05/29/15 Bill Levin

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Bill Levin pastor of First Church of Cannabis, Dale Shafer re his bust for cannabis, release from prison

Audio file


MAY 29, 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.

Ah, hello my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. It portends to be a great show. A bit later, we're going to hear from some folks that, where did it go? Here we go. We're going to hear from Dale Schafer, just got out of prison out in California for growing marijuana that, hey, I think it's legal now. But anyway, we'll hear from him a bit later. But first up, I want to bring in our first guest, he's on the phone. He's founded the First Church of Cannabis in Indiana, with that I want to welcome Mr., or should I say Reverend Bill Levin. Are you there, Bill?

BILL LEVIN: Yeah, I am. Hi, I love you, thank you for having me on the air.

DEAN BECKER: Hey, Bill, you know, the thing of it is? The drug war's ending slow, ugly, and bloody, but there's hope on the horizon, and I'm hoping that it's going to be, what, July 20th, you're going to have your first official service there in Indiana?

BILL LEVIN: July 1st.

DEAN BECKER: July First.

BILL LEVIN: The law goes into effect July First at 12:01, and hopefully we will kick off our service with Amazing Grace at that same time.

DEAN BECKER: That sounds like a marvelous start to it, yeah. July 20th, that threw me, that was Lunar Landing Day for the astronauts. Yeah, now Bill, tell us a bit about this First Church of Cannabis. You have twelve, deity dozen, I guess it is, that kind of outline how you want to handle living on this planet, right?

BILL LEVIN: Yeah, well, there, everything that's written before is old school. I mean, it was written by guys lost in deserts who didn't have GPSs, and this is not something we can relate to in our modern day and age. They weren't offered poison every time they drove down the street, you know? We have poisonous foods, and horrid beverages, that are being shoved and marketed down our throats daily and we are becoming incredibly unhealthy because of this.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you, sir. You know, for me, just a couple weeks back, made 30 years that I quit my drug of destruction, which is available at every street corner you want to go to, and that is alcohol. And for me, it was just not, you know, not in the cards, and you're right, we have all these poisons being forced on us, in the commercials, every, every show we watch, right?

BILL LEVIN: Yeah, and god bless you, ah, thirty years? I quit in '88. Yeah, they changed the drunk driving laws here in Indiana in 1988, so, we used to, you know, when we drank, we would judge distance by how many beers he was away, you know, Joe was 6 beers away.

DEAN BECKER: Well, let's talk about your church, though. I mean, the first rule, the first of the deity dozen: don't be an asshole. Treat everyone with love, as an equal. And I'm with, buddy, that's it, right there.

BILL LEVIN: It's, it's -- somebody got mad at me for putting "don't be an asshole," and I said, there's really no other term for it. When that person walks in the room, it doesn't matter if you're a man, woman, or child, when that person walks in the room, the first sentence that goes through your brain is, Oh god, that asshole's here.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. And there's a lot of them around. That's for sure.

BILL LEVIN: Yeah, there's a few of them around.

DEAN BECKER: Now, many of them have, you know, gained positions of power, politicians, and they refuse to debate certain subjects. I mean, I have been on the air now, what 13 and a half years, I cannot find anyone, at any level of government or officialdom, willing to defend this policy of drug war. They will not come on the airwaves, they cannot defend it and they never will. Right?

BILL LEVIN: I -- amen to that. I've looked for literally three years before somebody would go on the radio to debate me.


BILL LEVIN: And we finally had one man, and he left so horribly crushed, and we didn't do anything, it was all the call-ins. [laughter]

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, yeah. They handled it for you, you didn't have to be the wielder of the sword, they, other folks did it for you. I had one quasi-debate, if you will, if the guy that's head of a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area slash DEA, and when it was over, I said hey, come on and visit my radio show, let's do it again, he said No way in hell. Because they cannot defend this, they hide from good folks like you and me because they, their logic is so faulty, am I right?

BILL LEVIN: Well, it's not the agency's fault, it's not the police officer's fault, it is the fault of the people who do not vote for the correct politicians. The lazy bastards who don't go out and vote, are the people who we should be hunting down.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. And that's true, because there are so, I don't know if it's a majority, but it's a near-majority of people that don't vote these days, it is crazy.

BILL LEVIN: Our last election here in Indiana, we had a whopping 7 percent voter turnout.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. So, yeah, that's not a -- oh, that's horrid. Well, Bill, let's get back to your church here. Now, the fact of the matter is, you have been, just recently, recognized as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 entity, correct?

BILL LEVIN: That is correct.

DEAN BECKER: And that allows people to donate to your church, deduct it off their taxes, and, just treat it as any other legitimate charity, right?

BILL LEVIN: Right. We are a legitimate charity, we're a legitimate church.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir, and I'm not disputing that, I'm just trying to frame it.

BILL LEVIN: Oh, I know, but we -- go ahead.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and Bill, let's talk about what that first church service is going to be like. You say you're going to open with Amazing Grace, and I think that's wonderful. But, the closing of the service will include a little bit of cannabis consumption, correct?

BILL LEVIN: Well, at the closing of every service at a Cannabitarian church, we will read the deity dozen out loud. Okeh? Because, you know, you've got to have something to really sink your teeth in, and, we will all get up and we will read it out loud. And at the end of the twelfth deity, we will say Amen, and that means service is, you know, virtually over, and just like all good church services, when you're done, you spark up. You don't have to leave our building to do it.

DEAN BECKER: There you go. Well, I think about, you know, the Rastafarians have had this kind of within their concept, their precepts, however you want to say it, for some time, and there were, oh it was in Florida, there was a group that was tied in with the Rastas, I think, whoa, 35 years ago, Carl Olsen comes to mind, wherein they had cannabis services down there in Florida as well, and it went rather, eh, swimmingly for quite a while and then the DEA just had enough, pulled the plug, arrested everybody. What is your thought? Do you feel Indiana has a big enough heart to allow you guys to have this church go forward?

BILL LEVIN: Indiana basically wrote it into law with the RFRA, Religious Freedom and the state will not impede.

DEAN BECKER: That's good to hear.

BILL LEVIN: You know, so, if, if they do impede, you know, we've got no problem going to court because we've read the law one way and we have an army of lawyers, and they've got an army of lawyers, and then we'll have vast entertainment. You know? It's -- Yeah, I don't know how to call this one, you know? I believe in my heart they can't afford to look foolish in the world eye again.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. And --

BILL LEVIN: After last summer.

DEAN BECKER: I mean, you've got many of the Christian churches, they drink a little wine during their services, and, you know, it's -- and in some states, they actually do it before the legal time on a Sunday, but it's permitted because it's religious, and I think they, the fact is when, you know, cannabis users consume this with the intent of reaching a higher plane, or, you know, communing with their creator, whatever it might be, that seems like an American religious right that just shouldn't be disturbed. Your response, Bill Levin.

BILL LEVIN: Yeah, it should -- we don't go into any, you know, we don't go into other churches and mess with them, why would anybody come into our church and mess with us. You know?


BILL LEVIN: It's a, it's a religious experience, it is the spirit -- churches are supposed to make you feel uplifted, they're supposed to make you feel happy, joyous, faithful, spiritual, and I want everybody to leap like they say Tommy the rock opera for the first time. You know, when you left the theater the first time you saw that, you were leaping in the air like Tommy?

DEAN BECKER: Sure, I remember a show with an old-time group, Osibisa, and it was the most community gathering, everybody dancing and singing, you know, it might as well have been a church service, you know what I'm saying? It was very uplifting. And I guess that's the whole point, is, absent harm to others, they should just leave you guys alone, let you have your church service. Right?


DEAN BECKER: Now, Bill, let me ask you this. How long has this been in the works, how long have you been contemplating this new First Church of Cannabis?

BILL LEVIN: It's about 3 months, four months, it was one of those -- it was a seed that was planted on a Tuesday -- Monday or Tuesday, by a radio personality and a political commentator here in Indiana. He interviewed the, uh, the Green Leaf Church in Colorado, and had it on the air, and he went over to my page and posted it.

And this guy never posts anything on my page. So of course, I get curious, I could see what it was about. And I go, okeh, that makes sense. And, I called him up, you know, I asked him, I said guys, can you give me any hints over here, if I try to pull this off. And they said, well, we can tell you what not to do. And, they sent me some documents for the THC Ministries out in Maui, and when I read what he was doing, you know, god love him, he's a brave soul, but, there's a certain amount of decorum you have to have, you cannot grow and offer your church members cheap product in an illegal state, I mean, it's just asking for problems.


BILL LEVIN: I'm all for it, but our church will not buy, sell, or supply any product. We will give you sanctuary to embrace it, and to celebrate life, and when we have patients there, there will be patients who will meet with healthgivers, but the church will have no direct involvement. You know what I mean?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Let me ask you something, Bill. I know I sent you a copy of my Declaration of Evident Truth. Have you had a chance to look at it?

BILL LEVIN: I haven't had a chance to wind my watch.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I know you've been on MSNBC, and all kinds of places, keeping you busy, but when you get a chance, look at it. I think it ties in quite well with the concept of, you know, religious freedom and consumption of cannabis.

BILL LEVIN: Most certainly.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, Bill, we've got just a couple minutes left. I wanted to kind of backtrack, you know. Before you had this idea, before the religious, what, let's explain what has happened in Indiana, this Religious Restoration thing they're doing. What is it called?

BILL LEVIN: RFRA, Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And, it was worded so poorly in a very biased way, that it would allow religions to be discriminatory towards the gay community. And the whole world got up in horror over it, and our illustrious governor went on television and defended it by not answering any questions five times in a row on national news. All he was doing is just fertilizing all over our state. And, as he was fertilizing all over our state, I noticed some seeds growing, and we decided that we would become a church.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I certainly wish you luck. I have some hope to come to Indiana, I would like to be there for that first church service, and to report on it directly, but in any case, you know, I wish you well, I think what you have done, what you guys are doing, is a very positive step forward. It will have -- it will force these politicians and officials to bring focus to bear on their own beliefs, and their own precepts, concepts, whatever you want to say, and determine if they want to, what's the word, I don't know, not prejudiced, but be against your church. Your thought there, sir.

BILL LEVIN: I -- yeah, it's, it's going to be interesting, is all I can say. We have some very tightly wound religious people who are in positions of power, who agree that there should be religious freedom but are denying that the First Church of Cannabis is a religion, and I'm sort of looking in and going, oh, we've got the doctrine, we've got the paperwork, we've been accepting by the government, pretty much, we're a religion.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

BILL LEVIN: You know? We're no different than the Catholic church or the Jewish temple down the block.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, I tell you what, Bill, we've got less than a minute. Is there a website, some closing thoughts you'd like to share with the listeners?

BILL LEVIN: Everything we have going right now is on the First Church of Cannabis's facebook page, or you can get entertained on my page at Bill J. Levin, right now we're doing everything on facebook because our webpages are not prepared yet. We're scrambling with webpages and looking for a building location 24 hours a day.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Bill, all I can say is, I wish you guys luck. I hope folks around the country learn more about what you're doing, I hope we can start more such churches around this nation, and just bring the madness to an end. You're not going to hurt anybody, it just seems, it's on the horizon, let's make it happen, right?

BILL LEVIN: You've got it, brother. I'm in.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well all right, friends, once again we've been speaking with the Reverend Bill Levin, First Church of Cannabis, based in Indiana. Thank you, Bill.

BILL LEVIN: Thank you very much, and if you want to come to the show, let me know, you've got my cel.

DEAN BECKER: All right, buddy. Bye bye.

It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. Skin cancer. Melanoma. Death. Time's up! The answer, from Lilly and Pfizer: Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra. My advice to those who can't get it up: quit eating so much, quit drinking so much, and exercise a little bit, and maybe an edible marijuana cookie or a joint might just get her done.

This drug war has gone on for so long, I think many of us get immune to what's happening to our friends, our neighbors. But it has an impact, and here to talk about how it's variously and sometimes vigorously applied to the marijuana laws is an attorney, Mr. Dale Schafer. Hello, sir.

DALE SCHAFER: Good afternoon, how're you doing today?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. Now Dale, you've been out of prison a short time now, but tell us why you went to prison, and kind of the background of what happened to you and Dr. Mollie Fry.

DALE SCHAFER: Well, the start of it for the two of us was her diagnosis with breast cancer in 1997. She had both breasts removed and went into chemotherapy, which was just very difficult for her to deal with. And, each of us, because we had been in medicine for a long time, she's a physician, I was a corpsman back during the Vietnam War. We had understood the positive effects of cannabis. When the anti-emetics didn't work for her chemo, it was a no-brainer to get her cannabis, and California had just passed a, the Compassionate Use Act law in 1996, so we thought okeh, this is exactly what she needs, and let's just solve this problem.

It was actually up to me because she was puking her guts out, and so I began to solve the problem, but every time I solve a problem, the solve, and found a solution, I found ten more problems, which were all wrapped up in this longstanding mentality called the war on drugs. As she began to get better, and people understood that I had found solutions based upon my previous representation of police officers, my understanding of the system, they began to inquire, well, can you help me? And it's very difficult to look someone in the face who's sick, or their loved one caring for them, and say well, you know, screw you, I'm not going to help you, that just wasn't in my character. And Mollie, as a physician, was able -- I mean, Mollie's her name, she's Dr. Fry, but Mollie was able to legally sign the documents necessary to give people legal protection under California law, if they were using cannabis medically.

So, the two of us began to think about how we could do this within the confines of the law, and understanding that there were just no boundaries that were acceptable to law enforcement. This was all new territory for them, and they basically didn't want to accept it. So, we strapped on our big boy pants and big girl pants and we started to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves because we were still in the middle of the battle. Okeh?

And, once we started this, it was like the floodgates opened up, and with every problem we solved, there was an exponential growth in other problems, and I was interested in local authorities just leaving people alone, and I couldn't get a response from them, so I ran for district attorney in my county, and you talk about throwing a rock at a hornets' nest, my god. Because I really wasn't interested in being district attorney, but I wanted them to come to the table and talk to us in good faith about how do we stop law enforcement from harassing, arresting, and trying people who were just sick.

And I got so many votes that I split the election, required a run-off, and that was just another big mess. And I was growing on my property for my wife, my family, other friends of mine who had AIDS and cancer and things like that, they were righteously sick, they weren't someone that was a wink and a nod, you know, using cannabis, and I was trying to stay in touch with the federal law, as it was evolving, and when our circuit court of appeals here in San Francisco said that there is a medical necessity defense to growing cannabis for sick people, I added a few more plants in my garden for some of the sick people who couldn't grow for themselves. I had someone take it to them and give it to them for free, and when the Supreme Court said no to that, I stopped.

Well, that activity put me in jeopardy of going to federal prison, and ultimately, for many reasons, including political, the federal government decided that they were going to use that activity as the legal criteria to put my wife and I in federal prison for five years. So that's how I got into federal prison.

DEAN BECKER: Dale, this is, I don't know how to say it, an historic situation. And, what I'm trying to say here is that, in, you know, Colorado, Washington state, soon Oregon, Alaska, and now Washington, DC, it is actually legal for people to possess cannabis and I understand that now the DEA is even going to ratchet down their efforts towards marijuana as well, and even in your home state of California, what you did in the past is respected more now. It is treated much differently, and I guess what I'm saying is, this is, this conviction was something now historic. Am I right?

DALE SCHAFER: Well, in the hindsight, yes. But at the time, law enforcement was doing what they had always been doing. The paradigm of criminally going after anyone who dared to question their prohibitionist mentality was in place and well-oiled at the time, and what Mollie and I did was to up and say, No, this is wrong, these are sick people, we had children, we had vets, we had old people, my god I had a Medal of Honor winner as one of my clients.

I mean, we had people who were righteously sick, and were not trying to enter into the full legalization market, but we were challenging the authority of the prohibitionist establishment, and that entire paradigm has been moved forward now, although the federal law has not been changed. People need to remember that, because this administration in its second term had managed to move the ball forward, they haven't changed the goal line, okeh? If the federal government decides at any time in the future that they want to go after somebody, everyone who uses cannabis in this country, who grows it, who distributes it, they are all in jeopardy of federal prosecution. That's got to be changed.

DEAN BECKER: No, and I, Dale, I didn't mean to belittle your efforts or negate it somehow, I'm just saying that time has actually changed the focus of law enforcement. Correct?

DALE SCHAFER: Well, it has, and this is not a brand new concept. Back in alcohol prohibition days, even J. Edgar Hoover had to recognize that, when over ten percent of your population is violating your prohibition, you can't enforce it, and it just creates disrespect for the law. Anybody who thinks that ten percent of the American population hasn't tried this stuff, I don't know what to think about these people, but they're on a different planet. You can't enforce the prohibition against cannabis, and so why are you continuing to ruin lives and spend resources, let's change the paradigm and see if we can use education and put any abuse of the substance back into the hands of the medical practitioners, and use law enforcement to go after behavior that is intended to harm others.

DEAN BECKER: Now Dale, one of the, you know, it's hell going to prison, but, there is a continuing scenario of compliance, fees to pay, sessions to attend and so forth, and as we're talking on the phone, we're just minutes away from you fulfilling one of those obligations. Let's talk about those obligations, now that you're out of prison.

DALE SCHAFER: Well, I am physically out of prison, but I'm not out of custody. That doesn't happen until September the 8th. So once a week I have to drive from my home in Sacramento to San Francisco to give them a urine sample, and to attend a behavior modification class to try and change my criminal ways, wink wink nod nod. And I have to meet with my case manager in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, which is like Sodom and Gomorrah, and it's, it's, it's like I'm down Alice's rabbit-hole here, but I have to go do this once a week. I have to go to my probation officer once a week to make sure I haven't modified the iPhone I wear on my ankle to keep track of me. And that will be in place until September the 8th, when I leave the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons and I go into supervised release with the probation department.

DEAN BECKER: Man. Here in Texas, they have to go to meetings where they admit their addiction to marijuana. I hope it's not that bad.

DALE SCHAFER: Well, I went into a program in federal prison called the Residential Drug Abuse Program, RDAP. And, they tried to get me to say that, but I couldn't even say it with a straight face because I had a difficulty with the definition of addiction, and putting it next to cannabis. I'm not saying it's benign, I'm not saying people don't abuse it, because those things happen. But I don't see anybody even in today's prohibitionist paradigm turning tricks on the street corner to get a dime bag of green bud. So, I really have problems with that. If you or someone you know can't get off the couch and stop eating twinkies and watching TV because they smoke pot all day, then unless they're going to make a Cheech and Chong movie out of you, I think you need to take a look at yourself and see if you're having a problem with abusing the substance. Okeh?

So, I think we need to get real from our side, or my side of this, that there are issues involved. If it's made legal, it's not going to solve all the issues, but people won't be going to prison for this and having their lives ruined that way, because that's a much bigger problem in my estimation than any problem associated with someone abusing cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends. Once again we've been speaking with Mr. Dale Schafer. He and Dr. Mollie Fry are still enduring the mechanism of this drug war. Dale, is there a website, a quick closing thought?

DALE SCAFER: I'm still trying to get that stuff set up on Mollie's facebook, but I am -- internet technology, behind the times a little bit because I couldn't touch it in prison, so I'm on facebook. I'm trying to get some messages out of moderation, of thoughtfulness, of let's be pragmatic, but yeah, you can find me on facebook right now, and I'll try to get more of the message out.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again that was Dale Schafer, getting it all back on track now that he's out of prison. Once again I want to thank Reverend Bill Levin of the First Church of Cannabis, based up there in Indiana. And by the way folks, if you would, please google these words: Declaration of Evident Truth. And by the way, pick up a copy of the latest National Geographic. The headline on the front: Weed: the New Science of Marijuana.

All right folks, we've got to get out of here. But as always, I remind you, that 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. This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT-Houston.

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