04/25/10 - John H. Richardson

John H. Richardson of Esquire, Dr. Steve Beyer├ö├Â┬úÔö£├é├ö├Â┬úÔö£┬║├ö├Â┬úÔö£Ôòùs "Singing to the Plants" + US Govt LSD archive

Century of Lies
Sunday, April 25, 2010
John H. Richardson
Download: Audio icon COL_042510.mp3


Century of Lies April 25, 2010

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.

Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. Today we’ve got a great show for you. We’ll hear from John Richardson who writes for Esquire. We’ve got a couple more segments dealing with Psychedelics in the 21st Century, recorded at the great conference out there in San Hose last week. But let’s go ahead and start with our interview with John Richardson.

It’s been quite some time since we had John Richardson who writes for Esquire online, with us. But over the past year or so, he’s written on torture and theft of the treasury and all kinds of shenanigans going on. But he keeps coming back to one topic in particular, marijuana and the ever changing laws which are sweeping across this country. With that, I want to welcome Mr. John Richardson.

Mr. John Richardson: Thanks, Dean. Nice to be on your show.

Dean Becker: John, I see logic is once again gaining a little traction in our society, right?

Mr. John Richardson: Well, there seems to be movement afoot to make some changes and a lot of us think it’s way overdue. Definitely glad to see it happening.

Dean Becker: I’ve got an email here that lists several of the stories you’ve done recently, in regards to marijuana reform. Let’s just start at the top. Why Obama really might decriminalize marijuana.

Mr. John Richardson: Well, I’m not sure that Obama really will. I mean, it was just looking at some of the things that he had said and the person that he was looking at that time, Bill Kerlikowske. The Seattle Police Chief who’s not a hard core drug warrior, in contrast to the guy who was running the drug office at the White House before.

So there was reason to hope and I definitely think the move that he’s made, is to say that ‘He’s not going to try to fight against state laws‘, was definitely a promising move. I mean, they’re still doing busts and their ’push’ seems to have decreased a bit. But basically, this is really coming up as almost ironically a conservative States’ Rights kind of movement, to change the law on a local level. As a way of sort of pre-figuring the Federal Laws.

Another piece that I did, was I interviewed Barney Frank who had introduced a Congressional Decriminalization Law, and he was pretty frank. He said that he didn’t expect anything to happen this year, but he wants to file the law to sort of ’nudge’ the conversation.

Dean Becker: It’s starting to resonate a little bit more, when you start talking about potential tax implications. Am I right?

Mr. John Richardson: Definitely the economic crunch and the sense that, in California they’re letting people out of prisons, cutting down the schools systems dramatically, which they’d done a couple of years before. My kid was in school out in California and they raised the out-of-state fee by ten thousand dollars. But it didn’t do the trick. So they have to start being realistic about what they’re spending money on.

I have to say, like when I talk to Barney Frank, I sort of started off feeling like it was, ’Well, you guys have got the Health Care Bill and the wars in Afghanistan and serious things to deal with.’ But then I stopped myself and said, ’But people are going to jail over this. People are dying over this. This is not a trivial thing. This is a basic human justice thing and plus it’s this crazy drug war; this impulse between this crazy drug war.’ So I think it’s like a real serious issue and not to be trivialized with Cheech and Chong pot jokes.

Dean Becker: Exactly. I work within my community, the gulag filling station, City of Houston and of late we have had one of the chief constables on. We’ve had the Sheriff on, city of four million people. I don’t know the results but just before this show, which we are pre-recording, I interviewed the District Attorney and they are beginning to talk about the need to re-examine this policy - across the board, the whole dang drug war. It’s a sign of great potential, right?

Mr. John Richardson: Well, to me and to most of the people who grew up, not thinking that marijuana was the worst drug in the world; people who had a reasonable take on things, it’s always seemed peculiar. I mean, you can make a case for heroin. You can make a case for cocaine or for crack or certainly for speed, which I think is the worst drug methamphetamine.

But to nobody sensible has it ever made sense that marijuana, which is not as strong or as bad for your body as alcohol, has been illegal for so long. But now, in the last couple of years, we have the drug war in Mexico and I know we don’t really care what happens down there that much, but people are dying constantly down there.

One of the pieces that really changed my mind, is I talked to a Narcotics Chief from Baltimore, who was associated with LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and we broke the numbers down. I was surprised that nobody has ever, before we did it six months ago, looked at how many people die in America because of the drug war. We came up with some rough numbers and it was just shocking.

Dean Becker: Yes. Just this morning the Houston Chronicle had a story about, seven or perhaps eight Federal Police Officers gunned down in the middle of the day in Ciudad Juarez, just yesterday.

Mr. John Richardson: Gosh!

Dean Becker: It’s just showing how brazen; how powerful truly, these cartels have become, through the profits they make from this policy of drug prohibition. It’s just preposterous.

Mr. John Richardson: One of the arguments I heard, I was talking to a republican politician a few days ago and he’s like, ’Well, it’s not going to end the drug war. They’re just going to change, the way criminals always change, to some new angle.’ This is fundamentally not true.

Heroin is a tiny fraction. The other drugs are a tiny fraction of the smuggling problem and the drug problem and the drug war money that goes. So if we legalize marijuana and concentrate it… Portugal, as you know, legalized all drugs ten years ago and within five years, careful tracking has shown that their drug problem has gone down, their crime problem has gone down, their AIDS problem has gone down. All of this stuff. That’s legalizing all drugs.

But leaving that aside, I think you could make a case for keeping heroin or meth illegal. But that will be a fraction of the money and it will free up the police to concentrate on the hard drugs, if that’s what they choose to do and stop this drug war. I didn’t get to the numbers. But when I crunched the numbers with the police officer from LEAP, it was something like six thousand five hundred people getting killed in the United States because of the drug war.

That’s because he estimated that something like a third of all killings or higher, in the US, are drug related. Sixty-five hundred people getting killed a year. If you throw in overdoses and other deaths, it’s something like fifteen thousand a year. I just don’t see the point in that.

Dean Becker: I appreciate you coming on here and getting the sheriff and the DA and other folks to talk about this and if ever I have the opportunity to interview the Drug Czar himself, the first question I’m going to say, considering all the enormous blowback that you and I’ve been talking about, ’What is the benefit of this drug war?’ ’What justifies it’s existence?’

Mr. John Richardson: Well, I didn’t talk to him. But I did talk to the head of the Police Chiefs Association in LA and the head of the….he’s a guy who represents the Narcotic Chiefs Association in LA. That was a couple of weeks ago in esquire.com. It was like stunned. They didn’t have any good arguments.

The only argument they had that was persuasive, is that the law itself is not written well enough to prevent supposedly, some blowback of lost federal dollars and possible regulatory problems. But when you balance it against the human toll and the tens of billions of dollars we spent while we’re cutting education across this country. I was like, ‘You want to keep it illegal because it might be worse? That’s your argument?’

Plus they were ignoring the statistics that have come out in Portugal as a result of their legalization. Again, global legalization. If you guys want to check this out, the CATO Institute, which is a rightwing libertarian kind of study group, has done a study of the Portuguese Drug Legalization experiment. So you can go to their website and check it out. CATO Institute. http://www.cato.org

Dean Becker: I hear the stories there going across the nation that they are laying off ten’s of thousands of teachers. Well over a hundred thousand, as I understand. I like to point out the fact that, ‘For every drug user sent to prison, another teacher’s getting a pink slip.’ It’s just crazy.

Mr. John Richardson: That’s just about right. Because if going to prison costs twenty-five thousand a year…

Dean Becker: …and up.

Mr. John Richardson: …that’s the salary of a beginning kindergarten teacher. Like I said, this has always been a human justice issue. I’ve got kids. My daughter’s boyfriend got arrested for pot once and it cost him a thousand bucks. It’s cost him time in jail, which a kid who’s not planning on a career as a criminal should not really have to do. I don’t see any advantage to my kid going to jail or getting a ticket or having a thousand dollars…

When I talked to the head of the Police Officers Association in LA, he said, “It’s not true that people go to jail. They get tickets.” First off, I think he was being disingenuous. Because you get arrested when you get one of those tickets. Then if you want to fight the ticket and clear you name, so that you don’t have trouble at work or other professional type troubles, it’s expensive.

Then there’s the police time involved. There’s the risk to the police, of having an encounter with somebody who might potentially be trouble. I don’t really understand it. The only thing I can make sense out of it, is that it’s a political punching bag. That people don’t want to say, ’We’re making something that we thought was a crime, legal.’ They want to be tough on crime. The democrats don’t want to be pushing for something that the republicans can use to hurt them. I don’t know what it is.

But sometimes I hear the conspiracy theory from people that, ‘Police budgets depend on this‘. I don’t want to believe that ‘That’s why the Police Officers Association is behind this,’ or ‘That’s why the Prison Guards Association has always been behind keeping the stuff illegal‘. I mean, I think that we’ve got huge savings there and every time a cop is hassling with a pot smoker, he could be going after a child abuser or a killer or a violent criminal. That’s definitely how I want my substantial tax dollars spent.

Dean Becker: We’re speaking with John Richardson, writes for Esquire online. John, we’re going to have to wrap this up. But I wanted to close this out with the thought that, we have within our grasp. The information is flowing out into the Congress, flowing out to Legislatures across this country and it’s beginning to seep in.

Mr. John Richardson: Um-hmm. Definitely.

Dean Becker: Politicians are beginning to walk away from this. They don’t want to be the last one standing there screaming, ‘Lock ’em up!’ Your thoughts, John?

Mr. John Richardson: I think that’s definitely true. There’s fourteen states now, that have decriminalized marijuana. Every day I hear about a new move, in a different state, to make this push. The big thing is the legalization push in California, which will be coming up on the November ballot and the citizens of California, if they’re not scared by a propaganda campaign or maybe they just disagree.

So if they’re not dissuaded by the advertising that’s going to come in., threatening them with losses of jobs and whatever else they’re going to threaten, than California will pass the ballot initiative making this legal. Then we’ll have a real test of, ’How horrible is it?’

In Los Angels they have a thousand pot stores now; these medical marijuana stores and people are complaining about them. They want them cut back to a hundred. Well as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. Cut them back. If you don’t want them in your neighborhood, cut them back. We’ve only got two liquor stores in my neighborhood. I don’t want a dozen liquor stores in my neighborhood. Regulate.

Regulating is good. That’s what we do with alcohol. It works pretty well.

A message about Cannabis from former Sheriff‘s deputy, Jeffrey Studdard.

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Dean Becker: I’m with Dr. Steven V. Meyer. He’s author of “Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon”. What’s your initial reaction to this conference?

Dr. Steven Meyer: I think this is wonderful. This is amazing. Not only the number of people here, but the range of expertise the people have and just the spirit that you feel throughout the conference. People who have been doing these studies for years are feeling vindicated. They’re seeing a much brighter future for these kinds of studies and it’s just great to meet a lot of old friends.

Dean Becker: I follow the overall drug reform, if you will, in America and it seems in the last couple of years that there has been a ray of optimism that’s kind of shown throughout, leading us to believe there is progress on the hoirizon. Correct?

Dr. Steven Meyer: I think that’s right. When you get a front page article on the New York Times about current research in psychedelics, I think that shows a kind of ground shift and the fact that we’re going to be having the results of well conducted scientific studies coming out soon. Like Charlie Grob’s study of Psilosybin with terminal cancer patients. I think that’s going to be revolutionary.

Dean Becker: I have seen lots of speakers, that will be talking about the use of Iowaska and that seems to be the topic of your book, “Singing to the Plants”. As a hippie, if you will, from the sixties and seventies, I did Psilocybin. I did LSD. I much enjoyed peyote. But I haven’t had the opportunity to share Iowaska with any good folks. But what are the differences between Iowaska and these other psychedelics I’m speaking of?

Dr. Steven Meyer: I think Iowaska is a hallucinogen. Very literally a hallucinogen. Once you are use to it and its effects, than you interact with three dimensional present people and things, in a kind of exporable space. I think it is in many ways, different from the depth or insight producing entheogens like LSD or Psilosybin and I think it’s different in many ways too, from the kind of heart opening entheogens like mescaline.

Dean Becker: I’ve heard it said that those using Iowaska are ’on the vine’ with others. Would you perhaps clarify that for me?

Dr. Steven Meyer: I think what we’re seeing in South America… I studied with the traditional Ayahuasqueros and what we’re seeing now is a remarkable, mutual influence between the traditional ayahuasca using cultures, of the Upper Amazon and North Americans. The influence of the Ayahuasqueros on North Americans is clear. What’s also clear is the fact that North American assumptions about the nature of the psycedelic experience; the nature of healing, are in turn influencing traditional practioners in the Upper Amazon.

Dean Becker: There is a church that’s recognized by the US Supreme Court here in the United States, to use the Iowaska. Do you see their outreach growing? The use of Iowaska growing in the Untied States?

Dr. Steven Meyer: I think to a certain extent. I think there are several strains of Iowaska coming into North America. One are the new Brazilian Churches that are essentially Christian Churches, that use Iowaska as a sacrament and the Shamanic uses of Iowaska (ayahuasca) that come from the jungles of the Upper Amazon. These are much less formal. These are much less higher hierarchical. These are more spontaneous than the Brazilian new religious movements, that tend to be much more formal in their structure.

Dean Becker: I’ve heard it said that the use of Iowaska tends to a complete purging of the body and of the mind, to kind of start fresh. Your thoughts on that?

Dr. Steven Meyer: Dean, there is no question that Iowaska is a very powerful emetic and purgative. It can give you diarrhea. It certainly makes you vomit. But I think we have to understand that vomiting has a different kind of value in North America than it does in the Upper Amazon. In the Upper Amazon, people vomit much more freely and they have part of their pharmacopia as a whole range of emetics which they give even to their children, in order to purge them of intestinal parisites.

Whereas in North America, we tend to look at vomiting as something shameful. We tend to look at vomiting as something that you do in private. You don’t let people know that you’re vomiting and one of the things that you have to learn in going to a tradional Iowaska ceremony, is to give yourself over to the plant and let the plant do with your body, what the plant wants to do. That’s very hard for North Americans. It was very hard for me. That’s why I made such awful retching sounds. Because we consider it shameful, rather than something natural and healthy.

Dean Becker: Well I do recall after drinking a coffee cup of peote tea, that about a half hour later there tended to be a purging and it was welcome. Because it meant that the trip had begun.

Mr. Steven Meyer: One Road Chief said to me during a Peyote Ceremony, “You’re not getting sick. You’re getting well.”

Dean Becker: OK, we’ve been speaking with Dr. Steve Meyer of Chicago, Illinois. Author of “Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon”. Steve, any websites you’d like to point folks toward? I want to offer you right now, an invitation to come on my show for a full half hour to discuss your book in deatail.

Mr. Steven Meyer: I would really enjoy that. Your listeners can go to www.singingtotheplants.com and there will be a lot of information about the book. There’s an accompanying blog with lots of information about the Amazon, about Iowaska and about Shamanism. I would really enjoy some visitors.

Dean Becker: In being fair to the government, they say we never tell both sides of the story. Here’s a little extract from a 1970’s Government film about the horrors of psychedelics.

Woman: I first dropped acid when I was eighteen. I was over at these people’s house one night. This guy I went to school with was over there and asked me if I wanted to try some acid. I had read about it in the newspapers and heard a few friends talk about it. So I was curious. I was pretty jacked up on marijuana, so I decided to try it and I dropped it.

I don’t know what I was waiting for, a flash or a rush or whatever. But I kept sitting there, waiting and waiting and nothing was happening. So I got up and then went to the dresser and put on a pair of pink Capri’s and a green and brown blouse. I thought the colors were beautiful.

So we tripped down to market street and I decided to buy a hotdog. {psychedelic music playing} I was very hungry and I had put mustard and ketchup and relish and the usual and I put the hotdog up to my mouth and somebody started screaming. {psychedelic sounds} I didn’t know what was happening so I looked up at my friend Terry and said, “Did you hear that? Didn’t you hear someone scream?” He said, “No.”

I got the hot dog up to my mouth again and I was ready to bite and the scream got louder. {more psychedelic sounds} Then it hit me. No, it couldn’t be and I looked down on the hotdog and there was a face on him. Eyes, nose, a mouth. I had put the ketchup to where it looked like his hair and he started telling me that I couldn‘t eat him.

He had a wife and seven kids at home to support and I stood there with this hotdog and asked Terry, “Do you know this hotdog is talking to me?” and he says, “Naw, let’s get out of here.” He thought I was just faking and I told him, “Look at the thing. He’s got a face and he‘s screaming.” The guy finally looked over and he got on the same trip that I was on and we sat there carrying on a conversation with that hotdog.

Dean Becker: You know, I think this government film pegged, ‘This young couple should absolutely think twice before… eating a hotdog‘.

(Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys in the background)

Ah, yes. That was Sean Reefer and his Resin Valley Boys closing out the 420 Fest in the Houston area. It went on for basically a week. It’s done as part of the Million Man Marijuana March, which basically is done around the first of May in most cities around the world. But you try to reserve a park or venue around Cinco de Mayo, in this area. After it was all over, I got a chance to speak to John’s drummer about his other job.

Dean Becker: I’m here with Dean Williams who is with Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys for a great set tonight. But like many musicians, he works more than one job. He has a little story he’d like to share with us.

Dean Williams: Yeah, before I came here, I didn’t know this was a show for the support of weed legalization and it’s ironic, ‘cause I’ve been over at iFest and I did lights for Parliament Funkadelic. While Sheila Jackson Lee introduces them, they’re backstage in a tent, smoking a bunch of weed that they got from people here in Houston. So when I came over here, I thought that was really ironic.

Dean Becker: For the listeners from out of town. iFest, that’s ’the’ big extravaganza for our city. A showcase, am I right?

Dean Williams: Yes. This is an international festival that they actually fund. Which means they paid Parliament Funkadelic to be there, while they partook in the local greenery as we say, while one of our local congresswomen’s introducing them while they’re back there smoking. I thought that was really pretty cool.

But yeah, it celebrates a different culture around the world. This year was the Caribbean. Thus Jamaica. Thus the reason that they had Parliament Funkadelic. Because of the reggae influence and funk and all that. It’s just funny that both things were going on at the same time and one was actually funded by the city.

Well, that’s about it. Business sure is good, reporting on the drug war. There’s no logic to it. Please 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