01/26/18 Ethan Nadelmann

Ethan Nadelmann former Dir of DPA, Betty Aldworth at Hempfest, former Chicago prosecutor James Gierach, Dr. Joel Hochman's advice to drug victims + Trump, editorials, Safe Injection news & Willie Nelson. Hour show (58:00)

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Friday, January 26, 2018
Ethan Nadelmann
Drug Policy Aliance



January 26, 2018


DEAN BECKER: Each year, we arrest 1.85 million people because it feels so right. We give $385 billion to terrorists and gangs because we just love to fight. It's insane and ineffectual, by no means intellectual. It's that patriotism of our puritan past.

Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. A non-standard intro, but I thought it fit right into the wide open display of bigotry that's going on around the world, and especially in these United States. This is Cultural Baggage, I'm your host Dean Becker. Once again, I want to present the thoughts of Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in formenting [sic: fomenting] divisions, and yes, by the way -- and yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history, and our heritage, you see that. We're smart people. These are truly dishonest people, and not all of them, not all of them, you have some very good reporters, you have some very fair journalists, but for the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they're bad people, and I really think they don't like our country, I really believe that. The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news.

DEAN BECKER: Now, before we get to our guest for this first half hour, I want to rebut much of what our president said. It was in fact the media back in the late 1890s through the 1930s that put together the racial bigotry that is now called drug war. Luckily, the modern media has begun to rescind their thoughts, to rebut their previous stance. And yet, to this day, the entertainment media continues to promote the idea that blacks and Hispanics are the number one drug dealers and that they butcher one another, and that we all should be very afraid, and willing to forego the loss of any of our freedoms to stop the madness.

I'm sure our next guest would have had a great deal to say about Trump's Phoenix pronouncements, but we recorded this just hours before Trump's speech.

Well, over the years, we've had the occasion to speak with the then-executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance many times, but he's semi-retired now, he's never going to retire, but I want to welcome our guest, my friend, the ex-director of the Drug Policy Alliance, Mister Ethan Nadelmann. Hello, Ethan.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Thank you, Dean, it's great to be back on your show.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, Ethan, I, you know, I miss you in a way, but then again, oh, like I said, you've never really gone away, I don't think you can leave this battle, this fray, behind. You've left a --


DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

ETHAN NADELMANN: I'll tell you, Dean, I mean, it's very true, I mean, this has been, you know, I felt for decades that this is my life's calling, about ending the drug war, and about, you know, speaking to the broader set of values that are involved in our struggle, and so, you know, I see myself as having done that as a professor at Princeton, and running the Lindesmith Center within the Open Society Institute, and the building of DPA and wearing a lot of other hats, so what I feel good about is that, is that I stepped aside from DPA, and I believe it's left in good hands and my successor, Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, is going to do a great job.

You know, my colleagues who are at DPA are an extraordinary team. So I feel good about the organization moving forward, I feel good about this movement, notwithstanding the difficult times we're living in, and I'm just assuming that one way or another I'm going to continue to be involved in various ways going forward.

DEAN BECKER: Well, certainly, I agree with that, you have left a lot of great folks behind. I interviewed your successor, she and, I don't know, Asha and Tony and Tony and all the good folks you have still behind there, are doing a great job. Now, this brings to mind, I want to focus on something. Last week, we dealt with racial bigotry, profiling, implementation, across the country, the situation in Charlottesville kind of brought in focus. But we were talking about the fact that the drug war was initiated through racism, it has escalated through racism, and it has played out for decades on end with a great deal of racial bigotry. Would you concur, sir?

ETHAN NADELMANN: Most definitely. I mean, I think you said it well, Dean, you know, the, it's, the drug war from its origins, right, to the enactment of the laws, to the ways it's been implemented, has been racist and racially unjust, and racially disproportionate in every which way, and that it's been especially so in the United States. It's evident not just in the arrest levels and incarceration and the way that those disproportionately hit black people, especially, and brown people, to some good extent as well. But it also shows up in the areas of the health dimensions of drug policy, on the issues of how we deal with drug treatment, how we deal with harm reduction, how we deal with the whole public health side.

And, the fact is, it's not just in the United States. Because if you look outside of the United States, and you look at marijuana arrests in England, or you look at who's being targeted in Latin America, or you look at what's happening in many other parts of the world, so often, the drug war becomes a vehicle and excuse and opportunity to target the people, the minorities, who are most vulnerable and oftentimes most feared in any society.

DEAN BECKER: You know, Ethan, there's a situation being recognized right now in New York City, whereby people are talking out of both sides of their mouth, they're talking about they're going to de-escalate the drug war, et cetera et cetera, and yet, the number of marijuana arrests there is still somewhere around 10,000 a year, mostly focused on black and brown poor communities. Right?

ETHAN NADELMANN: That's right. I mean, you know, the way it works, Dean, is that -- you know, I mean look, the arrests have dropped by more than half since the averages of Giuliani and Bloomberg, but given Mayor DiBlasio's commitment to really stop this stuff, what's remarkable is that they're even continuing at half the level that they were in years past, since there's no public safety justification whatsoever for that. Since it essentially is a way of just putting, you know, policeman's hands and handcuffs on tens of thousands of young men, not only men but mostly men, mostly men of color, and the fact is, you know, if you're young and dark skinned in New York City, you get slammed either way.

Either you're living in a minority community where the cops are disproportionately present and disproportionately aggressive, or alternatively, you're passing through a community which is mostly white, and therefore a suspect because you're a young person of color walking through that community. So, it's, you know, it's, no matter what the NYPD head said, no matter what the others say, this policy cannot be justified, it cannot be justified. And mind you, it's not just in New York, I mean, this phenomenon is happening really nationwide. I think it's, as New York City has cut its marijuana arrests, it's probably no -- it may, I don't know for a fact but it may no longer even be in the top group in terms of per capita marijuana arrests.

DEAN BECKER: Well, this brings to mind, well, I want to talk about the national versus local perspectives, if you will. We've got a new president, Trump. We've got this new attorney general, Sessions. And both of them seem to want to escalate the drug war, to return to the golden years of the past. And, yet, locally, state and city governments are de-escalating this at the same time. Your thought in that regard, please, Ethan.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, I mean, I think it's useful to draw a slight distinction between Attorney General Sessions and President Trump. With respect to -- with respect to Sessions, what you have is a true, true hardcore ideologue, a reefer madness ideologue, a drug war ideologue, an extremist, somebody who when he was in the US Senate was seen as at the far extreme end, even among his Republican colleagues. Right?

This is the guy who seems to truly believe, it may well be the case, that reefer madness stuff. This is the guy who is entirely indifferent to the racially disproportionate consequences.This is the guy who's directing prosecutors to step up, you know, criminal charges on non-violent offenders, you know, who get caught up in drug stuff. This is the guy who's saying let's toughen up the asset forfeiture laws no matter how unfair they are.

So Sessions is a profoundly evil figure in American culture and history on this thing. And I think even many of his Republican former colleagues are kind of looking at, really? Trump, obviously, doesn't believe in much of anything except Trump. Right? And so for Trump, this is -- and so through the lens of Trump on this stuff is, on the marijuana issue, he doesn't really care. He's sympathetic to medical marijuana, which Sessions is not. He's somewhat indifferent about marijuana legalization but he's deferring to his Republican base in being bad and giving Sessions room to run on this stuff. Right?

When it comes to the issue of the bigger drug dealers and the violence, for Trump, it's all about fitting within that frame, what we might call the Bannon frame, right? Does this play on people's fears around black people and violence, or does it play on people's fears around those Latin, you know, Mexican drug traffickers, make, you know bringing drugs in to poison our children.

To the extent that drug policy and the drug war would fit nicely and help advance those two frames of Trump, right, be afraid of young black men and be afraid and angry at, you know, you know, you know, Mexicans and others coming into the country with drugs? That's where his interests lie, and I think that's where, you know, Bannon was a pivotal figure for him in shaping all this.

I think on the rest of it, he's basically indifferent, and that's why it's so interesting that on the issue of what to do about the opioid crisis, you know, he really has no real instinct, because he appears, I mean, by virtue of being a sociopath, right, and the narcissist that he is, and I'm speaking semi-clinically here from what I understand, right? I mean, from my inner -- I don't want to emphasize the semi, I mean, clinically, right? About who this as a human being. He actually, to some extent, lacks the capacity to experience empathy for people who are struggling. Right?

He has the ability, the kind of, the showman's ability, the performer's ability to tap into their anger and resentment, but not really in a way that is any sense connected to the empathy, for the, you know, the large, the millions of people in America who are struggling with addiction to opioids, either personally or in their families. And so you can see him being torn, and in that, you know, in some respects, appointing Governor Christie to head up that opioid commission made a certain amount of sense, because, you know, Christie's a very complex figure on all this. You know, on the one hand, he loves being tough on marijuana, being the tough prosecutor, all this stuff. On the other hand, he was among the more progressive figures and actors as Republican governors go.

You know, DPA's had an office in New Jersey since 2002, and Christie actually ended up, you know, supporting and signing many of the bills that we advanced on harm reduction and sentencing reform and all that sort of stuff. So in a way I think on this bigger issue of the opioid crisis, I think we're going to continue to see, you know, Trump be ambivalent, confused, not really know what to do, try to make the base happy politically, make some symbolic gestures, allow Sessions to muck it up because he doesn't really care that it's being mucked up, but I think that's the direction this is headed with those guys.

Now, what you said on the local side, you're right, and it's not just the Democrats stepping up on drug policy reform, it's Republicans, too. It's Republican governors who say the drug war went too far. It's Republicans who are responding both to fiscal concerns and the growing sense among the religious right that there's something morally suspect about mass incarceration. So I think there is a growing divide. The question is whether or not the Republicans are going to want to use any political capital to take on Jeff Sessions and the Sessions-driven Trump drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: No, you were absolutely right about Sessions being the hundred percenter there. I just don't trust Trump, I feel he'll back whatever Sessions does, but, Sessions is the prime mover on that, for sure.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Yeah, no, I mean, the notion of even putting the words "trust" and "Trump" in the same sentence is almost, you know, an absurdity. So, yeah.

DEAN BECKER: That it is. Well, folks, we've been speaking with Mister Ethan Nadelmann, the former director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Ethan, really looking forward to the DPA event in October. Will you be joining us there in Atlanta?

ETHAN NADELMANN: I most certainly -- Dean, I would not miss it for anything. I'm looking forward to going down to Atlanta. I think it's going to be a remarkable conference. My colleagues, you know, every time we did this conference, I think I organized eight of them, eight or nine of them -- I mean, organized, oversaw, I obviously had much more capable colleagues actually doing the organizing. But, they're saying it's going to be bigger and badder than ever, so I think it, you know, I'm really looking forward to it. Especially us all coming together in this time of Trump is going to have a different feel than it was coming together during the days of Obama, and also doing it in Atlanta, doing it in the south, is going to be -- you know, we've been to New Orleans before, but going into the south, Atlanta's going to be a different thing in a way as well.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that it is. Well, Ethan, I look forward to seeing you then in October, and I don't know, I guess I'm an optimist, and I just feel there's good, goodness on the horizon if we just keep pushing. Your thought there, sir.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Well, Dean, I mean, I'll tell you, I think we really, as, and it's not just activists, but as human beings living in this very challenging world, we really have no choice but to be optimists. Right? That doesn't mean naive, it doesn't mean uncritical, but it is to say that, you know, only by believing in the prospect of a better day, only by believing in progress, you know, do I think we really have a chance to get there, because I think if people lose that sense of optimism, if they just embrace pessimism to the hilt and become cynical, I think our odds of actually getting where we want to get become that much less.

And so I'll never, you know, part of running the organization and being involved in this movement has always been engaging in some element of realpolitik thinking and analysis, and politicking, and hardball playing, and understanding when the forces against us have too much that we cannot, you know, overcome them. But at the same time, always having that fundamental sense of faith and confidence, that the vision we hold out, of a world in which the people who use drugs, and all of these drugs, are dealt with in ways that rely as little as possible on the criminal justice system and other punitive institutions, and as much as possible on people's better instincts and regard for health and human rights.

I mean, that's what we have to keep believing, and we have to keep pushing for, as strategically as possible, but keep pushing for.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, thank you very much. Once again we've been speaking with Mister Ethan Nadelmann, former director, the Drug Policy Alliance. That website, DrugPolicy.org. I appreciate it.

ETHAN NADELMANN: Thank you, Dean, and Dean, thank you also for just the amazing role you've played in keeping this going and in becoming the interview and effectively what one day -- what people one day appreciate the archivist of this movement as well. So thank you for that.

DEAN BECKER: The reform conference Ethan and I were talking about is scheduled for October 11 through 14 of 2017. It's the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, going to be in Atlanta, Georgia. There's going to be 1,500 to 2,000 people there from around the world, representing about 80 countries, talking about the need to truly end the madness. You can learn more about that conference by going to ReformConference.org. I hope to see you there as well.

All right, the following segment comes to us from Seattle, Seattle Hempfest, it's produced by my good friend Doug McVay, who hosts the Century of Lies program, also on the Drug Truth Network.

DOUG MCVAY: Got a lot for you this week, starting with a friend. She's a longtime drug policy reform and harm reduction activist who's the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Betty Aldworth.

There's an upcoming event, one of these major Cannabis World Business Expo things, that has as its keynote speaker a man named Roger Stone, Junior. Roger Stone is notorious, one might say, because he was a Reagan worker, but beyond that, he is an unabashed apologist for the current president. He has earned a lot of enmity among decent people.

So, earlier this week, Amanda Reiman, PhD, a professor, a good friend of the program, publicly withdrew this conference, citing concerns over Stone and not wanting to be seen to be associated with his particular politics. Stone was a keynote speaker at this event. Sorry for the noise, loud, but we're outside of the VIP party. It's Friday night, and what can I say?

Shortly after that, Mara Gordon, who's a well known cannabis activist and business person also withdrew from the program. Then recently Jesce Horton from the Minority Cannabis Business Association has withdrawn from that expo. So, that leads to me talking to Betty Aldworth. Betty, what were you doing today?

BETTY ALDWORTH: Today, I got to take a day off from organizing activists, which is how I usually spend my days, to actually do some hands on activism myself, working with Amanda and a handful of other extraordinary women: Wanda James, Shaleen Title, Lauren Padgett, and Leia Heise, to develop a very specific action for the Cannabis World Congress and Business Expo to oppose Roger Stone's presence by encouraging people to either -- you know, if they have to go, to engage in some direct action while they're there, and if they are able, if that's the choice that they'd like to make, to withdraw from participation in the conference.

We wound up with a, you know, a large number of supporters, speakers and sponsors, on the sign-on letter that we created, to --

DOUG MCVAY: Hold on, hold on, hold on. Sorry for that, but a train just interrupted us, so.

BETTY ALDWORTH: So, you know, we started a private conversation a couple of days ago, really frustrated with the situation, and decided to take the matter into our own hands and develop an action. I'm really delighted to say that we've received a great deal of support from the cannabis industry, and let's be very specific about this. Roger Stone has for many, many, many years, made comments that are so incendiary, so inflammatory, personally attacking women, people of color, Jews, members of the LGTIQ community, and others, that are so offensive and horrifying and dehumanizing that he is not even allowed on CNN. He's been banned from CNN for years.

And, listen, I'm as much of an advocate for free speech as anybody else. However that doesn't mean we need to give everybody a platform. And in the cannabis community, what we're doing here is trying to undo some of the harms of the war on drugs. The war on drugs is an unabashedly racist. The war on drugs, which has been used to marginalize precisely those people who Roger Stone marginalizes on the day to day.

And we released an open letter this afternoon to the CWCBE to ask them to not give Roger Stone that platform, and to let them know that if they choose to go through with that, that there will be direct action at their conference, and that there will be people standing up for what is right and decent in this world, which is equity, which is human rights and respect, and this man has undermined all of those values, all of those values that we should hold so dearly in the cannabis community, for decades.

So, I got to do a bunch of work today around putting that action together. We released it this afternoon. I hope that folks will head to twitter or facebook to search for the hashtag #JustSayNoToHate [note: also the hashtag #DisownStone], and you will find our petition. You can sign on as a cannabis consumer, as a member of the community, as a stakeholder here in what we're creating together, and, you know, make sure that people understand that the cannabis community ought to represent those values.

DOUG MCVAY: And all drug policy reform. I mean, it's -- it's like I said earlier on Main Stage, the -- we are part and parcel of the social justice movement, we're the bastard child of the social justice movement, but, it's okeh that it's not a specific drug policy thing, because there's a reason we're doing the drug policy. It's not an end of itself. We're not in this to go into business and we're not in this because we want to get high. It's because it's a real issue, and it needs to be addressed, and it's -- it's times like that, it's things like this, I think, that kind of define that. Your thoughts on my rambles.

BETTY ALDWORTH: Yeah, you know, I think you're right, Doug, like, you know, no matter what it is that brings us to this community, it might be about liberty, it might be about human rights, it might be about justice, it might be about racial justice, no matter what it is that brings us to this community, with just the tiniest bit of investigation, we're going to figure that we've got to center our work around racial justice. We've got to make sure that we are centering our work around those who are most harmed by the war on drugs.

And, you know, the cannabis industry, for all of its challenges and complications, receives an enormous pulpit from which they get to talk to people about cannabis, and about how they want to build their industry. I don't think that it is unreasonable to demand that this industry, which is a gift from the activists who were here doing this work, you know, which is a byproduct, a complicated byproduct of human rights work, fundamentally.

I think it's incumbent on us to hold that industry accountable to the values that brought them there, that brought them here to where they are today. And that's what this is about. This is about making sure that people who espouse hate, people who, you know, regularly use the n-word and the c-word to describe prominent, brilliant members of communities who are speaking up for other people's rights, those people don't deserve a platform in our space. They just don't.

And, you know, I think that we need to have a vibrant airing of, you know, ideas, discussions that are challenging, where we, you know, where we talk to each other and, you know, may or may not convince each other of our ideas and the reasons why we're here, our values and the rest of it. All of those conversations should absolutely be taking place and I'm not asking everybody to agree with us. I'm not asking everybody to agree with me. But what I am asking is that we don't give space for hate.

DOUG MCVAY: Again folks, been speaking with Betty Aldworth. You have several affiliations, but for the purpose of this interview, it's #JustSayNoToHate.


DOUG MCVAY: People can find that, do you have a facebook thing too, or just on twitter?

BETTY ALDWORTH: Yes, facebook or twitter, just search that, it's a coalition of folks who are trying to do what's right and decent around this, and certainly plenty of members of my organization, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, are supporting this. This is an individual effort, where people, whether they be individual activists, whether they be cannabis consumers, leaders in the movement, leaders in the industry, or people who get to make decisions for their companies, are signing on to say that they won't stand for hate in this community.

DOUG MCVAY: Betty, thank you so much. #JustSayNoToHate. Make that go trending.

That was a conversation with Betty Aldworth, her new project to get the cannabis industry to live up to the values and the ideals of the marijuana legalization movement that created it. And that project is #JustSayNoToHate.

[sic: and also #DisownStone, plus there's an online petition at https://www.change.org/p/create-an-inclusive-cannabis-community-disownst... ]

DEAN BECKER: Doug's been hosting Century of Lies for a couple of years now, he's really learned to knock it out of the park. Thank you, Doug. Good report.

I promised via email, facebook, and otherwise that the new show would feature comedians, comedy, musicians, and music. I first saw this band back in October 1969, along with, who was it, Grateful Dead, Poco, and The Byrds. Listen up. Keep in mind, you should volunteer to help end the madness of drug war. Won't you please? Please go to DrugTruth.net. Nearly 7,000 shows that can help educate you and motivate you, and put you on the path to ending this mess.

[MUSIC: Jefferson Airplane "Volunteers"]

Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Hey, I'm dancing down the streets
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Oh, ain't it amazing all the people I meet?
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
One generation got old
One generation got soul
This generation got no destination to hold

Pick up the cry
Hey, now it's time for you and me
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Hey, come on now we're marching to the sea
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Who will take it from you, we will and who are we?
Well, we're volunteers of America (volunteers of America)
Volunteers of America (volunteers of America)
I've got a revolution
Got a revolution

Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Hey, I'm dancing down the streets
Got a revolution (got to revolution)
Oh, ain't it amazing all the people I meet?
Got a revolution, oh-oh
We are volunteers of America
Yeah, we're volunteers of America
We're volunteers of America (volunteers of America)
Volunteers of America (volunteers of America)

DEAN BECKER: Ah, yes, friends, you are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio and the Drug Truth Network. I'm Dean Becker, your host. Our goal is to examine this policy of drug prohibition. I done did that for 15 years, I found nothing worth pursuing for another day, let alone for eternity.

Again, our next guest was recorded before Trump made his speech, but we're going to share part of Trump's speech, and he actually does kind of rebut much of what the Trumpster said. Speaking in Tucson, Arizona, this is Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: The most sacred duty of government is to protect the lives of its citizens, and that includes securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws. The people of Arizona know the deadly and heartbreaking consequences of illegal immigration, the lost lives, the drugs, the gangs, the cartels, the crisis of smuggling and trafficking, MS-13, we're throwing them out so fast they never got thrown out of anything like this. We are liberating towns out on Long Island, we're liberating them.

Can you imagine, in this day and age, in this day and age in this country, we are liberating towns. This is like from a different age. We are taking these people, they don't shoot people because it's too fast and not painful, they cut them up into little pieces, these are animals, we are getting them out of here, we're throwing them in jails and we're throwing them out of the country, we're liberating our towns.

You've seen it, you've lived it, and you elected me to put a stop to it, and we are doing a phenomenal job of putting a stop to it, that I can tell you.

DEAN BECKER: I've got to jump in here before we bring in our guest with my own quick rebuttal, and that is that Donald Trump is an ass-hat. He doesn't recognize this ongoing opioid epidemic, he doesn't care that we give $390 billion a year to terrorists, cartels, and gangs, and that our kids are ODing by the hundreds, because he's too ignorant to open his eyes to see what's looking him in the face.

Well, folks, our next guest has been with us many times on the Cultural Baggage show. He lives up in Chicago, he's a former assistant state's attorney in Cook County there. He was one of the members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, he's gone on to do other work now, but he's still a drug policy reformer, a human rights activist, with that I want to welcome my friend, James Gierach. How are you doing, Jim?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, very good, Dean, it's great to be with you and your listeners, as always.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim, I first want to commend you, I know that you put together a series, a television series there, about the drug war, and Chicago. Give us a summary of how that went, would you please?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, I did thirteen shows on CAN TV, which is Chicago Cable Access, so anyone in Chicago with cable TV could see the shows, and then also people on the internet could log in and watch it live, or look at Youtube, and still see the shows. And it was, it was great. I called the show Chicago's War on Drugs, and the idea was to bring people in who had some title or political office, or some involvement in the drug problem, and drug policy reform, often.

And the shows tried to increase the discussion in Chicago of what we should do about drug policy reform, without necessarily saying we should legalize or decriminalize. I tried to make the guests feel comfortable, whatever your views are, please come on and tell us what they are. And then it would give me a chance to basically cross examine them, gently, and in a friendly fashion, and so I had the, Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board, on, two Chicago aldermen, one of the aldermen was from the Fifteenth Ward, Lopez, and his ward was declared a war zone because they had so many people killed, and he's a young alderman who's willing to openly discuss and advocate legalizing drugs.

And then I had the son of the former mayor of the city of Chicago, Mayor Sawyer, who's an African American and he's from the south side, the most powerful black ward in the city, and he openly came on and discussed legalizing drugs. And he said, you know, I talked to my colleagues on the city council to try to get them interested in talking about drug policy reform, and they just shy away, they don't even want to talk about it or take it up.

So the show was a great opportunity for Chicagoites, and me, to discuss the need for drug policy reform, to stop the violence. Chicago was undergoing horrific violence just as it did back in the days of Al Capone and the prohibition of alcohol, and any remedy, however ridiculous, is discussed by our politicians, anything and everything but drug policy reform.

DEAN BECKER: Jim, you bring to mind, you talked about, you know, the caliber of folks willing to come on your show. The fact of the matter, I've been doing this for 15 years, and those that we most need to talk to, those in positions of authority, those with power, those whose words empower this drug war, I think you already indicated, they just won't face down that line, they will not defend the policy on the air or much of anywhere, will they.

JAMES GIERACH: Sure. Sure. I mean, I tried to get US Senator Dick Durbin, who is the number two guy in the Senate, he's the lead guy in the United -- or the number two guy, I believe, in the United States Senate, and he's from Illinois. And Tammy Duckworth, the other United States Senator, and they're -- in my invitation for them to come on this show, I said you are the only two people from Illinois that have the power to change drug policy by advocating for a treaty amendment at the United Nations, which is the foundation and the impetus for our crazy world war on drugs, and the American war on drugs, because the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs required the United States to implement the treaty, which meant to criminalize drugs, which they did through the United States' Controlled Substance Act.

The Controlled Substances Act was then replicated state by state, so the only people in the United States Congress that have any input into changing these crazy treaties, these prohibition drug treaties of the UN, are Senators and the president. The House of Representatives has no Constitutional authority to be involved in treaties, it's the Senate, and the president, so I'm trying to get the two people from Illinois who have the authority to change these things, and they declined the invitation to come on the show.

We have a gubernatorial election coming up in 2018, November of 2018. I asked every prospective candidate for governor, on the Democratic primary. We have a Republican governor, so we've got about eight Democratic candidates that will be fighting in a primary. to come on and talk about drug policy, what do you think about it, is it really the cause for the violence and the shooting and the gang problem and the overdose difficulties and the epidemic of 10,000 people in the Cook County jail and 50,000 people in prison in the state of Illinois in our penitentiary systems.

And I got not one, not one, would come on the show to discuss. So, it's just frustrating.

DEAN BECKER: It is frustrating, I'm right there with you, buddy. I tell you what, there are, there's beginning to be, a few elected officials that speak more openly, boldly, challenging the logic -- "logic" -- behind the drug war. My, one of the Texas Representatives, Beto O'Rourke, he actually wrote a book calling for legalization, and then, and then got elected in El Paso, Texas. It's not the boogaboo that it once was, it's not the third rail, it's not -- it should not be excluded from discussion. Your thought there, Jim.

JAMES GIERACH: Sure. Well, I mean, that's what I saw as well, because I had two Chicago aldermen coming on and saying let's legalize drugs. I had Cook -- other Cook County commissioners on besides the president of the county board. One of them ran for mayor, Jesus Garcia, and he got in a run-off election with, what's his name, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and, you know, and he openly was calling for drug policy reform, and the legalization of drugs. So, people are starting to broach the subject.

But we had a national governors conference here a couple of months ago, and we're talking, and they were talking about the opiate epidemic, quote unquote. And not a single one of these gubernatorial -- these are guys who are the governors, men or women, who, not one of them was calling for drug policy reform, to change the violence or the opioid crisis.

We had Paul Ryan, who was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, he was on last night after Trump's speech about Afghanistan, on CNN, and he was asked, well, what do you think about making narcan available to all of the family members and friends of people who have an opioid addiction in order to prevent death and overdose. And funded federally. And he said, oh, well, I would have to think about that.

DEAN BECKER: Wow. Well, they have no regard, I mean, it's been built in. Call it reefer madness, whatever you want, but, for decades, they have dismissed the lives, the potential, and capability of those who use drugs to cast them aside as scumbags and unworthy of any kind of respect. Am I right.

JAMES GIERACH: Yes. You know, we had, because the violence is so bad in Chicago, back when I was still doing these shows, and the last show was like the middle of June, I had attended a summit that was called Gun Violence: Chicago At The Crossroads. And there were many famous people from around the country, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, Doctor Selwyn Rogers, who was going to be the new head of the trauma center at the University of Chicago Hospitals, on panels, the state's attorney of Cook County, heads of police departments.

And they talked about how to stop the gun violence in Chicago for two hours, with four different panels, and about a total of like 12 people, and not one person said we need to change drug policy to stop the violence. Not one person mentioned drug policy.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it's such a disconnect, isn't it, Jim, that they cannot observe the cause and effect of this drug trade. Your thought.

JAMES GIERACH: The superintendent of police in Chicago, Gary McCarthy, he's the former superintendent now, he said 80 percent of the homicides in Chicago are the gangs fighting over drug turf. And now I attend panels of experts to talk about the gun violence, and not one person talks about drug policy. It's insane.

DEAN BECKER: It's that, I have to use this term again, it's a quasi-religion. This belief in drug war. And to go against it may offend your friends, allies, family, whatever, and people are just afraid to touch that thought. Right?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, and then on the good side, I ran across a guy who's the head of a hospital here in Chicago, who's in favor of legalizing drugs to stop the gang violence, killings, shooting, and overdose. And he agreed to do a press conference with LEAP, which I was executive board vice chairman of at the time, when we had our conference in Chicago, and he agreed to stand up with LEAP, to call for the legalization of drugs to stop the violence. We were going to hold the event at the Cook County morgue. And the hospital that he works for would not let him participate.


JAMES GIERACH: So here's the guy who teaches at a trauma hospital, who's the head, the director of trauma at one of the busiest level one trauma care centers in Chicago, and the hospital will not let him come on.

DEAN BECKER: Ah, it's that fear of repercussion, isn't it?

JAMES GIERACH: Sure. The ambassador, the permanent representative from Afghanistan to the United -- not from Afghanistan, from Uruguay, to the United Nations, he tells me after my presentation there a couple of years ago, he said, Jim, why should Uruguay want to lead drug policy reform? Because once we, my president said that's what we were going to do, all funding in all other programs, even though they had nothing to do with drugs, that were half funded by the UN and half by Uruguay, all the funding was cut.

No one ever said why, but obviously the reason was because of the change in drug policy. Uruguay's the first country as you know to throw off UN drug treaties and to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. So ....

DEAN BECKER: I tell you what, Jim, it's -- it's unwinding, slowly, bloody, and ugly, but it is, it seems we're moving in the right direction. Would you agree?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, I agree with that. I have no doubt that prohibition will end, because it causes what it was designed and intended to prevent, because every one of the associated crises: the violence, the overdose, the addiction, the frittering away of limited resources for the building of prisons and monuments to intolerance, all come with such great price tags that society can't afford prohibition.


JAMES GIERACH: And that is strangling state, local, county, and national, and international, governments, which will force them to look at alternatives and finally end this dreaded war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you, Jim. You know, I -- couple of weeks back I had an editorial, let's see if I can sum it up in a sentence. It goes something like, these authorities are so afraid that these kids will destroy their lives with drugs, that they're perfectly willing to destroy their lives for using drugs. It's a topsy-turvy, stand on its head situation, isn't it?

JAMES GIERACH: Yeah, well the difficulty is, good drug policy is counter-intuitive. You know, people recognize that drugs are dangerous, and so we've got to protect our kids from them, so let's outlaw them. We outlaw them, and now something that grows on the plant becomes the most valuable commodity on the face of the earth, so we go from no drug problems in the United States back when Nixon declared the war on drugs, to heroin 90 percent pure all across the country.

The use of methamphetamine, and the invention of new drugs, three hundred new synthetic drugs invented each year, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs reports. So ....

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jim --

JAMES GIERACH: You know, we had -- we were well intended, but we see it doesn't work and we're still doing much of the same thing.

DEAN BECKER: It's a quasi-religion, just don't want to go against the dictates of the high mucky-mucks.

JAMES GIERACH: The sacrosanct war on drugs. A killer.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, Jim, I see your facebook posts, I get some of your emails, and I see these reports coming out of the Chicago Tribune. 63 people were shot just this past weekend, almost set a record. Thirty three people were shot in just thirteen hours, another one coming out of the Chicago Tribune. Does this not make Al Capone's gang seem less violent, in retrospect? Your thought there, please.

JAMES GIERACH: There's no comparison of the extent of the violence. The violence is so much worse now than it was during the Al Capone era, because to go into the booze business, booze was bulky, and so you need, needed capital in order to have buildings and trucks to store and move the booze. So, it was relatively limited, in how many gangs and gang members and so forth were in the business. But, to go into the drug business today, what do you need? A gun, and a pair of gym shoes. That's all you need.


JAMES GIERACH: You can even put -- you could put tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs in your pocket without it bulging. So, so the extent of the violence, you know, the estimates of the gang members in Chicago are a couple of hundred thousand, you know, in a metropolitan area with three or four million.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. I call the black market the world's largest multi-level marketing organization. And it's enticing our children to lives of crime and addiction every day. Well --

JAMES GIERACH: It's the employer of last resort.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

JAMES GIERACH: And it's just, it's just a crime that it's been here so long, and our leaders have been so reticent. I invited the mayor to come on my show. I can't imagine why he wouldn't come on. But, if you look at the shows, I was gentle and tried to make people who came on comfortable and not push them into a corner, saying well do you support legalization? You know, right or wrong, I wanted to know what they think and why they think that, and if it was incongruous with the facts and the overdose and the extent of the drugs and the violence, then I'd ask them a question about that. Well, you know, but, it was gentle. But even so, it was hard.

I was really pleased that President Toni Preckwinkle came on, because I've known her for a long time, I tried to win her over to drug policy reform in about 1992, for the first time, and now she's gone up through the city, city council, as an alderman, to the top of the Cook County board. And she's the best we've got going in Cook County at the moment, for a reformer and drug policy review.

DEAN BECKER: Well, friends, we've been speaking with Mister James Gierach. He's a drug policy reformer, human rights activist up there in Chicago, and if you go to our website for this program, I'll have a link where you can hook up with his television programs and learn more about what's going on in Chicago. Jim, any closing thoughts you might want to share?

JAMES GIERACH: Well, I'm at the end of the race and we need some young folks to pick up the baton and carry it across the line, because America and the world desperately needs drug policy reform. And whatever the crisis you care about, whatever people you care about, we can't help them without ending the crazy war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Real good, Jim.

JAMES GIERACH: So go get 'em.

DEAN BECKER: And go get 'em you should. I've been trying my damndest to get 'em for 15 years. You are the only ones who can actually change this by contacting your legislators, by phone, by email, by handwritten letter, and especially by visits. They come home, at least several times a year, if you can't drive to the capitol. Let them know you know the truth. Let them know you know they know the truth, and it's time to get real about this god damned drug war. Get the facts, and get to work. Here's some smaller clips that may help to do just that.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the abolitionist's moment:
Prohibition is an awful flop. We like it.
It canÔÇÖt stop what itÔÇÖs meant to stop. We like it.
ItÔÇÖs left a trail of graft and slime,
It donÔÇÖt prohibit worth a dime,
ItÔÇÖs filled out land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, weÔÇÖre for it.
Franklin Adams, 1931.

Through a willing or silent embrace of drug war, we are ensuring more death, disease, crime, and addiction. Some have prospered from a policy of drug prohibition and dare not allow their stance taken to be examined in a new light. But, for the rest, ignorance and superstition will eventually be forgiven, but what Houston has done in the name of drug war will never be forgotten. Please visit EndProhibition.org. Do it for the children.

The following comes to us courtesy of ABC Denver.

SHANNON OGDEN: A space for drug users to shoot up, and Denver City Council's considering it.

ANNE TRUJILLO: And Denver 7's Jason Gruenauer's been all over this issue, which is gaining some political traction.

JASON GRUENAUER: It is, as of tonight, Council President Aldus Brookes threw his support, his endorsement, saying that he will introduce legislation on safe injection sites in front of the Denver City Council this fall. Now that came at a public meeting tonight at the Denver Central Library. That place has been a hotbed for drug use, and since there are thousands of people who inject in Denver alone, and aren't stopping anytime soon, this would be a supervised space to take it out of the public eye. An unmarked building set up to stop disease spread and prevent overdoses, similar to the one you see on your screen there in Vancouver. Now opponents say this would promote drug use. Those pushing it, including now the city council president, say it would actually save lives.

LISA RAVILLE: I've been having internal conversations and conversations with decision makers, and so we do hope to be in front of city council this fall, and at the state legislature in the 2018 session.

JASON GRUENAUER: Do you think this is going to happen in Denver?

ART WAY: I think we have a good chance here in Denver, as well as anywhere else in the country.

JASON GRUENAUER: Now that legislation the council president spoke about would likely need to be a city ordinance to get around possession and drug use laws. It would also need the state's involvement, so, not soon, but not a pipe dream, either.

DEAN BECKER: Wanted to let you know, I've been talking with authorities in the Houston area about opening up a safe injection site here, to save lives, to prevent disease, to stop being so paranoid of people who use drugs.

JOEL SIMON HOCHMAN, MD: This is Dr. HochmanÔÇÖs guide for would-be overdose victims. If youÔÇÖre considering using a drug: Number one, to change your mood; two, to get high; three, because your friends are doing it; four, in combination with other mind altering substances, particularly alcohol; five, to cope with stress; six, to escape; seven, in a party situation; eight, alone with potential help unavailable; nine, for the first time and you are unfamiliar with it; ten, at a dose higher than youÔÇÖre use to, or you donÔÇÖt know how strong it is; eleven, when you have health issues that might affect your breathing or your ability to metabolize the drug; and twelve, you donÔÇÖt know about Naloxone for opiates and itÔÇÖs not available anyway. The possibility that you may kill yourself is very high.

Proceed at your own risk and do not blame the drug. You took it, it didnÔÇÖt take you. Relax. If you kill yourself, your parents will blame the drug, not you and they will think about you everyday, for the rest of their lives. This is Dr. Joel Simon Hochman from the National Foundation for the Treatment of Pain. Good luck and be wise.

DEAN BECKER: Sadly, Doctor Hochman has passed away, but luckily, his words live on, forever, right here on the Drug Truth Network. Kind of echoes my closing remarks, that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

Here's part of an interview I did with Willie Nelson. I asked him what he thought about the whole of the drug war.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, it's, obviously it's time to change all that, it's time to use a little common sense, horse sense, I think we call it in Texas. And also we want to thank KPFT and Houston, and you too, Dean, for getting involved, and helping us put the word out.

DEAN BECKER: I think we should also note that a few years back, I was on the bus with Willie and I got him to join my band of brothers, in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

As we wrap, I want to encourage you to educate yourself about drug policy. You can learn much more on our website. This is Dean Becker, DrugTruth.net.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.