10/16/15 Steve Downing

Steven Downing, former Dep Police Chief of L.A., Marsha Rosenbaum formerly with Drug Policy Alliance, Andrew Chavez of KushyPunch gummy cannabis candy and Dale Skye Jones Chancellor of Oaksterdam Univ.

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, October 16, 2015
Guest: 
Steve Downing
Organization: 
LEAP
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

OCTOBER 16, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: No more! Drug war! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello, my friends, this is Dean Becker. I want to welcome you to this edition of Cultural Baggage. A bit later, we're going to hear from Marsha Rosenbaum, recently retired from the Drug Policy Alliance. We'll hear from Andrew Chavez of KushyPunch, a little cannabis maker's, cannabis edibles, and we'll close it out with some thoughts of Dale Sky Jones, the current chancellor of Oaksterdam University. But first, I'm proud to have with us today former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, on the board of directors of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Stephen Downing. Hello, sir.

STEPHEN DOWNING: Hi Dean, how are you today?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Steve. It seems that, golly, there's so much happening in regards to marijuana, that's been my focus, but by discovering that there's been a lot of hysteria, propaganda, and needless fear involved in the marijuana trade, we're also I think in the long run helping to present the fact that these hard drugs should be treated in a similar fashion. Your thoughts, sir.

STEPHEN DOWNING: Yes, I agree. I have always said that the drug war, and the drug war's more than marijuana, although marijuana makes up half of the profits of the cartels and the gangs, but the drug war is more than marijuana. It's all drugs that our government wants to keep illegal. It's cherry-picking, it's picking and choosing, and we need to regulate and control all drugs because those drugs that we keep illegal continue to create black markets, continue to contribute to the violence in our society, and continues to contribute to the mass incarceration of our citizens and destroys families, and it continues to corrupt our law enforcement agencies and individual officers.

DEAN BECKER: And that's really very disturbing to us, having worn the badge, having sworn to protect that Constitution and the public, when -- and again, the vast majority of law enforcement are good people, but it's those few, and it only takes a few, to corrupt and give us this horrible situation with snitches and informants and, just the, I don't know, the destruction of trust within the community. You have a story that happened out there recently about a woman who got caught up in the drug trade but tried to straighten her life out. Tell us that story, would you, please?

STEPHEN DOWNING: Well, the story is really a collision between the drug war and a woman who is imprisoned by this drug war, and a cop who's corrupted by this drug war, and those two elements came together and collided, and it's still going on. But basically the story is, is over 15 years ago, this woman allowed a boyfriend to move in with her. She knew that he had been into drugs, but she said no drugs in my house, you can move in with us. Well, he violated that agreement. He stored drugs in her garage, and it turned out that he was under the surveillance of a drug task force. So, and he was associated with other people. So there was a raid. She was scooped up in that raid. They went to five other locations, took her along and paraded her in front of the other suspects, and arrested her along with everybody else.

So now, with the drugs in her house, they charge her and she's looking at 30 years in prison, based on the charge they put on her. Well, she's scared to death, it's her first exposure to anything like this, so she takes a plea bargain and does four years in prison, she takes a four year prison sentence. So she goes to prison, within a couple of months she's such a model prisoner they allow her to go out and work in what they call a fire camp here in California. And, she -- but she got out for good behavior in two years, so a real model prisoner, who was there because of her association with a boyfriend, and the fact that he put drugs in her house. So, her commitment when she got out, to herself, was I'm not getting anywhere near these people that are involved in this stuff, I'm staying away from law enforcement, and she was successful in doing that for ten years.

Now almost two years ago, she was sitting in a park and a man approached her. She was sitting with a friend, a man approached her who she did not know, and solicited her for drugs. And she said, who the hell are you, and why are you asking me that? I have nothing to do with anything like that, get the hell out of here. And he hung around trying and trying for a little bit, and finally he wandered away. Well, she was shaken, and she followed him to the edge of the park and watched him go to the parking lot, where he got into the passenger side of what she called the most beautiful white pickup truck she'd ever seen.

So about three days later, she's back in the same park, she's with her friend again, who's nearby, and she's waiting for her son to bring her granddaughter for lunch and to play in the park. And she looks off across the park and here's somebody coming towards her, yelling her name. And she can't figure out who it is, but soon we realize that it's a distraction. All of a sudden there's a gun barrel stuck into the back of her head, and she looks up, again, it's somebody she doesn't know. But then the person drops a bag of drugs beside her, and says, do you know what this is? And she immediately figured he was a drug cop, and she said yeah, it's drugs, and this is a public park with children, and you should put it back in your pocket where it came from and get the hell out of here.

And he said to her, no. That's not the way it's going to be. You see, you're going to be my bitch, and I want to meet all the people you know. Well, long story short, big argument, she said that's not going to happen. So she was arrested. His partner, who was the stranger yelling her name, took her, cuffed her up and took her down to the jail. Well her friend, during this period of time, sees him leave and come back, and drive into the park in a beautiful white pickup. And he opens a black steel box in the back of the bed, and he goes across the fence next to a drainage canal where there are two homeless shelters. One of the homeless people run off, and there he works with something he took from the back of the truck. Well, later on, we find that that something was a display of drugs including methamphetamine, that was created, he took pictures of it, and basically it was a setup.

So now, he goes back to the jail, she's waiting in the jail, he comes back, books her, prints her, photographs her, puts her in the jail, a jail cell, and there's two women in that cell from her past life, that she recognized. She didn't really know why they were there. But, over a period of several hours she's pulled back and forth out of the cell to an interview room, where he continues to pressure her to work for him. She tells him no, no, no, so finally the last time she's so afraid, she agrees, and she says okeh, I'll work for you. So, he, she is released from jail, she's given this slip of paper that says released, insufficient evidence of any criminal activity. Next day starts pressuring her to do this, and she's -- she doesn't want to get back into this life, and so after a lot of arguments and multiple phone calls, she tells him she's not going to do it. She hangs up with him, and she's afraid, so she leaves town. She leaves town for four months.

When she comes back to town, finds a new place to live and whatnot, one day she and her boyfriend are pulled over by a gang squad doing traffic stops and whatnot, and eventually it's discovered that there's an outstanding felony warrant for her, sales of methamphetamine, so he's had a warrant issued for her. She's booked on the warrant. She goes to jail. He's, the charge has a bail schedule of $30,000, but somehow he's arranged so that her bail is $70,000. A good friend of her puts her house up so that she can get out, and when she turns up at the first trial hearing, at the first court hearing, he's surprised, he thought she was rotting in jail because she had such a high bail.

Anyway, the pictures of the evidence that are there is this display of drugs in front of the homeless shelter, and he creates this whole story at her preliminary hearing, so she's been held to answer. This has been going on for two years. Now, that -- what she's charged with holds a 15 year sentence, but there's so much screwy about this thing, and about this parole guy and whatnot, I'm convinced that the district attorney knows that there's problems with it, there's strange men that came in the courtroom, there's situations where he lied in front of video cameras in the court and those were discovered and now the video camera -- the videotapes seem to be missing from the court system. Anyway, there's a whole lot wrong with it, and suddenly the DA starts off, and they're, well, you can do four years, if you cop to four years and take a plea, we'll do that. No. She says no, I didn't do nothing, I'm innocent.

Finally, four or five plea bargain offers later, the district attorney offers her, for a fifteen year crime, offers her one year summary probation, no jail time. And she said, no. I'm innocent. Well, they're going crazy at the court, they're angry, this woman is awful, she's just, she's stubborn and all of that. So, that is what has become of our criminal justice system. That is the corruption that has been imposed by this drug war on our police officers and our police departments. Nine months before she was arrested, this officer was awarded a distinguished award in the city of Long Beach for his activities in drug enforcement and keeping the city safe by making drug arrests.

Well, so, he's encouraged to make a lot of arrests, and he uses those methods to make the arrests, but now he's run up against a woman who won't fold to the kind of intimidation and threats, and she's looking at 15 years because the last time she appeared in court, they threatened her, they said, if you don't take the one year summary probation, it's off the table and you're looking at 15 years in prison if you're convicted. This case is still going on, but I can't think of a better example of the harm and corruption that comes from the creation of a black market, and putting police officers into that dark world of the black market and then rewarding them, rewarding police departments with asset seizures and COP grants to keep this stinking war going. And that's what we have, and she, I guarantee you, she is not his only victim, and I guarantee you that there are not, that there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other victims that have been treated the same way, that have gone to prison because this drug war is so ugly.

DEAN BECKER: Steve, it bears a strong resemblance to the inquisition. Tell us what you know and we'll tell you faster, you know? It's just ...

STEPHEN DOWNING: That's right. The contempt of cop and all of that falls into this drug warrior mentality. And the thing is is, what I always say, Dean, is that police officers are not warriors. They're not soldiers. They're not fighting a war. Soldiers have enemies, and soldiers are taught to kill the enemy. Police officers have no enemies. Police officers, the people they deal with, whether they're the worst rapist or the worst bank robber, the people they deal with are people that are entitled to the protections of the Constitution of the United States. They're entitled to the protections of due process, and they're entitled to a police officer dealing with them as a citizen entitled to due process, and not an enemy. But this drug war has made enemies of the people, and has made occupiers of our law enforcement agencies. And I'm ashamed to say that I was a part of that in my career. I helped launch the drug war, when Nixon announced the drug war. I harmed people by the activities that I was engaged in, trying to make this unworkable policy work.

DEAN BECKER: So true. Well, Steve, I thank you so much. Friends, we've been speaking with Mister Stephen Downing, former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, and just a good friend on the board of directors of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Please go to their website, there's lots of stuff on the horizon coming from LEAP, and that's at LEAP.cc.

It’s time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Persistent diarrhea, stomach upset, nausea and vomiting, bloody urine, fever, unusual bleeding, yellow eyes or skin, unusual tiredness or weakness, pseudomembranous colitis, dizziness, trouble breathing and congestive heart failure. Times up! The answer: Penicillin, another FDA approved product.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: I'm Marsha Rosenbaum and I am Director Emerita at the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: Well, our loss, your former boss Mister Ethan Nadelmann, just spoke upstairs at the, here at this cannabis business conference. He brought forward a point that I was so glad to hear, is that marijuana is not the be-all, end-all of this drug war. We've got to go beyond that. Your thoughts.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Of course, we have to go beyond it, but I am focused frankly on marijuana legalization at this time because I think that that will open up a conversation about what we ought to be doing about the other drugs. The other drugs. So --

DEAN BECKER: And, I think that was part of what Ethan was saying there at the end, too, is that hopefully those who are going to make a lot of money from this industry will not forget that the horrors of the drug war would still live on even if pot's legal.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Well, but there's another issue about the people making money now, in the industry, who have either no knowledge or no affinity for the political side, because this is not -- legalization is not a slam-dunk. Anybody who watched the presidential debates last night, the Republicans, knows that, you know, all of this is, all the progress we're making is predicated on further legalization of both recreational and medical, and it seems to me that an industry that's making money now, which, fine, that's fine with me, needs to understand the need for political reform just to keep them going, and so they should be contributing to the political movement. That, I mean, really can't emphasize that enough. I have, constantly am getting communication from people in the industry who would like me to donate. And, to their business, and I say, you know, I am happy to entertain the idea of contributing to a business that I think might be making money, but I'm not as confident as obviously you are that my investment is secure. And so, what I would like the industry to do is to give back to the political movement now. Now. Because that's going to ensure success for everybody.

DEAN BECKER: Things change. In the 70s, it looked like the, we were reaching the horizon, that we were almost there, and things backslid. It's, we have traction now, it's time to move, as you say, now.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: I think so. You know, I've been in this movement for 25 years now, since the, really the beginning of it in the 80s, and you know, I've seen, those of us who are oldtimers, like you, have seen how much it took to get to this place, and we've seen progress and then setbacks, then progress, and then setbacks. And this could happen now, and so I just, there has to be a partnership between the industry and the political side.

DEAN BECKER: All right, once again, speaking with Marsha Rosenbaum of the Drug Policy -- Director Emeritus of the Drug Policy Alliance.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: Emerita.

DEAN BECKER: Damn it. Director Emerita of the Drug Policy Alliance.

MARSHA ROSENBAUM: The female version of it.

DEAN BECKER: During this time of eternal war, I find it my somber duty to report the death toll from the drug formerly known as marijuana is zero.

ANDREW CHAVEZ: Hi, my name's Andrew Chavez, I work for KushyPunch. We started off about a year ago with our taffy, our taffy essentially took a couple of awards, took Kush Cup, Kush Expo on HempCon's best edible, best edible candies.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

ANDREW CHAVEZ: Essentially, we've evolved. We listened to the public, basically wanted to be intuitive to what the public wants, essentially the taffy had a little tendency to melt, so we decided to develop our gummy. Our gummy has taken off and is basically a hot seller. Comes in 80 milligrams quad-dose servings, so essentially if you wanted to you could actually split the candy up into four doses, and or depending on your tolerance you could go ahead and take it all at once. Comes in three different strains, which are strain-oriented: Fruit punch in the indica, strawberry in the sativa, and raspberry in the hybrid. We also carry a TKO, which is our 200 milligram, it's essentially it's our 10 dose, our decadose. That comes in lime flavor. We noticed that, once people have tried our 80 milligrams, they have a tendency, I guess their tolerance has a tendency to go up a little bit, the TKO is generally where they go to next.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

ANDREW CHAVEZ: We also carry a CBD product, which is a 60 milligram CBD and .05 milligrams of THC, just enough to activate the CBD but not enough to medicate you. So essentially it's meant for more of the medicinal and or subliminal pains and whatnot.

DEAN BECKER: You know, there was some negative press, once Colorado went legal and a couple of people did some stupid things with edibles, with disastrous results. But I look at your warning on every surface, warning Do not take the whole candy at once, do not take more than one eighth at a time. Very commonsense and civic minded, if you ask me.

ANDREW CHAVEZ: Yes, well, and to be honest with you, we really do take the patients into consideration. The last thing we ever want is to hear that somebody took our medication and were scared and or overmedicated. Overmedicating is something very serious, like what you're talking about. Essentially, it's a very concentrated product, so we want to make sure people are very aware of the fact that we pre-dose them for them for a reason. We hope that they take our recommendation serious, but essentially we do our best to educate the public. When we do our samplings, the same thing, we come out and we let people know hey, if you're taking this make sure you're not going to be driving, it's going to medicate you six to eight hours. It's a highly concentrated product, but what we are giving you is a recommended dose. And we basically try to implement that on the box as well, like you said.

DEAN BECKER: If you would please, share your website, some closing thoughts.

ANDREW CHAVEZ: You can go to kushypunch.com, you can also find us on instagram at official_kushypunch. Try and reach out to us, try our product, we do carry products that are non-medicated as well, so you, there's something for everyone. Like we said, if you guys have any feedback, by all means let us know what you guys feel. We always look to the public for future products.

DEAN BECKER: All right, last recording here at the LA cannabis business conference. I'm with Dale Sky Jones. Just a marvelous cannabis activist, mother, good person. How you doing, Dale?

DALE SKY JONES: I'm wonderful, thank you Dean. I hope you're well.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, I am. Yeah, Dale, this has awakened me more to, not just the possibility, but to the actuality of what the hell's going on here in California and I guess these other states where things are becoming legal.

DALE SKY JONES: Indeed. I think it's important for people to realize that nothing is inevitable. There's a lot of hard work that's going into this inevitability that folks are talking about. It's important to make sure that you continue to be a part of the process, because the process has not yet been finalized. There's still an opportunity for input, and with what just came down the hill from the legislature, we still have to wrap our arms around that, understand what it does, what it doesn't do, and how a voter initiative can feather in such a way that we're not increasing the burden or the cost of the businesses who have been trying to just stay both relevant and also under the regulations, that we don't then pull that rug out from under them in another year with a voter initiative. So there's a lot to consider, and I think one of the most important things is just making sure that folks don't get lost in the process or blinded by it. We really need to stick to the plan.

DEAN BECKER: You are also the chancellor, if I remember right, of Oaksterdam University, founded by our good friend, Mister Richard Lee. How is that doing these days?

DALE SKY JONES: Ah, it's so exciting. Oaksterdam University has gone to a new level. We will be going online by the end of this year. We've already hit the east coast, we've had classes in DC, New Jersey, Rhode Island, as well as Las Vegas and Colorado, and here in just a couple of months, we'll be putting on -- oh, a couple weeks, we are putting on a medical conference for doctors and nurses to be able to get continuing medical education and continuing nursing credits. They are on the east side of the Mississippi, the gatekeepers for cannabis, and so it's vital that they both feel safe and comfortable, and also that they're doing no harm in talking to their patients about this important subject.

DEAN BECKER: I was just speaking to a gentleman with the wellness center. We had a nexus, and that is a few years back, I used to get calls from the doctors at MD Anderson Hospital about some of the kids that needed cannabis, and the doctors were out of options and hoped that I could do them some good. It was all very discrete, but now, they contact the wellness center and arrange for this to happen with much less surreptitiousness, I suppose. And I guess that's just a sign that more and more people realize that the drug war has failed, that the marijuana laws are plain stupid. Cannabis is being accepted, it is no longer the devil's weed, is it?

DALE SKY JONES: I would have to agree with that, and I think this is our coming out moment, Dean. This is why the LGBTQ community has done so well so fast, is because they finally came out and had a conversation, that gay is not scary or evil, it's your sister, your brother, your father, your daughter, that these are people that you know and love that happen to be gay, and I would say the same is true for cannabis. Up until recently, the only folks that were willing to talk about it were the ones that either were too dumb enough to know better or a single white male comedian that was pretty much just cracking jokes.

And until mothers started to see other mothers like myself talking about this issue, that this is how we're trying to save the children, whether it's trying to save a child that has a condition that can benefit from cannabis, or I'm trying to prevent the arrest and the criminalization of someone else's child because their skin might be black or brown. My child is still growing up with their child, and if we don't respect their life and limb, how can we possibly expect them to respect ours? And so this is an opportunity moving forward that we all come out of the closet as cannabis consumers. If you know your mama loves you, you have to come out to her, so that she understands this is not about that scary guy that she doesn't know, it's about her own son or daughter or brother or sister or mother, and that is how we're really going to get this accepted over time. Come out.

I'd just like people to realize that even though all these different things are swirling around us, that we have a good plan and we just need to stick to it and stick together for California, and the way to do that is to go to ReformCA.com.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that's all we can squeeze in. I hope it motivates you to do your part to end the madness of drug war. Please, be sure to join us next week, when our guest will be once again the police chief of Houston, Texas, Charles A. McClelland, Junior. And as always, I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

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