01/15/16 Kimberly Cheney

Kimberly Cheney, former Atty General of Vermont, Matt Simon of MPP, Dr. Stanton Peele re addiction, Mason Tvert of MPP

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, January 15, 2016
Kimberly Cheney
Attorney General



JANUARY 15, 2016


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.

Hi. This is Dean Becker, and I want to say thank you. It's been a privilege and honor working with many of you who have heard the unvarnished truth about the drug war, and stood tall, and spoken up, and contacted your elected officials and doing what you can to bring this madness to an end. We've got a show today that talks about the result of that effort, not just here in my gulag filling station city of Houston, but around the country. Let's get started.

Seems that every day, more and more people are investigating this policy of marijuana prohibition. More and more people are beginning to see its failure and futility, and once such gentleman is the former attorney general of Vermont, a Mister Kimberly Cheney, and he's with us now. Hello, Mr. Cheney.


DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. I received an email today, shows that you are now speaking for the end of marijuana prohibition in Vermont. Correct, sir?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Yes, well, as you know, I'm a speaker for LEAP, and Vermont has pending legislation that would essentially regulate marijuana in the civil system, and yes, I do support that.

DEAN BECKER: And, could you give us some of the reasons why you feel that way?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Well, it's pretty clear to me that prohibition doesn't work. Whenever you look at the statistical changes from the late 60s to the present, where the war on drugs really began, the only thing that's happened is that drug use has increased throughout the United States, and the collateral damage is huge, jail terms and wrecked careers. Back when I was prosecuting in the late 60s, the war on drugs began, and when I looked around at what was going on in the world, there isn't a family in America that doesn't have an alcoholic in their midst, somewhere along the way, and it was pretty plain to me that trying to lock all those people up wasn't going to solve the problem. The types of things that were in place to deal with alcoholics made sense.

I think AA made sense, I think getting families supportive of people who have the sickness, as used to be said in my family, you could make a difference. But encouraging prohibition, and the same model of prohibition of alcohol was such a dismal failure, and, you know, I understood, and I guess you're a police officer or were, but the public demanded some recognition of the problem, they were impatient, they wanted something to happen. And so the war began, and it certainly was never successful.

DEAN BECKER: No, so true, sir. Recently, PBS rebroadcast their series, Ken Burns' series on the alcohol prohibition, and within that, they spoke of, you know, the excitement when they began the process, and then the recognition that it didn't accomplish any of its stated goals and it was only, what, 13 years before they reversed that prohibition. What do you think holds this one together now for decades on in? What is the difference?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Well, I think the war on drugs was much more of a class war than the war on alcohol, although they both had that feature. But I think overall fewer people were using drugs than were using the alcohol, which is true today. So the prohibition of drug use didn't have the absolute widespread resistance.

DEAN BECKER: I think of the situation, it was, well, Nixon really ramped it up. He was going after draft dodgers and hippies, and blacks, trying to create a divide, trying to create votes, was he not?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Well, of course. Anybody who was in law enforcement at that time knew that, well, you've got to remember, that's Vietnam, there's the whole rise of rock music, it was very disturbing to a lot of people who were settled in the 50s, and it seemed like drugs were the instrument of this change. And so it was popular to try to prevent drug use, but as much as anything, it was a class effort to kind of restore what the 50s values were that had come unraveled in the 60s.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, we are speaking with Mr. Kimberly Cheney, he's a former attorney general in the state of Vermont. He's now built an ad working with the Marijuana Policy Project to try to bring change to his native state, to those marijuana laws. Have you had any response as yet? What do you anticipate, Mr. Cheney?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Well, I think that there -- you know, our governor came out in favor of legislation to control marijuana, so it's not like this is a foreign idea. And I think more and more people realize that the war on drugs has been a failure. For me, the issue is, drug abuse and the path that people take to escape reality, one way or another -- chemically, or any other way. It's not essentially a police problem, it's a broad-based social problem, and it needs to be treated that way. You need to have -- the police should not be the spokespeople for a huge mental health problem. They have a big role to play, and it's important in any regulatory scheme that there's be good law enforcement. That's a very different world, and it needs the coordinated efforts of everybody involved, and rehabilitation. They all need to be coordinated and seen as all moving in the same direction.

DEAN BECKER: As one of my brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, I salute you, sir. I think the winning side is the side of logic and proportion, if you will, and we've just been way out of proportion in the way we've dealt with marijuana. Correct?

KIMBERLY CHENEY: Oh, I agree. You know, just looking at it, it's pretty futile to think that you're going to stop it. You can grow it virtually anywhere in the United States. And -- what I really dislike is the -- I think prohibition is a retail price mechanism for the narco-world. It keeps the price sufficiently up, so that they can all make a huge amount of money and pay no taxes, and if you can regulate it and keep the price sufficiently under control so that it doesn't create a huge black market, I think you'll starve out the narcos and I think you'll actually reduce the amount of drugs available.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, I appreciate it, Mr. Cheney. Once again, he's one of my fellow speakers with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards, and wardens. They have seen first hand the utter futility of our policy, and now work together to end drug prohibition. Please visit LEAP.cc.

The following segment, out of Vermont, courtesy ABC.

JOE SMITH: In what will be the first of many discussions, lawmakers began debating a bill to legalize marijuana.

LAUREN MALONEY: The state has already invested time and money into the idea. Representatives went to Colorado to learn more about it. And a study was done to find out the effects of legalization. Local 22's Alex Rose has more now from the statehouse.

ALEX ROSE: It's week two of the legislative session and lawmakers are diving into a bill that would regulate, tax, and legalize recreational marijuana, but law enforcement officers from around the Green Mountain State testified today, having major concerns over legalization. Lawmakers are in the beginning stages, discussing a bill to legalize marijuana.

MICHELE CHILDS: Can't dispense or sell to someone under 21, or with somebody under 21.

ALEX ROSE: The Senate Judiciary Committee walked through the bill step by step before hearing testimony from Vermont police officers.

PAUL DOUCETTE: The chiefs are adamantly opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

ALEX ROSE: Chief Paul Doucette is Chair of the Vermont Chiefs Association. He and others went on a fact-finding mission to Colorado last year to learn the effects of legalization.

PAUL DOUCETTE: Vermont clearly is not ready. It seems like we're spending a lot of time and a lot of resources to legalize something on the state level that is illegal federally.

ALEX ROSE: One of Doucette's biggest concerns is detecting marijuana in drivers who may be driving impaired.

PAUL DOUCETTE: People that are involved with traffic fatalities that are under the influence of drugs most commonly it's marijuana and it's not even legal. 34 police officers, that's it, that are currently trained to process people that are driving under the influence of drugs. We do have 11 in training.

ALEX ROSE: Meanwhile, advocates gathered to discuss how the war on drugs has failed.

LAURA SUBIN: It has been a disaster from a human and civil rights perspective.

SUZI WIZOWATY: There is as much use of marijuana now as ever.

ALEX ROSE: The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana is encouraging lawmakers to take on legalization to control in part for economic benefits.

LAURA SUBIN: These Vermonters are currently spending approximately $175 million each year buying marijuana from an illicit market.

BILL LOFY: We estimate that Vermont can create up to 4,000 direct and indirect jobs.

ALEX ROSE: Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell tells me he's given the judiciary committee three weeks to look at these marijuana legalization bills. He says marijuana legalization shouldn't be a priority this session, and he wants to get it out of the way to focus on the bigger issues. At the state house, Alex Rose, Local 22 News.

LAUREN MALONEY: Alex, thank you. Well, after the Senate Judiciary looks at this bill, it will have to go to Finance and Appropriations, since legalization would deal with generating tax dollars.

DEAN BECKER: Well, a moment ago we finished our interview with the former Attorney General of Vermont, Mister Kimberly Cheney, and now we're going to talk with another gentleman based there in Vermont, works for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mister Matt Simon. Hello, sir.


DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Matt. You know, you've got Bernie coming out of Vermont, you've got the governor talking about things, you've got the ex-attorney general talking about the need for change to the marijuana laws. Tell us what's going on?

MATT SIMON: Yeah, well, it's a really exciting time to be in Montpelier, Vermont, which is a very small town with a small state capitol, and it seems like half the people in that capitol building are talking about marijuana policy right now. The senate judiciary committee has started diving into the details here. They're going to spend the next three weeks trying to figure out. They've got two bills that have been introduced, so they're looking at those two bills. They're also looking at Colorado and Washington, they're taking some phone testimony from people out west, and they're trying to figure out what's happening everywhere, what policy choices they can make, and try to put together a bill that they would then vote on, and at that point we would see just how much support it does have. Things are looking great, but I think there's going to be a lot of focus on details and that's where a lot of our heads are now.

DEAN BECKER: And then, this differentiates from most of the other states in the way this is being brought forward. This is not necessarily, well, not just activists calling for change, it's kind of legislative impetus. Correct?

MATT SIMON: Yeah, it really is. I mean, Vermont is not a state where it can be done via ballot initiative, but Vermont is a state with a very open citizen legislature, where I think legislators are, more so than other places, you know, accountable to public opinion and to what their constituents are saying, and I think, you know, we saw that with how the decriminalization bill that passed here in 2013. Vermont was also one of the first states to pass a medical marijuana law through the legislature, in 2004.

They've improved it a few times over the years, passed decrim in 2013, and immediately began seriously talking about the unanswered question during the decrim debate, which is where should marijuana come from? How should it be produced and sold? They understand, they understood that they hadn't solved that issue with decrim, that they needed to start talking about regulation. So they commissioned a report from the Rand Corporation that they have now spent a year poring over and studying and having public forums all over the state, so it's really been a well informed debate, and I'm just -- I feel privileged to be part of it. I'm grateful for the former AG, Kimberly Cheney, joining our coalition in Vermont, and it's a really exciting time.

DEAN BECKER: And it is. And, you know, I don't want to negate the work of activists, because they have been very instrumental in bringing forward this focus, this discussion, have they not?

MATT SIMON: Oh, absolutely. Activists are the ones driving the debate and talking about it, and we -- you know, they've gotten to the point where elected people are now comfortable having this conversation, that it was -- that has been made possible by all the activists' efforts over a long period of time.

DEAN BECKER: To bring focus to bear like this, it negates the decades, nearly a hundred years of propaganda and hysteria, that was put forward and embraced by too many people without actually looking into the science, the facts, the basis for these outrageous laws. Correct?

MATT SIMON: No question. And the senate judiciary committee began its first hearing Friday with a presentation from a legislative counsel person on the history of marijuana and marijuana prohibition, and it was very accurate, and very well done. They based it on the book The Marijuana Conviction, that you may be familiar with. So, legislators realize we're coming out of a propaganda age, and that we're moving into an age where, you know, regardless of how we go about this, we have to stop relying on propaganda. We have an internet now, people can look up the history for themselves, and we have to be honest with it, and our government has to be honest with -- about it, if they want to have any credibility with the population.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again, we've been speaking with Mr. Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, they've got lots of great information on that history and where we should be headed on their website, which is at MPP.org.

STANTON PEELE: My name is Stanton Peele, and I first became known on the addiction scene for writing a book called Love And Addiction, way back in 1975. By the way I lived in Oakland, California, at the time, and since then I've presented the view that drug problems are not a separate category of life and experience, that addiction is something that's broader than drugs, and the solutions are something that are broader than drugs. And so I've evolved to a point where I'm one of the main opponents of the disease, and the brain disease model of addiction. My latest book is called Recover: Stop Thinking Like An Addict And Use Your Own Power To Overcome Addiction. I feel we all have that kind of ability within ourselves, and that focusing on our mindfulness and self-acceptance is actually the best path away from addiction, other than relying on somebody else to cure and solve your problems.

DEAN BECKER: If I might tie in my story just a bit, sir. I come from several generations of alcoholics. I gave up alcohol 30 years ago, and it was a constant battle. The first few days, the first couple of months. But through resolve, and a desire to have a life, I was able to overcome it. I got a little assistance from AA, but it has persevered, because I chose to remain sober. Your thought there, sir.

STANTON PEELE: Well, the point is obviously, everybody's going to have to come to a resolution somewhere on their own. We can't present the idea "We saved you," or "you need me to be saved." That's not a real solution. If you can't invest in the person and say, Maybe I gave you a hand, but you have a self sustaining life now. You believe in yourself and your ability to stay sober. You believe that there's enough rewarding out there in the world that's it's worthwhile for you to do it. People don't do things for nothing. When they believe that the alternative is working for them in a better way, that that's possible and they see it and they believe their own self empowerment to do that, that's when you get a stable resolution. And then it's not a chronic relapsing disease, then you have a chronic life, as we like to say.

DEAN BECKER: Dr. Peele, I want to ask you this. We hear so many pronouncements coming from authorities, officials, who in my estimation think they know something, and pronounce solutions that really won't be that effective. Your response.

STANTON PEELE: Well, I'm part of a group of people called self empowering addiction therapists. I just came from a session on parenting. You have to invest the parents and the family with the feeling that they can deal with the situation they have. You can't take, for example, a child in a situation, plop them in AA or treatment and say everything is going to be fine. Somehow, everybody in that family has to feel better about and do better at interacting with one another. Therapy's isn't -- job isn't to make the person think how great therapy is. Therapy's job is to contribute to a situation where an individual, a family, or a community functions better on its own. That's the goal, and that's always got to be what we keep in mind.

My name is Stanton Peele. I have a website, www.PEELE.net. I also have an online treatment program, called TheLifeProcessProgram.com, and you can find my program there.

DEAN BECKER: I'm here with an architect, an engineer, in my mind a genius, from Colorado, Mister Mason Tvert. How are you, sir?

MASON TVERT: I'm great, thanks for having me, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Mason, this is kind of what you envisioned, all the great progress, more states jumping on board the legalization bandwagon, and no real -- not many real negatives to report. Am I correct?

MASON TVERT: Yeah, things are really going quite well. Colorado and now Washington and even Oregon are really demonstrating that regulating marijuana works, and that it is far preferable to a prohibition system, and that's why we're seeing even more states on the verge of passing similar laws.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I can't remember the exact title, but you and a couple of friends wrote a book that talked about, you know, marijuana being better than alcohol, and, you know, I can certainly attest to that, 30 years without alcohol, and marijuana hasn't driven me mad yet.

MASON TVERT: Yeah. Paul Armentano, Steve Fox, and I co-authored a book titled Marijuana Is Safer So Why Are We Driving People To Drink, and really just, the intention was to get people thinking about the fact that marijuana is objectively a less harmful substance than alcohol, and that's not to say that alcohol is bad, or wrong, or something that we shouldn't have legal. But it's simply to say that we as a society recognize alcohol should be legal, that prohibition of alcohol failed, and if marijuana's a less harmful substance, then it should be treated that way. And that's been a message that's really resonated with a lot of voters and elected officials, and so on.

DEAN BECKER: And it helped to swing the cat in Colorado and is continuing to do so, not just in the US, but other countries are starting to say, well if the US can change their laws, so can we.

MASON TVERT: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, that it's just common sense, and really marijuana's illegal because too many people still think that it's too harmful to allow, and once enough people recognize that it's not as harmful as they were led to believe, in fact it's less harmful than a substance that, you know, most people have tried in their lifetime and many people use on a regular basis without incident, that it should be legal and regulated and we should be avoiding those problems associated with prohibition, and that is something that makes sense to people, whether they are from the, you know, the north or the south, or from the United States, or Europe. It really is just a clear fact that people need to hear.

DEAN BECKER: You're working these days with, I'm sure many groups, but you have a focal point within the Marijuana Policy Project, and we're on a roll. I can't say nothing's going to stop us, because you've got to prepare for everything. But we need other folks out there to say what they know to be true, and you guys work to help them to do that, don't you?

MASON TVERT: Yeah, we work all over the country with as many people as we can, and you know, we have got a state policies department that's wonderful, that is -- you know, we've got targeted states where we're really investing a lot of resources and passing legislation through state legislatures, and we work with local allies and with other advocacy organizations, with patients in those states where we're still working on medical marijuana laws. And then of course there's those initiative states, in some cases, those are initiatives that we're really, you know, spearheading and funding, primarily, and in other cases, they're really joint efforts, like in California for example, where it's really going to take a broad coalition and a whole lot of folks to get that done in such a large state.

DEAN BECKER: Heather Fazio is, works with you guys down in Texas. She seems to be very aligned with the Veterans for Medical Marijuana, with Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and you guys are at least changing the mindset of the politicians down there, to realize they've been wrong. Maybe they don't know what's right yet, but to force them to re-investigate and perhaps change some of the laws down there. Your thought, Mason.

MASON TVERT: Yeah, Texas is obviously, you know, it's a state where a lot of people think that it's so far behind, but I think it is starting to move in the right direction, you know. This last session we saw a medical marijuana bill pass that was incredibly flawed, and not workable in its current form, but was actually written in a way where we feel comfortable with tweaking it so, you know, rather than having to pass an entirely new law, I believe that we'll be able to work within this existing law to change it and make it actually workable. We were pretty confident, we had a majority of legislators in support of a decrim bill, to remove -- you know, basically remove harsh criminal penalties for simple possession, and replace it with a fine for, you know, possession of a small amount of marijuana. But unfortunately, the legislature ran out of time, and that's one of the tough things in Texas, is that it only convenes every other year.

DEAN BECKER: And for such a short time.

MASON TVERT: And for such a short time, and so, you know, I feel that this last time around, it wasn't even a matter of not having the support for decriminalization, it was simply not having the time and the ability to get it done. But I think that coming back in 2017, I'm very hopeful that we'll see that happen, very hopeful that we'll see some good changes to the medical marijuana law to actually make it workable. And we really hope to see significant change, you know, we're hoping, our goal is to pass a bill that would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol by 2019, and I think it's doable.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, so many of the district attorneys in Texas are trying to lean the right direction to not destroy lives. Recognizing the ineffectiveness of our current laws. Once again, we've been speaking with Mr. Mason Tvert, currently working with the Marijuana Policy Project, but as I said earlier, a man who helps the rest of us understand a better future. I appreciate all the work you do, Mason. Any closing thoughts? Please, with my listeners, motivate them, because they -- they know this truth, but if they ain't doing nothing, well they ain't helping either.

MASON TVERT: Yeah. I'd just encourage people to make sure that they're engaging in conversations about this issue with those closest to them, you know. If you're able to be active and to get involved and go out and talk to strangers, and to distribute literature or be at events, and, or talk to legislators, that's wonderful. But, you know, a lot of times, people, you know, they have jobs, they've got kids, they've got families, they've got things to deal with, they can't do that, but you can always talk to the people closest to you. If you have family members that you're going to be getting together with over the holidays, and you know that, you know, that brother in law of yours, or your father in law, just hasn't come around on this yet, you know, start that conversation. Say, have you heard about this taking place in our state, or in another state, or, you know, there are so many ways to bring the subject up, and while you may not completely turn them around right away, you can certainly start that process, because it's really interpersonal communications, and talking to the people closest to you that's going to, that's going to result in people either coming around, or at least not being so adamantly opposed.

DEAN BECKER: Mason Tvert is a hero of mine, along with two of my now deceased friends, Mr. Clayton Jones, and Mr. Vincent Lopez. Heroes. Just like you can be, if you stand tall and help to end this god damned drug war. Again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

DAVID BOWIE: [MUSIC] I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins
Like dolphins can swim.
Though nothing, nothing
Will keep us together,
We can beat them
Forever and ever.
Oh, we can be heroes
Just for one day.
I, I will be king.
And you, you will be queen.
Though nothing will tear us away.
We can be heroes
Just for one day.
We can be us
Just for one day.
I, I can remember,