04/03/19 T Dubbb O

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Drug Policy Alliance

St Louis Drug Policy Conference I - Ferguson rap artist T-Dubb-O, Chad Sabora of Monet, Rodney Holcombe DPA Atty + Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke visits Houston

Audio file


APRIL 3, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

This is Cultural Baggage, I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High, just returned from St. Louis. We're going to produce four new shows with the interviews I gathered with the nation's top drug reformers there in St. Louis, half on the Cultural Baggage show and half with Doug McVay on the Century of Lies program. Here we go.

T-DUBB-O: My name is T-Dubb-O, I'm from St. Louis, Missouri.

DEAN BECKER: What do you do here, man, what's your profession?

T-DUBB-O: Well, I'm a hiphop artist, that's what I get paid to do. But I also help run an organization that's called Hands Up United, which started around the death around Mike Brown, out of the ashes of Ferguson, we rose, and we do a lot of programs in the community to attack the issues that we face on a daily basis.

DEAN BECKER: And, we were talking in the elevator on the way here, that it's kind of representative, it's a good perspective on the drug war in America, how it unfolds and in particular how it unfolds so ugly sometimes.

T-DUBB-O: Definitely. Definitely. I think a lot of people separate the drug war from just the issues that people face in the inner city, period, not knowing how the drug war can directly effect a lot of those other types of oppressionistic issues that they're going through.

I personally think the drug war, just the psychology and politics behind it, is one of the reasons that black people get murdered by police officers for no reason when they're unarmed, because you have officers that automatically look at black people and assume that they're either carrying drugs or carrying a weapon.

And all of that stems from the drug war, whether it came from Nixon or Reagan, it started from that.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and I to, I use the phrase that drug users are considered to be unconditionally exterminable, lesser than, better off dead, and that applies I'm sad to say more towards the black community as well.

T-DUBB-O: Definitely, which, if you look at the statistics, it's not necessarily true, you know, some of those statistics are higher, but let's -- people always bring up Ferguson, let's talk about Ferguson.

If you look at the numbers, you would see that more white people were pulled over and found with paraphernalia, drugs, more often than black people were. However, black people were arrested more or cited with citations more than our white counterparts.

And it's the same thing with limbo laws, where you see a black person being charged and thrown the book at, when their white counterparts get a slap on the wrist for the exact same crime. It could be their first offense or second offense, typically white people walk off without a scratch when black people are just thrown into jail.

So, I mean, it -- you have to tie in the factors of racism and classism. People like to talk about classism, but classism and racism along with white supremacy and oppression fueled with the drug war creates the catalyst for everything that we've got to go through as a black community here in this country.

DEAN BECKER: And, part of the discussion that you and Chad were putting forward this morning, you were talking about he fact that there ain't a heroin problem anymore. It's a fentanyl problem.

T-DUBB-O: Yeah, it's fentanyl, definitely. A lot of the overdoses that you're seeing out here, not even people that just use heroin, even, I know people out in LA, they, cocaine is the thing out there, and a lot of them are falling asleep on cocaine. Like, how do you fall asleep on cocaine? It doesn't make any sense.

And they have no idea that it's fentanyl that you're getting. So, fentanyl is becoming a part of everything, whether it's MDMA, Molly, ecstasy, like, it's being put into everything, so, when you finally, like, now, we're finally, in the black community, being educated on things, around Narcan and how to save people from overdosing, and those kits are now about to be brought into the community.

But now, we're not dealing with a heroin issue, or an opiate issue, so to speak. It's fentanyl that people are injecting or snorting or ingesting, and nine times out of ten, sometimes, the Narcan, or these different things don't work when you're dealing with an overdose. So it's a whole 'nother beast that we're dealing with right now.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, that's the fact, that sometimes Narcan, one dose is not enough to counter the effect of the fentanyl, and sometimes two won't even do it.

T-DUBB-O: That's true. And, I mean, just in the last year, I know five people personally, five friends, that have overdosed. And it was because somebody gave them fentanyl when they thought they were getting heroin.

So since it's not a medical issue, as far as drugs in the black community, it's a criminal issue, when somebody overdoses, everybody wants to run, you know, because you may have warrants, the police are going to come there and arrest you.

You may have more drugs. They're going to arrest you. You may have a gun. They're going to arrest you. Or they may just arrest you and pin you with the murder. That's the issues that we face.

I've seen somebody overdose and they're on the ground about to die, and I've seen police handcuff them and search them while this person is overdosing, and this is the reality in the black community versus in white communities where it's a medical issue, it's addressed differently.

So when everybody has the answers at conference like this, because they say, well, we just need to get Narcan in the community, and you stay there and you administer it, and you save their life. No, it's going to be different.

You can do that, but in my community, if I stay there and try to administer some Narcan, the police are going to come and they're probably going to give me six warning shots in my back. I might not survive and this person may not survive either.

So it's just different animals that we're dealing with.

DEAN BECKER: Well, even if you survive that encounter without the six bullets in the back, there is a new mindset sweeping the country that those who supply drugs to other users now can be considered as murderers and convicted of a crime. Your thought there, please.

T-DUBB-O: Definitely. So, I can go to jail, and that's absolutely ridiculous. But, again, it comes down to, and a lot of people hate when I say this, but, black oppression is the most profitable idea this country has ever created.

So many people earn a living off of black oppression, whether you're doing work in the not for profit industry, there's people that are making two hundred thousand dollars a year off of doing nonprofit work using statistics of what takes place in the black community, and they've never seen the black community in their life.

Here in St. Louis alone, there's ninety different municipalities in St. Louis County. On average, about twenty percent of their physical budget comes from traffic tickets. Who are they primarily pulling over? Black people. Who are they arresting? Black people. So, this country, since the days of slavery, the most profitable thing this country ever created was black oppression.

So, when you've got -- you're killing two birds with one stone, you've got a drug user that nobody cares about, that you deem is useless, that's dying, and then you have a black person that you can arrest and make some money off of, that you can charge the murder with, who can't afford to provide themselves with an attorney or proper legal counsel or bond out of jail, and the judge is nine times out of ten going to be some racist asshole and they're going to throw the book at them. And they're not going to get a fair trial.

You're killing two birds with one stone.

DEAN BECKER: It is representative. I mean, again, we were talking about Ferguson being kind of the example for the nation.

T-DUBB-O: Definitely.

DEAN BECKER: That it's the focal point, if you will. And let's talk about what's happened since Michael Brown was killed there on the city street for being uppity, I guess is the word, maybe. It's that simple, in a way, that he just had an attitude that was not being respect --

T-DUBB-O: He was having a bad day. I mean, he walked home from the store, he's walking in the middle of the street, the cop has, again, some of the things that the drug war has influenced, racism, classism, so on and so forth, has influenced, he sees two little black boys in the street.

Instead of him having some type of respect or approaching them as a way an adult should approach a child, hey young man, you know, why are you in the street? It's dangerous, get on the sidewalk for me, please. He approaches them with disrespect immediately: get the f*** out of the street, what are you doing? All types of racial slurs.

At that point, this young man, you don't know what type of day he's had, or what he's going through. He's not having it. He says, man, oh f*** you. And that results in him being shot in the head.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. I tell you what, T-Dubb, we have in this country a moral crisis, if you will, that, and I like to look at it like the alcoholics have just taken over, and they consider drug users, as I started out saying, as to be unconditionally exterminable, unworthy of any respect whatsoever, and that is played out daily in our nation, has it not?

T-DUBB-O: Definitely. The nation, our government, they don't even respect the veterans that go and fight for them, that come away from war with undiagnosed mental issues, PTSD, so on and so forth, that need support. They don't even provide that type of support, so a lot of them turn to self-medication.

So if they won't even wink an eye of respect or support towards people that are over there carrying out their agenda, and putting their lives on the line for this country, and they're American citizens, you can't expect any type of support or respect from a government if they're dabbling in the use of drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Now, last week, I had a gentleman on my show, I can't think of his name at the moment, but he was talking about, they did an indepth study, they determined that 45 percent of the households in American have a relative who has been arrested for drugs, forty five percent. [sic: the guest was Christopher Wildeman, who found that 45 percent of Americans have had an immediate family member jailed or incarcerated for at least one night.]

You would think that would have enough impact to swing the cat, so to speak, but thus far, it's just being ignored. Your thought there, T-Dubb.

T-DUBB-O: Of course it's being ignored. This is a capitalistic government. A lot of people think we live in a democracy. This is not a democracy. It's a capitalistic government. If 45 percent of people have been arrested in a household for drugs, that's about half, that's about half percentage. Do you know how much money that is? Trillions of dollars.

Our government isn't smart enough or creative enough to find another way to offset that type of income.

DEAN BECKER: Well, there you have it. I mean, we, by that I mean the reformer group, the folks who have studied this, who have had their conscience bothered by this situation, who have determined to align themselves with others and to try to make a difference.

Again, we own the moral high ground. We don't want to support cartels and terrorists and gangs, we want to stop the madness, the overdose. It seems that government officials could embrace that idea and get reelected forever. Your thought there, T-Dubb.

T-DUBB-O: I agree, but again, they don't serve the people, they serve the dollar. A lot of people don't understand, I implore a lot of people to watch the movie Kill The Messenger. It goes into depth a lot about the Reagan administration and the Contra conflict, and the influx of how the CIA and the American government actually taught people how to rock up cocaine and create freebase, and helped distribute it through the communities of the inner cities, in return to help fund a conflict overseas.

And people think that it's a conspiracy theory, but it's actually true. Nobody just magically decided to up and create crack. Cocaine was a rich man's drug. How do you make more money off of it? You get the poor people to start using it.

Poor people can't afford it, so you had a scientist create a way to freebase it. Then you teach the people in the ghetto how to do the exact same thing. You put people in position, like Freeway Ricky Ross, who was also a known CIA associate, and you distribute the s*** through the 'hood, and you get people addicted to crack, and then you arrest all the black people who are selling it after you put it in the 'hood.

And you use the money from both aspects, not only are you getting money from the actual sale of the drugs, you're getting money from the people who are fighting the cases for being locked up for selling the drugs that you gave them to sell.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Classic example, Ricky Williams [sic: Ricky Ross], I got a chance to interview him a few years back, and we were talking about how at one time he had closets full, rooms full of cash money, sitting around, until the CIA and the government decided they were through with him, and then they sent him to prison and took away all his cash. It's amazing.

T-DUBB-O: Exactly. But, that's the type of government, I mean, that we have, unfortunately. America can be a beautiful place, but being completely honest, our government are pirates. That's all they are, that's all what all they always have been.

What was Christopher Columbus? He was a pirate. He came here, raped and pillaged the land, and stole, and they pretty much just took it over. And unfortunately to this day we're still living the exact same way.

DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, we've been speaking with Mister T-Dubb-O, here in St. Louis, talking about the situation in Ferguson, the situation around the United States. They're going to have a major conference coming this November here to St. Louis. It's October? I'm sorry, we're going to have a major conference coming this October here to St. Louis. [sic: DPA's upcoming conference in St. Louis will be Nov. 6-9, 2019]

Should be quite an event. What are you going to do in preparation for that event?

T-DUBB-O: I'm going to get some local people that I know that could be a huge benefit to this conference, and get them involved with the breakout that I'm planning. This is the second time that I've been involved in the DPA conference. I did a breakout with them out in, I think it was DC, a couple of years back, and we had a great reaction from it. This was during the peak of the Ferguson movement.

We had a great reaction from it. I'm excited to bring this conference here in St. Louis, because we didn't have any type of access to this type of information and this type of network as far as the drug war as well as support on things like overdosing or working with legal -- working with agencies, government agencies around legalization and things of that nature.

So having the DPA here is big for this city, because it's going to definitely mean a lot to our community as far as education and opportunity.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I think it will bring more respect, perhaps, to the work you do, to know that you have this national organization as a backbone, so to speak, or a support, for the work you do.

Is there a website you might want to share, folks can learn more about the work you're doing?

T-DUBB-O: Yeah, of course. You can always follow us on social media. My name is T-Dubb-O. The organization is Hands Up United. If you search Hands Up United it will come up, and you can also visit www.HandsUpUnited.org.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Depression, pain during sexual intercourse, reduced libido, suppressed fertility, progesterone deficiency, spontaneous abortion, metabolic disorders, fever, starvation, and chemical castration. Time's up! The answer: Depo Provera, another FDA approved product.

CHAD SABORA: I'm Chad Sabora, executive director of Mo Network. We're a harm reduction hybrid recovery community center that focuses on policy reform towards the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Chad, we're here in St. Louis. You were here speaking to the Drug Policy Alliance, talking about St. Louis and the obstacles and the successes. If you can, briefly give us a summation of the report you gave today.

CHAD SABORA: We've been very successful in St. Louis City with implementation of federal dollars in order to combat the deaths from opiate use, and we've done that through very progressive harm reduction policies: Low barrier access to syringes, naloxone, flooding our streets with naloxone, low barrier access to buprenorphine and methadone, and also Vivitrol, if people choose to take that route.

Recovery from the housing, that will allow people on medication assisted treatment to live there, understanding, you know, the nature of one's journey through recovery, so having a reoccurrence of use does not mean you've failed or are kicked out of housing or treatment.

We reengage individuals and treat them like human beings, and to offer continuing supportive services. So, our philosophy here, and what's worked, is the continuum of care starts while somebody's actively using, and that's when we start caring for them and treating them for whatever they're doing to themselves that could be harmful.

DEAN BECKER: You know, what you're doing is, I don't know, kind of unique. There are many different ways, different implementations, or harm reduction strategies going on around the country, various cities doing different things.

Do you consider what you're doing a success, and is it leading you to more success?

CHAD SABORA: Our little eight hundred square foot office puts about a hundred people a month into some form of treatment. We also are responsible for close to fifty percent of all overdose reversals in the state of Missouri, so I'd say without a doubt it's a success and we just have to build on it.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, that's what impressed me. You and your associates here have worked very hard to carve out territory, some respect, within the community, from the community leaders as well. Right?

CHAD SABORA: Yes. I had to just force myself to the table, I was not invited.

DEAN BECKER: If you could give some advice to other harm reductionists, other reformers around the country, what gains traction? How could they gain traction in their community?

CHAD SABORA: Collaboration and persistence, and, you know, for people that want to follow this model, myself, a few others from around the country, with the help of Harm Reduction Coalition, are working on coming out with a toolkit for this model of the intersection of harm reduction and recovery.

So, stay tuned.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Is there a website, closing thoughts you might want to recommend?

CHAD SABORA: MoNetwork.org, 844-RebelUp is our cell phone number. If you ever need anything, we're just, we're there, call us.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: My name is Rodney Holcombe, I'm a staff attorney at Drug Policy Alliance. I engage in legislative advocacy and policy advocacy to advance drug policy reform generally, but more specifically I engage in marijuana legalization and implementation work, particularly with respect to equity in the cannabis industry and repairing the harms wrought by prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: Well, we are a gathering of very brave people, I think, to, it's not so much a challenge these days to take on legalizing drugs, but it still requires a commitment to go counter to the beliefs of many people who are still embracing old, ancient ideas and hysteria, and to educate them. That's really the issue, is it not?

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: It totally agree with you there. Public education is central to the work that we're doing. We have to continuously get people to understand the facts about these substances, about drugs generally, and about marijuana specifically.

There are so many health benefits, but there are also places for concern, so I just think we need to have a more whole conversation, one where we can bring all folks to the table so that everyone gets a chance to speak their piece, but so that we can also create and regulate -- create regulations, rather, for this substance and for regulating this substance that are sound, that are based in science, and that are compassionate.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, you know, we have many folks here in St. Louis for this drug policy gathering that deal with so many aspects, so many looks and means of changing laws that have been so injurious to certain communities in particular, and to the whole civilization for a hundred years.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: I agree with you there. I mean, it's so fascinating to just see so many people doing this work. I'm doing a lot more just legislative advocacy, so I'm doing a lot of drafting and amending of legislation and testifying at hearings, but it's always so good to see that there are people actually out doing the work, actually handing out syringes, and actually helping to give people the information they need to save their lives, to provide life saving medicine and treatment.

That's so fascinating to me, and I think these sorts of convenings need to happen quite frankly more, and in more contexts, really just pulling in all other movements, because this movement is one that intersects with near everything else that we engage with.

DEAN BECKER: And then there are those that, whose work has more of a, has a different slant, that they do die-ins. They stand in the doorways of those officials who cling to those ancient beliefs, who touch the heart, truthfully, to help those changes begin to move in the right direction.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: And that is honestly the activity, the sort of noise and noise creation, rather, that helps to push the policies that we fight so hard to create, and I think that's so important.

What's so interesting about this work is that it requires such a multidisciplinary approach, so we need people at the die-ins, we need people writing policies, we need people in schools teaching youth, we need people in jails giving out treatment. We need so many different folks. And it's just so great to know that this community exists.

DEAN BECKER: I think it's indicative of the fact that the harms of prohibition, the harms of believing in prohibition, are being shown, are being exposed, and challenged.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: Yeah. The harms are definitely rearing their ugly head, and I think more and more people, as the overdose crisis ensues, are beginning to see this.

Quite frankly I wish they'd seen it decades sooner, when problems existed around heroin and around crack cocaine, but, you know, here we are, and I think this is just a tremendous opportunity to really write some of those wrongs, and to create safer spaces for people to exist who do use drugs, whether it be problematic use or recreational use.

We need to ensure that all folks have the education, they have the resources available to them, so that they survive and so that we can all live great lives.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I like to use the phrase that all the harms of drug war are caused and exacerbated by the policy of prohibition itself. It's such an evil conundrum, is it not?

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: Prohibition has been quite frankly one of the worst things to ever occur. What we know is that prohibition will never work. We know that drug use will happen, just like most other things, and we need to just create a safer environment where people can use these substances and not be criminalized and pushed off into the corner for their habit or for their use generally.

I mean, there are so many forms of use that I think we need to explore more and to have just more conversations around it, and for me, I think it's also a conversation around normalizing drug use generally, and that's important if we want to ever really end prohibition.

We have to tell people that, hey, you drinking your coffee, or person using another substance, that's totally fine, here's some ways to reduce the harms, and we can move forward.

But until we're able to really normalize that behavior, until we're able to stop criminalizing people for their use, and for their skin color, quite frankly, there's really no moving forward.

So I'm just really hoping that that is central to this conversation and that we continue to center people who have been most impacted, who've dealt with, you know, substance use disorder, who've dealt with criminalization. That's so important.

DEAN BECKER: The last, a year ago, basically, we were in Portugal, we were in Lisbon, we were going to their treatment hospitals, talking to their doctors, learning from their drug czar, Doctor João Goulão. We learned quite a bit. I think it gave us a little more courage, a little more motivation, to do our work back here in America.

But, you know, through the good graces of the DPA and their grants program, we have these dozens of people doing these great works all around America, and the good thing is, how far is that off, seven, eight months, in November, we're going to be back here in St. Louis for a major event. Tell us a bit about that, if you will.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: I mean, we're bringing together over a thousand folks from around the globe to really delve into some of the issues at the forefront of our movement. I mean, we have safe consumption on the horizon, decriminalization, so many things to really discuss and to delve into.

It's going to be, quite frankly, a powerful convening, one that folks need to attend if they ever want to see prohibition end, if they want to see this movement advance, and if they want to see more of the intersections that this movement has.

There will be panels on immigration, on criminal justice reform, on harm reduction, on just near every topic that you could imagine, and I think these are just opportunities for us to pull even more folks into this movement, to just show them, hey, prohibition is not working. People are literally dying. People are literally being caged. And we have to do something different.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Immigration, it's really come to the fore, in the last go around, we had the caravan, the invaders, coming, you know, the people fleeing the drug war violence, that, where these barbarous cartels take over villages and run rampant, raping and murdering with relative impunity. And no wonder the mothers want to bring them kids northward.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: Makes sense, right? And, I mean, this movement can't be a siloed one. We have to incorporate that. We need to ensure that folks are safe, and that they are escaping violence, and that we're able to come to a place where we're regulating substances in a way that protects both public health and public safety, and right now, that's just not the case.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Rodney, to this old reporter's eyes, this has been quite a gathering here in St. Louis, with all our grantees and the work they're doing. It inspires, each of inspires the other to work a little harder, I think. Your closing thoughts, please, Rodney.

RODNEY HOLCOMBE: Honestly, coming to these sorts of events makes me want to go back and work even harder, just to know that there are people on the opposite side of the country, even on other sides of the world, who are doing this work, who care, who care about people who use drugs, people who are affected by drug use, and that's inspiring.

So I'm so looking forward to coming back in November, and to just learning more and to connecting more, and to really ending this terrible, terrible war.

DEAN BECKER: All right. I want to remind you that next week we'll have more from St. Louis, and this week and next we'll have more from St. Louis with Mister Doug McVay and Century of Lies. We're going to close this out with a segment I captured when Beto O'Rourke came to Houston last weekend.

BETO O'ROURKE: Let's make sure that we look squarely in the face the largest prison population per capita on the planet today, one disproportionately comprised of African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and people of color.

So many there for nonviolent drug crimes, and though we know that Americans of all races use illegal drugs at the same rate, only some are more likely than others to be arrested, to do time, to be forced to check a box on every employment application form making it less likely that they're going to get that job.

There's a few things that we've got to do. One, end the prohibition on marijuana. No one should be doing time.

Two: for every one of our fellow Americans arrested for possession of a substance that is legal in more than half the states of the Union, expunge their records. Make sure that they can move ahead in their lives.

And then Houston, we're going to follow your lead. Let's end cash bail. Let's end for-profit prisons. And let us once and for all end the war on drugs.

All of this becomes possible when all of us show up, and Houston, Texas, you showed the way in 2018.

DEAN BECKER: Beto's right about one thing, we didn't elect one Republican this last election. Folks, once again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.