07/12/09 - Ryan Grim

Century of Lies

From Huffington Post, Ryan Grim, author This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America + CBS News report on Oaksterdam

Audio file

Century of Lies, July 12, 2009

(The Beatles ‘When I’m Sixty-four’ plays in the background.)

Thank you for joining us on this edition of Century of Lies. Today our guest, Ryan Grim, author of, “This is Your Country on Drugs”.

“When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine,
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

If I‘d been out till quarter to three,
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I‘m sixty-four?”

We’re also celebrating the addition of our 64th affiliate. CHLI in Rossland, British Columbia.

“You’ll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah ah…)


Alright. As indicated, our guest today is Mr. Ryan Grim, author of “This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America.” A bit later, we’re going to hear from CBS Sunday morning news, with a report they did on Oaksterdam, out in California. But first, let’s bring in our guest. Mr. Ryan Grim. Hello, Sir.

Mr. Ryan Grim: How you doing, Dean?

Dean Becker: I’m well. Good to have you with us. I just finished your book today and; normally when I go through these things in anticipation of the show, I put in a few of these stick’em tags, you know, and I’ve got about fifty of them in here.

Mr. Ryan Grim: {chuckling} That’s great.

Dean Becker: I just want to tell you, I’ve read probably ninety nine percent of the books dealing with drug reform and this is a little something new. This is something that’s a tool, honestly; a means to gather information and prepare to do battle in ending this drug war, and I thank you. A great book, Sir.

Mr. Ryan Grim: Well, thanks. I did want to do this one a little bit differently. As you’re well aware, having read pretty much all of them, most drug books begin sometime in the ’50’s, they run up till today, they talk about how crazy the ’60’s and ’70’s were. They might have an interview with Timothy Leary, another interview with Jerry Garcia and, you get the idea that America’s history with drugs just involves a few, like crazy, people getting high every now and then or getting high all the time, but it’s just these folks.

I wanted to take more of like a thirty thousand foot view of it and say, ‘Well yeah, Jerry Garcia did get high a lot and Timothy Leary was somebody that tripped all the time but, everybody out there, has some desire for inebriation. Everybody out there, ought to be studied and we ought to take it way back before the 1950’s, because this isn’t something that just started recently.

Dean Becker: Exactly. There was even an extract in here from Thomas DeQuincey, author of “Confessions of an English Opium Eater.” Here, you’re talking about what our topic was last week: the distinction between alcohol and say opium, or the “narcotics”. It’s not one in the same, but many people, when they observe this, they tend to think it is. Right?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right, and also what you call something, ends up coloring people perception of it. There’s a… I don’t know if it’s DeQuincey or if it’s some other legislator, but there’s a quote in the book from a guy who’s lamenting that alcohol is no longer socially acceptable, this was back I believe in the seventeenth century or something, and he says, ‘Man, I wish we could go ahead and ban alcohol and go back to drinking gin and whiskey. That was just fine.’

Dean Becker: {chuckling} Yeah, in the early days, the turn of the nineteenth to twentieth century, there was all this ‘hoopla’ involvement with the Chinese Opium, and the folks that Hamilton Wright got involved there, and others in kind of formulating the new prohibition, right; the transfer from alcohol to drugs?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right, and the Temperance Movement really rose up in force, in the 1830’s, when there was this huge religious wave that swept across the country and as a result of that, drinking plummeted throughout the 1930’s. What I noticed, reading some historical accounts of drug use in the nineteenth century, is that that is the exact same time that opium use started rising. So it wasn’t as if people were getting messed up less, it was just that alcohol had become stigmatized.

People still wanted to get off on something, and so they switched over to opium and you have this huge opium rise. It wasn’t the Chinese had brought it in, because the census show, at the time, that there were only like a thousand Chinese living in the United States by the 1830’s. They didn’t come in till later when they were building the Trans Continental Railroad, but it was the Chinese who became the scapegoats for it.

In San Francisco, for example, the first drug prohibition ever passed was aimed directly at the Chinese, in San Francisco. It was only illegal to do Opium in San Francisco, if you were Chinese. That was written right into the law. Now we’re much more sophisticated in the way that we differentiate between classes and races, but then it was specifically written in there. If you were white in San Francisco, it was still legal to do opium.

Dean Becker: Yeah, too much of the racial ‘framing’ still goes on. It does, particular in regards to crack cocaine. You also noted in here, in the Prohibition Incorporated that ’Big Pharma needed the help of the state, to push the multitude of ‘patent’ firms out of business‘; the ‘Snake Oil’ salesman…

Mr. Ryan Grim: Um-hmm.

Dean Becker: …out of business and there’s still… I would say, I would much prefer Coca leaves at the Kroger store, than cocaine on the street corner…

Mr. Ryan Grim: Sure.

Dean Becker: …and yet, those safer alternatives, like opium itself, rather than morphine or heroin, have been put into the same category. Your thoughts.

Mr. Ryan Grim: Yeah. The patent medicine companies, a lot of them were snake oil salesman. A lot of them were outright frauds who were just ripping people off. But a lot of the other ones were using things that we now know are beneficial in a medical way. Either laudanum, opium, cannabis or other types of herbs that are medically beneficial.

So the best thing wouldn’t have been for the patent medicine industry be crushed by Big Pharma. The best thing would have been to have a good progressive movement that required honest labeling on the packages, and a declaration of what the ingredients are, and a study of what those ingredients do.

You’re right. We’d be in a much better place than having to choose between the different extremes; what ever ‘Big Pharma’ produces, or whatever we can buy on the street corner instead of, like you said, a little coca tea if you have some nausea you’re trying to deal with.

Dean Becker: Now this same guy Hamilton Wright, there’s another quote in here from your book, ‘Wright succeeded in getting participants to pledge to pass laws regulating opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine. Thus obligating the US Congress to enact his own legislation,’ and we’re still tied up in that with the UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics, right? It’s a…

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right. It was quite a skilled legislative maneuver. He couldn’t get Congress to… Congress doesn’t like to do anything really, even if it’s banning drugs. It takes Congress a long time to do things. That’s just how it acts. So he had failed to get his laws pushed through Congress. What he did instead is, he convened this Opium Convention, and it was a way for the United States to, kind of, reach out to the Chinese, that’s how they pitched it. The Chinese were the only other country in the world that wanted these strict opium controls.

So he went to this conference and the State Department ends up signing this treaty, which then obligates the United States to pass the laws that it didn’t want to pass earlier. Exactly, we’re tied up in it now. If any states, and when I say states I mean foreign counties, start talking about liberalizing their drug policy, the UN cracks down and says, ’You signed this treaty. You can’t liberalize your drug laws.’ It’s a problem Portugal faced. Now the Netherland faces it; and it is something that still ties the Global Drug War together and it was driven principally by, that guy, Hamilton Wright.

Dean Becker: Yeah. Some do-gooder’s long since dead and still a big problem for us, now alive. Now, there was also a thought in your book, ‘They invested more in policing efforts of Federal drug arrests junk from fewer than three thousand twenty-one to more than seven thousand twenty five, and the Fed’s claim success. They did several Nation wide surveys purporting to show a significant drop in narcotic use.’ But then, as now, these stats are really subject to interpretation, are they not?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Yeah, a great academic, (I don’t have his book in front of me so I can’t remember his name right now, but I could send it to you, put on the website maybe) …academic drug researcher did a freedom of information request to actually find the reports from the 1920’s era drug warriors, who I guess that was the treasury at the time. He looked through them and he discovered that they were completely made up; that they have been fabricating their ‘drug war stats’ at least going back to the ’20’s, so the current drug Czar’s who have been accused of that, have company in their predecessor’s.

Dean Becker: Speaking of drug Czar’s. I had a chance to almost meet John Walters, he was here a couple of years back. I walked up to him after he gave a speech and he looked at me like I was crazy. I was handing him my business cared, inviting him to come on the radio show and he did not say a word, he just stood up and left the building. But you had an instance where you ran into him as well. You tried to get some information on the number of arrestee’s the government was sending to treatment, for marijuana use, but that didn’t turn out too well either. Right?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right. The way for me to get him was go to Press Conferences, where he answers questions from everybody who’s in the audience; and so I went there and I write about this in the book. He had trotted out a couple of former addicts, to show that it is possible to beat drug addiction and that the US is winning the war on drugs. It is possible to beat addiction and these people did have nice stories to tell. But what I asked them is, “Do you think you would have been better off if you would have been sent to prison?”, and apparently Walters had not prepped them for what their answer’s were suppose to be to this question.

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Ryan Grim: So they came up to the microphone and said, “No. Absolutely not.” “Locking people up is not the way to deal with addiction.” Which is of course what any sensible person, who’s been through that trauma would say, and so John Walters then retakes the microphone and tries to regain control of his press conference and says, ‘We have been diverting however many thousands or many tens of (whatever he said) thousands of people, to treatment instead of prison. Rest assure we agree, we’re taking that exact same approach’ and I said, “Well, can I see some numbers on this?” and he said, ‘We’ll get you those numbers.’

Afterwards, all his office sent me was the number of marijuana convictions, who had forcibly been sent to treatment. I said, ‘I don’t think this is what they were talking about. These were not marijuana addicts that were up on the stage there. These were meth addicts, heroin addicts. What percent of real addicts; meth addicts / heroin addicts, are you guys diverting from prison to treatment?”, and they never got me the numbers. Then the numbers are paltry, as I’m sure you know.

Dean Becker: Yes, sadly there are so many instances of people. I get mother’s contacting me, their son has been assigned a treatment bed and yet, there is no treatment bed so they just sit in County waiting months upon months for that bed.

Folks, we’re speaking with Mr. Ryan Grim. He’s author of “This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America”. Ryan, we’re going to take about a ninety second break. Get you a cup of coffee and we’ll be right back to talk to Mr. Ryan Grim.

Mr. Ryan Grim: Alright.

This is Gustavo de Greiff. Former General Attorney of Colombia, talking about the drug problem to the Drug Truth Network.

Criminals get so embolden
Rip you off thinkin’ you’re holdin’
Can’t tell the policemen what you know
Got no recourse to the law.

Bad guys duct tape and beat ya
They’re just lookin’ for that easy score
They will rob, rape and kill ya
‘cause we got no recourse to the law.

Place twelve monkeys in a room. Place a ladder in the middle of the room. Hang a bunch of bananas from the ceiling over the ladder. Leave the room and watch through a two-way mirror. When the first monkey starts climbing the ladder seeking bananas, whack the monkey with a broomstick, whack additional monkeys as necessary to prevent them from reaching the bananas.

Continue this effort until the monkeys begin stopping one another from climbing the ladder. Remove one of the original twelve monkeys and replace with a monkey who has never been whacked with a broom. Watch as the original monkeys keep the newbie from climbing the ladder.

Replace the original monkeys one by one. Watch as a roomful of un-whacked monkeys keep one another from the ladder and the bananas even though none of them know the original reason to refrain.
Observe the perfect example of the mechanisms of drug war in action. ~whack~

Dean Becker: Ah, yes. The drug war monkey‘s. That’s what this drug war seems to me. Just a circus act…

Mr. Ryan Grim: Yep.

Dean Becker: …I’ve heard other’s call it a ‘rain dance’. There’s just no real cohesiveness to it.

I want to jump forward to your chapter, New Coke. ‘The DEA released it’s prized data for 2007, to make it’s case. You asked the agency for the numbers, for the years 2005 and 2006 so you could do a comparison, but the agency declined to provide them; and that happens all so often. These guy’s put forward information that really has no basis; no merit, right?

Mr. Ryan Grim: …and what’s even more fascinating about that story. After my book went to print in the end of 2008, before the election of Barrack Obama. His new acting drug Czar just, very quietly, put all the information that I’d been asking for (and been refused), he just put it up on the website, where a guy I know at the Washington Office of Latin American affairs, the WOLA, found it and wrote a report about it. They didn’t send out a press release. They said, ‘Well, let’s just start getting this stuff up.’

So that’s encouraging that they might be a little bit more transparent. What was discouraging is that, when you looked at the numbers, they were actually the opposite of what the drug Czar had been claiming in 2007. Because these were numbers that had been looked at, but the Rand Corporation took the drug czar’s raw data and did a comprehensive analysis of it, to come up with purity and pricing data.

Those numbers completely disagreed, with what the drug czar was out telling USA Today and the Washington Times and everyone else that he was trying to sell this story that, ‘Cocaine prices were going through the roof.’ So you really don’t know what to believe that’s coming out of that office.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Even at NIDA, Dr. Ricaurte, I believe is his name, he’s the guy who did the experiments on the monkey’s, shot them in the brain with what he thought was MDMA (ecstasy), but after the study was done, after the findings were presented to Congress, after they passed the RAVE Act, they found out that, ‘No, it wasn’t MDMA‘, it was actually liquid methamphetamine, that they had actually been injecting into these monkey’s brains. Little wonder the findings they came up with, right?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right. The relationship between the government and truth, when it comes to drugs, has not been a very kind one, over the course of the last several hundred years, that’s for sure. I even found examples when the Temperance Movement, in the nineteenth century, was railing against alcohol. There were these DARE style ‘anti-beer’ training programs that were going around to elementary schools, just like we have, more than a hundred years later.

They were telling kids that beer would sear your throat, it would lead to an early death, it’d turn your face green, all kinds of the exact same bizarre kinds of things that they were saying about marijuana and other drugs, a hundred years later. So the scare tactic’s have been around since as long as the movement against insobriety has been.

Dean Becker: You bet. You bet. Friends, we’re speaking with Ryan Grim, author of “This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America.” Ryan also works for the Huffington Post, and the Huffington Post has been bringing a lot of focus to bare on your Chapter 7: Dealing with Border Violence. I want to do a quick read:

“We were prohibited from discussing the effects of NAFTA as it related to narcotic’s trafficking,” said Phil Jordon who had been one of the DEA leading authorities. "For the godfathers of the drug trade in Colombia and Mexico, this was a deal made in narco heaven," …and it has been, has it not?

Mr. Ryan Grim: It certainly has been. The early ’90’s were a perfect time to be at the top ranks of the Mexican drug trade, ’cause we had just smashed the Caribbean trade routes which pushed all the cocaine trafficking over towards Mexico. We had decapitated a lot of the Columbian cartel’s, which then increased the strength of the Mexican’s in relation to the Columbian’s, and we’d been going after the American meth industry, which it pushed it also down into Mexico.

So in the early ’90’s the Mexican’s were really on the rise, so when they saw NAFTA coming around, it was a deal made in narco heaven, as the DEA knew at the time and Clinton specifically instructed all of his drug warriors to, ‘Take a break from the drug war for the next few months, while I lobby Congress to push NAFTA through.’ Because he knew he was only going to get it through with one or two votes and if people were talking about what it’s impact was going to be on the drug trade, obviously to increase it, then he might lose just the few votes that he needed to get it through.

So it wasn’t until the late ’90’s that people finally started talking out about that, which was several years too late. Not that they would have not done NAFTA, but it may genuinely have imperiled it. Now it just shows how drug policy always takes a backseat in substance. It’s great political theatre and it’s something that politicians love to trot out, but when it’s incontinent to them, they just ignore it.

Dean Becker: Also from the chapter, Border Justice, ‘In 2007, Phoenix, Arizona’s special task force to address the flood of violence coming across the border from cartel related murders, home invasions and kidnappings’ and; a quote here from Lieutenant Lori Burgett, “It wasn’t uncommon to have a new kid-napping case come into our offices on a daily basis.” Folks talk about ‘This is going to sneak across the border.’ It’s been here, for years. Right?

Mr. Ryan Grim: Right. Like I said, I originally filed this thing in September 2008 and for people that were paying attention to it, especially people like yourself who are down in Houston. For people that have been watching it; we’ve seen this Mexican war coming and we saw it spilling across the border. It’s only been in recent months that CBS and the mainstream media starts to pick up on it. But once they, the mainstream media’s reporting on violence in a place as distant in Americas’ mind as Mexico, you know that it must be extremely severe. The blood must be running pretty thick down there.

Dean Becker: …and that’s really the case that, over the years, they’ve used the violence, the death, the disease, the destruction, as justification to do more of the same. Your thoughts on that.

Mr. Ryan Grim: Yes. Actually Students for Sensible Drug Policy is just now starting a campaign to try to target reporters and persuade them to stop using the phrase, ’drug related violence’ and use something closer to ’a prohibition related violence’. Making the prohibition case that, when alcohol was banned, it wouldn’t have made sense to say that it was, ‘alcohol related violence’.

Alcohol and drugs are not violent things, they’re just static objects that sat around. People use them. It’s people who are fighting each other, over these substance, which are violent. So they want to call it something along the lines of prohibition related violence, which I think is much more accurate. Like I said, drugs are not violent.

Dean Becker: I’m having so much fun and this is so interesting, we’re just about out of time for this segment. Ryan, I want to thank you so much, for coming on Century of Lies. I want to bring you back. I only got about halfway through this book and it’s…

Mr. Ryan Grim: Anytime. I’m always happy to come on.

Dean Becker: I do appreciate it, and once again, it’s Mr. Ryan Grim, author of: “This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America.” Ryan, thank you so much.

Mr. Ryan Grim: Thanks for having me.

Dean Becker: Alright.

(CBS News Report)

Part of the Oaksterdam neighborhood is a nursery growing a cash crop: Medical Marijuana is now estimated to be a $2 to 3 billion business in California.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of people making a lot of money,” lee said.

There are now several hundred medical marijuana dispensaries in California . . . and much more marijuana being sold on the street.

"We estimate, overall, [the] California cannabis industry is in the neighborhood of around $15 billion," lee said.

While there is disagreement over the real size of the marijuana market it's big enough to have captured the attention of lawmakers trying to fill a huge hole in the state budget.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is pushing legislation to legalize pot so the state can inhale new taxes.

"I thought it was high time, no pun intended, for this to be on the table," Ammiano said. "I'm trying to beat everybody to the punch with the jokes, because I get a lot of 'em," he laughed.

There are many who ridicule the idea, but the state tax board estimates Ammiano's proposed tax of $50 an ounce could bring in $1.5 to 2 billion a year.

"We find that highly unlikely," said Rosalie Pacula, of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. She says California is likely to be disappointed by the revenue raised on marijuana that now sells for about $150 an ounce.

"If you try to impose a tax that is that high, you have absolutely no incentive for the black market to disappear," she said. "There is complete profit motive for them to actually stay."

The tax proposal, though, has started an unusual political discussion. According to one poll, 56 percent of California voters say marijuana should be legalized and taxed. Even California's Republican governor has not snuffed out talk of legalization.

"No, I think it's not time for that, but I think it's time for debate," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "All of those ideas for creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it."

Of course, Governor Schwarzenegger, from his earlier life, does have some experience . . .

. . . as does the president himself.

"I inhaled, frequently," Mr. Obama admitted on the campaign trail, in a nod to President Bill Clinton's earlier quasi-admission. "That was the point."

And while the president says he is opposed to legalizing pot ("No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy"), his administration has ordered the DEA to stop raiding state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries.

It's a big change from decades of viewing the plant as the indisputable evil portrayed in the 1936 film "Reefer Madness."

But that old image has been going up in smoke for decades.

It was along for the trip in 1969 in the movie "Easy Rider," and on the cover of Life Magazine. On TV today it's just a part of suburban life in the series "Weeds."

And then there's the growing recognition of marijuana as medicine.

"Marijuana has been a medicine for 5,000 years," said Dr. Donald Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital. "It's only for the last 70 years that it hasn't been a medicine in this country."

Dr. Abrams has been studying marijuana for twelve years and is convinced it is both effective and safe.

"I think marijuana is a very good medicine," he said. "I'm a cancer doctor. I take care every day of patients who have loss of appetite, nausea, pain, difficulty sleeping and depression. I have one medicine that can treat all of those symptoms, instead of five different medicines to which they may become addicted.

"And that one is marijuana, and they're not gonna become addicted to it?" Blackstone said.

"That's correct," said Dr. Abrams.

But those who have been fighting the war on drugs say that, just because marijuana may be medicine, that doesn't mean it should be legal.

"There's just no doubt about it that the drug cartels and the drug organizations are very much involved in the production and sale of marijuana, said Roy Wasden, police chief in Modesto, Calif., where a lot of marijuana is grown.

"You can be out walking through the national forest, and if you hike into one of these marijuana grows, you'll be at great risk," he said.


Alright, once again that was from CBS News, Sunday morning. The Grower they were talking to there was our good friend, Richard Lee. The President of Oaksterdam University.

I want to thank Ryan Grim, once again. Author of : “This is Your Country on Drugs - The Secret History of Getting High in America.” Whether you’re a novice or an old timer, that’s a book that can help you make the case for ending the drug war.

Be sure to tune into this week’s 420’s. We’ll have more of that report from CBS News. We’ll have some from the Today show.

…and again I remind you, ’There is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data; no reason for this drug war to exist.’ Please do your part. Visit our website. endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

To the program director’s out there tuning in: It cost’s nothing to join the Drug Truth Network.

“Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say.
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form.
Mine forever more.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?


All you have to do is send an email to dean@drugtruth.net

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org