08/04/17 Cory Booker

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Senator Cory Booker bill to legalize cannabis, Ann Coulter demonizes black race and cannabis, former Congressman Ron Paul demonizes the demonizers, CBS: continuing Chicago cop corruption.

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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

AUGUST 4, 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.

On Tuesday, Senator Cory Booker introduced a bill that would drop the federal prohibition on marijuana, and that would even encourage states to legalize cannabis. Booker believes the war on drugs has failed, torn families apart, wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars, and has been focused on poor people, especially people of color. Legalizing marijuana would go a long way to solving those national problems. This is Senator Cory Booker.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: This is a very important bill I'm about to introduce. But I want to give you a little background first and foremost. We live in a country where we swear this ideal, we put our hand over our heart and we believe very strongly that we are to be a nation of liberty and justice for all.

Well, one way in which we have not fulfilled that promise, that ideal, is through our criminal justice system. And this hasn't been always the case in terms of what we're seeing today in our modern criminal justice system, and what has happened really is the so-called war on drugs.

Since the 1980s, our federal prison population's gone up 800 percent. Overall in our country, a 500 percent increase in incarceration. Not only is that taking billions and billions of dollars of our taxpayer money, but we are not seeing an equal application of the criminal justice system. We're not seeing people being arrested in any way that reflects our values.

If you think about it for a second, we in this nation have seen the war on drugs, we could actually go to our prisons, go to our jails, and just see who is getting swept up, who is getting incarcerated. One of my great heroes, a guy named Brian Stevenson, says we have a justice system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

Well if we go to our criminal -- to our jails around this country, you're going to see disproportionately poor people, you're going to see disproportionately people of color, the mentally ill, disproportionately people who are addicted, and disproportionately, our veterans. We in this country have done and persecuted the drug war, not on everyone, but have focused it on the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Now, I know this personally, having grown up in a town that was relatively privileged compared to where I've lived for the last twenty years in Newark, New Jersey. In addition to that, going to college and to graduate school, you don't see kids coming home from frat parties being stopped and frisked, you don't see the enforcement of marijuana laws. In fact, in so many of the privileged circles I've been blessed to be in, and many times you hear people bragging about using pot, making jokes about it, it's something that's really funny.

Here in the United States Congress, it's just sometimes you have conversations with people that admit, readily admit, using drugs. But if you go to communities that are poor, if you go to communities of color, clearly this is not a laughing matter.

You see that these are the communities where people are getting arrested at rates tragically higher than other communities. In fact, just on looking at race in our country, if you are African American, you have no difference in using drugs, or even selling drugs, between, there's no difference between blacks and whites in our country.

But tragically, in this country, if you're African American, you're going to be arrested for using drugs almost four times more so than someone that's white. I've seen that in my communities, where people are turned into the criminal justice system, tagged with charges for nonviolent drug use, with using marijuana, in a nation where our lawmakers and our legislators have been using drugs. Some studies have shown up to about 50 percent of adults in America have tried marijuana.

Look, I have seen children, young teenagers, getting arrested, saddled with criminal convictions for the rest of their lives, for doing things more minor in terms of drug use than two of our last three presidents admitted to doing. And so this rank hypocrisy in our country, that is actually not even the driving force behind this bill. The reason why I'm introducing this legislation, which I'll describe in a moment, is because of the devastating impact it's had on our nation.

It's not just the wasted taxpayer dollars, but if you just look at marijuana, and please understand that a study by the ACLU between 2001 and 2010, looking at 8 million arrests for drugs, they saw that 88 percent of them were people being arrested for possession. Overwhelmingly for marijuana. So understand what happens to a person when they're arrested for marijuana, when they're convicted for that charge. When they get a felony conviction.

What that means is, they have, according to the American Bar Association, about 40,000 so-called collateral consequences. This is what you know. It's so hard to find a job, you can't get business licenses, you can't get Pell Grants, you can't get public housing, or even food stamps, so many things are cut off to you.

Now, imagine if those arrests are overwhelmingly concentrated in certain communities. When you have the turning in of the poor people in this communities, who are minority folks, who are disproportionately, large numbers of the black men in that community, have been arrested for doing things that if you went to a college campus and really did the police work, you'd find that large numbers of those folks are doing those drugs.

Well what you do is you severely impact those communities economically. You create crises within families, as people are being separated from their children. You hurt their long term economic potential, so much so that there has been one study that I saw, from a university, that if we had incarceration rates just like our national -- international peers, we would have probably about twenty percent less poverty in this country.

And so when you see these marijuana arrests happening so much in our country, targeting certain communities, poor communities, minority communities, targeting people with an illness, targeting disproportionately our veterans, you see the injustice of it all.

And then you see what's starting to happen around this country right now. Eight states and the District of Columbia have moved to legalize marijuana. And, now having months and months of evidence, they are see -- these states are seeing decreases in violent crime in their states. They're seeing actually increases in revenue to their states. They're seeing their police forces being able to focus their time, energy, and resources, in focusing on serious crime. They're actually seeing positive things coming out of that experience.

Now, I believe the federal government should get out of the marijuana illegal -- the illegal marijuana business, and it disturbs me right now that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not moving as the states are, moving as public opinion is, but actually saying that we should be doubling down and enforcing federal marijuana laws, even in states that have made marijuana legal.

This to me is outrageous and unacceptable. So, given the crisis, given the racial impact of marijuana enforcement, given the punishing of poor people through marijuana enforcement, given the challenges that people with mental illnesses or veterans are experiencing through the criminal justice system and disproportionately targeting them with marijuana enforcement, we must do better.

And so my bill does a number of things. First and foremost, it deschedules marijuana from the list of controlled substances, thus making it no longer illegal in federal law. That, to me, is a very important step, but it is just a beginning.

The next thing it does is retroactively expunges people who have been convicted for use and possession of marijuana. Remember, these are charges that follow people for the rest of their lives, making it difficult for them to do things that we take for granted, like applying for a taxi cab license, something you can't get in many states even if your marijuana conviction was ten, 20, 30 years ago. Or, people who can't vote in some states, because of their federal marijuana charge.

And so it also actually creates not only a retroactive expungement, but for people that are in prison right now for marijuana related charges, it gives them an avenue to appeal to the courts to have their sentences reduced or eliminated.

And then finally, because of the punishing of poor people, the disproportionate, the wildly disproportionate effect on communities of color, often poor communities themselves, we create incentives for states, an incentive pool for states to change their laws, to stop continuing by enforcing the law in such an unjust manner. We believe that states should be moving in the same way, to legalize marijuana, to end racial disparities in enforcement of marijuana laws, and frankly to end the targeting, the disproportionate targeting of poor people.

So, this bill does a number of things that are critical. It creates not only incentives, but finally the fourth thing I want you to know about the bill, it creates a community reinvestment fund, so that communities who have been disproportionately impacted for decades by marijuana laws, who have been devastated by marijuana laws and their unjust application, that they can apply for community reinvestment funds that would help with a number of things.

They could help with job training, recover -- re-entry services, expenses related to expungement of convictions, but also investing in things like public libraries and community centers, and programs for -- that are dedicated to youth. You see, it's not enough just to say hey, marijuana is going to be legalized, let's move forward. This has done serious damage to our communities. It's done serious damage to American families.

And we need to make sure that we are not only making it legal on the federal level, not only moving states to do the same, but to start targeting on not only ending the racial disparities and incarceration and targeting of poor people but trying to do what I call restorative justice, finding ways to take communities that have been disproportionately impacted and helping them to heal, helping them to recover, from what has been the unjust application of the law.

DEAN BECKER: We have a report dated July 28, 2017, from WAPT TV News, based in Jackson, Mississippi. Quote: "Man sentenced to 30 years in prison, after marijuana conviction." Christopher Butler was sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined $500,000 by the county circuit court judge. He had been convicted for possessing approximately four pounds of marijuana. Yes, he was guilty of possessing six pounds as well at another time, and for smuggling a cell phone into a jail facility.

They also seized $77,938 from Mister Butler, who now faces between 24 and 48 years in prison, and must serve his sentence day for day without the possibility of parole. By the way, Mister Butler is a black man.

This past weekend, PolitiCon held a debate which featured Ann Coulter, who made some remarkable claims about marijuana. She was debating Ana Kasparian. The debate was moderated by Touré.

TOURÉ: Is there racial bias in the criminal justice system? In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander talks about black people are over-arrested, over-prosecuted, over-convicted, and over-sentenced. While --

ANA KASPARIAN: Well, I, my favorite stat when it comes to that has to do with marijuana, because I love marijuana, so -- it's, it's, it's interesting because there was a study looking specific -- hell yeah -- a study looking specifically into marijuana use rates, and they compared white marijuana users to black marijuana users, and the researchers found, all right, they use marijuana at similar rates.

But it's interesting because blacks are four times more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for marijuana possession, which is by the way, I don't care if you're black, white, Asian, Latino, it doesn't matter, you shouldn't be prosecuted for marijuana possession, that's a gigantic waste of our resources.

But, I found that study so interesting, because again, we're talking about similar rates, but why is that one group gets targeted more often than the other group?

DEAN BECKER: That voice was Ana Kasparian, next up we hear from Ann Coulter.

ANN COULTER: Oh, I'm so glad you brought this up. The -- this is based on self-reports. There have been further studies where they actually drug test the person after asking do you smoke pot, have you smoked pot in the last week, and it turns out there's a racial difference in telling the truth on did you smoke pot. Blacks were about ten times more likely to lie and say they hadn't smoked pot.

Point two -- you couldn't find -- you couldn't it, I'll -- I'll email it to you and you can post it. But, do you, and, the second point is, nobody goes to prison for possession of pot.

ANA KASPARIAN: That's untrue. That's untrue.

ANN COULTER: More than -- No, I know you’re all potheads, and you’re gonna have trouble following what I’m about to say, but as you will be able to read in your, in failing New York Times, almost 90 percent of people in prison are in prison as a result of a plea bargain. No one gets arrested and tried for possession of marijuana, they're caught -- but if they happen to have marijuana on them, that’s what they plea it down to, you don't need witnesses, you don't need a trial. That may be on the record, but you're not going to prison for that, you're going to prison because you held up a liquor store with a sawed-off shotgun, and they found pot on you.

ANA KASPARIAN: No. May I jump in? This is one of my favorite topics. I did a TEDx talk on it, so, there's been a lot of research into this. Why do you guys think we have private prisons? Why are our taxpayer dollars going toward private prisons, and why do we even need them, right? Don't we have county prisons, federal prisons. Well, it's because in the 1980s, because of Republican leadership, we passed a bunch of draconian laws, specifically in regard to marijuana.

And so our prison systems all of a sudden were just filled with people who got caught with possession of pot. Right? And so, you know, these entrepreneurs see that there's some, you know, there's an entrepreneurial opportunity here, and so you had the emergence of Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, and guess what they did? They're like give us your nonviolent drug offenders and make us rich. So your tax dollars aren't really going to welfare recipients and all these little guys that, you know, people want to distract you with. They're going to private industries like private prisons who have a vested interest to criminalize nonviolent individuals, particularly those who get caught with drugs.

TOURÉ: Should marijuana be legal?

ANN COULTER: No. You can legalize all the drugs you want once there isn’t a welfare state, but no. Marijuana makes people retarded, um, especially when they’re young. We’ve got enough busboys. We’re bringing in busboys by the million through our immigration policy. We do not need a country of busboys. We’re destroying the country.

TOURÉ: Should marijuana be legal?

ANA KASPARIAN: Absolutely, in fact, I wish you would smoke a joint, and relax a little bit. Marijuana does not make people the word that you just said, which is ridiculous. How many of -- you guys won't have to raise your hands if you feel uncomfortable. How many of you guys smoke pot? [Loud cheer] Yeah. Well, there are lawmakers in this country that would like to see you in prison. Jeff Sessions happens to be one of them. Okeh?

In fact, marijuana laws have been so draconian that it has allowed members of the DEA to do something known as civil asset forfeiture, which is, if you are even suspected of being in possession of drugs, or trafficking drugs, they can go ahead and take your home, they can take your money, they can take your car, they can take your property, because hey, they're investigating you, and guess what? Only a tiny fraction of those individuals ever get their property back. You don't have to be convicted of anything, you don't have to even face any serious charges. It's just based on suspicion.

And Obama actually brought that back a little bit, reeled it back in a little bit. Jeff Sessions comes into power, and all of a sudden, they're now civil asset forfeiture? Awesome, let's take property away from these innocent Americans, who haven't done anything wrong, but hey, our local police enforcement and the DEA need some resources, so let's go ahead and confiscate their property.

That's what's happening with the drug war right now.

DEAN BECKER: The following comes to us courtesy of CBS Chicago.

VLADIMIR DUTHIERS: For the second time in less than a month, video shows Baltimore police officers allegedly planting evidence. Newly released body camera footage apparently shows officers placing drugs in a car. The alleged incident happened during an arrest in November. Officers were searching the car after witnessing what they said looked like a drug deal. Jeff Pegues is in Washington with what a defense lawyer says the cameras captured. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF PEGUES: Good morning. The officers are accused of manufacturing evidence, and the public defender's office says that all you have to really do is look at the police body camera video to see it.

VOICE 1: What are you stopping us for?

POLICE OFFICER 1: Just step out.

VOICE 1: What you mean, step out? What are you stopping us for?

JEFF PEGUES: Body cameras were rolling during a traffic stop last November. The video shows Baltimore police officers searching a car for drugs. As one of the suspects is arrested, he accuses the officers of harassing him for days.

VOICE 1: You're crooked! You set [bleep], that's what you do!

JEFF PEGUES: According to the public defender's office, the officers found nothing in the car until turning their body cameras off. When the cameras came back on, an officer is seen squatting by the driver's side of the suspect's car, apparently unaware that he's being recorded. He then stands up and steps back. About thirty seconds pass, another officer approaches the car.

POLICE OFFICER 2: Did anybody check this floorboard?

JEFF PEGUES: That officer then squats down and pulls out a bag of drugs.

JOSHUA INSLEY: Frankly, when it's your word against the police, it's quite an uphill climb for a lot of people in Baltimore city.

JEFF PEGUES: Attorney Joshua Insley says the footage absolves his client, Shamere Collins, who was facing drug charges after the incident.

JOSHUA INSLEY: She didn't think anybody would believe her, but, you know, the cameras were all rolling and she ended up being vindicated.

JEFF PEGUES: The Baltimore police said in a statement, anytime an allegation of misconduct is made against an officer, they take it seriously, and investigate it fully.

This is the second time in recent weeks Baltimore officers have been accused of planting evidence. Body camera footage released about two weeks ago involving different Baltimore police officers allegedly shows drugs being planted in a back yard. The investigation into that incident is ongoing. The case against Insley's client has also been dismissed, but he says this is not the end of their legal fight.

JOSHUA INSLEY: You know, she lives in the city, she doesn't want any trouble between her and the police, but she feels like, you know, but she feels like she had drugs planted on her, and she definitely wants justice.

JEFF PEGUES: With these recent cases coming to light, the concern is that this is more of a common occurrence than originally thought. Last night, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis sent a memo to officers, reminding them that they are required to activate their body cameras when responding to calls and searching for evidence, and they are required to keep those body cameras on.

DEAN BECKER: This is Cheech Marin.

CHEECH MARIN: Cheech Marin: This is America. You get to criticize the government in this country. You get to say, I think these guys are ridiculous. It’s guaranteed in the very First Amendment in the Constitution. It’s what this country was founded on. You get to do that by being an American. The fact that that she brought up our movies means that we don’t want you to say whatever you want to say. This is not your America anymore. It’s our America. Them putting Tommy Chong in jail for making Cheech & Chong movies means that you don’t get to say that in America, and we get to put you in jail for it.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, headache, malaise, fatal disturbance in brain function, imbalanced electrolytes, over-dilution of sodium in the blood plasma, osmotic shift in pressure ruptures, cerebral edema, seizures, coma, and death. Time's up!

The answer, and before I give you the answer, let me tell you a little bit more about this product. It's found in baby food. It's a major component of the explosives used by the terrorists, and it's freely available in the hallways and used in the classrooms of every school in our nation. Prolonged exposure causes severe tissue damage, inhalation of even a slight amount can be deadly. Di-hydrogen monoxide is a killer. Otherwise known as water.

On the first page of the bible, it tells us how god created the stars, the sun, the moon, and the earth, the waters and the firmament. And then he created the herbs of the field and the animals, and he created man and woman, and he gave us dominion over all these things. [sic: that's a myth] And god said that it was good. Why does the government wish to deny us the right to choose how we use what is on this earth for our service?

The following features the words of former Congressman Ron Paul. It's courtesy of Fox Television Network.

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: But first up, Donald Trump has now weighed in on an issue that drives Libertarians crazy: civil asset forfeiture. Listen to this, from a meeting the president had with a group of sheriffs.

SHERIFF HAROLD EAVENSON: We got a state senator in Texas that was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we can receive their forfeiture.

DONALD TRUMP: Can you believe that?

SHERIFF HAROLD EAVENSON: And I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed.

DONALD TRUMP: Who is the state senator? Want to give his name? We'll destroy his career.

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: Destroy his career. So, President Trump may have been joking about ruining the career of a Texas state lawmaker, but it is clear that he agreed with the sheriff that it should be okeh for the government to seize the cash and property of somebody who's only suspected of a crime, not someone who's been convicted. Now, there may be no better example of big government gone crazy. Let's see what Doctor Ron Paul has to think of all this, he's the host of the Ron Paul Liberty Report, as well as a former Congressman, and presidential candidate.

So, Doctor Paul, this is coming from some sheriffs in your neck of the woods. The Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson basically calling out this Texas state lawmaker who wanted to put an end to civil asset forfeiture. What do you think about all this?

RON PAUL: Well, I think he's endorsing theft, that's what they're doing, they're stealing stuff they have no right to come, because somebody is a suspect, they happen to stop someone or a vehicle, because they have some cash in their car they can take their money and then that person has to try to recoup it and get it, or if there's drugs in the car, or for whatever. I mean, it is the worst thing that can be done is civil asset forfeiture, it's all this bizarre, out of control war on drugs, and unfortunately we haven't had much hint that the new administration's going to help us out there, come around to a sensible approach to the war on drugs, like get rid of most of it.

And, you know, we were hopeful that Obama would be better, and he wasn't a lot better until the end, when he did do some pardons on it, but unfortunately it seemed to me, and I can't understand why the politicians feel so obsessed that that's the only way they can stay popular is being tough on the war on drugs.

LISA KENNEDY MONTGOMERY: Yeah, and it came up a little bit during Jeff's Senate -- Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings, but unfortunately, the, the future Attorney General is not very good at all, not only on the war on drugs specifically on civil asset forfeiture, I don't think they grilled him enough on that. But actually, 84 percent of Americans oppose the taking of money and property before conviction, because you are not guilty of any crime, but you essentially have to pay to get all of your stuff back, and your money back, and there is absolutely no due process there.

RON PAUL: Yeah, I think they're -- people aren't aware of this, I'm delighted that you're talking about it, because a lot of people just don't realize what's going on, but it's a basic right that you are punished and you have to pay the fine, and they take your stuff, and you might be totally innocent. I mean, that is just so bizarre and so un-American, it's such a shame that the president jumped on the bandwagon there and became rather sharp there, but, that's the way it is. But I think it comes from this basic assumption, which is deeply in opposition to the libertarian principle that we oughtn't tell people what they should put into their minds, in their bodies, and what they eat, and drink, because we need somebody to take care of us, and that's where it's from.

DEAN BECKER: We're going to close out today's show with some final thoughts from US Senator Cory Booker.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: I'm going to continue to push this legislation, I'm hoping that we will work towards bipartisan support. None of that's possible though unless people are demanding it. I think it was Frederick Douglass who said, power concedes nothing without a demand. And so the people here with the power to change these laws, we the people must make that demand, we must insist upon it.

Marijuana laws have devastated communities, have devastated cities, have devastated families, and have devastated too many lives.

DEAN BECKER: It's really going to take you to make this change possible. Please do your part to end the madness of drug war. And again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacific 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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