12/12/14 John Urquhart

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Sheriff John Urquhart of King County (Seattle) Washington in support for Houston Police Chief Charles McClellans call that drug war is a failure + Barbara Brohl Colorado Dir of Revenue & Mark Thornton of Mises Institute * CALL FOR RALLY Dec 17 at noon at YOUR courthouse - 100 Years of Prohibition is ENOUGH!

Audio file


DECEMBER 12, 2014


DEAN BECKER: Just last week, we had the police chief of Houston on as a guest on our show. He hit one way out of the park with his thoughts on bigotry, unequal justice, and his thought that the drug war is a miserable failure. With multiple stories in the Houston Chronicle, dozens of sites on the web, positive reports on NBC, a super-positive 7-minute panel on Fox, and yesterday's massive editorial in the Houston Chronicle titled “Wise Counsel: Congress should listen to what Houston police chief Charles McLelland has to say.” Now joining us today for some more wise counsel is the sheriff of King County, Washington, Seattle, with more than 38 years in law enforcement, 12 years as a narcotics officer, I want to welcome Sheriff John Urquhart. How are you, sir?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I'm just fine. Thank you very much for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. I've been a big fan ever since you spoke last year to Congress, to Senator Leahy's committee, and shared some profound truths with them about the drug war. What response did you receive after that visit to Senate?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well you know there wasn't a whole lot of response that I got specifically other than to say I think that there's an official lot of sheriffs and police chiefs, sheriffs in particular, that don't agree with my views on the legalization of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Now, sir, when our Chief McLelland spoke up last week, he kind of paralleled what you presented there at the Senate, and best I can tell he's not drawn any flack for his statements, and I'm wondering about your thoughts about why that may be?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well you know, it's hard to say why he's not getting any pushback. And even my pushback, very few police chiefs or sheriffs said anything to my face. But I'm hearing, you know, kind of behind the scenes that there's a bit of grumbling going on. You know, you have to realize that, that police departments and sheriff's offices don't tend to be particularly progressive. They love the status quo, and I think that's part of what's, what's happening. But there clearly is a movement within law enforcement to talk about the drug war, the failed drug war, and I certainly couldn't agree with your chief more, that it has been just a miserable, abject failure, the war on drugs. Therefore we need to look at something different, a different approach than what we've had for the last thirty or forty years, and I say that from the view of a former drug detective who put lots and lots and lots of people in jail.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you sir. Now, Sheriff Urquhart, in July I went to Washington DC to attend a US House conference, the focus was on my book, To End The War On Drugs. Now we delivered a copy to the President, his cabinet, every senator, every representative, nine Supreme Court justices, and we mailed a copy to all fifty governors. And, I guess with a distribution of more than 600 copies we expected to rattle the cage, to get some sort of response, but other than get letters of thanks from Justice Kagan and Attorney General Eric Holder, there was zero response from government or the media. Why do you think that is, sir?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I think government in particular, and especially the federal government are loathe to change, they don't like change. I mean, they've staked their careers, everything they've done as elected representatives or appointed representatives on the status quo, and they see no reason to change that. It's not, it's certainly not just on the drug war, the drug policies, I mean the federal government in particular has to be dragged kicking and screaming into any kind of change, whether it's civil rights, whether it's marijuana, whatever it is. And it's usually the public that's way out ahead of the government. Maybe that's the way it should be, I don't know, but it certainly is frustrating, when a lot of people say it really very clearly, let's try something new, what we've done all along has not worked. It's time to do something new.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, again we are speaking with Sheriff John Urquhart of King County, Washington. You know sheriff, for 15 years I've tried to get the heads of the ONDCP, and the DEA, to be guests on my show to defend the policy of eternal drug war and it's been to no avail. And they'll go on NBC, ABC, all these other stations, I realize I may be low on the totem pole, but as a genuine representative of the press, don't you think they should pay me a visit.

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well I would certainly think so. I mean, what have they got to hide, is kind of the way I look at it. If you believe in your position, then you should talk about your position, and let the chips fall where they may. That's always been my opinion anyway.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Now with that Chronicle stories, the editorial, there was a recognition of the confusing approach of the federal government. The editors noted that the, what is it, Cromnibus bill that's being passed, it's going to take money from the Department of Justice so they won't prosecute medical marijuana clubs, but it's also wanting to de-fund the effort to legalize cannabis in Washington, DC, and another new Department of Justice ruling, just yesterday I think, would allow for native Americans to grow and sell cannabis on their lands. Are these just examples of a two-faced government? Your thoughts, sir.

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Oh I'm sure of that, I think there is a two-faced government out there, I think there's a government, a federal government out there that can't really figure out what they want to do. You know, you talk about the famous or infamous Holder memo, and that – I take that back, you talk about the Cole memo I should say, the Cole memo that came out of Holder's Justice Department, where they, they basically said Okeh Colorado, okeh Washington, you can do this but, you know, we're going to be looking at this, we're going to be watching you very very closely, basically they shook their finger at, wagged their finger at the citizens of Washington state.

And at the same time, they refused to change the banking regulations. That's what really concerns me more, in Washington, because I don't want these, these legal retail establishments to be targets for robberies because it's a cash-only business. And they haven't really changed, even yet, even two years into this. So it really causes huge problems for the people that are running these businesses, and it causes huge problems for the state of Washington, how do we audit a cash-only business? It's very very difficult, and we certainly want and need the tax dollars that are being generated by the sale of marijuana. But again, it's difficult to audit a cash-only business.


SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: So it's difficult to see where they're coming from. And it's, again, it's a question of change, and they clearly don't like this change, they're uncomfortable with this change, but if the voters of Oregon now, and Washington DC, and Alaska, it's happening, the change is happening, good, bad or indifferent, this change is happening, and they might as well get on board with it.

DEAN BECKER: I hear you, sir. Now, despite the fact that you know, the ONDCP and DEA refuse to come on my show, it seems there are more and more politicians, law enforcement officials, that are starting to loosen their tongues and are starting to talk of need for change, calling it a hopeless morass with no chance of achieving its goals. Is courage, or new information, or some combination thereof causing them to loosen their tongues?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I think the public is causing them to loosen their tongue. Again, this is the public making this decision. The legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington passed with about 55 percent of the vote statewide. In my county, King County, which is the most populous, the most urban county in the state, it passed 63 percent. That's pretty much a mandate that the citizens of King County, and the state of Washington, wanted legalized marijuana. Now I'm not saying that they were jumping up and down over this, and I think they did it kind of holding their nose, it was like, okeh, let's give this a try. We're not real sure that this is going to work, and frankly I'm not real sure this is going to work, but I think it's worth a try.

What we've been doing all these years hasn't worked, it's time to try something new. And this is something new, let's give it a try. I call it a huge social experiment here, at least here in Washington, and now we're starting to see, starting to see some other states that are doing it. It's a big social experiment, let's try it, let's see if it works. If it doesn't work, well, then we'll try something else, but we've got to try something different.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir, I agree wholeheartedly. Now this past election, the citizens of California voted to de-felonize certain crimes, mostly dealing with low-level possessors of hard drugs. Now this will save their state eventually hundreds of millions of dollars, and I understand Roger Goodman, a Washington state representative, is bringing a similar law before your legislature. Your thoughts on de-felonizing hard drug possession.

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I think it's certainly something we should be looking at, absolutely. You know we've criminalized, at least with marijuana and with other drug laws as well, we've criminalized an entire generation of our citizens, and most of those have been African-Americans. We need to look – we need this conversation, that's the good thing about the legalization of marijuana, obviously in Washington, is we're having these conversations about our drug laws. I'm not ready to sign on, on Roger's law just yet, I know him, his heart is definitely in the right place, I want to look at the details, but you know, we're having that conversation, that's incredibly important, and it's something we haven't done in thirty years, or longer.

DEAN BECKER: Or longer, yes. This year, you produced a, I guess a public service announcement that was used in the state of Oregon to help gather votes for their cannabis legalization effort, and again, I wondered, did you get feedback from other law enforcement or what was the response?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I laugh because it was actually a commercial for the measure that was on the ballot, Measure 91 I think it was, to legalize marijuana, and that passed with over 60 percent in Oregon last November, last month. But there are 39, there are 36 sheriffs in Oregon, and from what I can tell, from what I've heard all 36 absolutely had a fit that I would come down to their state, the neighboring state of Washington, and say something about the legalization of marijuana. In fact, some of them tried to get me de-certified as a police officer in the state of Washington, they went that far. Well that clearly did not happen, and can't happen, but they were pretty upset with me.

And well, okeh, I get it. But the big beef, the biggest beef that I have with other police officers, and especially sheriffs and police chiefs, okeh, you don't like my position, what's your suggestion? What solution do you have for the failed drug war? I have yet to meet a sheriff or police chief that said Yeah, the war on drugs is working, it's worked, we're in good shape. None of them will say that, but they also won't present an alternative, they won't say what we should be doing, all they do is criticize. And that's really my biggest objection, I think that's intellectually dishonest to do that. You don't have to like what I'm in favor of, what's your suggestion? And boy, I haven't heard a darn thing.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. There's very little of that going around, I hear you. Now in that commercial, PSA, whatever it was, you mentioned that funds are being collected for use by the schools and the police. What kind of dollar amounts are we talking about?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well, it's certainly millions of dollars, and I – you know, frankly, I haven't been paying that much attention to it. I know that we are collecting money, we're actually exceeding the projections from the budget office in the state of Washington of what they expected to collect from marijuana processing and marijuana sales, so there, there is money that's available and that was one of the reasons that I was in favor of Initiative 502, that passed in November of 2012, because it would bring money into schools. You know, we have to have drug treatment, we have to have drug education, but we haven't had the money to do that, and now hopefully we will, and we are collecting money for that, through the taxation of retail sales of marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we're speaking with the Sheriff of King County, Washington, Mr. John Urquhart. John, when I interviewed Chief McLelland, I asked a lot of questions from my brothers and sisters from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Here's one I got from James Gierach, he's a former prosecutor in Chicago, it's quite simple, he asks: Which is worse, drugs or the drug war?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Hmm. I think, uh, I think they're equally bad. I think both have destroyed lives, both are continuing to destroy lives, and we need a different approach.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. That was a tough one, I hear you, sir. Now, a lot of politicians now talk about drug decriminalization as if it's the be-all, end-all cure. I see that as leaving the criminals still in charge of supply. What's your thought of decrim versus legalization?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: I think that legalization is the way to go. We need to, we have to take the criminal element, and I'm just speaking of marijuana, we have to take the criminal element out of the growth, the growing and the sales of marijuana, and that's what legalization will do. I think the parallels between alcohol are, are very very close, I mean you had the Al Capones of the world, and on and on and on, who were involved in the sale of alcohol when it was illegal. Once it was legalized, for the most part that criminal element left, because capitalism took over, and that's one of the reasons I supported the legalization here in the state of Washington.

DEAN BECKER: Given that law enforcement focuses so much on stopping drug crimes, if we were to stop doing those arrests, would it not benefit you being able to go after rapists, murderers, molesters and such more effectively?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well certainly if we could divert some of the resources that we spend in the drug war, we, there's other, other crimes that we could go after. And I am not a proponent of legalizing all drugs, let me be real clear about that, certainly not until we have the money to put into treatment, but right now we don't have that. So, again, I'm, I took a cautioned, reasoned, measured approach to change, that's why I supported the legalization of marijuana.

But we do spend a tremendous amount of money on the drug war, probably too much, I'd rather, I'd rather take some of that money and put it into treatment and put it into education, even if we didn't put it into treating other, into combating other crimes. I'm a big proponent of treatment, and there just is not enough money for that. You know, I talk about when I was a drug detective and all the people that were hooked on heroin, for example, that I took to jail, and if I had a dollar for every time an addict begged me, begged me to get them into a treatment program that didn't exist, man I could retire on that, that dollar each. That was a huge, huge thing, and it still is, the treatment programs aren't there. We spend all this money on the drug war, we don't spend nearly enough on treatment.

DEAN BECKER: I know your time is limited, I've got just another question or two here. Again folks, we're speaking with Sheriff John Urquhart of King County, Washington. This question comes from another Seattle law enforcement official, he was the former police chief Norm Stamper, he's in my band of brothers, LEAP. And he asks you, what do you say to the majority of Americans who say they've had enough of the drug war?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well I know Chief Stamper very well, he's a good friend of mine, I agree with a lot of what he has to say, and I think what we need to tell Americans is we are, we are try, some of us are trying to do something different. And my advice to people that are concerned about this is keep the pressure on, keep the pressure on their local politicians, keep the pressure on their federal politicians, to do something different, they're the ones that have to be convinced. If we have to do it in the ballot box, through initiatives like we did in Washington, then that's how we have to do it. And I predict that's the, that's the future of the war on drugs, because the institution is so entrenched in fighting this, that's it's going to come from the ballot box.

DEAN BECKER: Well sir, with my interview last week of Chief McLelland, and this one today with you, I, uh, it kinda has set me on a course, I want to find more police chiefs, more district attorneys, willing to come on here and talk about this, you guys have opened a door and I want to thank you for that, and your willingness to address the failings of this nation's drug war. Any closing thoughts, sir?

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Well just, what I would say is remember that King County is the largest county in the, in the entire united states that has legalized marijuana. King County has two hundred, uh has two million people, population, this is a big county, and they voted 63 percent to legalize marijuana. I think that's the future that will go across the country, because people are fed up with what's been happening for years and years and years and years, and they are willing to try something different.

DEAN BECKER: All right, sir. Here's hoping that we can continue this discussion in the future.

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Great. Thank you so much Dean, I appreciate being on your show.

DEAN BECKER: My hat's off to you, sir.

SHERIFF JOHN URQUHART: Thank you so much.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Loss of personal freedom, family and possessions. Ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing or employment. Loss of aggressive mindset. In a dangerous world, this drug's peaceful easy feeling may be habit-forming. Time's up. The answer: Doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffer, jazz, blunt, stege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, mary jane, marijuana, cannabis sativa, made by god, prohibited by man.

The following interview was conducted with Barbara Brohl, the director of the Colorado Department of Revenue.

JOHN HUDAK: Last year, or at the beginning of this year, Colorado started a very new policy venture in legalizing recreational marijuana, and we have about approached the one-year anniversary. Can you tell us a little bit about how the state is doing, rolling out this new policy area?

BARBARA BROHL: Well thank you John, I appreciate being here. Actually, the roll-out has been, you know, pretty smooth. We rolled out on January First, we were out in full force, making sure all the businesses were in compliance, and for the most part they all were, mainly anything that was out of compliance was just a question, that they had to do just a little bit of tweaking, and everything worked out really well.

In the intervening time, you know, we've – it's been a lot of work still, just implementing on january first wasn't kind of it, and so what we've been able to do is really look at how things were working and just continue to tweak. Couple things that we've done is taken a look at edibles, so we've promulgated some additional rules on that, we've had a couple of different stakeholder groups, and we've also been addressing things like production management because that's a really big deal, we've gotten new data, we've actually got our demand study and so we were reacting to that and responding to that, and then the last thing is that we're really working through the implementation of the testing requirements.

JOHN HUDAK: On the question of the testing requirements, this – it was a big issue at the beginning of the roll-out, understanding how much THC is in different products, edibles, but also in flower, how has that process gone in terms of readying the state to get the information that they need and then turning that into policy change?

BARBARA BROHL: Good question. Actually, what we were able to do as you know because everything kind of hit the ground running, we would have loved to have had all the labs up and running in advance of January First. That was not a possibility because we were also licensing them at the same time that we were licensing the businesses. But we were able to get them up and certified and right now as of today we have fifteen labs that are up and certified to do testing. What they're certified to do right now is potency testing, and we rolled that out in late spring, so in, uh, by June we had the requirements out there for potency testing for flower, concentrate, and also edibles.

JOHN HUDAK: One of the challenges that your partner, uh, in legalizing marijuana, Washington, has had has been with supply, and states that have legalized medical marijuana have also faced other challenges with having supply shortages and as a result, price increases. How has the state dealt with the demand that consumers have and the ability of the market to deliver?

BARBARA BROHL: Well, one of the advantages that Colorado had was that we had a pretty regulated medical marijuana market. As you know, we had licensed medical cultivations, licensed medical stores, and licensed medical products manufacturers. With that in mind, what we were able to do was allow for those businesses to be the first set that migrated over to recreational or retail marijuana usage or provisioning. And what that meant then was that there was already a built-in supply, because as you know it takes three to four months for, you know, a flower to grow so what we needed to do was have something that was going to be there on january first. So we allowed businesses to either migrate fully, or they could do a partial conversion, or they could wait until July and then just apply for a brand-new license.

JOHN HUDAK: And so the supply shortages that we heard about on January First tended to go away quite quickly as the full market came into effect?

BARBARA BROHL: Yes it did actually, and, and what my responsibility is and what my goal is is to look at the overall market, so an individual business might have had a shortage but overall the market had sufficient supply to meet the demand.

JOHN HUDAK: And since then we've had, we've seen Colorado relax the initial requirements that producers had to be from the medical system and allowed new entrants to the market. How has that transitioned to allowing new market actors then?

BARBARA BROHL: Well it's been really interesting because, when we allowed the first group to migrate over and they were all experienced medical marijuana businesses, it was easier, right, and that was actually one of the reasons that we did it was because we could migrate them over and it gave us, and it gave those businesses a chance to kind of ramp up and get up to speed. In October when, or July when we started to accept applications from new entrants and new individuals coming into this market, it took a little bit more work and we worked with them a little more closely because they were not as experienced in this kind of work.

And also in the regulatory environment, this is a heavily regulated industry and so there are a lot of things that they have to take into account, everything from background checks for employees, background checks for themselves, financial checks, all the way to having the MED, the Marijuana Enforcement Division, approve their space and where they're going to put everything. So, this was a new thing for them so that one took a little bit longer, but we've still been meeting the deadlines that we need to meet and we have started to issue those licenses.

DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Barbara Brohl, the executive director, the Colorado Department of Revenue. The interviewer was John Hudak, and you can view the full interview at Brookings dot EDU (brookings.edu).

One hundred years of drug prohibition is enough. Please join us at noon on Wednesday December 17th at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, 1201 Franklin. From KTRK-TV, Houston:

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: The time to legalize marijuana use in Texas is now.

DEAN BECKER: Mayor of Houston Annise Parker:

ANICE PARKER: I think that public opinion is going to shift on marijuana and it will be decriminalized in short order.

DEAN BECKER: Houston Police Chief Charles A. McLelland, Jr.:

CHARLES MCLELLAND: The taxpayers can't afford to build jails and prisons to lock up everyone that commits a crime. We do believe, those of us that are law enforcement executives, that the war on drugs was a miserable failure.

DEAN BECKER: This will be a rally against prohibition, not a protest. We'll have attorneys, activists, and patriots in attendance. Please join us Wednesday December 17th at noon at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. Contact Dean at drug truth dot net.

I hate to foist that PSA on the affiliate stations but here's hoping that you're doing something in your city as well, the idea being that in numerous cities around the country on Wednesday, December 17th, folks will gather at the local courthouse with attorneys, and activists, and just concerned citizens to call for an end to this madness, one hundred years of pipe-dreaming, one hundred years of fairy tales, it's time to bring it to an end. If you wanted to learn more, please visit Facebook, One Hundred Years Is Enough. There's other info at End Prohibition dot org (endprohibition.org).

Our guest next week will be Mr. Mark Thornton, he works for the Mises Institute, the Austrian economics institute, and here's what he has to say about the hundred years of drug war:

MARK THORNTON: There's clearly an ideological shift that has occurred in America. Fifty eight percent of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, and that number will continue to increase over time. And of course we've seen medical marijuana legalized, we've seen recreational marijuana legalized, and it's only a matter of time that states do similar things to medicalize the harder drugs. You know, even if you just went back to the original Harrison Narcotic Act, where they wanted to register users, register prescribers, you know, make sure that they know where all this, all these drugs are going to. Instead, the bureaucrats and the courts turned it into an outright prohibition.

This war on drugs was never intended in the first place. And so, once we wake up to this fact, once we realize we've been delusional, the idea that marijuana is a class one drug equal to heroin, the idea that we're making hemp illegal under the same statute, these are just insane notions, brought on by an insane bureaucracy, and people who have no understanding of what is really happening and how this war on drugs is destroying people's lives, it's killing people, and there's absolutely no reason for it. So I would encourage everybody to make a big deal about this anniversary.

DEAN BECKER: Well, we're about to wrap it up here but I've got a couple of things that I want to say here, and I hope folks that are sponsoring these rallies in the other cities which include Austin, San Antonio, Portland, Oakland, Washington DC, Stillwater Oklahoma, and others are doing something similar. I went to the meeting of the criminal lawyers association and I invited them personally to come speak at noon on Wednesday in front of our court house, I hope you all are doing the same. Also have been speaking with all the organizations: NORML, LEAP, the James A. Baker III Institute, all the organizations that believe in human rights and dignity. I just invited the sheriff and the DA to come on the show, to come to the rally, and this week I'm going to visit the city council to ask them to join us as well. Just takes a little effort and it's simple as pie.

And as always I remind you that because of Prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful, and be there, or truly, be square.