11/06/15 James Gierach

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

James Gierach former Asst States Atty, Hannah Hetzer & Tony Newman with Drug Policy Alliance, Rand Paul & tribute to Kaylee with her daughter Chaska Daye

Audio file


NOVEMBER 6, 2015


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

DR. G. ALAN ROBISON: 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.

Hi, this is Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Two weeks ago. I had the police chief, Charles McClelland of Houston come on this show and talked about the failure of this drug war. Last week, we had the sheriff of King County, Seattle, Mister John Urquhart, come on and tell us much the same. And today, from Chicago, we're going to hear from a former assistant state's attorney of Cook County, a municipal attorney, a village prosecutor, and a general practitioner, and one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. I want to welcome Mister James Gierach. How are you, Jim?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, I'm great, and it's good to be with you.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim, you know, this drug war is disintegrating at the seams, it seems to have lost its luster for lots and lots of politicians these days. Would you agree?

JAMES GIERACH: Absolutely. It used to be that prohibition would collect politicians' votes by selling this snake oil, "We're going to save your kids from drugs," and people know we've got more drugs instead of less after all these years of drug war.

DEAN BECKER: Jim, it was my privilege to, well it's been three years ago now, to tour the nation with the Caravan For Peace, Justice, And Dignity. And one of our major stops was in your fair city of Chicago. It was horrible back then, but it seems to have even gotten worse, this violence. Has it not?

JAMES GIERACH: The violence here in Chicago is epidemic. We have for the last several years had people in positions of power repeatedly calling on people in authority to call out the National Guard. A film has been made by Spike Lee that's named "Chi-Raq," because we have more people being killed here in Chicago than we do in Iraq. The violence is just so horrible, just in the last day, we had a couple, two days, we had a 9-year-old that was killed, believed to be in gang retaliation. We had a girl who just signed an acting, or a modeling contract, that was killed where apparently the intended victim was the person that she was with, though that's not clear at this point.

But the 9 year old, they're saying that this 9 year old from the south side of Chicago was actually targeted because the father of that young 9 year old is supposedly involved in a rival gang, and disputes are going on, and of course usually they're disputes about drugs and who's going to make the money. Coming back, with a basketball in hand, is shot down with multiple shots to the head.

DEAN BECKER: Jim, this is not a random situation. This is not an aberration. I think I've seen stories coming out of Chicago where, in a given weekend, dozens of people are wounded and many of them are killed. And, the Chi-Raq, as you say, Chicago maybe is a prime example, but this goes on all around our country, does it not?

JAMES GIERACH: Of course. Because we have this same rule in place. We have drug prohibition, zero tolerance in place, which encourages people to go into the drug business. If you go into the drug business you have to have a gun, you have to have buddies that are in it with you to protect you. Prohibition supports the gangs that buys the guns, that causes the violence that fills the prisons, that takes away the money from schools, which is the reason society is just one despicable cesspool at the moment. In so many departments.

DEAN BECKER: I hear those stories also coming out of Chicago, that the main supplier of the drugs to your fair city is one Chapo Guzman, the Mexican drug lord who escaped from prison a couple of months ago to continue his attack on our nation, right?

JAMES GIERACH: El Chapo Guzman is the next Escobar, is the next Al Capone. He paid, reportedly, $50 million to get out of a high security Mexican prison, by digging a tunnel that was, he didn't dig the tunnel of course, but they had to turn off the seismographic meters because exploding is going on as they build this tunnel. And they are tunnel experts because that's one of the smuggling systems, of course, to get under the Mexican-US border, is through tunnels.

And so this guy goes down the hole in his shower, gets on a motorcycle on a railroad track, the motorcycle was fit to go down a rail, and he speeds away, and now is reportedly someplace in the Sinaloa mountains. But, it's so absurd, that Chicago is violence central, it's drug distribution central. El Chapo Guzman is multi-billionaire who has made the Forbes, Fortune, Forbes list of billionaires several times. And that businessman, an entrepreneur, has that opportunity because society has decided we're going to save our kids by just saying no and criminalizing and outlawing drugs. Plants that are un-extinguishable, if it was so easy to get rid of plants, Scott's weedkiller would be out of business. And yet, we think, you know, if we demonize people and drugs and guns, we can make these inanimate objects disappear.

DEAN BECKER: Folks, once again, we're talking with Mister James Gierach, a former assistant state's attorney in Cook County, Chicago. Now, James, I want to come back to the situation where, in the past, 100 years ago, nearly, Al Capone was running Chicago, the Shelton Gang was running the southern part of Illinois. But there were similar gangs all around America, controlling the distribution and sales of that forbidden alcohol. And there is really very little, if any, difference between that situation and what's going on now. Am I correct?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, there's one major difference. And that is, because liquor as a substance is a bulky commodity, you have to have some assets to go into the alcohol business, to be able to have trucks and warehouses to store barrels of beer. And on the other hand, when you outlaw substances where you can put multi-thousands of dollars of drugs in a pocket, all you need to go into the business is a pair of gym shoes and a gun. So we have invited large segments of society that oftentimes are poor or minority, diminished opportunities, little opportunity to accomplish the Horatio Alger story, so we've given masses the means to do the wrong thing in order to make money.

And Al Capone and the gangs at that time, there were many fewer because they just, you know, they didn't enable everyone, like we've done with this crazy war on drugs. So many times worse, this war on drugs, than the mistake of alcohol prohibition and the Al Capone days.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Jim, you were talking earlier about how it's created this situation where, for retribution, revenge, that little kids get caught in the crossfire, but another way that those kids are endangered and so, these drug gangs, as you were just talking about, are an enticement to join the gang, to get money, to get bling, girls, guns. It's just the wrong situation, isn't it?

JAMES GIERACH: Life is basically a series of choices. And when people make their choices, they look at what the alternatives are. And because of prohibition, we have painted the wrong road with gold, tempting kids to do the wrong thing, on the pretext that we're going to save them from drugs. And yet the outlawing of the drugs has increased the price of the drugs to the point where it bears no relationship to the cost that you invest into the drug business, so that people are tempted to go down that wrong road.

If we didn't paint the road with gold, if in fact we gave people who were addicted to drugs, who are the largest consumers of them, the opportunity to lawfully obtain the drug to which they were addicted, just legalizing drugs for addicts only, would take the largest chunk of people out of the drug dealer's hands and put them into responsible medical hands, where people could ingest their drug without worrying about overdosing, without worrying about being shot, without having to steal from their neighbor, without having to stick up some store or engaging in prostitution or some other horrible, in order to get the outrageously inflated price because that's what happens when you outlaw plants that grow in a ditch, they become the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth.

So, life, as I started with, is a series of choices, and society has made the huge mistake of tempting people to do the wrong thing in order to get ahead.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. So true. You know, James, to kind of underscore what you were talking about, the highly inflated prices, back around 1900, when Bayer invented heroin, sold Bayer heroin right next to Bayer aspirin on the grocer's shelf at the very same price. We have just screwed the pooch, have we not?

JAMES GIERACH: I mean, it's ridiculous what we've done. We, and society knows this. Ask anybody, are we winning the war on drugs? I don't think you're going to find two percent of the people in the world that are going to say yes. But then, the harder question is, you say, well, what should we do about it? Knowing that we've lost the war on drugs, what do you want to do to end the violence, the epidemic of invention of new drugs, the inundation of society with cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and etc.? It's harder to get the right answer there, because it's hard to swallow and say, well, we're going to legalize drugs. And people worry that that's condoning drug use. To control and regulate something dangerous is not condoning misbehavior. And some people don't misbehave when they use drugs. They use them responsibly. Just as some people use alcohol responsibly.

DEAN BECKER: So very true. Well, Jim, I tell you what, we're going to wrap it up this time but I want to encourage folks to kick them in the butt, to motivate them somehow to get involved. The truth is writ large, it's time to wrap up this BS called drug war and as you're saying, James, find another direction. James is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, that website is LEAP.cc. James, any closing thoughts?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, Dean, I appreciate your hardy support for drug policy reform for so long, and I just hope that your listeners join in and recognize that, at UNGASS 2016, April 19 to the 21st, there's an opportunity to change world drug policies, to amend UN drug treaties that are the fountainhead and foundation for the world war on drugs. We've got to end it, let's do it in April in New York at the United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly concerning drugs.

DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy of The Guardian.

ANNE-MARIE COCKBURN: Last summer, I received a phone call from a stranger saying your daughter is gravely ill and we're trying to save her life. My daughter had swallowed half a gram of white powder, that turned out to be 91 percent pure ecstasy. She didn't survive.

Ever since she died, I have looked for answers. I've spoken to experts, I've read the logs, I've read books, and I've spoken to other bereaved parents, to try and work out what we can do about this, because the dangers that were there when Martha died are still there now.

Unfortunately, prohibition did not keep Martha safe. I've found an incredible project called Anyone's Child: Families For Safer Drug Control. And what we're trying to do through this project is garner support to show the dangers that exist under prohibition, and to push for legal regulation. Under legal regulation, ingredients will be listed, and dosage information would be provided. And that would enable people to make a more informed decision. Had Martha had that option, it could have been the difference between what happened to her and her still being alive today.

So, if you want to get involved in this project, I would urge you to make a donation today in order to prevent another parent feeling a loss like mine, and for the world, losing another Martha. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: As if you wouldn't be able to tell immediately, this is Bill O'Reilly.

BILL O'REILLY: Most of these people are violent, you cannot survive in the hard drug trade in America without being violent.

ANDREA TANTAROS: That's right.

BILL O'REILLY: All right? You've got to collect money, you've got to protect your shipments, you've got to fight off rival gangs, you don't go out in a little ballet tutu and go, Hello, I have heroin.

JESSICA TARLOV: But there's some people also --

BILL O'REILLY: I'll remind you, in Singapore they have no problem. Why? They hang them. They hang them.

JESSICA TARLOV: Okay, but we're obviously not suggesting that as the answer to --

BILL O'REILLLY: I don't know. I mean, look. Singapore at one time had the most pernicious opium problem you could possibly have, it destroyed their entire society. So they said, you know what, we're not going to have this anymore. And that's what they did. Bingo, no drug problem.

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 un-Christian moral postulations of fiction as fact. Time's up! And this drug is the United States' immoral, improper, bigoted, unscientific, and plain effing 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. Five hundred fifty billion dollars a year can be very addicting.

HANNAH HETZER: Hi, I am Hannah Hetzer, I am the policy manager for the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: Hannah, there's a lot of news breaking these days, our neighbor to the north is considering, or, I think dedicated to legalizing marijuana. And our neighbor to the south has taken another look at the drug laws as well, have they not?

HANNAH HETZER: That's correct. It's really that, this hemisphere, the Americas, is leading the world in marijuana reform, with the United States states, with Uruguay becoming the first country in the world to legalize marijuana, Canada soon to follow suit, and a host of medical marijuana initiatives across Latin America. But what happened in Mexico yesterday was really historic. The Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of consumption and possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is un-constitutional and violates human rights. And that's significant for two reasons. One, because it was argued on human rights grounds, which is unusual and quite extraordinary in drug policy debates. And second, because its coming out of Mexico, which is a country that has suffered some of the worst effects of the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: And, that effect, as you talk about, and I mean tens of thousands of people literally butchered in order to maintain the drug trade, it is good to hear that human rights is actually entering that equation.

HANNAH HETZER: Absolutely. It's been so sad to follow the news in Mexico over the past years where, since launching the war on drugs in its militarized form in 2006, we've just seen an explosion of homicides and death and corruption and disappearance, and especially when changes are happening within the United States to reverse the war on drugs and roll back prohibition, it just is only fair if Mexico is able to do the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: Perhaps this presents another opportunity for US politicians to look at the human rights side, about what goes on with these marijuana laws here in the United States. It's happening, it seems, if not across the board, but at every level of government, of officialdom, people are taking another look at these drug laws, are they not?

HANNAH HETZER: Yes, absolutely, and I think this human rights case can set a precedent for further cases in different countries in the world to argue it on human rights grounds, beyond the usual public security and public health arguments that are given. And the United States is really, it's spectacular that, and extraordinary that the country that, you know, created the war on drugs and launched it and spread it throughout the world is now pretty much the leader in reforming its drug laws. So we have over 23 states with medical marijuana, 15 or so states with decriminalization of marijuana, and an increasing number of states legalizing marijuana, and I think this trend will only continue within the United States, because there's now 50 percent of the population that supports legal marijuana, that's an all-time high. And I think we'll only see this continuing as the years go on.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, once again we've been speaking with Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance.

TONY NEWMAN: My name is Tony Newman, I'm the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance.

DEAN BECKER: Tony, it's amazing, all the news that's breaking these days and there's going to be a lot of news breaking later this month in Washington, DC, at the DPA conference. Tell us what's going to happen there.

TONY NEWMAN: Well, we're very, very excited. Every two years we have more than twelve hundred people from around the world coming together from, you know, it brings all the fingers into a fist. We come together and say, How are we going to end this disastrous war on drugs? How are we going to create another world? It is an inspiring gathering. We have, you know, it brings together people who care about legalizing marijuana and stopping all the 650,000 low level marijuana arrests every year. It cares about people who want to reduce HIV and reduce overdose deaths and care about harm reduction. They come together. People who want to end mass incarceration and want to do alternatives to putting people in cages. It brings all the issues together, and it brings together all the different people. People who enjoy using drugs, whether they like smoking a joint or even, you know, expanding their minds through hallucinogens. People who hate drugs, who've had, you know, are in recovery, who've had terrible experiences or lost loved ones to drug use. People who've never used drugs. Everyone comes together because they know the war on drugs is a failure, it's a disaster, it is ruining lives, and we need to find an exit strategy from this war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I know this event is going to happening from, what it is, November 18 through 21, and it's not too late for those who might be inclined to get on board and to attend this. Right?

TONY NEWMAN: Dean, thank you for saying that. Anyone in the DC area should be attending this, it's right there. But even if you're in another part of the country, get on a plane, get in a car, it will change your life, you will be inspired. You will see people on the front lines who are trying to end this war on drugs. You will learn things that you never learned about. How has Portugal's decriminalized all drug use and reduced crime and suffering, how are countries doing these supervised injection facilities, what are some of the alternatives that are happening in Seattle and other places where they're not arresting low level drug users and getting them into treatment? It is inspiring to be around people who are literally changing the world.

In addition to, like, going to these sessions and meeting and socializing, you also spend time hanging out together in rooms, and you strategize and you bond and you get the energy. You know, this is, the war on drugs has devastated communities and families, and caused so much suffering and so much pain, and we need to come together, heal together, laugh together, strategize together, and say, you know what, we're going to end this war on drugs. We now have President Obama almost every week talking about alternatives to incarceration, or the re-entry work. Our friends, Dorsey Nunn and others who've been fighting for years to ban the box, when people are trying to get jobs so they don't have to say that they're a felon so that, you know, so they, you know -- give them a fair chance at getting a job. Dorsey Nunn is going to be at this conference, he's been at the last five conferences. His work is now reaching the President of the United States' desk. People who were talking about overdose prevention, how to, you know, get naloxone into people's hands to reduce overdose. Passing laws so people can call 911. We've been talking about this at these conferences year after year, and now the president, the drug czar, people are talking about it. People at these conferences come together, learn from each other, build off each other, strategize with each other, and literally, we -- if the people lead, the leaders are following, we see people now implementing things that we've been discussing in these hotel rooms and in lobbies and in sessions over these years. Join us, it will change your life. Be a part of this movement. Another world is possible, and we're going to make it happen.

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, there you have it. Our good friend, Mister Tony Newman. And you can learn more by visiting DrugPolicy.org.

Sadly, the last few weeks I've had to report the deaths of some great reformers, and medical marijuana users, but this week, we have one that touches me even more deeply. My friend, Kay Lee, has passed on, and here to talk about her mother and her passing is Chaska Daye. Hello, Chaska.


DEAN BECKER: Chaska, you know, Kay Lee was brave. She was someone many people have emulated over the years. Tell us about the work your mother did in drug reform, please.

CHASKA DAYE: Well, she's done quite a bit. She started the Journey For Justice movement. She created, I think she went for the first nine before she handed it over. She did a lot of caregiving for several patients. She fought Florida DOC, and several other side projects that I wasn't even aware of until recently, from other people. Working since, on this movement, since the 90s.

DEAN BECKER: My first time to meet your mother was in Houston. She was here for the Texas Journey For Justice. It was to awaken the Texas politicians to the need to change our drug laws, and I was amazed. She was wearing this striped prison uniform, she was riding in a jail cell, being towed behind a truck up and down the streets of Houston, in front of the courthouse, the federal detention center. It woke me to the need to get involved myself, and I think she did that to many others over the years.

CHASKA DAYE: Oh, yes, she did. Her first one was in Ohio, and I sadly only got to join one of them, which was the one in Wisconsin. But she had several of them. And family members, friends, activists, everyone would attend. Patients, and she actually care-gived for several of them that have since passed on.

DEAN BECKER: I recall the Journey For Justice in Texas. They started in Houston. They went to every prison in town, which there's a bunch of them here in Texas, to do their protest. We wound up in Austin, in support of the Tulia 40, who had been busted by the lies of one undercover cop. And then we wound the day in front of the governor's mansion there in Austin, at the time it was George W. Bush's mansion. And everyone else was tired, and sitting down, but Kay Lee was standing, demanding that the traffic pay attention, yelling at the mansion that the governor pay attention, and it was that day that I became a drug reformer.

CHASKA DAYE: That was my mom, she's always been a fighter, speaking her mind, standing up for what she believes in. She's just always been that way, as far as I can remember, and she is one of the strongest people I've ever met. It's amazing, that somebody can go through chemo without an aspirin, not one thing, through the whole treatment. It's just -- she's so strong, she's been through quite a bit in her life. And I believe that's why she stood up for injustice, you know.

DEAN BECKER: She is a hero to me, and to many others, and she will surely be missed. Again, we've been speaking with Kay Lee's daughter Chaska Daye. Closing thoughts, Chaska?

CHASKA DAYE: Well, I just want everyone to know that my mom would be so excited that everybody's come around and thanking her for everything she's done, and just want to let everyone know that she was a big fighter for her family just like she was for everyone else. And, she's definitely going to be greatly missed by all of us.

DEAN BECKER: Here to close us out are the thoughts of Presidential candidate Rand Paul.

RAND PAUL: This is something that separates me from all the other candidates. I think the government shouldn't be putting you in jail for non-violent drug crimes. I'm not an advocate for drugs, I'm an advocate for freedom.

DEAN BECKER: The end of drug war is waiting, just around the corner. Who's it waiting on? You. As always, I remind you, 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. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.