02/26/12 Peter Moskos

Century of Lies

Prof. Peter Moskos of LEAP on Canada's CTV + Prof. William Martin of James A. Baker III Institute & MJ Borden with Drug War Facts & Terry Nelson of LEAP

Audio file


Century of Lies / February 26, 2012


DEAN BECKER: The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more. Now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.


DEAN BECKER: Here in a little bit we’re going to hear from Terry Nelson with the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition report, Mary Jane Borden with Drug War Facts and we’re going to hear from Mr. Bill Martin with the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.

But first we’re going to hear from Professor Peter Moskos, a speaker for LEAP.


DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy of Canada’s CTV.

REPORTER: The War on Drugs is a costly failure. Well, that’s the blunt warning from a coalition of more than 2 dozen American law enforcement officers, judges and correctional experts. In fact they’ve actually written a letter condemning Canada’s Omnibus Crime Bill and the mandatory-minimum sentences that come with it – particularly for minor marijuana offences (6 plants).

Is Canada headed down a punitive, expensive path that will do very little to enhance public safety or not? Should marijuana laws be eased up instead of toughened? Let’s find out.

One of the people who signed that is in New York now, Peter Moskos. He’s a former Baltimore police officer. He’s now a spokesperson for LEAP – that’s Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He’s also an associate professor now.

Peter Moskos, thanks for being here. I want to show our viewers a section of the letter that your group sent to the committee in senate that’s currently studying the Omnibus Crime bill. And it says this:

“We are extremely concerned that Canada is implementing mandatory-minimum sentencing legislation for minor marijuana offenses similar to those that have been such costly failures in the U.S.

These policies have bankrupted state budgets and as limited tax dollars pay to imprison non-violent drug offenders at record rates instead of programs that could actually improve community safety.”

Tell me why you decided to write this letter to Canadian senators.

PETER MOSKOS: We know that the War on Drugs doesn’t work. We’re not going to create a drug-free country. We’re not going to get rid of marijuana. So the question is how are we going to approach the problem.

Locking people up in jail, especially for drug crimes, all it does is create more criminals. We’ve gone down that path in the United States. Usually I like to look to Canada for examples and for better policy and it’s really a shame that you’re looking to us when we can tell that this simply doesn’t work.

REPORTER: There’s a political aspect to this. A member of the NDP, Libby Davies, and a former Liberal senator, Larry Campbell, are also involved in this. Did they ask you to get involved? In other words, is this a partisan attack on the government or is this coming from your own free volitia?

PETER MOSKOS: It’s coming from my own free volitia and I saw a copy of this letter and I said, “Absolutely, I’d love to sign it.”

I, like many Americans, am a bit ignorant about Canadian politics. I have no idea about that.

REPORTER: So if you’re ignorant about Canadian politics then I wonder why would you send a letter to senators telling them, warning what to do. Because, you know, the government may say you don’t really understand our laws why are you meddling in them?

PETER MOSKOS: I might be ignorant about the specifics of Canadian politics but I’m not ignorant about the practicalities of drug policy and this is a bad policy – whoever sponsors it.

I assume the organization I’m part of, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, they do a bit more homework on this than I did. I hope they’re sending it to the right people. But, absolutely, the policy is wrong. I want the letter to go to everybody.

The question I’ll ask is has anyone who advocates this think they’re going to reduce the amount of marijuana being smoked in Canada? I seriously doubt it so then you have to ask why do we have this law?

The problem when you have this sort of punitive approach to drug policy is you can keep locking up drug criminals and you’re just going to create more of them. If someone is growing a dozen, two dozen plants – yeah, they’re selling it. Someone else is going to do that because there’s money to be made.

You have to have a better approach to what is, in this case, a drug that is just not that harmful. But putting someone in prison for a long period of time is harmful and it costs too much. So let the taxpayers foot the bill on this – you tax it instead.

REPORTER: Are you saying decriminalize or are you saying legalize and tax?

PETER MOSKOS: I am saying we have to end the drug war. There are different ways of doing that. Anything would be better than going down this wrong path of increased minimum sentences.

I think there are policies…you can look at countries that have done this more successfully. You can look at Portugal. You can look at the Netherlands. Step one is keeping people out of prison. Step two is figuring out the best way to regulate and control dangerous drugs. But to start cracking down on marijuana is just absurd. It’s political showmanship. But the harms that are going to come from this, as we know from 40 years of drug war in America, are incredibly harmful.

REPORTER: What about when the government says, and I’ve got someone from the government listening and I’ll ask her this question in a minute, they will say, as they’ve said before, organized crime is involved with dealing marijuana and we don’t want to give organized crime a free pass.

PETER MOSKOS: Absolutely, and that’s why you have to regulate and control this. It’s a little bit of a joke but I like to say drugs are too dangerous for criminals. The reason criminals are involved is because you’ve criminalized it.

It would be much better to have a policy as we have towards alcohol – a very dangerous drug for some. But we’ve accepted their harms and we don’t have Al Capone out there anymore shooting people over alcohol.

We have to get our hands around…this is prohibition. This is not just an attack on drugs. We’ve tried prohibition. We know it doesn’t work. We have got to do something better.

REPORTER: Alright, so that’s Peter Moskos from the group LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I appreciate your time today, sir. Thank you so much.

PETER MOSKOS: You’re very welcome.

REPORTER: Let’s get a government response to that. Why is the government forging ahead with its crime bill in the face of what Peter Moskos’s talked about. The evidence from the U.S. shows that this kind of tough pot policies just don’t work.

Joining me now is Carey Lynn Finley. She’s the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. Good to have you back on the program.

I want to get your response to this letter from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. In the letter they say mandatory-minimums don’t work. And if anything, they write, they actually cost governments more for incarceration and fighting appeals that rehabilitation and community health programs would cost. What do you make of a letter like this?

CAREY FINLEY: The fact is they’re comparing the U.S. Justice system to ours and there is a world of difference between the two. For instance, our mandatory-minimum penalties that we propose are already in our criminal code – over 40 of them, by the way. They are generally, in fact, I would say in almost all cases, much lower than those in the United States.

The other thing in that letter that they don’t talk about is in the federal penitentiary system in the United States they don’t even have parole mechanisms like we have in Canada. We have a very long-standing and fairly sophisticated parole system that they don’t have there.

Also my reading of that letter, and I did read it this morning, it talked about a lot of things that we already have here in Canada. It was talking about the treatment for very tiny possession infractions like one ounce possession. That’s not what these bills are about. These bills are about targeting organized crime and where there’s violence. The mandatory-minimums in the drug offenses only start when it’s over three kilograms.

REPORTER: What they’re saying is unless you decriminalize it’s going to cost the system more. By the way, last week four B.C. Attorney Generals called for the repeal of marijuana prohibition laws in that province.

But, look at this, I just want to make sure you’re clear on what you’re saying in your bill. It says here, for example,

“In recent years marijuana policies in the U.S. have become more progressive than in Canada. 16 U.S. states and the District of Colombia have passed laws on medical marijuana use and 14 states have taken steps towards decriminalization. “

For example, in California under Schwarzenegger when he was the governor, they’re law treated possession of less than 28.5 grams of cannabis like a traffic ticket punishable by a fine.

What would happen, under these laws, if someone had 28 grams of pot?

CAREY FINLEY: You know, again, I’m not an expert on the yield from plants but what I’m saying is you read through that letter a lot of what they’re talking about are initiatives in the United States, laws that have not actually been passed. They’re initiative obviously they support.

You mentioned the former A.G.s from B.C., which is my home province, coming forward and saying they think it should be decriminalized but, you know, that is a….I notice none of them took those initiatives when they were Attorneys General when they had the ability, perhaps, to do something about it.

You know these are difficult issues but we have no intention of decriminalizing marijuana.

REPORTER: What would happen if someone had an ounce of marijuana? If you’re saying that an ounce of marijuana would be no trouble because it doesn’t rise to the level of 6 plants – that’s interesting. Do you know exactly the line that your government is drawing?

CAREY FINLEY: There has to be aggravating factors involved. This has to do with sentencing not the prosecution. In sentencing if someone is proven to have been trafficking and involved in organized crime, if they’re proven to have used violence or threats of violence, if they’re proven to have targeted children then these mandatory-minimum penalties are going to be invoked. If it’s a non-violent drug offense and the person is addicted and willing to go through a government approved drug treatment program – they can avoid that. And we’ve had some good results on lessening recidivism rates on these drug courts in Canada of which there are 6 or another government approved program for treatment when the drug courts don’t exist.

REPORTER: I guess this is what I’m trying to get at. When you look at who signed this letter, the retired Deputy Chief of Police of the Los Angeles Police Department, the retired Chief of Police of Seattle…I mean there’s a lot of people here who have fought the war. They’re basically saying that the War on Drugs failed. Is this government not going to take any lessons from people like this?

CAREY FINLEY: We’re talking to our counterparts in the provinces who have asked for these more tougher sentences so that they can deal with drug crime in their streets so they have better tools to deal with the currency of organized crime which often is…well, it’s certainly drug trafficking and often marijuana drug trafficking. It’s a scourge in our communities with respect to meth labs and things like this.

We have imposed…we’re proposing this legislation, mandatory-minimums for importation of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. We’re putting some categories of the date rape drug in with those drugs.

REPORTER: They’re saying it’s just too darn expensive when you start throwing people in for six plants. That’s basically what they’re saying or whatever that translates into. They say bankrupted states. Does the government take any lessons from that when they worry about the cost when you’ve got Quebec and Ontario saying, “We don’t want to pay for that if it increases the number of people in our prison system.”

CAREY FINLEY: To have people, I’m sure well intentioned, from the United States trying to influence policy here in Canada in the criminal justice where our systems, our penalties, even the way we administer law is very different in Canada than in the United States.

Secondly, with respect to marijuana, generally, we do know that organized crime is heavily involved in it. We do know that it’s the currency of organized crime. Our justice committee has just finished off a study on organized crime and we have heard from witnesses from various sectors on those issues. So we do know that.

When you say take a lesson. We have listened to all the information that is available out there and we know that Canadians want safer streets.


MARY JANE BORDEN: Hello drug policy aficionados! I’m Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts.

The question for this week asks, How many people of color are under the control of the U.S. criminal justice system?

In its analysis of racial disparities in California, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice offered these stark contrasts, "Compared to Non-blacks, California’s African-American population are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, 12 times more likely to be imprisoned for a marijuana felony arrest, and 3 times more likely to be imprisoned per marijuana possession arrest. Overall, these disparities accumulate to 10 times’ greater odds of an African-American being imprisoned for marijuana than other racial/ethnic groups."

When minorities go to prison, they become caught up in a criminal justice web that includes, not only federal, state and local prisons, but also probation and parole. A new Drug War Facts table using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics attempts to provide accurate national estimates concerning their numbers.

From the table, of the 7.2 million individuals who found themselves in the criminal justice web in 2009, at least 3.6 million or about half belonged to a minority group. Blacks represented about one third, a percentage roughly three times their 12% portion of the U.S. population. The proportion of Hispanics/Latinos held steady over the past 20 years at about 16%. But, when it comes to prison, a consistent 60% of inmates - about 1.3 million - count themselves among those two minority groups.

As the Drug Policy Alliance lamented, "Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color - largely due to drug law violations - have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women.”

These Facts, numbers and others like them can be found in the Race & Prison Chapter of Drug War Facts at www.drugwarfacts.org.

If you have a question for which you need facts, please e-mail it to me at mjborden@drugwarfacts.org. I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show.

So remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy, you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.


DEAN BECKER: On the Cultural Baggage show we featured a segment from a recent drug reform conference up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where our next guest, Mr. Bill Martin – he’s a fellow with the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy there at Rice University – he spoke along with a few other Texans and Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance. But he’s also sponsoring another conference that’s forthcoming here in Houston, in March. We’ll let him tell us more about it - Professor Bill Martin.

Bill, you spoke at a conference last month up in Dallas/Fort Worth put together by Mothers Against Teen Violence, right?

BILL MARTIN: Right, I did.

DEAN BECKER: This is another opportunity for Texans to learn a little bit about the process of our criminal justice system, right?

BILL MARTIN: Well, it certainly is and there are many things to learn about but the criminal justice system, of course, is very prominent in this because it’s dealing with the people who are using drugs. In my mind and I think in yours as well – they’re often dealing with problems that are health issues and are dealing with them as criminal issues and that makes things worse rather than improving them.

DEAN BECKER: The conference early next month...Let’s first off tell the folks what date it will be.

BILL MARTIN: It starts on Thursday evening, March 8 at 7 o’clock. The Travel Writer, Rick Steves who also well known for his public television and public radio programs on travel happens (and this is a surprise to many people) but he also calls often for drug policy reform. He’s going to be speaking on the topic travel as a political act with a European take on America’s War on Drugs. He’s really going to talk about ways that his travels have shown him that there are better ways to deal with drug issues than we practice in America.

I think that’s going to be very good. For one thing, he’s such a widely respected and popular figure that I think it will cause people to recognize that, “Look, this is not a fringe issue. Some people we like and respect are seeing our problems are doing more harm than good. Let’s go listen to him.”

He’s going to be the keynote speaker on Thursday night and we expect that will continue to help draw attention to a program on Friday. Do you want me to tell you about that too?

DEAN BECKER: Well, sure. I was just going to say that’s Thursday, March 8 that Rick Steves will be speaking.

BILL MARTIN: That’s correct starting at 7 o’clock.

On Friday morning we start at 8:30 and after a few introductory remarks we get off to a rousing program all day long and really tightly packed. At 8:45 we’ve got Ethan Nadelmann, the Executive Director of Drug Policy Alliance, is going to be talking with John J. Coleman who’s a former high-ranking administrator for the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and currently the president of Drug War Watch International.

They’re going to be talking about has the War on Drugs really failed or did we just make that up and what are the alternatives including legalization or should we continue to practice prohibition.

After that it’s more of a local program. It’s law enforcement perspectives. We’ve got Judge Patricia Lykos, the District Attorney, Michael Durden who is the Executive Assistant to the Police Chief, Judge Michael McSpaden from the 209th criminal court and also Russ Jones from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. That ought to be a lively session since we know that DA and the police have been having some controversy over practices and Judge McSpaden has long complained about the overcrowding of the courts agenda for small amounts of controlled substances.

Next we have a section just on marijuana. There’s going to be Russ Belleville who is the Outreach Coordinator for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Kevin Sabet who is just fresh out of the Whitehouse Office of National Drug Control Policy. That ought to be certainly lively.

After lunch the topic is “Our current drug laws: the new Jim Crow.” Michelle Alexander would like to have come but she has a conflict that day. She has allowed us to show a video in which she’s giving a speech on “The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of color blindness.” I know you’ve talked with her but I don’t think it’s never too often to keep recommending that particular book which is stirring so much interest right now.

And then the Reverend Ed Sanders from Nashville, who is a terrific speaker and works on these issues and often appears with Michelle, is going to be here.

At 1:30 we have a session on Europe: policy alternatives in Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In there we’ve got Professor Alex Stevens from the University of Kent in the U.K. and Gary Hail taking about Mexico. He’s a non-resident fellow in drug policy at the Baker Institute. Bill Piper who is the Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The closing session starting at 3:15 is Senator Larry Campbell from the Canadian Parliament. He was the mayor of Vancouver and the coroner in British Columbia. Some listeners might recognize that he’s also the model for the Canadian T.V. shows Da Vinci’s Inquest and Da Vinci’s City Hall. He’s a terrific speaker.

There are things to keep people busy and excited all day long and certainly urge listeners if you’re within traveling distance to come to the program. You do need to go to bakerinstitute.org to sign up and rsvp for the event. This will be on the front page.

If you can’t make it it’ll be webcast live so, again, go to bakerinstitue.org and there will be a link right there on the front page for both of the events so that people can watch it at home or perhaps at work.

It’s a great event and we’d love to have a good crowd since we’re going to have a terrific lineup of speakers.

I should say it’s free. There’s no charge – no conference charge or anything like that.

DEAN BECKER: In that this features Rick Steves on the evening of the 8th and then all day long, gosh, it runs the gamut of experience and understanding of the drug war these gathering of speakers. It’s going to be an amazing event, I’m sure.

BILL MARTIN: I don’t think there’s any question about it being high quality. I’m really excited about it. I really hope that we get a good cross section. I know we have people coming from the treatment community, the prevention community, law enforcement as well as people who are already convinced of the need for severe reform.

Interestingly, Dean, Tuesday night we had Congressman Michael McCall, a conservative congressman from the area stretching from Houston to Dallas, he was taking about border violence. The first question that came up afterwards was, “Would this be happening if we legalized drugs?”

Instead of just swatting that back as you might expect (as some legislators do) he said, “That’s a very good question. That’s something we need to discuss.”

He went on to talk about possibilities, things that might have to be done in order to legalize drugs. He said, “I’m not sure how I feel about this be we ought to be having this discussion.”

That was very encouraging to me and I’ve been in touch with his office today about that very issue and commending him for saying that and urging further consideration and certainly offering to be in conversation with him and his staff.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’re speaking with Professor William Martin of the James A. Baker, III Institute there at Rice University.

Bill, one more time, please share the dates and the website information.

BILL MARTIN: On Thursday night at 7 o’clock on March 8t h, Rick Steves will be speaking. On Friday morning starting at 8:30 and running until about 4 we’ll just have a really cracker jack line up of terrific speakers. You can go to bakerinstitute.org to rsvp to that. If you don’t see it on the front page go to the drug policy program.

You can rsvp. There’s no charge but you do need to rsvp because we close the events when we don’t have room to put people anymore. Invite people out. I know that you’ll be talking to some of these people afterwards and you’ll have opportunity to interview some of the people for your own program.

I keep wanting to emphasize that those programs are archived on the Baker Institute website as well.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, thanks to the gracious support of the Baker Institute we’re reaching more folks and I’m hoping that this conference lures the right folks to help open up this dialogue.

BILL MARTIN: I hope so too.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

According to AP in OKLAHOMA CITY - Narcotics agents and prosecutors on the front line of Oklahoma's war against methamphetamine sought a seemingly simple fix: limit access to a key ingredient of the powerful stimulant by requiring a doctor's prescription to buy it.

Instead, the group, which usually has a lot of influence at the Statehouse, found itself outmanned by a politically connected and well-financed drug lobby that funded radio ads, lobbyists and a local public relations firm to resist the plan.

This is one of the medications that you already have to show your D/L and sign for when trying to buy it. For that reason I refuse to buy over the counter cold medicine that requires ID or a signature. So the mighty drug warriors and prosecutors, doing their moral duty, tried to get a law passed that would require you to get a doctor’s prescription to buy cold medicine. Now we all know that doctors don’t write prescriptions for free so you would have to pay for an office visit. So the inexpensive otc medicine would then be very expensive.

If the drug warrior’s desire was to drive the market underground they would have been successful and drug dealers would have ripped off shipments of the medicine and sold it to those needing it for a handsome profit. The very thing the prosecutors should be working against…enriching drug dealers, they are actually causing with their attempts to impose their version of morality on the rest of the citizens. Prohibition causes crime and they should know this by now…after four decades of failed drug policy.

Oklahoma has very tough drug laws and yet they have more drugs issues than states that are not so tough. In fact, Great Britain and America, that have the toughest drug laws also have the most drug abuses. Portugal’s decriminalization of all drugs has greatly reduced their drug problems.

Of course the drug lobby did not do this deed out of the goodness of their hearts they were trying to legally protect their profits. If these drugs were prohibited then the drug dealers would not use the same method to protect their profits and the citizens would suffer.

We all need to keep ourselves very informed about the current discussion in our country about adopting a more humane way to deal with our drug issues. It is simply wrong to arrest and incarcerate someone for making bad choices that do not harm others. It is wrong for the drug warriors to be so eager to arrest someone and ruin their lives with an arrest record thus diminishing their earning potential for the remainder of their lives. This causes a fiscal drain on our society and serves absolutely no purpose other than provide the prosecutor with statistics so that he can run for higher office or get a pay raise.

We will not arrest our way out of our drug problems but we can educate our way out of them. This is Terry Nelson of LEAP at www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com signing off. Stay safe.


DEAN BECKER: Have you noticed all the T.V. programs – American Weed, Extreme Drug Smuggling, Marijuana, Inc., Drugs Incorporated, Hash, Crack, Ketamine, Weed Wars, Marijuana Gold Rush, Prescription for a Nixon, Prohibition I, II and III? They tell both sides of the story for more than ten years the Drug Truth Network has been telling the unvarnished truth about this drug war. No need to tell both sides of a fiasco.

Again I remind you there’s no truth, justice, logic, no reason for this drug war to exist. Please visit our website, http://endprohibition.org. Prohibido istac evilesco!


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

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT, Houston.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org