03/28/10 - Sanho Tree

Century of Lies

Neill Franklin, working Maryland cop & the new director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + Mason Tvert of Safer Choice, Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies in Wash DC

Audio file

Century of Lies March 28, 2010

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.

Ah, yes. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. It’s a great day here in Houston. It’s a great day in so many ways. We just had an in-depth interview with the Sheriff of Harris County, Mr. Adrian Garcia and we’re starting to examine this policy. We’re starting to look at it in a new light and I want to thank him, all the good officials of Harris County, for doing this. For starting a new process, new ways of dealing with the idea of drug use, here in our town.

We have with us the newly elected, I don’t know if he’s officially appointed just yet, but the man who will soon be heading up the group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He’s also a working law enforcement official, up in Maryland and with that, let’s go ahead and bring in Mr. Neill Franklin.

Dean Becker: I’ve indicated earlier, you’ve been elected the new Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. When will you ‘take office‘?

Mr. Neill Franklin: July 1st, is when I take over.

Dean Becker: You know, I kind of hate to see Jack go. But if anybody’s going to replace him, you’re the guy and I’m glad to hear it’s you.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Well, Jack’s moving on to be the Chair for our board so he’s going to be right there in my hip pocket. I tell you, I’ve learned so much Jack. It was Jack that first attracted me to this, about a year and a half ago.

Dean Becker: Right and since that point in time, you have been busy. Not just doing speaking engagements for LEAP, but being called upon by broadcasters and print media and gosh, all kinds of folks. Right?

Mr. Neill Franklin: It’s been quite busy. It’s been a real hoot.

Dean Becker: As I was telling Adrian Garcia, our guest on the Cultural Baggage show - the Sheriff of Harris County, most of our speakers are retired. You know… DEA, CIA, FBI, justice department, all kinds of credentials…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Right.

Dean Becker: …but you are one of the handful of… Well, I don’t know if handful. A few, working cops we have actually speaking for LEAP.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Right. I guess I’ll be that for just a little while longer and then I’ll be fulltime LEAP.

Dean Becker: Is that right? You’re retiring from law enforcement?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah, this is it. I just think this is way too important an issue and I have decided to devote one hundred percent of my time, to this.

Dean Becker: That’s wonderful and again… Jack’s experience, he had thirteen years undercover. You had your years undercover. The fact, as we mentioned earlier, that you were in Baltimore during the time. Like I guess the wire is not really over, so to speak.

Mr. Neill Franklin: No, no.

Dean Becker: Not by any stretch, right?

Mr. Neill Franklin: No it’s not. Not in Baltimore and not in most or our metropolitan cities, here.

Dean Becker: Right. Now, we try to educate; embolden the average ’Joe’ out there. The fact that we’re speaking as retired or current law enforcement, lends a little stature and credence…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Right.

Dean Becker: …to what we have to say. But even the fact that the politicians in Harris County, for God’s sake, are starting to realize this problem. Perhaps some of our work has paid off. Certainly the failure is becoming more obvious. The financial fiasco is bringing focus to bare.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah.

Dean Becker: Your thoughts on what’s, I think, sweeping the Nation?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Well, from what I can see… I remember, just this real quick, this is a little over a decade ago - probably more like closer to fifteen years ago when the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, brought up the topic of having a discussion about this ‘war on drugs’. Which he saw, definitely was not moving in the right direction. He was it from both a violence and incarceration perspective, because he was the prosecutor for Baltimore at one time, and as mayor he began to see it as a health issue as well, with AIDS and HIV on the rise.

During that time, people thought he was literally ’nuts’ to mention that. Especially as a politician. But now you move fifteen years beyond that and… I spent a lot of time down in Annapolis, which is our state capitol, over the past few weeks dealing with Medical Marijuana legislation and a little bit of a conversation in D.C. as well, and our politicians are really starting to move in the direction that…

We’re trying to show them some things and most will, behind closed doors, you can have a really decent conversation with them about this and they ‘get it’. But for some, they still see it as that, what we would consider, that ’third rail’ they don’t want to touch. But many are actually just stepping out in the open and starting to move things in the direction. Or at least have the conversation.

So just in those ten to fifteen years, we’ve seen a big shift, politically. Is it where it needs to be? No. But I think if we continue to educate… I was at a Summit in D.C. for three days this past week, and there were many politicians there. There were quite a few attorneys there, prosecutors there and they all saw the issue.

Were they ready to move towards legalization? (That’s what we’re behind here. - L.E.A.P.) Maybe not. But they realize one thing, that Summit was about the conversation. About the conversation, they have a really good conversation and they’re ready to move away, completely away, from the War on Drugs. They’ve taken that step.

Dean Becker: Well, that’s amazing and wonderful. That’s a dang good thing. You know, I watch the machinations, what’s going on in California, Colorado, even Michigan where, for that matter Montana, where they are now having the Cannabis dispensaries and wrangling with the government officials on how to go about it. How to regulate, how to control, how to tax, etc. and the sky is not falling…

Mr. Neill Franklin: No it’s not.

Dean Becker: The major media’s starting to report on it, without too many chuckles and jokes, and… Go ahead, sir.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah and I tell you, of these fourteen states that are already busy with this, they’ve done some surveys of local law enforcement in these states to see, ‘What are the issues that you are seeing? What are the problems you are seeing?’ As you said though Dean, ‘the sky is falling’ and the reports have been quite favorable. That they’re not seeing the robberies of dispensaries and all the things that people where fearing and believe it or not, they’re fearing here in the state of Maryland.

But we had to bring to their attention, the reports that have come in from these other states that have actively; already have their Medical Marijuana Laws and processes in place and like you said, ‘The sky did not fall.’

Dean Becker: Right. They even show that the rate of adolescent use does not increase. In fact, some reports indicate it has actually decreased in California, following the passage of their Marijuana Law.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Absolutely. Good News.

Dean Becker: Yeah. We’re speaking with Neill Franklin, currently a working cop up in Maryland. Wasn’t it Maryland that came up with a new law that says, under once ounce is just a hundred dollar fine? Was that Maryland?

Mr. Neill Franklin: That was in 2003 when they came up with that. So that Medical Marijuana Law, which is still in effect - our old law 2003 and now, was only really dealing with the punishment side. It did nothing to prevent the arrest of a patient.

Dean Becker: Affirmative defense. Is that what that’s called?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah. Come on, now. So here you have a patient who has the documentation from a doctor and you’re going to put them in jail? In Baltimore, if you go to jail… In the detention center you’re guaranteed at least a two day stay, before you even get to see the Commissioner. Before you can even pay your one hundred dollar fine, max.

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Why even go there in the first place? I mean, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. So that old law, those policies they definitely realize are quite flawed and they need to make the change. So hopefully this new legislation will go through.

Dean Becker: There are, you mention, fourteen states now have Medical Marijuana Laws and I think if you include the District of Columbia, we’re up to fifteen…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Fifteen.

Dean Becker: …and at some point, early this 2010, there were fourteen other states that their legislatures were considering or moving on. The House would pass it. The Senate would pass it.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah.

Dean Becker: It is becoming, as I said, kind of sweeping the Nation. This need for change. This need to save money and lives actually, in many cases. Right?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah, absolutely I think. Because you mentioned what? Virginia? I know there’s some activity there. Of course Maryland, Pennsylvania, many state here on the East Coast and I think within the next five years that, if you’re not one of those states that has a Medical Marijuana Policy in place, you’re definitely going to be a minority.

Dean Becker: It was El Paso, Texas and how truly ironic actually, that I understand, was the first place - 1914, to make marijuana illegal and it was mostly their way of ’building a wall’. Because they were trying to get the Mexicans back on the other side of the border…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah.

Dean Becker: …and that was one way to control the Mexican population and it has evolved from that to…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Hey, go back to the late eighteen hundreds - early nineteen hundreds, when we were dealing with the Opium and the Chinese after the railroad was built.

Dean Becker: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. Neill Franklin: What better way to control the population.

Dean Becker: …and the Blacks in New Orleans, who might be using a little cocaine and they said that it made Negro’s impenetrable to thirty-two caliper bullets.


Mr. Neill Franklin: Come on. Hey, man.

Dean Becker: I don’t know. That’s where it all came from.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Just real quick comment, since we’re kind of talking about marijuana. I heard the wonderful Sheriff, he was talking about some of those problems with marijuana use. But I tell you, I spent a lot of time out there in the streets and working this War on Drugs when I was ‘going on the other side’ as I put it. But as it relates to those crimes, those robberies and those homicides, he was talking to, the only time I recall where marijuana being an issue, is when it was probably laced with something else…

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Neill Franklin: …and that goes to the quality control and the standards. There are none right now. So you don’t know what you’re really getting.

However, when we did investigate those crimes of violence and even though I didn’t keep accurate numbers, but I can tell you this straight forward. The primary drug that was always in play for the most part, I maybe shouldn’t say always, but I could guarantee it was well over ninety percent, was alcohol.

Dean Becker: Yep.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Especially when it came to domestic violence. By far, alcohol was that drug. I don’t recall any crime of violence, where marijuana was the only drug being used.

Dean Becker: No, and I think if you survey a hundred other law enforcement officers, you wouldn’t get very many that could see that instance either.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Right.

Dean Becker: It’s just not, I don’t know, people pass that peace pipe. I mean, that’s what they do. That’s what they do. Once again, my friends, we’re speaking with Officer Neill Franklin. He’s the soon-to-be Director, I guess, of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and I consider him to be just a strong force. Well recognized, as we mentioned earlier, within the major media, for his acumen and his understanding of this drug war.

Neill, we’ve got a few minutes left here and I want to go to the response. I, yesterday, was wearing my LEAP shirt and it says on the back, ‘Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why’ and I had somebody come to the door and they were talking about environmental concerns. But she said, ’Does anybody ask anymore?’ and the point is that…

Mr. Neill Franklin: {chuckling} That’s a good point.

Dean Becker: …because in the last few years, I can count on one hand the number of people. Whereas seven years ago, when I first started wearing that shirt, every time I wore it, somebody was asking. But now I think people just get it. What are your thoughts on that?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Well, it kind of makes me think about this one little interview. Kind of like the debate I had a few weeks ago. The main part of the debate was dealing with marijuana and we talked about some other stuff too. But it got to the point where doing this debate and after it was over I said, ‘Why was that debate even about marijuana being legalized, along with some other stuff? When really it should have been about, ‘What’s the next step?’ ‘Where do we go?’ ‘What does post prohibition look like?’

Because the argument from the other side, everything they were saying, all the fallacies about marijuana that we’ve been taught over the years, which has now been proven ‘not to be true’ and there’s many. All those myths and all those things have been dispelled and that debate should have been about, ’What does post prohibition look like?’

Because, like you said, people are really starting to get it, if they don’t already get it. They’re starting to and they’re starting to listen and I think for the most part it’s now about, ’What is it going to look like?’ ’What do we do?’ ’Where can we go?’

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Neill Franklin: ‘What will the positive things be?’ I think one of the positive effects, as we move forward, is going to be the attention and the resources that will honesty be able to give towards treatment and education.

Dean Becker: Yep.

Mr. Neill Franklin: By freeing, we’re going to start freeing up those resources little by little and it’s beginning with the Medical Marijuana move, as we will have those resources available, and not just money. But manpower and intellect to direct toward education and treatment and we’re going to make the same kind of progress we made with cigarettes.

Dean Becker: Neill, the next step has always been, ‘Move from the criminal justice system to the treatment center’ and I hope you heard my thought shared with Sheriff Garcia, is that sixty-five percent of the people in those treatment beds are, according to the drug czar, there for marijuana addiction and that just seems a great waste of resources. Your thoughts on that?

Mr. Neill Franklin: I agree with you, Dean. I really do. I think it’s a… Especially when we have so few dollars to spend in that area. Which is such an important area. I think those beds can be used for… I have my beliefs as to why that is. Because the more people who you put into those treatment beds for marijuana, the more you can say that marijuana’s a problem.

Dean Becker: {while chuckling} Well, that’s self justifying.

Mr. Neill Franklin: So, no I’m not conspiracy serious, or anything like that. But I’m just saying, I know how the world works.

Dean Becker: Yeah. No, I think you’re right and they say that the Mexican cartels are getting, some say, fifty/sixty/seventy percent of their profits are coming from turning that weed into gold and it just seems absurd to keep funding them. We’ve got a lot of great growers here in America apparently.

Mr. Neill Franklin: That’s why they’re growing here.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Neill Franklin: That’s why the cartel has now begun to grow marijuana in our National parks. It’s all about business to them, ‘How can they cut overhead?’ and that’s what they’re doing. They’re cutting overhead, by growing right here on US soil.

Dean Becker: No border check. No…

Mr. Neill Franklin: Absolutely.

Dean Becker: …and as I understand it, they’re still paying peasant wages to those guys, out there in the field. A lot of times they bring them North of the border saying, ’You’re going to get a great job and things are going to go well’ and then they just take them out in force and say, ’Make sure that crop grows, if you want to see your family again.’

Mr. Neill Franklin: I was getting ready to say that, Dean. That’s the one thing that a lot of people don’t understand. Is that corruption, coercion/corruption in Mexico, is a lot different than here in the United States.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Neill Franklin: A lot different. You can get just about anybody to do anything, the cartel can in Mexico, because you hold families hostage. Not literally. But you know what I mean.

Dean Becker: Well sure and I think that’s the point. The Houston Chronicle… well, a lot of papers across the country are starting to focus on the Mexican Drug War now. But I deal with the comment section - people can comment ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ on a given story and they talk about, ’If we legalize drugs, then these cartel members will move onto something even deadlier’ and I’m thinking…{chuckling} …how long can you shoot yourself in the foot thinking, ’I’m going to save the other foot’? I don’t know exactly. I don’t know. It’s just crazy, isn’t it?

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah, yeah.

Dean Becker: Alright. Neill, I’ll tell you what. We’re going to wrap it up here. We’’ get back with you again, maybe around the time that you do take office. Are you going to be called upon to go speak to these governmental bodies, like Jack has? Being called overseas to help these other governments redefine their efforts?

Mr. Neill Franklin: On occasion, maybe a little further down the road. Initially what I want to do is, just get with the staff and give them a team and organization and just make sure I am indoctrinated quite well and get to learn some things and once we get to a certain point, we get a few months down the road, we’ll see how it goes there. But I’m always available for you, Dean. On the air, by phone and maybe sometime soon, I will be able to get out there to you, in person.

Dean Becker: Here’s hoping so. I keep taking to these elected officials and I didn’t say it today, maybe he’s listening now. But I’ll be sure and remind Adrian Garcia, that what I want him to do is take these concerns to our legislature.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Yeah.

Dean Becker: To tell them, this drug war’s just not working out for Houston. It’s time to redefine and redirect our effort.

Mr. Neill Franklin: You got it, Dean.

Dean Becker: Alright. Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Neill Franklin, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Our website where you can learn much more is: leap.cc. Thank you, Neill.

Mr. Neill Franklin: Thanks, Dean.

Dean Becker: Alright buddy.

I’m Sanho Tree. I’m a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where I focus on drug policy.

Dean Becker: Hillary Clinton went to Mexico and made some additional promises, in regards to the drug war. What was your take on her visit?

Mr. Sanho Tree: Well, I think it’s a sad State of Affairs when Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration, the only thing they can agree with the republicans on, is that we need to do more of the same, the Mexico. Perhaps it’s the only point of agreement they have and it looks like it’s going to be pretty much more of the same, with a few softening edges to it. There’ll be some antipoverty programs and justice reform and clean governance and that sort of thing.

But the overwhelming emphasis on law enforcement and militarization and stuff, is still problematic and the pyridine has not worked and they refuse to think outside the box, basically. In fact, the delegation that she brought with her, in terms of Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, etc, etc. This high level delegation is not one that is known for thinking outside the box.

Nor do I think they have the authority to really go outside that box, and so questioning any of the basic assumptions of the drug war is beyond their brief. Until you deal with the economics of drug prohibition and acknowledge the unintended consequences or the indirect consequences of fighting prohibition, it’s very difficult to obtain those spill-over effects.

Unfortunately the considerations that delegation had, are entirely political. This is an election year. The Obama Administration, I think, doesn’t want to be accused by republicans for loosing Mexico, or letting Mexico slip and so giving the appearance of doing something, of taking decisive action, is quite dangerous. Because the ’knee-jerk’ political solution to these things, is to throw more law enforcement at the problem, to escalate the drug war.

It’s kind of like, politicians think that voters will only understand the most simple messages. So if you see a fire, you throw water on the fire. Well not every type of fire responds well to water. If it’s a grease fire on your stove, if it’s an electrical fire, the last thing you want to do is add water to that fire. Politicians unfortunately have a difficult time framing a counterintuitive argument.

Whereas talking about the economics of prohibition, the side effects of fighting prohibition, it takes several steps and so it’s difficult to get across to voters. When you see what the opposition, the republicans and the tea-baggers have done on healthcare, how viciously they have been able to distort the basic understanding of that, fairly moderate, policy of reforming basic healthcare, as in twist it into Obama and concentration camps and making him into Hitler and this is socialism, and all this stuff. Imagine the field day they would have over a complicated issue like drugs. On the drug issue, it’s the mother of all third rail issues. So it’s going to be a tough slog to get them to think differently on this.

One interesting innovation they could have done, is to send a same type of delegation. High level people but former Secretaries of State, Secretaries of Defense, etc. and to meet with their former counterparts in Mexico. The former Presidents of Mexico, both Fox and Zedillo, the former Foreign Minister, Castañeda, all of whom have been on record as saying, ’We need to put a discussion of legalization or at least decriminalization, on the table.’

You could send former Secretary of State George Shultz. You could send Donald Rumsfeld. For all his faults, Rumsfeld is actually not bad on the drug war and these are republicans. Which would give the administration political cover and if you give this to an independent body of these former dignitaries, who no longer have ’skin in the game’, so to speak. They don’t have to worry about re-election or petty partisan politics. They’re finished with their careers. They are the ones who might be able to speak truth to power.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Sanho Tree with the Institute for Policy Studies. Always has some very astute observations. Sanho, send them to your website where they can learn more.

Mr. Sanho Tree: Sure. It’s www.ips-dc.org

My name is Mason Tvert. I’m the Executive Director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation. Otherwise known as SAFER.

Sports Illustrated recently posted a report on it’s website, discussing how NFL personnel officials are concerned by a so-called ‘epidemic’ of marijuana use amongst this years NFL draft class. Apparently ten or eleven out of the top twenty or so picks, are people who have been ’red flagged’ because either they used or believed to have used marijuana, while they were in college and it‘s just absolutely absurd that the NFL is so concerned by this.

It’s about time that they stop worrying about NFL football players simply using marijuana and perhaps focus more on their players who are getting into serious problems, which are all too often associated with alcohol.

Dean Becker: There have been several noticeable instances of that type of problem, involving alcohol. Do you want to recount any of them?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Sure. Everyone is familiar with the NFL’s treatment of Ricky Williams, the running back from the Miami Dolphins, who tested positive for marijuana repeatedly. Yet he would come out and say, ’Listen. I like using marijuana.’ ‘It makes me relax.’ ‘I use it to relieve my anxiety.’ ‘I enjoy using it.’ ‘I should be allowed to’, and he was ultimately thrown out of the league, temporarily and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Whereas we have someone like Ben Roethlisberger, the well known quarterback of the Pittsburg Steelers these days, who has been recently accused of ‘alcohol infused’ sexual assault for the second time and if there’s anything the NFL needs to worry about, it’s the Ben Roethlisbergers, not the Rickey Williamses.

Dean Becker: We have the situation where those same vendors of alcoholic products are endorsed, embraced and I guess loved, by the NFL, itself. It seems rather hypocritical. Does it not?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. The NFL runs on alcohol yet it’s running from marijuana. Which is really absurd, because we all know alcohol contributes to far more serious problems than marijuana. Including domestic violence, sexual assault and all sorts of other serious injuries and health problems and so on.

So for the NFL to accept the fact that Coors Light and Anheuser Bush are going to pay them to advertise at their games and are going to sell beer at their game and really use their football games as their primary means of getting a message out about alcohol. It’s incredibly hypocritical for them to than punish people who are simply interested in using a safer substance.

Dean Becker: Mason, as always, it’s great to hear your thoughts, in all things marijuana. Once again, I think you’ve nailed it. Please share your website with our friends so they can learn more about the work you do.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah absolutely. Thanks, Dean. Our website is www.saferchoice.org.

Oh, my friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s Drug Truth Network programs. It’s been a joy for me to share them with you. It’s my hope that you will absorb and use this information. That you will do your part. Because it’s going to take all of us to bring this drug war to an end.

There’s no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data. No reason for this drug war to exist. Please visit our website, 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: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org