee and they’ll tell you, “Yeah, I understand. I know but it’s not politically safe for me.”
Now what they’re realizing is that, “You know what?! If I don’t support this issue and aggressively try to move it then it’s not politically safe for me.”
We’re flipping that. Now our policy makers are beginning to realize, “If I don’t address this issue, if I don’t talk about it, if I don’t get this conversation going then I’m at risk the next time around when the election comes.”
DEAN BECKER: We’ve got 30 seconds, Neill.
NEILL FRANKLIN: At the end of the day I think the key is momentum. I appreciate all that you’re doing, Dean, to help move this and putting us on the airwaves and getting people educated on this matter.
I just ask all your listeners to help us end this – the more the sooner we’ll get it done.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin. He is the executive director of my “band of brothers”, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. They’re out there on the web at http://leap.cc
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ANNOUNCER: The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from suspected heroin overdose is shining a new light on a growing Utah problem. Heroin has become more affordable, more accessible and more and more young people are getting hooked.
ABC 4 Utah’s Kim Johnson is live at the Capitol Hill were certain leaders are trying to stop it. Kim?
KIM JOHNSON: Yeah, Brian, a Utah man who came face to face with the dangers of heroin is behind the legislation. His inspiration was the day he saved a dying friend from an overdose.
ZACH BAKER: It was really, really scary because she was completely blue. She was barely breathing – kind of like a death rattle.
KIM JOHNSON: Zach Baker won’t forget the day he arrived at a friend’s house to find her nearly dead from an overdose.
ZACH BAKER: I was you know yelling at people, ‘what is going on here, what happened, why is no one calling 911? and they said “we may have warrants,” “we're not sure,” “we're just afraid ourselves”, and I said “well this has got to change.”
KIM JOHNSON: He is now the man behind a new proposal at the capitol that would give some immunity to those reporting a drug overdose.
ZACH BAKER: If someone OD’s and they’re scared, there’s a lot of hesitation in those life-saving moments.
KIM JOHNSON: The death this week of a famed-actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has pushed the new reality of heroin addiction into the spotlight.
JOEL MILLARD: It's a dramatic change.
KIM JOHNSON: Joel Millard, Executive Director of Project Reality, says heroin addiction isn’t what it used to be.
JOEL MILLARD: It was all W 2nd South, it was very controlled by the industry.
KIM JOHNSON: Now doctors are cracking down on pain killer prescriptions and addicts are turning to what's available that numbs the pain.
JOEL MILLARD: The route to it is usually pain medication and then when they can't afford pain medication they switch to heroin and that's less expensive.
KIM JOHNSON: With more users come more overdoses. Now a second proposal in the legislature could save lives.
It's called Naloxone, a drug that’s highly successful in reversing heroin overdoses before paramedics even arrive. Right now in Utah it's only available by prescription. Baker wants anybody to be able to get it with a pharmacist's approval.
ZACH BAKER: A pharmacist can hand this out if these people meet these circumstances.
KIM JOHNSON: We’re happy to let you know that Baker’s friend did survive although she was on life support for two days after.
The Good Samaritan bill, that would allow people to report a drug overdose without fear of prosecution, passed the House unanimously last week and now heads to the Senate.
The Naloxone proposal still needs to be introduced.
Live at the capitol, Kim Johnson, ABC.
FEMALE ANCHOR: Marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington. Could Oklahoma be next?
MALE ANCHOR: Well, not anytime soon says one local state senator and he does not plan on hearing a new bill proposing the legalization of marijuana in his senate subcommittee.
Senate bill 2116 would tax and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma and let people have small amounts (up to 1 ounce) for personal use.
FEMALE ANCHOR: Reporter Kathryn Gilker went to the state capitol today to hear what Senator Barrington had to say about blocking the bill. Kathryn?
KATHRYN GILKER: Senator Barrington says a similar bill was introduced in last year’s session and voted down. That’s why he says he won’t hear the bill in his senate subcommittee on public safety. Barrington believes this is just another way to get marijuana legalized by changing the language of the previous bill.
DON BARRINGTON: When legislation is passed, there are unintended consequences and I think the legislation I reviewed would lead to unintended consequences. I don't think parameters are put in place that can handle it.
KATHRYN GILKER: Barrington says a bill very similar to this one was heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last session and voted down.
DON BARRINGTON: It depends on who you talk to. Some say it's a gateway drug, and leads to a more serious use of drugs. Others say it isn't.
KATHRYN GILKER: Senator Connie Johnson, Oklahoma City Democrat, is the author of the bill. She says she is pushing to pass this legislation because of constituents who say marijuana could help them with their medical conditions.
CONNIE JOHNSON: In my role as a legislator, I just view that this is what we do. We are responsive to our constituents to quote their voices, to put their ideas out there.
KATHRYN GILKER: This is actually Johnson's fourth try to introduce this legislation, but she thinks this time it has a much better chance thanks to social media.
CONNIE JOHNSON: The citizens want to be heard on this issue. Getting that message out and that word going. Getting people calling their legislators, calling the people that are in the positions of power.
KATHRYN GILKER: Barrington's phone has been ringing off the hook from constituents upset with his decision, but he says rude messages and calls won't change his mind.
DON BARRINGTON: I'm not here to judge her or her legislation. It's my job as a committee chairman to review legislation and, I don't recall how many bills have been assigned to my committee this year, but it's to give hearing to those bills that support good legislation.
KATHRYN GILKER: The bill would de-criminalize the use and cultivation of marijuana and allow possession of one ounce for any person over the age of 21.
MALE ANCHOR: Thanks Kathryn. A hearing on the science of marijuana will be held next Wednesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies. Marijuana advocates will spend the day talking with their elected officials about the proposal.
To dream the American dream...
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.
Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it.
It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop. We like it.
It’s left a trail of graft and slime. It don’t prohibit worth a dime.
It’s filled our land with vice and crime…nevertheless, we’re for it.
Franklin Adams, 1931
Through a willing or silent embrace of drug war we are ensuring more death, disease, crime and addiction.
Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and dare not allow their stance taken to be examined in a new light.
But, for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven.
What Houston has done, in the name of drug war, will never be forgotten.
Please visit http://endprohibition.org Do it for the children.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, I hope you enjoyed today’s program. Once again our guest was Mr. Neill Franklin who for more than 30 years was a law enforcement officer. He’s executive director of my “band of brothers”, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. They’re out there on the web at http://leap.cc
Please check it out. Invite one of us to come speak to your organization. The drug war is ending. You can help its demise.
Our next Cultural Baggage will feature Mr. Peter McGuire. He’s author of “Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade.”
Be sure to check out this week’s Century of Lies show. We have much of the proceedings in congress where the deputy drug czar was getting his... reamed.
By the way, remember McGruff, the Crime Dog? It turns out he got busted growing 1,000 marijuana plants. Just yesterday or the day before he got sentenced to 16 years in the pen. McGruff, the Crime Dog...
Friends, this drug war couldn’t be more bizarre, more outrageous if it tried. I urge you to please do your part. You can get to thousands of my shows out there at http://drugtruth.net. I’m hoping you will do so.
The fact of the matter is the drug war is ending. What are you going to tell your grandkids you did? What are you going to tell them?
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
Sun - Texas Senate & House pass unworkable medical marijuana bill
Sat - Battle in Pennsylvania over med marijuana rights, courtesy CBS
Fri - Rev. Bill Levin founder Indiana's First Church of Cannabis
Thu - Heather Fazio of Marijuana Policy Project re "progress" in Texas
Wed - Keith Saunders of Masscann.org re situ in Massachusetts. 2/2
Tue - Keith Saunders of Masscann.org re situ in Massachusetts. 1/2
Mon - Tessie Castillo of N Carolina HRC re Nalaxone saving 500 lives in N. Carolina