03/21/23 Phil Smith
Phil Smith, award winning reporter with Stop the Drug War visits with DTN host Dean Becker. Topics: Corrupt Cops, International Fiasco, Corruption, Money Laundering, Eternal Failure of Policy.
Phil Smith, award winning reporter with Stop the Drug War visits with DTN host Dean Becker. Topics: Corrupt Cops, International Fiasco, Corruption, Money Laundering, Eternal Failure of Policy.
Phil Smith has been a drug policy journalist for more than two decades. He is the longtime writer and editor of the Drug War Chronicle, the online publication of the nonprofit Stop the Drug War, and was the editor of AlterNet’s coverage of drug policy from 2015 to 2018. He was awarded the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edwin M. Brecher Award for Excellence in Media in 2013.
CORRUPT COP STORY OF THE CENTURY: Phil Smith is a reporter for DRCNET.org. Phil joins DTN host Dean Becker to discuss First Amendment Audits of police stations, post offices, commercial concerns to expose the the diminution of our rights, the untrained and often insane machinations of law enforcement officers out of control denying our First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights,
Phil Smith is a reporter with the Drug Reform Coordination network and Stop the Drug War.org. For decades he has toured the nation and the world seeking the full truth about the mechanism of prohibition. He and DTN host Becker dissect the diseased innards of the drug war. + Remembering Texas' Vincent Lopez: "Canons of Truth" speech.
Phil Smith reports drug war news for Stop the Drug War and Drug War Chronicle. Phil and DTN host Dean Becker discuss the corruption and the progress of drug laws.
Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War re premiere of Becker's Buds Video program, racism, pandemic and drug war failures + Chris Conrad Becker's Buds guest #2 re racism, drug war tactics.
CULTURAL BAGGAGE 07/08/20
I am the Reverend Dean Becker keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world. And this is cultural baggage.
All right, this week we kicked off Becker's buds. I'm airing some of it on YouTube. Alright. This week we kicked off our, a video series. Becker's buds. We're posting it on YouTube a couple of times on Facebook as well. We're going to talk to the folks who have had decades of experience as drug reformers, and hopefully motivate you to get involved, to bring it in to this madness. It's never been a more, uh, opportune time to expose the fraud, the misdirection, the horrors of this drug war, and to bring it to an end, but let's just get started here. We've got two guests and two videos, two Becker's buds already posted. Here we go. This week on July 4th, we premiered the first, uh, Becker's buds, conscientious objectors to drug war. We featured mr. Phil Smith of stop the drug war. It was on July 4th. We started off the credits with happy birthday America. And then we, uh, stated that it is time to end the racist war on drugs. The video is already posted on YouTube and Facebook and other places here real soon. This is the corrupt cop story from Phil Smith, and it will be followed with a discussion,
The opening credits of the Becker's buds video features a fluttering American flag with the words super imposed. It is time to end the racist war on drugs.
Becker's buds is proud to present mr. Phil Smith with corrupt cop stories.
Hey, this is Phil Smith with the drug war Chronicle and the independent media Institute. I'm here with Dean Becker at Becker's buds. And I'm here to talk about, um, one of our favorite topics that Dean and I talk about quite a bit, and that's corrupt cops and the drug war, uh, today. Uh, I want to talk about Houston lean. That's where you are. I know you've already know about this story, the hurting street raid, that was a raid last year in which you crooked narcotics officers, uh, lied to get a warrant, to do a non-AHC raid on a home in Harding street. They encountered armed residents who fired back at the invaders wounding for police officers and the two residents. Uh, middle-aged couple were killed by the police. Uh, I want to stop for a minute and talk about no knock raids. They're an object, a big concern right now.
And the Harding street rate is one prime example of why this is a, this is the occasion where the war on drugs. It's the second amendment in man. It can get ugly. Uh, when you have someone busting your door down in the middle of the night, people tend to start shooting. That's what happened there at the Harding street raid. Um, it's not the only time that's happened in Texas and in Houston we have two deaths civilians. Uh, so I just wanted to mention, uh, how dangerous these no knock raids are. And I want to encourage all petitions at both the state and the federal level who continue to work to get rid of them. I mean, that's what saying to some of these, uh, federal criminal justice reform bills. And that's a very good thing. We need to stop those rates, but even beyond the dangers of no knock rates themselves, there's the problem of corruption and drug law enforcement.
And that's what we're also seeing in the hurting three raid. You have the chief officer involved, Gerald goings has already been charged with two murders and the deaths of the home's occupants. Now he and his partner, Steven Bryant are facing additional charges for lying torquing search warrants, stealing money that was supposed to be going to snitches. And the other cutting corners in there doing their law enforcement duties. It's also led to a internal review of the narcotics division of the Houston police department, which by the way, people Houston is in the nation's fourth largest city. And it's got a rot in the heart of its narcotics division as his internal audit, that was just released a really demonstrates,
I want to interject into the video soundtrack. The thought that we next inserted the words of ms. Kim org, the district attorney of Houston Harris County, Texas. I hope she increases her security squad. Following this pronouncement drug war is nothing but corruption.
KIM OGG, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF HOUSTON, TEXAS
The crimes themselves are not one offs. This is not a case of individual rogue officers. This is what the law calls a pattern and practice or an ongoing scheme. Some will say that this scheme is just mismanagement. It is not, it is long running evidence of graft and corruption that can literally rot an institution from the inside out.
It's not limited to Gerald Goines and his buddies in the 15th. The audit looked at other divisions within their narcotics division found problems there as well. Um, it's a serious problem for Houston. It's a chronic problem for police agencies trying to enforce the drug war, the drug war. I mean, they are trying to break up consensual activities, my adults, and no one wants that. Mmm. This raid is all the more reason to call once again for drug decriminalization or legalization. If we want to reduce fraud encounters between law enforcement and the citizenry ending the war on drugs is a key way to do that. Okay? Reporting for records buds. This is Phil Smith. You can check out my work at WW, stop the drug war.org, or also I write for the independent media Institute. My stuff generally shows email@example.com.
I want to thank you for being with us on the series premiere of Becker's bugs, the conscientious object doors to drug war. I want to thank mr. Phil Smith for being our first bud to guest with us. I want to invite you to go to drug truth.net. There's nearly 8,000 of my radio programs. They're more than 18 years. I've been interviewing thousands of people from around the world. I challenge anybody, any attorney general, any a drug warrior to come on this show and clarify for us the need for drug war. And they have absolutely refused. There is no benefit. There is nothing moral to this. Please do your part, educate yourself, and then educate your legislators. Let's bring this madness to an end.
All right. And that was the corrupt cop story, a portion of our discussion, but then Phil and I, uh, continued talking about the drug war and many of its, uh, aspects, I guess. And we're going to make another video from that as well. Another Becker's Bud's episode. It is my hope that maybe, you know, somebody at ABC NBC, or maybe a local affiliate that would like to truly report drug war news. Uh, I'm ready to go. I got the credentials and you know, it helped me out. We got a couple of other guests lined up for our video production, our zoom stuff. We're going to get better at it, but you can check it out on YouTube and we'll give you more details as we wrap up the show. And very soon Becker's Bud's dot C O will get you there. Just not yet. Anyway, discussion with mr. Phil Smith, Ian, congratulations on your new show. I hope it is also a good start and I look forward to seeing many, many more episodes. Well, Phil, let me first off, thank you for, uh, being the first to officially make it to video and Becker's buds last week we had, uh, uh
I want to stand up for a second show folks. I've shirt. These are what I call my courthouse shirts. This one's drug Wars and abomination before God silence is complicity because up until the COVID-19, I would go down to the Houston courthouses and hand out my brochures and try to educate, uh, judges and jurists and cops, and you know, the accused with these types shirts. And, um, it really boils down to, and I like to use this phrase of the drug war is racist. It is corrupt. It is stupid. It is evil. It has no reason to exist. And that's the type of information you and I try to share to bring forward, to bring focus to bear upon, right?
That is Dean. You know, I've been writing about police corruption in the drug war for nearly 20 years. Now, there is never a shortage of things for me to write about it's endemic drug policing. It goes back. I mean, as far back as we had federal drug costs, the federal narcotics Bureau in the 1940 to 1950s, they had just that because it was rotten to the core. I mean, from the very beginning, this has been a problem for law enforcement. It's an ethics problem for law enforcement and it's a human rights and racial justice problem for the rest of us.
Now you have been working with David Borden for low 20 years or something I think was stopped the drug war with the DRC net. Correct. And, um, you know, it doesn't really pay well, but by God had just, uh, it gnaws at our conscience is why we do what we do. Isn't it.
That is true. And Dean in 20 years, we're making progress. It's achingly slow, but it's coming yesterday. I wrote about the cops in Austin. They're no longer going to check it or arrest anyone for pot possession. It's little victory city by city, state by state pretty soon nationwide. We hope
And that is the hope. Isn't it. Now I, I know that, uh, over the years you have traveled internationally, uh, you've gone to Afghanistan. Did you not in years past to, uh, report on the drug war,
I did hell big balls of opium in my hand, and then went to Japan territory. My driver had an AK 4,700 seat. Fortunately, he didn't have to use it.
Well, the, my closest to, um, such a war time experience was a trip I've made in to see you that Juarez, uh, back in 2010, when it was the deadliest city on the planet. And, uh, there were machine gun nest on every corner, cops everywhere. We didn't see any violence, but it was happening all over that city. Just the same.
All right. And the violence in Mexico has not only continued since that time in 2012, there was the object of a lot of attention. I have a whole pile of books that were published along the Mexican drug war in 2012 when there were national elections in both the us and Mexico. But since then, the number of deaths each year has doubled. It is really bad. Um, you know, we import our drugs from Mexico and we export our violence to Mexico. That's where the violence of the drug war really plays out well, we're talking about Thousands and thousands of people build each year
And I did true. And, and, and those thousands of deaths are mostly these days in the smaller towns, the, uh, the villages where the cartels take over, they drive the police department out of their building and, uh, corrupt the mayor. And then they extort, uh, everyone in town grab the, the pretty daughters and put them in a whorehouse. It's, it's an unreal situation down there. Isn't it?
They are. They are multifaceted criminal organizations and fueled largely, but not entirely by illicit drug money. Mainly from us.
Yeah. Well, Phil, I tell you what, we're going to wrap this up for today, but I, I want to thank you. Uh, we will have this probably posted by this evening, and I hope folks will, will understand that, um, you and I do this, it ain't for money. Not, not really. I mean, I make a little bit, but, uh, uh, it's less than minimum wage. I promise you that. And I guess what I really like to say is that we do what we can, but it's really to encourage, to motivate, uh, the Watchers of this video, that listeners to my radio show the readers of your posts online and elsewhere to get off their ass, to do something, to help bring it to an end. Am I right?
Indeed, Dean and this, this year. And it looks like a time when there was really an opening for us because of all the, uh, anger towards law enforcement in the country. Right now well-deserved anger. I would add, uh, it is really a chance to make some progress. So you people listening, it's time to start bugging your representatives, take to the streets, whatever it takes, let's get it done. Yeah. Well, you know, Dean, 30 years ago, the black community was one of the big impetuses behind toughening sentences. You had black people were scared of drugs. They didn't want their communities destroyed. They supported those drug bills in the 1980s and 1990s. I think they're starting to come around. I think there's really been a sea change.
Uh, I, over the years, there have been many black, uh, leaders come on my show and talk very boldly about the need to end the drug war among them. Uh, a now deceased, uh, Congressman John Conyers, uh, former mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke as well as, uh, Texas', uh, uh, Sheila Jackson, Lee, very few people of any race are daring to speak the full unvarnished truth, not the drug war is a failure of the ASCO and needs to be brought to Indian. It's time to play name that drug
By its side effects, the breast enlargement, impotence, corneal opacity, deafness, and electric shock. Pseudomembranous colitis, bloody diarrhea, rectal hemorrhage, myocardial infarction, and death times from Bristol Myers Squibb. The answer weirdly is ass effects for heartburn. And obviously not for your ass effects, by the way, the number of potential complications is more than 100.
Well, the second of our, um, Becker's budge programs features mr. Chris Conrad, who along with his wife, Mickey Norris wrote the great book shattered lives, which helped, uh, solidify my commitment to being a, uh, drug reformer. Um, there's a video online already. It's, uh, the second edition of a Becker's budge. You can access it at YouTube, uh, but this is, uh, not used in the video, at least not yet. Uh, this is my discussion continued discussion with Chris Conrad
Life goes on, does it not? There's still, there's still a drug war out there. That's raising bloody hell with this planet.
Yeah. It's just amazing. The whole irony, like here I am, and I've got over my shoulder here, a little cannabis plant, you know, we're growing at home in California illegally, you know? Um, and, and yet in other States, I believe including Texas, you can be in a heck of a lot of trouble if you just had that little, uh, cutting over there that doesn't have roots by the way. So it's technically not a plant.
Well, you trying to grow some roots, maybe. I don't know, actually this was a male, but yeah,
The, the thing with the drug war for me is that why first got involved with marijuana issue. I, I took it on kind of an academic thing. I got into an argument with them. I was, uh, and it's, uh, what do you say? A political activist? In my core, I've been a political activist since the civil rights movement. I was just a little kid, uh, through the antiwar movement to peace with the anti-nuclear pro-environment movement. We worked on housing issues. We worked on insurance reform. I mean, I, I was at work, work, work, work on political issues like that. And when it came to the cannabis issue, I didn't really think was that important because I didn't know anybody who had been arrested or anything like that. Um, you know, most people I knew were growing pot in their backyard without any problem in the eighties, you know, we were listening to Reagan ranting about it, and we've watching the ads on TV and we didn't really feel touched by it.
I, I just felt like it was something that, uh, I, I, uh, I took it on as a challenge. And then when I learned about the importance of hemp to the environment, I said, this has got to happen. I've got to make sure that this does happen, but, uh, you know, bringing it to prisoners was more of a, um, we were aware of the fact that they were prisoners, but not to the extent that it really was. It wasn't really until we started the human rights and the drug war project that we started seeing and hearing these stories to find out how really bad it was. The, you know, a lot of people I knew didn't even consider it a serious issue. We didn't know people in prison. By the time he got the human rights and the drug war going, we had known people who had died because they were allowed not allowed to have a liver transplant.
We've had people who were in prison for life, children lost their parents, people lost their homes and their bank accounts. Uh, you know, and then the racial disparity was just unbelievable when you looked at what was going on out there. And, you know, as I say, one of the interesting things to me is that when you look at the cover of our book, shatter lives, there's three people on the cover. There's a white man, a white woman, and a black woman by the year 2000, the white man, the white women had both gotten an early release, but the African American woman was still in prison for another 15 or,
15 years, I forget what year CAMBA was at least. But in any case, you know, almost 20 years longer to get her out of prison. And in a way her role was the least significant shoot. Her thing was her boyfriend or something.
Well, no, she wasn't even her accused of a crime. She just happened to because she was living on money that her boyfriend got from breaking the law that made her a criminal and his system. And so, you know, once you find out what's really going on, it's kind of hard to just kick back. It's like with black lives matter, when you see, when you actually see the cops strangling the life out of an African American man on the street, like we did, it's hard to turn away. And we felt that with the whole drug war much earlier.
Well, no. And as I said earlier, you guys helped awaken me to many of those facts. You're, you're bringing it forward. I, I look at it like this, this, the, the killing of George Floyd right there boldly and seemingly wantonly desirous of this man's death is what it looked like almost casually, just like, Oh, well, I've got nothing else to do. I just killed this guy. Yeah. And it has, it has managed to awaken, you know what I mean? We're reformers were activists we've been involved, but it, it just gives more emphasis, more compelling, a desire, or want to do something to stop this because you and I are aware of the racial beginnings of this Harry J Anslinger is good. Talk about blacks and darkies and how they marijuana makes them crazy and rape white women and all this crap. And now we have, um, I don't know this, this re re resurrection of Confederate mindset that's going on, that it just on, on July 4th, our president was talking about, they're not going to tear down our statues. And, and it's, I don't know how to say this. The drug war has been a means to wage racial war on the black community. It has led to stop and frisk it's led to mandatory minimums of no knock warrants strikes
You're out, have all been levied against the black community, much more severely than they've ever been used against the white community. Um, I wish the black community would speak out more in that regard, your response, mr. Chris, Conrad,
what you said that really ties right to my thinking as well. Uh, I've been to quite an, I shouldn't say quite a number because with the pandemic, my wife and I are usually the first ones out at LA protests because we believe in post social activism, but with the pandemic, we've been staying away from more of them. So I'm not going to say we were among the first or anything like that, but when we've gotten out and, and her people speaking a lot of times, the black lives matter, people are saying things to the effect of, well, you know, if you, if this is the first time you're standing up, then you've been asleep and so forth.
Well, uh, in a certain way, you know, people like you and myself and my wife had been, we've been away for a long time. We've known about the racial disparity. Uh, we didn't see a lot of the black lives matter people out there. And I, I don't fault them for that because what we found that when we first got started, actually the African American churches were a big source of support for the drug war. Uh, and we found ourselves having a very hard time gangs, leveraging the African American community. Uh, and so, you know, I guess like the work that you did in law enforcement against prohibition, which is now law enforcement action partnership, same website, leap.cc, but neither case that work of waking up law enforcement and making this connection between the broader drug war. And then of course, Michelle, I'm spacing the last name, the new Michelle Alexander, the new Jim Crow.
Exactly. And that really has brought it to a lot of people's situation understanding as well. But, uh, you know, I really feel like what you're saying is right, that a lot of times people, the African American community, instead of blaming the system, like the drug war, they blame the effect like the people using drugs. And they would say to me, well, you know, uh, it's not in your white community. So keto, legalize marijuana, but the African American community, you can't tell us how to live when you can't tell us what our experiences and it's destroying our communities. And we would say to him, no, it's not the marijuana. It is the laws against marijuana that are having this dreadful impact. And, uh, you know, I, I don't know if they've really gotten through completely that how important the drug war has been, uh, for the demonization of people of color.
But, you know, I think that the resurgence that we're seeing right now on the part of the civil rights movement, by the way, my first civil rights activism as a child was I started an organization with a school, may call it [inaudible] Klux Klan, and we did literature against the truth, Klux Klan. I've literally had thought that was a long ago chapter of my life, uh, until Ferguson, when you saw the Klan out with torches again, you know, under this current president, uh, and, and hopefully in his last legs of his office, I know that some of your listeners may support this president, but personally, I think he's poisoned to political discussion in this country and his reliance upon a false information and hate narratives, uh, including against Mexicans, but, uh, people of color as well. Like for example, you know, when, when a white supremacy ran a car into a crowd of, of, uh, protesters regarding Ferguson, he said, there's nice people on both sides.
Now, the other day he was talking about, uh, black lives matter and he was denigrating them in most horrible manner, something suitable to will Miller Fillmore or somebody from the 19th century. The only good thing I can say about that is that in a certain way, I think that his overt racism has brought the issue to the forefront where more and more Americans are seeing it, who used to be able to hide comfortably behind. Well, Obama is our president. We have a black cover. President racism must be over well, we know perfectly well, it's not over now. And the drug war is not over either. And so even though I'm in California and I can go a little cannabis plant, uh, legally, most of the country, they can't. And so, you know, the battle is far from over at this point. And once we legalize marijuana, and once we legalize all drugs, racism is still going to be around,
Well, it, it won't have the, the teeth or the reach or the breadth or whatever you want to call it. And the air I want to show, this is something I try to do each week is show my courthouse shirt. This one says legalized heroin to save lives. And it's true that we're, we do legalize heroin. We would certainly save lives because right now, under current conditions, um, you know, the, uh, the heroin is made in clandestine labs, maybe 90% pure by the time it's released to the streets. And then they cut it with everything from fentinol to rat poison, to who knows what's in there, which leads to major complications, more deaths, more, uh, diseases, because people do not know what is in the bag they are purchasing and the same holds true for cocaine or any other drug in States like California, where you have testing facilities in, you have weed that is legal and safe, at least for the most part. But what I guess I'm trying to say here is that, um, we have fooled ourselves, or we have been fooled over the last hundred years by politicians and charlatans people who pretend they know the truth about these drugs, but who put forward ideas and laws that as you indicate, just make things worse. Am I right?
And unfortunately, you know, Joe Biden on the Democrat side has a bad history. You just want to drug policy and social justice issues are concerned. Uh, and so the differences, so I believe that he's surrounding himself with people who he's, he's evolving and he's surrounding himself with people who understand what's going on. And that's a big difference between the two candidates right now, and the distance, just basic honesty. You know, what you were saying there about legalizing heroin to save lives. I agree. In fact, I would even go in another direction. I would say legalize opium. It's not as dangerous as heroin and, and, you know, people use a natural substance as much as possible. Wrap it up for us, Chris, would you prove it? So, uh, I would just say that, uh, in terms of wrapping these things up is that people need to get woke and stay woke about this particular issue as well, and are saying that, that, you know, these are both sides of the same ugly culture war, uh, against us.
I think cultural war is one of your cultural baggage. There we go. I see behind you that people need to deal with that. I saw what I say that, um, you know, trying to, I believe marijuana is extremely important because it is the gateway to law enforcement, ruining people's lives. And so once we get that solved, that's going to help a lot of people along the way. And I encourage everyone who can to get involved as a movement, to work with normal and MPP, to do things independently, to support groups like Becker's buds here, uh, because you know, the, the news media is much more understanding now, and that's the direct result of people like UDI. Who've been out there spreading the truth about the drug war when the news media was not being fair on it, this opportunity to become active, to find more about what I do go to Chris conrad.com.
We have a news website on the leaf online.com. And it's something we haven't talked about today is that with legalization comes commercialization and with commercialization, there comes a callousness to the not only the stories of all the people who've gone before and suffered, but also to the spiritual and social values of cannabis. It's not just a commodity device itself. We use this to connect with one another, to connect with the planet and to have many people who have profound spiritual experiences. And so I encourage people to go to camp theism.org, C a N T H E I S m.org. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Uh, it's great to be on your program. I'll have to do it again sometime.
Well, once again, I want to thank Chris Conrad and Phil Smith for being the first two guests on Becker's buds video productions out there on YouTube slash Becker's buds. Uh, it's time to bring this drug war to an end in this racial discrimination. And again, I remind you that because of prohibition, you do not know ain't got a clue what's in that bag, please be careful.
Phillip Smith has been a drug policy journalist for the past two decades. He is the longtime author of the Drug War Chronicle, the online publication of the non-profit StopTheDrugWar.org, and has been the editor of AlterNet’s Drug Reporter since 2015. He was awarded the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edwin M. Brecher Award for Excellence in Media in 2013.
HOST DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host; our goal for this program is to expose the fraud misdirection and the Liars who support our drug war, empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.
Folks this week. We're going to have an extended conversation with the only reporter, I’m aware of who's been reporting on the drug war on a consistent basis longer than me. He's a good friend and Ally of mr. Phil Smith is with us. How you doing? Phil?
PHIL SMITH: Just fine and dandy Dean. How are you?
DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Phil, you know, I'm like many folks out of the feel kind of stir crazy at times. There's this pandemic is really shaken things up is it not
PHIL SMITH: it is indeed. It's shaking things up among big city police forces. It's shaking things up among the Global Drug trade. It's all kinds of crazy.
DEAN BECKER: It is indeed now, I'll know you've been reporting for alternet and for DRC.net and a lot of good folks over the years, but I ran into an article on Salon where you had a I think you're most recent publication now, I'll give the title to the folks out there listening as the global War on Drugs Fades away the only people who benefited were drug traffickers, that's now actually that's not your latest is it but let's talk about that anyway.
PHIL SMITH: It was actually an article that was a it was a review essay on two recent titles on the Global Drug trade. One of them is called Dope World which was a fascinating tale written by a Russian guy who grew up in London got busted went to prison in England and then became a journalist and he traveled around the world meeting all kinds of people, you know law enforcement, politicians, drug dealers, assassins, ran the gamut and what he can hand the author of the other book whose title escapes me right now. Both found was that despite the building and billions even trillions of dollars spent on the drug war over the past 40 years. The trade hasn't gone away. It is only gotten larger and more sophisticated and more ruthless and more violent.
So if we want a more ruthless and more violent and more sophisticated International illicit drug trade, we just need to keep doing what we've been doing.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, again, we reach back to the old term the iron law of prohibition which indicates that the more the cops wage their War the more deadly it's going to get in the violence and in the nature of the drugs being sold, and that's that's really a main concern at this point, isn't it, that Fentanyl is getting into everything. It seems to be the the filler if you will for a lot of these drugs, right?
PHIL SMITH: Yeah. Well, it makes economic sense for illegal drug dealers to use fentanyl. It's highly concentrated highly powerful. It's a substitute for other opioids. It's cheap to make you don't need to have you know square miles of fields of opium poppy growing for months. You need a couple of days in a laboratory. One of the things I think the coronavirus pandemic is going to do is it's going to impel drug trafficking organizations to try to get closer to the source by this. I mean closer to the End Market, so I'm thinking it may not be too long before. We he busts of fentanyl labs in the United States as the cartel tried to move operations across the border to avoid having to deal with the Border.
DEAN BECKER: Well that kind of parallels what they've been doing and much of America certainly in the midwest, Kansas, Missouri. And otherwise where they have cartel members are players at least people I think brought into these organizations that have themselves set up as you know workers, but on the side, they're selling methamphetamine. They're selling quasi heroin laced with fentanyl and their enticing kids, you know I by that I mean people 30 and Unger- 30 and under to join in their efforts to help sell these Commodities and getting closer to the full profit. If you will rather than having too many middlemen your thought there Phil Smith.
PHIL SMITH: Yeah. Well the cartels are very efficient. They have turned their wholesale operations into extended retail operations across the United States. I mean, I have friends and family in rural, South Dakota. You want to get meth in rural South Dakota, you know some guy with a Hispanic name. I mean, I don't want to sound racist or anything, but that's that's the way it is.
DEAN BECKER: Well sure.
PHIL SMITH: These are Mexican cartel Affiliated operations and there throughout the country and they're good at what they do highly motivated. Its profitable people are willing to take the risk of doing a possibly a few years in prison in return for the big money they can make. One of the interesting side effects of the pandemic is an apparent increase in wholesale meth prices in Mexico about a month ago. They jumped about three to four times. There doesn't appear to be any real shortage yet. So we have bizarre circumstances like DEA special agent in charge in San Diego complaining about the Mexican cartel Mexican cartels price gouging
DEAN BECKER: huh? All right. Well and then as that is preposterous as that sounds that that has been their motivation over the decades has it not to just wage the yeah to just make it where the price gets so high no one will be able to afford it because of their efforts and that hasn't panned out as it
PHIL SMITH: now, they're complaining about the high meth prices go figure. Well, I don't know you and I both think the DEA is sticking up for American methamphetamine consumer.
DEAN BECKER: Whoa, it goes kind of contrary to Trump wanting gas prices to go up and I don't know. It's
PHIL SMITH: Right.
DEAN BECKER: It's I don't know man.
PHIL SMITH: Well, there are some other impacts of the pandemic that I want to talk about and some of them have to do with domestic drug war politics and the initiative process.
DEAN BECKER: Okay
PHIL SMITH: at the beginning of this year. I wrote an article about eleven states where we were likely to be able to vote on marijuana reforms this year. But because of the pandemic that list is shrinking. In January, we had two states that all were already set to have it on the ballot. That's New Jersey where the legislature couldn't get it done in the capital. So they punted to the voters New Jersey will vote in November on marijuana legalization. South Dakota will also vote on marijuana legalization. They had all their signatures in long ago, but the pandemic has killed off efforts in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Dakota are dead there still two other states that could get on the ballot. Arizona is looking pretty good. They had a huge number of signatures before the pandemic crunch hit and they will probably be able to get over the top. The other state is Montana. It's not looking so good. They are way behind in signature-gathering and they were just handed a Judicial defeat on Friday when a district court judge there denied their motion to allow electronic signature Gathering. Well, I know I doubt that. Montana is going to make it to the ballot. So it will if we're lucky we'll have three states to vote on marijuana legalization South Dakota, New Jersey and Arizona.
DEAN BECKER: and Phil I also want to underscore why those efforts were stifled I each week used to go before the court houses here in the Harris County Houston and hand out my cards which basically are you know proclaiming the drug war to be of no benefit of scam Etc and the fact is I can't I don't know when I will be able to do that again because people don't want to touch one another don't want to hold a card don't want and in your case like you're talking about they don't want to sign about it or pick up that pen. They don't want to have anything to do with touch anymore. And that's I don't know if the once again thank the damn covid, right?
PHIL SMITH: Yeah Coronavirus. This doesn't just kill people. It also kills drug policy reform initiatives.
DEAN BECKER: Yes it does now when I first started talking to you, I was bringing up an issue and I think this one was your most recent but I talked last week with Judge James P Gray about this and dr. Sunil Agarwal and the fact of the matter is because of this pandemic, it has given politicians state and local maybe a few Federal. But mostly local A New Perspective that these people that we lock up on minor drug charges minor any kind of charges. What in the hell are we doing that for and why are we crowding them all together? And I have a relative who is in the Lansing Prison in Kansas, and they now have some I think it's 750 prisoners with symptoms at least if not full blow coronavirus and there's just not a lot of benefit and keeping these people close together if there's no real rationale judge Gray talked about it being why are we doing this, If we're just mad at them? They haven't actually committed a crime of violence against anybody not even themselves. Why are we doing this? And that's that's changing some perspectives, isn't it? Phil?
PHIL SMITH: Absolutely beginning about a month ago. You started seeing phenomenon in big cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore and St. Louis and Chicago either police departments or local prosecutors signal day that they weren't going to arrest people for many small Time Crimes including drug possession, even including retail drug trafficking or prosecutors announced they would not prosecute these people if police bothered to arrest them. Um, so and that's what that's what's happened in these big cities in Philadelphia in Baltimore in Chicago in st. Louis in the Bay Area and belatedly in New York, New York City was a bit slow to get on that no arrests bandwagon, but when police officers started falling down dead, they re-evaluated their policies and then yeah, you know Prosecuting and jailing people for small time drug offenses this now let's sort of luxury that can't afford either in terms of Public Health or in terms of public order because we don't need our policemen to be home sick, you know dying don't need them to be out doing their jobs.
DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm looking at your the article there on Salon the one regarding big cities giving up on you know, locking up folks and and you reference this maybe even a bit dated at this time, but you reference 4000 New York Police Department officers have been infected with covid-19. Wow, that's such an impact such a depletion of hate capability of functioning for their Department, right?
PHIL SMITH: Yes, and you know, they are these are not people who are friends of drug users necessarily or even extremely Progressive, but they are looking at their departments and their operations and we can't keep going like this.
DEAN BECKER: Well, I just today saw a post about a gentleman was caught with some marijuana in New York by some plain clothes officers and I don't know why I honestly have no idea why they did this but they tackled him took him to the ground beat the crap out of him because he had some marijuana on him and and that just seems totally out of the just way out there. He thought yeah.
PHIL SMITH: I think the NYPD is agrees with you denied if I understand correctly. I think one of the officers involved has been fired already.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I mean, you know, they wasn't it New York where the gentleman was selling loose cigarettes and they smothered him to death. Priorities priorities have got to change that. I talked about the you know this situation it calls for a major reboot of everything at least a hell of a lot of things. You're thought there Phil.
PHIL SMITH: Dean, Yeah, I do call for a reboot and I want to go back to initiatives for a minute because there are things going on in a couple of states that really address that okay, and these are the drug decriminalization initiatives. There's one in Oregon. It preaches the same issues as all the other initiatives with the you know, the difficulties of signature-gathering but it's well positioned it already had it had as many raw signatures as it needs valid voter signatures. So it's in good shape and it continues to gather signatures online that would decriminalize drug possession in the state of Oregon for personal use amounts. It would also take money from marijuana tax revenues and put them into drug treatment. You know the title called of the drug treatment initiative, but to me the most important provision is the drug decriminalization where you're not arresting these people in the first place, right? And there are also next door to Oregon and Washington State. There's an initiative that is just cut off the ground. It also decriminalizing drugs. Now, this is real late in the game, but these people appear confident if the ACLU of Washington leading the effort these people appear confident that they can get the signatures they need in the month of June. So if we're lucky we will have to drug decriminalization initiatives on the ballot in November. If either one of those passes, that's a historic first for us. So that's kind of exciting. Well, it is also want to I also want to point out a couple of other initiatives also in Oregon. There's the psilocybin treatment initiative therapeutic psilocybin. It hasn't qualified for the ballot yet, but it like the decriminalization of looking good in terms of signature-gathering and will probably qualify and dr. Bronner's magic soaps just gave them a million bucks to help get on the ballot. So that should help. There was one other psilocybin decriminalization initiative that was in California, but it's dead, also killed by Coronavirus.
DEAN BECKER: Well the city of Oakland and Seattle if I'm not mistaken have some sort of a Citywide decrim bills in place. Do they not?
PHIL SMITH: Well, they don't have decrim, they do have is law enforcement assisted diversion. And that's pretty effectively decrypt that see if the cops catch you with drugs. They don't arrest you they point you to drug treatment.
DEAN BECKER: Kind of a Portugal scenario. Yeah. Yeah, you know I think back it's been a couple of years back you and I were in Portugal we got to see that Nationwide decriminalization thing in action or non-action. However, you want to say it and got to hear the words of dr. Gula their drugs Czar and if only our drugs are were is as accessible amenable open to discussion right indeed what's never been the case here?
PHIL SMITH: I don't count as it ought to be decent at any time in the foreseeable future now maybe if we can do administratively angle in the white house next year.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, no, I hear you man. No, I wanted to come back to one thing. You know, we were talking earlier about local police and District Attorney's of wanting to ease up on arresting people on not arresting people for minor amounts of drugs. And we had that situation here in Houston where the DA and the police chief were calling for releasing lots of people out of the jails because they didn't want the overcrowding as I understand it. There are more Staff members now at the Harris County jail with covid then there are prisoners and it's just such a squandering but the governor stepped in and said not on my watch they've been debating on it. There have been some people released on some minor charges, but there are still we have some 8,000 people in our jail during this pandemic and it's just not not the way to go your thoughts there Phil.
PHIL SMITH: Well, I'm in total agreement with you Dean, Uhm, we have so many people in prison in jails that don't need to be there. I mean in most places in most jails most people are there not because they've been convicted of a crime but because they can't do bail. Yeah, and they're not significant Public Safety threats most of them. And there's no reason for us to be holding all these people in jail and prison at any time let alone in the midst of this pandemic,
DEAN BECKER: right, Well friends we've been speaking with. Mr. Philip Smith. He's a drug policy journalist for the past two decades. I think he's got a year or two on me and so far as reporting on the drug war. He's the longtime author of the drug war Chronicle the online publication of the nonprofit stopthedrugwar.org, and he has been the editor of alternates drug reporter since 2015 I was there when he was awarded the drug policy Alliance’s Edwin M Brecker award for excellence in media still a bit jealous of that one, but use your deserved it, Phil your closing. Well, yes I have and I do appreciate that. But Phil we win. We're not going to stop we seek that interview with that drugs are don't me with the attorney general with a governor with somebody whose policy whose mandate propels this drugwarfacts.org. We'd love the opportunity to chop them at the knees. Wouldn't we?
PHIL SMITH: Absolutely these people need to justify their policies not hide behind cheap political rhetoric. And really face up to the truth of what they're doing and the Damage they're doing what about harm reduction. We need to end the drug war to reduce the harm of prohibition and those harms our multivariate.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah massive. I was talked about it. We Empower terrorists cartels and gangs. We ensure more overdose deaths and we make sure that children still have the easiest access because high schools are still the best place to find.
Drugs in America. It's just outrageous, isn't it?
PHIL SMITH: Well, there's just too much money to be made if from drug prohibition and our system of drug prohibition rewards the smartest the wiliest in the most ruthless. It's like a system designed to produce exactly the outcomes We don't want.
DEAN BECKEER: Yeah. Well, that's true, Well Phil what's on your agenda? What's your next reporting going to be?
PHIL SMITH: Well, I continue I'll tell you what I want. I'd look into Dean is how the pandemic is affecting drug users in big cities. I had really haven't studied that yet. And I you know, I don't know the degree to which they're just disruptions and Supply. I mentioned earlier the increase in wholesale meth prices in Mexico. I wonder how much impact that it's having on users in the United States. I was wondering about the impact on the availability of Harm Reduction services for drug users. I mean to the degree that those are reduced because of the pandemic. That's scary.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I had a gentleman with Houston harm reduction Coalition on recently and he was talking about how they've had to suspend their their visits for needle exchange and otherwise limit their interaction with the people out there that need naloxone Etc. And it's probably leading to more medical complications. If not more needless deaths. It's the iron law of prohibition. It's just another it really is.
PHIL SMITH: Well, you know that holds true for the population at large in this time of the pandemic, you know, people are going to the hospital because they’re scared of you being infected. Yeah, definitely sit at home after having a stroke or having a heart attack and get much worse and it's even worse for you know hardcore drug using populations that already have a lot of these comorbidities and are seeing reduced access to Services as well as probably reduced access to their drugs at higher prices.
DEAN BECKER: Well, I have seen some other indication, you know, we were talking about the Enlightenment and so far as maybe getting people out of jail, but there's also been some progress. I think that some of the facilities that support those that are addicted that are been giving supplies of Suboxone and other substitute drugs for opium products for people to take home to not force them to have to get out on the streets each day or twice a day to come to their facilities. That's that's some positives, isn't it?
PHIL SMITH: Yeah. I think I think it was a federal agency. I believe it was the FDA that loosened up the rules on methadone. So people didn't have to go Doctor so often and they could take it home with them. That's a good thing. Hopefully once the pandemic he's has this increased access to methadone and other opioid treatment drugs does not give reduced. Once again
DEAN BECKER: well, yeah, that's that is a would be a good positive. Well Phil
PHIL SMITH: I take lessons we can learn from this. The police are warning that they don't have to arrest drug users. The FDA is learning that they don't have to be so tight on methadone the what we need to worry about insuring it is not going backwards. I mean we were actually gaining some ground here in some ways. Yeah, we don't want to retreat afterwards
DEAN BECKER well, and there is then the hope the hope that that it catches on that it that it sticks, So to speak that people realize that well we didn't have to arrest these people and it didn't create more harm and they didn't harm themselves or anyone else and the world continues. Your closing thoughts there Phil Smith.
PHIL SMITH: Well the world continues and so does the struggle, we keep fighting, we fight the pandemic we fight drug prohibition. We want a better world. We're going to keep working on it.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well the Phil share a couple of your website's folks in it folks need to read your words need to glean the the information you're bringing forward.
PHIL SMITH: Yeah. Well, you can find my stuff on www. Stop stopthedrugwar.org.
That's the drug war Chronicle and I also write primarily for alternate but also for salon and some other Publications Citizen truth and some others pick up my stuff. You can go to alternate dot org and look for articles by the drug reporter. That's me.
DEAN BECKER: Okay. Well Phil, let's hope the doll this shakes out soon. If at all possible, I'd known see it coming exactly, but it's not easy.
PHIL SMITH: Looking at a few more years of This crap.
DEAN BECKER: I know I know I got some are fair that I had to cancel on Southwest. It's going to expire in December. Hope to hell I get to use it. That's
PHIL SMITH: I don't know. I know you aren't being a cheap if you want to get on the plane.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I had my age. I'm not really jumping at the at the chance to be honest with
PHIL SMITH: me. I'm on five acres in Rural, Oregon. I'm worried about now is getting my clones in the ground. It's planting time right now. I get bored? I just got driving up in the mountains and there's no one there.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah,
PHIL SMITH: kind of nice.
DEAN BECKER: It's all right, Well again friends we must speak with my good friend. Mr. Phil Smith Phil. I wish you good luck. I hope to see you soon. Just some kind of way.
PHIL SMITH: Well somehow some way it's usually at these conferences. I don't know how many conferences we're going to have already missed the Psychedelic Liberty Summit. Actually, I didn't miss it. I watched it on my computer when virtual instead of live.
DEAN BECKER: Well and for me, it was the Americans for safe access that was going to happen in late March and into April and that's the one they are fair got canceled on because they had to cancel the conference and you know will persevere. We'll keep reporting won't we?
PHIL SMITH: That's right. I'm going to be here for the duration.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again Phil Smith. Thank you, sir.
PHIL SMITH: Thank you.
DEAN SMITH: The drug czars have for decades told us marijuana is illegal because it's harmful.
Some of the most dangerous drugs aren't on the street. They're under your sink household products kids sniff to get high protect your kids. Tell them never to sniff inhalants because the first time can kill a message from the partnership for a drug-free, Texas and America, the partnership for a drug-free America is an enormous fraudulent Enterprise. But in this one instance, they did get it right. It's time to play name that drug by its side effects permanent damage to the liver eyes bone marrow heart and blood vessels convulsions impaired mental function neurological damage, Kidney damage irregular heartbeats unbearable stress sudden snipping depth times up the answer Lucy gasoline. There's a vending Machine in your neighborhood.
Dr. Leo Sigurosa. I'm the chairman of the council for scientific Affairs for the Texas Medical Association. We definitely encourage additional Research into the use of medicinal marijuana.
DEAN BECKER: What will it take to motivate?
Please visit drugtruth.net. All right. Once again, I want to thank mr. Phil Smith for his Decades of reporting on the drug war. Be sure to check out DRC net. And once again, I want to remind you that because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful. To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world. This is Dean Becker for cultural baggage and the unvarnished truth, Cultural Baggage is of production of the Pacifica Radio Network archives are permanently stored at the James A Baker III Institute for public policy and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.
This week on Century of Lies we speak with Hawaii ophthalmologist and medical cannabis advocate Dr. Clifton Otto, plus an April 2016 interview with journalist and drug policy reformer Phil Smith.
CENTURY OF LIES
JANUARY 1, 2020
DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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.
DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of www.drugwarfacts.org.
On this show we have a new interview and an old interview. So while I am finishing up editing that new interview let’s listen to this old one from April 19, 2016 outside of United Nation’s headquarters in New York City speaking with my good friend Phil Smith from DRCNET.
DOUG MCVAY: I am talking with Phil Smith, one of the best reporters I know and he’s the writer for Drug War Chronicle, a brilliant journalist and a good friend. Hi, Phil.
PHIL SMITH: Howdy.
DOUG MCVAY: We are here in New York at the UNGASS 2016, and I have to ask you the obligatory question about the UNGASS which is what do you think is going to come out of this in terms of the drug policy debate and how do you see this impacting it and where do we go from there?
PHIL SMITH: I don’t see a whole lot coming out of UNGASS because as you said (WE SETTLED) with the CND last month. However what we do see is the increased presence of civil society and we’re also starting to see a handful of countries standing up to denounce the status quo which is new; the increasing role of civil society is new and these are both good things. It is the U.N., and it is so slow and we have to deal with really retrograde countries as well such as Russia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Iran and places like that. I don’t expect much to come out of this except that we advance the conversation a little bit and look down the road towards 2019 and beyond. I also want to say that I think to a large degree the international drug conventions are irrelevant; they are toothless. All they can do if you violate them is wag their finger at you and tell you that you are a bad country. Before the bogeyman was the United States, the drug treaties had the United States behind them but that seems to be changing in the last few years, especially under Obama. The Obama Administration seems to be taking a much more relaxed role towards what other countries are doing so that is a good thing. Will we have that under our next President whoever that is? We’ll see. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the UNGASS, I understand it is the international process but God it is slow! I don’t see any reason for countries to wait for the treaties to change to go ahead and change their own laws.
DOUG MCVAY: In fact that is what’s happening. Canada, Uruguay, and even in the United States at least within the states, that is exactly what’s happening. Let’s switch topics because we are doing the UNGASS to death and you do so much more. I was just down in Baltimore where I talked to the legendary Billy Murphy who among other things was the attorney for the family of Freddie Gray. Today is April 19th, this is the one year anniversary of the uprising in Baltimore and a week before that was the one year anniversary of the murder of Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore police. The city was torn apart and this is where the Black Lives Matter movement began because of Ferguson and the murder of Michael Brown and it has gathered steam over time. Eric Garner here in this city of New York and I wish that the list weren’t so long but it just keeps going. One of the things that I asked Billy about as well as a few others including Neill Franklin was how do you think the Black Lives Matter movement has influenced the drug policy debate?
PHIL SMITH: Many people in drug policy think more broadly about how we’ve pit drug policy within the larger criminal justice context and the larger conversation about race in this country. The war on drugs is an integral part of our criminal justice dilemma, problem, crisis – whatever you want to call it here – and I think it serves drug reformers to really pay attention to what the black community is saying and not just about the drug stuff but more broadly because it is all wrapped together.
DOUG MCVAY: You stopped yourself from saying class because of course if we talk about class we get accused of engaging in class war which is when people who are being oppressed complain about being oppressed.
PHIL SMITH: Well there is only one class that gets to fight the class war and we know which one that is.
DOUG MCVAY: Yes. They are the ones on top. Three years from now it will be the sustainable development goals as well as another UN meeting but enough with the UN. What kind of stuff are you working on these days that you can talk about that are about to hit the press?
PHIL SMITH: It’s a year when we are probably going to see five or six states legalize it, maybe four or five at this point. You watch these states with a legislative process and it looks so promising and then at the end there is some subcommittee chair that screws it up. I am afraid that is going to happen in Vermont this year, we’ll see as it’s not dead yet. Of course the continuing progress of marijuana legalization is something that I write about frequently in addition to the opioid/heroin “crisis” with a large number of people dying from drug overdoses and what we are going to do about it. One of the other things I have been writing about is some of the nasty, regressive responses to it that we are seeing such as prosecutors wanting to charge people with murder if they sold the heroin that someone died from. In some states we are seeing attempts to stiffen drug penalties again for certain classes of drugs which is totally a move in the wrong direction. On the other hand we are seeing an increased acceptance of harm reduction whether you are talking about the rapid spread of Naloxone which is the opioid overdose reversal drug throughout the states. We are even advancing on some of the more controversial harm reduction issues such as safe injection sites. One of the stories that I am going to be writing about soon is about a safe injection site that is going to be opening in Seattle without anybody’s permission, so we will see how that goes. They are not going to wait for permission, they are just going to go ahead and do it and take it from there. That is very exciting! I know there is another safe injection site in San Francisco that is operating but no one wants to talk about it so that’s all I can say about that.
I am also no longer just writing for the Drug War Chronicle, I am also writing for www.alternet.org. I am the Drug Reporter Editor and that gives me the opportunity to write some fun stuff; not just serious policy stuff. It is actually the fun stuff that gets much more widely read than the serious policy stuff. It seems like people really want to know what makes their pot turn purple and why Blue Dream is so popular. As someone who is interested in the broad issues of drugs and culture I am enjoying myself doing the Alter.net stuff. I still get to do the politics but I get to do some more fun stuff, too, and I get to write about psychedelics a bunch more than I would with the Drug War Chronicle because there is not much happening in terms of policy but there is a lot going on in terms of medicine and it is seeming like a psychedelic renaissance these days. In fact we are sitting here today in Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza waiting for a demonstration to mark the 71st anniversary of Albert Hoffman’s bicycle ride where he tripped his brains out on LSD.
DOUG MCVAY: That’s right. We can’t forget April 19th, Bicycle Day. I haven’t seen them arrive yet but at the other end of the plaza there is a café between them and us but that’s okay. It’s quieter over here which is why we are doing the interview. I have always said that there has to be a cultural shift before you get the policy shift. In California there were buyers’ clubs, there was Prop. P, which was trying to make it and there was an unofficial network in D.C. for years I even helped out once in a while myself in getting cannabis to AIDS patients. I hope that we see more of that. What are your thoughts?
PHIL SMITH: If you look at the places where legalization has taken place it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because there was cultural acceptance already and I think that the fact that it is now legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and D.C. is going to diffuse that cultural acceptance more broadly in the country as a whole and I think that is going to accelerate marijuana legalization; and hopefully not just marijuana but a more broadly advanced drug policy conversation.
DOUG MCVAY: Tell the listeners where they can find your work and any social media information and any closing thoughts you may have.
PHIL SMITH: You can read me in the Drug War Chronicle at www.stopthedrugwar.org, or www.alternet.org/drugs where I am the drug reporter and editor. There is lots of good content there as well.
Doug, I have been doing this stuff for 15 years and it has really changed. When I first started doing this I had to hunt for stories; there was basically no drug media except High Times and that was about it. It is definitely not that way anymore. It is crazy how much marijuana alone is out there and even with other drugs as well. The conversation has really advanced in 15 years. We are not in Utopia, but we are heading in the right direction.
DOUG MCVAY: Excellent. Phil Smith, thank you so much. That was our interview with Phil Smith, he is a writer and journalist who does a lot of great work. Of course you are most familiar with him because of his work for Drug Reform Coordination Network, or DRCNET at www.stopthedrugwar.org.
You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay. Now that I have those edits done let’s hear this new interview. I am doing this story for a magazine and I was interviewing this guy and it was really fun. Once I got the interview done for the magazine I had some time left and he was kind enough to give me some extra time and so we went ahead and recorded an additional interview. With no further ado here is Dr. Clifton Otto, an ophthalmologist working in Hawaii and an activist/advocate for medical marijuana patients.
Dr. Otto, are you active politically at all? Cannabis, medical marijuana whatever we are calling it is a political issue. As you were saying, the scheduling is one of the big concerns. What do you do out there in Hawaii aside from medicine?
DR. OTTO: I have been trying to work with our state legislature for about the past seven years when I started to get in on this because of a friend who had colorectal cancer and ending up using cannabis to help reduce his pain during the chemotherapy, before surgery, and then right afterwards as well as his other rounds of chemotherapy. I had a chance to see for myself how the patient can benefit directly from cannabis and that was something that I was never exposed to in medical school or during any of my medical education and then I started looking at some of the research online and I was really fascinated with the amount of research that has already been done back in the 70s in other countries on the medical mechanisms and actions of the cannabinoids in various different organs in diseased states. I then started looking at our medical cannabis program and that is when I really became politically active. I could see how patients were really being injured by some major flaws in our law and this whole perception that our patients were violating federal law which puts them at risk for a whole host of unintended consequences like failing a drug screening test for drug employment; or failing a drug test during employment and getting terminated; or not being able to travel to other islands with their medicine and we travel a lot in this island state to other islands to visit family and for work; or not being able to take advantage of the benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act; or being evicted from federally subsidized housing. These are all consequences that our patients are burdened with every day because of this perception that our patients is violating federal law. I have been researching this on my own over this past seven years because the other thing we don’t learn much about in medical school is how controlled substances are refrigerated. We leave medical school and get a medical license and we are able to start prescribing controlled substances but we don’t learn about how controlled substances are regulated and what authority the state has to control the medical use of controlled substances within that state and that is really the crux of the matter because states have retained the authority to decide how controlled substances are used within their state. Our state and just about all the other states in the union have decided that cannabis has medical use and federal law says that if a substance has accepted medical use it cannot be a Schedule 1 drug. That is usually taken to mean that is an FDA approved drug product but that is not the only way something can have medical use because congress never defined accepted medical use which leaves it up to the state to determine that and our state has already determined that cannabis has medical use. If you look at our statute it doesn’t say medicinal use of cannabis, it doesn’t say botanical use. It says Chapter 9 – Medical use of Marijuana, so that is how I got in to the politics of this. I am not a lobbyist, I don’t get paid for any of my efforts. I am just doing this on my own trying to raise awareness in an environment where everyone has just been convinced that we cannot do anything until the feds fix things for us even though this is really a situation that our state created when it decided that cannabis had medical use but it never went back to the federal government and requested a special use exemption that would remove our patients and our dispensaries from the criminality of violating a Schedule 1 Federal Controlled Substance Regulation.
DOUG MCVAY: You don’t have to be a lobbyist to advocate for your patients and that is really what you are doing is advocating for patients. That is what doctors should do –I wish more of them did. This is important stuff especially when it is someone with the expertise. As you were saying, a lot of anecdotal stuff and having met a number of people who are cancer survivors including myself. I was just finishing up my last session of chemo 16 years ago. I started chemo at 128 lbs. and thanks to the kindness and generosity of some friends I managed to use enough weed to gain back 12 lbs. and ended chemo at around 140. Nurses were telling me that I was going to convince them about this stuff.
PHIL SMITH: As you probably know that is a big problem when you are on chemo because you lose weight, your immune system drops out, and then patients get secondary infections and that’s usually what kills them. So that’s amazing.
The other thing that I have done here in Hawaii is become a certified physician for Hawaii’s medical cannabis program which means that I certify the patients who meet the criteria set by the state and then I am able to give them advice on how to use cannabis effectively within the confidentiality and freedom of speech as well as doctor/patient relationship. So I am getting a lot of firsthand information and feedback from my patients and it is amazing what they are doing! They are really doing whatever they can to try and improve their lives and the quality of their lives. They are all so frustrated with these pharmaceutical medications that are being thrown at them by different doctors and not really getting any relief or good results so it’s a really brave bunch of people and that just makes me really want to help them and get them out from underneath this horrible situation that they find themselves in by the fact that they are just trying to be pain free and functional in their lives; that’s all they really want.
DOUG MCVAY: Again folks I speaking with Dr. Clifton Otto, he is an ophthalmologist based in Hawaii and we are chatting about glaucoma and medical marijuana. Doc, do you have a website? Do you do any blogging or anything like that?
PHIL SMITH: I am not a big blogger. I do have a website: www.cannabishealthcarehawaii.com. I have various pages with some of them devoted to the work that I have been doing here in Hawaii, some of them to various issues such as the upcoming Medical Cannabis Day coming up in 2020. Our medical cannabis program will actually be 20 years old on June 14, 2020. That is when our governor at the time signed our Medical Cannabis Act in to law here in Hawaii so I am putting some information on that. I am hoping that is going to be a more popular event this year given that it’s been 20 years and that patients will use this as an opportunity to rally around this medicine and hopefully make some progress with our lawmakers.
DOUG MCVAY: That sounds like a great idea because as you were saying those amendments that were in the appropriation bills were mostly all yanked. Thankfully the one amendment that remains is still the protection for the medical marijuana programs.
PHIL SMITH: We still have that one band aid that basically restricted DEA’s (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it does not restrict the Office of National Drug Control Policy funding which is with the executive office. They are working with HIDA and groups that they are creating and there is still a very strong anti-marijuana campaign going on throughout the states – a well-coordinated effort between federal and state narcotics enforcement agencies.
DOUG MCVAY: Including some of the community groups like CADCA (Community Anti-drug Coalitions of America). About a decade ago there were some CADCA trainers working in California trying to help the communities learn how to use zoning and other kinds of municipal regulations to prevent marijuana businesses from being allowed in their area. They were doing these seminars for elected officials and I think the elected officials already knew how but it was just to encourage them. Lo and behold a lot of California has zoned out the possibility of marijuana businesses in this new adult use market which is why there is still an illegal market thriving in California. It’s an outrage. People have to stand up. I think there was a point where we relaxed thinking that we’ve passed the tipping point and that’s the point when the storm hits.
PHIL SMITH: Right and it could very well go back the other way with all of these recreational, adult use programs that seem to be a little out of control and not as well-regulated as everybody hoped they would be. That is why I am really focusing on medical use. I have seen the potential of this medicine and I have also seen people go through acute cannabis psychosis – people that are very sensitive to THC so this is nothing like alcohol or tobacco in my mind; this is a powerful substance that has real medical potential and I think that is where our focus should be. We should be protecting our patients and having the states take the lead on this. There is a lot we could do at the state level, it doesn’t all have to be multi-million dollar FDA clinical trials. My fear is that if the states don’t stand up for their medical use of cannabis now they are going to lose this opportunity to hold on to it. If we wait for the feds to just nationally legalize it and impose all of these standards on the states we will have lost the opportunity to protect this potential. Part of the reason that we have dispensaries and they are able to sell product is because the product is intended only for sale and use within the state which exempts it from FDA regulation. A state like Hawaii where we have year round amazing sunlight and could be producing high quality cannabis for medical use year round for exclusive use within the state and our original Medical Cannabis Act or the introduction of that statute said that the intent was to have Hawaii become an international research and treatment location for medical cannabis and I think that was a great insight, unfortunately it hasn’t really been carried forward but there is a huge potential for the states to develop this medicine on their own and potentially create cannabinoid-based, standardized medications that would be far cheaper and more accessible to patients than depending completely on this FDA approval process.
DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Dr. Clifton Otto who is an ophthalmologist in Hawaii as well as an advocate for patients and medical marijuana. Dr. Otto, I appreciate your time. I want to thank everyone for listening.
That’s it for this week. Thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies we are a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. On the web at www.drugtruth.net. I am your host, Doug McVay, editor of www.drugwarfacts.org. The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast, the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at www.drugtruth.net
The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too, give it a like. Share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power. We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs. For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long.
For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.
Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War re hemp law hoopla, Paul Stanford re release of new movie Green Goddess, pep talk from Trump, Volcano benefits COPD patient, DTN Editorial
AUGUST 14, 2019
DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars who support the drug war that empowers terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent U.S. gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.
I tell you what friends welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am feeling a bit lazy today so I am going to let our first guest introduce himself and lead us in our discussion. Mr. Phil Smith, how are you, sir?
PHIL SMITH: I am fine and dandy, Dean. I should let your listeners know that I am the editor of both the Drug War Chronicle and the Independent Media Institute’s Drug Reporter and I have been writing about drugs and drug policy for an awful long time now, at least a couple of decades.
DEAN BECKER: Yes you have. What is the hot button? What is going on?
PHIL SMITH: I want to talk about hemp.
DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk.
PHIL SMITH: There are a couple of things going on with hemp that are pretty exciting with unintended consequences of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the industrial production of hemp; which is cannabis with less than 0.3% THC. First off, it has taken off like crazy. I moved to southern Oregon which is the traditional pot growing area of Oregon and the countryside is covered in hemp plants by the thousands of acres. I just did an article about Oregon hemp production and it has increased from a hundred acres in 2015, to 22,000 acres this year.
DEAN BECKER: Wow.
PHIL SMITH: So from 13 hemp farmers to 700 hemp farmers, and it is not just Oregon. We are seeing a dramatic increase in hemp production all over the country. It is up 25% over last year and it is on an exponential curve at this point. I don’t know how long that can be sustained. This may be a one or two year boom driven largely by CBD, because the Farm Bill defined hemp and products derived from it as not being subject to the Controlled Substances Act so I don’t know about Texas but around here and in many states you find CBD products everywhere; in drug stores, corner stores—
DEAN BECKER: Gas stations.
PHIL SMITH: Yes, you name it.
DEAN BECKER: We have it here and I want to add one quick thought and then you can continue on this subject because it is a hot item here as well. I just recently learned of a 75 year old lady who isn’t a drug reformer that happened to try some CBD because she heard about it on NBC and gave it a shot. It is helping her hips and she is walking properly again. Please continue Mr. Phil Smith.
PHIL SMITH: That is part of what I wanted to say about industrial hemp. It is really booming and I should add that in my part of the country farmers that are growing industrial hemp are getting about $500 a pound for the buds. That is damn near as much as these outdoor growers can get for their marijuana so what has happened here in southern Oregon at least and I suspect in other places as well is some pot growers have switched over to hemp.
DEAN BECKER: Well the knowledge has got to transfer over wouldn’t you think?
PHIL SMITH: Absolutely. It is the same species of plant. The other thing I wanted to talk about with hemp is really fascinating because it is no longer considered marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, it is really screwing up marijuana possession prosecutions in all of these states that legalized hemp.
DEAN BECKER: You got it.
PHIL SMITH: They didn’t mean to do that but that is what has happened. Prosecutors in Florida counties including Miami Dade say that they are going to quit prosecuting pot cases because they can’t prove that it is pot as opposed to hemp with their current drug tests. It is also messing up drug dogs. Drug dogs can’t tell the difference between hemp and pot.
DEAN BECKER: They are unemployed now.
PHIL SMITH: Or they need to be shortly. We have had 46 states legalize hemp production since the Farm Bill passed in 2018. I would wager that every one of these states has the same problem with pot possession prosecutions now. They are just not worth the effort now. You have to go to a fancy lab to differentiate between low THC hemp and high THC marijuana. So I think this hemp legalization has effectively really screwed up marijuana prohibition.
DEAN BECKER: I am with you. I have been posting about that the last couple of days myself. In fact, just before this show is airing I was supposed to be in downtown Houston doing a hemp smoke in. I haven’t been feeling well with the heat so I decided not to do it this week; but the whole point being that if it is legal and every gas station and convenience store is selling it then why not? I was just going to sit down on the smoker’s bench outside of the courthouse and light up a cigarette that happened to contain hemp.
PHIL SMITH: Right?!
DEAN BECKER: I just wanted to see what would happen. I was going to tell all of the media, the district attorney, and the police chief so that I don’t frighten anybody. I was just going to smoke a cigarette. What is your thought on that?
PHIL SMITH: (LAUGHTER) Bring it on! I have to say that I went to the corner store here in southern Oregon a couple of nights ago and they now have hemp cigarettes.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. They have them here in Houston as well. They are selling eighths of an ounce for fifty bucks. It is crazy. The point I would like to say here is that the D.A. and I had a great discussion about this about six weeks ago and she agrees with pretty much what you and I have been saying but it all has got to be hashed out over the coming months. They say that they are not going to prosecute for small amounts, we are going to confiscate it and possibly test it at some point down the road if we can afford a machine or find one. To me that says that if I have hemp in my car that is low-THC at .02, and you just stole my product. I am going to sue your butt. What is your thought there?
PHIL SMITH: That sounds like a very effective civil recourse. I highly recommend anyone who has their hemp (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to do that.
DEAN BECKER: Right. Because maybe eventually they will just give up on trying to persecute this plant that has never killed anybody.
PHIL SMITH: At this stage it is a waste of resources to come up with more advanced testing. How much do you want to pay to figure out if this joint is hemp or recreational marijuana?
DEAN BECKER: Yes.
PHIL SMITH: It is a question of the effective use of public resources. That is our tax money that those law enforcement people are spending to throw us in jail for pot.
DEAN BECKER: The same holds true with these vaporizer cartridges with CBD.
PHIL SMITH: Yes.
DEAN BECKER: People are making CBD edibles now and it just goes across the board to incorporate all the things that they have been prosecuting people for in the past. They are guessing now in essence. They are paranoid and guessing is my summation. What is your thought on that, Phil Smith?
PHIL SMITH: Hemp has thrown a real wrench in the works. No one thought about this but here it is and now all of these prosecutors and state attorneys general are having to deal with it. My advice to them is at this late stage to just give it up.
DEAN BECKER: Yes.
PHIL SMITH: Let’s not waste any more resources on this.
DEAN BECKER: Wasn’t it La Guardia airport in New York? He never really got on board in the first place for the alcohol prohibition back then and he finally said if they wanted to bust people for alcohol in New York they would have to send in the Feds because they were not going to help. What they have got to realize is that this prohibition has no real merit to it and certainly not for marijuana and it does empower certain gangster types here and there. It doesn’t really do much to contribute to society other than give people a black mark on their record. Wrap it up for us here would you, Phil?
PHIL SMITH: Marijuana prohibition continues despite everything for a number of reasons one of which is that there are vested interests behind maintaining the status quo and one doesn’t have to go to conspiracy theory here. I am talking about people such as law enforcement agencies, prison guard unions –
DEAN BECKER: Treatment centers.
PHIL SMITH: Yes. All of them.
DEAN BECKER: Exactly. These legislators don’t have to do that and it doesn’t have to be their side job. They could have a cousin that has a urine testing outfit, or their uncle has stock in private prisons. You just never know. There are all of these financial influences that keep it tied together. What do you think?
PHIL SMITH: I think we are going to overcome them.
DEAN BECKER: I think so. The truth –
PHIL SMITH: We just have to be conscious of them, identify them, and work to neutralize them; and we will win.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you, sir. Do you have a website you would like to share or any closing thoughts?
PHIL SMITH: Come check out my work at www.stopthedrugwar.org, or you can also check out my work at the Independent Media Institute. You can find most of my stuff on www.alternet.org most of the time.
It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effects. Clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, shallow or absent breathing, dizziness, sedation, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, weak or absent pulse, heart failure, thousands of deaths. Times Up! Designed to sedate adult elephants, this drug is 100 times more deadly than Fentanyl, 10,000 times deadlier than morphine, a portion smaller than a grain of salt can be fatal. The drug lord’s dream fulfilled: Carfentanyl.
DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen please put your ears closer to the speaker. It is time for our daily pep talk with the profound and patriotic pronouncements of the President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Of course I hate these people. Let’s all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we are going to get something done.
DEAN BECKER: I smoked Marlboro’s for approximately 48 years and the best I can estimate I smoked 70 pack years of tobacco with my best estimate of total cigarettes smoked being one half million cigarettes. I now have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) or what folks used to call emphysema and it is kicking my ass. I quit tobacco a few years back and I still had the ability to lift boxes, crawl under cars, and do most of the chores and tasks that I had always done but in the last year or two the ease of doing these tasks has become rather difficult. I have enjoyed smoking marijuana for more than 55 years but now because of the COPD, I can barely take a hit from a marijuana or hemp cigarette without coughing my head off, my face turning red as a beat, and without giving those around me a degree of concern. As a drug reporter I visit lots of drug conferences a year and most are in cannabis legal states where quite often vendors are selling cannabis and many others are offering samples of pipes, papers, portable vaporizers, and various smoking accoutrement. As soon as the COPD started kicking my butt I have tried switching over from joints which have always been my preferred method of smoking to the little pipes, one-hitters, personal vape pens, and larger apparatus to find that they all irritate and lead to red-faced bouts of coughing. Just last week after inquiring about their new release, I received a brand-new product from Storz & Bickel which is an in-home vaporizing device called The Hybrid. It resembles The Volcano, but besides the means to capture vapors in a refillable bag for ease of use it also features a hose mechanism that works much like a hookah. The end result; I can get high again if I am not too greedy, I keep the precise and easily adjustable temperature settings within reason, and I don’t keep increasing the heat to the plant matter it works marvelously.
Storz –Bickel started years ago with The Volcano and now with their new hybrid they have achieved what is for me a new means of enjoying the beautiful buds of today.
There is a strong chance these products might be available at your local head shop or other such store in your community. If not, you can learn more by going to www.storz-bickel.com.
DEAN BECKER: Folks today is a lazy day for me so I want my guest to just introduce himself. Would you please, Sir?
MALE VOICE: My name is Paul Stanford. I have been a cannabis activist for the past 40 or so years now. I was born in Houston, Texas, and grew up in Dallas, Texas. My mom still lives there but I now live in Oregon. I am also the Associate Producer and a minor actor in a movie that was just released this weekend named, The Green Goddess.
DEAN BECKER: I have had a chance to see the trailer and I want to say that I found it beautiful and astounding. It is interesting because it brings forward the heart of the cannabis movement, awareness, and the plant itself.
PAUL STANFORD: Yes, that was the point. We made it in to a comedy/adventure and it talks about cannabis being something to save the planet and it makes up a good story around that. It has over 500 special effects sequences, most of them pretty psychedelic. I am told that that is more than any other independent film. We had a lot of people that worked on Avatar and Titanic who basically donated their time to work on some of these scenes.
DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind something, Paul. A lot of people realize this, but maybe many of the listeners do not and that is the cannabis community is far and wide. It is well connected and it stands in support of one another and in progress toward recognizing the benefit and the futilities of the laws. Am I right?
PAUL STANFORD: That is true. Cannabis is the oldest and the most productive crop for fuel, fiber, food, medicine, and for fun as well. It has been grown for at least the last 25,000 years and it is integral in most societies going back. I could itemize those but…
DEAN BECKER: There is not enough time my friend!
PAUL STANFORD: No there is not but I do it in a lecture some times in various countries.
DEAN BECKER: We just have a few more minutes here. You mentioned food, fiber, and fuel. I shop at HEB grocery store and I love the store but they want to put my stuff in those white plastic bags. I always ask if they have paper because I don’t want to see those bags waving in the trees. I don’t want to see them floating in the river.
PAUL STANFORD: Here in Portland, Oregon they require that you use paper bags.
DEAN BECKER: Good.
PAUL STANFORD: They charge ten cents per plastic bag in California so it is like a disposable fee.
DEAN BECKER: What people also don’t recognize is that we could use hemp bags instead of the paper bags.
PAUL STANFORD: Hemp can replace all of the world’s plastic. In fact, I am going to be a speaker at the Texas Hemp Convention in Dallas on January 28, 29, and 30th talking about bringing hemp fuel, food, and fiber production to the state of Texas now that it is legal.
DEAN BECKER: Coincidentally, just today I heard from a relative of mine who just returned from Oregon and they talked about driving down the highway seeing nothing but thousands of hemp and marijuana plants growing. The number of dispensaries available, the reasonable prices, and no problems to speak of. Am I right?
PAUL STANFORD: Yes. There are more people growing low-THC CBD flowers and biomass for CBD production in southern Oregon than there are pear and grape growers combined. There is more acreage and more farmers doing it. Pears and grapes are major crops in southern Oregon and hemp is now bigger than both of those. Like your friend said and I have seen with my own eyes it is beginning. You can drive up both sides of the freeway and it is on both sides of the valley. Now we are growing sensemillia flower; what Texas needs to grow is hempseed oil to compete with the petrochemical industry because a lot of petroleum and plastics can be replaced with hempseed oil and that produces food and fiber to feed people and animals. Paper, rope, lace, linen, and building materials can be replaced with hemp.
DEAN BECKER: Exactly. Put the farmers back to work on a nice, productive crop.
PAUL STANFORD: Instead of the money going to the petrochemical giants it would go to our farmers and decentralize wealth and that is what we really need to see happen in this day and age, in my opinion.
DEAN BECKER: You got it.
PAUL STANFORD: Hopefully they will become supporters of public radio.
DEAN BECKER: Paul, I want to come back to your movie. I have had a chance to look at it and I want to say that I feel sympathy and empathy from it. I think it was Jack Herer who said that marijuana may not solve everything but it is the only thing that might or something to that effect.
PAUL STANFORD: Yes. People often talk about there being some time left for these changes to be made. The time is long past. Now it is just a matter of saving what is left. Hemp can help save what is left. This movie focuses on that in a fun, comedic way with some incredible special effects and we are hoping that people will go out there and take a look at the trailer. We are selling the movie online for $4.20, and we are going to use some of the first proceeds to try to pitch it to Netflix as what they call a content aggregator which Netflix requires.
DEAN BECKER: More power to them I guess.
PAUL STANFORD: You can see the trailer and buy the movie if you can at: www.greengoddessmovie.com.
DEAN BECKER: I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the pictures of those sensemillia plants you guys grow and I was –
PAUL STANFORD: I have grown for Willy Nelson for a number of years.
DEAN BECKER: Oh, man. I have smoked some of that then on the bus with Willy before.
PAUL STANFORD: I was actually in Austin the day that Willie was busted for taxes in December 1990. He was meeting with me which they say was one of the reasons they were after him.
PAUL STANFORD: I can’t speak to that.
DEAN BECKER: I was a guerilla gardener. I would go out and plant in the winter and hope that something came up. I would go back about every month or so and cut back the weeds. I planted on old farms back then. There were farms and ranches all over Harris County, and I would just look for the most remote area. There were a lot of them back 20 years ago. There would usually be a patch where the ragweed was 15 feet tall and the dirt was so loose. You could just dig two feet deep with your hands in about a minute.
PAUL STANFORD: Cannabis will grow well throughout Texas. Texas red dirt marijuana was pretty famous back in the 50s and 60s with aficionados like Louie Armstrong. Even the U.S. Speaker of the House back in the 30s, 40s, and 50s Sam Rayburn grew hemp on his farm. He didn’t realize when he introduced the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 that he was criminalizing something that he grew on his farm in Bonham, Texas.
DEAN BECKER: Ainslinger fooled them all, didn’t he?
PAUL STANFORD: Yes he did. Those petrochemical, pharmaceutical, military, industrial, transnational, corporately fascist crony capitalist ruling class and a lot of them were Texas oilmen. They wanted that money and did not want the farmers to have it.
DEAN BECKER: But the best place I found to grow weed near Houston was in a little town called Hempstead.
PAUL STANFORD: Imagine. I wonder why they gave it that name.
DEAN BECKER: It grows real well there and probably will again.
PAUL STANFORD: I think it will.
DEAN BECKER: I have to wrap it up here with my good friend, Mr. Paul Stanford up there in Oregon.
PAUL STANFORD: Thank you, Dean. I appreciate the opportunity to pitch our movie and let people know about it. We just released it after almost 20 years in the making. Thanks. You should come and visit at the very least, especially in October. Early October during harvest time.
DEAN BECKER: Okay. Mr. Paul Stanford, thank you, sir.
PAUL STANFORD: Thank you and you have a good one.
MALE VOICE: Legend has it that deep within the THC crystal of the marijuana plant there lives a goddess. A goddess so incredible that meeting her will transform your life forever. She is magnificent, glorious, beautiful, and delicious. If you start with a strain like this nurture her and worship her. When your mind is open she will come.
FEMALE VOICE: I have so many gifts to give the world yet I am made an outlaw. I am food, shelter, clothing, medicine, fuel, and so much more. Help me, connect to me, connect others to me and make them understand. Allow me through you to heal the planet. Only then will my true purpose have been fulfilled.
MALE VOICE: We’ll travel halfway across the world to plant 25,000 marijuana plants and harvest more organic ganja than you and all of your friends could smoke in three lifetimes. Woah! That’s a lot of pot!
DEAN BECKER: Paul didn’t say it, but the movie is pretty trippy. You can find it at: www.greengoddessmovie.com.
DEAN BECKER: This is a Drug Truth Network Editorial. Two decades ago I stumbled upon official government documents including newspaper and other written accounts which fully described how these drug laws came to be. These documents show that without any actual data, studies, or rationale these laws were instituted. I saw that it was outrageous, an abomination, a series of hysterical accounts based solely on propaganda and racial screeds that were used to frighten the populous and motivate the politicians to continually ratchet up the number of drug laws and penalties for possession or sales. It worked to alienate drug users in much the same way gays or witches have been persecuted in the past. I felt an obligation to alert others, meaning you, to what I had learned. I first wrote a screenplay which was never given a green light called, Century of Lies. Next I joined forces with the New York Times to become their liaison for their drug policy forum. It was my duty to bring notables to that forum to include the likes of Milton Freedman and Gary Johnson. In 2001 I managed to wrangle a weekly broadcast program which is this program, Cultural Baggage on KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica radio station. We now have more than 60 broadcast affiliates in the U.S. and Canada. More than 7,000 programs are now available at www.drugtruth.net. I have interviewed well over a thousand notables to include government officials, scientists, ministers, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and well over 100 authors. To fortify my understanding I have traveled to more than 100 conferences to learn directly from these doctors, scientists, and other experts. I have challenged these high echelon officials for more than 20 years including the drug czars, attorneys general, CIA, FBI to come on this show to clarify the need for an eternal drug war to absolutely no avail. There is no benefit to this drug war and we must bring it to an end.
As was discussed with Paul Stanford and Phil Smith, hemp is changing the equation and thankfully many district attorneys around Texas are stating that they will no longer arrest folks for small amounts of marijuana. They have this perspective that they still want to take your bag of any green, leafy material. They think it might potentially be contraband and they are going to hold it for the day that it can be tested. This near universal perspective of major city district attorneys really has no basis in law or American justice. Last week a Gallup poll indicated that 1 in 7 Americans are already using hemp so now because there can be no verification of evidence on-scene, there is no probable cause and no legitimate law in the books to justify the thoughts of confiscating every bag of green plant matter. Every confiscation involving hemp would obviously be a case of theft. So let us once again judge people by their actions, not by making baseless presumptions about the fresh or dried flowers in their possession. Smell or sight of hemp or cannabis no longer justifies a search or confiscation because paranoia is not a law and guessing is not a tool of justice. Once again I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful!
Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are currently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.
Phil Smith of Stop the Drug War, Rachel Luba re Cannabis use for end of life, Jodie Emery re Canada cannabis situation
MAY 10, 2018
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.
Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, glad you could be with us today here on Cultural Baggage. I'm reading from today's Houston Chronicle: three smoke shops probed after illegal oil seized. According to our police chief, Art Acevedo, what they're doing is maybe getting a little bit of CBD oil out of some hemp plants, but then they're putting in that synthetic Kush BS, the poison.
It's, once again, we're returning to snake oil sales, right here in these United States. Ah, hell, it never really went away. A hundred years of prohibition, and it's still snake oil sales. This is the Reverend Dean and I've got some good stuff to share with you today. Let's get going.
PHILIP SMITH: This is Philip Smith, I'm the editor of the Drug War Chronicle, been doing that for about 18 years, and I'm now also a senior writing fellow for the Institute for Independent Media.
DEAN BECKER: Well, tell us a little bit about the Independent Media, I hadn't heard that yet.
PHILIP SMITH: Well, it's basically AlterNet. AlterNet has been bought by the Independent Media Institute, and I continue to write for AlterNet and post my stories on AlterNet, but I'm now not the AlterNet drug editor, but a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.
DEAN BECKER: Well, fair enough, at least you're focus hasn't changed, or not much, I would say. I'm looking at --
PHILIP SMITH: That's right.
DEAN BECKER: -- a recent post of yours, talking about New York City Mayor De Blasio is now endorsing safe injection sites. This would be the first of hopefully many in these United States, if he can get that moving, right?
PHILIP SMITH: Well, it would be the first legally permitted safe injection site in the United States. There is at least one that is operating underground, unpermitted, but it's going on.
DEAN BECKER: Right, and --
PHILIP SMITH: But yeah, this would be the first legal one.
DEAN BECKER: Even in my fair city of Houston, there is a needle -- underground needle exchange, it's the kind of thing that authorities really don't want to put too much effort into thwarting. Your thought there, sir.
PHILIP SMITH: Well, police officers in the street probably have a good understanding of what needles exchanges do, and what safe injection sites do, and they are undoubtedly less likely to oppose them than perhaps some elected officials who will embrace moralism and NIMBYism in opposition to them.
I mean, you know, these horrible elected officials say, oh, you're just encouraging drug use.
DEAN BECKER: Right.
PHILIP SMITH: But police officers know better, police officers on the street know better. That's why they don't tend to mess with them that much.
DEAN BECKER: Right. And I'm going to quote here Mayor De Blasio, he says after a rigorous review of similar efforts across the world and after careful consideration of public health and safety expert views, we believe overdose prevention centers will save lives, and get more New Yorkers into the treatment they need to beat this deadly addiction.
That sums it up pretty good, doesn't it, Phil?
PHILIP SMITH: Well, that's right. I mean, although there are no safe injection sites in the United States, that doesn't mean there are no safe injection sites. In fact, there are nearly a hundred of them, mostly in Europe, also in Canada and in Australia, and they've been rigorously studied, and you can see the results from them.
You see lowered -- well, first of all, people don't die of drug overdoses in safe injection sites, because there's medical help there if they do overdose. So that's an important first thing.
DEAN BECKER: Sure.
PHILIP SMITH: Also, you see reductions in drug related harms, you see reductions in the spread of infectious disease related to injection drug use. You do not see any increase in criminality, or any decrease in public safety. And you also have people who have an opportunity to then interact with social services, perhaps get pointed towards treatment or get pointed towards housing or employment help, things like that.
These are a proven harm reduction intervention, and it's pure politics that keeps them from being implemented in the United States. I do want to say that it's not just New York City, I mean, there are plans afoot in several other big cities in this country, including Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco, to get these facilities up and running.
It's going to be a difficult task, though. The DEA says they're illegal, and the DEA is threatening to go after anyone who tried to do that. So, there is a political fight ahead. But, Mayor De Blasio's move last week, that's like the culmination of the -- that's the end of the beginning of safe injection sites, now we have to fight to actually get them up and running.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and there is certainly a want, a desire, to set up a safe injection site in my city of Houston as well. Good folks at the Baker Institute, a couple of ministers and doctors, are talking openly about that need as well. It's -- it saves lives, and it doesn't cost anybody's, how to say it, morals, to put this in play, am I right?
PHILIP SMITH: Right. I'm sorry to say, though, that you folks in Houston, given the fact that you still have only underground needle exchanges, I'm not holding my breath waiting for a safe injection site to pop up there, legally permitted. Maybe someone needs to just go ahead and start doing it.
DEAN BECKER: Well, there -- there is some thought in that regard, I'll remain silent about the specifics at the moment. But, the hell of it is, is I'm sure you heard that here at the Drug Truth Network, we have claimed the moral high ground in the drug war, for the whole world, because there's no high official in the United States willing to defend this policy. They're still in support of terrorists, gangs, and cartels, and they don't give a damn how many people die from these contaminated and unknown drugs. They want this to last forever.
And I consider that to be quite immoral. Your thought there, Mister Phil Smith.
PHILIP SMITH: Well, there is a whole group of people and institutions that absolutely profit from drug prohibition. And, you know, that ranges from police unions and prosecutors' staff, to also include the defense bar, you know, all these lawyers who defend drug cases, they make money doing that. They're all -- a whole lot of other people as well who are materially invested in maintaining drug prohibition.
I mean, that's putting money in their pockets. And whether Americans die or go to prisons in large numbers seems to be less important to them than ensuring that the gravy train continues.
DEAN BECKER: Well said, there, Phil. You know, and the heck of it is, is that they all run from this debate, from my challenge, to defend this, to tell me what is the benefit, what do we derive from this policy, and they just run, like frightened deer. It's amazing.
PHILIP SMITH: Well, it's indefensible.
DEAN BECKER: It is indeed. Well, I tell you what, friends, let's hope that the good folks in New York soon approve these safe injection sites so that other cities can pick it up and so we can stop the thousands upon thousands of people from dying from overdose, because they're taking these contaminated, unknown drugs. Phil Smith, any closing thoughts, a website you might want to recommend?
PHILIP SMITH: Well, before I flag my website, I do want to say that these safe injection sites require support from all sorts of political levels. I mean, from local boards to state health departments, to maybe the state attorney general's office, and I want to point to what's going on in Philadelphia, where there's also a push on for a safe injection site, but it's not getting support from the Democratic governor, it's not getting support from the Democratic attorney general.
So there are battles that have to be fought at every level in the political process to make these things actually happen, and it's going to be an ongoing struggle, and if you are interested in this topic as well as marijuana law reform and all other sorts of drug policy related stuff, you can check out my work at StopTheDrugWar.org, or at AlterNet.org/drugs.
DEAN BECKER: This is Rachel Luba.
RACHEL LUBA: So, I'm a third year PhD student here at SUNY Albany, studying clinical psychology, and most of my research focuses on cannabis use among adolescents. I became particularly interested in cannabis and end of life care from personal experiences actually.
My dad was diagnosed with stage four metastatic cancer and told he only had several weeks to live. At some point in his diagnosis, he expressed an interest in cannabis, and we were kind of very firmly told that that wasn't an option for him, so, I became really interested in seeing whether that was an attitude shared by other palliative care providers, and if so why, and if not, how we can kind of disseminate that information and come up with some comprehensive guidelines for patients and for providers.
DEAN BECKER: Again, we're speaking with Rachel Luba. She had an article published recently in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, referencing several of her associates involved in this study, Cannabis In End-Of-Life Care: Examining Attitudes and Practices of Palliative Care Providers.
Rachel, I have minor experience with, you know, old folks and young folks who have benefited from the use of cannabis. Now, you're looking at end of life situations and the one situation I had was an 84 year old man, he had brain, bowel, and liver cancer, and I was told by his relatives that he didn't want to go out stoned on the opiates, he wanted to be alive and experience the end of his own life, and we provided him with, mainly he liked butter. He liked cannabis butter, and he wound up dying on the floor playing with his great granddaughter a few weeks after that was provided to him, and that to me screams that we need to allow this -- these studies, we need to allow this to come forward. Your thought there, please.
RACHEL LUBA: Right. So, there's a great deal of data to suggest already that cannabis is helpful in treating pain and treating appetite loss, and treating nausea. There's fewer studies to suggest that it may also be helpful in easing emotional suffering and kind of existential suffering at the end of life.
But, from what we know, it seems reasonable to expect that the effects of cannabis on sensory enhancement, on kind of savoring emotional and sensory experiences, may be helpful in end of life specifically and ease some of the more existential emotional suffering, and we know that palliative care is interested not only in treating the physical pain but also the emotional and spiritual suffering.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and, you know, looking at the results of your study here, your presentation, I'm seeing that it, cannabis is shown to be of benefit, as you say, for end of life care, but for agitation, irritability, getting sleep, which is sometimes very difficult, when one is in pain, and appetite, and nausea control as well. Cannabis has many legs to stand on, does it not?
RACHEL LUBA: Right. And for the most part our survey respondents were most enthusiastic about the effects of cannabis on appetite loss, nausea, sleep, emotional suffering, and pain, more generally. It seems like there's less consensus on the use in agitation, but, we were kind of surprised by the fact that 80 percent endorsed cannabis as a helpful adjutant medication, that 71 percent said that the side effects of cannabis were about the same or less problematic than conventional treatments alone, and 79 percent -- or 61 percent said that they would recommend cannabis for end of life care.
DEAN BECKER: And, I'm sure that number has grown exponentially over the last five to ten years in particular that there have been more studies, I won't say sufficient studies, but more studies have been brought forward, more experts are testifying or somehow presenting facts indicating the benefit, which then allows patients to recommend it to their relatives and associates. Would you think that's a fair assumption?
RACHEL LUBA: Definitely, and I think that, looking back at -- there's a 2001 survey of health care providers, and it found that only one third of the sample would prescribe cannabis if it were legal. Comparatively, 61 percent of our present sample reported that they would recommend it, regardless of legality. I think it's important to acknowledge that it seems like these attitudes and practices are shifting, even before the available data to support it, because legislation supporting medical marijuana is shifting very rapidly.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and we have, you know, I'd consider pioneers, or stalwarts, like Doctor Sanjay Gupta, who put forward the idea that -- that it would be helpful for kids with epilepsy, and now he's standing forward rather boldly talking about it being of benefit for those with an opiate addiction. Your response to that thought, please.
RACHEL LUBA: Right. I think that it's important to consider this data, especially in the context of the current opioid crisis, that was something we were interested in as well. When we asked providers about how they would compare the risks associated with cannabis versus the risks associated with opioids, they -- they said that for cannabis they're more concerned with the legal implications, not the side effects or the risk of its use, whereas for opioid use, they said they were more concerned with diversion, medication diversion, giving it away to other relatives and family members, or the actual adverse effects associated with opioids.
I think especially in the current context, it's reasonable that a lot of folks don't want to have a lot of opioids just kind of lying around their houses, when they're experiencing the loss of a loved one.
DEAN BECKER: Rachel, let me ask you, what method did you use to conduct your studies? How was this framed up, how was this put together, please?
RACHEL LUBA: Sure. So this was an online survey. We had help distributing it through the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. They distributed the survey link through their email listserv, and we received about 425 responses.
DEAN BECKER: I think science in general is beginning to recognize that there is not the old ancient bugaboo reefer madness, that it's not going to kill anybody. What's your though in regards to its attraction to youth and or leading folks into addiction?
RACHEL LUBA: Well, I think that, when you're considering the risks associated, especially at the end of life, even folks who kind of document risks associated with cannabis are looking at the long term risks. That's not really the case in folks who have maybe months or weeks to live. We need to really kind of recalibrate our understanding of risk, especially when we're talking about people who are using cannabis to aid the symptoms of terminal illness.
DEAN BECKER: Once again, we're speaking with Rachel Luba, she's a PhD candidate and author of this great article, Cannabis In End-Of-Life Care: Examining Attitudes and Practices of Palliative Care Providers. Rachel, is there a closing thought you might want to share, a website to point folks toward?
RACHEL LUBA: I think the hope here is that these findings will hopefully provide some legitimacy to practices of palliative care providers. My understanding is that a lot of folks felt that this had to be kind of a secretive recommendation that they were making to patients, and hopefully this will help to construct comprehensive guidelines for families, for health care providers, and for patients in kind of dealing with some of the symptoms and some of the really intense existential and emotional suffering associated with the end of life.
DEAN BECKER: Well, I want to thank you, Rachel. I want to ask you one last question, that is, were it legal, were it not prohibited, were you allowed to conduct more thorough investigative studies, we could learn a lot more, could we not?
RACHEL LUBA: Definitely. I think overwhelmingly our survey sample reported that they would really like to see more data here, and I think that's really going to be helpful going forward.
DEAN BECKER: All right. Thank you, Rachel, I do appreciate your time.
RACHEL LUBA: Thank you very much.
DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating heart devouring, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicidality, zombie-ism. Time's up! The answer, according to law enforcement, from some crazy ass chemist somewhere: mephedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.
Otherwise known as bath salts, or Kush, or all kinds of other names they give it out there, trying to fool people into believing it has some relationship with real marijuana, which it does not. And that's what we've run into here in Houston. You folks on the west coast, in those states where it's legal, you don't have this kind of BS going on because who the hell would want to use this stuff, made by some crazy ass chemist somewhere, but they're calling it now CBD oil.
I don't know what to tell you, folks, other than we have, you know, better things to do than smoke CBD oil. All right, here we go, folks, more entertainment.
JOURNALIST: I'm joined now by marijuana activist Jodie Emery. Jodie, nice to see you as always, and just let me start by asking you about the Senate recommendation. Do you think that the government should take their advice, should they delay for another year?
JODIE EMERY: Well, we need to ask what is the delay for? Is it delaying the development of the storefronts, or is it delaying the delivering of justice to the victims of prohibition who are still being arrested every day for cannabis offenses, even possession.
So, we can't delay with stopping the arrests. The arrests for cannabis possession at least, and for all non-violent cannabis crimes, should have ended immediately, and in the US jurisdictions, it actually stopped, the enforcement, even when the legislation isn't completely come into effect.
So we should be legalizing to protect the civil liberties of our fellow citizens, not waiting for the governments across the country and the police and the others to get the money and funding that they're seeking.
JOURNALIST: You know, is there a fear, I mean, the Liberal government's been talking about legalizing marijuana for years now, and if we delay it once again, I mean, is there, I don't know, something to the fact that if we never have a deadline, you won't need it?
JODIE EMERY: Well, they have an election coming up, and I think Trudeau is going to be waving around the cannabis possession amnesty promise to get more support, and that's really important, in fact we just launched a new campaign, lawyers and advocates have launched a CannabisAmnesty.ca campaign and petition, asking for some sort of government action to recognize that a huge number of Canadians, hundreds of thousands, have criminal records for cannabis that prevent them from getting jobs and engaging as full citizens, and we know those records disproportionately target marginalized or people of color, so we shouldn't delay with the amnesty and the pardons and the stopping of the arrests.
But when it comes to the government --
JOURNALIST: Is that your biggest concern, when it comes to Bill C-45, that that needs to be resolved before this bill goes ahead.
JODIE EMERY: Well, legalization is very strange these days, because right now, we have eight cannabis offenses, but the legalization act, Bill C-45, there will be 45 criminal offenses. So, we're supposed to legalize to end criminalization of Canadians. Legalize the existing industry. Stop wasting law enforcement money. But none of those are being realized under this act.
So I have a lot of concerns with it, but, if Canada votes no or fails to pass, the whole world is watching, and that would be a bad sign.
JOURNALIST: Yeah. I want to ask you about price as well, because Stats Can recently revealed, I think it's nearly seven dollars a gram on the black market. The wholesale price the government is looking at is somewhere I think around five dollars and forty cents, so by the time, if they met the black market price, that they pay taxes, I mean, these distributors are going to be actually losing money. That does not sound like, I don't have a business degree, but that does not sound like a recipe for success.
JODIE EMERY: Well, one of our messages for legalization was to note that eight billion dollars of peaceful, consensual transactions are already happening. The industry exists, and the government said, well that sounds like a lot of money we'd like to take into our wallets. But that's the prohibition price. When you have something illegal, the risk goes up and the reward goes up. So, cannabis should be pennies per gram, but it's ten dollars, seven dollars, even more per gram.
So these -- when new medical marijuana companies, that were created by court order, had to go to the stock market to get the money to meet the requirements to build out, that the government put on them, so now they owe all of these shareholders returns on their investment. They're worth a huge amount of money, which isn't based on the actual product. The government needs to maintain prohibition prices to get their cut, and now they're going to send law enforcement to try and stomp out the competition, but, that's the approach of prohibition.
So, the government can't sell a lot of pot when they tell people it's bad for you, don't buy it, but come and get some and get tax money going.
JOURNALIST: All right. We're going to have to leave it there for now, pot activist Jodie Emery, Jodie it's great to see you. Thank you for coming in.
JODIE EMERY: Thank you.
DEAN BECKER: You know, it's time for us to realize that this stuff being sold is snake oil. I just got a call from a lady who was concerned about it, and my advice is, don't use it. Don't use it. Not unless you have a doctor's approval and you're buying it from the state of Texas, because otherwise, you don't know what in the heck is in that bottle. What is this all about? Let's see. More details.
DANIEL DENVIR: We're live here at PhillyCam. Bernie Sanders is an independent US senator from the Green State of Vermont. Senator Sanders, what is your assessment of the current state of an American criminal justice system that incarcerates so many poor people, particularly poor people of color, for such extremely long sentences? And yet have a lot of trouble finding anyone on Wall Street to punish in the wake of the financial crisis.
US SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Ain't that something? You're suggesting that the people who destroyed our economy, forced millions of people to lose their jobs, their homes, their life savings, because of illegal activity, and nothing happened to them, not one of them went to jail.
And yet we have kids in this city and all over this country who get picked up with marijuana, they get a criminal record, some of them will end up in jail. So I think, bottom line here is, you know, we claim to have in the pledge of allegiance a system calling for justice for all, but one would be very naive to believe that was the case. We have a system of justice for the wealthy, and you have the money and the good lawyers, my god, there's almost anything you can do and get away with.
And then we have another system for the poor and working people in this country. So the bottom line here is that in the midst of massive income and wealth inequality and declining middle class, forty million people living in poverty, massive amounts of racism and sexism in this country, we have, and this is an important point for us to digest, we have over two million people in jail today, as you indicated, largely poor, disproportionately African American, Latino, Native American.
We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China, a communist authoritarian country. And then on top of all that, we have the privilege of spending eighty billion dollars a year locking up fellow Americans.
So I think there can be no debate, whether you're a conservative, a progressive, or somewhere in between, that we have a broken criminal justice system that is begging, begging for real reform, and the good news, as Larry will talk about, you're seeing here in Philadelphia and all around the country the beginning of an effort to bring about significant reform of that system.
All right, look, I think it is fair to acknowledge that when we talk about a broken criminal justice system, we also have got to acknowledge that we've had a forty year failed war on drugs, which has done massive damage to this country. I mean, and we can talk, and we will talk, about the insanity of this so-called war on drugs.
Let me just start off by saying that under the federal Controlled Substance Act, if you think I'm not telling you the truth, but I am, heroin is regarded as a schedule one drug, right alongside of marijuana. Heroin and marijuana. Does anybody in their right mind? You may, people talk about the pluses and minuses of marijuana. Nobody thinks that marijuana equates to a deadly drug like heroin.
We have seen in the last number of years millions of people arrested for possession of marijuana, getting criminal records. Now, you got a criminal record, they might not put you in jail, but sometimes it does. But what does it mean when you go out and get a job, or try to get some other public benefit, because then, oh you have a criminal record? Maybe come back next year, I don't need you right now.
So we have, I think, need to have an understanding. The prohibition against alcohol did not work in the 1920s, and prohibition of marijuana and other drugs is not working today. So it has to be rethought in a very, very fundamental way.
And the good news of course, that it is being rethought. I think we have eight states in this country now, plus DC, that are either decriminalizing possession of marijuana or moving to the legalization of marijuana. I am in support, and a co-sponsor, of federal legislation that would do that in every state in this country.
So I think if we're serious about understanding a failed and collapsing criminal justice system, ending the war on drugs is an important part of that.
DEAN BECKER: Well, Bernie's got some pretty good advice there. It's time to get rid of the snake oil salesmen. We've been at it for a hundred years, we have never actually controlled the so-called controlled substances. Time to pull our head out of our rears and actually do something to stop funding terrorists, cartels, and gangs forever.
SANJAY GUPTA, MD: Maine. Known for its rugged coastline.
DEAN BECKER: Doctor Sanjay Gupta.
SANJAY GUPTA, MD: -- and iconic lighthouses, and now, known for overdose deaths, which have doubled here over the past three years. Jamie Higgins lost her brother to opioids.
JAMIE HIGGINS: Battling the opiate crisis is going to come down to us doing things that a lot of people are going to feel uncomfortable about. It's going to be, I think, the most shocking changes that really bring change to the epidemic.
SANJAY GUPTA, MD: Shocking changes and bold steps.
MALE VOICE: And the cannabis, I think you're using it really well. When will the medical community catch up with what their patient populations are doing?
DEAN BECKER: All right folks, got to wrap it up, but once again, I remind you, that because of prohibition you don't know what is in that bag. Please, be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge an abyss.