11/17/13 Jim Gierach

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Jim Gierach former Chicago prosecutor, Eapen Thampy Dir of Amer for Forfeiture Reform, Tony Ryan of LEAP, Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Med MJ, Terry Nelson of LEAP

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / November 17, 2013


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: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We’ve got another great show for you from Denver, Colorado. It features several members from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a lot of folks talking about the need for justice here in the U.S.


DEAN BECKER: I’m with Mr. Jim Gierach, former prosecutor from Chicago, Illinois, speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Mr. Gierach, what’s your summation of this conference? What’s your thoughts towards the future?

JIM GIERACH: Dean, it’s good to be with you. It’s a privilege to be at the Drug Policy Alliance in Denver. Every two years we see a collection of people who spend so much of their time trying to end the curse on the world, Solomon’s curse – the War on Drugs that is public enemy #1 that hurts so many people around the world in so many ways.

It’s always uplifting to see that so many people are believers in positive, constructive change – that being an end to the War on Drugs. I’m uplifted by coming to the conference because I see more and more people talking about the need for treaty amendment.

There are three prohibition treaties that have been passed by the nations of the world under the umbrella of the organization of the United Nations. Those three treaties are the fountain head for drug prohibition around the world. So often times we see in our own local communities that we have gangs and violence and shootings and are building prisons so we can’t pay for schools. Often times we overlook and really many people don’t appreciate the fact that it is the drug prohibition treaties that require the nations of the world to go home and put in place laws like the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

The treaties require that when we pass those laws that we provide for the deprivation of liberty and the incarceration of people who violate the terms of the treaty and the national laws that put in place in response to the dictates of the treaty.

The treaties at the United Nations need to be amended to eliminate the main central theme that prohibition is a drug policy that’s wonderful and fits all and every nation of the world regardless of your local circumstances. That is obviously folly and is depriving individual nations of their national sovereignty and the ability to put in place drug rules which control and regulate drugs - some of which are harmful, some of which are relatively benign like marijuana for example. Marijuana to many people is medicine.

I think the most uplifting thing that I see as I attend this conference in Denver is that more and more people are calling for treaty amendment, for an end to the “one size fits all”, for replacing it with control and regulation, for restoring national sovereignty in the control and regulation of drugs, replacing incarceration with dignity and respect and tolerance.

That’s the most uplifting thing I see.


DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Mr. Jim Gierach, former Chicago prosecutor, here at the Drug Policy Alliance, a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.


EAPEN THAMPY: My name is Eapen Thampy. I’m the founder and executive director of Americans for Forfeiture Reform. We work to abolish civil forfeiture in the United States.

DEAN BECKER: It seems to be like a plague almost that these various law enforcement agencies around the country are looking for and finding ways of taking our stuff for not necessarily all drug related.

EAPEN THAMPY: Yeah, asset forfeiture is something that congress introduced in the 70s and 80s as a tool for drug law enforcement. The problem with asset forfeiture is that it gives law enforcement a direct financial incentive in specific laws. Over the last 20, 30 years the law enforcement agencies have asked congress to expand these laws and they’ve gotten those expansions.

Forfeiture is a revenue tool that ...there are over 400 federal laws that allow for the forfeiture of property for a variety of things – not a lot which necessarily have to do with drugs. All the money goes to law enforcement either through the Treasury of the Department of Justice.

DEAN BECKER: In essence the U.S. government acts as a money launderer for these local agencies, correct?

EAPEN THAMPY: You know that’s a funny way to put it but I’ll say that the 5th circuit in 1992 said exactly the same thing. The situation was this man in Louisiana had money seized by a sheriff. The sheriff knew he could keep the money under asset forfeiture but then the man filed a claim against him in court. The sheriff took the money and said, “We’re giving this to the DEA. They’re going to accomplish the forfeiture instead of me so your claim goes away.”

He gives it to the DEA. The man sued and the 5th circuit, a panel of federal judges said in their decision that this action by the federal government in conjunction with the Louisiana sheriff was essentially money laundering. It would have been money laundering if it had been done by a private entity.

DEAN BECKER: We’re here at the DPA conference. A thousand people with I think a brand new mindset.

EAPEN THAMPY: This is one of the best conferences that you could imagine where drug policy reformers come together and discuss not only past victories but how to expand that.

Since Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana last year we definitely know that the tides have turned. We are beginning to unravel the drug war machine. One of the things I’m trying to talk to people about at this event is don’t forget about asset forfeiture. It was one of the foundational tools of drug enforcement.

We can’t legalize marijuana and walk away from the whole game. When law enforcement has financial incentives for drug prohibition and to enforce the law then that skews their behavior, how they act politically. Our biggest opponent in any project of drug policy reform is law enforcement.

One of their fundamental incentives is that monetary incentive that they get from the forfeiture revenue that comes in. If we can disconnect that we can roll back a lot of the structural features of drug prohibition.

DEAN BECKER: What I’m hoping to take back to Texas is that “can do” attitude that Colorado, Washington and I think very soon from the news I’m hearing Oregon as well have reached out to their people and found these changes to be more than acceptable.

Some closing thoughts?

EAPEN THAMPY: I’m from Texas. I was born in Houston. Texas is definitely one of the places where the drug war has evolved and become a hugely monstrous thing. Reform in Texas is going to be a huge job but it’s a big state and the people that come from it have that “can do” attitude. The big problems can be confronted. They can be dealt with.

Rolling back prohibition in Texas, rolling it back around the nation can be done. This is a conference that allows a lot of people to acquire the knowledge and the tools that they’ll need on that journey.

Prohibition is almost over. I know that the generation before me thought that they’d see marijuana legalized in their lifetime. I believe we’ll see drug prohibition ended completely in my lifetime – hopefully in the next 15 years.

DEAN BECKER: Eapen, please share your website.

EAPEN THAMPY: http://forfeiturereform.com or at http://facebook.com/forfeiturereform to help us abolish forfeiture in the United States and return integrity to our constitutional republic and live free.


TONY RYAN: I’m Tony Ryan. I’m a retired Lieutenant from the Denver Police Department after 36 years of service in that department. Almost all of it on the street because that’s where I though police work was. I always thought our number one job was to answer calls for service.

When a citizen picks up the phone and calls the police it’s important to them. It’s something that bothers them and while it may not be an emergency to us it’s pretty important to them so we need to get there as soon as we can.

I’ve always thought that anything that distracts from that especially something that isn’t really useful is taking us away from our main mission that people really want us to do. Therefore early on in my career thinking about the drug war I saw people when I was a young officer going out and making chump change marijuana busts. Pulling people over and maybe not even doing a really legal search and finding a little marijuana back when it was a really big deal and you could do some hard time for it in the late 60s before Nixon started his War on Drugs and you had to go out of service because you had to go down and process and all that sort of stuff.

Meanwhile it’s a Friday or Saturday night in Northeast end which was a heavy minority district – all kinds of calls coming out...dispatchers going, “Any car....Any car” these guys have abandoned their post and that was a strain to answer their calls as well as the ones in our particular patrol area.

It always kind of irritated me.

DEAN BECKER: I think about the fact that I see the news about the people wanting to sue the police department for long delays when they have an emergency at their house – 33 minutes before a patrol car arrives – it brings to the fore this thought that you’re presenting. We’re squandering time on stuff that really doesn’t deserve our attention.

TONY RYAN: Right. I think that it’s obvious in this day and age in particular that after Nixon declared the War on Drugs and 40-some years later it is ineffective. It doesn’t work and not only that it adds problems to the problems we already have while doing nothing to solve the problems we had before we decided to declare war on drugs.

An immense waste of money. I think if you add up all the costs the estimate is now 80 billion dollars a year by the time you add the costs to the cities and states and the federal government. Something that people don’t always think about and they should think about it in their states.

The federal government money they hand out is close to 50 billion dollars a year to agencies to pursue this War on Drugs. So they take this money and they form special units, narcotics units and they go out and do that but the federal government doesn’t pay for the cost of the trials nor the cost of the imprisonment in the state prisons. The state has to pay for that so there’s that after cost at $35 to $50,000 per year per prisoner.

DEAN BECKER: ...storing them in ...

TONY RYAN: Storing them in that box for what? For having a bad habit maybe. The dealers are something else but the dealers are there because of the system we’ve created. If we get rid of it we get rid of the dealers.

DEAN BECKER: I think about the bad lesson that we’re giving to our children that there exists among us those deserving of any penalty – even the ultimate penalty of death – because of their habits. It seems preposterous doesn’t it?

TONY RYAN: I think so. Unfortunately there are a lot of children even in this country as great as it is whose parents have some bad habits. We tried prohibition before. Alcohol is still a big problem for some people but not for most. There’s a reason for that and that is because there are all kinds of private institutions, associations that are willing to help somebody if they have a problem with alcohol.

We don’t put them in prison unless they commit a crime while under the influence because a crime is still a crime whether you’re under the influence or not but other than that there’s all kinds of people out there that are going to reach out there and be willing to help you. They’ll put you in a program – it’s all over the place.

If you have a drug problem there are some people who are willing to try and help but law enforcement because of the laws we have gets in the way. It says we have to put this person in jail first. Then we put them in jail so there’ll be a drug free society and everybody knows that that’s one of the biggest laughs of the century because we read every week that ...if you read like MAP drug news every week there’s a prison guard somewhere getting arrested for bringing in contraband, selling drugs in prison to supplement his low income.

It’s just insidious and it’s on every corner of our lives here. We need to finish the job that we started.

DEAN BECKER: Now you mentioned 36 years in law enforcement right here in the city of Denver. I’ve been privileged enough to tour 3 or 4 dispensaries. I went to a grow site yesterday which had about 2 acres. I would estimate 50,000 plants at various stages of development. The situation in Denver despite this growth of the marijuana industry has not determinate, has not led to any major crimes. What has happened to Denver during the past two years in this regard?

TONY RYAN: We’ve had the growth of marijuana businesses and its spread from when we first had medical marijuana and they had the dispensaries already. Some of them chose to stay in business some have chosen to leave the business.

Although the state in its wisdom (I have to applaud them for this) said, “You can transfer your medical marijuana license and apply for just a regular marijuana license now that it’s legal for all adults.” ...at a cost - the government is going to make money out of this which is, of course, one of the selling points – more income for the government, hopefully they’ll spend it wisely. It just opens it up for people that want something.

I have to tell you after being in law enforcement and a street officer for almost 36 years if people would change their bad habits to marijuana from alcohol they could get rid of half the police departments or half the police officers on the street because well over 50% of the calls for service are alcohol-related whether they’re assaults or rapes or disturbances...someone has been drinking.

They haven’t been smoking marijuana. We don’t get calls on people smoking marijuana – never did – unless (and I was on the street a lot, listening to calls, going to calls) – never got a call on someone smoking marijuana unless somebody was mad at them and wanted to turn them in.

DEAN BECKER: That’s so true. We (by that I’m speaking about the officers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) are getting a little bit of deserved recognition, a little bit of respect these days. They are inviting us to panels and governmental agencies to share our thoughts. We want to return a little bit of respect to law enforcement. That’s really what we’re up to isn’t it?

TONY RYAN: Absolutely and the War on Drugs is a double black eye for law enforcement. There’s nothing about it that is good. There’s nothing about it that’s positive except for a few true believers that think that we’re somehow erasing some horrible scourge which we’re not. We’re getting nowhere. We’re stacking up numbers like crazy – arrests, imprisonments and all that – but it’s still there. It hasn’t decreased a bit.

DEAN BECKER: You were talking earlier about the 50 billion the federal government distributes to police around this nation each year and it’s really kind of like the old days’ bounty system, is it not?

TONY RYAN: Well, in essence. You know, when you talk to law enforcement and some agency heads about legalizing medical marijuana (which I think there will be a lot of that going on during the next two years or by 2016 for sure – I know there’s lots of plans being made in several states) some heads of law enforcement agencies are going that’s just absolutely ridiculous. You have to ask – being from the business I think I can, “What part of your budget is drug enforcement money from the federal government?”

In smaller departments it can be as big as 50% of their budget. The problem with that is – I was referring to how we need to keep officers out there for the basic cause of service because that’s what people want from us first – you get this money they don’t hire additional officers – they just divert officers from their main function because they have to show some production for that federal money.

It just detracts, again, from us doing our basic job which is to try to keep people safe and to help them out when they are concerned or worried and they want us to show up and provide some kind of solution, start an investigation or whatever it is that we need to do.


(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Light headedness, nausea, vomiting, headache, malaise, fatal disturbance in brain function, imbalanced electrolytes, over dilution of sodium in the blood plasma, osmotic shift in pressure ruptures, cerebral edema, seizures, coma and death.
{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up!

The answer! And before I give you the answer let me tell you a little bit more about this product. It’s found in baby food. It’s a major component of the explosives used by the terrorists. And it’s freely available in the hallways and used in the classrooms of every school in our nation. Prolonged exposure causes severe tissue damage. Inhalation of even a slight amount can be deadly.

Dihydrogen monoxide is a killer. Otherwise known as water.


[dramatic music]

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 had the utter futility of our policy and now work together to end drug prohibition. Please visit leap.cc


DEAN BECKER: I’m here with Mr. Michael Krawitz. Michael, tell the folks about the work you do.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: I’m here representing Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access. We are a national organization working to defend our right to be able to speak openly with your doctor without fear of reprisal and working on access issues for veterans. We do one-on-one advocacy and we work within the VA.

We’re here kicking off a campaign where we’re going to be down in Florida going from VA center to VA center meeting with veterans all the way through Gainesville and the Orlando area. If you’re in that area check out the website, http://onehundredkstrong.net It’s a wealth of information on how to use cannabis and how to navigate the VA.

DEAN BECKER: During the recent congressional shutdown I heard several congressmen talking to veterans and telling them to “suck it up” basically – that they need to suffer along with everybody else. These people have contributed. These people have suffered long enough and they don’t need to be a focal point of economic decline.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: I doubt this was the overriding consideration but you do notice that the day before veterans would have been cut off for compensation was the day that thing ended.

DEAN BECKER: They did show some common sense at the end.

Michael, let’s talk about the history of your work in support of veterans. It’s been a long hard effort has it not?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Yes it has. I started out myself as a patient being handed a pain contract inside the VA and I was determined not to sign it. Since I refused to sign it they punished me. Since they punished me I was able to show the VA leadership eventually by working through the chain of command starting literally from my doctor and working one person at a time all the way to Washington, D.C.

It was amazing to me that it was amazing to them to see a veteran being denied treatment for this. These pain contracts in their opinion were only supposed to be a tool to help doctors communicate some of the ins and outs of narcotic treatment with their patients.

They never thought that it would be used as a blood instrument to stop people from getting access to their pain treatment but that’s how it’s being used. I fought that inside the VA for years. I give credit to Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicles. He wrote one of my first articles on this and he’s getting an award tonight so he jumps to my mind.

You can check out an early informative article on my pain contract work that Phil wrote years ago and eventually that pain contract fight put me in a position to negotiate the first ever medical marijuana policy at the VA which you see as a big victory but actually is an interim victory in my fight against the pain contract.

DEAN BECKER: Right because in 20 out of our 50 states veterans are treated with more respect – with the other 30 not so much, right?

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: Not only is that true but the things that I am talking about are not just incidents that occur in the VA hospital. If you are ill and find yourself in pain and find yourself in a position where that pain does not go away and it becomes a long-term problem you are going to have trouble getting access to pain treatment and the pain contract is probably going to be the vehicle by which that trouble is going to present itself.

This pain contract thing is more easily fought in some respects inside the VA but it’s certainly not a veteran’s only problem.

DEAN BECKER: There’s that old saying, “Nothing succeeds like success” and I think the progress being made in regards to needle exchange, all kinds of harm reduction, marijuana, on down the line, international intrigue is all coming in focus and it’s all helping to support each of these aspects of drug war to be recognized and dealt with.

Closing thoughts, Michael.

MICHAEL KRAWITZ: On that thought I’m really proud of the veterans that I work with. Veterans have made it an issue to pass the Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Law. It was a straight up veterans issue and then we passed the Illinois medical marijuana law. The governor signing ceremony was flanked by two veterans.

In our work since we protected New Mexico’s Post Traumatic Stress qualification which we had to fight to keep on the books since then we’ve added 5 more states. Then, of course, the 2 legal states raises some interesting questions too.

Now we have 5 states where veterans can legally use cannabis for Post Traumatic Stress and that hopefully is a trend. We’re working four more states and three more states for legal cannabis for medicine. We’re definitely on somewhat of a wave and we’re hoping to make it even bigger.

Veterans out there have unique ability to bring this whole issue to a whole new level of understanding and a whole new perspective. It’s not quite as dangerous anymore. I tell veterans you can come out of the foxhole – the coast is a little more clear now that we have the VA policy.


DEAN BECKER: I’m proud to be speaking with one of the board members of my band of brothers, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a man with more than 30 years’ experience serving our nation as a Customs/Border Air Interdiction officer and many other ways. I want to speak to my good friend Mr. Terry Nelson.

How are you doing?

TERRY NELSON: I’m doing well, Dean. Good to see you again.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been saying the same thing over and over – very valid and truthful information but it seems it’s starting to catch on. More and more people are embracing some of the thoughts we’ve put forward. What’s happened here in Denver, what’s happened in Washington State shows that the sky will not fall if we dare to change our drug laws. Your thought?

TERRY NELSON: That’s true. I was very anxious to see what was going on here in Denver. I wanted to see if there was abuse of the privilege of smoking on the streets. I have not seen it. I actually haven’t even smelt any cannabis being burnt on the street and I think it’s very important with these change of laws that the people do respect the law.

I use the term let’s be gracious and not throw it in peoples’ faces that we’ve won this war on prohibition of cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: There is not a problem yet that I have learned associated with the legal distribution through the medical industry.

TERRY NELSON: The day before yesterday I went to a medical marijuana grow-op in Denver and looked at their security procedures. I was very, very impressed with how the regulation and control....and, of course, that’s what LEAP is for – vigorous regulation and control over all narcotics.

The regulation and control I saw in this place really impressed me. They have cameras, facial identification cameras and everything, fingerprints...the computer tracks how many times you come in and out of the door within a course of a month – good, strict regulation and control. I think that’s going to help make it a success.

DEAN BECKER: They talk about it’s from seed to sale – they’re monitoring it every step of the way.

TERRY NELSON: Every step of the way. It’s barcoded. The plants themselves are barcoded. Once they start flowering they come in with a different type of control system on them. It’s kind of like reading your electric meter on the street. You just walk in, hold the machine up and it will read all the plants that are in that room to make sure the plants are the same number as it was yesterday. It’s a very impressive system.

DEAN BECKER: I took the same tour - about two acres worth of cannabis being grown there – before Holders pronounced a couple months back that would have been a federal offense and perhaps execution and yet it’s going forward now. Your thought?

TERRY NELSON: It’s just so refreshing to me that it is going forward. I had a conversation at dinner a couple days ago and people actually talked openly about using medical cannabis. I personally do not use it and don’t have a desire to but it was refreshing to hear people talk openly about it and not have to lie or evade what they do.

It’s refreshing to me and I think it will be benificiial to our nation to openly discuss these things. As you may not remember I was in the United Nations in March over in Vienna and our voice was heard. Big changes were happening at the United Nations’ level – human rights issues of putting people in prison for doing no harm to nobody else but themselves.

DEAN BECKER: If I heard right Gavin Newsome, the Lt. Governor of California, is putting together a marijuana control board of some type and they’ve invited our boss, Mr. Niell Franklin, to participate.

TERRY NELSON: He will be going out and participating with Mr. Newsome. I think Gavin has probably done as much in California as anyone to help move reform forward.

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking, once again, to my good friend and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker. Check us out on the web at http://leap.cc


DEAN BECKER: That’s all we can squeeze in today. Here’s hoping that it educates you, motivates you, compels you to get off your butt to call your elected officials, to call the newspapers, to call your friends and relatives and say, “Enough is enough.”

Let’s do something to end the stupidity of this drug war and, as always, I remind you that 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.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org