09/12/10 Gary Johnson

Reports from Portland convention; for NORML with Gary Johnson former Gov of New Mexico, Alice Huffman head of Calif NAACP, Jasmine Tyler of DPA, Neil Franklin of LEAP and Vertel Jackson of Florida NORML

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Guest: 
Gary Johnson
Organization: 
Candidate
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Century of Lies / September 12, 2010

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(music)

Mary Jane
You’re my friend
I will love you
And smoke you ‘till the end
You’re my friend
I will toke you ‘till the end

You are listening to “Mary Jane” by Los Marijuanos, the entertainment at the NORML convention. This is Dean Becker. You’re listening to the Century of Lies program. Please stay with us for much more.

Ok, I’m doing this on the road, so it’s a little more primitive than usual. I do know you’re going to hear from former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, both an intro speech he gave at the party, where Los Marijuanos was playing, along with Chief Greenbud and comedian Ngaio; as well as a one-on-one interview I did with the Governor, just before Los Marijuanos took the stage.

It was a rousing evening in more ways than I can describe on the airwaves, but I’ll just tell you this, that Oregon is getting their act together – as are many other states and maybe as you are planning to do in your community.

We’ll also be hearing from Alice Huffman. She’s Head of the California NAACP who had a little scrap about her opinions on Prop 19, the effort to legalize marijuana. We’ll also be hearing from Neal Franklin, the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who was very well received.

But first, I want to read to you something from High Times, which features a story on Gary Johnson in their latest issue. “Johnson won’t get pinned down on exactly when he quit smoking herb but he was certainly a personal and professional success, long before he ever stopped puffing. In fact, there has been some speculation that “Big J Construction” was named in honor of one of its owner’s favorite pastimes – although he denies the rumor.”

Again, this is Governor Gary Johnson, just arrived in Portland, Oregon, speaking to the NORML convention.

Governor Gary Johnson: (Applause) I really came here to thank all of you for your activism. This is going to happen. This is going to happen – (applause) – and I kind of wanted to share with you, what’s been happening with me.

I formed Our America Initiative to try and put a voice to what I think is the outrage in this country over the fact that spending is out of control, the taxes are going up across the board and in that context, in that whole cost/benefit analysis, I talk about legalizing marijuana. I talk about harm reduction strategies concerning all these other drugs.

I talk about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, believing that was misplaced from the very beginning. I talk about immigration reform – (applause) – and as part of immigration reform, if it isn’t a non-brainer that legalizing marijuana will arguably reduce 75% of the border violence with Mexico, given that that’s the estimated – (applause) – Mexican drug cartel activities are marijuana related on the border.

I’ll tell you, I think it is at a tipping point. I’m going to tell you things that you already know. In December, Gallup issued a poll that said 44% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. That number has never been that high before and that number doesn’t go backwards. That number doesn’t go from 44 to 43 to 42. That number goes from 44 to 50+ and so statistically we‘re looking at about two and a half years to make that happen. The California Initiative, win or lose – this isn’t a win or lose, this is a win, regardless of how that turns out. (Applause)

Let me tell you, I’ve talked to a hundred groups, since the first of December and contained in that hundred groups are groups that you would label right-wing, Christian, conservative, Republicans. The consensus among those groups right now when it comes to legalizing marijuana is, “You know what? You’re right. What we’re doing isn’t working and it’s time we do something different.” That’s the consensus – (applause) – and what I am telling everyone, which is what you’re telling everyone – I don’t drink.

I’ve drank alcohol. I don’t smoke marijuana but I’ve smoked marijuana, alright? Based on my experience, there is a big, big difference between marijuana and alcohol – (applause) – and that big difference is that marijuana is a lot safer than alcohol. I want you to know that I’m telling people this. I am also telling people that the citizens of Denver put that to the test five years ago, voting to decriminalize marijuana on campaign based on marijuana being safer than alcohol. So, 500,000+ Denver voters agreed with me on that.

You all know what happened in Massachusetts. Massachusetts voted to decriminalize by a vote of 65-to-35. There have been no incidents and to my knowledge, the police have stopped issuing citations. So, we’re here. We’re here at this point and it’s going to happen.

I want to also tell you or share with you a conversation that I had a week and a half ago with someone from Des Moines, Iowa. This was a guy who was in his middle-to-late thirties. He had been arrested. So, Ok, we were celebrating, right? We’re celebrating. This is going to happen. Well, Ok, here’s my conversation with this guy in Des Moines, Iowa. Mid-thirties, he was arrested and charged with possession of a gram of marijuana with intent to distribute it to his seventeen year old daughter.

He was convicted and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. He had just gotten out of prison having spent over one year in prison. So, he is representative of what I estimate to be about 30 million Americans, but for our drug laws would otherwise be tax paying, law biding citizens but are felons. Of course, we have a 100 million Americans that fall in the of “but for our drug laws would otherwise be tax paying, law biding citizens”, me being one of those.

So, twofold; one is this is celebratory but the other is, is that we’ve got to push this over the line. We’ve got to push this over the line with logic and not getting mad. Just common sense and cost benefit analysis – half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug related and to what end? Arresting 1.8 million people a year, let’s end the insanity and that’s what we’re here for and let’s do it. Let’s just plain do it and – (applause) – hey and thank you. Thank you all for everything that you do. You know, this is going to change the planet for the better. Police will actually be able to go out and prosecute real crime. (Applause)

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Dean Becker: I saw some literature laying around and there were certainly rumors circulating that Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico is seriously considering a run for US president in 2012. Here’s my interview:

I’m here with former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson. He’s attending the NORML conference, kind of an after-party, if you will, but with more days to go. Governor Johnson, it’s an enthusiastic crowd here, is it not?

Governor Gary Johnson: It is and my message to everybody here is congratulations for getting this issue, to what I think is really a national tipping point but there’s a ways to go and really, now’s the time to redouble efforts – and redoubling efforts, really. Legalize marijuana.

Legalize marijuana. Control it, regulate it, tax it. Get the police out enforcing real crime as opposed to victimless crime and it will never be legal to smoke pot, become impaired and get behind the wheel of a car. Of, course it’s never going to be legal for kids to smoke pot but with that said, this whole lunacy of arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country is just that – lunacy.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir and the international implications are just as huge. What’s going on in Mexico makes me weep sometimes.

Governor Gary Johnson: Yeah, and for me with Our America Initiative right now, trying to put a voice to all of the national issues, which in my opinion is the fact that we’re bankrupting the country but when you look at immigration and you look at the violence on the border – why can’t we connect the dots and recognize that 75% of that border violence is marijuana related by the Mexican drug cartels?

Dean Becker: Yes, sir and it seems that the major media including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and The Economist are all starting to talk about, at least a need to examine this policy of drug prohibition.

Governor Gary Johnson: Yes! And again, that’s what’s happing right now. There is an awareness in this country right now that has never existed before and it’s really A-through-Z and when it comes to marijuana, people are open right now to this notion of regulating it, taxing it, controlling it and of course, it makes the country a much better place overnight – overnight, police going out and actually enforcing real crime.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir and there is a group of current and former law enforcement officials, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who are standing united and calling for a reexamination of this policy, correct?

Governor Gary Johnson: Well, correct and at last count, I know there were fifteen thousand members of LEAP, perhaps right now there is seventeen [thousand] but I know that that’s an organization growing by leaps and bounds also former – for the most part, former law enforcement officials that have – that recognize the lunacy of the Drug War, while they were in service and now they are speaking out against it.

Dean Becker: I often talk to politicians who are just starting out and trying to gain local and state office in Texas. I try to talk to their Chief of Staff normally and say, “You’re the one that wants to eliminate the reason for these gangs prowling our neighborhoods. You’re the one who wants to destroy the cartels. You’re the one who wants to stop funding Osama Bin Laden through our fear of flowers and plant products.” I see it as a win/win for any politician willing to fully discuss this subject. Your thoughts, sir?

Governor Gary Johnson: (Laughs) Ha! You couldn’t have said that better! That’s exactly – that’s exactly, I mean, connect the dots! 90% of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related and that’s is not to discount the problems with use and abuse but that ought to be the focus.

Dean Becker: Yes, sir. Is there a website where folks can learn more about the work you do?

Governor Gary Johnson: Yes, ouramericainitiative.com. I would love for those listening to get on-line and tell me what they think.

Dean Becker: Alright, once again, we’ve been speaking with former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson. Thank you so much, sir.

Governor Gary Johnson: Yeah, terrific. Thank you. Thank you for all you do.

Dean Becker: Oh, I appreciate it.

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Ok, a little refresher before we go to our next guest. A few weeks back, Alice Huffman, who heads up the NAACP in California, said they would stand in support of Proposition 19, the new effort to legalize an ounce of marijuana for adults in California. A little brouhaha ensued at the national level and then the President of the NAACP showed his support for what Alice was up to. Here’s a little interview we did at the NORML conference:

Dean Becker: I’m here with Alice Huffman, Head of the California NAACP, a very brave lady who’s speaking some great truths and drew an instant standing ovation for her speech here at the conference. Thank you for taking time to speak with us.

Alice Huffman: Thank you, I am so glad to be here and glad have this time available.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma’am, now there was a bit of a brouhaha a few – I guess, months back now – and there was a thought that the NAACP should stand in support of this Prop 19, this effort to make it legal for adults to consume cannabis because of it’s racial impact, because of the implementation of the laws. Tell us about your initial response to the people who rejected that endorsement.

Alice Huffman: Well, first I have to tell you about the positive response that I got from my own Executive Committee and body of people who voted. Although it was discussed for a long time, we finally voted to support Prop 19. We did that on the basis of looking at the discriminatory data in the implementation of law enforcement of Prop 19 and the criminalization of so many young people in our community for possession and then later for more use. We just think that we would be better served if we had them in schools. So, on the basis of decriminalization and regulation, we were able to prevail and get the support out for our California NAACP.

But then there were some preachers, out in the community who had thought that I lead the NAACP down the wrong path and they held a press conference and called for my resignation, so that got to be big news.

You know, the media loves controversy and there was one part of the African American community taking a stance and there was another part of the African American community going after me. So that made for a lot of sensationalism and a lot of national press conferences.

Well, at first I was a little bit annoyed but then I realized that we were at least getting the whole dialogue about cannabis and the criminalization of it to be talked about in America and specifically in the African American community. So, the byproduct of that was – it was big news when we took the position but he then inflamed the story by continuing to call for my resignation. It made me a very famous woman.

Dean Becker: It gave the story life. Yes, it did.

Alice Huffman: (Laughing) Yes.

Dean Becker: Now, I’m asking you to do quite a lot. I mentioned earlier the rousing response to your speech given here today. Can you boil it down a little bit for – in a few minutes for my listeners? What did you bring to this conference?

Alice Huffman: I brought to this conference why I think it’s a civil right issue and why I think we should join forces in passing Prop 19 in California because it will begin to unravel this failed drug policy that’s been going on in America for a low forty, fifty years and the fact that the legalization might be for one purpose but the byproduct of that for my community is that more money will go – less money will go into the prison system and less – fewer of my young people will be arrested for marijuana possession and maybe we can put the money into public schools and put the money into strengthening our community and put the money into a positive America instead of a negative America.

Dean Becker: Thank you. Thank you so much, it’s a wonderful opportunity to speak with you. I’ve been an admiring you from afar. I want to shake your hand, if I can.

Alice Huffman: (Laughing) Thank you.

Dean Becker: Once again, that was Alice Huffman, Head of the California NAACP and next up we hear from Mr. Neil Franklin, the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. My boss, if you will, I speak for them as well.

Neil Franklin: The NORML conference is ongoing. There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of buzz. I’ve been doing a few interviews and a couple of folks have already quoted to me the words of our next guest here on the Drug Truth Network, saying the man made a whole lot of sense and with that I want to welcome the [Executive] Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Neil Franklin.

Neil Franklin: Well, I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me again.

Dean Becker: Well, Neil, the one refrain I’m hearing from your speech is that if cops can’t tell if somebody’s high or not, basically, what the heck are they so concerned about? Tell us a little bit more about that speech.

Neil Franklin: What I said was, if you’re a cop out there working now and you’re patrolling the streets and you can’t recognize the inappropriate driving behavior of someone who’s under the influence of something, then you need remedial training because we train you very well into recognizing if someone’s having difficulty operating a motor vehicle.

Instantly, when you stop that vehicle, the next thing you do is, you do a battery of tests. Ok, then you can further check their cognitive skills, their motor skills and so on. From that point, then you document and you generate your report. Then you go to court and testify in detail. You articulate as to why you stopped the vehicle, the behavior and why you felt that they were under the influence of whatever.

Now see, because there was a time when we did not have breath tests for alcohol, Ok. You made your case by observation and documentation, so it’s pretty much the same thing. We have police officers – just about every police officer now, who goes through their training, they’re trained in drug recognition. So, it’s a battery of tests that are being run to see if someone is under the influence of drugs. Not just marijuana but prescription drugs, which is also a very big problem.

So, the bottom line is – and not only that, but when you get stopped, you still have the right to refuse a breath test, Ok. So, that happens quite a bit. So, yes, you run the risk of losing your license but a lot of people, under the advice of their attorneys, they refuse a breath test. So, but you still, as a police officer, you’re trained. You have the skills – should have the skills to make the case, make the arrest and get the conviction for driving while under the influence.

Here’s the thing. If we didn’t focus so much on non-violent drug offenses out here and we put a lot of cops out there on the streets – to do this, to make those arrests – imagine what we could do if we had those cops patrolling our streets looking for the people who are under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

Dean Becker: What’s going on in California with this Prop 19, this legalization of marijuana for adults and how it might impact, not only California and the United States but the perceptions and the momentum for other countries and other legislative bodies around the world? Your thoughts?

Neil Franklin: Well, I’ve always known that and I think it’s common knowledge that other countries follow our lead in many different areas and not just drug policy. If we were to take the lead as it relates to drug policy, so many other countries would benefit.

First we’ll benefit, of course, but then Mexico would be right there. They would be the number two country to benefit. In the past few years or so as Calderón took over, 20,000+ murdered at the hands of the cartel – that would change immediately, immediately.

So, yeah, if we could get the ball moving – rolling, we need to keep the momentum going in the United States to change this policy, other countries are going to benefit greatly and you are going to see things change very quickly.

Dean Becker: Now, for those who may not know Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is what I consider to be my band of brothers and sisters. We’ve spent time in the trenches of the Drug War, got mud on their boots and have the experience and truthfully, they have the largess which to say, “This Drug War is an absolute failure.”

We are not just working for medical marijuana or marijuana in general, in any given state. LEAP has an additional reach, does it not?

Neil Franklin: Yes we do. We have an additional reach and we, of course, believe that we have to legalize, regulate and control all drugs. So, as long as there is any drug out here that is readily available to our citizens, which they want, as long as it’s out here and the criminals make it available to them, we’re going to have a violent society.

So, in order to eliminate the violence, reduce the crime associated with that, reduce addiction and disease, we have to regulate and control. Of course, that’s going to look different for every substance that is out here. There’s not one solution to all of the many drugs that we have.

Dean Becker: Yeah and again, the time in the trenches have – before we close this out, remind folks of your law enforcement experience, Neil Franklin.

Neil Franklin: Well, I have 33+ years in the trenches of law enforcement in the state of Maryland. I retired from the Maryland State Police in 1999 and I spent those 23 years – most of those 23 years in narcotics enforcement or criminal investigation. I moved on from there to command a training division for the Baltimore Police Department and from there to the Maryland Transit Police Department, where I just retired from.

Dean Becker: Alright, well folks, if you’d like to learn more and I’m – here’s hoping that you do want to learn more and you’re willing to participate in helping to make these changes come about. Please visit the website of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. That is leap.cc and what’s the other one?

Neil Franklin: copssaylegalizedrugs.com

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This is the NORML conference in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I’m here with Jasmine Tyler. She’s the Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. Jasmine, your observations?

Jasmine Tyler: Well, this is actually my first NORML conference. It’s very great to see so many people who really care enough about getting the prohibition around marijuana ended for GOOD. Both for medical use – the benefits of medical use and for recreational use. I think not enough people focus on the sheer volume of people who use marijuana recreationally. You know, a hundred million Americans admit to smoking marijuana annually and the fact that we still lock up some of them is absolutely absurd.

Dean Becker: Each year some 80,000+ busted, thrown in jail. Perhaps their careers, their futures fractured over a plant that, thus far has killed no one.

Jasmine Tyler: Absolutely, you’re right and 90% of those 800,000 marijuana arrests are for simple possession alone. We’re not talking about people who are moving weight around the county or anything like that or drug cartels or tamping down on cartel violence. We’re merely talking about arresting people who are on the back end for using something that, again Americans all around the country use regularly.

The problems that are associated with alcohol use and abuse are great and documented. So, we know that the problems that happen to the body after prolonged exposure and use of alcohol and what happens with the alcohol impairment that people experience when they’re using alcohol.

We know that those things are not the same when it comes to the marijuana plant. So, to continue prohibition, like I said earlier, is quite absurd and there’s another problem too and that’s that enforcement of marijuana prohibition is really disproportionately affecting African Americans in this country now.

Dean Becker: You know, I sense a change afoot, an awakening perhaps, if you will. Within the Black community, two of these racially disparate applications of the law and its impact, well, on their communities in particular.

Jasmine Tyler: Certainly and you see civil rights leaders around the country, like Alice Huffman from the NAACP of California, standing up against marijuana prohibition and the racist enforcement in African American communities and I think you are absolutely right. A change is afoot.

No longer will people let their communities be terrorized by law enforcement or by racist laws and so, what we see nowadays is that after almost twenty-five years of one of the most egregious racially disparate sentencing laws, like the crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity which punished crack one hundred times more harshly than powdered cocaine, even though there is no physiological or pharmacological differences between the two substances.

People are starting to apply the same logic around the social justice and racial justice rhetoric that we learned through that 20+ year struggle to change that law and are applying it now to marijuana arrests because we’re realizing that the problem isn’t a problem of reentry – how to reintegrate prisoners once they come back to society but it’s really preventing them from having contact with the system at all.

So, the game really must be more about “no entry” as apposed to “reentry” or shortening prison sentences because getting just a minor arrest for a marijuana possession will haunt someone for the rest of their lives.

It relegates them to a second-class citizenship. That means that they will not be able to access jobs, they won’t be able to access housing or food stamps or TANF. They won’t be able to access student loans and they won’t be able to vote. So, relegating people to this second-class citizenship really has become to be known as the new “Jim Crow.”

Dean Becker: Michelle Alexander with her great new book, we had her on the show a few weeks back and it just exposes the ugliness of this all, the widely held belief that this is appropriate.

Jasmine Tyler: Now, the reality is, everyone should have the opportunity to use drugs responsibly and everyone should have the opportunity to not need to use them to live a full balanced life but our reality is that people do.

For a long time, the civil rights community has said, “We don’t want our community to be using drugs” but the message is now changing that certainly part of the messaging. We also have seen the conversation shift to, “We don’t want our communities terrorized for what other communities get to do with impunity.”

So, the difference is, not that people shouldn’t have to use drugs or that they can use drugs. That is an individual’s personal right but the problem then comes in when communities of color are targeted for the same behavior that other communities are not.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been talking with Jasmine Tyler. She’s based in Washington D.C. She’s the Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance and you regular listeners know their website is: drugpolicy.org

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Alright, that just about wraps it up. We’ve got a little over a minute left. I wanted to share this one little segment of an interview, which may help explain this current circumstance. As always, do your damnedest to help end this madness.

Prohibido istac evilesco!

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Dean Becker: I’m here with Vertel Jackson out of Orlando Florida, here representing UCF NORML. Is that correct, sir?

Vertel Jackson : Yes, sir.

Dean Becker: This is your first time to a NORML conference?

Vertel Jackson: Yes, this is my very first time here.

Dean Becker: What’s your first impression?

Vertel Jackson: I like it thus far. It’s really laid back and easy going and easy to talk to people.

Dean Becker: There are not a lot of Blacks that attend this conference – and your response?

Vertel Jackson: Yeah, I mean there’s not – I’m not really – you know, I’m like the second one I saw today. I think what it really is, is that they’re not as proactive about it because people that I talk with it about it that live in Orlando – because I’m not from there, I’m from Georgia – that actually live in Orlando, really don’t care at hear about it.

Where the community comes from there are mostly more poor neighborhoods and then you have the upper-class black families that are just like – they’re more Republicans than they are Democratic.

So then, I’m not really – I’ve never seen like just a bunch of black people in a NORML group but I don’t know why, I guess. So, a lot people don’t think – they think of it as more of a paranoid version of when coming to a NORML meeting where like, “Oh, this is just stupid. They want to sit around and smoke weed all day.”

Dean Becker: Though, that does occasionally happen.

Vertel Jackson: (Laughs) I’m not going to put that out there but yeah, that does happen but at the same time we get stuff done. We do stuff. We do other stuff.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Vertel Jackson: And we try to educate the public.
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The Century of Lies.

Drug Truth Network programs, archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of www.eigengraupress.com