05/22/16 Nathan P. Jones

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Nathan Jones author of Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks - And the State Reaction, Nurse ML Mathre of Patients out of Time, Corey Barnett Wash DC cannabis provider, Arkansas report on cannabis legalization courtesy KNWA

Audio file


MAY 20, 2016


DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the broad misdirection and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Mexican drug networks are large and violent, engaging in activities like the trafficking of narcotics, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, and mass murder. Drawing on extensive field work and interviews with US and Mexican law enforcement, government officials, organized crime victims, and criminals, Nathan P. Jones examines the comparative resilience of two basic types of drug networks, territorial and transactional, that are differentiated by their business strategies and provoke different responses from the state. Nathan P. Jones is a Nonresident Scholar in Drug Policy and Mexico Studies at the Baker Institute at Rice University, and is now an assistant professor in the Department of Security Studies at Sam Houston State University, and with that, I want to welcome our guest, Nathan P. Jones. Hello, Nate.

NATHAN P. JONES: Hello, Dean, thank you for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Nathan, I read your book. I'm really impressed by the depth you were able to dig into this situation, the information you brought forward. If you would, just describe your book for the listener.

NATHAN JONES: Well, you pretty much summed it up there. I look at some different business models, the transactional versus the territorial, and I'm not the first to talk about those. Some great scholars, like Peter -- such as Peter Reuter have talked about those. And, what I do is, you know, kind of flesh out some of those concepts, put them in the context of, you know, how the state reacts to them. I draw on authors like Charles Tilly, who looks at the state as kind of an analogy for organized crime, and basically show that drug trafficking organizations, when they start to get very territorial and start to tax the local population, they're doing essentially what is the government's job. And so the state tends to react very viscerally to that, and particularly when they start engaging in extortion through kidnapping, the democratic society, civil society, really pushes on the state to react very viscerally against those groups that are engaging in kind of local extortion and taxation as a means to raise money.

And so, I found that in my case study in Tijuana, and my book is published by Georgetown University Press, the reviewers were amazing, and they pushed me to expand it to other mini case studies. And so I kind of applied the framework to other case studies. And I did this, you know, I did data on, you know, based on secondary research, but the Tijuana case is mainly based on, you know, primary research, where I lived in Tijuana and Mexico City studying the Cartel Arellano-Félix, better known as the Tijuana Cartel, for an academic year. And so that's generally what's the book's about, and I conclude the book with a discussion about, you know, the problems with prohibition, some of the alternative drug policies that can get at the underlying foundations of why these groups are so profitable.

DEAN BECKER: And again, you know, over the years, I've always talked about the drug cartels. But, that's, they really don't fit that definition, do they?

NATHAN JONES: Absolutely, that's a really good point, and academics always cringe at the term "cartel." We sometimes use it because it's the popular parlance, right? Like, it's the popular usage, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Cartel de Sinaloa. So it's almost like a proper noun. But the thing is, a cartel is a group of firms in the economic sense that can -- they control a sufficient amount of the supply to be able to manipulate the price of an item, and so the classic cartel is OPEC, you know, they controlled enough oil in theory to keep the price high. They're not -- they're choosing not to do it of late, for, you know, political reasons, etc. But, cartels, the Mexican cartels don't fit that definition. So they're better understood as drug networks. There's always a sufficient amount of competition between them that they don't really have the ability to pitch up the price. The prices are still competitive.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Now, your book is very current. You even talk about the current situation where the states that are legalizing marijuana in the United States are very much undercutting the profitability of the marijuana exporters from Mexico. Correct?

NATHAN JONES: Yeah, yeah. And there's some great reporting, the earliest reporting I saw on that was John Burnett out of NPR. He went down and basically found in the hills around Sinaloa, around Culiacán, that marijuana growers had already seen like a 20 to 30 percent drop in the wholesale price of marijuana. And they were directly attributing it to the legalization of marijuana in certain states, and the medicalization of marijuana in other states. And basically we were seeing a shift from marijuana to poppy or heroin. Now, I want to be careful to point out, the Mexican drug cartels don't just ship and create a market for heroin out of thin air. That market for heroin is something we domestically created here in the United States, because we have an opioid epidemic that comes from the legal medical system, where doctors horribly overprescribed opiates. People become addicted, we started cracking down on doctor shopping, and then people moved on to illegal heroin on the streets.

Instead of a very expensive, you know, black market Oxycontin pill that goes for 80 bucks, they can get a ten dollar hit of heroin and get their fix. And so, they, it's, various Mexican drug cartels are moving into that. In part, they're meeting the demand that we created here in the United States, and that's how they're adapting away from marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Friends, once again, we're speaking with Mister Nathan P. Jones, author of Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks And The State Reaction. Nate, I want to ask you again about the situation. They're talking about legalizing marijuana in Canada, and in Mexico the Supreme Court is going to put forward a ruling here soon, and I'm asking you for a little conjecture. What do you think that will do to the profits of the growers in Mexico?

NATHAN JONES: Well, so, it depends on the nature of the legalization, you know. So far, you know, you see these early Supreme Court cases, and they're talking about very small level of personal cultivation for medical issues, etc. If we rule -- if they, Mexico, Canada, and the rest of the United States were to engage in a larger market, and we could regulate marijuana like alcohol, for example, or as they've been doing in a much more stricter way in places like Colorado and Washington. We could see a significant amount of profit from those Mexican drug trafficking organizations basically taken away from them. It will not kill them completely. But it could deny them significant profits, and that's a really important point. RAND has done some studies on how much that would actually impact them.

We have to remember though, it will not necessarily eliminate them completely, but that does not mean it's not a good thing. By denying them significant profits, that weakens them and makes them easier to manage. And, Edgardo Buscaglia and Doctor Samuel Gonzalez Ruiz have written on that, about making organized crime easier to manage. It's a problem that will always be there, it's like a chronic problem. The question is at what level will it be present. In Mexico, it's present at a very high level. We want it at a low level.

DEAN BECKER: Fair enough. Nate, I wanted to ask you, you know, you talk about, I don't know, the ever shifting power structure, I guess, of the cartels, and so forth. But, what it all ends up, I guess in the long run, is what you describe with the balloon effect, that they can't quite quash the trafficking.

NATHAN JONES: The balloon effect has been an analogy or a metaphor that's been around for a long time. Bruce Bagley has written on that extensively and how influential that thought has been. It's also sometimes referred to as the cockroach effect, we shine a light on it through law enforcement in one place, and they scurry off like cockroaches to another place. You push on the balloon in one place and it pops out somewhere else. And the question has always been, and I even heard a Congressman in, back in 2007, say this, when they were discussing the Merida Initiative. How do we pop the balloon? And it's very difficult to pop the balloon of an illicit flow when there's high demand for it and you've completely prohibited it. Regulation might be a better way to deal with the underlying conditions that create the illicit flow in the first place.

So, it's going to be very, very expensive if we continue to try prohibition, but the general trend, I think in American society, and internationally, is maybe we need to look at alternatives to it, to prohibition, and focus on, instead of saying, well, we're going to pop the balloon in one particular place, we could think of this as deflating the balloon in terms of the flow.

DEAN BECKER: Fair enough. And, Nate, I wanted to focus in on what I think is the heart of the issue, and that is the corruption, vast and wide and deadly, that in essence holds this drug war together in Mexico. Am I right?

NATHAN JONES: I, yeah, corruption is definitely a major part of it. That was something that always came up. In my mind, and in my field of work, you know, there were, you know, different explanations posited. One, you know, one was, you know, in Mexico, we have culture of corruption, it goes back essentially to the conquistadors. You know, you had the Aztecs, which were, you know, demanding tribute from other groups up the chain of command, and the Spaniards essentially came in, inserted themselves into that system, so that system is an inherent part of it. For me, I also think police salaries are really important. If I took the pay structure of Mexican police officers, and applied that pay structure to police officers in the Netherlands, I think I would have corruption inside of five years. And so, I wonder about corruption versus changing the economic structure of the system, so that police officers can live a middle class lifestyle. I think both things have to be happening in tandem. The culture has to change, but also the economic structures have to change as well.

DEAN BECKER: Now, Nate, I want to kind of reach back to the 1920s and '30s. Alcohol prohibition here in the United States. It was through the sale of alcohol that many of these, you know, major gangs here in the US rose to power, and with the legalization of alcohol once again, they were forced to shift their efforts, their focus, elsewhere. And though they still maintain a lot of power, it is through the loss of that alcohol income that their power was greatly diminished. Could we expect a similar situation, once, say, marijuana or all drugs are legalized in Mexico?

NATHAN JONES: Well, I would think that that's the general direction, yes. What you would have is, you know, you've rightly pointed out everything, right? Which is, the mafia didn't just disappear in the United States when prohibition ended, it was still around, and we had Bobby Kennedy in the 1960s going after these organized crime groups, you know, in a very legal way. We had the establishment of RICO laws, etc. etc. Going after these criminal organiz -- organized crime groups and conspiracy laws. Once you deny them significant profits, they'll, they will eventually have to transition. They can still go into things like extortion and kidnapping, but the government tends to respond to those things very viscerally. And eventually those things kind of filter out of the system, because the government has to respond to those, because the civil society and the society at large demands an end to things like kidnappings.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And, I would surmise, then, if they don't have to devote so many thousands, millions, of man-hours going after drugs and drug users, they would have time and policemen to better go after the other types of corruption. Right?

NATHAN JONES: Absolutely, yes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Nate, I tell you what. I want to remind folks again that the book we're talking about's brand new, just hitting the shelves: Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks And The State Reaction, written by my friend and associate at the Baker Institute, Nathan P. Jones. Nathan, what am I leaving out, what would you like to relate to the listeners?

NATHAN JONES: Oh, well, you know, I, despite the fact that it's brand new, I'd like to point out some of the weaknesses, and one of the weaknesses is, there has been this new cartel, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación, and it has come on very, very strong in Tijuana. And so, much of the story I tell about Tijuana is a story about the reduction in violence, and I allude to kind of a slow uptick in the last couple of years, in terms of violence. But it's, I just did a panel, moderated a panel, with DEA agent and California Department of Justice agents who worked the Tijuana Cartel case, and in the last ten minutes of that panel, it's available on YouTube, with the law -- the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. They talk about what's going on in the drug plaza, the drug trafficking corridor, today. And what they talked about is how strong and rapidly the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación has come on. And, some are calling it one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico. It's the only cartel in Mexico right now that's on an expansionist trajectory, as scholars like Alejandro Hope have pointed out.

And so, that would be one of the things that, it happened -- it started happening and becoming much, much more apparent in the last year, since I've written the book, because you've got to know that this book goes through so much editing etc., and that process takes a really long time. So if there's one thing that I felt is kind of changing, it's kind of come on recently, it's the expansion of this group, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación. You might have heard of them, they made some news last year, downing a Mexican helicopter. That made a lot of news. And, that would be one of the things I'd like to point out.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Nathan, and to wrap this up, is there a website you might recommend?

NATHAN JONES: Well, the book can be found on Amazon.com. Or, you can go to the Georgetown University Press website, and it's published with Georgetown University Press, and it's available there on the website, as well, in addition to Amazon.com

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DEAN BECKER: I'm speaking with Mary Lynn Mathre, President of Patients Out of Time organization. Mary Lynn, you may be aware that I do a segment on my show that's called Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. And one of the main drugs that's being put forward these days is this new sleep aid called Belsomra. And it features a little magical puppet that has the word sleep on its side, that crawls into bed with the lady and comforts her to rest. And, but then they start talking about the side effects: don't drive until you know the effects of it, be aware that you may awaken in the middle of the night and go gamble and have sex and return without knowing it. Then, and then they talk about, it may lead to psychosis and suicide, of course. And yet, marijuana is considered to be too dangerous. Your response, Mary Lynn Mathre.

MARY LYNN MATHRE: That's an excellent point, and I think that's -- that's something everybody can pay attention to, and teach the whole family to do this. So many people just mute ads when they come on, or whatever, and all you're doing is seeing the pictures, and the pictures are always beautiful and they always lead off with what it's going to do to help you. You know, take a pill, it will fix whatever ails you. But if you listen to those side effects, like with Belsomra, there is -- I mean, we have a lot of deaths by Ambien, people taking Ambien, another medication for sleep, because they're falling asleep while they're driving to work the next morning, the effects are still there.

Sleepwalking is pretty dangerous, to wake up and find out -- I've got lots of patients who've complained about, you know, taking certain pharmaceuticals and finding out something was done last night and, by gosh, it was done by them and they have no memory of it, or found outside sleepwalking. Cannabis has never been used for that, and again, I've got an old, pre-prohibition pharmacy book for nurses, Bloomgarden's book for, pharmacology for nurses, and it literally says, it relieves pain and induces sleep.

Cannabis is a natural remedy, whether it be for sleep or for so many other things. The side effects are so minimal, and again, it's natural, it works with our own endocannabinoid system. To a nurse, it's a dream come true. We spend so much of our time in hospitals giving medications, and going back and treating the side effects of the medications. And it's -- you just feel like you're running all the time, chasing, you know, just making sure you can get those drugs to the right person at the right time, you know, do it the right way. It's a difficult thing. You give them something for their pain, and then you've made them groggy and they fall out of bed, or they fall going to the bathroom. So, I mean, you know, what can we say? You've got cannabis, and it's like a dream come true. Takes care of almost everything, from eating, sleeping, pain control, you know. One medication to serve many, many problems.

So, this is Mary Lynn Mathre, I'm a registered nurse, certified in addictions nursing, masters prepared. From Patients Out of Time.

DEAN BECKER: [MUSIC] He's the drug czar,
Wages an eternal war
On free will.
He knows all,
The drug czar knows all.
He's in charge of the truth,
So he tells nothing but lies.
He professes such great sorrow
For the thousands of his minions who die.
He's the drug czar,
Waging his eternal war
On our free will.

COREY BARNETTE: My name is Corey Barnette, I own and operate District Growers, and I'm the owner of Metropolitan Wellness Center in Washington, DC. District Growers is a cultivation and product maker in the medical cannabis industry, and Metropolitan Wellness Center is a dispensary operation, and we are both licensed -- both of them are licensed in Washington, DC.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I do know the Reverend -- the Rabbi Kahn, who runs, I guess, a dispensary in DC --

COREY BARNETTE: Takoma Wellness is his.

DEAN BECKER: His is Takoma Wellness. And, you know, so far, it seems to be working out for him, and I'm certain it is for you as well. I saw a report on TV the other day about what's going on in DC, and it seems like logic and common sense are starting to take hold. What are your thoughts, sir?

COREY BARNETTE: I don't know if we can argue that logic and common sense are starting to take hold in Washington, DC. That's a tall order. .But what I can tell you is that the legislative environment appears to be one that is currently in a state of flux. Right? And we're trying to get ahead of the curve in Washington, DC, and tackle some tough issues. All right, for instance, in Washington, DC, it's currently legal to grow your own cannabis, and it's legal to share your cannabis with other people, but we don't have an environment where you can actually regulate the cannabis grown, and we don't have an environment that would set up a system whereby someone who doesn't grow can actually go and purchase, unless you're in the medical marijuana program.


COREY BARNETTE: Now, one of the things we want to do is, well -- we believe that presents a huge problem. Right? Because the way the law is currently written, people are required to just stay in their homes. Well, what if you live in public housing? What if you are in an apartment where you are not allowed by the person who owns the apartment to consume cannabis? And this is a medical treatment, all right? And, so, people should have the freedom to, sort of, take their medicine. At home, or wherever they need to be able to take their medicine, and if we're going to allow people to say you can't take it at home, then we should -- the city should sort of find a way to allow people to have a place where they can go medicate.

And so, there's a huge public outcry for things like being able to have places where people can go and consume cannabis, even if it's only for medicinal purposes. There is a significant adult use community in Washington, DC, and now that people are growing at home and are sharing it with their friends and relatives and colleagues and things of that nature, there's also a sizable population that is no longer smoking at home. And so, the city needs to be able to sort of step up and find a way of regulating that.

There was a proposal at one point in time to do pot clubs, or something like that. I hate that term, but to do cannabis clubs. But, that was voted down by the city, because the mayor lobbied the council fairly heavily, and in doing so, her position was that, you know, if you set up these clubs, I don't have a way of regulating what's going on inside the club. Right? Because Congress is currently preventing the District from regulating to protect the public safety. And so -- but the mayor does have methods that she can use to navigate that law, and the -- we're hoping that she gets the kind of advice and takes the kind of action to actually step up and fulfill the entire proposition -- what the voters really voted on, when they voted for Initiative 71.

That's a very long answer to a very short question, but --

DEAN BECKER: Well, no, no, but it's, there are no easy steps, these days. It's multi-faceted, nearly always. Once again, we've been speaking with Mister Corey Barnette, based in Washington, DC. Any closing thoughts, to the listener, maybe share your website, please.

COREY BARNETTE: You can find out our operation at www.DistrictGrowers.com. Or Metropolitan Wellness Center website is MWCDC.com.

LAINE BAKER: Potential legalization of marijuana continues forward in Arkansas. Last month, Attorney General Lesley Rutledge approved a ballot title that could make medical and recreational marijuana legal in the state.

NATE KUESTER: And tonight, KNWA's Samantha Jones talking to people on both sides of the issue and saying, what exactly is in the amendment.

SAMANTHA JONES: The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment outlines regulations, growth permits, even how the drug will be taxed to make money for the state, but as the idea of pot being legal in Arkansas gains traction with voters, legislators are holding tight to their opinions.

BETTY HARRISON: People in general probably shouldn't smoke it, but for medical reasons I'm all for it,

SAMANTHA JONES: The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana, which US Congressional candidate Steve Isaacson argues would benefit people with chronic pain, cancer, even PTSD.

STEVE ISAACSON: The people with these disabilities need to be taken care of, this is a way to do it. No ifs, no buts about it. And I will fight it to my death.

CHARLIE COLLINS: We already have a pharmacy system that's been working just fine for every other drug and an FDA Approval system that is working just fine for every other drug.

SAMANTHA JONES: The ACA would also let people 21 and over use marijuana for recreational purposes.

TIM HOLLIS: My understanding is it isn't as threatening as drinking alcohol which we let people do without any thought, it seems like, in our state.

State Representative Charlie Collins said the legalization would send the wrong message to our kids.

CHARLIE COLLINS: The truth is, as long as the federal government does not approve marijuana for legal use, if you are smoking marijuana, you are committing a crime against the federal law.

SAMANTHA JONES: But some voters said with the right education the pros outweigh the cons.

ARKANSAS VOTER: Just look at Colorado and these other states that have a surplus of money do do things with, now that they've made that decision.

SAMANTHA JONES: Just last year the state of Colorado made $85 million in marijuana tax revenue. The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment needs 85,000 signatures to be on the November ballot. It currently has over 20,000.

DEAN BECKER: That's it. I hope you enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage. You'll join us next week, and remember 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. Tap dancin' at the edge of an abyss .....