05/01/15 Ethan Nadelmann

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Ethan Nadelmann of DPA, Hillary Clinton, Neill Franklin of LEAP, comedian Eddie Griffen and Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre of Patients out of Time.

Audio file


MAY 1, 2015


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

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: It is not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally un-American.

CROWD: 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.

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I think we've got to say that a riot is the language of the unheard, and what is it that America's failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last few years. I think the answer about how long it would take will depend on the federal government, on the city halls of our various cities ,and I think white America will determine how long it will be and which way we go in the future.

DEAN BECKER: That of course was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I am Dean Becker, and you're listening to Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network. And this is Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton.

HILLARY CLINTON: Surely this is a time when our collective efforts to devise approaches to the problems that still afflict us is more important than ever. Indeed, it is a time for wisdom, for yet again the family of a young black man is grieving a life cut short. Yet again, the streets of an American city are marred by violence, by shattered glass and shouts of anger and shows of force. Yet again, a community is reeling, its fault lines laid bare, and its bonds of trust and respect frayed. Yet again, brave police officers have been attacked in the line of duty. What we have seen in Baltimore should, indeed, I think, does, tear at our soul.

From Ferguson to Staten Island to Baltimore, the patterns have become unmistakable and undeniable. Walter Scott, shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina. Unarmed, in debt, terrified of spending more time in jail for child support payments he couldn't afford. Tamir Rice, shot in a park in Cleveland, Ohio. Unarmed, and just 12 years old. Eric Garner, choked to death after being stopped for selling cigarettes on the streets of our city. And now, Freddie Gray, his spine nearly severed while in police custody. Not only as a mother and a grandmother, but as a citizen, a human being, my heart breaks for these young men and their families. We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.

There is -- There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts. There is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes, and an estimated 1.5 million black men are quote "missing" from their families and communities because of incarceration and premature death. There is something wrong when more than one out of every three young black men in Baltimore cannot find a job. There is something wrong when trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve breaks down as far as it has in many of our communities.

We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance, and these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again. We should begin by heeding the pleas of Freddie Gray's family for peace and unity, echoing the families of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others in the past years. Those who are instigating further violence in Baltimore are disrespecting the Gray family and the entire community. They are compounding the tragedy of Freddie Gray's death, and setting back the cause of justice.

So the violence has to stop. But more broadly, let's remember that everyone in every community benefits when there is respect for the law and when everyone in every community is respected by the law. That is what we have to work towards in Baltimore and across our country. We must urgently begin to rebuild the bonds of trust and respect among Americans. Between police and citizens, yes, but also across society. Restoring trust in our politics, our press, our markets. Between and among neighbors and even people with whom we disagree politically.

This is so fundamental to who we are as a nation, and everything we want to achieve together. It truly is about how we treat each other and what we value, making it possible for every American to reach his or her god-given potential regardless of who you are, where you were born, or who you love. The inequities that persist in our justice system undermine this shared vision of what America can be and should be.

DEAN BECKER: Well, today folks, we're privileged to have with us Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, he's head of Drug Policy Action, and he had a recent article appear in the Huffington Post, responding to some recent statements by Hillary Clinton. Ethan, if you would kind of summarize what that was about, tell us the nexus if you will to drug policy.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Yeah, I mean, I tell you Dean, Hillary Clinton gave a big speech, I think it was this morning, basically it's her first major policy speech since she's announced her candidacy for the president, so it's got some significance in that regard. And she chose to focus on the issue of mass incarceration, and the intersection with, you know, racial injustice in America and what has been happening in Baltimore for the last week or so. And so I have to say, that in itself was very significant, when the fact that she devoted the first speech that she's doing that, that she's connecting herself to that, that's significant.

It's also significant that just yesterday, before the New York Times had a major story about how virtually all the candidates, all the Democratic candidates, almost all the Republican candidates, are also, you know, saying that they want to reduce incarceration in America. So we're facing a situation where what used to be a third rail of American politics has now increasingly become a kind of, one of the rare areas where you see bipartisanship breaking out. And so in that sense, it's all very good, and one can well imagine, you know, with Hillary, she probably wasn't planning this weeks ago, there was probably lots of debate among her inside team about what her first major speech should be, this was probably one of the possibilities, and then with the outbreak of violence and the tragedy in Baltimore, I think she probably decided to do it on this issue, to try to seize the initiative.

You know, but I'll tell you, Dean, the flip side of this thing is, there's a part of me that goes, it's all great, we're all kumba-yahing around this, which is a very good thing not to be dismissed, and there's some real reforms happening and some real momentum, but here's my reservation: when the first one is simply that you actually look at what's coming out the other end, about the difficulty in moving anything forward in Congress right now, especially with the Republicans in control of both houses, when you look at the relatively small slow rate of reform in most, but not all, states, around the United States. I mean, that's -- and when you hear some of the proposals being put out there, like let's have more drug courts type stuff. I mean, none of that really inspires me and none of it is in any way addressing the magnitude of the problem.

I mean, the second thing I think is that I'd love to hear some of these candidates make a great big apology, you know, for their role in instigating and supporting this war on drugs beginning in the 80s and through the 90s and the last decade. I mean, a lot of these people were involved, and even Hillary, you know, I mean she wasn't president herself, she was first lady, but, you know, they participated in this. And there's some real value in once in a while a political leader showing the kind of leadership where they say I'm sorry, we made a mistake, when what you hear them saying now is, is basically, well, what we did back then was understandable at the time, we were scared about drugs and violence, and now it's gone too far so let's roll it back.

But what somebody needs to be saying is, we should never have done that. It was the wrong approach at the start, it was not the right way to deal with the crisis around crack cocaine, it was not the right way to deal with violence and mass incarceration was inappropriate on a policy perspective and a moral perspective, and it was from the get-go. That there -- in retrospect, you know, it should never have been done.

And then I think the last thing I feel about this is, you know, what's missing in a lot of this discussion right now is any real deeper conversation about how we deal with the reality of drugs in our society, apart from the marijuana legalization stuff, which has great momentum, although Hillary steered clear on that in her speech, and most of the candidates apart from Rand Paul are as well, in fact even Rand Paul is steering clear in some respects. But the fact of the matter is, what worries me is, inevitably there's going to be a new drug, and a new drug scare, and my concern is that the way America is politically wired and the way our consciousness operates around illicit psychoactive drugs, we're poised just to repeat the same old mistakes, unless we make a commitment to a fundamentally different way of dealing with drugs.

I mean, it was that mass hysteria around crack cocaine back in the mid-to-late 80s that provided, that then transformed the public policy into a war on drugs, into an ideological crusade, in which we just did enormous harm in this country, and that's the conversation it is pivotally important that that the conversations that are happening more and more and more around race and around racism and inequality in our country has to become ever more robust and include an ever broader part of the population, and it's equally true that the same sort of opening up and sort of come to Jesus about what it means, about drugs in our society and how we deal with that, without relying on the question of criminal justice system, and this is something we need to do.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, there you have it, some very astute words from Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, of the Drug Policy Action Group. Ethan, is there a website you'd like to share there?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Just go to DrugPolicy.org, it's the website about -- of both Drug Policy Alliance, our 501c3, as well as Drug Policy Action, the 501c4 which is the vehicle through which we engage in ballot initiatives and occasionally political campaigns.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy MSNBC.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Baltimore is cleaning up the debris from Monday night. There's two big questions about the distrust between the city's police department and the community it is supposed to protect and serve. Joining me now is Neill Franklin, a retired major from the Maryland State Police, former Baltimore police officer as well. Neill, thanks for being with us. This works both ways, of course, blame on both sides. From your perspective as a law enforcement expert, how did we get to this really bad situation, and wanted to talk to you about some of the reforms that have been suggested in mandatory minimum sentences and in drug diversion programs, that there's been excessive incarceration, basically disproportionately affecting the poor and particularly black men.

NEILL FRANKLIN: Yeah, I'm so glad you asked this question, because I heard you talking about, others talking about getting back to normal, and what does that mean? I mean, normal for many of the people in this city is not necessarily a good thing. If we're talking about normal getting back to the practices of zero tolerance, you know, arresting so many people for these nonviolent drug crimes, that's not a good thing. So what does that mean?

You also mentioned programs that are available such as drug diversion programs. Seattle has what is referred to as the LEAD program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, it is where law enforcement, where they come in contact with those who are using drugs and selling drugs at low levels, where they're diverted into a process of wrap-around services. That's drug treatment, that's health care, job training and job placement, a very successful program that's also gone to Santa Fe and they're looking for a place here on the east coast. That program was presented to the Baltimore police commissioner, it was presented to the Mayor's office behind me, and no one has taken advantage of it, and the money, the money was available to get that program up and running, would make a huge difference in this city.

You know, I left a very successful law enforcement career to manage an organization of thousands of law enforcement professionals, LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, to do this very thing, you know, to call issue to the war on drugs, and to end these policies of drug prohibition, to literally uncuff our police departments, our police officers, who are charged with going into these communities and enforcing these laws that don't work. We all know the war on drugs doesn't work. It's a war on people, and we have to start to reform, that's needed in rolling back these policies, whether it's intentional or not, the racism that's entrenched in these systems, whether it's intentional or not, we have to end it and move to a place of regulation and control for these drugs.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Let me ask you about Martin O'Malley, he was in the streets last night, he was a seven-year mayor of Baltimore --

NEILL FRANKLIN: Oh, my god, come on. Why'd you have to say that name? I understand that he's coming to Baltimore. Listen to what I have to say here. In 2005, I left Baltimore City as the head of training in 2004, by then, we had started this zero tolerance, these programs here in Baltimore city under the leadership of mayor, then-mayor Martin O'Malley. In 2005, 108,000 people arrested here in Baltimore city. In one year! 620,000 people live in this city, now we're talking about multiple arrests, that's why the city got sued, because over 20 percent of those people who were arrested were released with no charges preferred because there was no probable cause for arrest. Does that sound familiar? Freddie Gray? No probable cause for the arrest. If you want -- I don't want to say this, well I'm going to say it anyway. If he's coming back to town, you may see a riot.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, we don't want to stir anything up here either, but I do want to ask --

NEILL FRANKLIN: We don't, we don't, but I would encourage him not to come back to Baltimore.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Well, he was there last night, he was there yesterday, we just showed some pictures of it, but I do want to ask you also about why it is taking so long to find out what happened to Freddie Gray. His spine was snapped, he died in custody, why couldn't an autopsy or some other medical result be released to the public a lot sooner than it has been?

NEILL FRANKLIN: Well, I think that they have probably completed the investigation by now, it's been a long time. They have the results of the autopsy, I'm pretty sure that they've interviewed all the witnesses that are available. There may be some other data that they have to go through, I can't be sure, not being privy to that. But now comes the decision-making. Marilyn Mosby, who is the new State's Attorney for the city of Baltimore has got to make a decision. Number one, if charges are going to be placed on any of the officers that were involved here, and number two, what are those charges going to be, what do I have evidence for.

First degree murder, in my personal opinion, from what I know about the case, is not an option. That takes us to second degree and then down to manslaughter. In my opinion, as I spent a lot of time in criminal investigation with the Maryland State Police, personally I believe that there's probably a case for involuntary manslaughter. I know those police officers didn't intend to kill anyone, but because of their negligence, which is obvious, Freddie Gray, he died.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilted science, and immense unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact. Time’s up. And this drug is the United States's immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to drug war. All approved by the FDA, absolved by the American Medical Association and persecuted by Congress, the cops, and in obeyance to the needs of the bankers, the pharmaceutical houses, and the international drug cartels. $550 billion a year can be very addicting.

This is comedian Eddie Griffin.

EDDIE GRIFFIN: What up? Yeah, everybody been asking, you know, what's my take on what's going on in Baltimore. The way the media's portraying it. I hear the word thug, you know, which is the new word for n-----s. Comedians are trained in like, you know, life is cause and effect. And the world media's beautifully shown everybody the effect but nobody's talking about the cause. You know? The effect is angry young men, and that are just fed up with being dealt with in inhumane circumstances, you know. And this is not new, you know, everybody's got a camera now in their phone so it look like it's new, but this has been going on since we got off the boats in this country. And the pot done boiled over, you know, there's only so much anybody going to take from somebody else. It's injustice, and it's time to clean house, you know.

Officer, better known as overseer, you know, you can't contain -- when you've got a country that's more concerned with a new aircraft carrier than investing in the education system, and a jobs program or even rebuilding its own infrastructure so they can compete in the world market, then what you're seeing in Baltimore and other places around the United States that are not being televised is just that, it's a country that has gone so greedy, you know, its greed has exceeded its need to do what is right. So, that's EG's take on it, you know, and sometimes s---'s got to happen so people pay attention to what was considered a throwaway generation. Can't throw people away and think god going to grow with you, cause he ain't. That's my take on it.

DEAN BECKER: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the abolitionist's moment. Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it. It can't stop what it's meant to stop. We like it. It's left a trail of graft and slime, it don't prohibit worth a dime, it's filled our land with vice and crime. Nevertheless, we're for it. Franklin Adams, 1931. Bow down to Big Brother. Freedom is so over-rated.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Responsible for countless overdose deaths, uncounted diseases, international graft, greed and corruption, stilted science, and immense unchristian moral postulations of fiction as fact. Time’s up. And this drug is the United States's immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific and plain F-ing evil addiction to drug war.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: My name's Mary Lynn Mathre, I'm a registered nurse, co-founder and president of Patients Out of Time. We're a national nonprofit organization that's dedicated to educating healthcare professionals and the public about the therapeutic use of cannabis as well as the endocannabinoid system, and this year, 2015, marks our 20th anniversary.

DEAN BECKER: We have coming up here in just about three weeks a very important event. Please tell us what's fixing to happen there in West Palm Beach.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Coming up on May 21 to the 23rd it will be the Ninth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. The theme for this conference will be celebrating the past, embracing the future. It's kind of marking a change, we've had these conferences since 2000 on a biennial basis, but the science now is coming so fast, so rapidly, this marks the time when we're actually moving to an annual event.

You know, there's been a lot of pioneers in this effort, people talk about cannabis, medical marijuana, a lot more freely today, but back in the day, it wasn't something you could talk about very openly. But we're very pleased, we've got featured speakers by Skype, we're going to have Lester Grinspoon talking from Massachusetts, Raphael Mechoulam will be speaking to us from Israel, and Dr. Andy -- Andrew Weil will be speaking to us from Tucson, Arizona. And other than that, we've got just some real leaders in the field who will be explaining the endocannabinoid system in great detail, talking about cannabis and its use, cannabis the plant as a medicine, and how that differs from the isolated cannabinoids that are out there, and compare it to the other medications that are available.

We'll be talking a lot about dosing, you know, with clinicians who've had great experience with their patients. So this is an event, it is accredited, we certainly encourage all healthcare professionals to come to this event. You'll get continuing education credits, continuing medical education credits, but the public is also welcome. Patients, legislators, we'd love to see legislators to actually learn about cannabis, since they pass the laws and they don't know anything. The media should be there. During Saturday luncheon, also, we're going to have a sports panel. We've got a National Hockey League player, a National Football League player, and a champion snowboarder, so we've got some leading sports figures to talk about how cannabis interplays in the sports arena.

DEAN BECKER: I want to interject this thought. You mentioned that the public should be there, and I think that's so important, that they develop the knowledge to educate and embolden their elected officials to make these changes. Your thought.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Well, exactly right. When we say public, public and patients, you know, this is, it's been a war that's been going on for so long, this prohibition of cannabis, and patients have been leading the effort in, you know, discovering that it's helpful, in trying to change the laws. Patients Out of Time, that's one of the reasons we have this name, it's patients out of time. And so we want to empower them, they've been kicked out of physician's offices, or, you know, told they need to go to drug treatment, and they come to our conference to get validated.

AL BYRNE: Yeah, and, and Dean, this is Al Byrne, first bud, the other thing we're going to emphasize here is the treatment of US military veterans with cannabis, or the non-treatment of US military veterans with cannabis. It depends simply on where that veteran happens to live, and that's a crime. So, there's going to be a special emphasis on that, there'll be a special emphasis on Sunday morning after the conference is over there'll be a meeting of veterans to discuss this issue, not only about Florida but also nationally. It will be open, we welcome anybody. And this is going to be on Memorial Day weekend, so we think it should, especially appropriate, Dean, that veterans are discussed and their problems are maybe being able to be recognized on a national level, that cannabis is not available to all of us, and it should be.

DEAN BECKER: Very good. Please, share the website.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Okeh. For registering for the conference or to learn more about Patients Out of Time, you can go to www.patientsoutoftime.org, or medicalcannabis.com. Information about the conference will be there, other information just about medical cannabis. We sure hope people check that out. And for local folks as well, you can actually just come to the benefit dinner on Friday evening the 22nd, or those luncheons where we have our featured speakers. It's, you know, if you don't have the money, can't come for the whole event but do want to learn a little bit, we encourage you to come to those lunches and get on the website. You can sign up, and you can, you'll have the chance to see the exhibitors as well.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, you must help bring this drug war to an end. Please visit drugtruth.net and remember, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful. To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancin' on the edge of an abyss.