Houston DA candidate Kim Ogg + Tom Angell Dir of Marijuana Majority & Chris Goldstein editor Freedom Leaf Mag at SSDP conference
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, October 5, 2014
District Attorney Candidate
Mon, 10/06/2014 - 20:32
Cultural Baggage / October 5, 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: Hi, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Next week we are going to celebrate 13 years of the Drug Truth Network being on the airwaves of America.
I’ve got to fess up to something, folks, I’m addicted. I’m addicted to optimism and this week’s column by Froma Harrop gives me even more reason to believe the drug war is ending. Froma’s column which appeared in about 150 newspapers around the U.S. on October third was titled, “Beyond Marijuana Legalize All Drugs.”
“... it's all been for naught.”
In this column she quotes yours truly, promotes my new book, “To End the War On Drugs.” She says I’m not a big fan of small steps but I do think it is better than nothing. I want full legalization.
“Just decriminalizing drugs — that is, not arresting people possessing them but keeping their sale illegal — does not take criminals out of the business. And it stands in the way of regulating the drug-making now done by untrained chemists in primitive labs.”
She writes, “Make drugs legal; regulate them; and tax them. The final destination for the war on drugs should be oblivion, the sooner the better.”
And it’s even rumored that tomorrow, October 6th, the Houston Chronicle will carry another story about my book and my efforts to end this drug war.
Let’s get to our program. The following interview is with Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for district attorney for Houston, Harris County. She is talking about the dreaded marijuana.
DEAN BECKER: As this 2014 election season unfolds it seems that more and more people around the country and even here in Harris County are beginning to talk about the futility of some of the aspects of this drug war. Among those is the Democratic candidate for district attorney, Kim Ogg. She is with us now.
Kim, it is true that people are beginning to realize that we’ve been going about this wrong, are they not?
KIM OGG: It’s very exciting to me that public attitudes toward public safety are changing, that we’re getting away from the hard core, “nail ‘em and jail ‘em” philosophy when it comes to marijuana and that we’re focusing on serious criminals. They are different. The folks who are in possession of small amounts of marijuana are rarely the folks who are responsible for the burglaries, rapes and robberies that plague the city.
DEAN BECKER: You had a debate recently with the current district attorney, Devonne Anderson. Can you summarize how that went?
KIM OGG: I can. Devonne started out in January saying that she was going to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anybody in possession of a joint. After I announced the Grace Program which we call the Future of Marijuana Prosecution in Harris County – no jail, no bail, no permanent record if you earn it. After I came out with that program she modified her position and said that she had her own program.
Today she unveiled what I call the “Me, too” program. Unfortunately it doesn’t have near the same savings or public safety impact and it only applies to first offenders who are about 1/3 of the 12,000 people annually being arrested for marijuana.
DEAN BECKER: That’s a lot people. How much cost is involved with that?
KIM OGG: The direct cost to her budget is about 5 million dollars. The cost of jailing the offenders on average 5 days for every possession of marijuana case is about 4.5 million so the total savings that we are looking at is at least 10 million dollars by routing people in possession of misdemeanor amounts of pot around jail to community service and then allowing them a way out of the system so they don’t have a permanent criminal record. That’s where the real savings to the economy and to our society will come.
DEAN BECKER: The police when they make the arrests they have the car towed, they haul these people down to jail and so forth. How many hours are involved in that?
KIM OGG: Every time a cop arrests somebody for a joint it takes the cop out of rotation on patrol for at least 3 hours. Devonne’s program continues to remove police from the streets and it leaves our homes and our families vulnerable to burglars, robbers – that kind of thing so getting the focus off low-level drug offenders and on to real criminals is where public safety is moving in America. Instead of Harris County being in last place I would like to move it to first place.
DEAN BECKER: The fact is that many of these people who wind up with these drug arrest records are, in essence, banned from most jobs and sadly too often they turn to other crimes because they have no source of income. Your thoughts?
KIM OGG: My thought that is giving people permanent criminal records for possession of marijuana is counterproductive to our economy. We are living in a boom city. We have more jobs than applicants and our mayor says that for the most part that’s because too many people have criminal records.
Able bodied people who want to work who may have a conviction for possession of marijuana ought to be able to work but when it comes to job interviews many times they are shut out because information technology has superseded the concept of law makers to keep people’s records private.
When someone is arrested they have to go to court and even when they are given deferred adjudication there’s a permanent record of that crime. That not only makes employment opportunities a problem it creates housing problems for people. They can’t live in public housing. They can’t often live in apartment complexes all for something that is legal in 2 states and medically available in 24 more.
DEAN BECKER: If people would like to learn more about your platform, the many other aspects of why you are running for district attorney please share your website.
KIM OGG: I’d invite people to come to http://kim-ogg.com/. Learn about the GRACE program, the future of misdemeanor marijuana prosecution, learn about where we are going to spend that money which is on the real criminals and trying to make all of safe against the criminals we dislike, the folks who burglarize, rob and rape, the people who are really hurting us.
I think it’s high time that we acknowledge the failure of our drug policies in Harris County and in America and that we take a progressive approach to public safety.
DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Kim Ogg running for district attorney of Houston, Harris County.
Again I want to shout out to her opponent, Devonne Anderson, to the sheriff and the police chief – if they want to come on the airwaves, if they want to answer my phone and email requests to do so – contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drug Truth Network – teaching the choir to sing solo.
DEAN BECKER: The following was recorded last week in Washington, D.C. during the Students for Sensible Drug Policy convention.
DEAN BECKER: I’m here with a man who heads up the Marijuana Majority. You’ve seen him out there on the net in one fashion or another, a long-time friend, Mr. Tom Angell.
How are you doing?
TOM ANGELL: I’m doing good, Dean. It’s great to be here at the SSDP conference. It’s good to see you and good to talk to your audience.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you. I can’t summarize what you do. Tell the folks a bit about what you do.
TOM ANGELL: I mostly specialize in PR and media relations trying to convince journalists to cover this movement, cover the need to change marijuana policies and, in particular, treat this like the mainstream, majority-supported issue that it is.
I think that is the biggest problem that we face in this movement. So many people – particularly elected officials – agree with us but feel like this is still a marginalized, third-rail issue and they are afraid to say so publically as they think they’ll be attacked as “soft on drugs” or “soft on crime.”
I really try to make people aware of the polling that shows a growing majority of Americans supports legalizing marijuana, super majorities of Americans support other reforms like medical marijuana or letting states set their own marijuana laws without federal interference. I try to put a spotlight on those prominent voices that are speaking up about this and show people that they are being rewarded and not attacked for it.
Really just letting people know that the social and political space already exists for them to say things in public about what they have longed believed behind closed doors.
DEAN BECKER: As a way of backing up and credentialing Mr. Tom Angel he’s been high echelon member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. He was up there in the top echelon of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and he knows what he is talking about when he presents these facts.
Tom, tell them where you are on the web, what kind of outreach you do have.
TOM ANGELL: Our website is http://marijuanamajority.com. If you go there you can see quotes from many prominent people from across the political spectrum who support reform of marijuana laws in one way or another. We make it very easy for people to share those quotes on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to help us spread the message that this is a mainstream issue. You can find us on Twitter at jointhemajority.
DEAN BECKER: I see this evolution or this growth of understanding specifically about marijuana but even about the drug war in general. People are beginning to realize that, “By God, we were duped.” There is just something off-base about what has been given to us as laws in this regard.
TOM ANGELL: I think people are aware of this. I think people have actually been aware of it longer than it has sort of surfaced in the mainstream because, like I said earlier, people have sort of viewed this as a marginalized issue.
Marijuana Policy Project did an interesting poll several years ago. They asked two questions. The first question was the standard, “Do you support medical marijuana (yes or no)?” and, of course, that got the normal response with between 70 and 80% of the people support that.
Then they asked a very interesting follow up question. They said, “Regardless of your own opinion do you think the majority of people support medical marijuana?” Only 18, 19, 20% of people said yes to that.
I think people have been awake for a long time. They just haven’t realized that it is OK to say that. I think we’ve reached the tipping point, we’re snowballing, whatever metaphor you want to use - the more people who realize it’s OK to speak up and do so the more other people are going to realize that as well.
We’ve got 2 states with legal marijuana now. We’ve got almost half the states with effective medical marijuana laws. We’re moving quickly and I don’t see us slowing down or reversing course any time soon.
DEAN BECKER: I’m with you. The snowball is rolling.
I live in Houston and I run into this constant thing – it’s kind of a slow evolution, devolution, whatever you want to call it of the drug laws. They are going to allow people to...they’re not going to call it an arrest but they’re going to haul people to jail for under 2 ounces of weed to sign a certificate that says they will pick up trash. Then the record will go away but they’ll still have a police record so if they get busted again then they’ll get arrests, then they’ll go to jail, then they’ll be prosecuted so you get the one time salvation on a drug charge.
This was a clone of the Democratic candidate who wanted to ticket (not arrest, not jail) ...
TOM ANGELL: ...for DA you’re talking about?
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, running for DA. You could go through the picking up trash thing and get busted the next week and no arrest, no jail but the Republican took that idea and says, “We’re going to give them one chance and we’ll look like we’re making a difference.”
I guess what I’m saying is incrementalism can be good. It can stop a few arrests but it can also stall additional reform by saying, “Hey, we fixed this problem.”
TOM ANGELL: I think there always is a legitimate fear and concern about incremental reform, perhaps, taking the wind out of the sails of broader reform. I think that’s always something to be mindful about. I think it’s a legitimate discussion. Reasonable people can come down on both sides of how good is incrementalism.
I think, perhaps, I am a little more on the other side of the coin because I see when we achieve these incremental reforms we not only stop a few arrests and help people out...fewer people than would be helped by much broader reforms but I think, more importantly, it demonstrates that this movement has momentum. I think once we get these minor incremental wins on the books it’s actually much easier than to push for broader reform than if we were just starting from scratch, from the current prohibition laws but I do think that’s an important discussion to have and we always need to be mindful of how some legislators might say, “OK, we’ve got this incremental change. That’s enough. We’re not doing anymore.”
So I think reasonable people can disagree on the importance of incremental reform and how good it ultimately is.
DEAN BECKER: I think I am with you in accepting that but very reluctantly because it’s Houston for God’s sake.
Now on the national scale we have Eric Holder who’s stepping down and in the last year or two he’s been very willing to pick the discussions about drugs and prison reform to happen but he’s leaving us. What’s your thoughts there? What are we going to gain or lose?
TOM ANGELL: It’s a very interesting time right now. It’s sort of been an interesting evolution for Eric Holder as attorney general. As you and your listeners know during the first term of the Obama administration his Department of Justice oversaw the shuttering of more state medical marijuana providers than were closed down by the feds during 2 full terms of the Bush administration but since the 2012 election, since Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, since marijuana legalization got more votes than the president’s reelection effort did in Colorado the administration has been much more friendly to marijuana reform than previously.
We’ve seen the Justice Department essentially take a hand’s off approach to Colorado and Washington, got out of the way in large part and allowed these states to effectively implement those laws so we’re able to demonstrate to the country that we can do this – that this works, that it benefits society and citizens.
Let’s remember that a new attorney general has not been nominated. Eric Holder does have some time left in office still. Just the other day he made some remarks indicating that he might even be open to reevaluating marijuana as a status as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under federal law.
If he really believes that he could today, tomorrow, the next day – any time before he leaves office – initiate that process of reevaluating marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug.
It will be really interesting to see who the next attorney general is. Will that person continue the reforms that Eric Holder has started. One thing that I’m particularly concerned with is the fact that a lot of these reforms are simply administrative guidelines. They don’t carry the full force of law. The next president could easily reverse them. One thing I would really like to see the Obama administration do over the next couple of years before the president leaves office is to push congress to enact some changes.
Now, of course, we all know it’s hard to pass any legislation in the congress these days – drug policy reform aside – but they should at least be trying to do that.
DEAN BECKER: I’m going to miss Eric Holder. He liked my book so much he recommended that the DEA read it as well. He thanked me for his copy.
It is my hope that they could undo so many of these understandings about the dispensaries and so forth with just a stroke of a pen.
TOM ANGELL: Yeah, if they simply reschedule marijuana to Schedule III or lower that, alone, would solve the 280(e) tax issue.
DEAN BECKER: I know you probably want to get back to the conference. What do you anticipate with the upcoming elections? How many of these states are likely to pass...is there enough knowledge to form an opinion?
TOM ANGELL: That’s a great question. I think it’s something we are all wondering and perhaps slightly nervous about. The polling is looking very close in some of these states. There are 4 states with big marijuana reform initiatives.
My quick predictions as of today would be that legalization in D.C. passes handily. Medical marijuana in Florida passes by a slim margin. It needs to get 60% of the vote as a constitutional amendment. Oregon would pass legalization by a slim margin. Unfortunately, I’m not that optimistic about Alaska. I think that may lose by a slim margin.
We’ll have to see. It’s going to be a fight. Our movement is facing the challenge of a perception among many supporters of legalization that marijuana simply going to legalize itself. We have to make the case to these supporters that they need to be registered. They need to get out to the polls. They need to ask their friends and family to vote in favor as well because marijuana is not, in fact, going to legalize itself. It takes some movement.
DEAN BECKER: One last question. Due to your experience with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition I want to ask you this one and it’s a different thinking cap. Is the progress being made towards the legalization of marijuana around the country – hell, around the world - doing anything towards a better understanding of perhaps legalization of these other drugs?
TOM ANGELL: Yeah, that, again, is another challenge our movement faces. I know a lot of people are legitimately concerned that once marijuana becomes legal many people in the movement will feel that their needs are taken care of and they won’t stick around for the remaining big fights that we have.
I, on the other hand, am a little more optimistic. I think that once we demonstrate to the public that you can take a previously prohibited drug, regulate it, legalize it, tax it, create an industry that creates jobs, take that money out of the black market, make that drug safer than it otherwise would be if it were uncontrolled and unregulated, I think it will help propel reforms, important reforms concerning the other drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Tom. I would think so as well. We’ll still have gangs and cartels if we legalize weed and those problems will still be around. We’ll just have to recognize that we haven’t quite solved the problem.
One more time point folks to your main website where they can get in touch with you.
TOM ANGELL: Check out our website at http://marijuanamajority.com We’re also on Facebook at http://facebook.com/marijuanamajority and on Twitter at jointhemajority.
Homer Simpson: I had a bad experience with drugs.
Homer Simpson: It was that golden weekend between summer school and regular school.
Lenny Leonard: Hey Homer, you wanna smoke some marijuana?
Carl Carlson: They say it’s a gateway drug.
Police Officer: Well, well, if it isn’t the Doobie Brothers?
Lenny Leonard: Oh, uh. Crotch the weed, man.
Police Officer: Smell any drugs, Sergeant Scraps?
Sergeant Scraps (dog): (sniffs and growls)
(Sergeant Scraps attacks Homer Simpson who is screaming.)
Homer Simpson: For me, the sixties ended that day in 1978.
(Game show music)
It’s time to play: Name That Drug By Its Side Effects
Yellow eyes, vomiting, black tarry stools, cloudy urine, fever with chills, sores, ulcers or white spots on lips and mouth and unusual bleeding.
The answer: Another FDA approved product, Acetaminophen.
[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
CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: My name is Chris Goldstein. I am the co-chair of Philly NORML but I’m also now the Associate Editor of Freedom Leaf Magazine. This is a new free magazine that’s going out through all the NORML and SSDP chapters. We are printing 50,000 copies next week and it will be out and in chapter hands by about October 15th. It’s an election special so it’s out there to help promote a lot of the ballot initiatives and what people need to get out and vote for. As Willie Nelson told me on Friday, “Get out and vote. Don’t get relaxed about this stuff. If you can vote early, vote early.”
DEAN BECKER: That’s good advice – especially coming from Willie. He’s such an icon, respected across the board isn’t he?
CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: He is and he is so warm and approachable. He’s such a great human being. He is so generous. He even had Maureen Dowd on his bus in Washington, D.C. after he offered for her to get high any time after she e isHHew hhate too much of her chocolate out there in Colorado.
If you were to choose anybody to be the ambassador of all American cannabis consumers we’re really lucky to have him fill that position.
DEAN BECKER: You’re damn straight. I was lucky enough to get past Gator and got on the bus back in Austin one time. Me and “what’s his name” (the big guy from “Asleep at the Wheel”)...we had a good talk and Willie pushed that joint across the table, looking me in the eye...
CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: The toughest thing I’ve ever had to do on my federal probation, Dean, is turn down a joint from Mr. Willie Nelson, himself but he gave me a rain check for once I finish up my stint on probation and I’ll be back there on the bus to hopefully take him up on that.
He had a lot of great stuff to say. I hope everybody checks out the interview in Freedom Leaf magazine this month. A portion of it is posted online. We’ll even have some video of that interview. We talked about Hillary Clinton coming on the bus and what he thinks of Hillary’s presidential run maybe.
He’s 81-years-old. He doesn’t look 81-years-old. He certainly doesn’t play guitar like he’s 81-years-old. I’ve seen him 5 times live in concert. He really was inspired guitar playing I saw this time from hard blues’ riffs to like a Spanish-style breakout and things like that. He really showcased his playing. He was throwing his bandanas out into the crowd. He’s one of the best musicians America has ever had. We’re really lucky that he is the best ambassador for American cannabis, too.
DEAN BECKER: Us old news’ hounds we’ve been to a SSDP convention or two over the years. It’s always exciting to see these young kids with that fire, that enthusiasm, that spirit isn’t it?
CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: And what’s so cool is they come in from around the country. I don’t think that there’s any conference that really draws this kind of young people and this kind of young talent from all around the country. Keep in mind that SSDP is 16-years-old this year and alumni from this organization are working in every branch of government. They’re clerking for judges. They’re working at politician’s offices. They’re out there really affecting change out there.
At 16-years-old a lot of the folks that were in SSDP 16 years ago are the leaders of today. That’s what the organization keeps doing. The sort of broad view that the organization has from the local level changing campus policies and changing marijuana policies on campuses to harm reduction strategies all the way down the road. It’s vital to this movement.
I work on marijuana reform but they have a bigger picture and I think that’s really important today. It is exciting. I think it’s a heck of a lot more exciting than some of the old fogey conferences that we go to. Certainly more exciting...there’s a lot of industry seminars and expos happening out there in the country but it’s this kind of conference that really gets people energized for the political reform that we need in America.
DEAN BECKER: Tell folks more about the release of the magazine.
CHRIS GOLDSTEIN: We’re going to send it out to all the SSDP and NORML chapters. We’re going to make sure that we got NORML chapters in Texas on that list for sure. They are going to go all around the country. It’s a free magazine.
In this first issue we’ve worked really hard to make it an election special but also we wanted a high quality first issue so that people get that second issue, too and we increase our distribution base. In this issue we have an interview with Ben Palera. He is running the United for Care campaign down in Florida – the Yes on 2 campaign. We’ve got that interview with Willie Nelson. We have articles from Victor Pino here at SSDP, Keith Stroup at national NORML, Paul Armentano has a rundown of all the ballot initiatives in all of the states, Sabrina Fendrick has a rundown of the top 5 women running for office who are pro-marijuana from Diane Russell in Maine to Bonnie Watson-Coleman running for congress in New Jersey.
We’re really working hard to bring you the good news and the positive news in marijuana reform. I really believe that this will be an important advocacy tool as we go into every month during the next year.
What will it take to motivate? Please visit drugtruth.net
DEAN BECKER: As we wrap it up here I want to thank the good folks at Beaumont NORML for inviting me to come speak this week as a representative of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
There are hundreds of us now, speakers for LEAP, across America willing to come to your organization about the need to change the eternal drug war. You can learn more at http://leap.cc
With any luck our guest on next week’s program will be Froma Harrop – a columnist who just wrote this great article about ending the War on Drugs.
Here’s the thing. The drug war is ending...slow, ugly and bloody. It really needs you to go find your elected officials. Give them a hug. Tell them it’s alright to end this madness.
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