04/16/17 Doug McVay

This week: we take a look at the likely next Drug Czar, US Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA).

Century of Lies
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Doug McVay
Drug War Facts
Download: Audio icon col041617.mp3



APRIL 16, 2017


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. Century Of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Well, the big news this week is that US Representative Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, is expected to become the next Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy – the drug czar. At the time of this recording, the White House had not yet made an official announcement of its intent to nominate Marino, let alone send his nomination to the Senate, so it's way not yet official, but this seems to be more than just a trial balloon.

Marino is an old school drug warrior. He was the elected district attorney in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, for more than a decade before becoming a US Attorney during the GW Bush Administration. Marino was first elected to Congress in 2010. He's a social conservative whose politics are best described as far-right authoritarian. In the last general election he campaigned for the current president.

While in Congress, Marino voted against medical marijuana amendments, he championed harsh mandatory minimum sentencing, and he promoted an idea of treatment wherein prisons would be called treatment facilities to which addicts would be given indeterminate sentences and then subjected to chemical and psychological torment. I think it's called torture.

Congressman Tom Marino is a jerk. His appointment, presuming it is becomes official, is not a surprise. Marino, our new Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, our new Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III – these are the people who the president and his advisers feel are best suited to carry out the policies of this administration.

From the start, I have been concerned about this administration's criminal justice and drug policies. With every executive order, with every nomination, with every news conference and speech and statement, it's become increasingly clear that this administration's criminal justice policies, and drug policies, are backward, counterproductive, reactionary, wrongheaded, uninformed, stupid, and for lack of a better word flat-out evil.

Earlier this year, there were people connected with the marijuana industry who were arguing that it was too soon to tell what kind of drug policies the new administration was going to adopt. Some of these folks dismissed concerns about the new administration as just a media freak out or some fundraising gag by a drug policy nonprofit. Those folks have for the most part either gotten really quiet, or quietly converted. There's no longer any question of the direction the new administration is going, the question now is how bad it's going to get.

So on today's edition of Century of Lies, we're going to hear from Congressman Tom Marino, who will probably be our next drug czar. Rather than wait for a choreographed, scripted, meaningless confirmation hearing, let's listen to what Tom Marino really has to say about drug policy.

First, we're going to hear part of a presentation that Marino gave to a group of Pennsylvania state legislators. This is from August 30th of 2016.

TOM MARINO: When I was a prosecutor, as a district attorney, and the district attorney works for the people who elected him or her. As US Attorney I worked for the president and then via the Attorney General, and we couldn't make decisions like we could without getting permission from those individuals as we did as DA.

But here's what I believe we need in the United States, and actually I'm trying to get money, I have an appointment with the leader of the, of the House when we go back. Unfortunately, unfortunately, we don't have earmarks anymore. Earmarks are a good thing, if they're not abused, and we should be able to bring tax dollars, federal tax dollars, back to our state and to our locals. It's insane that we can't do that. Why let any president decide where that money goes, as opposed to our legislators and at the state level.

What we need in this country is certainly tough law enforcement. Violent drug dealers, drug dealers who sell drugs for profit, most of them are carrying guns because I prosecuted hundreds of them, maybe even thousands of them, over my 18 year career. They have to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These people are not nice people, and this doesn't go across race at all. I mean, I prosecuted just as many whites as I have blacks, and Hispanics, and anything else.

You look at the -- you look at the problem here, and it is a problem for the United States. It's not a Republican problem, it's not a Democrat problem, and it's not a white or a black problem. It's a problem for all of us. And I've seen it frontline. What we need to do is put these people away. We need to make sure that judges are doing that, judges make the determination of sentences, but the prosecutors have to argue for stiff punishments, and most of the time in these cases, it's pretty evident, what people come in and testify, and you have the drugs, you take the gun off the individual, and in some circumstances they're getting a slap on the wrist most of the -- both at the federal and the state level.

But what we need to do to deal with the people that are addicted, and bear in mind, there are some people that deal drugs but to support their habit, not to generate a profit. And I see this opioid problem as just as bad, if not worse, than the crack cocaine problem in the '90s.

We need a prison slash hospital.

And let me clarify that. Say for example, Person A gets caught dealing drugs, not a violent person, not dealing for profit, looking at five, maybe even ten years in the federal system. And I think this is so big we need the feds to help in this.

If we had a prison slash hospital where this person goes to this facility, in the state or in their region, and it's, if you were to look at it, it wouldn't look like a traditional federal or state prison, but they're locked down. There's security there, but they have 24/7 treatment, on a daily basis, with psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, lay people, religious people, educators, other people who have recovered. On a daily basis. And then we have a panel, a panel running and overseeing this facility, who are there on site as a full-time, making sure that treatment is given on a 24/7 basis.

It only takes a couple of months, or even less now with opioids, couple of weeks, to get addicted to drugs. If you think a 28 day program, or year in prison, whether that's in a county prison or a state prison, is going to cure it, think twice. Because it is so addictive that they're going to fall off that wagon very quickly.

In addition to these people being in this facility -- say they're sentenced to ten years. If they successfully, according to the strict standards of this panel of experts, if they successfully become clean, and folks, it's just like alcohol, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, once a drug addict, always a drug addict.

So it's just not sending that person out because they did well in the treatment facility that, where they could have done ten years in prison but they got out in three years because they did everything well in this hospital, and the board makes that decision along with the prosecutor. Then we have to make sure, even before they're out, that they're out of their environment, that we get them employed, that we get them trained before they're released.

It's going to be expensive, but it's going to be far less expensive than what we are doing now. If you think somebody going to federal prison or state prison, and they -- it's going to be cured, come with me to a federal and state prison, and I'll show you where that's not going to happen.

So we have to get to the root. We have to involve the family members. We have to make sure that that individual is not running around with the same people that he or she was when they got arrested. This is a full time program, but it's, I think it's probably one of the most indepth recovery programs that we could ever implement in the United States, and certainly in Pennsylvania.

So, if you have any questions about any of this, I'll be glad to answer it.

PA STATE REPRESENTATIVE KERRY BENNINGHOFF: We've got to have you come to Harrisburg, that was pretty timely, I'm impressed. First question comes from Representative Rick Saccone. Thank you, Congressman.

TOM MARINO: You're welcome.

PA STATE REP. RICK SACCONE: Thank you Mister Chairman. Thank you Congressman for your testimony. So I'm interested in the funds that are available, the federal funds. So, as you know, there's a handful of states, maybe ten states, that have the highest death overdose rate from this, this scourge, and Pennsylvania is one of them. Is the, are the grants weighted toward the states that have the biggest problem?

TOM MARINO: I think, to a minimum, to a certain extent, but I don't have to emphasize to you the problem across the country, it only takes one person, one parent to lose their child to this, and you can't, you can't weigh it as to whether, well there were a hundred people that overdosed. It's a child that died, but, no, I think a great deal of this has to do with how the grant is prepared.

Certainly, the number of individuals in a particular area is going to have some impact, but usually this money is broken down into categories anyhow. So, if there's an area that has a tremendously large number of deaths, a chunk of this is going to be set aside for that. But we know how devastating this is to, right here in Lycoming County, the number of people that we've -- young people that we've seen die because of overdoses.

PA REP. KERRY BENNINGHOFF: Representative Wheeland, then Representative Costa.

PA STATE REP. JEFF WHEELAND: You had alluded to the crack cocaine issue.


PA STATE REP. JEFF WHEELAND: And, for the most part, it's rare that we hear about crack cocaine in Lycoming County. But, we were just talking about that situation, some parts of the United States it's still a hot topic, a lot of crack cocaine in certain areas, but here, it's not, because, I believe it's because heroin is so inexpensive on the streets, compared to other forms of addictive drugs.

So here's my question. Do you still sit on Homeland Security?

TOM MARINO: On Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and NATO.

PA STATE REP. JEFF WHEELAND: Okeh. So, the United States government, we have a pretty good handle on where this heroin's coming from, what countries it's coming from?

TOM MARINO: We've always had a handle on where it was coming from.

PA STATE REP. JEFF WHEELAND: Okeh. But it's coming in cheap, probably no charge, and these countries that it's being grown and processed in, are countries that really don't like the United States of America, and they're trying to kill a generation of Americans without firing a bullet, and they're succeeding. What is the federal government doing to help secure our borders from this free trade of heroin that's coming to our shores?

TOM MARINO: Well, two issues to address there. Before the drug gets to here, drug cartels have been paying a great deal of money, millions of dollars. I was in, not too long ago, in South America, we were in Colombia, and looking at eradication of cocaine fields. This, many of the people employed in, I'm going to call them developing countries, and even more advanced than developing, this is their livelihood. Clearly their livelihood, that's how they feed their families, that's how they live.

The government knows this, and I give you an example of, while we were in Colombia, we were in Blackhawk helicopters overlooking the terrain, and we could see just hundreds of cocaine plantations, where they would actually grow the plant and manufacture the cocaine. And then occasionally we'd see a smoke plume come up, and the smoke plume was because the law enforcement entity went in, for show as far as I'm concerned, took that one out, but left 99.9 percent of the fields going.

They had a situation, they had a, they used to use a, a herbicide, and I'm forgetting the name of it, it's something that we use here in our own gardens to get rid of weeds. That's it, that's it, Roundup. In fact I was trying to stay away from the name, but, fine. Roundup.

They were using that, and there was a decision made at the executive level, the president's level, in Colombia, that they couldn't use that anymore because it was too dangerous to the environment. Now let me tell you how quickly, how they make cocaine. They dig a big trench, about fifty feet by fifty feet, and they put a piece of plastic in the bottom of it, and they dump kerosene and all these deadly chemicals along with the plant leaves to break it down, manu -- and then drain that product out, drain all of the liquid out, which goes into the ground. Let the plants dry, grind it up and make the cocaine.

So, I asked one of the high-ranking officials, well, don't you think this causes more of an environmental problem than Roundup? And he wouldn't answer the question.

So, it's, and yes, you're right, you're, the other countries, this is a way of not firing a shot and taking advantage of, killing us, but also what we need to do is, once again, and I, please, I don't you to sound like this is all me, but, because even my district attorney's office, I had a top notch staff, and a top notch bunch of investigators, and it was called DART, the District Attorney's Response Team. And I had eight agents out on the streets, not Monday through Friday, 8 to 4. Weekends, nights, holidays.

And they went out and did a massive, a massive buy-bust, investigations, taking down dealers off the street, right on the spot. If it was a long term case, they turned it over to my drug task force, which took a little longer to build the case but we sent these people away federally, we took their possessions, I took the gold right off their neck, the gold chains off their necks. We shut down slum lords places, we shut down bars that knew this was taking place. We don't seem to have that anywhere in the United States where we have a, an investigative unit out there meaning business.

That's part of it. We're not going to solve this problem unless we let the dealers know that we're going to go out there and kick butt, we're going to put you away for as long as we can put you away. And, and, if you know what you are selling, if you know what you are selling has something in it that is instantly going to kill somebody, in addition to the drug doing it, you should be, there, at the federal level we have enhancements onto the charge of distributing drugs, which can add a -- double and even triple the time that someone spends in prison, so, enforcement, and the idea of a hospital slash prison, is going to have a tremendously good positive effect on this.

PA REP. KERRY BENNINGHOFF: Thank you. Representative Paul Costa, then Representative Gainey, I see we are joined by Representative Ellis and Gergely, thank you gentlemen for joining us.

PA STATE REP. PAUL COSTA: Thank you, Chairman, Benninghoff, and Congressman, thank you so much for being here. I really liked your comments on the earmarks. That reminds me of -- well we used to call them legislative initiatives, but, and I miss them. And I still have people asking for them.

TOM MARINO: I get -- I have a real good name for no more earmarks. Infrastructure building. If you don't like that, you know, let's come up with another name.

PA STATE REP. PAUL COSTA: It reminded me of a comment that the president made a couple of years ago, that said that earmarks are a waste of money unless they're in your legislative district. So, I've -- but I want to get back and follow up with Representative Saccone, talking about the grants. So, does each grant request, do they have to come on the state level, can they come on the county level? Do we deal with our Congressmen to do this? How do we access those dollars?

TOM MARINO: My advice is that you deal with your Congressmen, either with the House or with the Senate, or both, and the agencies that are involved in this, and I want to make sure, it's the Attorney General's office, they have grant money. The Secretary of Health and Human Services also has, Secretary of Health has the money. And, there was one other that I'm drawing a blank on at this point, but, it's authorized, to the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services for grants. There's two places you can go for grants.

And it's a complicated process, I'm sure you know it, you know how complicated it is at the state level. But, we can assist. House members and Senate, Senators, will assist, in directing where to go, looking at the criteria, zeroing right in on the websites, and that should be a good start.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. We're taking a look at Tom Marino, the man who may become our next drug czar. The segment we just heard was from a presentation to a group of Pennsylvania state legislators who were meeting in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to discuss opioid abuse and the overdose crisis.

Now let's hear a bit of Tom Marino in Congress. Here he is in May of 2016, speaking in support of Senate Bill 32, which had the title of "The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of
2015," to provide the Department of Justice with additional tools to target extraterritorial drug trafficking activity, and for other purposes. Marino is followed by Representative John Conyers, the Democrat from Michigan.

TOM MARINO: The Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is correct in recognizing that federal law often fails to keep up with the lawbreakers. As a former US Attorney, I am acutely aware of the ways criminal organizations adapt their practices to skirt federal law and harm American citizens. This bill directly responds to one scenario that has played out time and again in our federal courts.

I would like to start by making a key point about the purpose of this bill, and the type of organizations it targets. Our focus through this bill is the leadership of sophisticated, often multinational, drug trafficking organizations, with expansive networks of distribution internationally.

This includes source nation manufacturers, primarily in South and Central America. They are a significant source, if not the largest source, of deadly drugs on the streets and in homes across America. It also includes the leaders of large middleman, wholesale trafficking and distribution organizations.

I want to stress that the bill does not, the bill does not, target petty dealers or low level smugglers in the final chain to the narcotics final destination. Instead, the focus is on higher levels of the drug trafficking chain, beyond our borders.

These are the decision makers who have twisted our law for their own profit. Federal law requires prosecutors to prove that defendant manufacturers and traffickers knew the narcotics were destined for the US. Under this direction, drugs manufactured and packaged for illegal wholesale distribution in the countries outside of the US. In many instances the final destination is the United States. But these individuals can hide their knowledge, or insert additional middlemen, to potentially evade prosecution.

One recent case in the DC federal district court perfectly depicts this problem. On trail were two Guatemalan nationals, leaders of an organization that received tons of cocaine over 13 years from manufacturers in Colombia and Venezuela. They built runways and warehouses to store and receive such massive quantities of narcotics. Then they distributed the drugs to additional middlemen in Mexico.

It was known that these drugs reached the US. But the defendants claimed that once they passed them onto, they had no knowledge of its ultimate destination. At trial, this was their only defense. Currently, law allows them to claim ignorance and simply put the blame on those who do their bidding.

My district and many other colleagues' district face a growing heroin epidemic. Our efforts this week to counter this crisis are crucial to stopping it.

My final point. This bill is about dismantling international drug trafficking organizations. It is about bringing to justice the source nation, manufacturers, and middlemen, wholesales behind the flow of deadly narcotics across our borders. Nothing else. I urge my colleagues to support the bill so we can make that happen today, and I yield back my time.

JOHN CONYERS: Members of the Congress, there's no doubt we must stop the flow of illegal drugs coming into the United States from foreign countries, and I want to commend our colleagues, the two that have worked with Miss Jackson-Lee on this, and I want to commend the Chairman of the full committee as well, Mister Goodlatte, for us dealing with this very important subject.

But, ladies and gentlemen, we must avoid subjecting more people to mandatory sentences -- mandatory minimum sentences. It's a matter of principle. I oppose mandatory minimum sentences because they're unjust, they're unwise. The flaws in mandatory minimum sentencing have led to extraordinary injustices, prison overcrowding, excessive cost to taxpayers as well, and they have been shown to have a disparate impact on minorities.

While I'm committed to combating the importation of illegal drugs into this country, I must oppose the expansion of mandatory minimum sentences, which is what S32 would do. In our Judiciary Committee markup, I offered an amendment to limit the scope of the changes that would be made by this bill to the leaders or organizers of the drug organizations, in other words, the real kingpins. Whether or not it is the intent of this bill to target low level offenders, too often it is precisely those individuals who are easier to arrest, easier to convict, and subject to mandatory penalties.

Now while I understand that we are today considering a Senate passed bill, I maintain that we should take the time to address this issue. This bill's expansion of those convicted under this statute should be limited to kingpins, those to whom mandatory minimum penalties were originally intended to apply in the first place.

And so accordingly I sincerely ask my colleagues to vote against this bill so that we may address this concern.

Illegal drugs imported into the United States have harmed our citizens and our communities in innumerable ways, and it's critical that appropriate steps be taken to address this problem. Although S32 is a well-intentioned effort to do so, I believe that this bill should be amended to address the concern related to mandatory minimum sentencing. On this basis, I oppose the bill in its current form. I urge my colleagues to support myself and the ranking subcommittee -- member of the committee from Texas, Miss Jackson-Lee.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Congressman Tom Marino, an old-school drug warrior, and jerk, who is likely to become the next drug czar, and Congressman John Conyers, a wise, intelligent, decent, honorable man who I respect and admire.

Again at the time of this recording, the White House has not yet officially submitted Marino's nomination to the Senate, nor have they officially announced the intent to nominate, but it appears Pennsylvania Republican Representative Tom Marino will be nominated as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

DOUG MCVAY: And well, that's it for this week. You have been listening to Century Of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programming is also available via podcast, the URLs to subcribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give it a like and share it with friends. Remember: knowledge is power. You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty minutes of news and information about the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.