08/10/14 Phil Smith

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Phil Smith, reporter for StopTheDrugWar.org re forthcoming votes on drug laws + Eric Sterling of CJPF, Carl Veley of DPFT and Jake Agliata of SSDP speak in Wash DC in support of book: To End The War On Drugs - Policmakers Edition

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / August 10, 2014


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the liars who support the drug war, empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels and gives reason for existence for tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.


DEAN BECKER: Hello and welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We have such a great show lined up for you. A bit later we’ll hear from the folks who spoke at the Summer Reading Assignment in the House Building in Washington, D.C. about my new book, “To End the War On Drugs: The Policy Maker's Edition.”

First up we have a great interview with Mr. Phil Smith.


DEAN BECKER: I think there is probably very few people on planet Earth that realize some of the feelings I’ve got as of late. One such gentleman has been at this drug war reporting about as long as I have and I think we’re beginning to see things a little differently these days. With that I want to welcome reporter from the Drug War Chronicle and http://stopthedrugwar.org Mr. Phil Smith. How are you doing, sir?

PHIL SMITH: I’m fine and dandy, Dean. Good afternoon.

DEAN BECKER: We were talking a little bit about some of the aberrations that are going on in these recent years but there are some aberrations going...well, some differences if you will going on around the country. There are a lot of states and locales that are going to vote on changing their drug laws this coming fall, right?

PHIL SMITH: Indeed there are. I’m especially excited about the three states...well, actually 2 states and the District of Columbia that now have marijuana legalization initiatives on their ballots. They will be voting for them. It is all approved. It is all set to go - that’s Alaska, Oregon and DC.

DEAN BECKER: There’s some locales...I don’t know if they’re counties or cities there in the mid-west as well, right?

PHIL SMITH: In Michigan there are more than one dozen – I think it may be 18 towns and cities – in Michigan where they are trying to get what would essentially be legalization initiatives on the ballot. Those would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. They are largely symbolic measures in Michigan because local cops will say that they are going to enforce state law but that’s OK.

The purpose of these things in Michigan is to demonstrate public support for reforming the marijuana laws. Like I said there is more than one dozen cities where they are working on that this year in Michigan but they’ve already done it in the largest cities in the state. They did it in Detroit in 2008, then Flint, Jackson and a few other cities so it is part of an ongoing process in Michigan.

It is the same thing in Maine where there are three or four county/cities where they are trying to get these municipal legalization initiatives on the ballot. Again, it is part of an ongoing process in that state. They did the same thing in Portland, Maine last year. This year they are going to do it in South Portland, Lewiston and one other town, I think.

There are also efforts underway in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico but they are having some issues there. I understand Santa Fe’s municipal decrim initiative came up short on the initial signature count. They may still have time to get additional signatures to get that on the ballot. In Albuquerque they had a bizarre situation where city officials first told them they needed 11,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot so they went and gathered 16,000 signatures. When they turned in the 16,000 signatures city officials told them, “Oops, we made a mistake. You actually need 14,000 to get on the ballot.”

You always want to get extra signatures because you know some of them are going to invalidated. Now things are up in the air in Albuquerque because they don’t know if they will meet the 14,000 signature requirement that just came up or if they come in under 14,000 signatures they may have to sue the city of Albuquerque to get on the ballot.

In addition to the three states that statewide legalization initiatives we also have action going on in several states at the local level.

DEAN BECKER: We also have a medical marijuana push. I think the state of Florida has that on their ballot and in Oklahoma they are still trying to scramble to come up with enough signatures.

PHIL SMITH: Florida is definitely on the ballot. It’s a little tougher in Florida as they need 60% of the vote because it is a constitutional amendment there but according to all the polling I’ve seen they’re still going to win easily. It is polling at 85 to 90%.

As for Oklahoma there are ongoing initiative signature gathering campaigns. I suspect they are not going to make it this year. I would love to be proven wrong but that is my best sense of where things stand right now.

DEAN BECKER: Going back to your thought that in Michigan the cops would use the state law and ignore any city ordinance or whatever it might be. We’ve got the same thing here in Texas where we have a law on the books that says under 4 ounces of weed you don’t have to jail anybody, you don’t have to arrest them and yet I think there are only 2 counties in Texas that use it because the old law is still on the books and it gives them cover to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing.

PHIL SMITH: Right and I have to give kudos to Travis County – my old home county of Austin – that’s one of the counties in Texas where they have actually embraced that policy. I’m not sure what the other one is.

DEAN BECKER: Is it San Angelo County? That’s where that college is, I think.

PHIL SMITH: OK, well good for San Angelo.

DEAN BECKER: Coming back to my thought that things are changing and I’ve seen a lot of reports on the net talking about this that in the last few years with these legalization efforts and the corporatization of marijuana (if you will) that smaller and smaller number of rich, white men are taking control of this. Your response, Phil?

PHIL SMITH: I don’t want to go overboard on that plank but yes, we are seeing maybe not the corporatization but maybe the commercialization of marijuana as it becomes a legal substance and a legal industry or at least a quasi-legal industry.

I recall going to the National Cannabis Industry Association conference in Denver a couple of months ago. There were 1,200 people and it was lots of women in business attire and lots of men in suits. I didn’t see anybody in a tie-dye so we are seeing a maturation of the industry. We are seeing people coming in that are not in the industry because they love freedom or they love marijuana but because they see an opportunity to make a profit.

It makes me feel somewhat bad for the “ma and pa” farmers who have struggled and scrapped for years, faced prison and lost their property and other collateral consequences when these other people were sometimes not really involved before come in to take all the profits.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, we should have jumped on that bandwagon...what’s with all this reporting...I don’t know.

I was going to ask you and we can cut this if you want but we were talking about the fact that your crop is coming in and looking good.

PHIL SMITH: It is. It is starting to flower already - at least one of my varieties. I’m growing three different varieties on my California legal medical marijuana garden. The OG is flowering already. It is pretty impressive. I’m hoping that will be done by the middle of September which is earlier than I usually expect.

DEAN BECKER: You are one of I don’t know if it’s millions but probably hundreds of thousands of people in California, Washington, Colorado and other legal medical or legal recreational states who are saving themselves a lot of money, right?

PHIL SMITH: That’s right. I am keeping myself out of the black market. I’m keeping myself out of the legal market. I’m keeping myself out of all the markets. I’m not paying $20 a gram at the pot shop or even more in Washington State ($30 per gram). That’s higher than black market prices.

Sadly for the state I’m not contributing anything to their tax coffers by growing my own but I can live with that.

One thing I want to point out, Dean, is whether people can grow their own pot under marijuana legalization is an issue. As you may know in Washington State you can’t grow your own under legalization although there are still people who can grow their own under their medical marijuana law.

In Colorado you can grow your own – 6 plants. I am happy to see the initiatives that have made the ballot this year all include grow your own permissions. In Alaska you can grow 6 and have 3 mature. In Oregon I think you can grow 4. In DC I think you can grow 6 and have 3 mature. I’m not sure on the details but the major point is that all 3 of them allow personal cultivation. In my view that is essential if we are going to have legalization. You have to be able to grow your own plants.

DEAN BECKER: Well, sure, in Washington State the fact is by having it where you can’t grow your own it will, in essence, ensure a larger black market, will it not?

PHIL SMITH: The black market will continue and certainly will continue as long as their marijuana prices are so high. Why would I go to the pot store and pay $30 per gram where the kid on the corner can sell it to me for $15 per gram. I mean there are reasons to go. You avoid the risk of black market transactions. You avoid getting stopped by the cops in the middle of your little pot deal.

The larger point remains - the prices are too high in Washington State. I think part of that is an artifact of the way they set up their systems in a way that it is bottlenecked by everything that is being sold in the store is having to come through this state-controlled process which is just getting underway. I anticipate prices will go down in Washington eventually. I certainly hope so.

DEAN BECKER: I won’t reveal his name but I was speaking with a son of a major grower who used to be here in Texas. We were talking about the fact that once it is truly legal across these United States some good quality, outdoor grown bud would probably sell for under $20 per pound – once it all settles out. What’s your response, Phil?

PHIL SMITH: I agree. It would have a value similar to tomatoes or other agricultural crops. Right now marijuana is worth so much money is because it is illegal. It’s just a weed. It just grows. Yeah, it requires a little cultivation to grow good stuff but it’s just a plant that grows. Production costs to grow pot plants were it legal are virtually nil.

DEAN BECKER: The stuff takes over the plot of land and dries out the other weeds even.

PHIL SMITH: There is no reason to ...by the same token there is no reason for someone to grow a huge plantation of marijuana plants. If anyone can grow a pot plant why are you going to grow 10,000 when the guy next door can grow 2 or 3 and supply himself.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. I’ve had one plant that produced 7 pounds...

PHIL SMITH: That’s a monster, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: It was 26 feet tall. It grew for 14 months but it was a good plant.

PHIL SMITH: The broader point is that as long as we have marijuana prohibition anywhere in the US there is still going to be an incentive for people to export marijuana to that black market state and make black market profits. The way you eliminate the desire to grow for black markets is to eliminate the black markets.

DEAN BECKER: As you know a couple weeks back we had our Summer Reading Assignment for all US officials there in Washington, D.C. We are going to be playing some clips from Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Carl Veley of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas but you wrote a great piece about the book, the work I do and it is posted on http://stopthedrugwar.org.

PHIL SMITH: It is indeed. I was happy to do it. I think it is a wonderful book. It is chalk full of good arguments for people who want to advocate for drug policy reform. It also certainly deserves to be read by policy makers or at least their right-hand men. The people who are actually making our laws need to understand all the intricacies of our drug policies and how we can come up with better ones and your book provides bountiful ammunition on all those points.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Phil Smith of http://stopthedrugwar.org and Drug War Chronicles. You can check out their website, http://stopthedrugwar.org


It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By Its Side Effects!"

Decreased sex drive, excessive milk whether nursing or not, hallucinations, aggression, depression, hepatic impairment, renal impairment, chronic structural pulmonary disease, sleep apnea, rebound insomnia, withdrawal, new feelings of depression.

Time’s up! From Takeda Pharmaceuticals – they say it doesn’t have the side effects of Lunesta – the answer, Rezerem for a good night’s sleep.


DEAN BECKER: With the help of friends with SSDP and a couple of other friends we are going to give a copy of this book...We’re taking nine copies to give to the president and most of his cabinet, nine copies to give to the US Supreme Court and on Friday of last week I mailed 50 copies to every governor across these United States.

Next up let’s move to a man who educated me, gave me some courage, put me headed in the right direction and I think he’s done that for a lot of drug reformers. He is the head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Mr. Eric Sterling.


ERIC STERLING: Thank you, Dean, so much for inviting me to join you today. I’m delighted to join Dean Becker in his distribution of his book, “To End the War On Drugs.”

My name is Eric Sterling and for 9 years I worked for the House Judiciary Committee as the lead council for the oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration. I worked in this building to organize hearings, develop legislation, negotiate with the Reagan administration, with the Senate and the public on gun control, organized crime, pornography, money laundering and drug enforcement.

I played a major role in writing the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Anti-drug Abuse Act of 1986 after Len Bias died from cocaine overdose and then the Anti-drug Abuse Act of 1988 that created the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the Whitehouse.

I was a captain in the War on Drugs. To end the drug war in 1989 I left the staff of the House Judiciary Committee to become the president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. To end the drug war I helped start Families Against Mandatory Minimums which has led the effort to reform mandatory minimum sentences and to reform the sentencing guidelines.

Their diligence led to the historic vote two Fridays ago by the US Sentencing Commission to retroactively reform drug sentences for almost 50,000 federal prisoners – an extremely important effort to move justice along for people who desperately need it.

I’m on the National Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy which is 180 chapters strong across the country. They have been working to educate students and to change policy in education and public health and public safety.

I’m the vice-chair of Marijuana Majority which has become a leading voice for medical marijuana, marijuana decriminalization and marijuana legalization. I have been a supporter and member and funder of the Drug Policy Alliance since the days it started –
NORML, MPP and so on.

One of the things I am most proud of is being a speaker for LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) which has become one of the most credible voices against drug prohibition in the country. I’m proud to be on the board of Citizens Opposing Prohibition and support former detective Howard Wooldrige and his efforts to educate members of congress and their staff about the War on Drugs - perhaps the most effective single person in addressing members of congress and their staff on these issues.

This book, “To End the War On Drugs”, is a rich resource for members of congress and their staff and the administration. The excerpt in which Dean has chosen from my interviews with him from 2011 focuses on President Obama’s failure at that point to use his constitutional power of pardon and reprieve. Unlike his predecessors he had simply not let out any of many thousands of persons serving long sentences for drug offenses – sentences that were manifestly unjust as declared in numerous sessions of the federal judiciary in the early 1990s.

Because I bear some responsibility for these long mandatory sentences of 1986 the use of the president’s pardon power has been a major concern of mine and I’ve been able to sort of work on this. At the end of President Clinton’s second term I helped organize the Coalition for Jubilee Justice of hundreds of clergy to appeal to the president to release low-risk, low-level, nonviolent drug offenders and he did. He released Sarina Nun, Kambus Smith, Dorothy Gaines, Peter Nonmeir and many others who were able to rejoin their children and families and rejoin the community as productive citizens.

Now my words in some sense have been taken to heart by the administration. The attorney general is now calling for a project to revamp the pardoning process to bring to the president perhaps thousands of cases for the president to act.

The work that Dean Becker has done over the years to interview and disseminate the voices of not only drug policy reformers but people active in the War on Drugs and to challenge their views, to make sure that there is a real debate on an issue that for a long time was undebatable. It is really a remarkable testament of the power of one person.

This citizen journalist has for years built a network of over 50 radio stations that host his broadcasts and host his interviews. I am delighted to stand here with him and a number of his other very distinguished interview guests in urging this book.

I want to commend Congressman O’Rourke and to thank him for sponsoring this event...


Many members of congress, public officials will leave office and they will say, “We should have done it differently.”

One of the members of the House Judiciary Committee in 1989, Congressman Crockett from Detroit, upon leaving office called for the legalization of drugs. It was the front page, headline story in the Detroit Press in 1989 after he retired from congress.

Congressman O’Rourke before he was congressman wrote a book about legalizing and reforming drug policy and ran on that – that’s courage. That’s foresight. That’s leadership. That’s where we’ve come today where that kind of forthright telling of the truth gets you elected to congress and I’m so delighted to be able to share the platform with Congressman O’Rourke today.

So, Dean, thank you very much. I encourage everyone to read the book, share it with your members and to end the drug war. Thank you, very much.


DEAN BECKER: OK, that’s the caliber - you are hearing it from all these folks – but the caliber of these books. I’m just proud to be here today with all these folks. I really am.

It was 15 years ago that I started reading about the hysteria of the propaganda – what led us down this path of madness. I was looking for somebody to align with. In Houston the pickings were very slim and I heard about the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. I went to their office and met this guy, Al Robison, and there with him was this other gentleman and they both kind of heard me and laughed a little bit but gave me some advice and set me rolling down this path. I want to welcome my good friend from the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Mr. Carl Veley. Come on up, Carl.


CARL VELEY: As Dean said we started the Drug Policy Forum of Texas in the mid-1990s and it was largely an academic group and a bunch of malcontents<?> - you might say. We were arguing against the logic of drug prohibition.

There has been a substantial sea change in attitudes towards drugs. Those who are continuing with drug prohibition have changed but we’ve changed too. Where we were originally saying, “This is really bad policy making.” We are leaning now towards, “This is insanity.”

We’ve been doing the same thing for 100 years and getting the same results for 100 years it’s time we thought about something else. I’m here to urge as many people as possible in as many as high positions as possible to read what Dean has put together and to consider it because it is time to stop the insanity.


DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Carl. As I said we are going to hand out 435 copies of this book to every representative, 100 copies to every senator, president, cabinet and all the supreme court justices. To help us in this regard not just with the distribution of the books but in educating local citizenry around the country – I think it’s over 200 chapters they have now – this group, Students for Sensible Drug Policy is a pretty smart group and I want to bring up Mr. Jake Agliata from SSDP.


JAKE AGLIATA: Thanks, again, Dean and thanks to everyone for being here for what I think is an extremely important event.

At Students for Sensible Drug Policy we help work with and represent a very overlooked group of people and that is young adults and students. Students, particularly college students and students of all ages from all across the country are particularly affected by the War on Drugs in a variety of ways.

I, myself, when I was a student three years ago was almost kicked out of college for minor marijuana use. Unfortunately many of my peers were also suspended or expelled for similar reasons. Many more get their financial aid taken away. Many more get scholarships taken away and federal grants. Schools are constantly cracking down on drug policy and instituting drug-free school zones that quite frankly don’t work.

I think what the importance of this book does is it directs this conversation specifically towards policy makers and towards politicians. Often we talk with our students about getting awareness out and raising the voice of people hurt by the War on Drugs and about bad drug policy.

What we wanted to do to start moving forward is taking this conversation direct to Washington, to the people responsible for these bad drug policies. We want to get our students engaging more with politicians, with law makers and with law enforcement to start a discussion about how we can end this drug war and not just tell people about how it has harmed.

I think what this book does is a great first step in that. I think every law maker in Washington that we are sending it to need to read this book thoroughly or have their staff read through it thoroughly and report back to them and it will make our student’s job easier to change these policies because politicians will be much more willing to hear and engage our students about this issue that is critically, critically important.

I don’t have much more to say that hasn’t already been said but I just want to reiterate the fact that this is a fantastic Summer Reading Assignment for congress, like our students. I hope they come back in the fall with a better sense of what has been happening in this country for the past 60 years in the War on Drugs. I hope they come back ready to have that conversation with our students and with the rest of America. Thank you all for coming.



DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, my book is available on Amazon and Kindle. I urge you to get a copy, to read it, to absorb it, to share it with your friends, relatives and neighbors and to give a copy to your elected officials.

This drug war has no basis in reality. It is time to pull the plug. For too long people have been afraid, constrained to speak of what they know to be true at school, at work, at church and in the neighborhood but those days are over. It is time to stand up, speak up and proclaim what you know to be true.

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