04/12/09 - Terry Nelson

CNN Power Lunch with Rob Kampia of Marijuana Policy Project, Soros production on UN Drug Policy + Terry Nelson of LEAP on Al Jazeera & with Anderson Cooper

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Guest: 
Terry Nelson
Organization: 
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Download: Audio icon COL_041209.mp3
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Century of Lies April 12, 2009
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The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more, now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

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Dean Becker: Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. We are approaching eight years now of the Drug Truth Network. And in the early days I used to scramble to try to find content produced by third parties to use on this program. But now it’s everywhere. It’s on every network in every media source. It’s just too bad they don’t quite go the full nine yards. That’s why we’re here my friends.

A bit later we’ll hear from one group that certainly does it, The Soros Group. But for now let’s tune in to a CNN Power Lunch.

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Sue: Welcome back to Power Lunch this half hour we’re talking about the big business of marijuana. Should it be legalized? Should it not? What would that do on a fiscal basis? In a rather very interesting departure from policy attorney general Eric Holder signals a change on marijuana policy. John Harwin joins us with some of the fall out on that from Washington. Hi John.

John Harwin: Hey Sue. You know it hasn’t gotten much attention given all the focus on our economic problems but president Obama has changed the federal government’s policy on medical marijuana. The Bush administration used federal law to target sellers of medical marijuana even in the thirteen states that make medical marijuana legal.

Attorney general Eric Holder told reporters this week that team Obama will take a different approach that takes note of the polices of states. Quote consistent with what the president said when he was campaigning our focus will be on people and organizations that are growing and cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal law and state law.

Now so far not much response from Republicans, they are busy targeting the Obama administration on the economy but don’t be surprised if the marijuana issue surfaces as the 2010 elections get closer Sue.

Sue: And that’s one of the reasons we’re talking it John. Thank you very much. So one of the questions we’re putting forward is should marijuana be legalized? Here to tell us the pros and cons of that is Rob Campea. He’s the executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project and Asa Hutchinson former head of the US Drug Enforcement Agency. And of course the rest if the gang is here as well. I am going to start with you if I can Mr. Hutchinson. Make the case for why it should not be legalized at this point.

Asa Hutchinson: Well [ ] attorney general Holder’s statement does not change federal law. Federal law still makes possession, sale of marijuana for whatever purpose illegal. The question is whether it should be expanded or legalized, absolutely not. If you look at harmful drugs whether it’s tobacco or other hard drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine. The objective of society is to reduce the use of harmful drugs. If you legalize another harmful drug the question is will it expand use and availability and the answer is absolutely yes. Why do you want to do that?

Woman: If we follow that logic then we should outlaw alcohol as well, right Rob?

Rob Campea: Well you know the simple argument is that the prohibition of marijuana is not preventing people from growing it, selling it or using it. Twenty-five million people a year use marijuana illegally. This prohibition has failed ever since it was enacted in 1937. So it’s time to take a new approach.

We learned with alcohol prohibition from 1919 to 1933 that it didn’t actually help matters, in fact made matters worse. Loss of tax revenue as well as violence associated with the sale of alcohol. And we’re seeing that same kind of thing happening with the prohibition of marijuana.

Man: Asa Hutchinson let me just ask you this question. I understand what you’re saying. I don’t think the alcohol argument is the exact right one. You don’t want to do anything to increase. If you have a problem over here with alcohol you wouldn’t necessarily make it worse by making another substance illegal, legal.

But let me ask you this: how do you make the cost benefit analysis that you spend all this money, you keep spending it and you don’t ever get anywhere and in the meanwhile you end up undermining sort of support for the rule of law as you keep enforcing a law that many in the population disagree with.

Asa Hutchinson: Well first of al if people disagree with it in our democracy they can change the law. Thus far in the last eight years they have not been successful in changing the law in fact Alaska decriminalized marijuana when they saw it became a huge problem they adjusted they law and recriminalized it. And so the population still resists the legalization of marijuana. And but it’s a it’s a public decision.

But whenever you talk about the cost benefit… First of all the figures on enforcement that applies across the board whether it’s all illegal drugs. If you legalize one drug you still got enforcement costs and the whole vast arrange of methamphetamine, other illegal drugs.

Woman: You know let me just jump in here and share with you some numbers. The DEA spent ten billion dollars last year, ten billion dollars fighting marijuana. Not every drug, just marijuana. Now keep in mind California actually collected eleven million dollars, small in comparison but this is one state, in tax revenue off of medicinal marijuana. So it shows you that there is some money that can be made on the government’s behalf in the way of taxes on this product.

Sue: Guys, Rob, Asa don’t move. We’re going to have some more on this right after that. those are great numbers Trish. And we’ll talk about whether or not you can make a lot more money like maybe the state of California could use that shot in the arm, after this.

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Dean Becker: CNN took a break here and during that break they included a discussion with our good friend Mr. Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University and owner of the Blue Sky Coffee Shop in Oakland.

Woman: How much money do you pay in sales tax to the state of California every year?

Richard Lee: Three hundred thousand.

Woman: Three hundred thousand. And what do you pay in federal income tax?

Richard Lee: About double that, about five hundred, six hundred thousand.

Woman: So the government’s making money off you too.

Richard Lee: Definitely.

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Sue: We continue our discussion on the big business of marijuana and legalization. We have got Rob Campea and Asa Hutchinson standing by with us and Lee Gallagher I want to bring you in because you edited a piece for your magazine about the legalization of marijuana. What kind of economic effect would that have? Would it be good?

Lee Gallagher: Well you know Trish makes some really good points. We have got this natural resource right in our own backyard. Prices are doing well, production is up. We found that actually last year was a record year because of a series of weather consequences. You know it was a bad year for wine but it was great year for marijuana.

So and if you look at the you know Trish mentioned thirteen states have actually decriminalized possession. The problem is the state and the federal laws really are are kind of go against each other. But there is definitely an economic case to be made. And you can also think about the ancillary businesses that might benefit. I mean I don’t know, accessories, paraphernalia. …the salty snack business…

Woman: The key is taxation, the ability to tax, right?

Lee Gallagher: Right, right, exactly.

Man: Is this history repeating itself Rob when it comes to wasn’t it during the thirties the great depression that we got rid of prohibition and here we are in another time when we’re kind of down economically, we’re revisiting some of our abstinence laws.

Rob Campea: Yeah it’s the same situation. You know 1929 the stock market crashed and then it was four years later that the country repealed alcohol prohibition and it was largely but not entirely for economic reasons. There was a large industry that was not being taxed. And right now the argument’s very clear with marijuana. Marijuana’s the largest cash crop in the country. More marijuana is sold than vegetables and corn combined in this country. So it’s not going away.

Man: Is that by dollar volume Rob? Is that? that’s by dollar…

Woman: It is by dollar volume.

Man: OK.

Woman: You know I just want to jump in here…

Man: The price of marijuana not the quantity…

Woman: Right… and well this price is very important because think about this guys. It really wouldn’t be this expensive.

Woman: No if it was legal…

Woman: If it was legal…

Woman: You would get a glut.

Woman: Exactly. It’s four hundred dollars per pound to produce then retailing on the street for up to six thousand dollars. That margin is a result of the illegality.

Sue: Mr. Hutchinson what do make of that and indeed if we are do you find ourselves in times that parallel perhaps the great depression? What about the point that Steve Leasmen brought out about legalizing it?

Asa Hutchinson: If your motivation is to bring revenue to the government legalize, regulate it. But if your motivation is to reduce the usage, to save teenage lives, to reduce dependence, to strengthen our culture, then the cost is worth it and the revenue should not be a motivation.

Man: Well I think you make a good point there because it really it is a question of whether you buy the moral argument as you suggested or the economic argument. Economically you’re basically agreeing that there’s an incent… that there’s a good reason to legalize it. But morally I think a lot of people would say that there’s no there’s not a lot of good evidence to suggest that people think that it is more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

I don’t hear people dying in car crashes because of marijuana use. But you hear about alcohol abuse all the time. And I think the American public is not buying that anymore. I think that’s what we’re seeing now. People are starting to doubt that. More people are using it that’s why the consumption rates are going up.

Woman: What do you think Mr. Hutchinson?

Asa Hutchinson: Well I disagree with that. I think that if you look to health professionals they’re not in favor of legalizing. They recognize the health consequences of it. We try to you know carcinogens in a marijuana cigarette are more than a tobacco cigarette.

Man: That’s not true.

Woman: But if that’s your logic shouldn’t we outlaw alcohol?

Asa Hutchinson: Well this debate is not about alcohol. The debate is about a harmful substance called marijuana and drugs.

Man: I think this debate is about money.

Man: I think the reason why marijuana is…

Asa Hutchinson: …as a parent as well as a law enforcer…

Man: I think the reason why marijuana is illegal and alcohol and tobacco are legal is because the alcohol and tobacco industries don’t want marijuana to become legal. Because they fear that they are going to lose some money out of the process.

Woman: You’re right.

Man: …make money out of but then there will be an incentive to do it.

Woman: Unless they get in…

Man: Unless they can get in to it it’s a whole different fact.

Sue: We got thirty seconds. Ron you want to respond to that?

Ron: Well first of all marijuana is clearly safer than alcohol or tobacco. It’s impossible to overdose on marijuana; marijuana absolutely does not cause cancer. There are no recorded deaths.

Woman: But address Keith’s point. What if it were legal? Would we see… are the tobacco companies fighting it because they don’t want to lose market share to it?

Man: I don’t think that’s the reason that marijuana is currently illegal. I think that it’s illegal just out of inertia. You know it was made illegal in 1937 largely for racist reasons and existed on the books ever since. There aren’t powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill lobbying to keep marijuana illegal.

Woman: Alright thank you both appreciate it very much.

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Dean Becker: Back when he was the drug czar I invited Asa Hutchinson to come on this show numerous times. I’d still like to have him come on here. But because he won’t and neither will the current drug czar probably neither will the next drug czar do this. We’ve produced the following segment on their behalf because they are such lying cowards.

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Winston Francis: Let me ask you a question. Do you think that society is better off now or were things better before prohibition. Ah yes the good old early 1900s. Did you know that in the early 1900s there were more lynchings than auto deaths? Heroin was on the shelf next to aspirin. And the average life expectancy for a healthy female was forty-seven, forty-six for a male. It always puzzles me to listen to people talk about the good old days where everybody died forty years early.

Today we have indoor plumbing. Lynchings are a thing of the past. Heroin is not on the shelf next to aspirin. And it is common for people to live well into their eighties. All of these are good things, improvements that we have made to our society as we have lived and learned grew and evolved. The fact is that society is better off today than in was in the days before prohibition and no counter argument can be made without the presence of ignorance or dishonesty.

Our society has improved because together we have taken the necessary steps to make our world a better place not just for you but for your children and for your children’s children. It makes no sense to undo what we have done so we can step back in to the dark ages where you could buy baggies of cocaine and heroin at the store. Do it all and die in your forties. It is our responsibility to insure that society continues to evolve to make life better not just for us but for future generations. And isn’t that more important than being allowed to get high? This has been Winston Francis with the Official Government Truth.

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Dean Becker: Thanks Winston. Yeah that’s what’s making people live til eighty is prohibition. Without it we’d all die in our forties. You believe that? I don’t think so. I know it’s not helping the longevity factor in the nation of Mexico. Now we have this fine encapsulation if you will of what prohibition means to America brought to us by the good friends at the Soros Institute.

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Ten years ago the United Nations thought that they could free the world from the harmful influence of drugs. By 2008 they aim to have wiped out or significantly reduced drug use as well as the illegal growing of cocoa, cannabis and opium worldwide. Now we face the question, have we really done it? What has the war against drugs in fact achieved?

At three hundred and twenty billion dollars the turnover from trade in illicit drugs by far outstrips the oil and gas markets. It is estimated that two hundred and eight million people use illicit drugs each year. Among them thirteen point two million are injecting drug users. The number of people in prison for drug related offenses continues to rise steadily all at a huge cost to the individual, their family and society.

The United States is the largest incarcerator of drug users. Few prisons if any are drug free. HIV levels among inmates are much higher than among the total population. Although prisoners have might access to drugs it’s unlikely they’ll always have access to clean needles. Drug users with HIV are often refused anti retro viral treatments on account of their drug use and are pushed out to the margins of society. They experience fear, shame, loneliness and isolation.

Over the last ten years the amount of opium produced world wide has doubled. In Afghanistan as many as one hundred and ninety-three thousand hectares are covered in poppy fields despite aggressive crop eradication campaigns. In 2007 ninety-two percent of the world’s opium was grown here.

In Latin America the cocoa plant is widely grown, easy to pick and transport. Many peasant farmers rely on this crop to make their living. The cocoa leaf is not only the raw ingredient of cocaine but also holds great cultural significance. Military like attempts to destroy cocoa crops have resulted in poverty, violence and harm to the environment.

Back on the streets cocaine is a fraction of the price it used to be. And is no longer the drug of the elite. As the drug barons continue to rake in the cash it’s the peasant farmer and the drug user who bear the brunt of law enforcement measures.

In several countries of the former Soviet Union police officers are reported to place illegal drugs on known drug users. By doing this they are able to inflate statistics of arrests made each month. Sometimes officers will sell or use the confiscated drugs themselves.

Methadone has been used for over thirty years to successfully treat drug addiction world wide. But in Russia it remains illegal. As drug users have little access to effective treatments levels of HIV among drug users are alarmingly high.

In China and Vietnam thousands of drug users are sent to mandatory treatment centers every year where they are forced to work or spend their days in cramped cells. These centers do not offer any treatment which meets international standards. Instead people are punished for their drug use inside what resembles a labor camp.

In the United States the proportion of African Americans in prison on drugs related charges is much higher than for white Americans. While drug use among the two groups is comparable, a black male is twelve times more likely to be imprisoned on drugs related charge

Again in the United States criminalizing drug use during pregnancy discourages women from seeking pre natal care and drug treatment. Pregnant women who test positive for illegal drugs give birth handcuffed to their beds. Afterwards mothers are separated from their newly born babies and sent to prison.

To fight the problem of drug addiction from an early age sniffer dogs are sent around classrooms to detect any illegal substances. School children are required to give urine samples to prove that they are not using illegal drugs. Compulsory drug testing in schools creates a culture of suspicion and fear and infringes a child’s’ right to privacy.

A few years ago the prime minister of Thailand launched a war on drugs declaring that there was nothing under the sun theThai police couldn’t do to make Thailand drug free. Many of those executed in 2003 were not drug dealers but past and present drug users or people with no drug related history.

So the war against drugs is often a war against drug users. To avoid countless human rights violations all drug treatments and public health interventions must be evidence based. As a society we need to speak honestly about drug use and find realistic solutions for drug users and farmers who grow illicit crops. Law enforcement must draw a clear distinction between drug users and drug dealers.

Overdose prevention, needle exchange and substitution treatment such as methadone should be widely available. Only by fully respecting human right can we find an answer to drug use world wide. To change the situation we all must engage. Do you know your national drug policy? Do you agree with it?

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Dean Becker: you can find more information at soros.org. You know the truth about the drug war has been recognized around the world and it’s just now coming to the fore in the United States. Here’s a recent extract from Al Jazeera.

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Reporter: Say what’s the [ ] Sarah? I spoke to one man who spent ten years trying to stop drugs entering the US from Mexico. Terry Nelson was a border agent in the Texas city of El Paso. When he retired he joined the group LEAP or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I asked him why he no longer thinks enforcement is the way of tackling the drug trade.

Terry Nelson: Marijuana is higher THC now than it was in the beginning as well as cocaine is purer, cheaper and more of it than it was thirty years ago when I first started working here. So that to me is a sign of failure, the policy is not working. Cause if it were working then we would be catching less and less drugs and we would have less and less drug use in America which we all know is not the case.

Reporter: Everyone can see that that…

Terry Nelson: Well you would think everyone could see it but we at LEAP of course we think we see it and we we’re calling for a system of regulation and control of narcotics; who can buy them and who can sell them to stop drug gangs from selling to kids on school grounds and stuff. And then quit treating our drug problem as a criminal problem and treat it as a social ill and a medical ill instead of a criminal problem. And by doing that we can take about eighty percent of the crime and violence out of the drug trade and basically put the cartels out of business.

Reporter: What would some of your former colleagues they say? What did your former colleagues say when you pointed this out when you were in law enforcement that hang on, maybe this isn’t working. Maybe we should talk about this a bit more creatively or honestly.

Terry Nelson: Well the one thing that sticks out in my mind was the guy from DC told me that agent nelson you don’t make policy, you carry it out. Which was a true statement I was paid by the government to carry out their policy not paid to implement - to make the policy. So he was right. Now I am trying to change that policy.

Reporter: The culture of crackdown. We still hear that but it’s all spoken of Hillary Clinton for example has recently said that we’re part of this problem but her solution was to say say we’re going to give Mexico four more Blackhawks helicopters. I mean is that the way forward? That’s still the crackdown, isn’t it?

Terry Nelson: Well if you live around here as long as I have this is not the first time we’ve given Mexico helicopters. This would be the firs time we have given them Blackhawk helicopters. I am sure [ ] really appreciates business. But we gave them Huey helicopters twenty some odd years ago, many of them. And within a few years they were just cannibalized for parts and they have very few of them left running.

It was a waste of our money, time and effort. And I’m afraid it’s the same thing now. We must recognize that the policy we have been using isn’t working and so let’s try something different. Let’s try a new policy or at least modify the policy and try to get something that works. It’s either continuing for another forty years what hasn’t worked the last forty years.

Reporter: How many people currently serving on the force think the way that you do, do you think?

Terry Nelson: Well if they look at it from that perspective I mean most federal officers are more than reasonably intelligent. I think they can figure it out. But course they work for the man and you take the king’s coin you have to do the king’s business.

Reporter: But what’s stopping them? I mean again we see this sort of idea that even politicians and prime ministers and presidents are scared to say to speak up when they’re in office, only after after they leave do they speak out. What’s the culture like in law enforcement then? Is it about solutions then?

Terry Nelson: I don’t think it’s about solutions. It’s about doing a job and being rewarded for for the number of arrests you make or the quality of the arrests you make. It’s the way the game is played. That’s how you keep score in police work is the number of arrests and the quality of the arrest you make.

Reporter: are you seeing a change then.

Terry Nelson: I think there’s a sea change coming because everyone is now beginning to recognize it’s not working. And thanks to groups like LEAP and other groups that are out there pushing for policy change saying we need to fix it. We have a big problem in America. Not just in America. It’s all over the world. And the problem needs to be fixed before any more people die. There’s just too many people dying in the drug war that don’t need to be dying.

Reporter: Terry Nelson speaking to me on the border with Mexico from El Paso.

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Dean Becker: I want to tell you just how proud I am of the long term Drug Truth Network reporter Terry Nelson, thirty three years experience as a customs, border and air interdiction officer and how he’s now on all the networks, nearly every day. Once again Terry Nelson speaking to Anderson Cooper.of CNN.

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Anderson Cooper: Look at you. You’re the last guy in the world I would think would want legalize all drugs. But why do you think it’s a good idea?

Terry Nelson: Well we don’t want people using drugs but under our current policy we have people using drugs. So we believe in a system of regulation. And to control and to regulate and control something it has to be legal. So we want to regulate who can sell the drugs and control who can buy them in a system something similar to like cigarettes or alcohol. You have to show an ID to buy it. Because currently we have about nine hundred thousand teenagers selling drugs.

Anderson Cooper: You don’t think if it’s legalized though it’s going to explode the number of teenagers who use them?

Terry Nelson: Well if it’s legalized teenagers wont be selling to teenagers as they are today. Now we believe that a system of education coupled with you know treatment for those who become addicted is a better approach because for forty years we have tried prohibition and it’s not working. To continue doing something that’s not working at a cost to our families in this country.

You know one point nine million kids go to bed every night with one or more of their parents or a sibling in jail. And forty some odd percent of all people in prison going to prison have someone in prison ahead of them. Plus twenty-five percent of the prisoners come from foster homes or institutions. That is destroying our families and we just don’t need that anymore.

A study shows that kids find it’s easier to buy narcotics than it is cigarettes or tobacco. And there’s nine hundred thousand teenagers selling drugs to other teenagers. The only way we can ever win it is to stop the new drug use amongst kids. And we can’t have that if we have kids selling to kids. We need to somehow stop that and then we use a system of education so we stop the new users from ever started using drugs. But what we’re doing is not working.

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Dean Becker: Much of the audio from today’s program was extracted from videos that are available online at the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website. That’s leap.cc.

You know my friends this drug war was stillborn. It’s been moldering in the ground now for about a hundred years but it continues because so many people bow down and worship the idea that we can control the appetites of our fellow man.

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[song]
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Dean Becker: This drug war will last forever unless and until you speak up, stand up, do your part to end this madness. I remind you once again there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data, in fact no reason for this drug war to continue. We’ve been duped. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please visit our website, endprohibition.org.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

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For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition.

The Century of Lies

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston