Matt Elrod of DrugSense re Canada's "progress" toward US style drug laws + Terry Nelson of LEAP & Mario Canseco of Angus-Reid polling organization re 55% of Americans in favor of legal weed
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Mon, 08/15/2011 - 13:45
Cultural Baggage / August 14, 2011
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!”
DEAN BECKER: 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.
DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a little bit we are going to bring in our guest, Mr. Matt Elrod, based up in Victoria, Canada (I think it is – he’ll straighten that out for us). He works for DrugSense. Well, anyway, let’s get to our guest, Mr. Matt Elrod, as I indicated, he’s with DrugSense. He’s based in Victoria, Canada. I want to get the scoop on what’s going on with their parliament and their Prime Minister up there. Matt, are you with us?
MATT ELROD: I’m with you, Dean.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I wanted to get the “low-down”…you know I’ve heard that there’s rumblings of changes to the drug laws going on in Canada. What’s happening?
MATT ELROD: We have a Conservative government and have had for a number of years and in the most recent election they won a majority so now they’re flexing their muscles. They’ve been making noises for a long time about wrapping up the Drug War and taking their lead, in many ways, from the United States.
They want to introduce asset forfeiture and mandatory minimum sentences. Up until now they’ve kind of been kept in check by the opposition but now that they have a majority they intend to ram a lot of legislation through the House and it doesn’t look good.
They’ve bundled all their anti-drug laws in with a number of other “tough on crime” bills. And, having done that, it’s going to be very difficult to defeat, I fear, because to come out against those bills is to come out in favor of “bad guys” and to be labeled “soft on crime.” And we know how well that works as a political rhetorical trick so we’re feeling a little beleaguered up here in Canada.
DEAN BECKER: Well, and that’s the point, to create a third rail that nobody wants to touch and they can, as you say, ram through these…bundle it together and create more madness and mayhem for Canada, right?
MATT ELROD: Exactly, and as night follows day I’ve seen in the debate, if you attempt to say, “Look, the science doesn’t support mandatory minimum sentences” or “Look at all these studies that show harm reduction works” or whatever it may be – it doesn’t matter how much science is on your side, you get tarred(?) and feathered as being “soft on crime” and a “hug-a-thugger” and…
DEAN BECKER: (chuckles) I hadn’t heard that one…”hug-a-thugger”
MATT ELROD: Yeah, and so, unfortunately, the Opposition is buying into this. They are terrified of being labeled “soft on crime” so they’re kind of going along with the Conservative “tough on crime” agenda. And then, on top of that, the Opposition Leader recently took a leave of absence having been diagnosed with cancer and so the Opposition is even weaker than we might hope.
DEAN BECKER: That’s a real shame. You know, the fact of the matter is, we’ve had this situation here in the U.S. where the third rail issue was created and they’re now starting to (ever so slowly) turn away from that direction. They even closed a prison in Texas this year – for God’s sakes but they are still locking them up at almost the same rate they used to. This despite the fact that the violent crime rate is way down here in the U.S.
What are the stats in Canada? Is there more violent crime? What’s leading them in this direction?
MATT ELROD: Well, in fact, the opposite is true. Statistics Canada just came out with the most recent figures on crime in Canada and for like the 20th year in a row crime is down across the board with the glaring exception of drug offence arrests which are up. Not too surprising because, I guess, the police have more time on their hands. And when crime rates go down they tend to focus on rather than desperate crimes that they need to solve they create work for themselves.
We’re just coming into our annual “Cannabis Eradication Campaign” (chuckles) which is nothing, of course, but a “make work” project.
Maybe one difference is…or one thing that might explain the shift in the U.S. towards more progressive policies is the state of your economy. As you point out, the state governments are realizing they can no longer afford to legislate morality – it’s just too extravagant to do that. Unfortunately that message hasn’t sunk home in Canada and we may have to find out the hard way just how expensive and counterproductive American-type drug laws are.
DEAN BECKER: Tell folks what DrugSense is all about.
MATT ELROD: DrugSense was founded in the mid-90s and our flagship project was the Media Awareness Project which archives drug-related news clippings from the English language and around the world with one of the primary intents being to encourage people to write more Letters to the Editor and correct drug war propaganda in the media. And it’s been quite successful. We’ve had tens of thousands letters published and we’ve seen, over the years, sort of a change in the editorial content. And, of course, newspapers are getting to be antiquated but we’re seeing it in online media and new media.
DrugSense then went on to start to offer technical services to other drug policy reform organizations and, at this point, we have well over one hundred such organizations using our services from website hosting to domain name registration and programming and content management systems, mailing lists, helping reform organizations network and get their message out and raise funds and so forth.
But, as you said, times are hard and where before DrugSense got a fair amount of sponsorship to provide those services to the drug policy reform community, we don’t have so much anymore and are basically running along on fumes hoping for better times in the future.
DEAN BECKER: I want to say this…that it’s been my experience now over the 10 years the Drug Truth Network’s been in existence that the good folks at DrugSense find a way to get it done in much the same way the folks at LEAP. That’s the main group I affiliate with these days, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and their website is http://leap.cc and there you can contact them online. You can request that some current or former law enforcement officer come to speak to your organization and we don’t care if it’s an Elks club or it’s your state legislature – we will be there. It is our job, our goal, our hope in life to help make a difference, to educate enough to move away from this horrible, failed policy of drug prohibition.
Now, Matt, up there in Canada I understand that some cities are a whole lot more liberal than others in much the same way that certain parts of California are a whole lot more liberal than those on the eastern side of the Sierras. I guess the point is is that it’s local determination that has a lot to do with it, right?
MATT ELROD: That’s true though, unlike in the United States, we don’t have state-based referendums and initiatives and our drug laws are dictated by the federal government in Ottawa. Very little room for the provinces to wiggle around, nonetheless, you’re right that there’s a great disparity from city to city in how the drug laws are enforced.
Vancouver, for example on the west coast, has a reputation for being very cannabis-friendly. Probably thanks, in part, to activists like Marc Emery who sort of blazed the trail there and created a bubble of tolerance. But much depends on whether or not the city has its own municipal police force or whether it uses the federal RCMP and many other factors.
We have sort of our own Bible Belt across the prairies which is especially conservative and the contrast is quite stark on either side of the Rocky Mountains between the laid-back west coast and the more conservative prairie provinces. But, yeah, the larger cities – Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa – are all fairly progressive and it’s the smaller communities that tend to be more conservative.
DEAN BECKER: You mentioned a name that should ring a bell with many of my listeners, Mr. Marc Emery. He’s now been in a U.S. prison for well over a year now, I think, down in Florida if I understand right. He caught MSRI or whatever, one of those horrible infections in that prison, right?
MATT ELROD: That’s right, an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection which I understand now he’s recovered from but it is reeking havoc on his health as I understand it. He mostly got by on a vegetarian diet prior to being incarcerated and you just can’t get a good vegetarian diet behind bars. And, of course, there’s just all the stress of being away from his wife on the opposite side of the continent. So, yeah, our hearts go out to Marc.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and his wife Jodie. I still think of them as newlyweds – they’ve been together for a few years now but just a really cute couple.
Now I also wanted to talk about the failure to bust … let me just back up. Here in America, in many states here in the U.S. where they grow marijuana, where they’re selling seeds, where they’re providing clones and cookies and brownies and extracts and salves and lotions and you name it. There are a hundred products on the market now being sold legally here in America and yet Marc Emery who never came to the United States, who sold to willing adults, the postal orders I suppose, is still in jail here for doing what hundreds if not thousands of people are doing freely here in America. Your response, Mr. Matt Elrod.
MATT ELROD: That’s uh…it is kind of weird. The prosecutor, in fact, in his case from Washington state recently came out in favor of legalization and is campaigning for legalization.
DEAN BECKER: Really?
MATT ELROD: Yeah, you know, how weird is that?! And Jodie, his wife, got a chance to meet this prosecutor when she was asked to appear before their legislature to provide expert testimony on their proposed cannabis law reforms. And there she met this prosecutor, shook hands and “no hard feelings and glad we’re on the same side” and so forth - very, very strange. By the time Marc is released, who knows, maybe cannabis may have been legalized in the United States. You know he may be in prison long after his crimes are no longer crimes.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah and that’s…often when people are writing these resolutions, ballot initiatives and so forth…at least in the past they like to include that it would free all currently incarcerated prisoners for that charge but it didn’t work too well in Alaska.
Gosh, I think it was 10 years ago they tried to legalize and free all the prisoners but I think that was the sticking point, I think, that kept them from making that bill pass.
MATT ELROD: Yeah, asking for amnesty may be asking a bit much, or pardons or something like that. And, the actual fact, as much as the world likes to demonize the United States and blame the U.S. for the Drug War, America agreed to return Marc to Canada to serve his sentence closer to home and closer to his wife and family and the Canadian government rejected his return.
DEAN BECKER: Really?!
MATT ELROD: Yeah, which…he paid taxes the whole time he was a cannabis dealer in Canada and you’d think they’d be grateful for that, but the Conservative government turned down his return to Canada. And, in fact, the Canadian Justice Ministers have since come under a fair amount of heat from the courts for seeming to arbitrarily deny the return of Canadian prisoners to Canada. So, who knows, perhaps Marc Emery’s lawyers will be able to use that and get Marc returned.
DEAN BECKER: Well, it seems rather preposterous that they let the U.S. indict him, extradite him, convict him, sentence him to prison for a charge for which he would not even … he might get a $100 fine in Canada, right?
MATT ELROD: I think there was only one other case of a cannabis vendor being arrested in Canada and, indeed, he was fined a couple hundred dollars for the crime. So the punishment that Marc faces is way beyond anything that Canada could stomach and that was probably one reason why they allowed his extradition so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the political fallout of that really harsh and unusual punishment for selling cannabis seeds. Which, let’s face it, it kind of like the equivalent to selling grape seeds to U.S. during alcohol prohibition. It’s not even providing Americans with drugs – it’s providing them with the means, if they had the gardening expertise, to grow their own cannabis. And, it’s not as though this was a substance that had not ever been introduced to the United States before. It’s really so absurd.
DEAN BECKER: Isn’t it, though. Alright friends, once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Matt Elrod of DrugSense based in – what is it – Victoria, Canada?
MATT ELROD: Victoria, B.C., Canada, yeah.
DEAN BECKER: B.C., Canada, I got that right.
MATT ELROD: But, by in large, opinion polls have shown that Canadians are even more in favor of legalizing cannabis than you are in America. I know the most recent Angus Reid poll showed that finally the majority in the U.S. agree that cannabis should be legalized in the U.S. but we’ve had that majority for quite some time in Canada. And one sees in editorial opinions in the media and so forth more and more the people are calling for cannabis to be legalized even if they’re of the opinion that all the other drugs should remain prohibited. They will agree that, “OK, cannabis is different and we really should legalize it.” And, unless you’re doing something to aggravate the police like smoking a joint in front of them or forcing their hand, I think the majority of law enforcers would rather be doing other things and dealing with other problems.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, once again, speaking with Matt Elrod. Matt, we’re going to take a little break here. You mentioned that new poll by Angus Reid and I got a chance to speak with their Vice President. Get you a drink or something and we’ll be back in just a few minutes.
MARIO CANSECO: My name is Mario Canseco. I am the VP of Angus Reid Public Opinion. We’re a public survey company that has offices in 7 countries around the world and is based in Canada but has been operating in the U.S. for the past couple years as well.
DEAN BECKER: Now, Mario, you had a recent poll or a subset of polls, I suppose, talking about legalization of drugs. Why don’t you summarize that for us.
MARIO CANSECO: Well, we thought it was interesting to ask Americans about this. It’s an issue that has been discussed a lot in Canada recently and, of course, we had a little bit of a situation in the early years of the century when the liberal government…the federal government at the time was considering certain options towards decriminalizing marijuana. We’ve been asking questions about this in Canada and we thought it was a good idea to ask it in the states again this year. We’ve been asking it every year and for three years in a row a majority of Americans believe that the best way to go is to legalize marijuana.
DEAN BECKER: Now this follows on the heels of, I think, decades of efforts by drug reformers and even some government scientists and publications and broadcasters to educate the public to the potential positive and negative and folks have been weighing it out. What were the numbers that you discerned?
MARIO CANSECO: What we see from the survey is also a lot of resistance towards the War on Drugs and we’ve been asking this question for three years and barely one in ten Americans believe it has been a success - two-thirds believe it has been a failure. Sometimes it really hard to get through Americans to agree on something but the failure of the War on Drugs is definitely one of those issues. When you look at the situation from standpoint of drugs that should be legalized, the level of support for legalizing marijuana is definitely high – particularly among Democrats and Independents – but there is not a lot of support for legalizing all the drugs, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, crystal meth or crack. We don’t see a lot of support for legalizing those substances. So, in that sense, marijuana is in a league of its own when it comes to the way that Americans feel about it.
DEAN BECKER: You know I guess there’s a standard format or a means by which this questions are posed so can I present one to you that would get different results? As you say, the majority of Americans see the Drug War as a failure and yet they’re unwilling to legalize these so-called hard drugs.
Anyway, here’s my question. Do you support or oppose eternal funding of the Taliban, continued enrichment of barbarians in Mexico and endless support of violent gangs in the U.S. or should we regulate and actually control these so-called controlled substances to better protect our children and our nation from corruption, contamination, violence and death? Your response, Mario Canseco.
MARIO CANSECO: Well, definitely, that is one of the issues that we see and I think that the main situation that we have, at this point, is the fact that there are these groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Mexican cartels which are definitely doing this and basically breaking the law and the idea of taxing marijuana and basically turning it as a controlled substance has been very popular over the past couple years. It really shows that we’re looking at marijuana in North America….when we run the survey in the U.K. we don’t get the same results.
When we do the survey in Canada and the U.S. we really look at marijuana almost the same way as we would look at vodka – something that is easily and readily consumed and should be taxed and we should be collecting the taxes.
DEAN BECKER: You know, given the chance to just talk about legalization vs. actual control and diminishing the power of these barbarians might swing this cat in the other direction. Your response.
MARIO CANSECO: Oh, definitely. You know, we have run some questions before the California referendum and a lot of people tended to agree that that is the right way to go. If we can come up some sort of mechanism that allows for something like this to happen, this is the way that we should be treating it. It would be interesting to ask it again and see how they feel about it.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, well friends, once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Mario Canseco. He’s the Vice President at Angus Reid Public Opinion organization. Do you have a website you’d like to share with our listeners.
MARIO CANSECO: Gladly, it’s http://www.angus-reid.com/
DEAN BECKER: Alright, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network on Pacifica Radio. I’m Dean Becker and we’re speaking with Mr. Matt Elrod of DrugSense.
Matt, you heard him talking about the attitudes in the U.S. and Canada are more similar than that with the U.K. Your thought?
MATT ELROD: Yeah, the poll results are very much like that that you see out of Canada. Everyone would agree that the Drug War has failed, a majority will agree that cannabis should be controlled and a very, very small number of people will go so far as to say that other drugs should be legally regulated. And I think that you hit on it there, it’s a question of how you ask the question.
I think few people realize that, for example, the Swiss legalized heroin when they created a heroin maintenance program whereby addicts can register to get pharmaceutical-grade heroin from the government. I mean that is a form of heroin legalization. Unfortunately when people hear the word legalization they equate it, or they take the question to mean, “Should these drugs be more readily available?” And we saw exactly that response to the Global Commission Report that came out …what was that late last year, Dean?
DEAN BECKER: No, it was June.
MATT ELROD: OK…time flies. You know, they came out and said, you know, drugs should be legally regulated and the White House response was, “We disagree that drugs should be more readily available.” So, in other words, you know…there’s still this misconception that when people talk about legally regulating drugs what they really mean is to put them in vending machines or corner stores alongside the candy and the chocolate bars. When, of course, the exact opposite is true. 9 out of 10 drug policy reformers I speak with believe that drugs should be legal to make them less readily available. And that’s certainly so of more informed parents who remember how easy it was to get drugs in their high school and would rather their children not have the same access they had.
But, unfortunately, what that shows me is that we still have a long way to go in regard to educating the public about what it is that we are asking for and what it is that we’re recommending.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, Matt, I think we’re going to have to leave it there. Once again, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Matt Elrod. I think of him as a good buddy of mine and we certainly have time in the trenches together. I want to thank you for being with us. Matt, please, share your website with the listeners so they can learn more about the work ya’ll do.
MATT ELROD: You bet. To learn more about more about DrugSense just go to http://drugsense.org. And if you’re interested in that news clipping archive I mentioned, check out http://drugnews.org
DEAN BECKER: Alright, Matt Elrod, thank you so much.
MATT ELROD: Always a pleasure, Dean.
(Game show music)
DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, urgents to gamble or increased sexual urges and behaviors, hallucinations, unreal sounds, visions or sensations, overwhelming sleepiness while driving a car
The answer: To be used for RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome, for patent extension reasons and Parkinson’s disease – Requip form GlaxoSmithKline Laboratories. In the meantime, nearly half of Parkinson’s disease patients who have tried marijuana have experienced therapeutic relief from it according to the results of a survey presented at the Movement Disorder Society 7t h International Congress of Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders in Prague, Czechoslovakia
TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson speaking on behalf of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Last week I attended the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in New Orleans. It’s a multi-republican group that discuss policy solutions promoting economic growth and limited government.
I was gladdened by their thinking on limiting the size of our government and I had many discussions with legislatures and business leaders about LEAP’s calls of a regulated, controlled drug market.
I truly think the winds of change are blowing in our state legislature’s offices as they are the ones that have to pay the legal costs associated with prohibition. They are already having to reduce jail and prison population due to the budget cuts and the realization that we will never arrest our way out of the Drug War.
But, while the state legislatures get it, our national representatives are slow to change their visceral fear of not being able to get re-elected if they appear soft on crime. Since so many of them got elected on vocalizing their “get tough on crime” positions, they can’t figure out how to say, “I was mistaken and need to change my position.”
Heck, I’m not soft on crime, I’m just opposed to prohibition of substances that absolutely cannot be managed through prohibition. Too many of our government officials turn to passing laws to address issues instead of addressing the issues themselves and perhaps being able to fix them through an alternative means - education, for example.
For years 76% of our citizens thought the War on Drugs was a failure and 67% of our Chiefs of Police thought so. But for years the legalization issue was in the 40% range. Now, the latest Angus Reid Public Opinion poll indicates that 55% support the legalization of cannabis.
If you agree that now is the time for permanent change to occur, one of the things you can do is email your representative and ask that they support the Frank-Paul Repeal Prohibition Act of 2011 – that’s House Resolution 2306. This congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank’s bill will remove cannabis from Schedule I drug. This will effectively remove cannabis form the Schedule and return it’s regulation to the states. The states can then decide on how to regulate its use – either for medical or recreational. The federal government could then only regulate its interstate transportation.
It’s absolutely ridiculous that cannabis is a Schedule I drug which means that it has no medical use and effectively is more dangerous than cocaine or heroin which are Schedule II drugs.
LEAP does not condone nor encourage the use of any drugs but does call for the legalized regulation control of all drugs to remove them from the control of drug cartels and street gangs. By these drugs being illegal, they provide the funding for these groups to effectively act like small armies in how they control territory.
LEAP believes that education coupled with treatment is a much more humane way to handle our drug problem.
This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, http://www.copssaylegalizedrugs.com signing off. Stay safe.
DEAN BECKER: To close out today’s Cultural Baggage, here’s an extract from the anti-Drug War anthem, “No Knock Raid” by Lindy.
LINDY: We are the SWAT,
We’re here for your pot,
And all the cash that you got,
We are adrenaline junkies taking orders from the Czar,
It’s no-knock raid,
Don’t be afraid,
Paramilitary police-state on parade,
It’s no-knock raid,
Don’t be afraid,
You do the time for your victimless crime,
And it’s a no-knock raid…
DEAN BECKER: Well, that’s about it. I hope you enjoyed today’s Cultural Baggage and you’ll check out our stuff on the website. As always I remind you because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.
DEAN BECKER: 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.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.