09/18/19 Nathan Beedle

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Nathan Beedle
Harris County District Attorney

Nathan Beedle Misdemeanor Division Chief of the Harris County District Attorney's office re hemp/cannabis, vapes, hash, edibles, flowers, extracts etc + Paul Armentano Deputy Dir of NORML re vape cartridge deaths, forthcoming Federal law changes & more

Audio file



SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

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

Hello my friends. This is Cultural Baggage, the unvarnished truth about the drug war. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Here in just a few moments we are gonna hear from a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Nathan Beedle. Then later on we are gonna hear from Mr. Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Let’s get going.

Alright friends, today we have the privilege of talking to one of the prosecutors – one of the good folks working with the District Attorney of Harris County, Houston, Texas, Ms. Kim Ogg. We have Mr. Nathan Beedle. How are you, sir?

NATHAN BEEDLE: I am great, how are you?

DEAN BECKER: Please tell us a bit about the work you do with Kim?

NATHAN BEEDLE: I am the Misdemeanor Division Chief at the Harris County D.A.s office, which means I am responsible the roughly 60,000 Class A and B misdemeanors that are filed each year, and the over 600,000 JP violations that are filed each year in Harris County.

DEAN BECKER: Now would I be correct in assuming that 60,000 number would include those for marijuana and other misdemeanor drug charges?

NATHAN BEEDLE: It includes all potential drug charges that the Harris County District Attorney essentially files; that’s correct.

DEAN BECKER: Okay now as I am aware and I think most folks know at this time that Kim Ogg is kind of a pioneer in putting forward her misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, which has saved, if I remember right, 14,000 people from having that black mark that has saved $26-28 million for our county. Is that correct?

NATHAN BEEDLE: That is correct and it started on March 1st of 2017. I was tasked with actually implementing the program and still do on a daily basis. There are several counties that have asked for our materials to copy the success of the program. Those counties would include; Bexar County, Dallas County, Fort Bend County and several other smaller jurisdictions that have contacted us.

DEAN BECKER: Just from my perspective, it just shows a great acumen and understanding of the, if I dare say, futility of going down the same road which we had done for decades on end before. Would you agree with that thought, Mr. Beedle?

NATHAN BEEDLE: I know that Kim wants to devote our limited resources to persons that commit crimes related to victims. So if you have a victim in a case – we are going to prioritize those cases at both the misdemeanor and felony levels and traditionally most cases that I have seen related to both prescription narcotics and illegal narcotics, particularly at the misdemeanor level do not have a victim as it would relate to say an assault case or a DWI case.

DEAN BECKER: Or burglary or even a car wreck. Yes sir, I understand that. Now my discussion with Kim – I guess it’s been a couple of months back now, we talked about this situation with hemp and I guess I will say high THC marijuana; the two extremes if you will. One above and the other below .3% THC. It is has created a real set of circumstances for District Attorneys and cops around the state from my perspective there no longer is a probable cause. There is no rational perspective by which they can confiscate green smelly vegetables out there on the highways. What is your though in that regard, please?

NATHAN BEEDLE: Well our opinion at the office is that the new requirement issued by the legislature of .3% THC would require the state to be able to prove that a particular – let’s just say grade of marijuana, or the derivatives would be above .3% THC, which would require some sort of testing to make that affirmative statement to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. I am not aware of any machine or device or instrument in Harris County to be able to do that right now.

DEAN BECKER: Right – and I think within the state there are perhaps a few – I don’t know if anybody is certain about that yet. If so, to get the time to use that machine would be prohibitively expensive especially for the number of pot arrests in this state.

Once again, we are speaking with Mr. Nathan Beedle, he is with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Now Mr. Beedle, I want to talk about certain potential charges of possession or whatever and I want to get to the heart of it though. There is THC hash and there’s CBD hash, there’s THC marijuana and there is CBD marijuana. There are oils and extracts on either side of that equation and I guess where I want to start is – I often hear people talk about today’s marijuana is not like your grandma’s marijuana, that sort of thing but there has always been hashish. A natural gathering of the THC molecules. What are the charges currently for hashish and for the various levels of possession, you know – ounces and pounds, perhaps?

NATHAN BEEDLE: Well, I mean are we talking about hashish or marijuana? I am confused now by your question. I am sorry.

DEAN BECKER: I am sorry if I misstated it – yes, hashish - the gathering of those molecules.

NATHAN BEEDLE: At this point we are developing some sort of policy related to what I would describe as the evolving nature of how THC is being present in the public fashion. So we are actively looking into developing some sort of policy related to many of the derivatives that you are talking about, but we currently – as I am aware – do not prosecute these cases at this time.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. This kind of ties in then with the extracts, the oils, the tinctures, the other means of producing and/or using cannabis in its various forms. There is still a ball of confusion around the whole situation, is there not?

NATHAN BEEDLE: I would say we are actively developing a policy to deal and address this issue and again, though, I would go back to Kim Ogg’s philosophy that we are going to devote our limited resources to crimes where victims are the center of those crimes and that is where we are focused.

DEAN BECKER: I do appreciate that thought, trust me I do. I know this is not an easy interview because there is still so much up in there air, so to speak and attitudes are changing. As you indicated other counties are perhaps immolating the work that our DA, Kim Ogg has done and from my perspective, Mr. Beedle, I have been at this for decades, I think you are aware of that. It’s the fact that other than Kim Ogg, police chief and sheriff there are few people in the county, in the state – heck, in our nation that are willing to talk about the subject of drug policy because it’s just so much influx. Your response to that thought, please, sir?

NATHAN BEEDLE: My response is I am really proud of this offices response to pretty much everything we are doing at the misdemeanor level but in particular, related to our Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program. I have heard some criticisms that we’re not as liberal as other jurisdictions or what have you – but we live in the State of Texas as you know and Texas is not California, it is not Oregon, it is not Washington, it is not Denver, and it is not Massachusetts. There are 254 counties in Texas and many of them are extremely conservative counties. I think Kim’s vision in getting the political buy-in from the mayor, the police chief, the actual sheriff and many of the municipalities – the 80+ municipalities related to marijuana is truly visionary and took a substantial amount of work and we are really proud of it.

DEAN BECKER: I am right there with you – I am proud of what you guys are doing – the willingness to look at this truthfully insofar as where the damage is being done. We have been talking about it and I guess I wanted to look at it from this way – we have the vape pen hysteria going on now, I am sure you are aware of that.
There are chemicals being utilized within these cartridges that have deadly consequences. That peoples lungs are being ruined. A few people have died and it’s a national issue. What is your thought? Why that isn’t a problem and perhaps what we could do to correct that situation?

NATHAN BEEDLE: Well of course every district attorney’s office works under the framework of what the legislature has made illegal. It appears to me that there are several type of products being used out there that we would like some direction from the legislature but we have to wait for them to make those decisions. If something is made illegal or harmful, or if there’s an age restriction related to specific products we will obviously enforce that law and try and protect the public to the best of our ability.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Now I have one here that is kind of a crossover between a misdemeanor and felony, but perhaps you can give me the interpretation or the perspective and that is edibles. Like cookies, brownies, or other products that are made using cannabis – and again, it could be hemp – it could be marijuana. But let’s just assume for one second that it was marijuana and a total of one pound of cookies, yet we know within that one pound of cookies there’s probably less than five or six grams of marijuana and I guess what I am saying is the extrapolation turns those few grams of marijuana into a felony. How do you deal with that subject, Mr. Beedle?

NATHAN BEEDLE: My personal opinion about this being the Misdemeanor Division Chief, is that it would be the weight of the marijuana above .3% THC that we could actually quantify. It that remained a Class A or B misdemeanor, which would be up to four ounces, then it should be – assuming that it is marijuana and tested positive with the concentration in accordance with the new law, then it could be a Class A or B misdemeanor. If you are asking me if we’re taking the total weight of the brownies, cookies, or whatever other edible that we are talking about the answer is we don’t do that here in Harris County.

DEAN BECKER: Well I applaud you then, sir. That’s the kind of thing that a lot of folks out there are curious about because they don’t want to be held accountable for a felony for just a few dollars’ worth of weed. Okay, when the cops are out there on the street now can you give an estimate of the number of cases being filed now as compared to a year ago, or a few years back. That deal with minor amounts of marijuana and/or hemp – is their perspective changing? Are they less onerous, less draconian in their policy and their interactions?

NATHAN BEEDLE: I would address it this way; since the law change, I am not aware of any misdemeanor case of possession of marijuana that has been filed in our system that postdates the law change.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Would you clarify that for me? I am not sure I understand.

NATHAN BEEDLE: The recent change where the percentage of THC was required as an element for us to prove, I am not aware of any possession of marijuana case after the date of that law change being filed. If it was filed shortly thereafter, we dismissed it shortly thereafter because of the law change.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Now as I am aware there was a law that took effect I think September 1, if I remember right, that basically made hemp legal in the state of Texas – at least for certain properties or components. The question I guess comes to this, there are in our city -- I have toured around and visit many of them. I am thinking of starting to sell Becker’s Buds, a brand of hemp cigarettes to raise money for my radio station. The point I am wanting to get to though is, is that legal? Will it bring a focus to bear on the work I am doing there or is it just something you guys will just ignore? Go ahead, sir?

NATHAN BEEDLE: Mr. Becker, this is how I respond – I cannot give legal advice to anybody --

DEAN BECKER: Okay. I understand.

NATHAN BEEDLE: --I cannot do that. I think the policy though that Kim has instituted speak for themselves regardless of the .3% THC analysis, is that let’s assume that in the future we do have the capability to test for THC I guess concentration, that somebody’s actually paid for it.


NATHAN BEEDLE: I am not convinced that that’s gonna happen. The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, which is currently in effect and has been I effect since March of 2017, would still be available to everybody that came in contact with law enforcement. So nothing is going to change with regard to our perception of how these types of cases –

DEAN BECKER: Okay. I want to come back – there are hundreds of stores in Houston, Harris County, that are selling hemp cigarettes as we speak. Is that legal? What is your understanding there?

NATHAN BEEDLE: My understanding is that there is a requirement for the state to be able to prove beyond a certain of THC. If that is not provable then we cannot file a case in Harris County.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Because I know those stores as best I understand it, are all being left alone. There are not being bothered for these sales but it’s good to know how the cow at the cabbage, so to speak. Now perhaps our final question I want to bring up is that hemp cigarettes are now legal. I have quit tobacco. I find a little bit of relief in smoking a hemp cigarette to just kind of quell that compulsion and I am wondering if that is a legal thing. If hemp cigarettes can be smoked wherever people are smoking tobacco here in Harris County?

NATHAN BEEDLE: Again, I think you’re asking for legal advice and I can’t give legal advice, Mr. Becker. Again, I would go back to the requirement that we would have to be able to prove that anything in somebody’s possession was above .3% THC, and I am not aware of that capability right now in Harris County.

DEAN BECKER. Well okay. I understand your situation – I do. Now I am gonna wrap it up with this one thought, and that is if you encounter someone with a green leafy substance will you automatically take that assuming that it might be marijuana or will people be left alone in the sense that you can’t prove that it is the high THC?

NATHAN BEEDLE: My instructions from the First Assistant and Kim Ogg herself is that until we have a THC analysis showing that something is in fact above .3%, then we will not file a charge.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. But I guess the cops could always assume you might.

NATHAN BEEDLE: Again, we are not the police. We are the District Attorney’s Office. There’s approximately 85 different law enforcement agencies around our county with very different command structures, etc. We are operating under what Kim Ogg has told us to do and that’s exactly what we are gonna do,

DEAN BECKER: Well, I want to thank you for facing down this toothless lie and how it’s trying to present to you. You’ve answered my questions quite thoroughly and I do appreciate your time.

Once again folks, we’ve been speaking with a prosecutor working for our District Attorney, Kim Ogg. The prosecutor – Nathan Beedle. Is there any closing thoughts you might want to share, sir?

NATHAN BEEDLE: No. I just want to tell you I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and your audience.

DEAN BECKER: Well thank you, sir.

It’s time to play Name That Drug by Its Side Effects. Dizziness, nausea, chest pain, numbness, tingling, ringing in your ears, irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath with pain spreading to arm and shoulder, loss of vision, painful penis. Time’s up! The answer: from Pfizer Inc., Viagra for erectile dysfunction.

MUSIC: He’s in charge of the truth so he tells nothing but lies. He professes such great sorrow for the thousands of his minions who died. He’s the drug czar waging his eternal war on our free will.

DEAN BECKER: Friends, I am proud to be speaking with my good friend, Mr. Paul Armentano, he’s the Deputy Director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is the author of a great book you really need to read, it’s titled, “Marijuana is Safer So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” He joins us now. We have a couple of subjects to delve in to but we are gonna talk first about the vape cartridges and some of the news that’s going around. How are you doing, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: It’s been a busy couple of weeks, Dean. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: Well it has been busy, hasn’t it? I just got done with an interview with a Mr. Beedle, he is a prosecutor with the D.A here, Kim Ogg’s office. We had a great discussion about marijuana and concentrates and extracts and hemp and CBD versus marijuana – the high THC. There’s a lot of noise and confusion all around this country at this point, would you agree?

PAUL ARMENTANO: I would certainly agree. There are a patchwork of state regulation that in many cases or instances it was federal regulation and in some cases there are changes in federal policy but there are no regulations hashing out the details of those changes. So yeah, many folks are left (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DEAN BECKER: And here in Texas, we have kind of the rural’s versus the more populated counties and different perspectives, different means of arrest and continuance of the old attitude, “Reefer Madness”. It’s really noisy – noise and confusion isn’t it?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Very much so and again, this is a result of the fact that in many cases the federal government fails to provide guidance, and absent that guidance confusion often rains.

DEAN BECKER: And if I dare say, it comes under the bailiwick of supposed controlled substances when in affect, we are not controlling much of anything these days. A prime example of that is represented in a recent opinion piece you had in Leafly, it’s titled, “Cannabis Vaping Concerns Call For Increased Regulation and Oversight”. Fair statement. Elaborate on that for us, Paul?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well what we are seeing right now is confusion in the marketplace and disparate quality in the marketplace when it comes to many of these cannabis extract vapor cartridge products and the reason that there is such uncertainty in this marketplace is because at the federal level these are entirely unregulated products. This is an entirely unregulated industry and certain states where cannabis is legal and the retail sales of cannabis products are regulated, there are some state regulations governing the production and quality of these products. Even at that level, these are patchwork regulations that differ from state to state. There is are no standards with regard to how these products ought to be produced and what contents they should be tested for. Unfortunately, this unregulated market – like pretty much any unregulated market attracts these reputable predatory players and fosters impure product qualities. This principal is no different than if one goes down 42nd Street in New York City and buys a supposed Gucci bag from the street vendor – don’t be surprised if you get home and its not a Gucci and don’t be surprised if one buys a supposed vapor cartridge product off the street. That is a counterfeit knock off and not of the quality one would get of a product that was bought in a state licensed, regulated retailer.

DEAN BECKER: Paul, this harkens back to one example is bathtub gin. Killing people back in the alcohol prohibition days.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Again, these products are already existing in an illegal market. The majority if not all of the adverse effects that seem to have come from these products have largely come from counterfeit products. These were not products that were produce by a good manufacturer with good manufacturing practices at the state level, or were state tested products. They are counterfeit products. They are bootleg products. They are products that are already illegal at the federal and state level. We can’t make them anymore illegal, but certainly we can provide better clarity for the legal, regulated market and we can provide better educational resources to the consumers so that they can readily discern between legally regulated product and those that are not.

DEAN BECKER: Very strong point, Paul. Let’s talk now a little bit about hemp versus high THC marijuana. That is a complete cluster situation around this country, is it not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: You know it is and it isn’t. Yes, there is federal legislation that is in place that deschedules industrial hemp or cannabis that contains less than three tenths of one percent THC, but again, there are regulations surrounding those policies. In many cases there are regulations that still need to be formulated around those policies and in many states there are active hemp programs. But again, in many cases these are tightly licensed, regulated programs. If one is not operating in compliance with those regulations than they are still not following the letter of the law and in many cases, like in Texas, those programs are not yet up and running.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well and that is my point of focus I was wanting to bring forward is that in those states like Texas and several others where hemp is now becoming legal but marijuana, the high THC is not. It creates a complication out on the highways where the cops can either confiscate the bag and assume that its marijuana or accept your word that it’s hemp and perhaps leave you alone. It’s a real situation, is it not?

PAUL ARMENTANO: It certainly is a situation in some jurisdictions. I don’t think it’s going to be a lasting situation and I am actually looking at the national perspective somewhat perplexed as to why it’s a situation at all in some of these jurisdictions. To me, this is no different than a state like say Ohio passing a medical marijuana law but then two or three years go by. Until that law is operational the regulations and the details of that law are hammered it out, it is not legal for one to possess marijuana in the state until the laws operational. In my mind, I am somewhat confused as to the legal confusion in some jurisdictions in states like Texas. Hemp is not regulated under the law until the law becomes operational, and it’s not yet operational.

DEAN BECKER: And the District Attorney of Harris County I think coincides with your thought very well. Again, she’s kind of being pushed and pulled by the legislatures demands that she continue doing things the old way and she is refusing to do so and I certainly commend her for that.

Alright friends, once again we’ve been speaking with Mr. Paul Armentano, he’s Deputy Director of NORML – and Paul, your closing thoughts. What’s another set of circumstance that we need to be aware of and perhaps in repairing?

PAUL ARMENTANO: Well there’s quite a bit, obviously, Dean. You have been doing this work a long time, I have too. I would just assure your listeners that at the federal level, things indeed are changing. We are expecting within a matter of weeks to have a house floor vote on legislation to finally provide some explicit guidance to banks and other financial institutions so that they can engage in above board relationships with this industry. We’re expecting the senate potentially to move on this as well. We know that just today the Speaker of the Senate has introduced an amendment to try to really direct the FDA to act more expeditiously to try to bring some regulations to this burgeoning CBD market. We know that there is movement afoot in the House to try to pass far more expansive marijuana policy reform like The Moore Act. So there is quite a bit going on at the federal level in addition to all of the activity that we are seeing at the state level.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. Once again, Mr. Paul Armentano, I want to thank you. Please go to their website where you can learn more, where you can be a better reformer and help get this stuff fixed sooner rather than later. That website: Alright Paul, thank you, sir.

PAUL ARMENTANO: Thank you for having me, Dean. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.

DEAN BECKER: Well that’s about all we can squeeze in, but once again I must remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

07/03/19 Kim Ogg

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Kim Ogg
Harris County District Attorney

Kim Ogg the District Attorney of Houston/Harris County Texas for the half hour. We discuss marijuana & hemp and conflicting laws, paraphernalia, Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, cops ability to search based on hemp smell, number of prosecutors, bail bonds, the Harding Street bust the corruption there of, gangs, Portugal & decrim, Switzerland and Heroin, overdose deaths, safe consumption facilities , what glue holds the drug war together

Audio file


JULY 3, 2019


DEAN BECKER: Hi folks, this is Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. The next 28:45 is totally unedited. Put your ears on.

Okeh, I feel quite proud and privileged. I'm here in downtown Houston, I'm in the office of the district attorney of our nation's fourth largest city. I'm with the district attorney, Kim Ogg. Hello, Kim, how are you today?

KIM OGG: I'm great, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for this interview. It's been a while, but I think we need to talk. Things are changing. People are beginning to realize that drug laws have failed, major newspapers, even our Houston Chronicle is nibbling at the edges, politicians around the country are beginning to speak a little more boldly, and I think today we might just make some history.

First, I want to talk about what you're maybe best known for, it's the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, and the statistics indicate that you have saved the futures of many youngsters, because that's mainly who gets caught out there on the roads with marijuana, and they won't have that black mark and they'll be able to have a decent life without, you know, being excluded from credit, housing, employment. Right?


DEAN BECKER: Right. Now, I noticed the numbers are good, but they're not quite what you had projected when we began, and I'm figuring that's some cops just don't want to quit what they had done before. Circumstances maybe of possession of paraphernalia compounds it, I don't know those sorts of things. What does create -- ?

KIM OGG: Well, we're -- we're really proud of our numbers. We hit ten thousand diversions in April, which was a milestone for Harris County, the most drug prosecuting county in Texas, historically.

Before my administration began, ten thousand people per year were being arrested and convicted of misdemeanor or felony possession of marijuana. It was a 28 million dollar waste for taxpayers and an enormous waste of human capital.

So the number is great. I think the reason we didn't see ten thousand per year diverted is because police have stopped stopping as many people. I think once we reached the agreement that we were going to divert and ask them to do it fair, at the point pre-arrest, that that probably influenced some police to stop stopping as many people in cars with the idea that they would then maybe have probable cause for a search, or at least reasonable suspicion.

So I think that we have affected things in a good way, and in somewhat an unexpected way, with fewer stops. I think there are some small jurisdictions who are utilizing class C citations. Our governor recommended it and wanted the law changed, but the lieutenant governor, it's my understanding, blocked all legislation to reform marijuana laws.


KIM OGG: Interestingly, there's a brand new law on the books that legalized hemp that we think makes an enormous difference in the prosecution of any marijuana cases, and that's something that's just breaking out of the news cycle now.


KIM OGG: And the law that changed basically requires prosecutors, if we are to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt that the police have filed, in a drug case involving marijuana, we now have to prove through lab tests that the substance seized is actually marijuana, not hemp, the only difference in the same plant being hemp has a concentration of THC less than point oh three, and marijuana has a concentration in the plant that it is of more than point oh three THC.

Now the lab testing wasn't forgotten by the legislature, in fact the Department of Public Safety had a 35 million dollar fiscal note attached to the legalization of hemp bill. But the legislature stripped it, leaving local DAs with no way, and local law enforcement, no way of obtaining marijuana quantification tests, which is what the new law requires, at a local level.

This virtually ends new case filings of marijuana. We're telling law enforcement that we'll work with them on felony cases if they can get it tested, then we'll file them. But as far as misdemeanor marijuana, our program still stands. We divert everyone, regardless of criminal history, and I think that program has proven to be better than anything the legislature's been willing to give us.

DEAN BECKER: All right, now, hemp, you know, there's just no way to detect the percentage when a policeman stops you.

KIM OGG: Correct.

DEAN BECKER: He cannot determine whether it's hemp or marijuana. There's just no way. And I'm wondering, we did a little exchange on this and I wonder if it doesn't just negate their ability to bust people for small baggies of some green plant matter. Your thought there, please.

KIM OGG: Our thought is that we in this district attorney's office will require lab testing for any marijuana case that's filed. If it's a felony amount, there may be a way to extend the wait period, we can write a "to be" warrant after there's lab testing, and in some instances if it's a huge load, then of course we could go ahead and take the charges, but that will have to be determined on a case by case basis, because the law enforcement agency's going to have to pony up the money --


KIM OGG: -- to test the drugs so we can prove in court that the substance is marijuana. As you know, our marijuana diversion program has eliminated most case filings of misdemeanor pot cases in Harris County.

We still file a couple thousand a year because we had allowed the school police to file drug free zone school cases. I think now that's changed, without a lab test we're not willing to accept those cases. So everyone will be diverted through the MMDP.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh. Now, can a cop, I don't care, somebody just smoked a hemp cigarette in their car, and a cop pulls them over, is he going to have the right to search that car? I smell marijuana, as always? I, that seems to me unconstitutional. Your thought.

KIM OGG: Well Dean, not only are you ahead of your time, but you're a man who, you know, is maybe in the wrong profession. Maybe you should have been a lawyer because I think that's the issue of the day: Does the smell or odor of marijuana emanating from a person or a car still remain reasonable suspicion for the policeman to search for that drug or anything else that he might find? I think that's going to be litigated in Texas courts across the state.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, I'm going to change the subject some here. Some, I'm seeing facebook posts, some ads and such on, and talking about your request for more prosecutors is suspect, that you're wanting more convictions, seeking more time, but I wonder, is that not just sniping by some of your future opponents.

KIM OGG: That's just sniping by current opponents, and there's always haters out there who will find fault with everything we do. But in truth, we are the poorest funded among the largest agencies in the country.

We have the lowest level -- number of prosecutors and one of the higher numbers of cases. We believe that it takes people to help people, and that when lawyers are afforded the time they need to evaluate an individual, the evidence against them, and the effect that the case disposition will have on the community, that we'll have more diversions, not more prison sentences.

And when it comes to investigations of police shootings, environmental crimes, rape, robbery, murder, I think everyone in the community agrees, you need a sufficient number of lawyers to do our job, to prosecute those investigations fairly, and successfully, so that we can help keep our community safe because after all, that is what people expect of their district attorney.

DEAN BECKER: No slap dash district attorney, I like it.

KIM OGG: Well, not for violent crime. I mean, I don't think anybody would agree to that. But the critics don't seem to distinguish, they just paint with a broad brush. And I think it's become a referendum that paints the issues falsely. It encompasses some belief that more prosecutors are just bad, and I think that's the same kind of narrow minded thinking that we're trying to eliminate.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I think you're doing a great job thus far. Those same people, they say that you have yet to do away with so many bail bond requirements. Address that thought, please.

KIM OGG: Well, it's untrue. I was the first agency to file an amicus brief in support of misdemeanor bail reform. The problem is, we have violent felons being let out on low bonds or PR bonds, without any conditions to protect their victims or other potential victims in the community.

So when I supported bail bond reform, I did it or misdemeanor cases because I felt that they were low risk offenders in general. There are some exceptions, domestic violence abusers, drunk drivers, but most misdemeanor offenders should be allowed to continue working in the community while their case was pending.

But violent felon are another story, and so I would suggest that the folks who are criticizing me are disingenuous and perhaps they don't mind violent offenders on the street. If you live in a nice neighborhood, let's say River Oaks or West University or even Sunset Boulevard, you probably don't face the same problems that everyday Houstonians have when it comes to violent crime.

DEAN BECKER: No, so true. Now, we're going to really move in a different direction here. The bust that happened on Harding Street, where the residents were killed, their dog was shot, four officers wounded. They were kicking in the door in street clothes, they had an illegal -- a bad warrant from my perspective. They fabricated an informant, they likely fabricated the -- a previous buy.

They said there was black tar heroin, all they found was a third of an ounce of weed and a smidge of cocaine. And I say this is one of the most classic examples of the horrible logic of the drug war gone bad. Your response, please.

KIM OGG: Well, the drug war is illogical. I don't think you can declare war on a population that chooses to either not abide by prohibition or simply against prohibition. I don't think that's grounds for a war against our own people. That's an issue that should be determined legislatively.

But we've got to have legislators with the political will to change those laws. As long as they exist, you're going to have police who will enforce them and you're going to have prosecutors who will try those cases in court.

We are doing a lot to change that here in Harris County, but what you've touched on, the Harding Street raid, is the biggest civil rights case certainly in this part of the country. It's perhaps the biggest case I've seen in my thirty-two years, when it comes to the implications for the whole department, especially the narcotics division.

And so the use of confidential informants, the payments, the records, I think these are all things that we are very interested in combing through for evidence of patterns and practices that may need to be changed.

As far as this particular shooting and the officers involved, they're all part of an open investigation right now, and I think this is a tragic case. Our community is understandably upset. They want justice, and I want it for them. So, that's where we're going.

DEAN BECKER: All right. You know, this is arbitrary, facetious, I don't know the word, but I figure if the cops were to kick in any ten doors in our fair city, any neighborhood you want to go to, they're going to find marijuana in three of them. They're going to find some coke or heroin or pills, something illegal, in one out of those ten.

And I guess what I'm saying is, it's just -- drug users are pretty good people normally. They don't draw attention as, I don't know, as historically put it, the movies or on the TV shows. They're just not that desperate or deadly.

And I guess what I'm saying is, we need to think again, why we do this. I probably botched this question, but, if you kick in ten doors in Houston, you're going to find weed in three and probably pills in another. Your thought to that, please.

KIM OGG: Well, I think that whether your statistic is right, I have no idea, but I can tell you that people who utilize drugs and do not participate in any type of violence pose the lowest threat to our community in terms of public safety.

Many people are self medicating because they have underlying mental health, even physical health issues. You know, I think if you looked in a lot of old ladies' purses, you might find pills that weren't prescribed to them.


KIM OGG: So, it's the disparate enforcement that makes people so angry with the system. When we see more black and brown people, more men, more young people than old people being stopped, searched, arrested, it's not just disturbing, it is a threat to our whole democracy.

People must believe our system is fair if they're going to keep participating in it, and I think that's why it's so important that the top law enforcement officials, myself, Chief Art Acevedo, Ed Gonzalez, all agree that social problems and ills are not appropriate for us to try and handle.

Those are huge problems that must be dealt with through appropriate resources by our governing bodies and direct service to people, and that declaring war on people who use drugs has not just been a huge waste of money, but it's cut our nose off to spite our face as a society.


KIM OGG: You can't send millions of people to prison and not -- and refuse to see what has happened in our society as a result.


KIM OGG: A lot of lost opportunity and a lot of bitterness.

DEAN BECKER: Now, you just mentioned our police chief, Art Acevedo. He has stated that we have at least 300 gangs here, that they, and I say, well, it's obvious, it's been proven over the years, they entice our children to lives of crime. Join up with us or if addiction, try our product.

Through legalization, they would not have a profit motive and I think much of their violent behavior would disappear. Your thought there, please.

KIM OGG: The regulation of drug sales in states where marijuana is legal has not yet been correlated with a decline in violent crime, but I believe there's room in research to absolutely analyze whether legalization, with appropriate regulation, is in fact a way to lower the crime rate. I really can't answer that question without evidence.


KIM OGG: But, my gut tells me that, when you remove a huge profit making product from the black market, you put it in the regular market place, you regulate it, that while it won't eliminate gangs, because they're going to find something else illegal to do, you take a huge chunk out of their profit margin now.


KIM OGG: And it would disrupt their criminal and violent activities in a way that I think could only be helpful to our society.

DEAN BECKER: I think there is a means to kind of prove what I was alluding to. I went to Portugal last year, I got to sit down with the European Monitoring Centre, they had asked me to come speak to them. I got no respect in the USA but I was respected in Portugal.

I got to meet Doctor João Goulão, the in essence drug czar of Portugal, and they stressed to me that once they decrimed all drugs, five days -- you can have a five days' supply in your pocket and you won't be arrested -- that the violence has gone down, the overdoses have gone down, the acquisition of diseases has gone down. It has made a major impact.

And it kind of reminds me of the situation where every state, every jurisdiction, if they're considering marijuana, they want a new study, as if the first ten thousand were not enough. Respond to both of those, if you would, please.

KIM OGG: That we've had enough studies to choke a horse in this county and in this country.


KIM OGG: And while we continue to need data, and research, and institutes that are credible to deliver the message to the public, I think most of us in law enforcement can see the futility that this war on drugs has bred.

And when we look at other countries, the only thing I caution is that gun laws are quite different there, especially different than Texas, and that while firearms are readily accessible to people who are trafficking drugs or humans or stolen merchandise on the black market, that we're going to continue to see violence.

But when we can disrupt them, through taking away a major commodity, that seems like a promising strategy. And I look for our -- I look for our state and our local government to embrace some of those strategies. I think MMDP was a start.

DEAN BECKER: Thought it was a great start. One second here. Just that much, okeh. You know, after my time in Portugal I went to Switzerland, I got to meet the designer of their heroin injection program. Over the, I think it's 26 years they've injected pure heroin 27 million times with zero overdose deaths, and in 2017, here in the US, I think it was 45 of the 72,000 overdose deaths were opium -- opiate related [sic: according to the CDC there were 47,885 opiate-related deaths in 2017].

And, it -- in essence, the heroin injection facility is a safe injection facility. Here in Texas we're afraid of needle exchange, the legislature passed it then they said not in my county. What do you think of the potential for needle exchange and a safe consumption facility for our fair city where folk are dying of these contaminated products?

KIM OGG: Well, poison is undetectable to the average user, so pills that are being pressed in the black market contain fentanyl, profanyl [sic], all kinds of deadly substances that are toxic.

When we begin to look at drug addiction as a public health concern instead of a public safety concern, everything's possible. But I think it's a preliminary reversal of position for most people who are in government.

I would submit that law enforcement would and could be the first out of the chute to do that. But I think it's going to take the will of the people, and they'll show that will by who they vote for and then what those individuals who are elected into the legislative branch do with regard to drug laws. That's where it must change.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I handed you those two cards I hand out at the civil courthouse every Wednesday before my TV show, and a lot of these judges and jurists and defense and prosecutors, a lot of them stop and talk to me, and I tell them my -- my rationale, the drug war is a failure, we've got to end it.

And they say, well, you're absolutely right, but it's never going to end. And it brings to mind, I know that terrorists and gangs and cartels, they love the drug war. It is a bonanza to them. But why do legislators and other public officials in Texas remain so in love with this drug war?

KIM OGG: Well, I think we still have a very misogynistic society, and that it's a macho thing to think that we can just find a problem and kill it. Public health is not a war. You know, public health is science based. And I think the more that our society can stick to the evidence when we govern and make policies, the better we'll be.

And if we look at the evidence and the data that relates to addiction and the spin-off crimes, I think the answer's clear. Low level users, people who take illegal substances, are not all involved in crime, especially violent crime.

They may be the victim because they're operating in a black market, and I worry that people who are part of a vulnerable situation and you have to -- you have to see that people who utilize drugs illegally are part of that vulnerable population. They suffer at the hands of criminals just like they suffer in our criminal justice system.

DEAN BECKER: No recourse to the law, they have, though there's no way for them to report their -- the crime against the drug.

KIM OGG: Well, they do, they do, but it lends itself to credibility problems in the court system, where the -- where the baseline is that drugs are bad, ergo drug users are bad, and not credible. I don't think the evidence supports that at all, but I do think that that is a prevalent problem --


KIM OGG: -- in criminal justice, when people who are using drugs are killed by those drugs or when they're harmed or killed by people trying to rip them off in these black market situations.

So, I want to stop that, and I think one way is through this MMDP program. We also divert all of our crack and meth cases, as many people as we can, into court supervised programs where they come out without a conviction.

We hope that just gets them out of the black market situation. We think it makes them safer and healthier. And what they do after they're off that probation or court ordered supervision is often quite different, and better, than what they were doing when they got arrested.

DEAN BECKER: That's a wonderful thing. Just a couple of days ago, Cory Booker, you know, was chastising John -- excuse me, Joe Biden, for his being the ramrod if you will for our nation's more severe drug laws, asset forfeiture, you know, and Joe hasn't backed down.

But it reminded me of the reluctance, the recalcitrance, of these officials. I've been saying for years that those who made their bones in the drug war, and this kind of ties into what we were talking about before, are so reluctant to admit they were wrong for fear of losing stature and reelection, and it's tough for them to back down.

We addressed this, but you know some people who were zealots at one time, maybe that have changed their minds, and how do we smooth things over for them, allow them to step forward and admit they were wrong, or at least point us in the right direction now

KIM OGG: Well, to your point about politics, I don't make endorsements, even in the presidential primaries.


KIM OGG: But I will say that having been around in the '80s and '90s, I've lived here in Houston all my life with short exception, that we lived through some very violent times. We once had a murder rate that was over 700 per year. That's 700 people.

There was a lot of violence on our streets. And times were different.


KIM OGG: Responses were 1980s and '90s responses. It's easy to kick back in 2019 and say, oh, well they were wrong. I think it's more realistic to say, these were the answers that government came up with at the time. Some of those answers panned out, some didn't, but we want to do it differently in 2019.

So I don't think to be right now, others had to be wrong back then. I just think it's important to remain flexible, open minded about how we govern and are governed, and to continue participating in our system, because if you don't, you have no voice.

And I think that is a travesty.

DEAN BECKER: Okeh, I've got a couple of questions left for you. Would it make your job easier if we decide to once again judge people by their actions, like we used to do before this prohibition, rather than by their possession of a pill or a powder or the cigarettes they smoke?

KIM OGG: Of course.

DEAN BECKER: Wouldn't it be easier?

KIM OGG: Yes. I've often said that I think where our community and law enforcement became so divided other than along racial lines, which it certainly was, was when Nixon declared war on the American people and called it a drug war.

I think that communities of color were clearly overpoliced. We know that young people were targeted. And we know that this bred an enormous organized crime problem that we haven't suppressed yet.

And so, I think, you know, I think that the divide, other than the racial divide, which was there, really began back in '72. And that it's important with the -- living in a time of limited government resources, that we take our focus and we put it on the violent actions of people, and we judge those actions, and this notion that, you know, you're hurting yourself is somehow a problem that law enforcement should inject itself into just seems like a new way of thinking that I hope more people in leadership positions will aspire to.

DEAN BECKER: All right. And this one, I know the answer to, it's -- it's why I do what I do, is to challenge the logic of this drug war, and I want to ask this question of the drug czar himself, of the US attorney general, of Dan Patrick, of Governor Abbott, any of them: What is the benefit of drug war?

KIM OGG: Well, I look forward to their answers.

DEAN BECKER: Kim Ogg, thank you so much.

KIM OGG: My pleasure, Dean Becker.

DEAN BECKER: I appreciate it.

KIM OGG: Always good to see you and thanks for remaining the maverick on the cutting edge that you have always been.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you.

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