09/14/14 Gary Hale

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

DEA Special Agent Gary Hale (ret) now a fellow at James A Baker III Institute, Jag Davies of Drug Policy Alliance re Global Commission on Drugs & voices of the children of Ferguson

Audio file


Cultural Baggage / September 14, 2014


DEAN BECKER: Drugs and terror...World Wars forever...
This is Cultural Baggage. I’m your host, Dean Becker, with the Unvarnished Truth about the drug war.


DEAN BECKER: Ooops...Obama did it again. We got a great show lined up for you. We have a segment with Gary Hale. He is a man with 31 years of experience serving in the Drug Enforcement Agency. We’ve got a report from JAG Davies out of the Drug Policy Alliance about the recent Global Commission on Drugs gathering.

Let’s get to it.


DEAN BECKER: It is with a great deal of pride that I bring in one of my associates from the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy. I’m going to allow him to introduce himself, tell us a little bit about his work history. This is a gentleman who spent 31 years in our nation’s service working with the Drug Enforcement Administration. With that I would like to welcome Gary Hale. How are you doing, sir?

GARY HALE: Thank you, Dean. I’m doing very well, sir. Thank you for the invitation. It’s good to be here. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important issue to folks in Houston and where ever they may be listening to this.

As you mentioned I am a retired law enforcement official of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) since 1979. I retired as chief of intelligence there in Houston in 2010. During those 31 years of service I served 10 different assignments around the United States and in Latin America mostly as well as Washington, D.C. (the DEA headquarters) and also did some joint duty in other intelligence agencies.

I worked operational, tactical, strategic and policy matters throughout those years. I am very proud to have served our nation in that regard.

DEAN BECKER: You received an award, the DEA Administrator’s Award, for your years of service. I am most curious about the fact that you have “seen the light” especially in regards to marijuana that we have got to change our process, right?

GARY HALE: The award you were talking about, the DEA Administrator’s Award, is the highest award afforded to DEA employees by the administrator. Along with some other awards...I also received the Hispanic Hero Serving America Award from Attorney General Janet Reno in 1995. There were different things that I did throughout my career which I really, truly enjoyed.

“Seeing the light”...I don’t know if that’s correct characterization. My job in DEA was in three different career fields. I was a special agent which is like the “door kicker” the gun and the badge guy. I was the diversion investigator who investigate the hospitals, the pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies (the chemical companies) and then the third is the intelligent analyst and intelligent specialist. I was an intelligent specialist my entire career, intelligent analyst...

During our work one of the things that we strived to do is to prepare predictive analysis for our policy makers. At some point intelligent analysis work had different levels, different aspects – some of them are direct support investigations while other are strategic type work of figuring out what’s going on in a particular region of the world or with a particular drug.

The policy type analysis is what direction should our agency be taking. We are constantly looking at information trying to make those types of decisions. Having that as a background I use that in my work at the Baker Institute to constantly look for policy recommendations specifically in the counter-drug or drug policy arena.

With that context I was reviewing this phenomena of marijuana legalization and decriminalization (the flip side of that). Legalization more on the side of medicinal use and decriminalization more related to lessening the use for personal use of marijuana. Looking at that whole evolution as it’s occurring throughout the country I decided it’s about time that we just stop, take a “time out” (which is my recommendation to the DEA). We need to take a “time out” and seriously look at all of the data that’s been generated in the past 40 or 50 years starting with the Shafer Commission Report.

I’ve read that report. I find it to be a credible report and include others of stature including Dr. Gupta. He has also commented that he has changed his mind. When you look at the data objectively you see that marijuana is not the evil that it is portrayed to be. Yes, it can be abused just like any other substance whether it’s alcohol or cocaine for that matter. It can be abused but as with alcohol, for example, used in moderation and with some societal controls (allowing adults only to purchase and possess) I don’t think it would be the end of the world.

I do believe that it’s time to take a hard look at those things and go “with the flow” (if you will) and that means is if you have a number of elected state legislators (these are people who were elected by their constituents) and those legislators have passed laws to decriminalize or legalize marijuana use then I say the federal government should let the states do as those legislators have decided to do.

Basically it is time to stop being so dead-set, hard against marijuana without having a comprehensive review of how we got to where we are. I believe that how we got to how we are with marijuana being on the Schedule I which is the most restrictive category for a drug designation is because of what was happening in the 1960s. It was a big anti-government push by the hippie movement and marijuana was associated with the hippies and so the government was pushing back on that.

The conservatives in those days...I remember being a young teenager in those days and we had dress codes, men wore hats and everyone had a tie and a jacket on all the time everywhere you went. Things were just very, very conservative and for anyone to wear long hair or to behave in a way that challenged authority or government was not taken very lightly.

I remember getting kicked out of school for wearing “Beatle boots” – the little booties that the Beatles wore. Those were outlawed in school because you just weren’t allowed to wear them because it was counterrevolutionary so to speak.

All of these attitudes were first put at the place in our society in the 1960s and carried on in the 1970s and it’s just fear. This fear then made the pendulum swing against anything having to do with any substance that was associated with this anti-government, revolutionary type movement.

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Now we’ve gotten smart and we realize that it is not the danger that we perceived it was in the 1960s and 70s and we are seeing all the benefits of medicinal marijuana and we’re seeing that it’s not such a dangerous substance after all...

So my recommendation and the paper that I wrote for the Baker Institute is to take a “time out” and take a hard look at ways to reconcile these differences between the federal government and the state governments so that we can have a more [inaudible] thought policy and law on marijuana in the future.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve got to agree with you. After I left the Air Force I guess I grew my hair long and that was (I’m not going to say racial profiling) but it was certainly a type of profiling that went on in the 60s, 70s and I think in some ways still goes on to this day. It just kind of lingers from that same attitude that was developed against the anti-war demonstrators.

You had 10 years working as chief intelligence for the Houston office for the Drug Enforcement Agency as well. Do you get a chance to talk to some of your former cohorts and fellow agents? Is there a change going on within the agency? What do you think?

GARY HALE: Well, the administrator of the DEA, Michelle Leonart, is dead set about leaving things the way they are. She just has a closed mind about this whole issue. The DEA, in a very loose term, is a paramilitary organization. It all marches to the same beat and if they say, “March over that cliff.” We are going to march over that cliff. That’s what folks are doing.

You don’t question what Washington says and if the DEA headquarters says we are going to continue to pursue marijuana laws that’s what the field offices will do.

Not a lot of wiggle room in the rank and file to ask questions or to make recommendations on reconsideration. That’s all done in Washington. Some of the field special agents in charge (there are about 20 managers throughout the nation) those agents in charge certainly have some influence on the debate but at the end of the day the administrator of the DEA is the one that makes that decision. So far she has not signaled any intention to change her mind.

DEAN BECKER: Again, we are speaking with Mr. Gary Hale. He is a gentleman with 31 years’ experience with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Gary, you are a fellow with the James A. Baker, III Institute at Rice University. By the way, folks, we were just once again named one of the top 20 universities in the nation.

It seems that the truth is kind of leaking out around the edges. Newspapers across the county – hell, around the world – are starting to challenge the logic of continuing down this same path. Are they not?

GARY HALE: Yes, I agree. I think there is a disconnect, as major dichotomy between what we in the United States, the federal government is doing and insisting what we do an at the same time other nations are starting to question that. They are saying, “Why are you pushing us to have such stringent counterdrug policies in our countries while in your country you are legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana?”

There’s really a total disconnect there. Why are you holding such different standards? That difference in international norms really degrades the ability of DEA or the federal government or the state department or anyone who is working overseas to have an effective role and place at the table when you are talking to your host nation counterparts around the world.

That’s another piece of my paper recommendations that I made is that we need to revisit these treaties so that they are reconciled and that we are at par with norms around the world whether it’s in Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Uruguay, the Netherlands who have less restrictive policies on marijuana and stop trying to dictate to the world what to do when we are doing something different.

DEAN BECKER: Just today there was a gathering in New York City...the Global Commission on Drugs once again was standing forth calling for a reassessment, a realignment of these laws and more logical approaches.

GARY HALE: I look at it as the pragmatic. I’m not really on either side of this debate. I’m not pro or con-marijuana per se. I just look at it from a pragmatic policy making point of view it doesn’t make sense in terms of the standing of the United States around the world. It doesn’t make sense in terms of the number of people getting incarcerated and having their lives ruined because of these charges brought against them and the sentences that they have to suffer in jail for some relatively minor crime.

If you are bringing in 15 tons at a time that’s a different story but for people who have a couple joints in their pocket why ruin their lives because of that? All of these things do not make sense to me. It doesn’t pass the “smell test” of a regular citizen.

That’s why I decided to speak out. It is time that we do something to reconcile this and put us on a more equal footing with the rest of the world so that we, as a nation, are not ridiculed by the rest of the world.

DEAN BECKER: Well said, my friend.

Again, friends, we’ve been speaking with Mr. Gary Hale who is a former agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and one of my associates at the James A. Baker, III Institute on Public Policy.

Any closing thoughts or websites you might want to share?

GARY HALE: The work that we are doing at the Baker Institute is moving forward with this agenda and that is just to bring some [inaudible] to the whole situation. We partnered with the Thoroughgood Marshall School of Law (if I remember correctly). One of my colleagues was working on it to write some model laws on marijuana possession and all of the things that go along with legalization including international law, civil law, criminal law, business law. There are so many aspects of law that could be affected once legalization occurs in this country.

What I believe it does...I wrote a paper called, “When, not if”. When that happens we are going to see all kinds of new laws passed. The NAFTA treaty...we were having tomato wars with Mexico because Mexico is dumping tomatoes into our country so to speak and the tomato growers in the United States are unhappy because prices are going down because so many tomatoes are coming from Mexico.

You’ve got avocados and limes and pistachios and so forth and the next thing you know marijuana is going to be in that supply chain and there is going to be a lot of competition and price changes. The Mexicans are very intelligent agricultural specialist. They can make anything grow very well and I’m sure the quality of Mexican marijuana will improve exponentially. They will start doing all kinds of things like indoor grows that right now is not much of an occurrence in Mexico because they have such a temperate climate across the country so it grows all the time.

To improve the THC content so that the marijuana itself is more marketable will happen. They will improve to become equal to or better than our American grown marijuana. When that happens the market is affected. There is all kinds of competition. There’s importation laws and commerce laws, the NAFTA treaty will have to include this. I foresee over the horizon and I don’t think we are doing enough as a government, as a federal government to prepare for this change and this evolution with regards to marijuana.

It kind of wraps around to what I was saying earlier. My intention is to provide an over the horizon look at what marijuana will be in the future – years and decades to come.


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

Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicide, zombieism….


Time’s up! The answer according to law enforcement from some crazy-ass chemist somewhere – methedrone, otherwise known as bath salts.


[electric can opener sounds]

Opening up a can of worms....

[casting fishing line]

...and going fishing for truth.

[reeling in line]

This is the Drug Truth Network, http://drugtruth.net


JAG DAVIES: I’m Jag Davies. I’m the publications manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. We’re the nation’s leading organization working to implement drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. That means we work on sort of a full spectrum of drug policy reform issues – everything from legalizing marijuana, improving access for medical marijuana to criminal justice reforms and sentencing reforms to public health measures that look to address the harms of drug use. You can say that we work to both reduce the harms of drug prohibition and of drug use itself.

DEAN BECKER: The fact is that newspapers and news casters not just in the U.S. but around the world are starting to reexamine this situation themselves. Even governmental agencies, present and former administrators from around the world – especially in Latin America – are beginning to call for that reassessment. Just the other day we had a situation where the Global Commission on Drugs stood forth in that manner as well, correct?

JAG DAVIES: Absolutely. The Global Commission was formed originally in 2011 and they released a report that called for breaking the taboo on discussion on alternatives to the drug war and the drug prohibition regime around the world.

What’s really incredible is that since 3 years ago when they issued that report we’ve all been surprised just how quickly current politicians including current heads of state throughout Latin America including the president of Uruguay, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia and a number of other countries have called for a really systematic rethinking of the entire drug prohibition system.

Uruguay made that more of a reality last year by becoming the first country in the world to legally regulate the production and sales and distribution of marijuana not just for medical purposes but for any purpose.

A lot of this has been prompted by what’s been happening in the U.S. Historically going back over the past generation Europe has been a leader in a lot of ways on implementing harm reduction programs that address drug use in a public health framework.

What’s interesting is that in some ways U.S. states have leapfrogged Europe and really taken the lead worldwide in implementing new drug policies. Colorado and Washington when they legalized marijuana in 2012 they didn’t just become the first states in the country to legalize marijuana they became the first political jurisdiction anywhere in the world to legally regulate the production and distribution of marijuana.

Now when a country like Uruguay goes ahead and legalizes marijuana the U.S. which historically been the leader in pushing for global drug prohibition and for the War on Drugs doesn’t have as much of a leg to stand on now. The U.S. decided not to try and interfere with Uruguay. The U.S. said that’s an internal matter for Uruguay to deal with domestically. Now you have a host of other countries around the world not just in Latin America but also Morocco and some countries in Europe seriously looking at legalizing marijuana.

Really interesting about what happened with the commission is that they weren’t just talking about marijuana. They said that essentially the same principles apply to other drugs as well. The most significant thing about their report that they came out with this week is that they called for legally regulating not just marijuana but certain other drugs as well including the coca leaf and novel new psychoactive substances which New Zealand has already started to do.

What was also really interesting about the Global Commission’s report and their launch yesterday was the commission members were very confident and assertive in calling for legal regulation. We’re used to working in politics and you see politicians all the time. Politicians are the worst. They always end up sort of watering down their statements to the point that they don’t really mean anything. They are always sort of hedging.

These people - this is sever former heads of state, the former UN high commissioner for human rights, former UN secretary general (Kofi Annan), Richard Branson (the billionaire tycoon who is very influential in global politics) – they really made a strong and convincing argument for not just decriminalization, not just shifting drug policy in some incremental ways toward a public health approach but to really actually attack the problem of drug supply.

They really called for legal regulation more broadly. It will be really interesting to see over the next few years what kind of affect that has. Their last report three years ago led to some major shifts in politicians actually calling for changes. I hope and expect over the next three years that this will have a similar effect and that more and more U.S. politicians will see the light and will take stronger stances in favor of drug policy reform.

We are in a funny situation in the U.S. in some ways. We have a majority support for marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms and a lot of the politicians haven’t caught up yet realized that it’s in their own personal interest just for their own careers regardless it being the right thing to do for them to support drug policy reform.

DEAN BECKER: The fact is people are starting to realize that cannabis does have benefits, it is much less harmful than alcohol but it’s also gaining traction the thought that this policy of prohibition empowers terrorists, cartels, gives reason for these gangs to be prowling our neighborhoods and it has never start even one determined child from getting their hands on drugs.

It’s becoming a recognition of the logic, the reality of this situation, right?

JAG DAVIES: Yeah. I think the progress that we are making with the marijuana legalization hopefully will open up an important dialogue about drug use more generally and how to regulate and reduce the harm of drugs that are considered to be more dangerous than cannabis.

Legally regulating other drugs might sound like a very radical thing but it doesn’t really require a fundamental reconsideration of established policy principles. We already have a variety of mechanisms in place that control various types of drugs. Ultimately it is because drugs can be dangerous. Even marijuana can be dangerous and can have risks in certain instances.

We need to articulate this principle that drugs should be legal not because they are safe but because they can be dangerous and that legally regulating them is the best way to limit the dangers of both their use and the dangers inherent in their production.

DEAN BECKER: Alright, friends, once again we’ve been speaking with Jag Davies of the Drug Policy Alliance. Please check out their website http://drugpolicy.org


DEAN BECKER: As we close I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

We’re going to close out with some thoughts of the children of Ferguson.


CHILDREN: We’re kids from Ferguson, Missouri.

CHILD 1: You know that little place...

CHILD 2: ...where white police shot an unarmed black kid...

CHILD 1: ...in the face. It was a national disgrace. So listen up!

CHILD 3: Because we are here to talk to you about race.

CHILD 1: Sometimes black people [inaudible]

CHILD 2: and is racism still a thing?

CHILD 3: (spoiler alert) Yeah!

CHILD 2: Just because Beyonce is on your playlist and ...

CHILD 3: ... you vote for Obama...

CHILD 4: That doesn’t mean that our generation...

CHILD 2: I seen it in a racist drama.

CHILD 1: Racism is not one of those things...

CHILD 2: ...so go away.

CHILD 3: If you pretend it doesn’t exist...

CHILD 2: ...like crocs or Justin Bieber.

CHILD 1: All this focus on race makes me uncomfortable.

CHILD 4: uncomfortable?

CHILD 2: Try being black!


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