07/05/09 - Jerry Epstein

Jerry Epstein, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas + Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance on Michael Jackson's unnecessary overdose death

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Guest: 
Jerry Epstein
Organization: 
Drug Policy Forum of Texas
Download: Audio icon COL_070509.mp3
Share

Comments

Century of Lies, July 5, 2009

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.
_________

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m so glad you could be with us. I want to alert you to a fact that on Wednesday, July 8th, I’ll be hosting the Houston Access channel television program, ‘Drug’s, Crime and Politics’ as produced by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas.

I’ll feature video’s from my visits to cannabis dispensaries in California, as well as some shots from Bolivia, showing the Coca markets and tons of Coca. You can tune in on the net at www.hmstv.org. That’s again, Wednesday the 8th , 8:30PM Central time. I’ll do it again two weeks later. 8:30 PM Central time and again that’s at hmstv.org.

Let’s just go ahead and introduce our guest. He’s the president of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Mr. Jerry Epstein. Hello, Sir.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Hi Dean. How’re you doing?

Dean Becker: I’m real good. I’m real good. I appreciate the opportunity to do some live television on behalf of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas and I appreciate you being here. You’ve been one of my mentors over the years. You were one of the guys who introduced me to the concept of drug policy and I thank you for that. It’s been a privilege to work with you guys. You’ve done great work here in the state of Texas and many other states, across the country, have kind of emulated what you guy’s have done. It’s kind of on a roll in a way, isn’t it, this drug reform movement?

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah. Obviously a whole lot more has happened in the last year, Dean. When we began, we were part of a group of fifteen organizations. We’re now up well over two hundred, extending into Europe and so forth. You have a combined interest in more effective drug policies.

Dean Becker: Now Jerry, you brought in some reference documents, a little bit of analysis you’ve done. We don’t often talk about alcohol, on this program. We’re talking about cocaine, meth, heroin, etc., etc; but there’s a drug that we have overlooked; that the government has overlooked, in doing their analysis. Am I right?

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yes, absolutely. I think of it in terms of the ‘invisible drug’. It is the drug that is most important to understanding drug abuse, and drug addiction, in the United States. We’ve tried to put together a real simple basic image for people to hold easily, to pretty much understand one outline of the drug war and since you think of yourself as being part of a group of a hundred people who represent the United States, over the age of twenty-five.

Ninety of those people don’t have any problem with drugs (over ninety of them) and they never will, statistically. They handle themselves quite well. Which leaves us roughly ten, who do have a drug problem. Of those, eight have a problem with alcohol. One has a problem with prescription drugs and one has a problem with all the illegal drugs you can think of. So you can, if you choose, look at the drug war as, ’Gee, here we are, ninety-nine people trying to beat on one person to join us, or the other nine people who have a problem in their drug of abuse.

It seems to me that all the crime, violence, etc, etc, and the intervention into effective treatment, for the people who do have a problem, so outweighs any possible good that’s done, because we haven’t been successful in getting that one person to change their drug preference, over the course of fifty years.

Dean Becker: I agree with you, Sir. I’m going to just give you a quick scenario of my life, my involvement with drugs, as I grew up. I grew up in the ’60’s. I used marijuana, coke, meth, heroin. Didn’t much like those hard drugs. But I did, once I had my first divorce, if you will, became an alcoholic. Kind of thought Hank William maybe was right and I got involved in it for about ten years. But during those ten years, I got busted thirteen times for having drugs in my pocket, while I was drunk.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Right.

Dean Becker: Now to me, this kind of sums up the situation. Again, I want to let the listeners to know, in the last twenty-four plus years, I haven’t had any of those problems, because I quit drinking… and that’ll do it. I guess the point being, we’re ignoring the ’elephant in the living room’ when we ignore this alcohol problem.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah, and another thing and you just raised the point. We’re not talking about separate people… Gee, this group of people uses alcohol. This group of people uses cocaine. This group of people uses marijuana. Although that is a separation that exists to some extent, but not among the people who have a major drug problem. It turns out, that if you have a major cocaine problem, almost ninety percent of the time, at the same time, you have a major alcohol problem and even in the case of marijuana, that figure’s close to sixty percent.

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: So, most of the time when you have a problem with your drug, it is a problem in conjunction. For methamphetamine and for heroin, the figure is closer to seventy-five percent. So one thing we need to do is to stop seeing these as individual drug problems, rather than looking deeper into the mental states of the people who are using drugs of any kind, usually multiple drugs, to try to adjust for life’s problem, and think about the most effective way to interact with them.

Dean Becker: From the data you provided today, the concurrent alcohol disorder showing cocaine abuse, sixty-nine percent; amphetamine, fifty-two; opioid abuse, fifty; cannabis abuse, fifty-five. Now this is, I think, important to note that ‘cannabis abuse‘, it’s often bandied about as an actual phrase and I realize some people, get themselves kind of boxed into a corner and all they want to do is smoke pot all day and there are those few. But it’s like, the government talks about these days that, ’Of those people arrested, X number had cocaine in their system, X number had other drugs and a HUGE number had marijuana in their system,’ as if the marijuana were somehow responsible…

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah.

Dean Becker: …for that arrest. Your thoughts?

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah, that’s exactly the point, that when people have difficulty with drugs, they are very commonly poly-drug abuser’s and it is very, very common, that alcohol be among them. So, how do I distinguish between the problem that was caused by this drug or that drug or so forth, and I can remember that we did a study of everyone who was arrested and was using drugs at the time of their arrest; and many, many people are using drugs at the time of their arrest.

Then in order to try to figure out, if we could in any way, relative importance of various drugs, we looked only for the people that were using one drug, at the time of the commission of the crime for which they were arrested. When it turned out that that one drug was alcohol, eighty-four percent of the time, in those cases. Cocaine, twelve percent; heroine, six percent; marijuana wasn’t there. Couldn’t make the one percent mark to get into the statistical column.

Dean Becker: I kind of what to throw in a thought here that, it’s been reported that the marines and the army serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are, many times now, starting to use the pharmaceutical drugs to calm themselves after a battle; to perhaps fortify themselves before a battle and… I guess what I’m trying to say here is that, sometimes people use drugs to fortify themselves, for what they’re about to do or what they just did, I guess. If you follow what I’m saying and…

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Well, we know that we had almost one third of the troops in Vietnam, who used heroin…

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …and that was very difficult. But the interesting part about that, was that we found this out through traditional piss tests and so when the drug test was administered, the troops were told, ’Unless you give up the heroin, you don’t get out of Vietnam.’ ‘You can’t go home until you’re clean’ and all of them stopped (snap of finger’s) just immediately. So the stresses of combat; the incredible difficulty of being in a bizarre situation that you will; I’m a former Marine Core Officer by the way…

Dean Becker: Yes.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …so at any rate, the… What’s going on there, in those people’s minds, sometimes they make some difficult decisions, for better of for worse - probably for worse in most of these cases, but the drug, once again, that they use more is alcohol and it tends to be even worse for them. So it’s a difficult situation and it would be better if we would think in terms of, for instance, things like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; we know that the people who have that problem, whether it stems from combat or whether it stems from say, being raped as a child; they’re four times as likely, at least; or whether they were born with susceptibility to stress disorder…

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …we know that those people are far more likely to have drug problems. So then if we start either looking at what is actually the seven percent of people over the age of twenty-six who have persistent drug problems, or if we start looking at the kids, who early in their lives who begin to manifest high risk behavior; males often before the age of ten, females often between ten and twenty; and you start thinking in terms of, ’Gee, can I force these people not to feel stress?’ ‘Can I force them not to feel their mental illness?’ ‘Have we been at all successful in taking their drug away from them? No.’ ‘Do we want such a person to get their drug from a doctor, or a drug dealer?’ and that’s the essential thinking.

You set up a system in which people receive attention, and it turns out to make a great deal of difference and we have the example of the Swiss Heroin Clinics. We invited the head of the Swiss Narcotics Control to Rice University, to Baker Institute of Public Policy; to discuss how the Swiss deal with it and so part of the element was giving as much heroin as they wanted, to a certain group of very troublesome addicts.

They began, after a short while, to use less of their drug rather than more, and to have the constant ability to consult with a doctor every time they used a drug; to talk about how they felt about it. Nobody was trying to ‘force’ them to do anything. We were offering support and so what do we get? A huge reduction in crime. No drugs leaked out to the children. Zero overdose deaths, for instance. Now heroin is definitely the drug…

One of the things about the invisible drug, is we need to compare. Is the problem with alcohol any different necessarily, from any other drug? In the grand sense, I would basically say, ‘No’. But as you go to particulars, you have to worry about, ’Is is worse for the user but maybe is at a different standard for it’s impact on society? One of the things that heroin is worst at, is the risk of overdose death. But in the clinical setting, they’ve had zero overdose deaths in fifteen years…

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …so you can cope with that. Now on the other hand, most people tend to think that the drug, for instance, takes away your control; screws up the mind, if you will…

Dean Becker: Sure.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …which the scientist’s will report as intoxication, or intoxification. Alcohol is the worst drug for that, at least among the one’s we talk about, except for barbiturate. But at any rate, when you talk about damage to the fetus, a lot of people, who don’t know the story; who don’t know the facts; believe that cocaine damages the brain of the fetus. We know that that’s never been proved to be true, but that alcohol in fact, does damage the brain of the fetus, and it’s very serious when it happens and all of the things that people thought were true of crack babies, are really true of those people who have fetal alcohol syndrome or even, to a lesser degree, fetal alcohol effect.

Dean Becker: Exactly. Exactly. We believe a lot of things that just aren’t true.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah. The Drug Policy Forum was basically started for, kind of as an aftermath toward the 1973 Commission from Nixon. One of the things it did very early, in the opening paragraphs of it’s reports, was to talk about the degree of misinformation and mythology that surrounded the topic and it was their objective to try to talk about these things, free of the prejudices that everyone had developed about things they knew to be true, that weren’t.

O.K. So in that tradition in ‘82, National Commission raised the same set of issues and we were so frustrated by 1995, about the lack of scientific information, that we continue on that same path to attempt to give people a realistic comparison of the problems of all drugs and to understand that alcohol is the key drug. It is ‘the’ drug. If you were really concerned about your children, you need to have them understand how dangerous it can be for some people.

That’s another thing that was raised very well in the ’73 Commission. Everybody knows it, at some level, but we reject it on the other hand, in the way it is that, ‘No two people experience a drug the same.’ The same drug can have much, much more serious effects on one person’s system, that’s purely a matter of genetics. Why are some people allergic to peanut butter, so severely that they may die from shock?…

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein. …as bizarre and rare as it may be and some people react very differently with drugs? I’ll tell you a couple of funny stories.

Dean Becker: Go ahead.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Lincoln had a lot of problem with his General’s but Grant was one that was winning and the newspaper reporters… he was winning out in the West. He had not moved to the Eastern Campaign yet and the reporters came to Lincoln and said, ‘We have reports that Grant is drinking heavily.’ and Lincoln said, ’If that’s true, find out what brand he’s drinking and give a case of it to each of my Generals.’ {chuckling}

O.K. Somewhere around the same period of time a reporter was asking General Lee, ’Do you like Whiskey?’ and he said, ’I do like Whiskey. I like it very much. In fact, I like it so much, I will never drink it.’ That is to say, he was one of those people who found out early in his life, that he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop at one drink. He had too many other things in his life that were important to him to allow alcohol to ruin it for him, so he was… He said, ’I believe in the Greek policy of moderation. But for me with alcohol, I just can’t touch it.’

Dean Becker: Well, me and General Lee then, huh? What the heck.

{chuckling}

Mr. Jerry Epstein: There you go. You’re in good company.

Dean Becker: OK I tell you what Jerry, we’re going to take a little break. We’re going to hear a report from my good friend, Mike Grey, from Common Sense for Drug Policy. A little PSA and then Mike Grey. We’ll be right back.
________________

(Reefer Madness tune plays in the background)

REEFER MADNESS

REEFER MADNESS
________________

He once dug a tunnel through the Himalaya’s, to help Al-Qaeda smuggle opium.
When his house gets raided, his dogs shoot the SWAT team.
He developed a strain of marijuana so strong, that even Tommy Chong won’t smoke it.

He is the most interesting man in the world.

‘I don’t always do drugs, but when I do, I prefer marijuana.’
‘Stay informed my friends.’ drugtruth.net
________________

Hello. My name a Borat. I am back from Kasikstan, where my retarded brother Billo is now President. He learned how to make billions by growing flowers. Is great success!

Please don’t legalize drugs, or I will be execute.
________________

This is Mike Grey. I’m Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy and the author of, “Drug Crazy”. It’s the whole history of the drug war in one hundred and ninety-eight pages. A two night read that explains: ‘How We Got Into this Mess and How We Can Get Out‘.

Dean Becker: Mike, you book “Drug Crazy” was one of the first that I read when I was getting into drug reform, if you will, and there’s great news for all the listener’s out there, that you’re making it now available now, free online. Correct?

Mr. Mike Grey: Yes, that’s right. If you check the website for the book, that is www.drugcrazy.com, you’ll find a link on there to a website that is called Libertary, that allows you to read the whole book, chapter by chapter, on line, for free.

Dean Becker: …and the folks can make comments; they can participate in the dialog about that book, right?

Mr. Mike Grey: The website is interactive, so people can post comment about their own experiences or start a dialog on some of the arguments within the book that are pretty well described; the history and so forth, and we’re hoping that we’ll get a series of really informative discussions going, as a result of putting this thing online.

Dean Becker: I think there’s many strong parallel’s within the book that kind of looks at the situation with alcohol prohibition; and how it failed and how we’re going down that same road. Right?

Mr. Mike Grey: Absolutely. The comparison is direct and there’s also a new introduction to the online electronic edition, which really draw’s the parallel between the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933 and what’s going on now, with drug policy reform which is, basically it was the market crash of 1929 that ended alcohol prohibition, and now we’re seeing a repeat of the same situation. I mean, the violence in Mexico is totally out of control.

Huge segments of the army are deserting to join the drug lords and our response to that, in the United States, has been to recommend training more soldiers {laughter} and all we’re doing is training soldiers who will then desert to the drug cartel’s, which pays ten times what the army can pay and then the drug cartel’s also offer benefits and health care. So it’s a no-brainer. Anyone who has military training would be tempted to join these squadron’s.

The thing is, the guys down in Mexico, Dean, would scare the pants off of Al Capone. They’re rolling head’s across the dancehall floor and shooting innocent civilians, just because they happen to be standing in the way. It’s a violent drug war and it’s driven by money. This is not driven by drugs. There is apparently something like fifteen billion dollars, on the table in Latin America, for illegal drug trade and for people who are looking to make a buck, it’s very, very attractive. The amount money is just staggering.

Dean Becker: Dear Listeners, please educate yourselves to the inadequacies of this drug war, by reading Mike’s book. drugcrazy.com

The website for Common Sense for Drug Policy: csdp.org
________________

Alright my friends, you are listening to the Century of Lies show on the Drug Truth Network. I am Dean Becker. We have with us, in-studio, Mr. Jerry Epstein, the President of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Jerry, you heard that report from Mike Grey, talking about the cartel’s make Al Capone look like lightweights, and they do, don’t they.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah, of course they do and we’re looking at this situation daily and you know I brought in a newspaper here with a story about…

Dean Becker: Yes, today’s.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …Roman Catholic Priest’s being killed and two fifteen year old boys who were hoping to study with him for the priesthood, and of course certain valiant people in the church have tried to rise up to oppose them. This is part of their message, the cartel’s message, back to the priesthood. Just as they have killed authors who are writing about their situation, particularly in the media. People who would try to crusade against them.

We had a series of pre-teen and just barely teenager’s killed in El Paso. Young children trying to cross over and visit their grandparent’s, who still lived in Mexico, in Ciudad Juárez, and they were killed. We now have forty-five thousand Mexican troops, trying to rectify the situation and yet we have over eleven thousand deaths in a couple years. It’s like 9-11’s happening every so often, several times a year for them and we are essentially covered in blood up to our elbow’s, because of our failure to understand the problem here and have little impact we have on it.

If you think in terms of the earliest image that I talked about Dean, one percent of the United States essentially, is the problem with these. It’s not a different problem than the problem we have with alcohol, it’s just a different name drug. They are drugs that are not linked to violent behavior, as much as alcohol is; or to intoxication; or to brain damage, as we talked about and yet we are insistent on people, particularly in the case of marijuana, to try to force people to use a more dangerous drug than the one that they prefer.

So it’s a very strange thing and for the cartel’s, in essence they are highly dependant on only two drugs. Far and away the most important is marijuana, because it’s used twice as much as any other drug, but also because it’s popular, it becomes the backbone of the distribution system. It’s the introductory drug. We have over a million kids selling marijuana. Teenagers, about half of them are estimated to sell other drugs, so it is a market produced gateway…

Dean Becker: Right.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …between the drugs, and of course the Dutch separated marijuana from the other drugs and to what degree? That’s the reason why they have one eighth of the cocaine use that we do, I don’t know…

Dean Becker: …or that their children are from five to ten years older, when they use these drug in the first place.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Well, that frequently happens as well, but the most alarming thing in early drug use, is kids using before the age of thirteen, they’re still three times as likely to use alcohol as marijuana at that age. So I never ever, ever, like to get away from trying to have people understand. You can do things, but you’ve just got to figure alcohol in the equation, if you really want to understand what’s going on and help people.

Dean Becker: Right, right. Once again friends, you’re listening to the Century of Lies show. Jerry, we got about three minutes left here and I want to just talk about the Drug Policy Forum of Texas for awhile. Tell us what that’s about.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Well basically, as I say Dean, we were dedicated to trying to let the public hear a more accurate presentation of the facts. Let them decide for themselves what they want to do with it. We have always encouraged the concept of allowing States to experiment, one by one, as suggested by the 1982 National Commission.

We made over eighty presentations to Rotary Clubs and so forth, around the state, last year. We try to reach into the middle class community that has not made up it’s mind, one side or the other. We encourage those people who feel strongly about it, to do as you have done; to be a driving force. We’re trying to get a lot of the undecided people in America, who just don’t know what to do - they’re frustrated, to pay attention.

Dean Becker: Yeah, Jerry. That’s the point. I’m lucky. I get a chance to speak for LEAP, as a former cop and now as one of their spokesmen, and I mainly speak to Lion’s Clubs. You know, older folks really, fifty-five up to eighty-five, ninety sometimes, average age probably seventy, and I find that now, especially in the last few months, that when I talk to these organizations, they’re with me. They’re telling me points that I’ve left out. They’re talking about Amsterdam. They’re talking about needle exchange.

They’re bring forward these thoughts of improvement and what we at LEAP, and perhaps what you guys, have to do, at Drug Forum Policy of Texas, is to come up with the answer. Well, how do we change this? Where are we going to make the difference? How is it going to function? Who’s going to be responsible? How will we get this done? Because I think we are getting to that point. Your thoughts, Jerry.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Yeah. I think that basically we’re going to get back to the idea of allowing states to work out the problem. I happen to believe, for most drugs; cocaine, heroin and so forth, that a multi-tiered prescription system is one that can keep the drugs more effectively away from the children and give better treatment for the people who actually use the drugs and have a better outcome. I talked about those as possibilities, things that have been suggested by experts over the years.

Many people say, ’Look, cross the first bridge. If you want to make marijuana illegal, agree that there should be no advertising, agree to limit public use, etc, etc. But maintain the basic right to use in the privacy of your own home…

Dean Becker: Yep.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: …and see what happens.

Dean Becker: Jerry, we’ve got about thirty seconds. Let me wrap it up here.

Mr. Jerry Epstein: Sure.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Jerry Epstein, President of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Their website; dpft.org. Our next Cultural Baggage will feature a live interview with Jerry Paradis, a former Judge up in Canada. He’s also a spokesman for LEAP.

Folks, we’re dependant on you to help make this happen. Please do your part and remember there’s no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, medical data. In fact, no reason for this drug war to exist. Do your part. Visit our website, endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org