Inge Fryklund former Chicago prosecutor, Jason Miller of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Doug McVay of Drug War Facts & Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Tue, 03/11/2014 - 15:28
Cultural Baggage / March 9, 2014
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. I’m so glad you could be with us. Here in just a moment we are going to bring on our guest. She’s a brand new member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. She’s now working as a consultant up in Bend, Oregon. She’s a law school graduate of the University of Chicago and holds a PhD from the University of Michigan.
Let’s see how well my engineering skills go...Inga, are you there?
INGE FRYKLUND: Yes, I am.
DEAN BECKER: Wonderful. I appreciate you being with us. As I said you are a recent speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Tell us a little bit about your work experience.
INGE FRYKLUND: I’m a lawyer. Back in the 80s I was a prosecutor with the Cook County State’s Attorney in Chicago. That’s the Illinois equivalent of a District Attorney elsewhere. While I was there I prosecuted a variety of cases including drug cases, worked in bond court. Sometimes it seemed that every black and Latino male in Chicago had some minor drug conviction that was going to keep him from getting gainful employment. So that was my introduction to seeing what the War on Drugs was doing to people.
DEAN BECKER: Now you have been able to kind of extrapolate that understanding via...what was it? 5 tours in Afghanistan?
INGE FRYKLUND: Between 2004 and 2012 I’ve spent a total of just sort of 5 years on the ground in Afghanistan. That’s working with the US Agency for International Development which is part of our state’s attorney and as an advisor to both the US Army and the Marine Corps.
DEAN BECKER: In your write up on the LEAP webpage (http://www.leap.cc) it talks about your perception that much of what you saw in Afghanistan reminded you of what goes on in Chicago.
INGE FRYKLUND: Right, what I would see was a lot of often tribal-related groups interested in growing poppy and also marijuana (that’s becoming more popular there) and then trying to transport it to get it out of the country for export. These often were very small networks all defending their turf against anyone who came on them. That reminded me so much of the way Chicago street gangs would be tenaciously defending their 2 or 3 square blocks of turf.
In both cases they were simply interested in conducting business but there would be violence with the competition between them and if anybody tried to get in the way. So, yes, I saw a lot of similarities.
DEAN BECKER: Violence, corruption, destruction of neighborhoods. It is a downward spiral. Is it not?
INGE FRYKLUND: Absolutely. Other parts of what I saw in Afghanistan which reminded me of Chicago (where I spent most of my adult life) ...during prohibition of alcohol back in 1920 to 1933 in order for people to get the alcohol that they wanted it was necessary to bribe public officials and the police department. There was massive corruption.
In Afghanistan, which is the source of a large amount of the heroin poppy on the planet, it involves collusion with the local police and it goes all the way up into the Afghan government so our insistence on having drugs illegal has almost required the Afghan government to be corrupt. The profits are so huge because of demand in the west that there is going to be corruption and collusion among the government there.
It seems exactly counter to what we say we are trying to accomplish with the nice democratic government there.
DEAN BECKER: We have a situation where we have US troops, in essence, protecting the opium fields for the farmers. The farmers then sell it to agents and eventually it goes through the Taliban’s hand where they get a cut and, as you say, a lot of this then winds up in the west where our children are arrested for possession of minor amounts and the profits are then used by the Taliban to buy weapons to kill our soldiers guarding these same opium plants. Your response?
INGE FRYKLUND: I don’t know that we’re actually guarding he fields. At various times we have supported the Afghan government attacking the fields, burning them or taking a tractor and tearing them up. That just fuels the corruption because the governors who are doing this are protecting their own poppy fields and going after their political enemies’ poppy fields so it’s only adding to the corruption.
As far as the Taliban...the Taliban is a really low budget operation. The highest estimates I ever saw for what they’re spending to operate are maybe 350 million dollars a year. We’re spending that much every day so whether poppy was legal or illegal in Afghanistan I think we would still have the Taliban.
It’s a very low budget operation. They could fund it off a bake sale. The profits are going outside of Afghanistan in the west and the UN recently did a survey which shows the ultimate street value of what comes out of Afghanistan as 68 billion dollars.
There is just one heck of a market out there and there is no possibility of affecting that by eradicating the poppy whether it’s in Afghanistan or any place else. Production is just going to move. The incentives are just too powerful. That’s why we think that legalization and getting some control and regulation on all of this is a much better strategy for dealing with something which is not going to go away.
DEAN BECKER: Nope, been around for thousands of years and will be around for thousands to come. I am certain of that.
INGE FRYKLUND: That’s right. That’s right but by making it illegal and it’s so analogous to what we saw during prohibition of alcohol you have whatever the problems are that go along with drinking alcohol or smoking pot and then on top of that you have all the problems of crime and corruption and quality control of the products that comes from it being illegal.
If we were able to legalize all drugs the same as we do with alcohol and tobacco we would get a much better grip on the problems that go along with the substance itself and we would rid ourselves of these problems of crime and corruption.
DEAN BECKER: It’s such an obvious alternative but it so seldom gets spoken of in the halls of congress or elsewhere in government. I truly think the person or group of senators or presidential advisors who stand forward with the real truth of this matter can be heroes. What’s your thought?
INGE FRYKLUND: There’s a fine line between being a hero and getting yourself voted out because of somebody’s emotional reaction. So much of our drug policy over the years has been driven by emotion.
For example, with marijuana back in 1970 under President Nixon a commission categorizes it conditionally as a Schedule I substance which means it’s as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than cocaine. To be Schedule I it has to be something with no known medical benefit and a high possibility of abuse and addiction.
Nixon appointed a commission to look into this in 1972 and they reported back, “This was ridiculous. Obviously there are medical benefits to it. It doesn’t belong in Schedule I.”
I think for truly political reasons Nixon rejected it and it has stayed as Schedule I ever since. Now we have 20 states with legalized medical marijuana, 14 more states considering it this year so just as a matter of fact Schedule I is simply inappropriate and it’s going to take pressure from all the states and the people who see some benefits from this to speak out.
DEAN BECKER: You mentioned the additional 14 states considering it. We have legislatures stepping forward before the referendum is brought to the fore. We have politicians daring to speak about this need for change don’t we?
INGE FRYKLUND: Yes and I think it’s coming more and more frequently. My own prediction is that within a couple of years marijuana is going to be completely legal and regulated probably in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are.
No one is advocating that it is a great idea for children to use any of these substances but for adults having it regulated access and one of the big benefits of legalization is that you can get some quality control and know what the potency rating is.
For example, if you go into a micro-brewery and look at the menu you can see the alcohol by volume (or ABD) for each one the beers. You know if you’re getting something 4.8 alcohol or 9.2. I personally choose at the low end because I know my tolerance but with an illegal drug where it’s illegal for companies to be testing you have no idea of what you’re getting. Just as under prohibition of alcohol literally hundreds of people died because of adulterated alcohol.
What we are seeing now with heroin deaths is a lot of it is adulterated heroin. It’s not pure stuff. They have no idea of what they are getting into. So health and safety would be improved by legalization and regulation.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, we’re speaking with Inge Fryklund. She’s a LEAP speaker. She’s a former prosecutor and did several tours in Afghanistan. We’re talking about the futility of continuing down this same failed path of eternal drug war.
Inge, we got a couple minutes left here and I wanted to just turn it over to you. Is there something we’ve left out? Is there something you would like to bring forward?
INGE FRYKLUND: One thing coming from my experience in Afghanistan and comparing with prohibition of alcohol I think one reason prohibition of alcohol lasted for only 13 years is because all the crime and corruption came home to roost within the United States with our mayors and police departments that were corrupt. With drugs since there is less of a demand than there is for alcohol corruption of our public officials is a pretty minor problem. We have succeeded in outsourcing all of the downsides of prohibition or a large part of it.
It’s corruption in Afghanistan. It’s the headless bodies being found in Mexico. Now if beheaded people were piling up in suburban Houston I think our laws would change real quickly and I think there is a real moral question about asking other parts of the world (especially the poor and more vulnerable people) to bear the burden of our misplaced policies about drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. The situation in Mexico I hear has improved but it is still barbarism run amok. They ...I’ve seen some videos that just horrify you when they find a group of wives of one cartel and they chop off their arms and heads and stack them in a pile. I guess to intimidate...
INGE FRYKLUND: And we get so excited about this recent arrest of some drug kingpin. Well, the next day’s news is about who’s stepping up to replace him. As long as this stuff is illegal there is going to be crime, corruption, the cartels, the violence and there is a real simple way to call a halt to this.
DEAN BECKER: That’s the point. That’s why the current and former law enforcement, prosecutors and law officials have joined with LEAP to stand in unison to let folks know that there is a better way, that this is not the right way the way we are headed now.
INGE FRYKLUND: Absolutely. LEAP now has over 100,000 members with people in 120 different countries. The movement is definitely gathering steam and I think we are finally going to get to the point where we are looking at evidence about these substances and not making decisions on the basis of emotion.
DEAN BECKER: We got about 90 seconds left. Is there a website besides http://leap.cc (that’s Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) you’d like to point folks toward?
INGE FRYKLUND: That’s the best place to go because from there there are links to a lot of the different organizations like ACLU, the Reason Foundation that we have coordinating relationships with. I would suggest people go straight to that website.
DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Inge Fryklund. She’s a consultant. She lives up in Bend, Oregon. Inge, I thank you so much for spending time with us this evening and we’ll have to do this again soon.
INGE FRYKLUND: Absolutely. It has been my pleasure.
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects.
Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, diarrhea, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, stomach pains, swelling of the hands or feet, unexplained weight gain, tinnitus, liver disease and death.
This medicine, supplied by dozens of pharmaceutical houses is named: Ibuprofen.
JASON MILLER: My name is Jason Miller. I’m the Communications Director for RAMP which is Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. We are a political caucus within the GOP and we work to reform marijuana laws by educating and connecting with law makers, party leadership, and grassroots’ activist. We serve as a voice for all republicans that oppose the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and the government’s policy of prohibiting these plants and criminalizing people who use them. We recognize that policy to be a failure and a threat to our liberties.
DEAN BECKER: The organization RAMP is fairly new. Tell us how it got its beginning.
JASON MILLER: The idea was first conceived at a NORML conference. NORML is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. At their national conference in 2012. We have this on our website about our story about how our group was conceived.
Ann Lee is our founder and she is Richard Lee’s mom. Richard Lee when he was very young (28-years-old) he was injured in a workplace accident and was a paraplegic. He started using medical marijuana when he discovered the benefits in the 1990s and used it to treat chronic nerve pain that came as a result of his paraplegia. Basically that has worked better than prescription drugs.
Ann and Bob Lee, his parents, were both very involved in the Republican Party here in Harris County in Houston since the late 60s, early 70s. Her viewpoint changed after her son was injured. She discovered that it was helpful to him and started to really question the government’s position on prohibiting this because it is helpful for some people.
DEAN BECKER: The fact of the matter is even our Governor Perry (Governor “Good Hair”) started talking about the need to at least reexamine our marijuana laws. We have many other stalwarts within the Republican Party including Mr. Grover Norquist who was a guest on our show a few months back saying it’s time to reexamine the policy.
There was a recent event at SEPAC, a major gathering of republicans, that seem to move towards that same concept. Am I right?
JASON MILLER: Right. This was a debate that occurred between two people on the topic of marijuana legalization. There was a lot of audience questions as well. There are some articles on this that you’ll find online. This just happened yesterday.
The crowd and the audience were overwhelmingly in support of reforming marijuana laws. What we see within republican circles is people at the grassroots level are very, very accepting of these views and very open to talking about reforming the laws and allowing for medical marijuana, decriminalization. Rick Perry has even recently spoke out, as you mentioned, about decriminalizing marijuana and working towards decriminalization.
But really what decriminalization is is making that a civil infraction as opposed to a criminal offense so we’re very pleased to hear Rick Perry speak out in favor of working towards that.
DEAN BECKER: We are speaking with Mr. Jason Miller. He is the Communications Director for Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP).
Jason, there is an event coming up – the inaugural meeting in just a few days, right?
JASON MILLER: Yes. This is something we are very excited about. We are putting together our inaugural meeting. This is going to be a pretty big event here in Houston. It’s going to be on March 15th, 2014 from 12 to 1 we are going to have an opening reception. We’re going to have some lunch and people are going to be able to meet.
From 1 to 4 we’re going to have a meeting with a lot of really great speakers who have come in to join us for this. We have Terry Nelson who is with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He’s a former US border patrol agent, former US customs agent and Department of Homeland Security officer. He has a career in law enforcement lasting 3 decades and he knows personally the effects that prohibition has had. He’ll be speaking with us.
We also have Judge John Delaney who’s a district court judge. We have Nathan Jones who is with Rice University’s Baker Institute. Tracy Ansley is with the Coalition for Compassionate Care. Our executive director, Ann Lee, will be speaking with us as well as our assistant director, Zoe Russell and our political director, John Baucum and then myself as well.
The event will be held at King Street Patriots which is located at 7232 Wynwood Ln.
Houston and that’s just inside the 610 loop.
DEAN BECKER: I wanted to get the website where folks can get involved and learn more about this event.
JASON MILLER: It’s http://www.rampgop.org/ You can also find us at http://facebook.com/rampgop or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rampgop.
DOUG McVAY: The State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs recently released its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
Many people criticize this report, one analyst has derided it as an arrogant report card. The State Department describes it thus, quote: "The INCSR is the United States Government's country-by-country two volume report that describes the efforts to attack all aspects of the international drug trade, chemical control, money laundering and financial crimes." End quote.
Let's look at a couple of countries then. First, Bolivia. Bolivia stands out because last year it was the one nation in the world which the US neither certified nor exempted because of national security. Quote: "Although Bolivia's eradication program is meeting its stated targets, the country is still the third largest producer of coca leaf. Bolivia's policy to consider 20,000 ha of coca cultivation as licit and its withdrawal from the 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (followed by its re- accession early in 2013) undermined Bolivia's efforts to meet its international drug control obligations. The EU study released on November 19 states that 14,705 ha of coca are needed for licit consumption in Bolivia, over 10,000 ha less than what the U.S. government and UNODC estimate is being cultivated. Bolivia should strengthen efforts to tighten controls over the coca leaf trade in order to stem diversion to cocaine processing in line with international commitments, achieve further net reductions in coca cultivation and enhance law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers. Enacting new asset forfeiture legislation and other counternarcotics measures would provide Bolivian law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to do so. " End quote.
Now let's look now at a nation that's been at the heart of the drug war and real war for several years, which was certified last year as cooperating with the US drug war, Afghanistan. According to the State Department, quote: "Illicit drug cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption flourish in Afghanistan, particularly in parts of the south and southwest where instability is high and state institutions are weak or non-existent. More than 90 percent of poppy cultivation takes place in these regions. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) estimate that Afghanistan cultivated 209,000 hectares (ha) of opium poppy in 2013, with a total yield of 5,500 metric tons (MT) of raw opium. This was a 36 percent increase in cultivation and a 49 percent increase in opium production from 2012. The United States government estimates that in 2013, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased 10 percent to 198,000 ha, while potential opium production increased 28 percent to 5,500 MT. A symbiotic relationship exists between the insurgency and narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan. Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and other material support to the insurgency in exchange for the protection of drug trade routes, fields, laboratories, and their organizations. Some insurgent commanders engage directly in drug trafficking to finance their operations. The narcotics trade undermines governance and rule of law in all parts of the country where poppy is cultivated and traffickers operate. Afghanistan is involved in the full narcotics production cycle, from cultivation to finished heroin to consumption. Drug traffickers trade in all forms of opiates, including unrefined opium, semi- refined morphine base, and refined heroin. Some raw opium and morphine base is trafficked to neighboring and regional countries, where it is further refined into heroin. While the vast majority of the opium and heroin produced in Afghanistan is exported, Afghanistan is also struggling to respond to a burgeoning domestic opiate addiction problem. " end quote.
Reporting for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.
DEAN BECKER: Part of the teleconference featuring Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance and Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow.”
MICHELLE ALEXANDER: I think we have to ask ourselves how would we treat people who are abusing or addicted to drugs or at risk of doing so – how would we treat them if we really cared about them? Would we put them in a cage and saddle them with a criminal record that would authorize discrimination against them for the rest of their lives? Would we lock them up for decades behind bars? - robbing children of their parents, making it impossible for young people to have any hope of reintegrating into society. Is that how we treat people we actually care about?
I think not and so I support the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. I think that if you are caught with a substance, you’re possessing a substance that is harmful to you we ought to try to help you get education or support that you may need. We need to intervene in a way that is supports and helps you not one that demonizes, shames and punishes you for the rest of your life.
I’m thrilled by the fact that Colorado and Washington has legalized marijuana, that Washington, D.C. has now decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. I think these are critically important steps shifting from a purely punitive approach to a more caring concern.
Again, I think there are some warning flags that are flying in the air right now in Colorado and Washington, in particular. What I see as warning signs is we flip on the news and I see images of people using marijuana and images of people now who are trying to run legitimate marijuana businesses and they are almost all white. It seems that we suddenly have a positive attitude about marijuana and the images of people who are using marijuana are white but when we thought of them of being black or brown we had a purely punitive approach.
We see also in the media predominantly white...in the news I have seen it’s been exclusively white men who have been interviewed as wanting to start successful marijuana businesses. Here are white men poised to run big marijuana businesses, dreaming of cashing in big, big money after 40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time selling weed and their families and futures destroyed. Now white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing.
DEAN BECKER: Much more from Michelle Alexander and Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance on this week’s Century of Lies and the 4:20 Drug War News report.
That’s about it. I wanted to tell you that my book is now available on Kindle and Amazon. The name, “To End the War On Drugs: A Guide for Politicians, the Press and Public.”
So far the reception has been really good. A couple of bookstores in town are considering having me come in and do a signing day. I guess the point I want to get to is I’ve read 100 of these books dealing with the drug war. I’ve interviewed 90 or so of those authors and I guarantee you this takes the best of those plus more than 1,000 interviews that I’ve done during the past 15 years and combines them into 1 powerful book. As we like to say – a globe-circling grand slam against the prohibition team.
I urge you to check it out and share it with your friends, give a copy to your elected officials. It’s time to pull the plug on this eternal war on drugs.
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.
This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org