03/24/17 Glen Olives

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Glen Olives Thompson, Mexican author & professor, DTN Intern Ashley Brien, Jason Thomas of Avalon Realty in Colo, Ashley Clemmer of Rothko Chapel re forthcoming seminar on Criminal Justice

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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MARCH 24, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi, folks, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Very jam packed show, let's get going.

Glen Olives Thompson is a professor of North American law at LaSalle University in Chihuahua, Mexico. He writes on a broad range of topics for newspapers, magazines, and one that caught my attention recently, that appeared in the Mexico News Daily, was titled Gearing Up For The New Drug War. With that, I want to introduce our guest, Glen Olives. How are you, sir?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Very good, Dean. It's a pleasure to be here.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you for joining us. Yes, sir, your perspectives, your presentation, your thoughts, presented within that article touches my heart. That is the kind of bold framing of this situation that just must be done, and I thank you, sir.

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Oh, thank you, and I actually am starting to see noises out of Washington now that remind me of my time at the DA's office in Los Angeles County in the late 1990s. And that's really what got me thinking about this, when I was prosecuting drug cases, I knew that something was definitely terribly wrong with the war on drugs and how we prosecute that war.

And I hope it's not happening again, but the noises coming out of Washington, from Comey, from Jeff Sessions, seems like it might be going in that direction. And that would be a shame.

DEAN BECKER: I agree wholeheartedly, and then, the fact of the matter is though, I think there is a building bulwark, a wall being built against their century old propaganda. It's not resonating as well as it used to. Would you agree?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: I would agree. For most people, young people in particular, in particular their perspective are really changing. We've been exposed, as you said, a century or half a century of propaganda against drugs, marijuana in particular, and people are just really not buying it anymore. And propaganda's very powerful, it's really become part of our mental furniture over the last fifty years.

And if you took -- I reviewed a lot of the social science literature on the drug war, and some of the scientific literature, and nobody without a dog in the hunt, no researcher that isn't paid by big pharma or tobacco or alcohol believes that the drug war has ever worked, and ever has a chance of working, and I think that's finally starting to sink in.

DEAN BECKER: I hope you're right, sir. Yeah, and, you know, living in Mexico, I got a chance to briefly go into Ciudad Juarez, it's been a few years back, but it was at the height of the violence there, that was then the world's deadliest city. And I felt privileged, I went with several DEA agents to a seminar down there. But, there were machine gun nests in the parks, cops with machine guns on nearly every corner.

But it, it hasn't gotten better for the whole of Mexico. Ciudad Juarez may be a little bit better off, but it's still a very dangerous, many cities are still very dangerous, am I right?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: That's, yeah, that's right. I've lived in Mexico since 2002, and have been teaching at the university level since 2004, and I was here when President Calderon started the supply side drug war against the cartels in 2006, and it's been a complete and total failure. There's been over 120,000 people killed, more than 26,000 people disappeared in Mexico. That's more than the combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

And the drug war is still, according to Forbes Magazine, the biggest, the drug cartels are the biggest industry in the world. Profits are about $300 billion a year. So you're never going to be able to stop it with a supply side solution of taking on the cartels, you're only going to make matters worse. And as I said in the article that you mentioned, drugs are now cheaper than they -- and more potent than they've ever been in the course of human history, so, this is exactly the wrong thing to do.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and you even have a graph at the top of this article, which kind of talks about that, the price. You quote from 1981, the price of heroin was approximately $3,260 for a pure gram, and now it's down to $465, on average. But again, it's cut so many times, that that gram becomes many grams by the time it reaches the user. Would you agree, sir?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Yeah, that's right, and studies have shown that the entire supply of heroin in the United States can fit into one shipping container, possibly two shipping containers. So how do you contain that? You can't, it's logistically, it's logistically impossible. And if you look at other countries, that have decriminalized drugs, or legalized drugs, Portugal is the obvious example. They have a lower drug use rate than we do in the United States.

Same for Greece. Greece spends about forty, about $40 million a year on drug interdiction. Sweden spends about $300 million a year on drug interdiction. They have, Greece has a very much lower drug use rate per capita than Sweden, they have basically the same populations, about ten million people.

So, every jurisdiction that has tried reforming their drug program into making drug use and abuse a public health issue and not a criminal issue has had wild successes, but our head is still stuck in this trap of strict drug enforcement, and it just doesn't work.

DEAN BECKER: No sir, it does not. You know, I had the privilege a couple of years back, after he had retired, got to interview former president of Mexico Vicente Fox, and, you know, it was a rather brief interview, and I can sum it up with this quick exchange. I asked him, sir, if you would please tell us, what do we get out of the drug war, what is the benefit? And he had a very brief response, he said, nothing. There is no benefit to the drug war.

And that's the sermon I've been preaching now for fifteen, twenty years, that, yeah, you know, Jeff Sessions says, now we can't legalize marijuana, we don't want people to get off heroin and go to another addiction that's nearly as bad. And I guess, sir, what irks me the most is, you know, these beer drinking, wine swilling, Jack Daniel drinking politicians have such a low opinion of drug users, and yet, it is alcohol and tobacco that are the real killers. Your thought in that regard, Glen Olives.

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Well, yeah, that's exactly right. According to the CDC, the third largest preventable cause of death in the United States is alcohol use and abuse. Marijuana's not even on the list. And again, going back to my days back in the 1990s at the LA County DA's office, I was really disenchanted with what was going on with drug prosecutions. I noticed that, according to the literature that was available then and it's still the same now, minorities, blacks, Hispanics, and whites use currently illegal drugs at about the same rate, almost identical rate, but the people that end up going to jail are poor whites, minorities, and blacks.

And that really puzzled me, and I started talking to some of my cop friends about it, and they said, you know what? We just, we're taking the low hanging fruit of society. The chances of getting arrested if you're a white college-educated guy, doing cocaine in his basement on a weekend in a gated community, is about zero. So, we're -- and it's a lot easier to sit outside a crack house, and wait for something to happen, and take the low hanging fruit. And that's basically the way the drug war is working and always has worked.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir.

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: And it's just inequitable.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, exactly right.

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: And it doesn't have to be that way. And it doesn't have to be that way.

DEAN BECKER: No, sir, and you know, I had referenced earlier a century, you know, that was the early ramblings of the moralists and charlatans that kind of ratcheted things up, but you contain in this article here, Gearing Up For The New Drug War, that it was in the late 60s, when President Nixon and his henchmen decided they had a way to go after their enemies. Do you want to talk about that, please?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Well, yeah, and people in his administration, Nixon's administration, have admitted a much, that the war on drugs was never about drugs, it was about political control of political enemies. Whether it was civil rights protesters in the south, or hippies that were dropping LSD and smoking marijuana, these were political enemies, and Nixon discovered that bad policy is often good politics. And that's exactly how the war should be characterized. It's incredibly bad policy, but it's very politically popular.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, once again, you're listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. We're speaking with Mister Glen Olives Thompson, a writer in Mexico, had a recent piece that showed up in the Mexico News Daily, Gearing Up For The New Drug War.

Now, Glen, I want to talk about the potential, you know, I know Mexico's getting tired of this drug war. Lots of folks, the majority of folks are tired of the war on weed here in the United States, and I guess I want to get your thoughts on the future. Is the end somewhere in sight? Do you think we're gaining traction, or will Sessions and Trump quash this push for, you know, ending this madness?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: The long term future, I think is good, but I think we have to remember that, like most big public policy things, drug policy isn't driven by scientific data, I wish it were, I think we'd have a much more sane system. It's driven by public perception, and public perception is changing. I think people are starting to realize that the propaganda that's gone on since the 1920s, especially with regard to cannabis, just simply isn't true and never has been.

So public opinion polls seem to be pointing in the direction of increased drug reform, but you also have to remember that drug policy always lags behind public opinion. And the other thing is that, you have to understand what we're fighting against. Somewhere around $20 billion a year is spent on drug enforcement efforts, and once that type of policy is enacted, it's very difficult, very difficult to change. That money goes into the pockets of law enforcement, of DEA, of judges, of private prisons, and people that are employed in those industries don't want to see an end to the drug war.

And the other thing is counter-intuitive, counter-intuitiveness, if you ask people, the average person that hasn't studied the issues, you know, if we decriminalize drugs, and regulate and control currently illegal drugs like we do alcohol and tobacco, they'll tell you, oh no, we can't do that, that would just lead to massive drug addiction across society. And of course you know that isn't true, because we've studied other jurisdictions where they've, I mentioned Portugal before, where they decriminalized drug use, and drug use has actually gone down.

So it's counter-intuitive, and it has to do with money and propaganda, so it's an uphill battle.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, it is, and let's not forget the others. We have a situation here in Houston, I think it's similar around the country, where the bail bondsmen help get judges re-elected, so therefore they don't grant PR bonds, they make them pay cash bonds, and I guess what I'm alluding to, sir, is that for politicians to get re-elected, many of them depend on funding from urine testers and treatment facilities and others who also want this drug war to continue. Your closing thoughts in that regard, if you would, sir.

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: Yeah, it's sometimes a depressing problem, and we see big pharma lobbyists, alcohol and tobacco lobbyists, also contributing to the politicians' campaigns, and they don't want to step on the hands -- the feet, and so that's an ongoing problem.

We are making progress, but sometimes it seems like it's two steps backwards and one step forward. You know, thank goodness for organizations like LEAP, and other organizations, and academics who are studying this issue, who are slowly but surely changing public perception about what the proper drug policy should be in the US.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again we've been speaking with Mister Glen Olives Thompson, he writes for many publications. He's a professor there in Chihuahua, and if you want to look at the article that caught my attention, please go to Mexico News Daily and look up Glen Olives and his article, Gearing Up For The New Drug War. A trillion dollars spent, and illegal drugs are cheaper and more readily available than ever. Glen, is there another website, closing thought you'd like to make?

GLEN OLIVES THOMPSON: You can also go to my blog, where I talk about drug policy and other public policy issues. That's at GlenOlives.com. And there are other articles there, and the Mexico News Daily archives contain -- has probably fifteen or twenty essays of mine on drug policies.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Coughing, blood in your phlegm, painful sores, diarrhea, stomach pain, burning when you urinate, tiredness, tuberculosis, cancer, and death. Time's up! The answer, from Janssen Biotech, Incorporated: Stelara, for psoriasis.

The following is a report from DTN intern Ashley Brien.

ASHLEY BRIEN: The NCAA's banned drug list for 2016 to '17 includes the following eight classes of drugs: stimulants, anabolic steroids, alcohol and beta blockers, diuretics and other masking agents, street drugs, peptide hormones and analogs, anti-estrogens and beta-two agonists. The institution of the student athlete shall be held accountable for all drugs within the banned drug class, regardless of whether they've been specifically identified by the NCAA.

Although the NCAA does provide some examples of banned substances in each drug class, the document emphasizes above all else that there is no complete list of banned substances. As such, they strongly advise against relying on this list alone to rule out any labeled ingredient.

Marijuana and THC are listed alongside heroin and synthetic cannabinoids like Spice and K2, among others, under street drugs.

In April 2014, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported on rule changes made by the NCAA that effectively classify marijuana as a non-performance enhancing substance. According to an NCAA report, the penalty for testing positive for street drugs, including marijuana, would be reduced to half a season from a full season. Street drugs are not performance enhancing in nature, and this change was intended to encourage schools to provide student athletes the necessary rehabilitation instead of suspension, loss of scholarship, or expulsion.

The truth is, for a lot of student athletes, if they lose their sport, they all too often lose school as well. Dodd points to the fact that the NCAA only tests for marijuana during championships. The end of the season punishments primarily effect the following season. In the event that the athlete graduates or leaves early for the pros, their collegiate athletics career escapes relatively unscathed.

However, it is worth mentioning that such testing has resulted in immediate action, with Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington, after testing positive for marijuana prior to the 2015 Monday Night National Championship game at the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. This meant Carrington would not travel to Pasadena to play with his team. Teammate and senior running back A. L. Ford also failed the NCAA mandated drug test, but only missed the national championship game as a result. Carrington, a red-shirt sophomore, however, could face up to a five game suspension next season on top of the national championship game suspension.

My name is Ashley Brien. Thanks for listening.

DEAN BECKER: If you're like me, I get a lot of marijuana related emails, but I keep getting flooded with the thought that it's time to buy penny marijuana stocks and become a millionaire. And that may have been true back in October or November, that there was a good chance you could have made a lot of money, but I also get frequent emails from a group, Avalon Realty Advisors, I think based in Colorado, more real potential, and we have here, to tell us more about it, one of their representatives, if he would please introduce himself, tell us a little bit about his organization.

JASON THOMAS: So, I actually own Avalon, founded it almost four years ago, to exclusively serve the industry for, primarily for real estate and business brokerage needs. So, if you have a business that you want to buy or sell, or a license, we broker those as well as buy, sell, lease on the real estate side.

DEAN BECKER: And, Jason, you know, I see the opportunity to invest, you know, not pennies, certainly, but amounts that could be very lucrative in the long run, I would suppose. Tell us about the marijuana business there in Colorado, how it's doing at this time.

JASON THOMAS: Sure. So, the businesses, the industry is strong, we're stabilizing and maturing. Activity kind of all around is good. Pricing, you know, on real estate and the licenses and centers, it's more stabilizing. There is opportunity here, really depends on your business model, you know, if you want to be a cultivator in 5,000 square feet, or scaled up to a lot more. So it's definitely an active market. There are opportunities, really depends on, you know, what your plan is, how much capital, you know, where do you want to be in a year or two. So all those factors go into, you know, any one deal.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Jason, and, you know, I'm looking at today's email I just got, it's talking about, that you're offering for sale a dual medical or recreational marijuana center in the Denver metro area, with, as you say, amazing I-25 signage. Tell us about that opportunity, please.

JASON THOMAS: Sure. So, it's a dual medical recreational center, in the Denver area, but it's in a different municipality, that has limited licensing. So I think there's only five stores that are allowed in this city. This is one of the five, they're not issuing any more licenses for stores. So, it's been around for probably four years, and they got approved for recreational last year. Their sales were trending up until the middle of last year, when they lost their merchant services for about four months.

Their sales went down dramatically because they had to go to cash only. But their sales are definitely trending up again. As you mentioned, you know, great billboard signage, right on I-25, catch it from both north and south bound. That's kind of the long and the short of it.

DEAN BECKER: This is one such opportunity, and there are others that do allow for growing, am I right?

JASON THOMAS: Yes. Yeah, we have opportunities in Pueblo, there are some opportunities in Denver, you know, a few in the mountains. It really depends, you know, kind of what's out there, you know, at any one day, and then for you as an operator, you know, distribution and, you know, your employees, and access to quality employees.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Jason, well, I tell you what, I appreciate the information, and certainly some folks out there might appreciate the opportunity. Is there a website, other means folks could get in touch with you guys?

JASON THOMAS: Yeah, it's just our company name, AvalonRealtyAdvisors.co, dot CO, not dot com.

DEAN BECKER: If you would hit that again, I stepped on it.

JASON THOMAS: Oh, sure. It's -- I'll spell it , it's AvalonRealtyAdvisors.co.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I was up in Colorado, what was it, May of last year, really had a great time. Went camping, fishing, golfing, and visited about twelve different shops, and just really enjoyed the sense of freedom.

JASON THOMAS: Yeah. I hear you. We have that here.

DEAN BECKER: This pot's so good, that when I smoke it, the government freaks out.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: My name is Ashley Clemmer, and I'm the director of programs and community engagement at the Rothko Chapel.

DEAN BECKER: Now, for folks around the country who may not know about the Rothko Chapel, tell them a little bit about what it is, what it's about.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: Well, the Rothko Chapel opened in 1971, in the Montrose community here in Houston, Texas, as what we call a sacred art space. It's an ecumenical space, for people of all religions or none. It's open every single day of the year, from 10am to 6pm. First and foremost, it's a quiet place for people to come, to sit, to reflect, and then we have ongoing public programs that sit at the intersection of art, spirituality, and human rights.

So at any given time, you can experience a concert, a meditation, an important dialogue on a critical human rights issue, and then every other year we give out a peace prize in the name of the former archbishop from San Salvador, Oscar Romero.

DEAN BECKER: Now, you know, as, I'm not going to say I'm agnostic or atheist, but just somebody who got sick of greedy preachers, I find the Rothko Chapel to be a place of introspection, meditation, just a calm and peaceful place to visit, and I think that's probably the mindset of most folks who go there.

Now, you talked about some of the programs that the Rothko Chapel gets involved with. There's one coming up here in Houston as well. Please tell folks about it.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: Thank you. Well, we have a symposium that we're going to be offering March Thirtieth to April First, 2017. It's called An Act Of Justice: Undoing The Legacy Of Mass Incarceration. And it's being presented in collaboration with the Criminology, Law, and Society Department at the University of Saint Thomas in Houston.

And it will be comprised of two keynote addresses, some workshops, and a series of meditations and panel discussions that are really exploring the ins and outs of the criminal justice system in the United States today, from firsthand accounts of those who have been incarcerated, to law enforcement, and other individuals who are working on the front lines. It's open to all people to come and experience.

DEAN BECKER: Well, tell us about some of the speakers who will be presenting.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: Well, it will begin on March the Thirtieth at the Rothko Chapel with a woman named Margaret Burnham. She teaches at Northeastern University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts, and so for individuals who really aren't educated, or as well versed on mass incarceration and the legacy of it here in the United States, she'll really help to set the context for it. So she'll take us back in time to how this system began, and where we are today, this critical moment, and some of the efforts that are in place in terms of reform.

And the, the following day, Friday, it will be an all-day experience, starting at the chapel in the morning, with firsthand testimonials and accounts from individuals who are formerly incarcerated, including a gentleman here in Houston's Fifth Ward, to a woman named Dolores Canales, who's from California, both of whom were incarcerated, both experienced solitary confinement, and they're going to be talking about, in real time, the process from arrest to incarceration to re-entry, and allowing individuals to really understand what that experience is like as a human being, going through those experiences.

And then, we'll move into a session that will be understanding the system in a very similar way, but it will be from the perspective of individuals who were working in the system: judges, lawyers, individuals who are, you know, advocates, activists. And then we'll go even deeper with a panel discussion that is going to really look at specific communities that are impacted, like incarcerated women, pregnant women, incarcerated youth and juveniles, and then also the impact that all of this has on family members of those who are incarcerated.

DEAN BECKER: Well, if you would, please, kind of recap the dates.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: So, it will be from March the Thirtieth to April First, 2017. It will be held at the Rothko Chapel and at the University of Saint Thomas. All of the information is available on our website, www.RothkoChapel.org. And the entire schedule is listed on our website. We'll be offering a continental breakfast on the plaza to start off the mornings. We'll include lunch, and everything is free. We ask people who are in a position to give a donation, to help us offset some of our costs, to do that, but it's absolutely not required.

Spaces are filling up quickly, so while we will try to accommodate walk-ups, we do highly encourage everyone to register in advance if they think they want to come.

DEAN BECKER: And again, that website.

ASHLEY CLEMMER: It's RothkoChapel.org. So that's spelled RothkoChapel.org.

DEAN BECKER: It is my hope that Ashley and I will both be able to cover this amazing conference, and share it with you next week. And as always, I remind you, because of prohibition you have no idea what's in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

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