09/08/17 Maia Szalavitz

Cultural Baggage Radio Show

Maia Szalavitz, journalist/author/drug reformer, Corey Mendes busted during Harvey, Andrea Wimberly Tx cannabis patient, Julie Ann Genter NZ MP, Texas Atty Clay Conrad on jury nullification, loss of rights

Audio file




DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, 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.

Hi, folks, thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. A bit later, we're going to hear from a couple of Texans who got caught up in the hurricane. We'll hear from a New Zealand Member of Parliament, and to close us out we're going to hear from a Houston attorney, Mister Clay Conrad. But first --

You know, it seems every week the failure and futility of the drug war gets more focused, at the same time we have officials in high positions of power who cling ever tighter to the propaganda and hysteria that propels this drug war forward. We have with us today an author, an activist, a real human being. I just got to say it, somebody who understands this drug war and who writes on a continual basis to explain this to the working man, to help move this in the right direction, and I want to welcome our ally, our friend, Maia Szalavitz. How are you doing, Maia?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: I'm all right, thanks so much for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Maia, am I right? It seems we're moving forward and we're falling back all at the same time. Are we not?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Absolutely. I mean, it's like, the rhetoric has improved pretty dramatically. People are, you know, trying to say the right thing about what we should do and how we should reduce stigma, and treat people with addiction like human beings. But, the policies are still, you know, you get arrested for possession, a lot of treatment is not based on evidence, and they're trying to do things like create longer penalties for people who sell drugs that are linked to an overdose, which sounds like it might be a good idea on paper, but we basically already tried that many times, it's basically giving people a longer sentence, and we know that that doesn't work.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Yeah, mandatory minimums, that's really fell in on itself, that concept, especially --

MAIA SZALAVITZ: And yet at the same time, every time we get a new drug panic, you know, like the, I mean, I remember at one point Congress was like, oh, we've got to get rid of the crack mandatories, oh my god methamphetamine, let's add a mandatory minimum, and it was like, dudes, you're opposing yourself at the same time. It was literally some of the same people.


MAIA SZALAVITZ: And, you know, it's just, like, you really wonder, when will they learn?

DEAN BECKER: Well, and it boils down to their inability to at least speak of the horrors we inflict on ourselves by continuing to believe in the drug war. I mean, we've got the horrible situation in Mexico and Central America, where literally tens of thousands of people get butchered each year. We've got the overdose death quote "emergency" here. And yet, we fail to examine the fact that it is through the policy of prohibition that ever more deadly and potent drugs are going to be brought to our shores. Your response to that, Maia.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Sure, well, I mean, as you know, this is called the iron law of prohibition, and basically it makes perfect sense that if you prohibit a drug, and you make it illegal, people will turn to selling smaller versions of that drug, which by nature will then have to be more potent. So, what you end up with is, you know, in alcohol prohibition, like, why were you going to smuggle beer when you could smuggle whiskey? And similarly with opioids, like, why are you going to waste time growing poppies and having that whole complicated supply chain, when you could just call up a lab in China and get something that's ten thousand times more potent?

And so what we did was, we basically shifted people who were getting a supply of medical opioids, usually it was not being given directly to them, but they were getting it from patients or they were getting it, you know, otherwise diverted from the medical system, and they knew its X dose of X drug. Now they've just got some mystery white powder, and it might be something ten thousand times stronger than heroin, or it might be a placebo, and you don't know, and this is how people die.

DEAN BECKER: Exactly. You know, it's just one example of the off-balance, off, wrong direction we've taken in so many areas of the drug war. Another area I see you've written upon, how America overdosed on drug courts. And it sounded like a great idea, in the beginning. It's maybe -- well, it's certainly better than sending people to prison, but it --

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, it's that -- I mean, see, here's -- yeah, like, the thing was that in the context of you get 15 to life, or you get a chance at treatment, and then you get 15 to life, well, the, you know -- better first, right?


MAIA SZALAVITZ: So, you know, but what has ended up happening is that these courts, first of all the courts are not responsive to evidence based treatment, so at least half of them do not allow the only treatment we know that cuts the death rate in half, and they actually take people off of that treatment, and thereby increase harm. So, here's the thing, like, addiction is defined medically as compulsive drug taking despite negative consequences, like, this is what the DSM definition, this is what the National Institute on Drug Abuse, basically, the experts agree that this is what addiction is, on a fundamental level.

So what do we do? We try to use negative consequences via courts and jails and, you know, if you're in a drug court, you get a couple of days of jail if you relapse, and, you know, all of these kinds of things, when by definition, the condition does not respond to punishment. And, it's just completely absurd. So, yeah, I mean, the drug courts in the context of extreme prohibition are better, but in the context of good policy, no, like, we really don't want judges making medical decisions.

We don't have diabetes courts or depression courts, and we would think both of those things would be ridiculous because we recognize that those are medical problems. We need to recognize that addiction's a medical problem similarly.

And this is not to say that, like, let's say somebody commits an actual crime that harms people, and they have an addiction. It's probably a good idea to treat that addiction, and some kind of model where the court monitors treatment might be appropriate in that kind of a situation, but it should be like the way they have mental health courts, where mental illness is linked with, you know, in the cases where it, a mentally ill person commits a crime.

The judge doesn't say I prescribe Haldol for you, don't go anywhere near that Risperdal. The judge says, okeh, psychiatrist, tell us what, like, the best treatment is, and I will then mandate that the person does that as a condition of their, you know, release. So, you know, those are very different, and that's the way it really should be done, like, if somebody's harming people, we need to deal with that, and if somebody's addiction is involved in causing that harm, then yeah, we've got to do something about that. But, treatment and punishment are just not the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: I want to kind of back up just a little bit. You were talking about, you know, these drug courts, but there's a bigger picture, if you will, the drug courts, people on probation, parole, they're usually being charged for weekly or monthly urine tests, court fees, other penalties, if you will, that in many cases diminish their capacity to pay their other bills or to survive, ofttimes people with a criminal record can't even find a job, and this is just another way of, these court fees and such, are just another way of, if you will, punishing these people for their past behavior, and I guess I want to ask the question, when can these people be forgiven? How do they move forward in life with all of these onerous --

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Right, I mean it's --

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Yeah. I mean, that is completely counterproductive. What you -- we want a system that is just, and that is fair, and that, you know, deals with harm done, but does not do more harm in the process, and we don't really have that partially because our system is so racist, and partially because we just are extremely punitive.

And, you know, we just can't seem to understand that getting tough is not the answer to every single problem.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Right. And, speaking of getting tough, you've written for Time, and the Washington Post, and gosh, a host of outlets over the years, and I'm looking at one you have here, this is actually from October, but it still stands true, it's in the Washington Post, Why We Ignore Thousands Of Killings In The Philippines: The Victims Were Drug Users. Talk about that situation, please, Maia.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, this is, I mean, and this is like an ongoing nightmare and it seems to be getting worse. The, you know, the Philippine leader, Duterte, has basically been slaughtering anyone he suspects of being a drug user, and telling the police and the gangs that are carrying out these killings that, oh, it's just, you know, fine, just, you know, I will make sure that you don't get punished as long as you're, you know, helping me solve the drug problem, so to speak.

And, you know, I mean, in any other situation, we would not be calling this a drug war, we would simply be calling it a genocide, which is largely targeted at poor people and basically, it seems like, political enemies. And, you know, I mean, it's just an awful situation, and, you know, it speaks to how demonized and how other-ized and just how terribly we see people who are addicted, and even people who are suspected of being addicted. I mean, it's kind of astonishing that anybody would say, oh yeah, it's totally fine to kill somebody we suspect of using a substance. Like, really? Like, why does that merit the death penalty, like, it's, you know, it's just, it's awful, and I really, you know, I mean, it -- we should be doing something about it and if we had a sane administration, we probably would be trying to.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And thus far, best I understand, president Trump stands in support of president Duterte in the Philippines, calls him a good guy. Right?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: I know, and this -- yeah, this to me is especially horrifying. It is, you know, this is just, you know, total violation of human rights and total violation of any kind of morality, or sensibility, you know, it's like, it's one thing if you tell your police, okeh, like, you know, any mass murderer you see, shoot on the spot, like, okeh, that's still wrong and it's still an extrajudicial killing, and it's, you know, bad, but it's like, somebody suspected of possibly having done a nonviolent crime to themselves? It's like, why would that help?

DEAN BECKER: I -- it's beyond comprehension. Folks, we're speaking with Maia Szalavitz. She's a journalist, an author, I think her most recent book is titled "Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way Of Understanding Addiction." Maia, you know, I want to come back to, well, I don't know, a comparison, if you will, of Duterte to Trump. You know, he's -- he's not been exactly draconian, but you know, in his campaign rallies, if somebody's creating a ruckus, he'd say, if you hurt him I'll pay the legal fees, these types of things. There's a little bit of Duterte in Trump at least, your thought, please.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Well, I think they're both sociopaths. I mean, you know, I have never seen evidence of Trump showing empathy to anybody. I mean, it's kind of astonishing, when we have long had, you know, great debates over, you know, what character means for the American president. I mean, this guy does not seem to have ever done a charitable act, or just been nice to somebody for the sake of being nice to them.

You know, it's -- when he goes to a hurricane, he's like, look, I had the biggest hurricane ever, you know, rather than, like, gee, I'm sorry you're suffering, like, can I help? It's really kind of astounding to see the level of lack of compassion, and the fact that many people do not care that he does not care. Obviously, you know, some people want a leader to be strong and firm, and all of this, but you would also presume that you want them to have some kind of moral compass.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, you know, Maia, I'm looking at an article, this is in the New York Times, it's again from 2016, but, Can You Get Over An Addiction? And within this -- within this article, you talk about, you were a drug user, you openly admit it. And I think that's where the answer lies, in changing this perspective. I gave a speech at a church a few weeks back, where I talked about, I'm a drug user. I did heroin and cocaine, a lot of acid, I did -- I do marijuana every day, and I was embraced by the church. And I guess what I'm leading to here, Maia, is that the truth wins this, because I had a very successful career. You're having a very successful career. Drugs did not stop you from doing that, but prohibition might have. Your response, Maia.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: No, I mean, absolutely, like, if I hadn't had the advantages that I have, you know, being white, basically, and being, you know, an Ivy League student at the time, like, I could have been in jail -- in prison for, you know, 15 years, for, you know, what I was arrested for in my twenties. And, you know, I have sort of spent the rest of my life trying to say this did not make sense for me, it does not make sense for anybody, you know, a lot of people who take drugs have enormous potential, and it is insane that we, you know, allow the open sales and commercialization of two highly deadly substances, and then, you know, put people in prison for decades for selling things that are less harmful, and for using things that are less harmful.

It just -- it doesn't make sense. And then when you look at the history of our drug laws, and you see that, you know, the FDA didn't sit down one day and say, oh, tobacco, that should be legal. Oh, marijuana, that should be illegal based on science. Because there's no possible science that could lead you to such a conclusion.


MAIA SZALAVITZ: And, you know, so, when you look at, like, okeh, well then how did it get this way? The only answer is racism, like, you see these racist panics, one after another, around each of these particular drugs that became illegal, and, you know, it was never about, like, let's protect the children, although it has always been framed as that, and one of the things that does give me hope is that, you know, in the last maybe ten, twenty years, a lot of people have realized that criminalization of possession really does not do anybody any good.

Like, it's like putting somebody in a cage for possessing a substance, whether they're a casual user or a person with addiction, like, who is helped by that? Even the most extreme prohibitionists now tend to say, well, okeh, we should arrest them and put them in treatment. Now, that causes a whole other slate of problems, starting out with the fact that we would never have enough treatment for all those people we arrest.

But, you know, it's basically like, even the people who think prohibition is the best policy do not think that, you know, drug possession sentences to jail for a couple of days are useful. And yet, you know, we continue spending hundreds of millions, possibly billions, on that. You know, most of our drug arrests are for possession, and most of them I think are still for marijuana possession. So, it's really an enormous waste of resources.

But what I think is hopeful is that, you know, in the '80s and '90s, just the idea of decriminalizing possession, which, you know, would still leave dealing illegal, but just the idea of decriminalizing possession was taboo. Like, if you said that, you were like a traitor and a, you know, a horrible bad person, or whatever.

And now, like, even the people who, you know, had in the past campaigned, like, let's crack down, a lot of people, especially parents of people with addiction, are like, this makes no sense. Let's spend the money on helping people. You know, and so, I think the drug policy reform movement needs to, you know, sort of capitalize on that momentum, so that, you know, now that we see that you can legalize marijuana in a couple of states and like the world doesn't collapse, and in fact things look pretty good, you know, then we can, you know, look to Portugal, and look to other examples where it's basically like these possession penalties don't help anybody.

Now, the dealing debate is much larger and more complicated for substances like heroin and cocaine. But, the possession debate, I think the reformers have won, and I think that, you know, sort of moving towards policies that achieve that could, you know, be a real way to begin to get out of this endless war.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. You know, I want to go back to that presentation I did at the church a couple of weeks back. When it was done, it was Q&A, and then it was really a wide open Q&A once the service was done, and I ran into people who agreed with me, who had been afraid to discuss the subject, you know, in that church, at work, at school, anywhere, because they just felt it was a taboo subject, something that just can't be discussed.

And I guess what I'm leading to, or going towards here, Maia, is that as you have done, indicating you have used drugs, I have done, Doctor Carl Hart's been very bold in that regard as well, but I think through showing that people with productive lives have used or currently use drugs and have not fallen into the pit. The truth wins out in the long run, and I guess people should just stop hiding that truth from those they know. Your thought there, please.

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Yeah, absolutely, I mean, I wrote an article like years ago that was -- had the very silly premise of, if everybody who'd ever smoked pot one day showed up and their face would be blue, prohibition would have to end that day, because you would see like virtually the entire country.


MAIA SZALAVITZ: And, you know, I think really, like, a lot of the momentum behind the drug war in the past was that everybody was afraid to speak out, because there was such a stigma and such a moral crusade against drugs, and who wanted to like support giving drugs to kids, and, you know, all of this kind of thing. So, a lot of people had a lot more sensible views on policy even back in the '80s and '90s, but they thought everybody else was a drug warrior so they were afraid to speak.

And now, sort of since the internet in particular, and since, you know, you can go online and get information that is not propaganda about the subject, and you can actually look at the scientific literature for yourself, once you have a source of clear information about this, and you also hear from other people who have been in the same situation, you start to realize, hey, like, my view is actually the one that makes sense, and, you know, I can speak about this.

I mean, I think, you know, the gay rights movement and lots of other movements have shown the real value in people coming out and just showing, you know, hey, we are people, you know, like, stigmatizing us for things that you don't like, or things that you don't understand, doesn't help anybody.

DEAN BECKER: Well, friends, we've been speaking with Maia Szalavitz. She's a journalist, author, her most recent book, "Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way Of Understanding Addiction." Maia, is there a website, some closing thoughts you might like to share?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Sure. So, my website is just my first name and the first two letters of my last name, so it's maiasz.com, where you can find lots and lots of my writing and information about my book, but I think the really most important thing is that, like, a good message around changing drug policy is recognizing addiction is compulsive drug use despite negative consequences.

Negative consequences, like prohibition, like police, and locking people up, and long sentences, and all of this stuff, are not going to solve a problem that is defined by resistance to negative consequences. So, once we understand that, I think we can start to move forward towards a better and more productive policy.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Loss of personal freedom, family, and possessions, ineligible for government funding, education, licensing, housing, or employment, loss of aggressive mindset in a dangerous world. This drug's peaceful easy feeling may be habit forming. Time's up! The answer: doobie, jimmy, joint, reefer, spliff, jibber, jay, biffa, jazz, blunt, steege, greener, cracker, hogger, bone, carrot, maryjane, marijuana, cannabis sativa. Made by God. Prohibited by man.

The following is taken from a speech recently given in New Zealand by the Green Party Member of Parliament Julie-Anne Genter.

JULIE-ANNE GENTER: Now is the time that we should be legalized cannabis, and making medicinal cannabis available to those who need it, not at a cost of over a thousand dollars a month, that is ridiculous. If we want to minimize the harm associated with drug use, we should treat it as a health issue, because that's what it is, not a criminal issue.

Looking at the National Party members, sitting in the House right now, you'd think that they hadn't realized that the Law Commission delivered a report on this very issue nearly seven years ago --


JULIE-ANNE GENTER: -- recommending a fundamental change to our drug laws, that we treat it as a health issue, not a criminal issue. Criminalizing cannabis has not stopped it from being widely used, it just creates more harm by making people criminals. It's ridiculous.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation estimates that between 2007 and 2011, just four years, we spent sixty million dollars imprisoning people for minor drug convictions. And what happens after that? How are those people supposed to turn their lives around, after spending that time in prison? That doesn't even include the amount of money that was spent on the police, on the courts, on everything else.

Fifteen million dollars a year could go a long way to helping people with drug issues, and the last thing we should be doing is locking up people for minor offenses when the activity they are engaging in doesn't even cause harm to themselves or anyone else.

Now, I know it will come as a huge surprise to National Party members sitting opposite, but, these laws were never evidence based in the first place. You go back, in the 1930s, medicinal cannabis was being prescribed by doctors in New Zealand. It was actually international pressure, pushed by completely uninformed bureaucrats, very ideologically driven bureaucrats from the United States, that forced New Zealand to change the law and impose our -- the drug law we have today, which is horribly, horribly out of date.

Now, I know the Green Party is usually a little too far ahead of its time, and certainly way ahead of this National government. The reality is, the evidence has shown we were right about climate change. Evidence has shown we were right about a capital gains tax when we argued for it in 2002. The evidence has shown we were right about public transport, and now pretty much everyone, even the people voting for the National Party, understand that the only way to solve Auckland's transport problems is to invest in public transport.

And it -- above all, evidence has shown that the Green Party was right about drug law reform. And we have been leading on cannabis law reform for a quarter of a century now. And, yeah, a few decades ago, people were laughing about it, but now look who's out of date? New Zealand is decades behind other jurisdictions, who are demonstrating that treating drug abuse and use as a health issue is far more effective at reducing the harms associated with it.

Nearly half the states in the United States, and more than half the population, live in states where medicinal cannabis is now legal, or cannabis itself is legal for recreational use. Portugal has taken a completely health based approach to regulating drugs. And I have to commend The Honorable Peter Dunne for recommending that we adopt that same approach here in New Zealand.

It's really unfortunate that, fifteen years ago, The Honorable Peter Dunne, as part of his supply and confidence agreement, actually blocked progress on drug law reform, which many people had been advocating for, but I'm happy to say, fifteen years later, now that he's the minister responsible, he's seen the evidence, he is trying to get this government to take some baby steps in the direction of an approach that would actually help New Zealanders.

But, it's not good enough. The minuscule moves in this direction are not going to help the very sick New Zealanders who could really benefit from being able to use cannabis to relieve their pain, or their nausea, or to help with sleeping. And the reality is, the evidence shows that cannabis has very low side effects, much lower than the opiate based pain relief that they're being prescribed. And yet, the medicinal cannabis products that are available to them cost over a thousand dollars a month.

This shows that cannabis has far lower chance of dependency and risk of side effects than many other substances which are legal. The Green Party will continue to lead on this issue, and we will make drug law reform a priority, because we know it will benefit all New Zealanders. It is time, it is time, to legalize cannabis. Thank you, Mister Speaker.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Florida's fixing to get their ass kicked, I suppose, by the next hurricane, but last week it was Texas's turn to bear the brunt of a massive hurricane. Lot of folks were concerned about friends and relatives, and I don't know, just prepping for such a storm. I want to talk to a gentleman who endured more than just the hurricane, but still managed to provide some relief to his neighbors and relatives and friends.

With that, I want to go ahead and bring in Corey Mendes. Corey, that storm was really something, but, as I indicated, you had to bear an additional burden, as that storm was approaching. Tell us about that day.

COREY MENDES: My wife and I were out looking for a friend of ours that had been missing since July 21st. We were pulled over by local authorities in Nederland for speeding, I believe we were doing a few miles over, maybe five miles an hour over the speed limit. We were profiled from that point on. We are cannabis activists, we are very loud and proud activists, and embroidered cannabis seat covers, and of course, you know, our attire is usually cannabis themed, or at least themed around our chapter, if you're in Beaumont, Southeast Texas NORML.

So, when we do get pulled over we usually get questioned, and, you know, profiled to the point of harassment, just basically. We were speeding. We had an ounce of weed on us that we had picked up earlier in the day.

DEAN BECKER: So, getting supplies for the hurricane, right? I mean, come on.

COREY MENDES: Yeah, yeah, it was, yeah, it was, I mean, an ounce, we were going to, we knew that it was going to be a short supply during the hurricane so we were going to go ahead and stock up on what we were going to need so we didn't have to, you know, go out and about during the hurricane.

So, whenever he started questioning my wife about what we were doing, and she told him that we were out searching for our missing friend. He asked about the smell in the car, and he said he smelled a heavy smell of cannabis and, or marijuana is what he called it, and she had told him that we were cannabis activists, that, you know, that we had probably smoked earlier in the day and the car smelled like weed, and that we had a joint on us, but we hadn't smoked in the last, probably two or three hours in the vehicle.

He ends up pulling me out of the car, detaining me, handcuffed me and put me on the side and pulled out her father, which was also riding with us, my wife's father, said that admitting we had a joint, he had probable cause to search. I asked about cite and release, if he would, if he could release us under a cite and release, with the hurricane pending, coming up, you know, I didn't want to be sitting in jail and have medical problems, I have an ICD biventricular defibrillator, and I didn't want to be stuck in jail when a massive hurricane hit.

And, he denied that request, because he said that the reason why he took me to jail over it, and not cite and release, was because he thought it looked a lot more than just an ounce, and it weighed one point zero eight five ounces with the bag. I ended up getting a charge of possession under two ounces. My wife ended up getting a charge for the two joints, as paraphernalia.

DEAN BECKER: Well, again, we're speaking with Mister Corey Mendes. Turns out he's a good samaritan, and after this, he and his wife helped the community quite a bit, providing food, shelter, and support. Tell us what happened during and now after that hurricane, please.

COREY MENDES: My wife and I were very lucky. Our home wasn't damaged. So many in our area were not so lucky, and lost everything they had, and, in fact, a large portion, or a large neighborhood across the road from us totally flooded out, and, while my wife and I were sitting here feeling secure in our position, and our house wasn't flooding, we felt we needed to do what we could to help.

I mean, the emergency responders were being overwhelmed, and it was citizens that were going out and helping other citizens, and my wife introduced me to a Zello app, which is an application on your phone that citizens were using to coordinate help, it's like a walkie-talkie app. So, we joined a few channels to hear what was going on in southeast Texas, and really couldn't believe the magnitude of how many people were in life threatening situations and needed immediate help.

And our emergency responders were certainly overwhelmed, because nobody was, like I said, they weren't prepped for this. So we signed up as civilian dispatchers and GPS locators for rescue units. We also opened our doors for a safe haven to about fifteen refugees. When we weren't dispatching we were on search and rescue calls. We had a small group of volunteers helping us, it was Morgan, Elroy, Michelle, Max, and Samantha, with Southeast Texas NORML.

They came out, brought out boats and equipment, and the first night we went out, it was a great, successful night. We did our best to do what we could, as far as efforts, we give our home as a safe refuge, you know, use it as a dispatch, and a GPS locating, we did truck boat kayak and foot rescues, animal rescues, supply and donation transport -- transportation to local charities, for the flood victims, food drops for emergency personnel and first responders to the Jack Brooks Airport, and organized drop supply locations for civilians.

And right now, we're organizing clean up and removal of damaged homes, volunteer work, the lot, so, we're just trying to get everybody back on their feet.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Corey, I want to thank you for, well, first off, your courage to help those in the storm, and to continue helping them after it's, well, how the damage is still with us. And for your courage to speak about your drug use. This is -- it's the real solution to this drug war, is to, if all the people who use drugs would just say it, it would be over that very same day.

COREY MENDES: Yeah, that's one of the things that I proclaim. I'm loud and proud, I do use cannabis, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I use it -- I started using it recreationally, but now I use it medicinally. And I'll fight until my dying breath for everybody to have it. And I feel it's amazing -- I know you and I have talked about this multiple times, that it's a major contradiction, whenever the law says it's for the safety of our community, but yet they're putting people like me in jail for possession of a plant, when, you know, I'm a productive member of society, I care about our community. We shouldn't be treated -- cannabis consumers should not be treated as criminals.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Recently, the Houston Press carried a story, it was titled "Texas Has A New Medical Marijuana Law, But It May Well Serve No Patients." It was written by Steven Paulsen. Starts off talking about a Texas resident, Andrea Wimberly, who started getting seizures during puberty, and I'll let her join us at this point to talk about what she did about those seizures, and what she thinks about this new marijuana law. Hello there, Andrea.

ANDREA WIMBERLY: Hello, Dean, thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Andrea, I feel good that newspapers are now on the other side of the coin. It was the newspapers that brought us this drug war, especially the war on marijuana, but we now have allies and, I would say intelligent reporters that are redirecting their efforts to undo what was done approximately eighty or a hundred years ago. Your thought in that regard.

ANDREA WIMBERLY: I agree with you a hundred percent. I'm happy to see a lot of the newspapers and news stations, radio stations, coming out about this, and it's just nice to hear people in general talking about it, and coming out and speaking their opinions.

DEAN BECKER: Now, let's talk about this new Texas marijuana law. It seems to me as if it was a half-hearted effort to bring forward the availability of medical marijuana. Your thought there, please.

ANDREA WIMBERLY: I've got very mixed feelings on this. I'm not happy with the law, myself, I feel as if it was kind of a sham, an almost law that was passed that it was to be not really usable for patients. I have, you know, several reasons for that. One, the verbiage in it is just simply, it will not work for patients as it, the way it's written right now. It's just not going to work for anyone.

Number two, the amount of THC that's allowed is not enough, and I think that that is a big problem right there. And then, just number three, the amounts of dispensaries that they have allowed so far to even go this far as getting licenses, there's only three, and that's simply not enough for the amount of patients that exist in Texas.

DEAN BECKER: Makes it really unavailable to most of the citizens, right?

ANDREA WIMBERLY: Oh, that's correct. Right now, there's an estimated 150,000 patients in Texas that have intractable epilepsy, and both of the -- all three of the dispensaries right now are currently located basically in the central part of Texas, to where that will be one hell of a drive for any patient to make, or one large fee to have that delivered to your home. And that's going to get expensive.

DEAN BECKER: Sure, and then the other, really, sticking point to this law is that they want doctors to prescribe these, the use of cannabis, and the truth be told, the way I understand it, if a doctor were to prescribe cannabis, they could immediately lose their DEA license to prescribe anything else. Your thought there, please.

ANDREA WIMBERLY: Definitely. That is my number one concern, and that's the biggest problem that we have right now, is with the verbiage being used is the word prescribe in it. No doctor is going to prescribe a Schedule One drug. That risks their license, and it's just going to be very, very difficult to find any doctor that's going to risk their license to do that, especially in a state that has no laws protecting them whatsoever from losing their license at the moment.

DEAN BECKER: I have some friends, I think you probably know them, too, they had to move to Colorado because their daughter was having hundreds of seizures per week. They tried using the low-THC high-CBD oil, it worked to a degree, but they found that by including some THC, the so-called quote "euphoric," that it in fact stopped her seizures, and she's gone for more than a year now without any of those debilitating seizures. Your response, please.

ANDREA WIMBERLY: I believe I know exactly the young lady that you're talking about, and to be honest with you, I'm in the same boat as she is. I am trying CBD oil right now, it has lessened my seizures dramatically, but I am still having them. I want to be able to experiment with different regimens, different ratios, and get higher ratios of THC in my oil, and perhaps my seizures will go away completely one hundred percent.

But at this moment, I don't know, and unfortunately I can't really risk everything and get up and move to another state like some of the medical refugees, as we like to call them, have done, which is a shame. You should never have to get up and pack up and leave your home to go get medicine somewhere else. I just think it's absurd.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Andrea, I want to thank you for your courage, your willingness to share your story, to speak publicly in this regard. I feel that is the answer to this problem, is the more people are willing to speak up, stand up, and demand a change, openly, publicly, without shame, as you have done, that's when the change will begin to take effect.

Andrea, is there a website you might want to share, closing thoughts?

ANDREA WIMBERLY: For sure. If you'd like to visit our website, I am part of Texas Cannabis Coalition. You can find that at www.TXCannabisCo.com, that's actually www.TXCannabisCo.com. Other than that, I would really just appreciate anyone that wants to come out and get rid of this stigma, that this is a bad thing, is, I would appreciate anyone's support. I want to thank you, Dean, for having me on, and for also getting rid of this stigma that cannabis, or marijuana, is a bad thing, because the truth of it is, it's a lifesaver. It's a life changer for many, and that is the important thing, and the important message that needs to get out about cannabis.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, today instead of doing a phoner, I thought I would go to the law offices of Looney and Conrad, PC. They're trial lawyers here in the city of Houston, and I'm glad to be speaking with one of those attorneys, Mister Clay Conrad. How are you doing, Clay?

CLAY CONRAD: Good afternoon, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Clay, the drug war has shown its ugly face, I think that's a quick way to sum up what's going on of late. Would you agree?

CLAY CONRAD: It's -- it's gotten ugly, and with Jeff Sessions in it might just get uglier.

DEAN BECKER: Well, this is true. Now, you have done a great service to our nation, to the citizens thereof, with your book about jury service. Would you give us the title and tell us a bit about that book, please.

CLAY CONRAD: Well, the title of the book is "Jury Nullification: The Evolution Of A Doctrine." And what I've tried to do in the book is look at how the institution of the criminal trial jury has changed over the last 800 years, and how the discretion of the jury, that has always existed, still exists, but now it's hidden, it's sort of forbidden knowledge in the court room, something you're not supposed to talk about.

And so I was trying to show that the jury system has this discretion, and that the purposes of trial by jury over the last 800 years are weakened, the jury can't fulfill its intended purpose, without having the ability to just say no when they believe an injustice is being done.

DEAN BECKER: Right. We had a classic nullification, if you will, of late, this, I'll say it, sadistic, racist sheriff out in Phoenix, Arizona, was pardoned, even though he hasn't even been sentenced yet, and, I guess that shows that the discretion is ours if we choose to use it, right?

CLAY CONRAD: Well, just as the president has discretion to pardon anyone he wants to for whatever reason he wants to, the jury has the discretion to vote not guilty in any criminal case for whatever reason they choose to, and it doesn't have to be that they don't believe the facts were met. They can still acquit if they believe that a conviction would be unjust, that a conviction doesn't serve the purposes of the law, that a conviction would be an anti-social act, if you will. They can acquit because they believe the world is a better place without this guy being in jail.

DEAN BECKER: Now, this brings to mind, we have a situation here in the US where 90, in the high ninety percentile rate of criminal cases are settled without actually going to a jury, that these plea bargains are put forward. I myself am a victim of that, some thirty-something years ago. Some friends robbed a drug store, I picked them up hitchhiking. We got pulled over immediately, and I wound up pleading guilty to robbing a drug store because they said, take the five years' probation or we're going to give you 20 in the pen. And that happens daily, all across America, does it not?

CLAY CONRAD: It does. It does. Far more cases are resolved with pleas than are resolved with trials. Unfortunately, the presumption has been that every case is going to end up in a plea. When you go into criminal court as a lawyer, the question the prosecutors ask is not did he do it, it's what will he take? And, the assumption is, if you're arrested, you're guilty, you're going to be found guilty, and so you'd better plead to cut your losses.

It is a perversion of the system. Plea bargaining is not mentioned in the Constitution. Your right to trial by jury is mentioned. To waive your rights and plead, sometimes makes sense, I mean, sometimes they've got people on video tape committing horrible crimes, and no jury is going to let them go, and no jury's going to find they didn't do it, and those people should plead, absolutely.

But, in a case like you're describing, you likely could have had some defenses, if you had an aggressive lawyer willing to put them forward. If the other three people in the car would say no, man, he just picked us up hitchhiking, he didn't know anything about it, it would have been hard to get a jury to convict you.

The problem is, the consequences for losing your trial are so horrible, and the consequences for taking the plea are very often so minimal, that prosecutors manage to keep their conviction rate up, just by the horrible threat of a trial. There's so many reasons for it, sentencing has gotten way out of control, you know, should robbing a drug store even be a 20 year offense?


CLAY CONRAD: Does someone need to do 20 years in a cage in order to learn their lesson, or would two or three years be more reasonable for an offense like that.


CLAY CONRAD: So sentencing has gotten out of control, and the discretion of prosecutors to offer you something that is an offer you can't refuse, is so high, that only people who basically have cajones of steel, may I say, are willing to take a case to trial anymore. Or people who are going to get a life sentence either way.

DEAN BECKER: Right. You know, and this kind of ties into a situation that, as I understand it, is getting better in Harris County, here in Houston, and other locales around the country, but that is this bail system. People in on minor charges, maybe not facing years in prison, but they've got a job, they've got a wife, they've got a car payment, they've got rent to pay, and they don't want to wait around for months for a trial to happen, and so many people plead guilty because they can't afford bail. That situation is getting better, but it's still a horrible situation, is it not?

CLAY CONRAD: Well, it's getting better in misdemeanor cases in Harris County, not necessarily in felonies. And, yeah, it is an injustice. Now after 180 days or so, you are eligible to go in and get bail you can afford, but very few people can take six months off of work, have a job, a family, a house, a car, food, clothing, any of the things they need to survive, waiting for them out there still. So it is a -- if they couldn't afford bail in the first place, they almost certainly don't have their life intact after six months to go back to it.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, I know you as a, you know, lifelong attorney and affiliate, ally if you will, with the American Civil Liberties Union. We are seeing a change in the mindset, locally, state level, and so forth, but the federal government seems hellbent on prolonging the drug war, and in fact worsening it. Your thought there, Clay.

CLAY CONRAD: I think some individuals in the federal government are very dedicated to the drug war. Specifically, the Attorney General. I know rank and file federal prosecutors who go through the motions on drug cases and think they're a waste of time, and I know people up and down the spectrum in between.

All in all, yes, things are moving in the right direction, save for the appointment of Jeff Sessions, but they're moving still at a snail's pace.


CLAY CONRAD: Some of the states, particularly the western states, are starting to legalize marijuana, which is one step towards saner drug laws. But, they're certainly not taking people who were arrested with Fentanyl and putting them into treatment instead of incarceration. They're not taking people who are arrested with methamphetamine and putting them in treatment instead of incarceration, or giving them the option, even.

No one is saying all drugs are great things and you should do as many of them as you can get. There are drugs out there that will kill you, and that you're an idiot if you take them. That doesn't mean that putting people in cages is going to make the situation better. It usually makes it worse.

DEAN BECKER: Just today, it was announced that the first cannabis dispensary was granted its license here in the state of Texas. They're going to be allowed to grow low THC, less than half a percent if I recall, and with the CBD, which is beneficial to those with epilepsy and many of the other maladies for which people use cannabis, but the stumbling block, as I understand it, they're going to require doctors to write a prescription rather than to make a recommendation, which is I think just shooting ourselves in the foot, that no doctors are going to step forward and defy the DEA's license by writing a prescription here in Texas. Your thought there, Clay Conrad.

CLAY CONRAD: I think that the law was drafted in such a way to ensure that nobody ever benefited from it, but that Texas could say, look, we've done the right thing, we've made it available to epilepsy patients, et cetera, so get off our backs and leave us alone.


CLAY CONRAD: But, meanwhile, nobody is intended to benefit from this law. They don't want anyone to benefit from it. They knew what they were doing when they drafted this, they knew that it was a law that was incapable of being put into effect, and so I can't help but believe it was intentional.

DEAN BECKER: The information was certainly available, the ability to understand that situation and know what was required was skipped over, overlooked.

CLAY CONRAD: Oh, the debates were had, and ignored. So it was brought to their attention, and if they were ignorant of the fact that this law wouldn't help anybody, they were intentionally ignorant. They were willfully ignorant, because the information was right in front of their noses, they knew nobody was going to get high CBD cannabis oil as a result of this law, because there was no mechanism by which they could qualify for it.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, living in Texas, it gets aggravating at times, I'll tell you, Clay, you know, we have the truth, it's obvious, evident, glaring, that we've failed in this drug war, it has not succeeded in any way that it was designed to do.

CLAY CONRAD: Oh, I disagree with that.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, well, okeh, for the average man.

CLAY CONRAD: It depends on what the intentions were. If the intentions were to disenfranchise huge percentages of African Americans, it's worked beautifully. If the incentive was to create a permanent underclass of felons who would have -- of ex-cons, if you will, who will have to work for starvation wages for the rest of their lives, it's worked beautifully.

If the intention was to marginalize those who chose to use alternative substances to the socially approved alcohol and tobacco, and then it's worked beautifully. It has achieved certain goals. You have to remember, when Nixon's commission found that marijuana should be legalized, but that the people who were being arrested were basically blacks and hippies, and he chose to keep it illegal because he really didn't like those people, it had a purpose, and the purpose is being achieved.

So I would say the drug war is probably working very well, for some very bad purposes.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you're right. You're right. I -- you know, and I guess a lot of us reformers talk about it empowers the pharmaceutical houses' ability to sell their drugs, the alcohol vendors don't want the competition from marijuana or these other drugs, same with tobacco and on down the line, the private prison industry loves the drug war.

CLAY CONRAD: Absolutely.

DEAN BECKER: And Jeff Sessions loves the drug war as well. It's --

CLAY CONRAD: And he's a big -- he's a big stockholder in the private prison industry, I believe.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

CLAY CONRAD: Sort of a conflict of interest, but no one's going to raise that in Congress.

DEAN BECKER: No, too bad they don't. Well, Clay, I want to wrap it up here, but I want to just say this to folks listening out there, you know, you have to be careful when you're selecting attorneys, there's a lot of them out there doing, you know, low budget defense and they'll probably get you to plea bargain in the long run, but, you might consider Looney and Conrad, PC, I'm looking here, they've had 60 criminal defense jury trials since 1995 with zero convictions. They're certainly worth considering.

Clay is there a closing thought, a website you might want to share?

CLAY CONRAD: Well, it's LooneyConrad.com, is our website, LOONEYCONRAD.com. And, you know, we're not the lawyer for everybody, nobody is, but, you know, if you've got a criminal case, come in, talk to us, we'll let you know what we can do and what it's going to take to do it.

DEAN BECKER: All right, I want to thank Clay Conrad and all the other guests this week. I want to encourage you to talk to your preacher to invite me, the Reverend Dean Becker, to come talk to your full congregation. The topic of my sermon is, "Prohibition is evil." I've done it nine times so far, I've been embraced by the church, I've eaten dinner with the members, I've played with the kids, and advised the adults. Please, contact dean@drugtruth.net, and again I remind you, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.