07/27/14 Beto O'Rourke

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Rep. Beto O'Rourke stands with DTN host for D.C. press conference: To End The War On Drugs + Houston DA candidate calls for end of pot arrests, no jail, no bail, no record

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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / July 27, 2014

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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.

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DEAN BECKER: As we file today’s reports big news happening all around the US. In Houston they might stop arresting one thousand kids each month for marijuana. In Washington, D.C. they might listen to yours truly. But first this from the New York Times.

Allow me to extract from this major editorial which had a couple editorials attached to it.

“REPEAL PROHIBITION, AGAIN

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

...

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

...

“we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the "Reefer Madness" images of murder, rape and suicide.

...

“In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.

We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.“

Again that was from a huge, front page editorial in the New York Times.

Now to Washington, D.C.

It is with a great deal of pride and respect that I bring in our next guest. He’s the congressman out of El Paso, the 16th district. He’s representing the people of Texas but he has a special focus on the Homeland Security issue – issues on our border – as well as in protecting our veterans.

I want to welcome Representative Beto O'Rourke. How are you, sir?

BETO O'ROURKE: I’m doing great. It is good to talk with you again and to be on your show. I’ve told you before I am a big fan of yours and really appreciate what you do with this program.

DEAN BECKER: I want to thank you, again, for being our host, our sponsor. We are going to have a press conference in the Cannon House Building next Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST with a focus on my book, “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition.” We hope to encourage, motivate, educate representatives, senators, the president, the Supreme Court – we’re even mailing 50 copies to governors around these United States.

Have you had a chance to look through the book, Representative?

BETO O'ROURKE: I have. I also want to commend you on that effort trying to take a rational, fact-based approach to drug policy in this country and then working to ensure that the people who are going to be crafting policy or changing current laws have access to that information so they can make the best, informed decision.

The challenge, as you know, is to get them to actually read it and for those who have already made up their minds to open them back up again and take in new information and challenge their preconceived notions of how you keep this country safe and the best way to keep drugs off drugs and the best way to ensure that we have the healthiest, best, highly functioning society in the world.

I think your book provides a lot of basic facts necessary to make those decisions. I appreciate what you are doing on that account.

DEAN BECKER: We have hopes. We have invited Senator Rand Paul, Corey Booker, a host of others who have spoken about a need for change to our marijuana laws but it seems that the whole of the drug war, all of the hard drugs and everything combined does not get the specific focus.

I hear Rand Paul. He sounds like one of my brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition when he talks about the horrors we inflict via this policy but we don’t quite hear them reaching back to the root cause which I hope this book will help to do.

BETO O'ROURKE: I hope so as well. I think this is truly a historic moment in a many decades long effort to bring some rational, logical thinking to our approach to some things that people have reacted to emotionally, irrationally and illogically before. The trend whether you look at states that have decriminalized, medicinalized or liberalized their marijuana drug policy even in the Deep South in Florida who are considering doing the same. When you look at historic votes in congress including one that occurred earlier this year that took place in an appropriations bill amendment that forbade the DEA from enforcing federal drug laws pertaining to marijuana in those states where voters and elected representatives have made laws that conflict with federal drug law it’s clear that in this moment in history this country is finally getting on the right path – probably not too unlike where this country was in 1932, 1933 when we were rethinking the noble effort of keeping Americans off and away from alcohol and where we came to the conclusion that despite our best efforts and the amount of money paid and the wonderful men and women of law enforcement we were fighting a losing battle, a battle that was actually much more harmful than that that we were trying to cure the country from.

So we made the difficult but important and historically justified choice to legalize alcohol and control and restrict its sale in a responsible manner and realized that ultimately you cannot and perhaps should not protect people from themselves and allow adults to make decisions independent of the government as long as they are not harming others.

I think a similar decision with marijuana in this country. Again, I’m grateful for you and others who are long-standing advocates in this fight for this country to finally do the right thing. I think we are finally approaching that moment.

DEAN BECKER: I want to underscore what you were saying about the 1932, 1933 situation. One of the last pages in my book,

“In 1929 leading prohibitionists in congress confidently said ‘There is as much chance of repealing the 18th amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.’”.

Three years later alcohol prohibition was repealed.

It is an issue that has to be opened up. It has to be addressed. We are empowering our terrorist enemies if they will just dare to grow the flowers we forbid. They’ve earned billions down south of our border – Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador – tens of thousands of people dead - mostly young people caught in the crossfires not many of them were big time smugglers. Now we have 50, 60 maybe 70,000 youngsters coming across our borders in most instances fleeing that violence. Am I right, Beto?

BETO O'ROURKE: You are absolutely right. There are other factors involved. I think there is culpability on the part of the government’s leadership and even the people of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador in the situation they find themselves in. I want to acknowledge their ability to change the situation and some problems that originate there and in there government but we have sorely exacerbated preexisting conditions with the volume of drug consumption in the United States. We are 4 to 5% of the world’s population but we are at least one-quarter of the globe’s market for illegal drugs.

Those drugs that are produced in the Andes that flow through countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and then the onerous drug interdiction and enforcement operations like Operation Anvil in Honduras contribute to the destabilization of those countries, empower thugs and criminal syndicates.

Dean, you have spoken about this. The United States imprisons more of its citizens proportionately than any other country on the face of the planet. Part of the consequence of that can be seen in those three countries in Central America today. When young people much as they are today were fleeing violence and civil war in some of these countries in the 1980s and they were able to make their way to the United States many of them ended up in the US prison system. Upon release from prison many of them...maybe all of them who served prison sentences were deported back to their countries of origin. When they were deported back to their countries of origin they were deported with a brand new skill set learned in the US prison system where they went from being petty criminals to hardened thugs, gang members, gang leaders and brought those gangs and those systems and that criminality back to their countries of origin.

So it’s another pernicious, unintended consequence of drug policy, interdiction policy, prison policy that, again, very well intentioned and noble in its goals but, unfortunately, a complete failure in terms of what it has done not just in the United States but in Latin America and in this case specifically Central America.

DEAN BECKER: It’s even going into Africa. It’s been in Europe. It’s everywhere.

I wanted to address the thought that you live in El Paso which has been described as one of the safest cities in America. You live directly across the river from Ciudad Juarez which, at one point, was the deadliest city in the world. I think that belongs to a small town in El Salvador now. The fact of the matter is the violence still continues. There are still people being displaced, businesses closing down. There is the tax that the cartels now levy on businesses and even on citizens just to stay alive. Am I correct?

BETO O'ROURKE: Right. We are seeing some similar dynamics play out in towns like San Dero Sua in Honduras which is today the deadliest city in the world. You saw in Juarez in 2009 and 2010 was the deadliest city in the world. The volume of drugs and cash and weapons that break down the rule of law in civil society and institutions that we in the United States take for granted creates the conditions that allow for criminals to operate with impunity. It allows them to be able to hire young otherwise hopeless men who don’t have an education, don’t have job prospects into a very lucrative even if short-lived, violent and dangerous, deadly career in these drug and criminal syndicates.

It allows these criminals to purchase politicians and justice and remove it from the common person. It further destabilizes a region that is very important to us. This is our hemisphere. You can have no more poignant example of this than a 7-year-old child making a one thousand mile plus journey through Mexico and literally knocking on the front door of the United States down in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and saying, “Please let me in. Please help me. Please shelter me. Please give me refuge from the violence in my home town, in my home country.”

So you can’t uniquely blame the drug war for all of this but it has certainly a significant factor in the destabilization and insecurity that we see in these countries.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly right, sir. I see it as the lynch pin, the original cornucopias from which they were able to branch out and do all these horrible things.

We’ve got just a few minutes left here, friends. We are speaking with Congressman Beto O'Rourke. He’s out of the 16th district, El Paso, Texas. He is hosting us for a press conference this coming Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Cannon Office Building there in Washington, D.C. We have a host of speakers including my friend Neill Franklin who is the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance, a couple of friends from SSDP, Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Foundation, the list goes on.

We hope to have other speakers besides the great congressman Beto O'Rourke but the fact of the matter is we are just wanting to open up this can of worms and go fishing for truth.

Beto, I see the drug war as truly a belief system. It’s a pipe dream. The truth be told we’ve never stopped more than about 10% of the drugs coming across the border and we have never stopped even one determined child from getting their hands on drugs provided by this black market. Your thoughts, Beto?

BETO O'ROURKE: With just a little bit of time left I will conclude with this thought. What you just described is accurate and it’s the paradigm that we’ve been stuck in but is now changing in large part thanks to people like you and others who have been working on this issue for a very long time.

You mentioned kids and it is important to all of us and especially important to me right now. My wife and I have 3 young children of 7, 6 and 3. What we see with a legal, controlled toxin like cigarettes is that use of tobacco products by kids has dropped precipitously over the last 40 years because of controlled access, public education campaign and because we treat it in a more thoughtful, rational, non-emotional manner. It is having wonderful consequences for these kids who are no longer trying tobacco, no longer pre-disposed to develop lung cancer and other problems associated with tobacco use.

In contrast with marijuana despite than a trillion dollars spent over the last 40 years, despite imprisoning more people than any other country on the fact of the planet that drug is more available to a middle schooler or a teenager in many cases than is tobacco. More kids in their freshman and sophomore year of high school are trying marijuana now than are trying tobacco.

I think one could make the argument that if we had a rational system that controlled the sale of marijuana, regulated the sale of marijuana and complimented that with an aggressive, intelligent health campaign we could do a far better job than we are today to reduce access to kids for marijuana and to ensure that its sale is controlled and only reaches those adults who should have the ability to use it.

So yes, Dean, I agree with you. I’ve got to go. We’re about to vote. I wanted to again tell you that I appreciate everything that you are doing. I’m looking forward to seeing you next week and glad that you are making the journey up here. I want to let you know that your efforts and of others who are listening to your show and working on this are really paying off.

We thank you for that and look forward to seeing you up here in Washington next week.

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DEAN BECKER: Kim Ogg is the democratic candidate for district attorney for Harris County, Houston. She has some ideas that I think you should pay attention to. She is calling for no jail, no bail, no permanent record for possession of marijuana. With that I want to welcome that democratic candidate, Kim Ogg.

Kim, how are you doing?

KIM OGG: Great, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: This G.R.A.C.E.(Government Resource Allocation/Criminal Exemption) Program...outline that for the listeners, please.

KIM OGG: G.R.A.C.E. can be the future of marijuana prosecution in Harris County. If I’m elected beginning January the first, 2015 for a misdemeanor marijuana arrest we are going to ask our police officers to cite offenders, order them directly to court, once in court we’ll offer them the G.R.A.C.E. program just like plea bargains are offered now. G.R.A.C.E. has something that no plea bargain currently being used by the DA has and that is the promise of no criminal record.

The plea bargain will be entry into an existing program I created in 2007 with Linese Linere which is called “Clean and Green”. Offenders will work for two days on the bayou picking up litter out of the water, at the banks of the water – that kind of thing. That’s got all kinds of great benefits for our city but the benefits for the offender will be if they show up to court, take the G.R.A.C.E. program, complete it then their case will be dismissed and their records will be eligible for expunction. That is something that has never been done here in Harris County or anywhere in the state.

DEAN BECKER: This means they don’t go to jail. They show up a few days or a week later to the court to sign on to this bayou.

KIM OGG: That’s right. It’s called “Clean and Green.” If they don’t show up, Dean, then a warrant issues and they will only be offered the usual plea deals which are probation, deferred or jail time and those all result in a permanent record – even deferred adjudication.

What we want to do is tell people, “Hey, you can earn your way out of this. A simple misdemeanor possession of marijuana doesn’t have to be a life sentence in terms of your economic opportunities for the future, current housing issues where people with convictions can’t get housing.”

We want to help people give to our community not become a liability of the community. It is ridiculous to have had such harsh punishment for such a minor offense especially when it’s at the expense of serious criminal investigation. Example, we just learned that HPD failed to investigate 20,000 serious crimes last year alone. In the same year they prosecuted 12,000 plus offenders for misdemeanor marijuana. The cost to the county of prosecuting marijuana was 10 million dollars plus. What did they spend on burglary? Less than 2 million on prosecution. What did they spend on the prosecution of rape? Less than one-tenth of one percent!

It is clear government has got its priorities messed up. It is not what taxpayers want. It is not fair that a disproportionate amount of minorities that are affected. We are going to change that.

DEAN BECKER: I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see this morning’s New York Times but they just had a major editorial with two or three other editorials tacked on to it, “Repeal Prohibition Again: The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.” People all around this country at all echelons of power and understanding are beginning to change and reshape their perspectives are they not?

KIM OGG: They are. I’m so tired of Texas being the last and being the laughing stock of the criminal justice system. Our DA last January told the public she was going to universally prosecute all drug cases including marijuana. Interesting that now that I’ve come out with the G.R.A.C.E. program she says she is working on something similar.

I look forward to seeing her. As we say you can always get on the late train and you’ll always be welcome but I think it is a bit disingenuous when she came out so strongly after President Obama revealed that he had smoked marijuana in his youth. She came out and basically said it was wrong. She wrote an open letter to the public saying it was disrespectful and it was all about how hard she was going to prosecute drug cases. Now, in response to our G.R.A.C.E. program, we see an “about face.”

I think that it has been healthy for Houstonians to have this debate and for it to come to the forefront in a race like the district attorney’s office - something that a lot of people don’t realize how important such a position is. In truth the DA controls public policy for the third largest county in the nation. That’s why we need to be a leader – not last in line. I’m so tired of that and I think Houstonians are tired of that.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Kim Ogg. She is the Democratic candidate for district attorney of Harris County – the third largest county in this country.

In years past I have sponsored debates with district attorney candidates and thus far Devon Anderson, the Republican candidate, has not responded to those requests. Perhaps with her new stance that debate can happen. Your thought there?

KIM OGG: I welcome the opportunity to have a reasonable discussion about serious problems like how we prioritize resources in our DA’s office. We have to start with drugs because when you look at the numbers – 110,000 people arrested last year and 12,000 of them for possession of marijuana compared to less than 1,500 for burglary – and here we are the burglary capital of America.

Everyone is suffering from that. You work hard, your car gets broken into, your home gets broken into - it’s a violation. Yet all the emphasis has been on small time drug user prosecution - that’s where the money has gone. As we say in the business, “Follow the money.” That’s also what we need to change.

I really welcome any conversation Devon wants to have about this topic.

DEAN BECKER: Please share your website with the listeners.

KIM OGG: http://kimoggforda.com/ All the details for the G.R.A.C.E. program can be found if you just look at what I stand for.

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DEAN BECKER: As we close out the congressman and I will be in the Cannon Office Building, room 340 on July 29 at 10 a.m. for the “Summer Reading Assignment.” We will be giving a copy of my book, “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition” to 435 representatives, 100 senators, the president and his cabinet, the Supreme Court justices and I’ve already mailed copies to every governor across these United States.

It is time to open up this can of worms and go fishing for truth. I should note the promotion of this book is made possible by the support of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy. It is time to end this drug war.

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

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