04/27/14 Eapen Thampy

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform, Philip Martin of Progress for Texas, AG Eric Holder, CBS report on MJ edibles, FOX report of Reefer Madness, Grover Norquist for small tax on cannabis.

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / April 27, 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 and welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage.

EAPEN THAMPY: Hi. My name is Eapen Thampy. I am the executive director of Americans for Forfeiture Reform. We advocate for the abolition of civil forfeiture in the United States at the state and federal level and we do advocacy and research to achieve that goal.

DEAN BECKER: Eapen, the truth that we’ve been putting forward over the last several years is finally gaining traction. The major media is starting to pay attention to this asset forfeiture in a big way. Am I right?

EAPEN THAMPY: One of the messages that we’ve really been pushing at Americans for Forfeiture Reform is the notion that asset forfeiture has fundamental altered the character and structure of our government. What we mean by that is that under civil asset forfeiture law enforcement can keep the revenue that they seize through the course of property seizures.

They can keep this money without having to go to a legislature or any governing body. This is a dangerous thing because now you have government agencies that don’t have to abide by the check and balance of a legislature or any governing body. They can essentially raise their own money and operate generally in ways that are free of citizen input or voter approval or legislative appropriation. Those are all very dangerous things.

One of the ideas behind America is that when we give a power to the government that power is used judicially in that there are checks and balances from other branches of government and the people. With civil forfeiture that goes out the window.

As we both know congress gave civil forfeiture to law enforcement to fight the War on Drugs in the 70s and the 80s and now where we’re at is 40 years into this failed experiment and we’re beginning to see grassroots political movements to repeal at essentially the state level some of the harsher parts of the War on Drugs but now what we are seeing is law enforcement agencies that are actively lobbying in opposition to the reforming drug prohibition and especially anything that would result in less money for law enforcement.

DEAN BECKER: I think it’s another example of you give an inch and they take a mile. These laws were designed – and I’m a legalizer...I don’t think it should apply anywhere but they were designed to go after the big traffickers – the guys with all the tons of drugs and hundreds of thousands in cash but that’s not how it’s typically applied is it?

EAPEN THAMPY: No, absolutely not. Our colleagues up in Minnesota at the Institutes for Justice were successful in getting the Minnesota legislature to adopt a law that said law enforcement had to do reporting on the kinds of seizures that they were doing. Last year...excuse me, two years ago in Minnesota law enforcement forms about 7,000 civil forfeiture actions.

They looked through the data. They found most of these civil forfeitures for amounts less than 10,000 dollars, very few of them property seizures. I don’t think any of them happened against large criminal organizations or kingpins of mafia or cartel organizations. Those people are by and large protected. They’re not usually the targets for law enforcement civil asset forfeiture.

It turns out it’s the guy running down the street, you know, driving to work, ordinary American property that ends up being the victim of asset forfeiture. So, like in Minnesota so is the rest of the country, their asset forfeitures are typically leveraged against the poor, minority – people who don’t necessarily have a lot of resources. But it is also important to note that sometimes the government’s law enforcement does go after people who they see have a lot of money because it’s there and they can take it.

So you kind of have this mixed bag. Civil forfeiture is absolutely not being used in the ways that it was sold to congress in the 1970s and 1980s. It now represents the government’s most serious attack on private property.

DEAN BECKER: I recently saw a report that I think was in Tennessee where they had this major highway – one going north, one going south. The one going north was the one that had the drugs in the trucks but the cops were on the opposite side of the highway looking for the money going south. This is not about drugs. This is just about profiteering, isn’t it?

EAPEN THAMPY: Oh yeah. Under civil forfeiture and this example law enforcement can keep the property that they seize. They now have an incentive to look for property and that changes their priorities and their directives. So, you know, if you have a law that says drugs are illegal and you ask law enforcement to enforce that what they’re now doing is they’re not necessarily looking for people with drugs they are looking for people with money that they basically suspect could be used in drug transactions.

The civil forfeiture, the perverse incentive of monetary gain has changed the notion of drug prohibition on its face. Law enforcement doesn’t so much look for drugs as they look for money and that’s both a perversion of the law (the enforcement that legislatures wanted when they passed these laws) and ultimately a perversion of the core mission of law enforcement which is to enforce the law – not look for money.

DEAN BECKER: And then there’s another perversion/diversion, if you will, and that is some states have passed laws to limit the ability of law enforcement to gather these funds out on the highway and, yet, these law enforcement officials have found a bypass to get that money anyway, right?

EAPEN THAMPY: Oh, yeah, this is absolutely a perversion. What’s happening here is that now under civil forfeiture law enforcement wants to keep the money that they can seize but, hey, under necessarily under their state law or their state constitution there are protections that individuals have for their property might be very good.

For instance, in Missouri they are required to have a felony conviction before you’re involved in a civil forfeiture. In other states they have other good protections for property. Well, under civil forfeiture the federal government can come into a state and say to state and local law enforcement, “You don’t have to follow the state law. All you have to do is bring us the procedure. We will process the property and the seizure under federal law and kick you back a check so you don’t have abide by your state statutes or your state constitution even if your superiors may be telling you because we have this power and we can share it with you.”

So under civil forfeiture the federal government has really taken over in a sense say the local law enforcement. We don’t have, in that sense, state and local law enforcement anymore. We have federal law enforcement because that’s what the feds want.

DEAN BECKER: I am baffled sometimes by the twisted nature of these laws, the application thereof. I don’t know – just how barbaric it seems at times. I’ve seen stories of Asians or other foreign nationals driving through our country and literally bamboozled by our law enforcement and, in essence, coerced into giving up their money. It’s not American is it?

EAPEN THAMPY: Oh, no. We had a case that was very similar to that. In Virginia we heard of two Hispanic men. I believe these men were citizens. They were in the country legally. They were actually working on behalf of their Christian church. They were part of a church in Virginia.

They had been taking church donations - $25,000 in money that the church had collected in donations – to a second property where they were building a second facility. The Virginia State Highway Police pulls them over. On his police report he says that they could not speak English very well and appeared agitated. So he sees their money and accuses them of drug trafficking and money laundering.

There were no drugs found. There was no evidence of drug sales found. This money was, again, from the donations that a church had collected. Ultimately this police officer took this money from these two men because they spoke Spanish and he thought he could get away with taking the property and they wouldn’t necessarily be able to fight the system.

Fortunately they contacted us and we were able to help them by putting them in touch with an excellent forfeiture defense lawyer who after a little bit of publicity (and that’s really all it took) the highway patrol backed down and gave the church its money back.

DEAN BECKER: I find it rather ironic to accuse these people of laundering money when it is the state law enforcement that launders money through the federal government. Your thoughts?

EAPEN THAMPY: Absolutely, that’s something that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals actually said in 1993. Let me briefly tell you what happened. In 1993 this man named Jeffrey Scarabin had $12,000 excused from him by a sheriff in Louisiana. He tries to get his money back by filing a claim.

The sheriff says, “We don’t have your money anymore. We gave it to the DEA.”

So he goes to court and the ruling that he gets by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals says when the sheriff took that money and gave it to the DEA so that they had jurisdiction over it and he could say to Jeffrey Scarabin, “I gave the DEA your money.” At the same time the DEA is cutting the sheriff a check so the Fifth Circuit said if this were conducted by a private entity that is not a government agency it would be money laundering and you would be in jail.

DEAN BECKER: All too often...I can’t even go there. There is so much corruption everywhere and so much of it revolves around this drug war. It is just outrageous.

What am I leaving out? What would you like to share with the audience?

EAPEN THAMPY: I really want to bring the discussion about civil forfeiture into a larger, mainstream audience and I want to focus on this argument that I began by talking about that when government agencies have funding that they can play with free from the oversight and control of a legislature we lose something very fundamental to our system of representative democracy.

We have now uncontrollable government agencies that exist, again, free from what citizens want, voters want and what our elected representatives may want. Additionally revenue issue for law enforcement turns law enforcement into a special interest.

Let me give you an example. The Missouri Narcotics Law Enforcement Organization is comprised of task force members in Missouri. Who pays their union dues? Well, their direct task forces pay their union dues and these are task forces that are essentially almost entirely dependent on federal grants and asset forfeiture.

So you have task forces that can control their own funding basically paying the union dues of their officers and then the union, the Missouri Narcotic Law Enforcement Organization goes and pays a lobbyist in Jeff City, in the capital. What does that lobbyist do? He actively opposes any effort to legalize marijuana or reform the drug laws. That lobbyist will press the legislature for more enhanced criminal penalties that subject people potentially to asset forfeiture.

Over 20 or 30 years of this happening we see a fundamental disconnect between the needs of public policy and the direction of how the laws are going. The reason for that is civil forfeiture and the financial interest it gives law enforcement in drug prohibition.

So what is not in this loop is the entire process of participatory democracy where ordinary citizens are supposed to have a voice in the political process. That’s one of the messages I really want to articulate to a mainstream audience because this is not necessarily about legalizing drugs or about legalizing marijuana. This is about reasserting fundamental controls over our government. These are things that our Founding Fathers fought for and articulated when they challenged King George, III.

If we continue on this path where government agencies, law enforcement agencies can operate with impunity and raise their own budgets that’s not a good thing for America. That’s not a good thing for liberty. It’s a very dangerous thing.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Eapen Thampy.

Eapen, share your website, please.

EAPEN THAMPY: The website is http://www.forfeiturereform.com/. You can also see us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/forfeiturereform.



Criminals get so embolden – Rip you off thinking you’re holdin.

Can’t tell the policeman what you know – got no recourse to the law.

Bad guys duct tape and beat you – they’re just lookin for that easy score.

They will rob, rape and kill ya cuz we go no recourse to the law.


[game show music]

It’s time to play, Name That Drug by its Side Effects.

According to the BBC this drug has no known side effects. The drug contains a molecule 10,000 times as active as glucose. It goes to the mid-brain and makes those cells fire as if you were full but you have not eaten.


Time’s up. The answer P57, Hoodia from a Kalahari desert cactus. Marketed by Pfizer. Look for the ads in your email.


DEAN BECKER: US Attorney General Eric Holder:

ERIC HOLDER: In 2010 President Obama signed The Fair Sentencing Act reducing unfair disparities on sentences imposed on people for offences involving different forms of cocaine but there are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime. This is simply not right.

Legislation pending in congress would help address these types of cases but in the meantime President Obama took a sensible step towards addressing the situation by granting commutations last December to 8 men and women who had each served more than 15 years in prison for crack cocaine offences.

For 2 of these individuals it was the first conviction they had ever received yet due to mandatory-minimum guidelines that were considered severe at the time and are profoundly out of date today they and 4 others received life sentences. Now these stories illustrate the vital role that the clemency process can play in America’s justice system.

The Whitehouse has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety. The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.

Later this week the Deputy Attorney General will announce new criteria that the department will consider when recommending applications for the President’s review. This new and improved approach will make the criteria for clemency recommendation more expansive. This will allow the Department of Justice and the President to consider requests from a larger field of eligible individuals.

Once these reforms go into effect we expect to receive thousands of additional applications for clemency. We, at the Department of Justice, will meet this need by assigning potentially dozens of lawyers with backgrounds in both prosecution and defense to review applications and provide the rigorous scrutiny that all clemency applications require.

As a society we pay much too high a price whenever our system fails to deliver the just outcomes necessary to deter and punish crime – to keep us safe and to ensure that those who have paid their debts have a chance to become productive citizens. Our expanded clemency application process will aid in this effort and it will advance the aims of our innovative new Smart on Crime Initiative to strengthen criminal justice system, promote public safety and deliver on the promise of equal justice under law.


DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy CBS Denver.


ANCHORWOMAN: Since Colorado legalized marijuana doctors say they are seeing more and more people coming in with THC-related problems.

ANCHORMAN: So we wonder are the effects of pot different when it is eaten not smoked. That’s a good question. Here’s CBS4’s Allen Genay.

ALLEN GENAY: Were you shocked at the strength of it?

FEMALE: Yes I was.

ALLEN GENAY: She doesn’t want her face or name shared after she bought gummy bears laced with pot and was told by the salespeople how much to eat.

FEMALE: An ear to start and that would have made a little more sense, but...

ALLEN GENAY: How much did you have?

FEMALE: The gummy bear...[laughing]

ALLEN GENAY: It didn’t work out well.

FEMALE: Your immediate reaction is, “I’m dizzy. I’m just going to sit on the couch.” And then you end up falling asleep.

ALLEN GENAY: Colorado’s emergency rooms are seeing a new influx of marijuana reactions.

[at hospital]

So the vast majority of people coming in are people who have problems with edibles not smoked marijuana...

DOCTOR: If they are coming in for marijuana it’s largely related to edibles – that’s correct.

ALLEN GENAY: About five to ten a week come into the ER at Denver Health alone after edibles.

DOCTOR: There’s nothing really to do. There’s nothing we can treat. In many cases they are unhappy because it is not the high and they are feeling something different.

FEMALE: When I woke up the room was spinning and really all you can do at that point is kind of go back to sleep.

ALLEN GENAY: Not everyone...International student, Levy Thamba Pongi, died after a leap from a fourth floor balcony. The medical examiner found no controlled substances other than THC in his body.

DOCTOR: Because sometimes there’s underlying psychiatric disorders that the drug can reveal. Sometimes it is behaviors that the drug can bring out and, again, a lot of times it’s other things that are mixed in there.

ALLEN GENAY: Richard Kirk is accused of killing his wife who told the 911 operator that he was hallucinating, had eaten edibles and taken pain killers.


What do you know?

ALVIN BRONSTEIN: We really know very little.

ALLEN GENAY: Dr. Alvin Bronstein heads the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.


Could it be a different type of drug taken in different ways?

ALVIN BRONSTEIN: I think the route is different and the time to effect is definitely different if it is taken orally.

ALLEN GENAY: Slower when eaten which can prompt impatient people to eat more and when eaten it’s mixing with food.

ALVIN BRONSTEIN: But it may be combined into a fat substance if one makes a brownie – how much butter was put in there. I don’t know.

ALLEN GENAY: And it may take years before it’s really understood and right now Colorado is an open laboratory.

FEMALE: It totally was a waste and I, you know, don’t purchase them again.

ALLEN GENAY: And that’s a good question. Allen Genay, CBS4 News.


[fan noise]

DEAN BECKER: That is the sound of the shit hitting the fan. From today’s New York Times, “DEA Launders Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels.”


DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy Fox Denver.


ANCHORMAN: Legal experts predict how and if the effects of edible marijuana will be used to defend a Denver man accused of killing his wife in their quiet home near the University of Denver.

Police said the man smoked and ate marijuana products just hours before the shooting.

ANCHORWOMAN: Richard Kirk is charged with 1st degree murder in the death of his wife, Christine. News at 5:30 Fox Julie Hayden joins us.

JULIE HAYDEN: Legal experts say this is different than alcohol where the effects are known. Because marijuana, especially edible marijuana, is so new they say it is very possible that the lawyers could argue that Kirk had no idea how it was affecting him that night.

Police say Richard Kirk admits he shot and killed his wife, Christine, in their Observatory Park home while she was on the phone with 911. He is charged with 1st degree murder but legal experts say,

DAN RUCK: I don’t see a 1st degree murder conviction.

911 OPERATOR: I repeat your husband has been smoking marijuana...

JULIE HAYDEN: One of the first things Christine told 911 was that her husband had been using marijuana. Legal expert, Dan Ruck, says that will be one of the first things defense attorneys argue.

DAN RUCK: The defense will bring up intoxication by high concentrations of marijuana with absolute certainty. You will see it as part of the defense.

JULIE HAYDEN: According to the incident detail report we obtained which details the 911 call Christine Kirk tells the operator her husband had taken marijuana and was hallucinating. Other police documents reveal the 911 call taker heard Kirk in the background talking about taking marijuana candy and police found that Kirk bought edible marijuana candy called “Kharma Candy Orange Ginger” less than 3 hours before the shooting.

DAN RUCK: This is totally unchartered territory.

JULIE HAYDEN: Ruck says while being drunk typically isn’t a defense the unknowns about marijuana and its effects on people will be used in this case.

DAN RUCK: The defense will argue strongly that this was involuntary intoxication in a sense and that is that he didn’t know that it would produce these kind of effects on his mental state.

JULIE HAYDEN: And one of the reasons that is so important is it involves the sentencing. If a person is convicted of 1st degree murder that is a mandatory life in prison sentence but if a person is convicted of a crime, say manslaughter, that carries a possibility of no prison time.



SINGERS: They nailed me for possession.
Lord, they nailed him to a tree.

But Jesus was a felon just like me.

DEAN BECKER: From the demo “Jesus” by Jo Lynn.


DEAN BECKER: The following courtesy Yahoo.



ANCHOR: They say politics makes for strange bedfellows and then there is the issue of legalized marijuana as we found out earlier this week when I sat down with arch-conservative Grover Norquist.


ANCHOR: First of all, are you for the legalization of marijuana?

GROVER NORQUIST: The great thing about being a political activist and not a columnist is I don’t have to have an opinion on everything. What I have spoken to is that I think the federalism at play with the decision of 22 states to legalize medicinal marijuana and 2 states now (Colorado and Washington) to allow recreational marijuana. We’ll see what works.

I have said and endorsed legislation that would remove the tax penalty for someone who ran a medical marijuana dispensary. Right now you are not allowed to take normal and everyday business exemptions like paying your staff, buying stuff and you should be able to.

ANCHOR: So you are for tax...

GROVER NORQUIST: Tax equality so that you treat someone who sold medicinal marijuana or recreational marijuana in Colorado the way you would someone who sold cigarettes or liquor or gambling or any other structure that some people might disapprove of but you treat them like a normal business. You many have some restrictions but you don’t tax them differently than the corner grocery store.

I think that otherwise it’s tough to have federalism if the feds are going to step in and use their tax policy to stop certain relations.

ANCHOR: ...that the states have said is legal.

GROVER NORQUIST: Yes. If the state says it’s legal...

ANCHOR: The banks as well. A lot of banks won’t do business with these legal dispensaries because they are concerned what the feds might do.

GROVER NORQUIST: The Obama administration has said that they have solved the problem. The bankers have said, “We’ve heard you. We’d still like it in law.”

Obama has this thing, “Oh, that law – we won’t enforce it.”

Yeah, but you know, in three years you go to do something else and there’s some other guy who wanders in who may decide to enforce all these unenforced laws that you have. I think in this case as in some of the changes to Obama Care they should be put into law for everybody and not handed out as favors to friends.


DEAN BECKER: Folks, the drug war is ending. Won’t you please pick up a baseball bat and help club this monster to death.

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