08/03/07 - Froma Harrop

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Froma Harrop, syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate + Loretta Nall re drug warrior shennigans in Alabama

Audio file

Cultural Baggage, August 9, 2009

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally Un-American... "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR"

My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs - legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.


Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. My name is Dean Becker. In about three minutes we’ll bring in our guest Froma Harrop of the Creator’s Group of Syndicated Writers and in our second half hour on Century of Lies we want you to help us “Face the Inquisition” by calling in your comments and questions. But, first, the Abolitionist’s Moment…


Just like gypsies hunted down by Nazis and sent away to prison for their lifestyle, so too are drug users in modern America. No one cares should they die while being arrested or while they are incarcerated because, after all, they are unconditionally exterminable. Silence has allowed this situation to develop in America to the point where we now allow torture.

David Napalito, that guitar man out of New York’s Central Park, has put together an amazing song and video which you can see on youtube, “Resolution, the Torture Song.” And, of course, they are talking about Cheney and Bush’s “war of terror” but it applies the mechanism of drug war that prosecutes medical marijuana patients and even those addicted to cocaine and heroin, thus serving as today’s Abolitionist’s Moment, “Resolution.”

[cuts to song, “Resolution, the Torture Song”]

Torture? In America? It goes on every day in the name of drug war. Please watch and listen to the full “Resolution, the Torture Song” on youtube. And, please, stop and think: Who benefits from the drug war? Every criminal organization on the planet and every criminal justice organization on the planet and then look at the extremes to which both sides will go to make this drug war last forever. And, ultimately, ask yourself why you sit silently and watch this abomination unfold.


Dean Becker: Alright, friends, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network. We are going to talk about that today I hope with Froma Harrop. She is best known for her twice weekly syndicated column which appears in about 200 newspapers including the Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Detroit News and Newsday. She has been a guest on PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR and now Pacifica - many other broadcast and cable media organizations. And, with that, let us go ahead and bring our guest. Froma, are you with us?

Froma Harrop: I am. Hello.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much for taking time to be with us. Froma, I have looked at several of your more recent columns. They don’t all deal with the drug war. You talk about, well, the most recent: “No, Red States are not better than Blue States”

Froma Harrop: Yes.

Dean Becker: Before that, “Cash for Clunkers means Ca-ching for Detroit” and “Republicans looking Crazy on Health Care.” I think there is some proximity, some parallel aspects to the war on drugs and the healthcare problem. It’s these powerful players manipulating the system. Your thoughts on that…

Froma Harrop: Yes, well, a lot of people make a lot of money on the war on drugs. I am not even talking about the drug dealers. I am talking about the drug warriors – the people: the judges, the police, enforcers, people who run certain anti-drug organizations – they have a vested interest in keeping the war on drugs going because they make money off of it. They make – one guy in New York has, I think a quarter million dollars income a year just heading some anti-drug group. I am not saying this is a bad person at all. I am just saying that if the drug war were to end tomorrow, this person would be out of a job.

Dean Becker: Yes, it has tentacles reaching out into all kinds of aspects of our company and corporate organizations. Now, I want to talk about the one that caught my attention, I guess a couple of weeks back when I first called you and invited you. “Pot could be Gold for California.” Would you elaborate on that column?

Froma Harrop: Well, yes. California has been wrestling with these very serious budget problems and Governor Schwarzenegger said – he suggested – and this is as far as he could go, really -he said we ought to have a serious debate on whether we should legalize marijuana in California and collect taxes on it as the state does on alcohol and cigarettes.

There are studies to show the economic benefits to California and to all states, in fact, in doing that, I think California’s taxes could top a hundred million a year. But, by just legalizing marijuana in California it would save the cost of enforcing the marijuana ban which approach an extraordinary billion dollars a year.

Dean Becker: I often hear folks say, “Oh you are mistaken about marijuana. Not that many people go to jail or to prison for it.” The fact is that it’s about 800,000 plus arrests certainly every year and maybe not all of those people go to prison but many of them can’t make bail, spend untold weeks and months awaiting trial and lose their jobs, perhaps their family, maybe their homes. It does have an impact, does it not?

Froma Harrop: Oh it does and actually there are extraordinary large numbers of people in jail on non-violent marijuana offenses or other non-violent offenses. I am trying to remember the number here – it’s a very big number. Yes. I think 755,000 are arrested on marijuana charges and the vast majority are for possession not for dealing.

Dean Becker: I think that’s pretty near right on the money. Yeah, I know that New York City and Houston kind of have an ongoing battle on who can arrest the most pot smokers. I think New York’s leading the way – they have got more people.

Froma Harrop: Yeah.

Dean Becker: But, here we have thousands of people behind bars for marijuana arrests. The state legislature actually passed a bill a couple of years ago that said that they no longer have to arrest, no longer have to incarcerate people for less than four ounces but the district attorneys and the police chiefs said, ‘Well we can’t let them go. What if they committed a murder? We would be help responsible…’ It’s more reefer madness, right?

Froma Harrop: Well, if you say commit murder, you keep them. This Harvard economist figured out how much each state loses in taxes by not taxing marijuana as it does drugs and alcohol and also enforcement and in the case of Texas, Texas loses about forty-seven million a year not taxing marijuana sales, and it spends about two hundred seventy-three million a year enforcing the ban on marijuana.

Dean Becker: Yeah and here we are right next to Mexico and there are literally hundreds of tons passing through our state every year on their way to northern sales outlets I suppose.

Froma Harrop: There is an extraordinary amount of crime linked to these drug gangs - people bringing these drugs over the border – these drugs that could be easily grown in this country legally. It is quite crazy.

I spoke to a guy who had been a – he is now for ending the prohibition on drugs – he was a drug agent in I think it was El Paso and he says that in Texas junior high schools, kids can get this thing called cheese - you have probably know more about it than I do – for five dollars a pop. It’s a pretty potent drug combination and that costs more than their lunch. So, this whole idea that anyone is stopping the flow of drugs into this country or even into, you know, school playgrounds, is ludicrous.

Dean Becker: We have this situation where, I think that it was just this week that Obama has gone to Mexico to meet with Calderon and Harper out of Canada. They are discussing how to deal with this as if hasn’t been done in a similar fashion every year or two for the last hundred years. Your thoughts?

Froma Harrop: Oh, well, sure. But then, you know, his new drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is recently quoted saying that legalizing marijuana is not in the president’s vocabulary nor is it in mine and he called marijuana a dangerous drug. If you can’t get marijuana off your plate then this is really a pointless conversation.

Dean Becker: Yeah and they just refuse to address the problem. Recently Gil Kerlikowske was in Seattle. He spoke to a gentleman there at KUOW. I have got just a thirty second extract of it. I want to play that and then come back to you, Froma.


The following is US drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske:

Substance abuse in the healthcare arena is very important and there are a couple of programs that are really helpful. One is called Screening and Brief Intervention and that is the ability to teach doctors or work with physicians of all kinds – specialties, primary care, et cetera – so that when they treat a patient regardless of what it is for that they can talk to them a little bit about alcohol, tobacco and certainly substance abuse because if you can get to the problem early you are going to save lives and you are going to save money.

Dean Becker: Froma, this sounds well and good. This sounds like a logical scientific way to go about it but the fact is they make these statements – more treatment, more harm reduction but they never stop the arrest rates. We lead the world in our incarceration rate and it is still escalating so this is just so much smoke and mirrors, so far, right?

Froma Harrop: Right, and I agree with you. That was a very humane sounding statement from him but the fact is that if you stopped arresting people who have drug addiction problems, they would come forth and go get treatment. It would be easier to treat them if they were if they were treated as patients and not as prisoners.

Dean Becker: Well, like in Canada with their Insight system they have there. I think Switzerland, Germany parts of England, they have injection sites where people can go and either do or even purchase their heroin, inject it under a nurse’s supervision and they get access to treatment brochures or just discussions with those nurses and it helps them move toward a more structured life, if you will, moves them away from the street and allows many of them to eventually quit using without that stigma. Your thoughts, Froma.

Froma Harrop: Yes. Well, absolutely. You have to – to have people come forth, you have to remove the stigma of use. You know, people, we have alcoholics anonymous, people abuse alcohol. But, they can get up in front of a group of people in that community and say, ‘I have no control of my alcohol use’ without their being criminals - because if alcohol were banned again, then they would be criminals. They would be breaking the law in addition to having this burden of an addiction.

Dean Becker: Right. Froma, I am looking back at a couple of prior columns you had posted. From March, 2009: “US Should Lift Ban on Hemp.” Now, I know that some of these get different names from the way you perhaps wrote them, but we have a couple of states now that are talking about legalizing hemp but the federal government still won’t let them. Your thoughts?

Froma Harrop: Well, it’s crazy and in fact I had interviewed a farmer up in North Dakota who is also a Republican in the North Dakota state legislature. He is a farmer and he is in the northern part of the state and he sees thirty miles over the border that Canadian farmers are farming hemp - fields of waving hemp.

It’s an industrial product. It has many uses and in fact it is not useful as a mood lifter at all. It’s different – it’s a relation to marijuana but it is a different plant. Still, this guy in North Dakota, this farmer, can’t farm it, can’t sell it. Hemp is actually used in automobiles produced in Detroit and they get the hemp from Canada because American farmers can’t produce it.

Dean Becker: Yeah, once again clipping our farmers at the knees and not getting the tax money or the profits that we could.

Froma Harrop: And spending all this money to put people… You know, in some states a kid’s caught smoking pot under the bleachers and his life is ruined. He is put into jail.

Dean Becker: Yeah. Friends, we are speaking with Froma Harrop, she is known for her twice weekly syndicated column. It appears in about 200 newspapers across America. She is - I want to say this – one of the most forthright of all the columnists, although a lot of other editors and columnists have begin to speak about this need for change - to examine this policy of drug prohibition, to delve into the results of this hundred year fiasco.

It occurs to me, Froma, that it’s going to eventually reach a tipping point. To me, I wonder why we are not there yet, but do you see it moving in that direction towards better enlightenment, better ability to grasp this situation?

Froma Harrop: Well, it was my hope that the recent economic meltdown would put pressure on governments to ease up at least on marijuana and that hasn’t happened and that just really surprises me. There was a Zogby poll out some years ago that nearly half of Americans polled wanted pot legal and regulated like alcohol.

I think it’s one of those cultural wedge issues that the Obama administration doesn’t want to involve themselves in and that really does disappoint me because Obama did admit to not only smoking pot but using cocaine…

Dean Becker: And enjoying it…

Froma Harrop: Yes.

Dean Becker: Which brings me to the crux of this I think is that, I think the vast majority of Americans understand this. Another Zogby poll, I think 12 or 18 months ago, asked, do you think the drug war is a success? And I think it was 76% of people said no way is it a success. A secondary question was what do you think is the opinion of others on this subject and about 76% of them thought others would not agree with them. So, it’s like we don’t know what we really know. Go ahead, Froma.

Froma Harrop: Well, that’s very interesting and I think it’s one of those issues in which once there is actually widespread agreement what should be done, but people are afraid to come out and say it because of – especially politicians for the fear of appearing soft on demon drugs. I think I asked that Harvard economist who has done the studies on this and he’s not for or against drugs. He is a Libertarian. He said - I asked him, why don’t the political leadership is moving on this and he said to me that – and here I am quoting him – democrats know that the potheads are going to vote for them anyway and the people on the other side who care about this stuff know that this is a really big deal. The big deal is that if marijuana were legalized and the sky didn’t fall in, many other drugs laws would crack as a result.

Dean Becker: Well, I am looking for that day to be honest with you. Froma, I wanted to let the listeners know that we will be taking your calls here shortly. I want to go ahead and let you know that Froma will be with us for the second half hour on the Century of Lies program.

One other item I wanted to bring into the discussion. You had another column you did, “Time to End Planned Columbia.” This speaks to the fact that we have invested billions of dollars into this and yet the rate of coca cultivation continues to go up. Your thoughts, Froma.

Froma Harrop: Yes, well that is true. In fact, a few years ago, I think John Walters – he was Bush’s drug czar – made a triumphal announcement that there was a price increase in the street price of cocaine in this country and that therefore they were somehow cutting the supply. They had somehow succeeded in cutting the supply but then it was noted that even with the slight increase in the price of cocaine, it still 40% cheaper than it was 37 years earlier when the war on drugs began – that was 1970.

So, the drugs that are coming in they are stronger than ever, they are cheaper than ever… And meanwhile, we have this program which we are helping poison these poppy fields in the Andean mountains. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Dean Becker: No, and it never has. I don’t know if you got a chance to hear that Abolitionist’s Moment, but you have to consider who benefits: the criminals and the criminal justice system as I asked the folks to do is to consider just how far both sides are willing to go to perpetuate this drug war forever. It has no basis in logic. Friends, we are speaking with Froma Harrop, syndicated columnist.

Froma, we are going to take a short break here. I have got a couple of items I want to share with the listeners and we will be back during the Century of Lies show to take the calls, I hope from across North America. I have been getting some calls from up in British Columbia. I hope to get some more out of Canada during our discussion.

To the listeners out there, I want to thank you for being with us on Cultural Baggage and we are going to take just a couple of minute break here. We’ll be back with Froma Harrop. Oh, I should give you the phone number. You can dial toll-free across North America 1 877 9 420 420 or you can dial in locally by calling 713 526 5738. Again, that toll-free number, 1 877 9 420 420. Froma, please hang with us a few minutes and we’ll be back to speak with the callers.


It’s time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Dry skin, hair loss, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, anemia, joint soreness, weakened immune system, kidney disease, liver damage, emphysema, cancer, and a shortened life span…
Time’s up!
The answer: Cadmium. I couldn’t find a medical use for cadmium but I wanted you to know that prisoners across America are working in factories smashing computers and being given the chance to inhale cadmium vapors for six cents an hour.


[PSA, to the tune of Mean Mr. Grinch]
Darth Drug Czar, you’re a coward, a liar, demon and thief. Seems you can’t face the truth for just one hour.
Too busy looking at pee…
Dean Becker, drugtruth.net


Loretta Nall: Hi folks, this Loretta Nall in Alabama. I work on all kinds of drug policy issues here – everything from medical marijuana to outright marijuana legalization to prison and parole and probation. You name it; if it’s got anything to do with drug policy then I do it in the grand state of Alabama.

Dean Becker: Now, Loretta, like every state, you have got your drug prohibitionists and there was one stood forth but his story didn’t turn out so happily, did it?

Loretta Nall: One of the very first cases that I worked on here in Alabama was with a teenage boy, an eighteen year old high school senior named Webster Alexander and his principal, a guy by the name of Ricky Nichols who is also a former sheriff’s deputy and a part time national guardsman. He invited a narc into the small north Alabama high school where Webster attended because he heard, you know, that some kids might be selling dimebags to each other and so this narc wound up arresting Webster.

Over the course of three or four months there was a couple of ounces of pot involved. He was picking the kid up at his house and taking him to and from school and told him his grandmother was dying of stomach cancer and that was why he needed the marijuana and this narc knew that Webster’s grandmother had just died of a similar cancer.

And so over the course of a few months, Webster sold him some marijuana he thought was for the guy’s grandmother and Webster wound up being arrested, facing twenty-six years in an Alabama state prison and this principal Ricky Nichols was the one involved in that.

Then, after that, he went to Iraq – he served two tours in Iraq, principal Nichols did. While he was there, he decided that school kids smoking pot were equivalent to terrorists and when he got back he instituted this thing called Operation Bounty Hunter where he would pay students a hundred dollars to narc on each other.

He had this really horrible poster made – it’s on my blog -talking about Operation Bounty Hunter. As you walk the eyes feel you carefully watching, patiently waiting, almost inviting your move. It’s just this really bizarre, scary ninja looking thing where he threaten kids to put them in jail if they are caught with drugs or guns.

So, the really great and wonderfully, delectably ironic that has happened is that principal Nichols and his wife worked at the same high school and she was a clerk and it has just come out that she was having an affair with a sixteen year old student at that school while providing him alcohol and marijuana and knocking boots with him in principal Ricky Nichols bed.


Loretta Nall: May be mean to laugh at other people when they are in a bad shape but they just deserve it. But, you can’t let that go without alerting people to what has happened.

Dean Becker: If folks would like to read more about this, please send them to your website.

Loretta Nall: My website is nallforgovernor.blogspot.com. Or you can just search Loretta Nall and you’ll go right to it.


He once won a debate with the drug czar with a single word: Recognize.
When quizzed about the use of clandestine methodry, he has a strong opinion: No.
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.


Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
These men and women have served in the trenches of the drug war as prosecutors, judges, cops, guards and wardens. They have seen first hand the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition.
Please visit leap.cc


On many of the Drug Truth Network stations immediately following this show, you’ll get a chance to “Face the Inquisition.”

You know, folks, it occurs to me that you know the answer. You haven’t done a whole lot with that answer. It is time for you to pick up the baton or the bludgeon – whatever the heck your weapon might be. It’s time to pick up the phone or the ink pen. It’s time for you to pick up your feet and go to your legislator’s office. It’s time for you to do your part. That is really what it all boils down to.

I urge you to do that and as always, I 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.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.