01/09/19 Richard Lee

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Richard Lee
Ann Lee
Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition

Interviews with Richard Lee founder of Oaksterdam University and Ann Lee his mother and founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition + John Baucum the political director of RAMP

Audio file


JANUARY 9, 2019


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

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. You are listening to Cultural Baggage. Today we're going to hear the thoughts of two different generations of Texans.

I'm sitting here at the home of Richard and Ann Lee. And we're going to talk learning curve and decades of recognition of the need for improvement, some of that improvement getting done. We're going to start with Richard.

Richard, I don't know the beginnings of your involvement in drug reform. I understand that you had the hemp store here in Houston. Was that the beginning, or where was the start for you?

RICHARD LEE: Well, the hemp store was the first, I guess, big thing I did. Before that, I started off with just trying to do educational stuff, making copies at the Office Depot, before the internet.


RICHARD LEE: Hand out flyers, and things like that. We did pretty well. We had, I remember there was a great quote in the Houston Chronicle from an undercover police officer who came into the hemp store and said he thought about buying a bag of seeds, we had the hemp seeds that you could get at the Purina Pet Chow store.


RICHARD LEE: They were legal, sterilized hemp seeds.


RICHARD LEE: He said he thought about buying a bag of seeds but decided it wasn't worth the three dollars.

DEAN BECKER: But, you moved to California. Tell us about that transition, would you please?

RICHARD LEE: I moved in 1997 to work with Jeff Jones and the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. They were the first, well, actually, the second, I should say, after Dennis Peron's San Francisco club.


RICHARD LEE: Jeff was the next big club, that did a lot of media and got permission from the Oakland City Council to operate.

DEAN BECKER: Let's talk about that. What was the transition like, from Jeff Jones's store to when you opened the Bulldog and the SR71? How much time was involved there, how much involvement did you have with Jeff?

RICHARD LEE: Well, we opened the Bulldog in 2000, so it was three years after I moved to Oakland.

DEAN BECKER: Well, so, we had Dennis Peron, we had Jeff Jones, and then was it the Bulldog that was the next outlet in Oakland?

RICHARD LEE: Well, Jeff Jones got closed down by the federal government, so then a number of clubs sprung up to take over from what Jeff was doing.

DEAN BECKER: What was it like, having a semi-legal marijuana store back in them days? Was it paranoia every morning, how did that work?

RICHARD LEE: Yeah, basically. It was expecting to get busted every day, and, you know, pleasantly surprised when we didn't every night.


RICHARD LEE: And then the next day, start over again.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, that is something. Now, Oakland has been kind of a unique city, has it not? I mean, developing the courage, if you will, to allow these stores, to allow these sales, to take place.

Let's talk about the political oversight, the, perhaps the understanding, between the city council and you guys doing the work you did.

RICHARD LEE: Well, you have to remember that Proposition 215, which passed in 1996, was very badly written, and I mean that in a legal way, I don't mean political way. It had good and bad to it.


RICHARD LEE: Because it did not allow sales, it was bad, but it was also very vague, and had a lot of loopholes, and basically, you know, it said the voters were in favor of medical marijuana, but since it gave no way to actually provide it, it kind of gave a political cover, if you will.

But when the Oakland City Council passed the first, technically the second, but the Marin permit ordinance only allowed one club, and so it was very limited compared to the Oakland one, that set up a whole system to basically permit clubs --


RICHARD LEE: -- in the future. It came up with a whole system, you know, that basically mirrored the permits that you get for operating an alcohol establishment or other kind of businesses that are permitted by cities.

And that really wasn't legal under state law, but, the Oakland City Council pushed forward with it, and so they deserve a lot of credit for doing that.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. No, I would say so. Here in Texas, there is a chance that, you know, they're going to raise the bar a little bit more. Currently we have a bill that only allows for basically children with a certain type of epilepsy to acquire marijuana that has only CBD, no THC to speak of.

All right. Richard, now, when you saw there was a need for educating people to the truth about marijuana, how to grow it, how to survive in the market, how to stay out of jail, you opened up a new organization, Oaksterdam University.

RICHARD LEE: Well, that was our third location, that we eventually grew into, was a three story building.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. But, that was just recognizing a need for that education. Tell us about Oaksterdam University, please.

RICHARD LEE: Actually, kind of got the idea, stole the idea from a group in Amsterdam called the -- was running, had a little space called Cannabis College, where they would have grow information.

And so, when I got back from a trip to Amsterdam in 2007, or 2006 I guess it was -- yeah. Then we opened the school in 2007. I realized what a good idea it was to help educate people on not just the cultivation of cannabis, but the politics and the business side as well.

DEAN BECKER: Well, now, one of the dispensary owners out there I currently speak with on a semi-regular basis is Debby Goldsberry, who owns the Magnolia Wellness there in Oakland, and has a part ownership in another dispensary there. She seems to be blazing a few trails with her on-site consumption and other facilities, means whereby she can enhance the user's experience, to come into her club.

What kind of future do you see for cannabis in California? Are you going to lose the medical side, what's happening there?

RICHARD LEE: I believe that the old medical marijuana bill is about to sunset underneath the new adult legalization bill, and, so ---

DEAN BECKER: It will be subsumed, or whatever the word is?


DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, you had the nerve, the courage, and the money, to try to legalize marijuana, to support an initiative to legalize marijuana outright a few years back. Tell us about that effort, would you please?

RICHARD LEE: Well, following the market crash in, you know, of 2008, during the great recession, as it's become to be known, we saw the opportunity to move forward with full legalization, not just medical marijuana, try and do a mirror of what happened with alcohol prohibition repeal, how that got a lot of, I think, a large part of that came out of the Great Depression.


RICHARD LEE: And so, we did polling in early 2009 that showed for the first time, a majority of any state for legalization and a majority of Californians in this case, more importantly, were for legalization. And so, we got Prop 19 on the ballot, and it only missed passing by a couple percent.

DEAN BECKER: Right. But, I think it was motivation or encouragement to those in California to still stay on that track, but it also, I think, gave courage to those folks in Colorado, who, not too soon after, passed their legalization effort. Your thought, please.

RICHARD LEE: Yeah, we were very successful in generating hundreds of millions of dollars of positive media coverage for the issue, and I've heard from a lot of people in other states, that caused them to see that this was coming soon and for them to get involved and to join the fight.

DEAN BECKER: Now, there was a recent article in the Houston Chronicle that talked about competition, if you will. They were talking about Canada and Mexico going legal, that how the states all around us are going legal, and I thought about, I was questioned by the reporter within that story to talk about what that means to Texas, and I brought forward an idea that I want you to please respond to, see if I'm totally off base.

And that is, in Colorado, in California, and in the legal states, they are required to have their marijuana inspected, to have it approved for human consumption, if you will. And I know that there are batches that don't pass that inspection, and I said, perhaps those with the high percentages of pesticides or other fertilizers get sold in states like Texas, that we're getting the bad end of that stick. What's your thought in that regard, do you think that's, any truth in that?

RICHARD LEE: I don't think so.

I think there's so much that's being grown that's not even entering the legal system that there's plenty to be shipped to Texas. And I think a lot of what's supplying Texas now is Colorado.

DEAN BECKER: Right. No, I hear Colorado and Oregon are just way, way over stocked, so to speak.

Before I switch to talking with your mother, Ann Lee, I want to get your quick synopsis, your projection, what do you see for Texas?

RICHARD LEE: This year, hopefully, at least the decrim bill can be passed, which will take the decriminalization that currently is happening in Austin and Houston only, and make that statewide.

And, possibly expanding the medical marijuana bill, but unfortunately I don't see full legalization until 2021 or '23.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm going to hope it happens sooner than that, but we're going to have an interview with Richard's mother Ann here in just a moment.

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Well, we've had a good discussion with your son, Richard. I'm here with Ann Lee at her home in Houston. You are the founder, or one of the two founders, I should say, of the --

ANN LEE: Bob and I are considered co-founders --


ANN LEE: -- of RAMP.

DEAN BECKER: Her husband, Bob, and Ann, were the co-founders, for sure. And, it's kind of caught fire a bit, it's attracting attention and supporters. And, tell us about Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Tell us why that came to be.

ANN LEE: When you think about it, prohibition is anything but conservative. It is a very progressive philosophy of control by government of what you may or may not use.


ANN LEE: And, so, as arch conservatives, my husband and I, well, it's, of course we started off with Richard, when he introduced marijuana to us, and I'm the one that's called it the weed of the devil.


ANN LEE: And I really didn't even know what marijuana is, hadn't even thought about it, it had not been a part of my experience at all. Sorry, Bob and I always have had great faith and love for, and support of our children. So when Richard had -- after he had the accident, and when he was in the hospital, some of the reading he was doing, he read about spasticity being alleviated by marijuana, and spasms were a problem for him.


ANN LEE: And so, he looked at us and said mom and dad, marijuana's good for me, and I don't think either Bob or I wanted to believe it, but we had to. First of all, we've always -- we knew Richard did not lie.


ANN LEE: He would never, he'd get into trouble but he wouldn't lie his way out of it. And, so we had to take him seriously. We prayed an awful lot about that, and we did our research, and found that Richard was right. You know? Marijuana is a worthwhile product that needs to be, in my estimation, taxed, controlled, and regulated like we do alcohol and tobacco.

That, to me, is the bottom line here.


ANN LEE: And it's interesting that it is now the philosophy of a lot of people, including our land commissioner, George P. Bush.


ANN LEE: Who told me, he talked to his counterpart from Oregon, and that he -- that man told him how much they have been making off marijuana.


ANN LEE: And George P recognized right away, you know, that it was -- it's something that needs to be considered. So I thought that was a real sort of a breakthrough for us, in having him at least acknowledge that there is a reason for marijuana again to be taxed, controlled, and regulated.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. And if, you said, Oregon can profit, or sense that profitability, we've got a population several times larger than theirs, we could certainly benefit here, right?

ANN LEE: Right. Right. I think that money can be the driving force, which there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. Money has driven so much in this country.


ANN LEE: What is capitalism, but how to make money?

DEAN BECKER: That's us. That's America, isn't it.

ANN LEE: And so that is, to me, that is the thing that, also, we need to consider.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, Ann, I know in legislatures past, we have them every two years here in Texas, that we have -- we carved out a small incremental step for kids with epilepsy, that they, they're --

ANN LEE: That's right.

DEAN BECKER: -- can get CBD medicine. But we've always had Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor --

ANN LEE: Patrick.

DEAN BECKER: Patrick as stumbling blocks, but even more so, we've had this gentleman, Charles Schweitner, I think is his name [sic: Senator Charles Schwertner]. He is the, no longer now the chair of the Health and Human Services --

ANN LEE: He was a state senator.

DEAN BECKER: State senator. And, he's going to be less of a stumbling block now. Your thought there, please.

ANN LEE: I'm just grateful for anybody that had authority that was against us is no longer an authority.


ANN LEE: I'm grateful for the fact that Abbott has -- seems to be less of an obstacle than we've had before, and I'm hoping to have a visit with, I know Dan Patrick in an interesting way for some time, and I'd like to sit down with him.


ANN LEE: And, so, we'll -- all I can do in my one person, I'm one person.


ANN LEE: But, I can only do what I can do.


ANN LEE: But, I -- if I fail to do what I can do, I fail my god, I fail my lord, because I need to do -- when you see wrong, you need to do what you can.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. You can't remain silent.

ANN LEE: And there's been so much wrong. The fact that people have been put in prison, put in prison, for possession of marijuana, is so appalling to me, it's so un-American, that it's -- it's part of what, it's part of what I am.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, ma'am. Now, I understand that there will be several organizations, there's going to be several bills put forward within the legislature. There's, I don't know, I would hope recognition of the progress, of the taxes, the funding, that's going on in states all around this country, all around Texas, if you will, and that we will begin to realize that we're letting our opportunity just disappear, that we're headed in the wrong direction. Your thoughts there, Ann.

ANN LEE: Well, I've been told the biggest obstacle is law enforcement. Asset forfeiture, the fact that a law enforcement person can stop somebody, can seize their assets or their money, not have to answer to anybody for it.

DEAN BECKER: Say they smelled weed.

We spoke of RAMP, founded by you and your husband, Bob. He's now gone, but the idea is still strong. You still have these supporters. It's not just in Texas anymore, RAMP is moving around the country as well. Do you want to talk about that, please?

ANN LEE: RAMP would have gotten nowhere if it had been left up to Bob and me. When we came back to Houston from California after the we had the idea, and I was wearing a medical marijuana pin, and ran into a young man that I did not know, but he was a Republican precinct chairman, as I was.

We were going to some training some machinery we were using for voting, something like that, and he saw my pin, and we must have talked for thirty minutes. And I came home, saw Bob, Bob, you won't believe who I met. And John was not yet then married to Danielle, but John went home and told his family, you wouldn't believe who I met.

And, we have become very good friends. I have so much respect for John, and as I said, RAMP would not really have gone anywhere if it had not been for these, most of them are what we call YRs, Young Republicans. And if the YRs hadn't taken up the issue, and that's where it, I think it got a lot of its impetus, its force came from the YRs --


ANN LEE: -- who supported RAMP.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and thank goodness they have latched onto the idea, and ran with it, which is, I think, a good thing, because, you know, from my, I don't know, experience, or what I've perceived, is that there were two main groups that objected to drug war, and that was cops, as you mentioned, and Republicans as well.

But that's no longer the case. Even outside of RAMP, there are politicians at the federal and state and local level who are speaking more candidly, more openly, more honestly about the need to change these laws. Your thought, please.

ANN LEE: That is happening. The facts speak for themselves. Just look at the facts.


ANN LEE: We don't have to make up anything, lie about anything. Just tell the facts.


ANN LEE: If it is okeh, if it is okeh for an adult to use alcohol, why isn't it okeh for that same adult to use marijuana, if that is their drug of choice. It should be their choice, as long as it is done responsibly, it should be that drug of choice.

And the only reason that I can see why Republicans have so latched onto this, is that law and order's always been a hallmark of being a Republican.


ANN LEE: And so, if it was the law, if marijuana prohibition was the law, Republicans blindly felt follow the law.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Yeah.

ANN LEE: But, they have to recognize that in this country, we've had some bad law. Possibly -- the two that come to my mind always, the first one is slavery. If that -- that was bad law, could never be good. And the next bad law is the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. That was bad law, and the way it was passed, did not see the light of day in its passage, was not even read in the Senate.

It's so sad, that this beautiful country, which believes in freedom, could deprive a person of their freedom for possession of a drug that -- it's not completely harmless, nobody said that.


ANN LEE: I call it not completely harmless. It's certainly known that cigarettes are not completely harmless, not harmless at all. But you don't put somebody in prison for smoking a cigarette.

DEAN BECKER: Well, friends, we've been speaking with Ann Lee, and Ann, when one's age advances to a certain point, it's okeh to mention that you're ninetieth birthday is coming soon. Correct?

ANN LEE: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: Well, let's hope that you're around for a long time to help get this change in place and that the politicians recognize the work of RAMP. They're out there on the web at RAMPGOP.org. Please, check it out.

Speaking of RAMP, here's their political director, John Baucum.

JOHN BAUCUM: Quite a few of our fellow activists are up here at the capitol today, making their voice heard, specifically on marijuana policy reform. So, you know, in Texas we have a very limited and somewhat nonfunctional medical marijuana program, called the Texas Compassionate Use Program.

So our primary goal for this session is to see that program expanded. For anybody that doesn't know, TCUP, which is its affectionately known acronym, is a high CBD, low THC, oil based, you know, cannabis medicine for only intractable epilepsy.

So, at the very least, you know, we're pushing for a full, comprehensive medical program that would not discriminate against any of the cannabinoids and set arbitrary caps. Currently it's 0.5 percent THC or less, under the current program.

We obviously know that THC is medicinal, as is CBD and other cannabinoids as well, and that they can also work, you know, together in kind of the entourage effect as well.

So, primarily we're looking to expand TCUP with adding additional qualifying conditions, hopefully busting that arbitrary THC cap. And on the criminal justice side, you know, I don't think the legislature is quite ready for a tax and regulate type program here in Texas, but we're certainly trying to reduce the collateral consequences that come along with a marijuana criminal conviction.

And primarily what we're looking at is a civil penalty bill, which would eliminate a criminal penalty and replace it with a civil fine. And if we can't get that, we're also working on a bill that would potentially lower the classification from a class B misdemeanor to a class C misdemeanor, while also removing some of the collateral consequences that would come even with a class C drug conviction.

DEAN BECKER: Now, if folks wanted to get involved with RAMP, join up, and, or you guys are going to have a bus trip to go talk to these legislators early next month, right?

JOHN BAUCUM: Yeah, yes, definitely. On February Seventh, we're going to have a lobby day hosted by the Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, which is a broad coalition of many different groups, including RAMP, NORML, the ACLU, the Republican Liberty Caucus, many different groups under that umbrella.

So we'll actually be taking a charter bus from Houston. We have fifty-six spaces available and we hope to fill them all up, and hopefully maybe some more carpools or if we get enough support maybe even another bus.

So, to find out information on that, you can email me directly at johnb@rampgop.org, or you can search on facebook, if you search RAMP lobby day bus, it should come up with the event, and then a link there to register for a ticket as well.

I do want to mention, as you touched on Oklahoma, you know, through their ballot initiative Oklahoma overnight essentially created one of the, or probably the broadest medical marijuana program in the entire country.

I've got a good friend of mine, he has a company named Robot Farmer, which has been granted several licenses for cultivation, processing, and distribution through retail dispensaries. But as it is today, it's a fantastic, widely open medical marijuana program, and it's, you know, something that we should strive for here in Texas.

It, you know, we have tons of patients who could benefit from access to this medicine, and, you know, as you very well know, Dean, there are really no good reasons to continue supporting prohibition in the twenty-first century. Let the doctors and the patients decide what's medicine for them.

DEAN BECKER: All right, once again we've been speaking with John Baucum of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. And it's, they're out there on the web at RAMPGOP.org.

Halfway through the show, you heard me put forward that fake PSA, work part time, make big bucks, join the world's largest multilevel marketing organization. That's on one side of a card I will be handing out to every Texas legislator. And on the other side of that card is a list of the conscientious objections I have, you should have, everyone should have to the drug war.

It's part of the reasoning, the rationale, that needs to come forward to end the madness of drug war. The truth is so evident. It's time for all of us to get to work. And again I remind you that because of this prohibition nobody knows what's in that bag, not even for marijuana. So please, be careful.

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