11/02/14 Kim Ogg

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Kim Ogg, DA candidate for Houston/Harris County calls for smarter war on drugs + Chris Conrad, called by Federal Govt to address Schedule I classification for cannabis.

Audio file



DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

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, your host, and I thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Well, the election season is upon us. We're going to have a great interview with the Democratic candidate running for District Attorney of Harris County, Houston TX, here in just a little bit but we're going to start this off with a national story, if you will, about the potential rescheduling on the Controlled Substance Act for marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Out in California there's something going on that I think we really need to pay attention to, and here to tell us about it is the editor of The Leaf Online, Mr. Chris Conrad. How you doing, sir?

CHRIS CONRAD: I'm doing quite well, Mr. Becker, good to hear from you.

DEAN BECKER: Now Chris, tell us a little bit, kind of preface, what was this about, before we get into what actually happened.

CHRIS CONRAD: Well, this is a case where I've been appointed by the federal government as an expert witness for the defense. And while the case was wending its way through the courts and we were working on the investigations, the US Supreme Court handed down two decisions, one of them being the Voting Rights Act, striking down the Voting Rights Act, and the other one being striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

The historical background is that the last time the Supreme Court looked at this issue was in the Ashcroft versus Raich, and in that decision they rejected the claims of medical necessity for Ms .Raich. Actually she was suing the government so she wasn't the defendant, the government was. But it sided with the government, but it put a footnote that said in the light of future scientific developments, that it might reconsider this issue, it would be willing to reconsider.

And so Zenia Gilg was the main attorney in this particular situation, so she framed the argument on these three points. The first is that Raich said that they would get another opportunity to discuss the Schedule 1 status of marijuana, the second one being that whereas in the Raich decision the Court said that the Controlled Substances Act going back to 1970 was so entrenched in law that they couldn't change it, which was kind of shocking considering how frequently they change laws. But nonetheless the Voting Rights Act went back to 1964 and they summarily threw it out, so the claim that you can't mess with old laws, they basically threw out their own argument there.

And then the third one was that they said that even though society was accepting medical marijuana, that it's up to the government to accept it, and that's up to Congress, that's what they said in the Raich decision. But in the Defense of Marriage Act, it said that society's attitude toward gay marriage has changed so much that the law passed by Congress no longer was valid. Well, what we're saying is that now we have 23 states that have medical marijuana, we have two states that legalized marijuana, we have 76% of doctors saying they support, we have 80% of the population who support medical marijuana legalization.

We've got the social change that the Defense of Marriage Act said we have to have, we have the new science that Raich said, and we have the historical longevity of the law is less than that they used with the Voting Rights Act, so on the basis of those three things, the judge granted a hearing and that's what we've been doing so far, it's a motion, we're not actually even to the case yet. This is an evidentiary motion that says that because marijuana should not be in the Controlled Substance Act, so therefore Court has to reconsider the charges against these three people.

DEAN BECKER: Now, there has been a lot of back-and-forth between the expert witnesses on one side and mostly government, uh, apparatchiks if I've got that right, on the other side, is that they're still relying on the same old hysteria and propaganda, and ignoring or saying they haven't seen any of the more recent science. Is that true?

CHRIS CONRAD: Well in a sense that is true, they did not quite send a government apparatchik, they didn't send anybody from the Food & Drug Administration to defend the position, because, that's one of the things we said is that the Food & Drug Administration is the wrong agency to consider this because marijuana is a botanical drug, it is not a pharmaceutical drug, that the FDA is the wrong group. And interestingly enough the government never sent anyone to argue that point.

Instead, they sent what I would call a corporate apparatchik, medical research, well an academic researcher actually, who focuses on the Food & Drug Administration standards the way that it applies to studies that are done by corporations. And her position is that plants are not medicines, and that only things that go through the FDA process but she wouldn't talk about what that process was or the limitations of the process, she just said that plants cannot go through that process.

But she said that plant medicine is old medicine and plants don't work anymore, she compared it to bleeding, with leeches and stuff like that. And oo in a way she sounded like a real idiot, on the other hand though you know because of her familiarity with those things, Zenia Gilg pointed out to her that 76% of doctors supported these, the medical research, and she tried to say that the fact that she didn't accept it outweighed the 76% of doctors who do support it.

Likewise there were studies that showed within that two thousandths of one percent accuracy the medical utility of cannabis, this doctor said, well, she thought there were flaws because they focused primarily on people who were experienced marijuana smokers. And Zenia Gilg said well, are you saying that people who are experienced marijuana smokers should not have medicine? And she said no, but she thinks it's a flaw in the study. So in other words you're saying even though they're accepted scientific studies that she personally did not accept it, and so therefore based on her personal opinion that people should continue to go to prison.

But basically like I say, she is a corporate lackey, she is like, pharmaceutical companies get to decide what's medicine, they get to decide what goes to the FDA, they get to decide what we get to consume, and the things that come from the earth are not acceptable for humans.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Well, and that's been kind of a, I won't say a roadblock, it's becoming more transparent. I would hope that the judges, the panel sitting in on this, were able to see through some of that magic that she …

CHRIS CONRAD: Well in a sense that where I came into the picture, Dean. We had a physician who is a clinician who discussed the scientific studies, we had people who spoke about their own medical use to show it is medically useful, we had Dr. Phillip Denney, about how a practicing physician is treated and so forth and the work that he's known about.

And my part in this whole thing as a marijuana expert was to talk about the safety and efficacy and the standards that exist for the quality of marijuana, the lack of health consequences even when it's not used properly, but moreover, the fact that, for example the prosecution kept saying, well people use pesticides on marijuana. And I said well some people do, but if you don't use those pesticides there's no residue on it, and some of the pesticides are designed to break down into inert matter after a short amount of time.

And so I was explaining why these things that he kept saying, well people put adulterants into marijuana, people put herbicides around marijuana, people use rodenticides around it, and we're saying, that's all the result of the black market.

That, we have groups, including the American Herbal Pharmacopeia, which actually involved the head of the federal Investigational New Drug Program's medical marijuana supply, he was actually part of the program that designed these protocols for safety, purity, and standard potency of cannabis, and in fact a lot of my testimony had to do with the fact that the federal government has been doing this for the past thirty years, through the Investigational New Drug Program.

And so they, on the one hand, they have what they consider to be safe, pure, standardized marijuana for research and for their IND program but they say it's impossible to do that, the very thing that they've been doing for thirty years. So hopefully the judge can look at that and say, well, if it's impossible how come the government has been doing it for thirty years?

And the other thing is that, as we mentioned, the American Herbal Pharmacopeia is – we're kind of in a way embracing the fact that the FDA is the wrong group, you know, it's like, it should be the botanical regulations and the American Herbal Pharmacopeia sets those standards for the botanicals industry. They put it in the wrong part of the code, it should be an over-the-counter botanical drug, it should not be a controlled, scheduled substance, and that the fact that of them putting it into Schedule 1 has in fact created all the problems they're talking about, not only about toxins, or potential toxins in the supply of marijuana, but moreover the criminal element being involved in it, which is another thing they spoke about to me, isn't that a problem? And I said well, yeah, and that problem is caused by the government putting it in Schedule 1 where it should not be.

The doctors arguing is a tougher thing because the judge can say well, some doctors say one thing and other doctors say others, but when it came to my subject they didn't have anybody they could put up that says no they cannot control those things.

DEAN BECKER: I think we should tell folks about the IND program, and that is the federal government program that has been providing pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes to, well now down to 3 or four people, but on a continuous basis for over thirty years now, right?

CHRIS CONRAD: Actually I think it's thirty-six years this year, by the way, just to put a number on it, but it was 1978. It's a real honor for me to have the opportunity to actually testify in this. And, you know, the thing to me is, a lot of people don't think we're real likely to win this, but what I think we are doing is we're creating the blueprint for the next case, meaning that whatever the judge says she doesn't like here, the next time a motion like this is filed they'll know where to go, and eventually we're going to eradicate all of their arguments.

DEAN BECKER: We've been speaking with Mr. Chris Conrad, marijuana expert extraordinaire. Please, point them to your website, The Leaf Online.

CHRIS CONRAD: TheLeafOnline dot com (theleafonline.com) or Chris Conrad dot com (chrisconrad.com) if people need legal expert support services.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play “Name That Drug By Its Side Effect”. Dizziness, nausea, chest pain, numbness, tingling, ringing in your ears, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath with pain spreading to arm and shoulder, loss of vision, painful penis. Time's up! The answer: from Pfizer Incorporated, Viagra, for erectile dysfunction.

DEAN BECKER: Well things are coming down to the wire, the election is coming up here real soon, and thus far I haven't heard back from Devon Anderson, been trying to get her to come on the show here. She's the Republican incumbent District Attorney here in Houston. But luckily we do have her Democratic opponent, Kim Ogg, on the line. Hello, Kim.

KIM OGG: Good morning, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Kim, I, back several months ago I had invited you on the show, and I invited your opponent. And it's funny, the morning after our discussion they called me at 7am to cancel, saying they didn't want to come on my show. And, I don't know what I've done to offend them but I wanted to let folks to know that I've been trying to get her on air, and I think this is our third time to have Kim Ogg on with us. Now, Kim, I hear the numbers are getting pretty close, it's coming down to the wire, is it not?

KIM OGG: Rice University's poll shows that Devon Anderson and I are in a neck and neck race for DA, which is remarkable given that it's a midterm election year. I think it shows that people care about the issues, and they care about the way that drug policy is being enforced in this county, and they want a change.

DEAN BECKER: I think that's true. I was at the Baker Institute just last night, and they had kind of an open house you know with all the various groups that work within the Baker Institute, but the Drug Forum table attracted more people, maybe it attracted every person that attended there, it was very busy. It is a topic whose time, who is getting the attention of the people quite often these days.

Now, I know you as a former prosecutor, as a longtime lawyer, you understand the law. You are not, uh, I hear these thoughts that you're going to release all the drug dealers, or you're going to do all these crazy things, I don't think you're going to do any such thing. Tell us what you want to do in regards to these low-level drug charges.

KIM OGG: I simply want to put our tax dollars to work fighting the real criminals: burglars, gang members, robbery rings. The reason that those ads are coming out is because my opponent is being supported by local politicians who don't want to be investigated for public corruption, because she's clearly soft on that.

Also, I think you've got folks who are part of the prison-industrial complex who like the way things are, who want to fill our jails with young, mostly minority, mostly male, mostly poor people, to keep their jobs and to keep the prisons full. There's a lot of money in this industry, Dean, and these folks aren't going to give up Texas any time soon, it's a real fight, and it's going to take every single person who's looking for a fair justice system for everybody to get out and vote, to really dig deep, find out what they're made of, what they believe in, contribute, volunteer, and fight these folks who are making money off other people's misery.

You know when we started throwing marijuana offenders in the same jail cell with murderers and rapists, we lost some, I think, of our ethical perspective and certainly this does not make us a safer community. In fact, it can turn good people who had jobs and who were responsible into folks who don't feel like they have any other alternative other than crime. Now that's not an excuse, and I wouldn't excuse them for more serious crimes, but every person we convict is one less person that's available for our labor pool and we're in the middle of a boom here.

So, this is the result, these attack ads claiming that I'm going to release drug dealers and that kind of thing are just lies, and they're being funded by people with a financial interest in keeping drug, failed drug policy alive and well. One of my opponent's biggest supporters are the bondsmen. Well, figure that out. People have to make bonds when they get arrested for drugs, even a tiny amount of marijuana means you're going to have at least a $500-$1,000 bond. Those folks are behind my opponent. My program is no jail, no bail, and no permanent record for misdemeanor marijuana, so long as you earn it. And earning it just means doing some community service that benefits the rest of the community. That's it.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know Kim, it was, I think it was back in August, you and I began talking about this and what soon or quickly became your grace program was shown as being embraced by your opponent, Ms. Anderson, was shown as being almost identical to what you were bringing forward, but the truth of the matter is, is that she used maybe just one percent of your idea to kind of discount what you had put forward. Am I Right?

KIM OGG: Yes. Anderson in January of this year said that she was going to prosecute every drug offender regardless of the amount of marijuana they had, regardless of how small it was, to the fullest extent of the law. She's been filing 12,000 cases a year against ordinary people in possession of tiny amounts of marijuana at a cost of about $10 million to the taxpayers out there.

When I came out with the grace program, basically saying we're going to use that same $10 million on serious criminals and come up with an alternative under the current law for misdemeanor marijuana possessors, she immediately flipped, I think sensing the winds of political change and peoples' more progressive attitudes about marijuana sweeping the country right now, and said she had her own program. And she promoted the program as almost identical to ours saying, people wouldn't go to jail, it would leave cops on the street longer, all the same things that I'm promoting.

However, in truth, her program continues to be primarily used against young minority males, it's only available if you're arrested or if you're stopped by HPD and a county sheriff, it doesn't apply if you're arrested in Katy, Pasadena, by constable, or any of the other law enforcement agencies. And, most importantly, in the small print, it's a pilot program, basically meaning once she gets elected, it will be gone.

DEAN BECKER: Not making available, you know, the same options to, to get a ticket, to …

KIM OGG: I think that's really unconstitutional, I don't see how it's fair. It's not fair, in fact, it's not that I don't see it, it's just not fair to say that if you're arrested by one agency you don't have to go to jail for a joint and if you're arrested by a different law enforcement agency, you do. And it's, it's still a 60 to 90 day program where people are put through treatment, if you will. You know, that's almost offensive any more, forcing the idea that these people are serious drug addicts down their throat by requiring them to get treatment for something that's legal in two states and medically available in 24 more.

We're in the middle of a burglary epidemic, we have the highest burglary rate in the nation, 190,000 burglaries and thefts being reported, and HPD telling the taxpayers they're too busy to investigate those crimes. Well, we need a strong DA who will take a leadership role. I'm going to map the locations of the burglaries, we're going to do a little link-analysis between criminals because I think what we're going to find is that the evidence will show that these are burglary rings, professional criminals who perform dozens of burglaries each week. It's not just a bunch of kids trying to get dope money because they're crazed, that what it is are for-profit criminal organizations.

And I'm going to be very tough with those guys, they're going to prison, I've already said no probation for burglars, no mercy. So it's the opposite of grace, and it's a far better use of the $10 million in savings that we'll reap by diverting marijuana offenders into community service. These are not new concepts, but they are new in application and they definitely are against the financial interests of bondsmen, law enforcement organizations, prison industry, and politicians who I think are doing the old bait-and-switch, saying let's focus on something other than public corruption because our district attorney hasn't prosecuted a public official, even a judge who backdated orders hurting thousands of families here in Harris County, hasn't done it because those are political allies of hers.

And so, that's not the role of the DA, the DA has to be impartial, and has to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars, and that's what a sensible drug policy means, that we're going to go after the real criminals, not folks who are simply violating the law like most people who get caught with small amounts of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: And it is time to re-examine what we're up to, right?

KIM OGG: It absolutely is, Dean. We all have children, especially the older people, they've got grandchildren, sometimes greatgrandchildren. These are often the people who are swept up in the dragnet that's being promoted by people who have money to make off drug arrests, incarceration, and failed drug policy.

Additionally you've got real organized crime. You've got cartels here who would much rather see the efforts of law enforcement being worked on small-time users rather than looking at the folks who are trafficking massive amounts of hard drugs, people, stolen goods, and perpetrating a lot of the property crimes as well as the violent crimes right here in town. So you've got an insidious group of allies working together to keep the spotlight on small-time, nonviolent users because it keeps the heat off them.

DEAN BECKER: The ironic thing is that much of your ideas within the grace program that we're talking about were actually signed into law by the Texas legislature, signed by Governor Perry, a few years back.

KIM OGG: In 2007, Perry signed the law that a Republican legislature passed, that said for nonviolent misdemeanors, an arresting officer could simply summon the person to court. That was in response to jails that were overcrowded in the towns that even Republican lawmakers didn't want to fund. So, the first half of grace is already law. The second half is simply pretrial diversion, that law's been around for twenty years. And all that does is allow the prosecution to utilize his discretion, sentence the person to community service, and then at the end of the service, if the person performs well, dismiss the case in a way that allows the individual to expunge or clear their record.

And that's what's so important about 100,000 people being arrested and convicted for misdemeanor amounts of marijuana in the last seven years. That's our labor force, it's labor that came to me and told me that problem, that informed me we're the only city in the country that has more jobs than applicants. The reason: too many small drug convictions on people's past that makes it difficult for them to get training in things as simple as air conditioning, plumbing. Businesses that would require them to be bonded because they go into people's homes.

Most people mature out of the behavior they engage in when they're younger. All of us have made errors in judgment, I certainly have. And so, I think that most voters, and most people who live in Houston, believe that we should all get a second chance, and that certain crimes need to be put in their appropriate prioritized place: serious crimes on top, low-level law violations on bottom. We just don't have enough resources to jail and nail everybody, and I don't think it's good for the economy to approach criminal justice like that.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again we've been speaking with Kim Ogg, running for district attorney of Harris County, and perhaps in the next day or two her opponent Devon Anderson will give me a call but I just want to say that, you know, supposed to be fair under the law, give both sides the opportunity. Perhaps she'll call. Kim, any closing thoughts?

KIM OGG: Yes. I'd love everybody to look at my website, look at my record. I've been a crimefighter all my life, I've run the gang task force, crimestoppers. I believe that we can have a much safer city if we take a reasonable approach to our drug policy. I think we could have a fairer justice system that doesn't put all of the, all of the burden on minority communities, young males, mostly poor, in filling up our jails with people who are, those are not the people who are necessarily committing the burglaries and thefts. If so, we wouldn't be living in the epicenter of the worst burglary epidemic in the country.

So, we can change our world, we can change it with a vote. There's so much discretion vested in the district attorney and there's only one. Devon Anderson quit debating me mid-October, refused the League of Women Voters, has refused to make any public appearances, instead relying on advertisements on television that absolutely promote lies about my program. I will not release drug dealers, I will not release anybody, everybody will be held accountable. But I'm proposing smart, common sense, criminal justice system that gets us the results we want: a safer community.

DEAN BECKER: All right, then, the website please.

KIM OGG: Kim Ogg dot com (kimogg.com). Dean, you've been a real champion on this issue. I've read, not all of your book, but many of the chapters of it and I've got to tell you it's well done, it's well researched, it comes from a very, very common sense and law enforcement perspective. And I want to commend you on your work, I think the time for this issue is finally here, and voters can prove that by voting for me on Tuesday, Kim Ogg for Harris County District Attorney.

DEAN BECKER: I want to make note that after my discussion with Kim Ogg it was reported that the current DA Devon Anderson, her lab has messed up, they showed that there was negative testing for drugs for hundreds of people who have been convicted, many of them sentenced and have served their sentence. They wrote these defendants to say, we notify you so that you can take action to have your conviction removed.

Quick thought, in the District of Columbia they're talking about legalizing weed. Here's what went on in one of their Council hearings the other day.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It destroyed my ability to be able to go out and get a good job, I didn't want to finish high school, it made me lazy, it made me lie, it made me steal, it made me cheat people, and it started with marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: No comment other than to say, because of Prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.