07/31/19 Norma Sapp

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Norma Sapp

Norma Sapp, Oklahoma reformer re progress, ease of new medical cannabis law, Steve Downing, Dep Chief of LAPD, retired and Adrian Garcia, former Sheriff of Houston regarding amazing bail reform

Audio file


JULY 31, 2019


DEAN BECKER: I am the Reverend Dean Becker, keeper of the moral high ground in the drug war for the world, and this is Cultural Baggage.

Folks, it's been years since I've had a chance to talk to one of my compadres. He's the former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, a great producer of many of the MacGyver episodes, one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, now known as Law Enforcement Action Partnership, my friend, my compadre on the journey for -- across America with the Caravan for Peace, Mister Steve Downing. How are you sir?

STEVE DOWNING: Hi Dean, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good, Steve. We've been at this quite a while, but progress is afoot, happening all around the country, is it not?

STEVE DOWNING: I'd agree. I see that the public is getting educated, especially as to the drug war, and as to the harms of the drug war, and to the need for criminal justice reform, to the harms of mass incarceration, cash bail, all of it. I think that we're seeing a definite movement, state by state, not too much at the federal level, needs to be more.

We're seeing a lot of talk at the federal level, we're seeing a lot of Mitch McConnell blocking things from getting done, but I think that will change. I think we have a better educated public than we did ten years ago, and I feel very confident that we're going to accomplish a lot of very positive criminal justice reform.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you for that, Steve, and yeah, for what it's worth, within today's show, I have a segment about the situation in Oklahoma, where they now have medical marijuana with laws that are even way more lax than California's were, where you just say I can't sleep, I want to try some marijuana, and you get that recommendation.

And coincidentally, we have a story giving focus today by the Houston Chronicle on bail reform, calling what they're doing here in Harris County, Houston, Texas, to be an example for the nation. Even in Texas and Oklahoma things are really changing quickly, aren't they?

STEVE DOWNING: They sure are. The big problem in California, and I don't know whether it is in Texas, but, California, like a lot of states, because of the bugaboos that existed on the legalization, they throw a very, very high tax on it, and they think that they're going to get windfall tax income, but the result is that they really helped the black and gray market continue to thrive.

And what they have to do, just like, you know, cigarettes in New York, when you throw too big of a tax on it, it's going to be in the -- it's going to be peddled in the black market, smuggled in from other states, and that's what's happening across the country. And that's kind of the next step in all of this, is getting our politicians to understand that too high taxation is going to be -- is going to allow the black market to thrive and prevent the true implementation of a legal industry across the country.

DEAN BECKER: And, Steve, one other item that's really getting a lot of focus, it's seldom given the perspective it deserves, but that is why are these quote 'caravans' coming northward? Why are thousands, tens of thousands of people, coming to America, fleeing Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, let's talk about that.

STEVE DOWNING: Well, I -- I think that you have to say that these people, like many people in the world, are refugees, and they're running from horrible, horrible conditions in their countries. And in many of those countries the conditions that they're running from, we contributed to.

We poured money into fight the drug war, in a fashion that gave rise to these many gangs. We created refugee situations back in the '70s and '80s that brought people into the urban areas, like Los Angeles, like the Pico area of Los Angeles, where refugees came in, their children ended up in communities where they felt they had to defend themselves, and the emergence of MS-6 [sic: MS-13 aka Mara Salvatrucha 13, a gang that originated in Los Angeles], the -- those violent gangs. They emerged in Los Angeles, California, not in El Salvador or Nicaragua.

So, we have contributed to many of the conditions, and now our present government is withdrawing the kinds of funds that help solve those problems, and until we go to the source, and help those countries solve the problems that create the need for people to escape the danger of their country, it's going to get worse, it's not going to get better, and all of this falderol, caging children at the border and separating families, good decent people, is just going to reflect on the United States as one more country that has no compassion.

That's my view of what's going on with this refugee situation.

DEAN BECKER: Well stated, my friend. Again friends, we've been speaking with Mister Steve Downing, former deputy police chief of Los Angeles, and my friend. Thank you, Steve.

STEVE DOWNING: You're welcome, Dean.

How can you stop drug users from using?
How do you keep the sun from growing weed?
How can you end drug prohibition?
It makes the world go 'round.

Folks, we have with us today a former sheriff, former policeman, now a council member on the -- a county commissioners, I should say, here in Harris County, Houston, Texas, Adrian Garcia. How are you, sir?

ADRIAN GARCIA: Great, Dean, glad to be on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Well, thank you. A lot of things happening of late in the criminal justice system. One that's really making a splash, certainly is being embraced by the Houston Chronicle, they titled up their article End Poverty Jailing - Harris County Bail Reform A Model For The Nation.

Your response to that thought, Adrian.

ADRIAN GARCIA: Absolutely. I am so proud of that depiction of what is Harris County today, and I am so proud of Commissioner Ellis and Judge Hidalgo for their leadership in helping to settle this frivolous defense of this important lawsuit that was really focused on an unconstitutional cash system that kept poor people in jail simply because they were poor but not because they were dangerous to our communities.

And so I'm very excited about that.

DEAN BECKER: I am too, sir, and they're even talking about how it can become a model for the nation, because, well, bail reform's needed across our whole country, is it not?

ADRIAN GARCIA: It is. In fact, you know, as an incoming Commissioner, I've recently attended the National Convention of Counties across America and they -- this was a big conversation. People want to understand how we were working through it, they want to understand some of the nuances, and the things that we were looking to provide as a part of the reform.

And so I'm glad that that conversation is already up and going, and now with the settlement underway, I'm hopeful that other counties will, you know, take a look at what we've done and follow us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I would certainly hope so as well. You know, it's been, in the time we've known each other now, I'm guessing 15, maybe almost 20 years, there's been a lot of change here in Harris County. We used to be the gulag filling station, I used to call it, but we have really backed down from that.

We have fewer and fewer people being jailed for misdemeanors and minor drug charges already, am I right?

ADRIAN GARCIA: That's absolutely correct. And Dean, let me, you know, remind folks that, you know, when I became sheriff in 2009, I inherited the most crowded jailhouse in our recent history, 12,400 inmates, and Commissioners Court had no problem approving lucrative contracts with private jails in Louisiana, at the cost of sixty million dollars to the local taxpayers.

And all the while, our crime rate remained unchanged. And so, it just showed that filling a jailhouse is not the way to provide public safety or justice in our community, but rather, you know, doing the things that we can do in providing the resources and programs that help people get on a better track, is the best way to provide public safety. And that's what this settlement is going to do for us.

DEAN BECKER: Well, again, folks, we've been speaking with Mister Adrian Garcia, now a County Commissioner, a former sheriff of Houston, Harris County.

Now, Adrian, we, by that I mean the good-thinking folks of this county, have backed down from our prior seeking of vengeance, so to speak, it seemed, and are now seeking justice instead. Is that a good closing thought?

ADRIAN GARCIA: Well, at least three members of the County are of that thinking. There's still two others that have not reformed their way of thinking, and -- but hopefully they'll get the memo and get on board.

DEAN BECKER: The kickbacks may stop, I don't know. Who's funding them, but, you know ...

ADRIAN GARCIA: Right? The bail bondsmen. Look, they're not going to roll over, they're going to fight this tooth and nail, Dean, and so this is -- this is a good day, but the line in the sand has been drawn, unmistakenly.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Abnormal dreams, confusion, coughing up blood, decreased sensitivity to stimulation, decreased sex drive, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, hepatitis, impotence, memory loss, and sensitivity to light. Time's up! The answer: Claritin. Another FDA approved product. Ah-choo!

We are speaking with one of my long time friends, Ms. Norma Sapp. She's based in Oklahoma, and, Norma, as I get older, and my circle of friends gets bigger than a wagon train, it gets harder to remember where I met folks. Where did we meet?

NORMA SAPP: Oh, gosh, I want to say it was in San Francisco, but it was at a conference.


NORMA SAPP: Several times.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, I know that's true, and I've always felt like you were a compadre, I was a resident of Tulsa for several years, and, you know, I liked Oklahoma. I lived there before the drug war started its abominable ways.

But, Oklahoma has changed. Oklahoma has outdone my now current state of Texas. Tell folks what you guys have done, in regards to marijuana.

NORMA SAPP: All right, well, we, last year, June 26, we voted for medical marijuana, and it was rolled out exactly as -- it was a statute petition, by the way, it was very short and simple, easy directions, no regulations, and it was rolled out just like that. Just like it -- we were told it would, you know, what it said in the thing we voted on.

And so, OMMA, our Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, started immediately, staffing and carrying out what they were supposed to do, issuing cards, medical marijuana cards, right off the bat, did it in time, good time.

In about six months they kind of got behind because there was a whole lot of people every week asking for cards, and we now, I think, outnumber per capita all the other states for people with a medical card. Is that weird?

DEAN BECKER: Well, I, and I heard a word or a half a sentence there that I think is the key, and there just weren't a lot of regulations, not a lot of constrictions --


DEAN BECKER: -- put in play. Right?

NORMA SAPP: Correct, yes. But now we've had a legislative session in the middle of this, and in August, the end of August, our new regulations are rolling out and we will have some changes.

The OMMA will take -- they will have 14 business days to issue your card, so they could take longer. Oh, and also they'll have 90 days to issue the business license, and that was two weeks before.

Let's see, there was a couple of other changes. Oh, we're still arguing about whether law enforcement needs any more access to the OMMA list. They want to be able to verify your card on the side of the road, and anybody can do that by calling this number at the OMMA and giving them that number, it's a 24 digit number, and it will say the name and it's verified if it's still good. You know?

And they're arguing over that. So, we think --

DEAN BECKER: Could I interrupt to --


DEAN BECKER: I think maybe the reason people are not enlightened to that concept is that that just gives them a list of names and addresses if they wanted to get more draconian.

NORMA SAPP: Well, if -- yes, if they go above what they're able to access now, that must mean that they want everything, names and addresses, and that maybe that would reveal their medical condition.

So, I can just envision some small town with a couple hundred people, the one cop is looking up everybody's name in that town so that next time you leave your house, he's going to stop you because you know he hated you since high school, because you stole his girlfriend.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I hear you. I hear you.

NORMA SAPP: It is not going to happen. We're going to occupy the capitol like the teachers did last year, if that goes into play.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and look, Norma, what you guys have done is take the bull by the horns.


DEAN BECKER: You have decided that this is the way it's going to be. These politicians, they're ignorant as hell, they don't want to learn, they've never read a study for sure, they've never talked with a scientist or visited a dispensary, I'm certain.

And they speak as if they have the moral authority, in fact, an obligation to keep going down this same failed path. Your response there, Norma.

NORMA SAPP: For sure, that's some of these towns. Now, we do have a lot of people that are on our side of the issue, because we are a Republican state our house members and the Republican caucus are all on our side trying to work the best with us, spent the whole summer last year in an interim study, and it was a bipartisan interim study, house and senate were there to listen to testimonies of all kinds, from us, from professionals, from the Oklahoma Medical Association, oh that was a fun day.

And, all interested parties, the Tax Commission, everybody wanted to talk about this and get it out. And patients, they heard from patients. And we know we are being visited constantly on our facebook pages by all these legislators because they comment, and then they react at the capitol.

The senate leadership was our problem last year. They are the moral high ground, and they saw certain people, you know, talking about how big the doobie was that they rolled, and seeing them, you know, live on facebook using a bong, and it insulted them, and so they would go back to the office and make stricter rules.

And so, you know, I'm not -- I can't tell everybody in the state what to do on facebook. I wish I could. But, it's been a fight.

And so I thought my fight was over on the 27th of last June, but it just got worse, the whole time since then.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, let's talk about implementation, logistics. How many growers are there and how do they get to be growers in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Twenty-five hundred dollars to the OMMA, and five hundred dollars to our Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, and then they're a business licensed grower or processor, and they also are fighting with the county or the state -- or the, I mean the city that they're in.

Some cities, it was like -- it's still, today, it's like, did you not read the paper last year in June, when we legalized it? They're still trying to be, you know, non-friendly.

For instance, small towns that zone them out of town, where there is no real estate to rent. You know? So lots of lawsuits flying.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I bet so. But again, how many individual growers or businesses are there?

NORMA SAPP: A little over 3,600 growers and processors, and the amount of dispensaries are 1,673 as of last Monday.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Oh my.

NORMA SAPP: Yeah. And they're still doing it.

DEAN BECKER: Oh my, I -- that's wonderful. I'm so happy for you guys for having the courage to just kick them in the teeth and do what you think is right, and that's just wonderful.

NORMA SAPP: I got some great news, you'll not believe this.

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

NORMA SAPP: I am so honored. Someone named a strain in my name.

DEAN BECKER: Why, that's wonderful.

NORMA SAPP: Yeah. It's called Norma's Dream, and he's been working on it ever since he got out of prison. He was a grower, twenty years ago, and he moved to California.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, that's wonderful.


DEAN BECKER: And, righteously named. That's wonderful, Norma.

NORMA SAPP: Oh, it is, it's really cool. And I can only think of three other names, Ed Rosenthal, Willie's Reserve, and Jack Herer. Are there any others?

DEAN BECKER: There may be, but those are some good ones and you're amongst those good ones as well.

NORMA SAPP: It's quite an honor.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it is. Now, Norma, let's talk about the dispensaries for a bit. You have to have a medical card, this is not quote "recreational," right?

NORMA SAPP: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: You have to go to a doctor.


DEAN BECKER: You've got to have a malady and he's [sic] got to write you up a recommendation. That's --

NORMA SAPP: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: -- similar to the way California was, and I guess some states still are. But, correct me if I'm wrong, you don't have to be dying with cancer to get that --


DEAN BECKER: -- that recommendation?

NORMA SAPP: No. If you just have -- if you want to try it to see if it helps you sleep, that's a good enough excuse.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Okeh. Okeh. And do you have to be a resident of the state?



NORMA SAPP: That's easy right now. If you move here, get a state ID, you are a resident, you can get a voter card and you can be an Oklahoman and get a card.

DEAN BECKER: Well, heck, Oklahoma has some good farmers, I'm sure there's some good product and perhaps lots of it. I hear stories coming out of Oregon that there's such an oversupply that they're down to fifty dollars an ounce in some cases.


DEAN BECKER: How are the prices in Oklahoma?

NORMA SAPP: Well, take a guess what Norma's Dream sold for, the first -- the first craft grow, only ten pounds?


NORMA SAPP: Three thousand dollars a pound, and they bought it and they're selling it -- selling the s*** out of it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's -- that's really great news. Now, Norma, I think about, what's going on with this hemp situation? I think Oklahoma had legal hemp for a year or two, if I'm correct.

NORMA SAPP: Yes. And --

DEAN BECKER: And other states, now including Texas, are now legalizing hemp, and we have a situation here where they are unable to test that green stinky bag full of stuff to determine whether it is hemp or cannabis, high THC weed, and therefore district attorneys around the state are saying well, we're just going to quit charging people with, and I think they're going to take your bag of weed even though they don't know what it is, and to me, at least part of the time that's theft, and --


DEAN BECKER: -- a violation of our civil rights. Your thoughts in that regard, Norma Sapp.

NORMA SAPP: Well, I love your headlines, and I love the DAs standing up to the governor, that's cool. And as far as your hemp program, you've got a little way to go. The CBD is loose in the world and they can't stop it, so they might as well just get in there and try to facilitate it.

As far as our hemp program here, yes, we've had a limited program for two years. If you signed up under a university research program, if you paid five thousand dollars for a permit, if you met these certain, I think you can't have it in, you know, close proximity to anybody seeing it, oh, you had to have a buyer.

Things are changing now. The -- 2913, I believe was the bill for last year. It will open it up to much more, everybody actually can, if they want to pay the five thousand dollar fee, they can grow hemp.

Now there will be inspectors that go to the fields, and if your product tests hot, which is above five percent federal [sic: 0.3 percent is the federal limit for THC content in a hemp plant], then they can take your crop. But we all know that that can happen up and down in the cycle of growth, depending on the temperature and weather and all things, so they're going to have to work that out.

DEAN BECKER: Well, of course they will. Once again, friends, we're speaking with Norma Sapp. She's a reformer extraordinaire based in Oklahoma, and we're talking about their new marijuana laws, marijuana dispensaries, marijuana sales. Medical, mind you, but, with a very, I would say informed perspective, as to who deserves medical cannabis.

Now, well, Norma, I appreciate that, now, the fact of the matter is, the DAs here don't know if it's marijuana or not. And I guess the point I'm wanting to get at is, if they don't know, it's kind of like, how do they determine if somebody's high on the side of the road? They're trying to come up with a test, something under the tongue, a swab, a means to calibrate your breath, or your bloodstream, or whatever.

But that's never going to define whether somebody's too high to be driving.


DEAN BECKER: Because that's a mental thing, not a physical means to analyze that. Your thought there, please.

NORMA SAPP: Well, exactly correct, and this has really muddled the waters for testing as well, because, let's say you are in Section Eight and your housing authority will not allow you to have medical cannabis in your apartment or house, and oh, your job fires you because your piss test came out positive.

No one can say from a test whether that's legal, federally legal hemp, and you're taking a CBD preparation with hemp, or regular marijuana [sic: urine and blood screens detect the THC metabolite, not the CBD metabolite]. So, there's some lawsuits waiting, ADA lawsuits for job loss.

DEAN BECKER: If they can't tell, you know, marijuana has just been a bugaboo, it's just been something out in the weeds, it's going to get your children, and it just -- it's just so hard for them to let go of that need to control, to control. Right?

NORMA SAPP: Right. But, there is a school of thought, and this is the training that they're going through. We actually had an impairment testing event two weeks ago in Muskogee. One of the dispensary owners down there paid for a driver, a guy that teaches people to drive cars, got a car, did the parking lot, I mean the tarmac at the Muskogee airport with cones, and we had three sets of drivers.

We had three people that were going to use cannabis, three people that were drinking alcohol, three that were texting. The texters failed right off the bat, and the drinkers made it to shot number two, and they called the third one, they weren't going to let them drive on the third one.


NORMA SAPP: And so the cannabis users, though, I watched a few of the sobriety checks, and what they had was, all through the day they had different officers coming to observe. They had county, we had the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and we had of course the city of Muskogee police there.


NORMA SAPP: And so they all wanted to see what were the markers for seeing if someone was not able to drive. So the only thing that I saw that happened was, one man that was kind of a large man, he failed on one issue. There's a place in the sobriety check where they ask you to stand on one foot, hold your other foot up about ten inches off the ground, and see how long you can stand there.

Well, his leg was shaking because he had had a shot in his butt earlier for a disc, and so he had a health condition. But, that shaking leg, oh that officer jumped on that, he showed all the other officers, see, see, that's from dabs right there, that's dabs.

But, all in all, it was a wonderful day. They came over, all the police officers came over to the tents that we had set up to see, you know, what the items were, and see what these cannabis users, how much they were ingesting, and so at that point, one of them said, is that that crack of marijuana that I've heard so much about?

And so this young lady went into a 45 minute tutorial to teach all of them, this is dabs, this is concentrate, this is the reason you use this concentrate, this here is better for certain ailments, this is a dab rig, this is the parts that go with it, this is why you do this, and all these other things that they brought they showed them for 45 minutes and they interacted. They asked questions. They wanted to know, the police officers wanted to know.

DEAN BECKER: The writing is on the wall. It really is. And I think police are going to have to give up their -- their main tool, and that is the right to say, I smell weed, get out of the car, because --

NORMA SAPP: Yeah, that's over.

DEAN BECKER: -- that is the destructor of Constitutional and basic and god-given [sic: there is no god] rights, and it deserves no place in America.

NORMA SAPP: That one's over, and now that the, even the piss testing isn't going to work because of legal hemp. It's all gone and they don't realize it. It's gone.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Norma, it's been quite a ride. It ain't over, but by god --


DEAN BECKER: -- it's good to see some progress up there in our neighboring state of Oklahoma. Is there a website you might want to recommend?

NORMA SAPP: No, I just have my facebook page, well, I have several pages, but you can find me on my facebook page under Norma Sapp.


NORMA SAPP: And you'll find a lot of information -- yes, S-A-P-P. You'll find a lot of information there, and from there you'll find the other pages where things are happening.

DEAN BECKER: Just enough time to remind you that because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.