03/18/16 Howard Wooldridge

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Law enforcement perspectives on Drug Prohibition III with Howard Wooldridge at Baker Insitute & at UN in Vienna, Tex Rep Gen Wu & Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre re forthcoming Conf in Baltimore

Audio file


MARCH 18, 2016


DEAN BECKER: As the repellent, ugly blob called drug prohibition is thrown across the floor, it slides into a wall of science, common sense, and logic, ending its horrendous existence. With that thought, this is Cultural Baggage, I'm Dean Becker. Let's get to it.

This week, we continue our coverage of the recent panel at the James A. Baker III Institute, Law Enforcement Perspectives On Drug Prohibition. This is Howard Wooldridge, one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: The war on drugs has been the most destructive, dysfunctional, and immoral, immoral policy since slavery and Jim Crow. That is the experience of myself and the tens of thousands of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And despite a trillion dollars, taxpayer dollars spent, despite the arrest of 45 million people on drug arrests, and we have confiscated thousands and thousands of tons of narcotics, drugs today are cheaper, stronger, and more available to our children than ever before.

And, law enforcement has been, and will continue to be, no matter how much money you give us, to be a mosquito on the butt of an elephant. But law enforcement in this country cannot fix personal stupidity. Who thinks, raise your hand, thinks the government through the police department can fix personal stupidity? It's unanimous. Thank you. So when you leave here tonight, now matter how you fall down on this issue, left, right, center, please understand and take with you that law enforcement has no objective role on the issue of drug policy here in terms of having any impact on law and policy. We simply don't.

Now, let me tell you two secrets that you're not going to ever hear from law enforcement in the newspapers or on TV. Number one, every drug dealer we have ever arrested, has been shot, killed, these men and women are replaced [snaps fingers] just like that. Every one. Because there's always someone stupid enough or desperate enough to take the place of a fallen drug dealer. And also know the reason is that these drug dealers accept as a condition of their employment death and long prison terms. And that's why the mandatory minimums passed thirty years ago during the Reagan administration, we're like, oh this is going to work, once you've got to go to jail for 10 years for four ounces of cocaine, of course nobody is going to sell cocaine. Wrong answer, and thirty years later we now of course have more people in prison than anybody else.

Now, that these drugs are dangerous, even deadly, is not in dispute. Absolutely. I urge you to be drug free. Don't do these drugs. But I can tell you that mankind has been using these drugs since the dawn of time. They are not going away. I'm convinced that when Star Trek times are here, there will still be individuals getting drunk, stoned, and stupid. And there's nothing that government can do about it. The USA and every -- so what it boils down to is the USA and every country on the planet has an option for how they want to treat drugs. Either the government is in control and regulates them as best as government can, or we have a situation where criminals and cartels and various bad guys are completely in control of these dangerous drugs.

With the drug cartels, the criminals today, understand, they choose, they make the decisions on price, purity, points of sale, age of purchase, etc. Do I sell cocaine to a 12 year old, or do I wait til he's 14? That's the decision a drug dealer makes. Now, every member of this audience and on the panel, I'm convinced, want the same thing. We want to reduce crime, and death, and disease, and drug use. Can I get an amen? Okeh. Now, the question is, how to get there? That is the eternal question.

The -- hold on, let me get back to where I was -- so, the question is, how do we, how do we get there to reduce these problems? And that's why we at LEAP recommend that the government regulate and control them as best as possible. Now as an advocate and lobbyist for LEAP on capitol hill in the past 10 years I've asked every member of Congress, all 535, from the 50 states I think it is, that, can you name one benefit, one advantage, to current policy? Just one. And in that 10 years, not one Congressman or Senator has taken up the challenge and written to the Houston Chronicle and said, hey, it's, there are some advantages and benefits.

Well, let me help a little bit, in the spirit of Texas friendly. Benefit number one might be, prohibition sends a message to our kids that these drugs are dangerous, and by sending the right message, this reduces drug use. Really? If you listen to addiction experts, and I have, making something illegal creates a forbidden fruit concept. It attaches to the forbidden substance glamour and excitement. Think the apple. So I would argue, and the experts would argue, that making it illegal is not going to do much good because at least, according to the experts, at least as many kids will try drugs because it is illegal as are deterred by the message from their parents. And trigger alert for parents out there, I know this is going to sting a little bit, trigger alert: teenagers often will not listen to what you say. Just saying.

So now, we, the second thing that would be a benefit would be making drugs illegal makes them harder for teens to buy. Anybody here under 60 knows that, and plus government studies, it's easier for a teen to buy marijuana than beer, and this has been true now for going on 40 years. So that's obviously not quite a benefit.

And third, we're all worried about, okeh, if we legalize these drugs, then there will be more DUI. Ladies and gentlemen, I arrested 400 people for DUI, mostly for alcohol, but I have arrested for DUI none. We can test what we were -- we were trained in the 70s to detect, test for, arrest, and successfully prosecute none alcohol DUI, we know how to do this. And I've done it. This is something that law enforcement will throw out there from time to time saying, well, there's no testing for marijuana on the side of the road, there's no test for oxycodone, and by the way, talk to current law enforcement, the big killer out there today is people high on oxycodone and percocet driving down the road.

Now, the reason I get up and go to work in the morning is harms to teenagers, which we don't talk about. We know that drugs are dangerous, that's not an issue. Protecting our youth is what makes me get up in the morning and go to Congress as opposed to riding my horse around the lake back in Fort Worth. Every teen in America has a job option to sell drugs. Nine hundred thousand today, as we speak, are employed in the drug trade. I can tell you from government stats, between the ages of 12 and 24, twenty young people are shot every day. Every day, and every day. This is a Sandy Hook every day, and nobody talks about it.

The second reason I go to work, while we employ 69,000 detectives to go after drug cases, pedophiles have an easier time to find my grandkids at 4 o'clock when they go into social media. This drives me to work. And as ISIS plans the next Christmas party surprise, federal agents are spending their time trying to find somebody who's selling a couple of kilos of cocaine to Charlie Sheen. Further reducing your public safety, which I believe should be the sole purpose of law enforcement, public safety, all road officers are part time narcotics, as they search millions and millions of cars for a few grams of this or an ounce or two of that. And this is upwards of 10 million hours a year, this reduces your public safety.

So in conclusion, surveys show about 80 percent of this audience, and every audience across America, understands that the war on drugs is a total failure. Not partial, it's a total failure. Ladies and gentlemen, you want to protect your children from harm and death? Legalize and regulate all drugs. Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: In just a moment, we're going to hear from Texas Representative Gene Wu, but first, I wanted to alert you that Howard Wooldridge is now in Vienna, attending the UN conference on drugs, which will wind up in mid-April in New York City. A re-examination of this hopeless policy. This is Texas Representative Gene Wu.

TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE GENE WU: I don't think I really need to sit here and sell you guys on like why we're here. Right? And what we're talking about. I don't need to tell you the drug war is a failure. Let me tell you a little about what it is to fight on the ground. Right? So, I know, my bill got mentioned, like, I think like 325, I think, actually, 325, I think got mentioned like 2 or 3 times already. No one told -- if you don't know, that bill did not pass. Okeh? It didn't even get out of committee. And actually, the reason it didn't get out of committee, actually it had a chance, good chance of getting out of committee, the reason it actually didn't get out of committee is actually because there was actually a personal grievance on the committee that actually wasn't even related to me, it was actually a personal grievance between a couple of committee members and they took it out on my bill.

But, that's -- but, that brings up a good point, is that, this, at the end, is about politics. And before I get much -- real quick I'm going to say what I said at the last panel we had. We're were on a panel with other legislative members, and my last comment was, you know, I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed for our state, that we have, we are forcing good prosecutors like Devon Anderson to do our job. You know, this is, when I was a prosecutor, I was actually under, a prosecutor under a different, a different district attorney, but when I was a prosecutor, there was a thing that rang in my head every single day I was a prosecutor, and it is, it's in the oath of the prosecutor's office, and it is in the government code 2.01. If you actually want to look it up, it's Texas Government Code 2.01, it defines the attributes and the duties of the prosecutor. And at the end it says, it is the duty of all prosecutors, even special prosecutors, that they are to seek justice and not convictions. Right? That your job is to make sure that justice is done and not just that you seek convictions.

And, I understand why Devon is doing what she's doing, because she sees that our current laws are no longer just. And that they can no longer do their job of seeking justice under the current regime, under the current laws the way we've set them at -- in the legislature, and she's had to use her own discretion to seek justice, and not just convictions. So, that being the basis of why we're here today, I always say, I am embarrassed that our state has been so slow and so unwilling to move forward politically to make sure that we have a just and fair system.

So, all that aside, let's talk about -- I really want to talk to you about why, why we have this stalemate. And there's a small group of people that were here right at the beginning, they were talking about it, and actually they hit exactly on the nose. When I had my bill, basically it says that, my bill basically, what it did was, if you had less than 3.5 ounces, which is basically, it's 9.999 grams, so it's 10 grams [note: actually 0.35 ounces is approximately 9.922 grams]. Like, 10 grams is like, what, four, maybe 5 joints, like a couple of big ones, I don't know. Okeh, so [laughter].

But seriously, we had people in the legislature -- when some of the people who actually knew, like, smoked, and trying to talk about, I remember, like just -- sshhhh. Shut up. Just -- it's three, it's 4 or 5, okeh? Just leave it at that. So, anyways, so most of the -- when I was prosecutor, most of the marijuana cases I got were like two grams, three grams. Some of them even under one gram. Like, I literally had a case where the cop went to the car and took their carpet out and shook out like seeds and like flakes. I'm like, come on, dude. Seriously. Like I don't have enough work to do.

But anyways. So, we're trying, and then this is the -- it's basically to get anything below 10 grams and shoved it into JP court and municipal court. It was a -- became a Class C offense. There was -- there's no arrest if the officer didn't feel it was necessary, they could just issue a citation, and you know, you can go to JP court, just like a traffic ticket, go do some community service hours, go take a class, pay some fines, and we'll call it a day. Now don't get in trouble for three months, six months, whatever it is, and we'll call it a day. You know, it's -- reasonably, it stays off your record.

And, law enforcement, for the most part, liked it, we had the Texas State Troopers Association come out and support it, the district attorney from Bexar County came out and supported it, some other DAs came out and supported it, some other law enforcement groups came out and supported it. We only had one single law enforcement group in the entire state come out and say like, well, we're not really, really for this, and that was the Texas Sheriffs Association, which is like the most conservative group, and even their opposition was like, look, we don't really dislike your bill, we think it's actually a good idea, but our members are like kind of on the fence on it, so we're going to -- just put a no in it for you. And they didn't really even testify against it.

So, we had this momentum building of law enforcement is for it, almost 99 percent for it. We had some slight opposition and even, you know, their opposition they said like, you know, we're not going to put a big fuss about it. You go ahead and push it on through if you can. And we said, like, okeh. This is going to go, this is going to go, it's going to work. One of the things that we do as a legislative member, if you're working your bills, which is what you do, you walk around the floor, you start talking to people. Hundred and fifty members, oh 149 members. Start talking to them, hey, how's it going? How's your kid? Yeah, you good, yeah? Hey, I've got this bill coming up, you know, and this is what the bill does, this 149 times. Okeh? Some people you have to sell hard, some people you don't. Some people will like say hey, I want to be a joint author on your bill. Boom. You know, you don't have to worry about them.

So, the problem is, you get to the middle chunk of the members. The people who are not like ultra-libertarian, the people who are not Democrats, you know who I'm talking about. And, their response is, Gene, [snaps fingers] you've got a great idea, that's a solid bill, one of my law enforcement people came and talked to me and said, like, that's a good plan. But I can't vote for it. Can't do it, man. And, member after member, just, ah, that's a good idea, that's a good idea, you've got some good names behind your bill. I can't do it, man. Sorry, buddy.

And, you know, and I said -- and, you know, you try talking to more and more people and say like, look, look, people are all up in my ass about, they're going to primary meeting, I've got a, you know, my district is close, the Tea Party's coming after me, so and so's coming after me, and the bill died. You know? And the bill died in committee, and the committee came down to basically, it went down by one vote in the committee, and if, but we could have had the other three, any of the three other members who, four members who voted against it, we could have gotten them, because they all liked it. They all liked it. But a couple of them were planning to run for senate, a couple of them were going, already knew that they would have primary challengers, and they didn't want to take the risk. So, there it is.

And the reality of what we're trying to talk about today, and what we're trying to do, that is, at the end of the day that is the, that's where the buck stops. That there has to be, everyone in here has to understand that there is a political reality to this, that, you know, if this was a -- sorry, Devon -- if this was a Democratic state, and Democrats ran the show, there wouldn't be a lot of problems, but I'm saying, vote Democrat. But, here's the thing is, the legislature is almost two thirds GOP, and of those group, of that two thirds, there is about a 70 plus chunk of it that are -- I would -- that they hate when I call them this, but they're the country club Republicans. Okeh? They said like, well, they're business Republicans. They hate that term.

But, they're the ones who, they're more worried about the little old lady who drives this -- who only drives to church on Sundays, and that's all she does, you know. They can't go and explain the drug war to her. They're all, and they don't, they can't explain changes in drug policy. All they know is, when they vote for something like this, they will get a hit piece in the mail that says, so and so weak on crime. Right? So, what does all this -- and that's the political reality of it. All these members, that's what they're going to get hit with. And David Simpson, who actually authored the bill in the last time that fully legalizes marijuana. Not just 10 grams, but the state -- Texas would no -- regulate marijuana, he got hit with that. He ran for senate, he got beat over the head with that vote, or with his bill. Over and over and over again. And even though, you know, Tea Party strongly likes this kind of thing, likes this kind of bill, and he was a big Tea Party guy, he still got beaten over the head with it because the little old ladies who go to church, you can't explain -- they don't want, they don't to explain it to them.

So. Anyways. Thank you so much. We'll be, I'll be here answering questions, and I'll be back, next time in the legislature working on it again.

DEAN BECKER: Again, that was Texas Representative Gene Wu, speaking at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University for the panel Law Enforcement Perspectives on Drug Prohibition. Please tune in next week, we will have my questions to these four panelists. The answers are amazing, astounding. I hope you'll join us then.

It seems that every day, more information is being put forward, is being recognized, and is being put in play, in regards to the cannabis plant. Here to fill us in more is one of the directors of Patients Out of Time, who has some exciting news to share with us, and with that, I want to welcome Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: I think so, it's exciting to see, you know, more and more on the internet, people discovering things, passing information around, and trying to get rid of the stoner idea that it's only for people who want to get high. This is good medicine. The research supports that.

DEAN BECKER: Just yesterday, was it the House or the Senate, approved a medical marijuana bill in Pennsylvania? The governor has indicated he's ready to sign that bill.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: And you know, the -- as the momentum grows, it's like that giant snowball, and it's getting to where it can't be stopped, which is good. But it means we all have to keep paying attention.

DEAN BECKER: Well, indeed we do, and one way we can learn more and get a better focus is by attending a conference that is being --

MARY LYNN MATHRE: Literally a month from today, folks, if people can make it, this is put on by Patients Out of Time, and we're actually celebrating our 21st year anniversary. We've been around since 1995. And we started our conference series in 2000, so coming up April 14th through 16th in Baltimore, at the Baltimore Harbor Hotel, we'll be holding the Tenth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. And this year the theme is "Cannabis: A Botanical Medicine." So we're going to be focusing on the whole plant, as a medicine, and describe why it works as a whole plant, the different formulations you can have, current research.

I'm really, really excited about this conference. We've got one heck of a line-up, got litereally cannabis researchers coming from 6 different countries, counting the United States. But we've, you know, bringing in the big names and trying to really help Americans, and especially the healthcare professionals, understand that this is a very safe, very versatile, and essential medicine.

And of course the other big thing on the news these days is the huge epidemic that we've got of opioid deaths. Unintentional or intentional suicides, but many just overdoses, people either running out of their prescriptions and having to go on the illegal market for pain meds, or heroin, or for whatever reason, and cannabis is a wonderful, safe alternative for many patients with chronic pain. The fact that these legislators don't see this as a safe alternative, to actually saving lives, you know, is very frustrating, let alone mind-boggling.

For more information on this, please go to PatientsOutOfTime.org, or MedicalCannabis.com.

DEAN BECKER: Earlier in the program, you heard the speech of Mr. Howard Wooldridge at the James A. Baker III Institute. But not only does this gentleman travel the halls of the US Congress, he's in Vienna right now, attending the UN, hmm, negotiations, if you will, on this drug war.

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: We're working hard over here to change the world prohibition. The, you know, we've had this treaty for 55 years, since 1961, which started the worldwide prohibition of about 6 or 7 drugs. And today, I can tell you, this is my third trip here. The resistance to the current policy, current strategy, is significant, perceptible, and it is irritating that people here at the United Nations, that so many countries are saying we need to change fundamentally our strategy on how to approach dangerous drugs.

Dean, it's a totally -- it's not just a different country and a different language, the United Nations is a totally different world, like, they're from Mars and we're from Venus. They do not, I asked today, of the head guy, I said, have you ever done an analysis in the last 55 years to determine if worldwide prohibition is the best way to reduce death, disease, criminality, and drug use and abuse. And he said, essentially, no, we have not. There's no need to, we all know that making things illegal is the best way to reduce the problems. It was breathtaking.

DEAN BECKER: And it remains so, I mean, not just in the UN, there are still those die-hards like Chuck Grassley, who doesn't want to have a bill considered to in essence legalize medical marijuana. These stalwarts are going to die off eventually, don't they?

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Well, exactly, Dean. The dinosaurs did die out, and the guys like Grassley will die out, leave the senate. This guy Fedotov, who runs the conference on dangerous drugs, will eventually leave. And there's -- what we have today is about 4 countries, namely Iran, Russia, Singapore, Japan, who just continue living in the 20th century at best, and keep thinking that the way to move the issue forward is to ever more punish, punish, and more punishment. That's the bad news. The good news is, most of the developed countries are now saying we need to fundamentally change how we approach people who use drugs and the entire issue.

What you hear here is a total -- and I speak four languages, but I'm learning a fifth one called United Nations language, and that is when -- here, when they say we want to respect human rights, I learned this this trip, that that means everything from decrim, like Portugal, all the way to legalize regulate, because today, we know that teenagers are being shot and killed all over the world because of their employment in the drug trade. So therefore, to protect those young people, we need to end this worldwide prohibition, but you cannot say that openly at the United Nations. You have to use a special code, and the code today, I have it on good authority, is when you hear the idea of we want to respect human rights, that probably means we need to end the drug war and end drug prohibition worldwide. So I'm very encouraged.

DEAN BECKER: Howard, in closing --

HOWARD WOOLDRIDGE: Change is afoot, and it's happening here in Vienna and elsewhere in the world, and Dean, I look forward to talking to you again and giving you the end of the two week session here in Vienna, Austria.

DEAN BECKER: All right. I'm going to close this out with a song that seems more relevant than ever before: The Wall, by Pink Floyd.

And again, I remind, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

So ya
Thought ya
Might like to
Go to the show.
To feel that warm thrill of confusion,
That space cadet glow.
I've got some bad news for you sunshine,
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel
And they sent us along as a surrogate band
We're gonna find out where you folks really stand.

Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!