04/08/16 Neill Franklin

Neill Franklin Exec Dir of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Canadian MP Nathaniel Erskine Smith, Mexican Senator Laura Angelica Rojas Hernandez, David Borden of DRCnet, Tribute to Merle Haggard

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, April 8, 2016
Neill Franklin
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)



APRIL 8, 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.

Hello, folks. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. This is Dean Becker, sick as a dog but despite that, building these shows is getting to be a hell of a lot of fun. This is Sir Richard Branson.

RICHARD BRANSON: Congratulations, all of you have worked so hard to bring LEAP UK to life. The so-called war on drugs has been an enormous failure, and the results are devastating. Prohibition has created a $320 billion industry, entirely controlled by organized crime. No matter how aggressive our strategies, they have failed completely to curb the drug demand or supply in a noticeable way.

Many in the law enforcement community know this. They agree, it's time for a new approach. We need smart, evidence-based policies that will empower law enforcement agencies to do what they were set up to do: to fight real crime, and keep our communities safe.

Well, I'm thrilled to see that the movement for reform is taking hold. Law enforcement must be part of the solution. This is why I stand with LEAP UK on Leap Day, and this is why I'm standing for drug law reform. Thank you, and best of luck.

DEAN BECKER: Some of us have been just striking out against the quote "logic" of this drug war for quite some time. Certainly my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition have been doing as much. And I think it's pretty gratifying that in the last days, weeks, months, what we've been putting forward is starting to be recognized, not just in the United States, but around the world. And here to talk about that is my director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Mr. Neill Franklin. Hello, Neill.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Mister Dean Becker, how are you? I'm good.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I'm better. My coughing crud has disappeared. You know, Neill, I just want to start at the top here. Lot of folks have probably heard you over the years but give them a quick recount of your law enforcement experience.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Sure. Well, 34 years of policing here in the state of Maryland, beginning with the Maryland State Police back in the late 70s, and most of that career was about drug enforcement, criminal investigation, and the commander training, but I worked undercover with them, in the Washington, DC suburbs. I commanded drug task forces. I had nine at one time, when I was the commander of the northeast region, at the bureau of drug and criminal enforcement. And, you know, Dean, we lost a lot of folks during that time, mostly for nonviolent drug offenses and the bulk of that was for marijuana.


NEILL FRANKLIN: And, I then retired in 1999 from there, and went to the Baltimore Police Department, and was the head of their training division for four years, and then onto another police department, Maryland Transit, where I was the head of the detective bureau for a couple of years, then chief of patrol. And gave it all up, hung up my badge, and my gun, and my hat, to be the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: And, Neill, what makes me, well, even more proud of what you've done is that you began speaking while you were still wearing the badge, which is kind of rare amongst our members.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah. Yeah, you're absolutely right, Dean, I sure did. I started my transformation in the early 2000s, stumbled across LEAP's website, brand new website, in 2003. They'd been on a year. And by 2008, while I was still a commander with the Maryland Transit Police Force, I started speaking officially for LEAP.

DEAN BECKER: And I think it's that courage, your, I don't know, understanding of this situation, that did lead to you being named the executive director of LEAP. And since then, you have been, well, you and I traveled the United States a couple of years back with the Caravan For Peace, but since then, you've been traveling to Europe and Great Britain, and on and on. Tell us about your most recent travel to Great Britain, if you will.

NEILL FRANKLIN: That was a really good journey. We launched, officially launched our branch of LEAP in the United Kingdom. Two great leaders over there, one of which is Neil Woods, and then there's Jason, and they are running the show over there. We opened up with a press conference actually in the House of Commons in Parliament, you know, right under Big Ben, you know, and it was really special. We had law enforcement from other parts of the UK there, we had Annie Michon, who is one of our board members, and she was a whistleblower at MI5, she's running Germany.

And we had some other folks there. We had the chief constable from Durham, UK. He was there, he showed up and the following day we got to spend some time up in his city, as he gave us a tour and told us about their policing initiatives and how they go about doing things, and what really struck me with that was that the focus that they had, how they conduct their business according to the nine basic policing principles, the Peelian Principles. And that's one of the things that we're going to try to encourage our law enforcement folks to do here in the United States, and if they do so, then we won't be paying so much attention to enforcing these drug policies.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Now, you know, I talked about, you know, things are booming. News is happening, all around the world. Today, the DRCNet held a teleconference featuring a couple of Mexican senators and a Canadian MP, I'm not sure what they're called.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Oh, the MPs, their elected officials?

DEAN BECKER: Yes. And, and --

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, they're MPs, members of Parliament.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. There you go. And they were talking about how Canada is going to legalize cannabis in the not too distant future, how Mexico, the Supreme Court is considering legalizing it, at least for medical marijuana, and so forth, and that kind of ties into another event. I mentioned earlier, you and I did that Caravan For Peace across the US, but there's another Caravan that's down south, and headed north. Tell us about that event, would you?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Sure. This is again the Caravan For Peace, Justice, And Dignity, that we've been seeing in Central America for quite some time now, for a few years, pretty much spearheaded by Javier Sicilia, who is a poet from Mexico whose son, he lost his son at the hands of the cartels, some mistaken identity thing of sorts, and ever since then he's been speaking out against the failed war on drugs, and how it's effected Mexico and other countries in Central America, and he's been organizing these caravans of family members who have similar experiences, many, as you know, Dean, who have lost numerous family members, either to murder or kidnappings.

And, so, this is going to be another Caravan, a little different than most, which have just been through the interior of Mexico, except for the one that you and I participated in, which actually came into the United States and trekked across the United States for 30 days, hitting twenty something cities before ending in Washington, DC. They, this one would begin in Honduras, they're now in Mexico, just south of Mexico City, in Cunavera. And that's where I will meet up with them tomorrow, and I'll travel with them for a few hundred miles north, past Mexico City, up to, I believe, Monterrey is where I will, right before they cross the border into El Paso, and that's where I'll leave them and rejoin them again in Washington, DC, when they arrive at Washington, DC, to journey up to New York for the United Nations UNGASS, the General Assembly Special Session --


NEILL FRANKLIN: -- deal with drugs. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: I want to come back to that in a second, but let's talk about why they're doing this. What's, I don't know, seldom addressed, seldom addressed here in the United States, is the fact that Mexico alone has had over one hundred thousand murders. Sicario induced murders, and in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, they say there's perhaps 60 to 100,000 more. And yet, these deaths are considered part of doing business in running this drug war. Your thoughts there, Neill.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, you know, Dean, when you classify something illegal, something that people have been using ever since, you know, the beginning of man, for the most part, mind altering substances, for many different reasons. When you move to a place of making it illegal, someone is going to supply it. And not just supply it, but be in charge of transporting it, and that's what a lot of the violence is about in Central America, it is the trafficking routes. Yes, some of the drugs are grown there, and made there, but for the most part, it's about the trafficking routes, who's going to control them as they flow north to the United States, the number one consumer of these products. So when you make it illegal, it becomes more valuable than gold. You drive it underground, and you literally just hand it over to these vicious groups of people, the cartels, in this case, and they manage their business through murder, intimidation, corruption, corruption of our government officials, and they have more money, more money, than what's needed to make that happen.

So, unfortunately, it is the poor folks, the citizens in these Central American countries, like Mexico, who catch the brunt of it. Their family members are caught right in the middle of this vicious war among gangs and cartels and, you know, and that's what this Caravan is about, these family members, you know, who have lost these loved ones and continue to lose loved ones from the violence that is taking place in these countries.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. Once again, folks, we're speaking with Mister Neill Franklin. He's the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Neill, before we come to UNGASS, because that's, I hope to see you up there. I will be going to the Patients Out of Time conference in DC. I'll be going to the, spend an hour or two at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy there in DC as well, but I'm going to be in New York for the UNGASS there on April, what is it, 17, 18, and 19, leading up to their grand gathering, I guess. But I want to talk about a couple of things that, I don't know, pique my interest again, and that is, it's been mentioned, I haven't been able to pin it down, but that, before May of this year, the DEA is considering reclassifying marijuana from schedule one. I don't know if that's true, but it's just a sign that the edges are starting to chip away from their logic, from their support of this prohibition. What's your thought?

NEILL FRANKLIN: My thoughts are that I think that will happen before this president, President Obama, leaves office, that they will at least remove it from the schedule one category. And I think the significance of that is that it will truly open up the doors for R&D research and development into this plant as it relates to medical uses. I think for the most part, we know that well over 80 percent, close to around 85 percent, or the American public definitely agrees with cannabis being used for medical purposes. So what that does is it opens the door up for that, and I think once that happens, there is no going back, you know, because the benefits are going to be seen, they're going to be obvious, and then it's just a matter of moving forward with the policy reforms that we need, state by state.

A lot of states have not yet adopted medical cannabis policies or tax and regulate systems for adult use because of the federal government's position. They still think that the federal government, as long as it's a schedule one, they still think that the federal government can come down on, not just the businesses, but any state employee who is acting in the area of regulating and controlling either medical cannabis or otherwise in the states. So, once that is gone, and no longer on the table, then I think you -- I'm certain you'll see many more states begin to move rather quickly in establishing policies for medical cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Neill, there are those, I'll just say it, older diehard stalwarts of this prohibition. Just yesterday, Senator Grassley and Dianne Feinstein held a panel there in DC where they didn't invite any scientists. They didn't invite any people to speak positively for marijuana. They just said that intelligent people don't use it. And I guess the point is, the last three presidents have smoked marijuana, many Olympic athletes and football, basketball, athletes have all excelled despite their marijuana use. It's just mind blowing at times.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Dean, I'll say this. I don't know, they may have a point there, no one's ever accused our presidents of being intelligent, but as it relates to the other citizens around this country, I'm telling you, there are brilliant people that I've met and that I know of that not only have used cannabis, but actually use it on a regular basis. You know, it's a personal choice. You know, I, for one, have personally chosen not to. Just like I personally chosen not to use tobacco, or personally chosen, you know, when I do drink alcohol, I tell you, I've got beer in my refrigerator that's probably skunky by now, but, you know, it's a matter of personal choice.

But, I think that as we continue to move forward, many of the fallacies surrounding not just cannabis use but surrounding the use of many other drugs, like psychedelics and so on. I think that those fallacies will begin to deteriorate as people begin to learn more about these drugs, and there's good and bad with all drugs. It's really about the environment in which they exist, which determines how good they're going to be or how problematic they can be. And so that's what we do, we look for opportunities to create and establish the best possible environments for these drugs to exist that will reduce violence, reduce crime, reduce corruption, reduce addiction, reduce overdose deaths, reduce disease. That's what we do, that's what LEAP is really all about. And, removing police, law enforcement, from the business of drugs and turning it over to the hands, placing it squarely in the hands of our health care practitioners, our counselors, social workers, and so on.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. Now, I do want to finish up with the UNGASS. This is a gathering at the United Nations, going to happen, is it April 19th, 20th, and 21st, right in that area, I know.

NEILL FRANKLIN: You hit it square on the head. Yes, 19th, 20th, and 21st.

DEAN BECKER: And they're going to, quote, re-examine our world drug policy, though many have said Singapore and Russia are going to control the agenda and maintain the status quo. But, there's always hope that the truth will out someday. What's your thought on this forthcoming UNGASS gathering?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, my -- what I see here is, first of all, like you said, with countries like Russia and some others who have these very hardcore prohibitionist stances, you know, yeah, they're going to control it, they're not going to allow certain language to enter into these treaties, such as human rights and so on. They're going to do what they do. The benefit of UNGASS is that it's just going to be a multi-day, huge gathering of people from all around the globe in the streets of New York, in the parks of New York City, all around the United Nations, within the United Nations, carrying a message of these failed policies, you know, of the need for harm reduction measures. You know, the need for these dramatic reforms, it's going to be a huge media and educational opportunity and event for the world to learn more about what needs to take place. And if they don't learn anything over the three days, from either being there or witnessing what's occurring via media and social media and so on, maybe it will at least be enough to prompt them to move forward with their educational experience and learning more about what needs to happen.

And so I see it merely as an opportunity, I'm not expecting a whole lot, if anything, from the United Nations General Assembly itself. I'm just, you know, I see it as a huge learning opportunity for the rest of the world.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Dehumanization, solitude, degradation, deprivation, dehydration, starvation, injury, humiliation, torture, suffocation, untimely teenage deaths. Time's up! The answer is not a drug. It is drug treatment. Tough love.

As I indicated, speaking to Neill Franklin, there was a teleconference yesterday featuring a Senator from Mexico, and an MP from Canada. This was all put together by Mr. David Borden of DRCNet. This is David:

DAVID BORDEN: As part of this work, we have organized a sign-on statement to the UN as well as more recently a sign-on letter to President Obama regarding the UNGASS. The latter of which has garnered more than 250 organizational signatories, including many of the nation's leading organizations working in civil and human rights, HIV/AIDS, faith-based organizing, and many other types of groups. Our coalition has argued that while US agencies and diplomats are doing important work internationally, promoting agendas such as alternatives to incarceration, public health approaches, and some human rights reforms, in key respects, we see the current US position for UNGASS as taking a short term approach, which stops short of crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies while failing to address new realities.

We believe a stronger US stance on these issues would leave a legacy in global drug policy that is better aligned to the direction President Obama has helped steer domestic policy. I am grateful that we are joined today by Nathaniel Erskine-Smith of Canada and Laura Angelica Rojas Hernandez of Mexico, the two of whom argued the pro side in a debate on marijuana legalization at the UN Interparliamentary Union last February. First we'll hear from Mister Erskine-Smith. Erskine-Smith is a member of Canada's House of Commons, where he represents the Toronto, Ontario riding of Beaches-East York. Erskine-Smith was elected in October 2015, and serves as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal majority government, which campaigned on legalizing and regulating marijuana. Thank you for joining us.

ERSKINE-SMITH: The war on drugs is a failure. It causes more harm than it proposes to solve, and it's not a new message. This message was delivered to Kofi Annan in a famous letter in 1998, and it's now delivered by Kofi Annan himself. And the evidence supporting the claim is overwhelming. So we know prohibition prevents victims of drug use from seeking medical help. We know that prohibition imposes criminal records on users, negatively effecting their lives far more than drug use itself in some cases. We know that it's costly, displacing resources better spent on education, poverty reduction, and health. We know that it creates the conditions for organized crime to profit, so the underground market alone is the cause of far more deaths than drug use or abuse, whether that's through overdoses as a result of the underground market or gang violence.

Let me turn to Canada. Now, we are moving away from prohibition's failed policies. As David noted, we promised to legalize marijuana in the recent election. The former Toronto police chief, Bill Blair, has been tasked with coordinating that effort. And, now, in Canada, given our federation, a move away from incarceration, from prohibition, to a regulatory model, requires cooperation with the provinces. So, in the case of alcohol and tobacco, for example, provinces regulate the distribution, sale of those substances, and, much like those substances, it will be open to provinces to regulate the product as they determine to be best, once we as a federal government remove it from the criminal code.

So, the first step that Mr. Blair has moved forward with is establishing a task force of expert policy makers as well as provincial and territorial bodies to work with the federal government to put policies in place going forward as we move beyond prohibition.

The conventions need to be flexible. They need to acknowledge differences between kinds of drugs, that drugs should be regulated differently according to their different harms. And the conventions will need to be grounded in evidence, that a public health approach reducing harms is the path forward. Thanks very much.

DAVID BORDEN: Our next speaker is Senator Laura Angelica Rojas Hernandez, who has served in Mexico's Senate since 2009, and before that in Mexico's Chamber of Deputies from 2006. Thank you for joining us, Senator.

LAURA ANGELICA ROJAS HERNANDEZ: Well, first I want to give my comments on the UNGASS, and secondly I will speak on the national debate in Mexico on marijuana use for medical purposes. Well, first of all, UNGASS in 2016 represents a major first step before the international community gathers in 2019 to review the fulfillment of the objectives set out in the political declaration and action plan of 2009. Therefore, the fact that the drug -- the political document that will be adopted on April, and that was agreed on the 59th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, places the individual at the center of the drug policy and adopts the perspective of common and shared responsibilities, constitutes an important change.

Also, the draft document emphasizes the need of a new equilibrium between multiple approaches, such as public health, human rights, gender, and prevention. Notwithstanding these, there are also certain shortcomings that should be addressed, if not by the General Assembly, definitely at the 2019 review process. This includes: a lack of recognition of the relative efficacy of demand and other reduction policies, and the absence of an acknowledgement of the high cost that the prohibitionist and punitive approaches have generated. But most importantly, the draft document does not reflect the link existing between this agenda and the one on sustainable development adopted last September at the United Nations.

DEAN BECKER: You can hear more from this teleconference by tuning into the most recent Century Of Lies, produced by Doug McVay. It's on our website, DrugTruth.net. I want to thank David Borden, the good folks at DRCNet.org. Never enough time, we're going to have to wrap it up here, but I want to note the passing of Mister Merle Haggard. Not exactly a rock and roller, but I loved his music. Going to play a little bit of music to show that folks can change their ways.

MERLE HAGGARD: [music] We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
We don't take no trips on LSD
We don't burn no draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin' right, and bein' free.
I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all
We don't make a party out of lovin';
We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo;
We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy,
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.
And I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball.
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
And white lightnin's still the biggest thrill of all.

DEAN BECKER: Okie From Muskogee was indeed one of Merle's biggest hits, but he changed his ways over the decades. Here's a song he produced with Mr. Willie Nelson, and by the way, always remember, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

WILLIE NELSON: [music] Well, it's all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
The best I can tell
The world's gone to hell
And we're sure gonna miss it a lot

All of the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee
It just couldn't hit the spot
I gotta hundred dollar bill, friend
You can keep your pills
'Cause it's all going to pot.

MERLE HAGGARD: [music] That cackle-bobble-head-in-a-box
Must think I'm dumb as a rock
Readin' daily news
While I'm kickin' off my shoes
It's scarin' me outta my socks.

The Red Headed Stranger I'm not
But buddy, let me tell you what
If you ask ol' Will, he'll tell ya here's the deal
Friends, it's all goin' to pot.

WILLIE AND MERLE: [music] Well, it's all going to pot
Whether we like it or not
The best I can tell
The world's gone to hell
And we're all gonna miss it a lot.

All the whiskey in Lynchburg, Tennessee
Just couldn't hit the spot
I gotta hundred dollar bill
You can keep your pills, friend
It's all goin' to pot.