06/24/20 Roger Goodman

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Roger Goodman
Houston Harm Reduction Alliance

Roger Goodman Washington state Representative on US racism, Covid 19 and call for actual control of controlled substances + Josh Richards Houston activist calls for harm reduction

Audio file

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
I am Dean Becker, the Reverend most high, and I want to welcome you to this edition of cultural baggage, lots of information to share. Let's just get started. Folks. I feel proud to once again, be speaking to a gentleman, I greatly respect and admire. I think we've known each other for at least, I don't know, 15, 16 years. Uh, he is a, uh, representative, uh, of the state of Washington. And, uh, he's with us for, I don't know, perhaps the eight or 10th time. I want to welcome Roger Goodman. How are you, sir?

I'm doing great to hear well, all things considered, of course, uh, you know, we got a global pandemic and, uh, economic downturn and, uh, civil unrest all happening at the same time, but, but you're okay. We're doing okay. We're surviving up here, uh, up in Seattle.

DEAN BECKER: (00:52)
Well, and, and Roger again, thank you for taking the time to, uh, you know, jump into this discussion. There is a lot going on a lot that, uh, needs addressed and, uh, needs our respect and attention. Now you are, uh, gonna run for the, uh, what is it, the 45th district, uh, up there in, uh, Washington state again, right?

Yeah. I represent the district, uh, with the suburbs of Seattle. Um, it's a very affluent, um, area people with a strong social conscience. So it allows me to fight for the voiceless. Uh, it's where Microsoft is headquartered. Uh, and, uh, so a lot of actually a lot of foreign born, um, uh, high tech workers here, but yeah, I'm running for my eights terms. I've been around for awhile.

DEAN BECKER: (01:43)
Well, and that, uh, that even surprises me. I knew you'd been at it a while, but your eighth term. And so, uh, that, that is kind of amazing too, to hear Roger. Now I wanna, I wanna, um, well, I don't know which one to start with. I want to talk about first, I guess the, uh, the Capitol Hill autonomous zone has now turned to the Capitol Hill occupy protest. Jazz has turned to chop, uh, and, and, um, I don't know if you watch Fox and I do occasionally just for a reference point, but, uh, they, they talk about, uh, that chop, I guess now as, as if it were a real war zone and Antifa is taking over any truth to that,

None whatsoever. It is a complete misinformation as usual from, uh, the Fox, uh, folks, the, uh, uh, the area I've been there. Uh, I know a lot of those folks, they are, um, they have a stage, uh, with, uh, presentations, uh, they're providing food and medical care for anyone who needs it. Uh, they have, uh, performances, artistic performances, um, uh, no violence whatsoever. Uh, they are doing their best to, uh, to rule themselves to demonstrate that, uh, you know, policing certainly over policing, uh, is unnecessary. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: (03:08)
And, and this, this brings to mind, I mean, I realized there was a shooting lately. Uh, um, one guy killed, I think, one guy wounded, but that's, uh, it's not a result or that, uh, involved with the, the movement itself. It just so happened. It was on the edge of that, uh, area, if I heard. Right.

Yeah, that's right. It's not a there's no, there's not. Uh, these are not, uh, terrorists, uh, or, uh, you know, gun wielding folks. These are, uh, frankly they're, uh, a lot of them are enjoying the, uh, cannabis that we have up here in, uh, uh, in Washington state. And we have for eight years now, we've had a legal, legally regulated market, which has worked very well. So, uh, it's actually fairly mellow.

DEAN BECKER: (03:53)
Yeah. And that folks need to understand that, uh, Seattle and, uh, uh, you're, I don't know if it's a sister city, but Portland, Oregon are known for, um, people standing for rights, people, um, protesting people involved, I guess, is maybe the best way to put it. And even in your city of Seattle before, I don't know how many years you've had the Seattle, uh, uh, hemp Fest, where were folks gathered and, uh, protested and, and claim their right to smoke that cannabis you're talking about. Right?

Yeah. We call it a protestable, it's 150,000 people, every summer course this summer, we're going to have to take a break, uh, on this, but, um, you know, hemp Fest is become, uh, famous around the world. And I think actually has been part of the, uh, propelling, the movement to end, uh, cannabis prohibition. Uh, so yeah, here in Seattle, we are well known for protests. We had the world trade organization, WTO protests 20 years ago, uh, and, you know, protesting against a rapacious global capitalism and, um, and even a hundred years ago, uh, uh, famous protests against, uh, corporate power and so forth. So, uh, quite a legacy here.

DEAN BECKER: (05:11)
Well, a couple of weeks back, we had, uh, norm stamper who was, uh, the police chief back when that, uh, uh, that, uh, protest went on against, uh, banking and the corporate, I don't know what all was involved, but, uh, um, you know, he kind of had a Mia culpa that he could have done things differently that, that he should have done things differently. And I think we're, um, encountering are exposing around the country where, um, my God, we have these, these protests against police brutality. And during these protests, we reap more police brutality. Your thought in that regard, Roger.

Yeah. The irony that in, uh, in an attempt to, uh, control protests against police brutality, police use brutality, it's just, it's certainly not good for their cause. I don't want to paint such a broad, uh, with such a broad brush, however, because, uh, you know, our, uh, and I don't call them law enforcement officers because that sounds very aggressive, which of course it has been particularly because of the war on drugs, put law enforcement in the position of chasing down the bad guys and, you know, kind of the warrior mentality, but, uh, our statute, our law and the state calls them peace officers, they're peace officers. And I think we should frame it that way. Uh, the most of those who go into the profession are well, meaning and decent, particularly the new recruits they're millennials, they have a different sense of justice. They don't look upon themselves as warriors.

Uh, they're being trained to be guardians guardians of the community, guardians of democracy. Uh, and so we have a not insignificant number of, uh, police who misbehave, uh, and somehow they are allowed to continue their misconduct either in the same department or moving from one to another. Uh, but I, I do think we need to make clear distinctions between the, those bad actors, uh, and there are too many of them, uh, and the peace officers in general, who do play an important role to, um, you know, to preserve order and, and to be of assistance. Um, and so it's, it's a complex, complex picture.

DEAN BECKER: (07:27)
Well, it is that, and, and I agree that, uh, a huge portion of, of police officers are, you know, mindful of, uh, human rights and citizens have rights, et cetera. Um, but we, we do come to that a little conundrum. I'm going to say where those who witnessed that behavior by other cops who refuse to step forward. Um, and, and I, you know, I, again, I don't want to paint with that broad brush, like you you've mentioned, but I do want to say this, like, even with, uh, George Floyd, when the three were sitting on him, one on his neck, and there was one guy kind of standing watch while they did it, um,

That's, that's accessory to murder. I mean, that's accessory to murder and so they should be charged as such and then, and I hope they, I hope that's what happens. Uh, uh, so yeah, you're, you're right. We need to hold accountable, not only those, uh, police who misbehave, uh, and harm others, but also those who don't report it. And I'm now I'm the chair of the public safety committee in the house of representatives. So I have jurisdiction my committee over our criminal justice system in this state. And needless to say, I've been pretty busy in the last three, four weeks, uh, responding to the current national uprising. And we are going to be preparing legislation, uh, in this state to those accountable officers accountable for not reporting others. There's all sorts of things. I mean, I think about police reports, you fill out a police report when, when you sign that police report as an officer, you sign it under penalty of perjury, and we've seen way too many police reports that either have misinformation missing information or just outright laws, and that is misconduct and a violation of the law, uh, and, uh, uh, other officers should be holding their, their officers accountable if they see just an example like that.

Uh, and then of course, you know, if they're witnessing an officer doing harm to others, uh, unreasonably, they should report that as well. And so we're, that's one of the many reforms, uh, that we're contemplating here.

DEAN BECKER: (09:40)
Well, and let's do talk about some of those, uh, uh, changes that you might be willing to make or to get past, I think might be the better way to phrase it. And, and I guess what I am aware of is that you were mentioning Seattle, been smoking marijuana illegally now for eight years. Uh, the sky has not fallen at all. Uh, secondarily, I understand that you and or your associates are, uh, um, bringing forward. And, uh, and there are already some parameters of this involved, but, uh, the idea that we'll, nobody needs to go to jail for minor amounts of drugs anymore, that, uh, that we have, uh, too many people in jail, too many, uh, people on probation, parole, et cetera, too many people that are tied up in the criminal justice system. Let's talk about what has happened in regards to that, uh, the minor amounts of drugs idea and what you hope will happen.

Sure. So, um, yes, we just to begin with, we did and, uh, marijuana prohibition, um, in 2012, along with Colorado, I wouldn't talks about Colorado, but Washington state. We did it at the same time. Uh, we also legalized the same sex marriage at the very same time. Um, so, uh, the results have been very positive. Uh, we actually see a reduced use of, uh, cannabis, uh, by eighth and 10th graders, uh, no increase by 12th graders. So youth use has actually gone down, uh, instead of, it's not a fair Britain fruit anymore, you know, if grandma's using it for cancer or whatever, it's just, I guess it's not as cool. Um, and, uh, uh, we've seen a reduction in deaths on the roadways because people have been switching away from alcohol and using cannabis instead and not driving as much. Uh, she call it couch lock.

DEAN BECKER: (11:26)
Yeah. Yeah.

Uh, but, uh, we've seen, uh, you know, our roads become safer because of less alcohol related deaths. Um, we've seen, um, uh, people much more freely using cannabis instead of toxic pharmaceuticals for the health benefits. Uh, and, uh, we've brought in more than half a billion dollars a year in revenue from the taxes on cannabis, uh, to pay for healthcare for the poor healthcare for those who otherwise wouldn't afford it. So I think that's pretty good news. And we've also seen, um, uh, law enforcement and, uh, jails be able to divert resources away from needless, uh, law enforcement related to cannabis to, uh, you know, to preserve public order in real cases, you know, where people are doing harm to others. So I do have to say this, not only as the sky fall, not falling, uh, but we are thriving in this atmosphere of having ended cannabis prohibition.

We needed to overregulate for while we have a regulatory system, you have to get a license, you have to comply with regulations. Uh, and we, we needed to show that the sky hasn't fallen, uh, cause, uh, you know, the soccer moms are kind of concerned about their kids and so forth. Uh, well now the soccer moms are the ones going into the shops. Uh, so it really has been normalized here, uh, and has helped the economy has not hurt children and has improved public safety. Just wanted to talk about that briefly because our cannabis, uh, experiment, uh, has, has been successful. Um, so the war on drugs in general is still kind of, you know, I hope it's winding down, but it's still, uh, doing so much damage, uh, in our country and worldwide. Uh, and it has turned the police against the community. Uh, the police are part of the community.

They they're serving the communities in which they live and it's put them in a very difficult position. Um, and, uh, so we've, you know, we have to reform this. So some of the things we're looking at in terms of policing, uh, police tactics, uh, police, accountability, police, community relations, um, some other easy, we need the band choke holes or sleeper holes. There's no reason for that. Uh, I think we need to ban tear gas, tear gas is prohibited by the conventions of war. How could it be used on the streets, uh, against peaceful protest? Um, we need to take a look at the no knock warrant, the no knock warrant actually, uh, as you may know, uh, resulted in the deaths of Brianna Taylor Louisville, uh, was, uh, upheld by the Supreme court in the 1960s. Uh, so it is, uh, it is considered a, not a, uh, a violation of the fourth amendment, unreasonable search and seizure, but, uh, geez, they're breaking down the door and shooting people.

So, um, we have to put serious, uh, restrictions on the no knock warrants. Um, I'm not sure why law enforcement needs to be wearing body armor and driving military vehicles around, uh, the militarization of the police is a huge issue. So we're going to be looking at that. Um, so there's all sorts of tactics and training issues, uh, that we really want to address training is pretty good here actually in Washington state, uh, we are training in bias, implicit bias. You know, people are looking at their own biases, we're training in, uh, what we call less than lethal use of force, you know, like tasers and other forms, if you do need to deescalate a situation. Um, but I think we to be, uh, implementing what's called procedural justice training, which is sort of the case by case way, you treat people, uh, treat them in an equitable way.

And so, uh, we do have a lot of, uh, progress yet to be made in, uh, training. The two other areas really are well there's three actually there's investigations, accountability and funding, investigations of incidents where people are injured or are killed by the police need to be entirely independent of the police. And so we're contemplating creating a statewide agency. That's not a police agency like an inspector general or a special prosecutor or something like that. That's going to be a big effort, it'll cost money. Uh, but we do want investigations to be entirely independent of the police. Accountability is the most important. We have a union contracts that have arbitration clauses where an officer will be fired by the chief, but then challenge the firing. It'll go to an arbitrator. And the arbitrator says, no, you got to rehire him, uh, or no he's while the other situation is, uh, an officer engages in misconduct and the chief says, well, look, we'll just let you resign.

And we won't do the investigation. And then the officer gets to move on to another department. Uh, we need to prevent that we need to have these investigations completed so that there's a record showing the misconduct, which then would, uh, have the officer be de-certified and would not be able to be a police officer again. So these accountability measures where we're, we really want to prevent, uh, police from moving from one department to another or being hired. And then all of a sudden re fired all of a sudden rehired. Um, that's really, really important. And then as we talked about before requiring officers to report misconduct of their fellow officers, so that everyone is accountable. And then finally, sorry to go on for this long speech here, but is, uh, is, uh, funding we've heard about defunding the police, uh, somewhat of a provocative phrase.

Um, but, uh, I, I like to think of it as, um, uh, re-imagining public safety. We want to think about, uh, investing in, uh, in education, in housing, uh, and behavioral healthcare in particular, uh, mental health, substance use treatment, uh, investing in our youth, investing in community organizations, uh, instead of investing in some of the police oriented equipment and activities that seem to be either wasteful or hurtful, uh, this is not defunding the police. That's an extreme view. Uh, it really is taking a look at where our resources should go. I've heard from sheriffs and police chiefs for years saying, you want us to solve juvenile delinquency. You want us to solve racism. You want us to solve homelessness. You want us to solve mental illness and they just send them all to us. And so our response may be now, well, okay, we're not going to ask you to solve it anymore. We're going to make investments in those. Uh, and then you do your work to truly protect public safety when someone is threatening public safety, but otherwise we're going to redistribute resources. So there's a, it's a revolutionary time here. This isn't just reform. We've been reforming for years, and it doesn't seem like we've made a difference. Uh, we need something much more radical and fundamental in our changes.

DEAN BECKER: (18:17)
Thank you for all that. And, uh, no, I, I appreciate the, the full discussion you, you brought forward there, here in Houston, we used to throw people in jail for having an empty bag laying in the floorboard that had a tiny crumb of some white powder, maybe in the corner. And, uh, they have stopped doing that best. I understand it, uh, you know, at least for the tiny portions I'm speaking of, but, uh, you guys have, um, changed your perspective or are changing your perspective in that regard for minor amounts of drugs in the state of Washington, are you not?

Well, first of all years ago stopped, uh, prosecuting what we call the residue cases. A crack pipe was just a tiny amount where you just have to scrape it off, and that would be a felony for possession of any amount, just to even residue is still a felony in this case, in this state. So we do have to reform, uh, the, the drug laws further. And the idea now is called treatment first. Uh, if you, uh, that there's two categories of people who use substances, those who need to be left alone, who aren't in trouble and are causing trouble or anybody else, uh, that's the libertarian point of view, which I subscribed to, uh, and those who need help, those who need the healthcare, behavioral healthcare, who really are dependent on substances and is harming them and maybe even their families and we don't have access to treatment.

And so the idea is as they have done in Portugal to, uh, if there's an intervention, even by law enforcement, there is not an arrest. Uh, the idea of currently being floated around is that the officer would, uh, uh, provide a citation, kinda like a civil penalty, but not a monetary penalty. It would be a referral to treatment or referral, but basically an assessment and a referral to treatment. Uh, and if the person, uh, failed to do that, then there might be a monetary penalty. So there is kind of a punitive element to it. And yet we are, that would be a complete decriminalization of the possession of amounts for personal use. Uh, and so we are looking at that and it might very well be a legislative proposal, or it could be an initiative. You know, we have a citizen ballot initiatives here, uh, on the ballot in the next couple of years.

So yeah, we're looking at complete decriminalization and a major in treatment for those who need it. And then leaving people alone who really should be left alone and should have been left alone for generations. Now, just to use whatever they want to use, eat as much. They want to eat as much chocolate cake as they want, as they want. They want to do whatever they want. You know, if you're not harming anybody else, the law is not going to protect you from yourself. The laws intended to protect people from one another. If they're going to harm one another, and this is a, you know, this is a basic concept here.

DEAN BECKER: (21:14)
Oh, just today. I sent in an op ed to, uh, the, uh, uh, Chicago Tribune. It presents the whole truth that the drug war started with racism. It has escalated through racism and it continues to, uh, wield its ugliness, um, mostly through racist policies, mostly a racist implementation, racist perspectives. Am I right, sir?

Absolutely. Racism is what is the glue that holds the war on drugs together? Uh, the war on drugs is also motivated by greed and by fear. Uh, but, uh, racism is what holds it all together. And what got it started back in the late 18 hundreds, the opium laws were punishing the Chinese, the, uh, cocaine laws were about the so-called cocaine craze, Negroes who were impervious to two bullets. Uh, the, uh, course marijuana was the war against Mexicans, uh, even, um, methamphetamine, uh, more recently as a war against, uh, poor rural white folks. So it's not just race, it's actually class as well. Uh, but racism is at the root, always has been at the root of the war on drugs. And as we look about reforming policing and ways to, uh, to reduce racism in our society, I think we need to accelerate ending the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER: (22:41)
Well, and it was, um, I don't know, the, the, the fear that was just proffered, the, the, the idea that as you mentioned, the drug craze Negro, that they, I think it caused police to move from 38 to 45 calibers to, to get bigger guns, et cetera. And it has given reason for the, uh, the no knock warrants you spoke of it. It has given justification to that idea, you know, to the stop and frisk. They had a New York, uh, uh, the list is pretty well, uh, in one, not endless, but it's extensive. And it, it, it has, uh, given us a lot of unneeded misery and death in our country.

Yeah, well, you know, the deaths and misery has certainly resulted from the war on drugs, but today, if you take a look at the maps of where the coronavirus pandemic is spreading, if you take a look at where HIV is still, uh, prevalent, uh, if you take a look at where poverty is endemic, and if you take a look at where people of color live, it's all the same map. And so racism is at the root of all of this, not just the war on drugs, uh, but the deprivation of economic opportunity in healthcare. Uh, and also there's ravages of this virus across the country, uh, is affecting those communities disproportionately as well. So, uh, we do have to look at this critically, and I think this, again, national uprising that will not be put down our dear president is making it better for us by, by being so reactionary and, and, and helping to bind us all together. Uh, and so I really think this is a moment in history where we can make a difference

DEAN BECKER: (24:32)
Starting soon, I'm going to start using zoom. I'm going to start doing video interviews, you know, start posting them in various locales. Uh, it's going to be called Becker's buds, conscientious objectors to drug war. And, um, you know, I'm hoping that you will join me or, you know, maybe later this year and, uh, do, do one of those video interviews with me, I'd be happy.

That'd be happy to, to zoom with you so people can see us.

DEAN BECKER: (25:02)
My goal is that vice learns what I'm doing or CNN, or somebody says, this guy knows what he's doing. Let's put him on the air.

You do, I do have to say to your listeners is you, Dean Becker is, is a legendary figure in the struggle to end the war on drugs. And so, Dean, I, I really applaud you for your leadership and your persistence and your, uh, your articulate, uh, depiction of this national tragedy, this, this policy that really should have gone away a long time ago. Uh, so anyway, I want to thank you for all the work you've done.

DEAN BECKER: (25:37)
It's time to play name that drug by its side effects, swelling of hands and feet, rash, hives, blisters, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and neck trouble breathing changes in eyesight, muscle pain, fever, skin, sores, business, sleepiness, weight gain, high times up the answer.

DEAN BECKER: (25:52)
Pfizer Lyrica for fibromyalgia.

DEAN BECKER : Like many of us trained by our mentor, mr. Ray Hill then gone over a year. Now, Mr. Josh Richards has a purpose, has a plan.

I started getting in touch with people who I thought might be interested in doing something to help the, uh, the using population of Houston and as a vendor and recovering addict myself, I happened to have a strong, uh, inclination to want to help people who are in those communities. Uh, not only for selfish reasons, but, uh, I just, I care a lot about them. And so what we are doing is we're getting in touch with folks at the Baker Institute, people at local clinics, uh, people through these heroes program. And, uh, there are a few others who were reaching out such time, but there are some great groups out there who are willing to give us their time and resources. And what we are trying to do is we have a couple of things, a couple of goals we want to reach for me, what I would love to see Houston too is first and foremost, uh, change, uh, how we approach drug users.

Uh, and Houston, I would like to see the way that we jail them, uh, not be radically reformed. I would like to see a, instead of an emphasis on punishment, I'd like to see an emphasis on rehabilitation and helping people, uh, resources being put to good use instead of just, uh, you know, locking people up for, uh, such long periods that they get out just angry and more willing to use, uh, uh, as well as wanting to help people get access to, uh, supplies like drug tests. And I don't mean like urine samples. I mean like fentanyl tests, fentanyl finds its way, not into just hair, not only heroin, but, uh, Xanax, cocaine, meth, uh, any illegal drug out there, uh, can be tainted with this stuff because it will make it that much more addictive and desirable, uh, to the consumers. I want to see Narcan made more available than it already is. There's a lot of great folks out there who get this out there, but I don't think there's enough of it. Uh, and I would like to see ultimately a place where people can exchange their syringes. And I would love to see a safe space where people are allowed to inject their drugs without fear of being arrested. They have access to supplies and help if they need, uh, assistance.

DEAN BECKER: (28:29)
Well, once again, that was Joshua Richards community organizer. Besides the folks from the hope clinic, the Baker Institute, there's growing numbers of individual doctors, nurses, ministers, and citizens joining in this effort. Why don't you join us please? Houston harm reduction,, please visit our website, drug And again, I remind you because of prohibition. You do not know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

04/22/20 Richard Van Wickler

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Richard Van Wickler
Houston Harm Reduction Alliance
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Richard Van Wickler Cheshire County jail Superintendent & David Duffield of Houston Harm Reduction Alliance + Remembering Dr. Albert Hoffman LSD explorer

Audio file

April 22, 2020

Cultural Baggage

Richard Van Wickler


HOST 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, empower our terrorist enemies and riches, 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.

Hi folks, this is the Reverend Dean Becker. Thank you for joining us on this edition of cultural baggage a little bit later. We'll hear from mr. David Duffield with a Houston harm reduction Alliance, but first up I folks our next guest is Richard Van Wickler. He began his law enforcement career back in 1987. He's been the superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections there in Keene, New Hampshire since June of 1993, Rick as like to call him his friends is also an adjunct faculty instructor of American Corrections for Keene State College. And with that I want to welcome Richard Van Wickler. How you doing Rick?

RICK VAN WICKLER: Good morning Dean. We're doing okay, but you know this played in April we shouldn't have snow and we woke up the snow today's that's disappointing.

DEAN BECKER: All right, I hear you. Now the heck of it is we by that I mean our membership and law enforcement against prohibition. We're well aware of the Essential nature of our work they're talking about doctors and nurses and even garbage men etcetera being essential workers in this time of the covid-19 pandemic, but you can't get by without those corrections officers tending that the cells can you.

RICK VAN WICKLER: nor Can I tell you how incredibly wonderful they've been at our facility, you know when you and I speak I can only talk about our jail and our local Criminal Justice System unless we talk about a broader thing, but when you talk about covid-19 and our community the ability that these people have to go to work every day knowing the importance of what they do, especially the importance of trying to prevent this disease from getting inside the walls of the Department of Corrections is not lost on them and they work very hard on it. I couldn't be more proud of them. They've really stepped up

DEAN BECKER: well and and even here in Houston, you know, we have a massive. Civ jail, I think eight or nine thousand people in it at the county level and as I understand it, I think there are some 65 staff, you know counselors and psychiatrists Etc who now have this covid-19 and about about 50 something of the prisoners as well. It's a scary situation.

RICK VAN WICKLER: yeah. I mean, this is something we've never seen in our lifetime Dean and Hope we don't see it again. You know, everybody's focus is to try to get through it. And of course, you know, there's some unease about continuing with the strict Protocols of distancing and and you know, our way of life has been turned upside down for everybody and hopefully we can weather it without being careless, you know, and getting complacent.

DEAN BECKER:Well, one of the perspectives I've developed working with leap and it's good members is there's a phrase that you hear quite often that you mean to say. We need to lock up all these people because we're mad at them rather than because they're a threat to us and and that perception that understanding is starting to bleed out in general that why indeed are we locking up all these minor drug users? Why are we filling, go ahead sir?

RICK VAN WICKLER: Well, I was just going to say that's exactly right. I mean it was probably 20 years ago when I was appointed to a governor subcommittee in New Hampshire to address the overcrowding situation that we had in New Hampshire. And one of the questions I proposed way back in 20 years ago is we really need to look at who is in jail And why are they there because in my experience I had days where I was processing contractors who were pulled over for a motor vehicle violation and then consequently arrested for having marijuana in plain view and on the very same day booking somebody for a triple homicide and it was such a dichotomy for me. I didn't understand it. And that's when I said 20 years ago. Are you putting people in, to enforce your morals because you're mad at them or are they really a threat to the public and that's what we need to examine. That was 20 years ago.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and it does thank God is being brought more in Focus. We have this round and round and not just in Texas, but I think around the country. People talking about the need for bail for all these minor minor charges for people being locked up losing their car their job their apartment, you know Etc because they can't make these with minor jail amounts and it's also bringing the with just a throw-in. It's also bringing to bear that most families around the country do not have a reserve stock pile of cash are not flush despite all these quote tax breaks that we've been given and I guess where I'm going with this is that you know, we have to realize that we can't afford to be so Draconian anymore way what your thoughts are Richard?

RICK VAN WICKLER: Well, I think that's absolutely right. I said about this pandemic early on that. It's a reboot or a reset not only for our for our economy, but for our way of life and how we view things are quality of life these things hopefully will not retrograde back to the way we used to do things. This covid pandemic is the first instance where it was back in early March when I appeal to our County prosecutor and my medical department and I asked the medical Department look at the entire population and tell me who's at significant risk. I want to know who's over 60 years old, who has asthma, who has diabetes, who has COPD, who may be pregnant, you know, do they have a heart condition? And the medical Department gave me a list of these folks and I went to the county attorney said how many of these people can we reconsider to get out of the Department of Corrections and we were we were successful to be able to do that what I mean by retrograde is if we can do that today, why can't we do that always if somebody is not a threat to the community, why do they need to be in jail, you know, this has been LEAPs position since the beginning of time. It's been my position for and I really hope that we don't retrograde back this would significantly reduce our jail populations. It would also reduce the need for jail construction or other country. It would also reduce the need for having to hire so many Correctional folks and and let's do something else that's more productive and better for humankind rather than locking them up.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I had the privilege has now been two years ago. I went to Portugal.l I got a chance to meet their drugs Czar, dr. Zhao G’Lao, out toward some of their hospitals I had some great sit-down interviews and dinner and a couple of meals with him and I learned that you know in the more than 20 years that they've been doing this, you know there they've learned that you don't have to put people in a cage to help redirect them. They send people to a dissuasion committee and eventually maybe it works, but they never have to throw them in a cage to make that change and some folks are just determined- they're going to do drugs and they eventually leave those folks alone because because you just you just can't keep barking up that same tree forever, right?

RICK VAN WICKLER: That's true, you know, and in a case of Portugal where you know, there are program of decriminalization has worked well economically for them and in a Humane sense, you know, but the bottom line is it's still illegal. I mean if they still catch you with it and you know, there's an opportunity to do something about it. They'll fine you or something like this, you know, we need to get to a point where if this is the kind of behavior that citizens want to do. They want to Recreation their mind in a particular way and they're not harmful to other people. We need to find a way to manage that we need to come to the point in time where we realize we cannot control this conduct. So let's manage this conduct and you know would Portugal has simply said is you know, we're not going to pursue you the way that the rest of the world is pursuing you and the way that we use to pursue you are not going to do that anymore. But technically it's still not okay. It's still not okay to do and so, you know, if I had a magic wand for Portugal and the rest of the world, it would be let's not just decriminalize. Let's legalize.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, let adults make their own decisions and and let them you know chips fall where they may because it's a personal decision. I think about this that you know, another aspect I harp on all the time is that because of this prohibition. These drugs are made by semi trained chemist and jungle labs or Afghan caves there then smuggled across the countries across countries and then these days nearly always cut with fentanyl- elephant tranquilizer. If I remember right that is killing 60, 70 thousand people a year. I just hear in these United States it, It's more wrongheaded than well, it's just wrongheaded, isn't it?

RICK VAN WICKLER: Well, and we push them that way the way that our culture is designed the way that our pharmacies are designed our physicians, you know, the federal government has leaned on positions that says you can only prescribed pain medication for so long. What does the federal government have to do between a doctor and a patient and that's the first thing because when the federal government mandates that a doctor end their pain treatment at a particular time and they have to do it or they're going to face legal ramifications the person who still experiencing pain has to go where? To the illegal market, we've created that and as you say that illegal Market doesn't do it in a clean fashion at all. Let's take a look at our County for example, which is very small compared to you all in Texas. Our County only has 73,000 constituents in it. My jail can hold 230 inmates were we've been successful at decreasing our population to about 80 on average. But let's look at the statistic, which is horrible. I'm sure that your audience and you know, what a recidivist; is a recidivist is somebody who's caught in the criminal justice Merry-Go-Round and they're in jail. They're out of jail and they're in jail and they're out of jail our correctional officers and myself. We develop a relationship with these folks that is not adversarial. We're there to help and do the best that we can so you can't help but somehow become connected on a human level with these people and what's happened to us in this small community that in the course of 24 months, 58 recidivists who we've known have died- been released from jail the threshold their tolerance threshold has changed and they go back and they score that bag and they're not suicidal and they do what they think Is going to be safe opportunity to recreate their mind in the way that they want to do it or relieve their pain and they die, 58 in 24 months, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: That's just outrageous

RICK VAN WICKLER: and and and every single one of those deaths impacted us the correctional officers walk around and you know, kind of mopey like they just lost a cousin and it's not that we're you know, exceptionally close to these people, but they're human beings and when they've come in and out of our facility a few times we get to know them they get to know us we even get to know their families. We know their parents. We know their siblings because they come to visit bring them things and they're gone and and that's it's just outrageous that that many people could die and it's created from a system really that we Foster as a society in terms of you know, limiting the number of medications that Physicians can provide for treatment and what I talked to addicts, like I do all the time in our facility, you know it always Begins by treating either physical pain or emotional pain. My female unit. All the females are there for heroin use heroin addiction and 80% of them have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence and oftentimes the the first person that turned them on to a drug was probably an abusive lover or perhaps it was a friend or a sibling who was trying to medicate the emotional pain that they were in and when you sit them down and say do you want to be an addict oftentimes most of them will say I really don't and I've talked to people who got out and we're sober and wanted to make a good go of it. But because of the way our system is they couldn't get a job the way our system is they couldn't get an apartment the way our system is they couldn't get away to Transportation. They can't get anything. They don't have credit. Nobody will hire them because they have a record and so even though they're a good person deep down even though they're trying really hard at a second opportunity. Like they can't do it. So why do they go back to heroin? Because they're trying to escape a hell that we've created for them. And that's the sobering reality of the situation and until we all acknowledge that we're part of a problem. We can't solve it. And as long as we continue to think we can control it. We're going to get more of it. We have to. We have to understand it and we have to manage it.

DEAN BECKER: Wow, some wise words from my friend the now former executive director of My Band of Brothers Law Enforcement Action Partnership formerly known as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Mr. Richard Van Wyck. uh, Richard. I know you're retiring next month after 20, how many years as a supervisor of that Corrections Facility.

RICK VAN WICKLER: while I have been a superintendent for 26 years. I've been in Corrections for 32. It's a very surreal feeling for me to think that I will be leaving this business and leaving the great employees that I've been able to recruit and retain but it's time. You know, it's 32 years is a long time and 26 is the superintendent. I never really sleep. Well because in the back of my head, I'm always expecting that 2 a.m. Phone call or a particular crisis writing new policies writing new procedures directives and then of course, you know that's Personnel issues when you have so many employees you've got Personnel issues that you have to do is so rest is something that has eluded me for a very long time and I'm looking forward to catching up on some of that but I am retiring at a time when I feel good that I'm leaving our institution which I consider to be a role model for what American correction should I'm leaving in a very good capable hands and I'm confident that it will go forward and continue with the philosophy that we've been able to establish and Foster.

DEAN BECKER: Well, very good Richard. I wish you great fishing or hunting or whatever your retirement may bring for you and my hat is off to you for your essential work. Thank you, sir.

RICK VAN WICKLER: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it's always good to talk to you Dean.


HOST DEAN BECKER: It's time to play name that Drug by its side effect;

clammy Skin, pinpoint pupils, shallow or absent breathing, dizziness, sedation, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, weak or absent pulse, heart failure, death, thousands in debt, time's up; designed to sedate out old elephants. This drug is 100 times more deadly than fentanyl 10,000 times deadlier than morphine a portion smaller than a grain of salt can be fatal the drug lords dream fulfilled car fentanyl.

Okay, folks once again, we're going to talk about Harm reduction specifically this time in the Houston area, but I think much of what we talk about will apply around the country. We're going to be speaking with one of their main actors if you will. Mr. David Duffield who is with us now.

DEAN BECKER: Hello David

DAVID DUFFIELD: Hey Dean, how you doing?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. David, Let's talk about well what's going on with this covid-19 what's going on with drugs? And and I don't know the Subculture, so to speak what are some of the important factors that need to be discussed.

DAVID DUFFIELD: So one of the biggest takeaways is they projected like 60,000 people would die from the covid yet 70,000 people die from overdose every year and yet it's you know, we want to be conative that one of the things we're looking at is that lately, I mean just as a side note lately fentanyl, which is highly causes overdose greatly, especially when It's produced locally that, being added to other drugs that normally it's not there and there's an increase in overdoses. So we've had time to during this shutdown time to kind of take a look at some of the research and we're seeing major increases in overdoses from fentanyl being added to methamphetamines, which usually pretty overdose free and cocaine which is usually pretty overdosed free the is a sharp incline in that so it's kind of like if people are using you want to warn them which is what we do with our outreach is warn people what we see when we meet them on the street right now. We can't meet him on the street so much. So we're going to use your platform as a way to and I thank you for letting us talk about these things

DEAN BECKER: and they look that's the whole point that the government distributes Mis-information as far as I'm concerned and we have a situation during this covid as I understand the The borders are not so busy. The traffic is not so active as it has been in the past and that it's getting more difficult for some of these cartels to sneak their drugs in and which brings to mind the fact you're talking about the Fenton all being mixed in with the cocaine and the the meth and I guess that's that's to give it more of a boost or to stretch the product or however, you might want to put it but it's just So following the iron law of prohibition, the more constraints you put on a drugs the more dangerous they're going to become, right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: right. Well and then also it they'll locally Source it. So the fentanyl right now is being in Houston is being pressed and they even do it in storage units with these they get pill pressors. But the problem about that is that they have got the Sciences they're doing uneven pressing. And so the the fentanyl levels are very high so you can be very high or very low. They're doing it because they want to pump up the fact that their cocaine and methamphetamine is not as good as it used to be. So they're looking for other ways to make it more enticing but what that does is it crosses the boundaries were them people who normally wouldn't be doing opioids heroin or fentanyl are starting to desire it more because it's a highly addictive thing. Right? So it's just another version of our internal cartel that's been going on for a long time, especially in Texas with the methamphetamines that have been you know, so badly produced here lately. So so that's one of the things that we're doing, you know our outreach for because of the covid our outreach to the streets has been reduced dramatically. We've had to come off the streets because out there right now in the places that we use to do our street Outreach. We stand out like a sore thumb because people are not supposed to be collect, you know Gathering or out right.


DAVID DUFFIELD: So, we don't we don't want to jeopardize our standing in these places some of the places with that we do our kind of your commercial Ventures, so we try to stay under the under the radar and we feel like we'll be really exposed, now. We don't want that especially with the police we work well with the police in these areas, but we don't want to jeopardize that so we pulled off the streets.

DEAN BECKER: well and look in that to be truthful. It complicates the lives of those folks out there that are using still it jeopardizes their safety in that they don't have the The needle exchange and or the advice and and just the support that you guys bring on a weekly basis. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Right, and and of course using doesn't stop because of something like this it actually probably increases people are even more susceptible to loneliness and isolation that will lead to some use, you know, unless they're doing Recreation of course, which we all support. So I mean, so we've been looking at using this time as an Outreach is Harm reduction. We're trying to figure out how we can best pick up the slack. And so we're looking at trying to get more HIV- get more hepatitis A and B, which is really rampant in Houston, A by the way, it's easily transmitted and it's the same thing going to clean your hands just like covid clean your hands. There's other guidelines that I can go over with you that we're kind of following when it comes to outreach but

DEAN BECKER: really, please David share those so this is this is a message for the folks out there that are still using

DAVID DUFFIELD: Oh, yeah, so the best thing is minimize you need to share supplies. If you're sharing bombs or pipes are joints or nasal straws. You have to be careful. You have to try to try to not share and do that. You have to practice harm reduction with your supplies wipe down the mouthpieces with alcohol swab before sharing. Are you separate mouthpieces, but using smoking and snorting injection equipment into bio buckets or people who use like plastic ties. Or something like that throw that stuff in there. We'll pick it up from you. Just give us a call. You can call our website or our Facebook page and we'll come pick up the stuff. We got rid of a hundred thousand used syringes this month alone, which is that we have picked up over six months in Houston. So we're real proud of that. They're...

DEAN BECKER: David- David share that phone number and share that website right now.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Okay. So the website is and the same thing for our Facebook page is Houston Harm Reduction Alliance and our phone number at our offices. You can leave a message for us is 832-623-7074, let us know we'll come pick up your stuff man. And we've got we're doing deliveries, so Dean, we're doing deliveries. We-if anybody calls or something, we'll do deliveries. We protect our outreach worker Casey he's doing them. He's been on it like crazy doing a good job. We maintain a lot of our stuff is do delivery and drop-offs type stuff and we maintain that and then we have our own ways to protect ourselves as we collect used syringes, but we're giving out clean syringes Narcan or naloxone fentanyl strips and stuff. We've been sharing our fentanyl strips with the University of Texas that the heroes program that does a lot of good work about because they know that a lot of people have become an back to suboxone and during this, this time that they'll be back on the street. So we're trying to make sure they check their dope for fentanyl. We're trying to get the fitness trip to the dealers as best we can but we're still picking up. So if you want us to come and drop some syringes off, all you have to do is give us a call and we'll we'll come to you we just can't meet you on the street right now.

DEAN BECKER: Well David as well as we're wrapping up here in the email you sent me. There's a point we haven't addressed as yet and like many places you guys are still looking for masks, to hand out for, hand sanitizer Etc. Let's talk about that.

DAVID DUFFIELD: So our last order that we got in everything's been back backordered. So we don't have hand side at Heiser we've got soap where we changed our Outreach where we're adding more sanitation, type stuff have pipe covers things like that, but we cannot find masks. So if anybody is willing to donate Masks, we can give to our participants to our clients. We've got some for outreach workers, but we really want to try to remote this out there and I'm telling you people they're using just don't have the wear-with all or the inclination to take care of these things sometimes so we want to help them remind them to do that. So if you have masks, hand-wipes, sanitizer that you're willing to to give to us, we'll be glad to take it in and we'll spread it out. We'll get it out to all the people that are using it we're connected to and we'll do the same and time comes we get ours and we'll hand those out to somebody else, we will pass it forward. So we're waiting for ours to come in. Thanks Dean for reminding me now

DEAN BECKER: and David, we got to wrap it up. But one more time that main website where they can learn more is


DEAN BECKER: and again folks we've been speaking with mr. David Duffield, a very essential worker. Thank you David.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Thank you Dean.


DEAN BECKER: We're going to close out on a lighter note of five years previously. He had discovered this commodity. But as of this April, it was 77 years years ago that Albert Hoffman did the first dose of LSD. The following is taken from “Hoffman's potion” produced by the Canadian film board:

----Clip Hoffman’s Potion ----

In the 1940s. Dr. Albert Hoffman discovered a substance that had a profound influence on the way science viewed the human mind.

D'Lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD

ALBERT HOFFMAN: I think there's a possibility to, to have psychedelic experience is inborn. These psychedelics very similar compounds are in our brain and all the compounds which you find in the plant kingdom. All these psychedelics also closely related chemically to these brain factors, which we already have we speak about the paradise of childhood when I have vision and beautiful experience as a child, no worry, is because we have these compounds already in our brain. There smoking and Beautiful May morning suddenly. I stopped and I had the feeling everything had changed the mood was beautiful, Beautiful green and at the feeling that I saw the world as it really is and that's the feeling that I would be included by it at the land feeling of happiness. I had never had before. If you have open eyes, you may see the world in a different way as if I mean in the, you see it as it really is; Wonderful.

----End Clip----

DEAN BECKER: Thank you. Dr. Hoffman just enough time for a presidential pronouncement.

DONALD TRUMP: I love the poorly educated

DEAN BECKER: again. I remind you because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful drug truth Network transcripts are stored at the James A Baker the third Institute, more than 7,000 radio programs are at and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

03/04/20 David Duffield

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
David Duffield
Houston Harm Reduction Alliance

David Duffield President Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, Philly safe injection ups and downs, Doug McVay report: Oregon to decrim all drugs? + Bernie Vs Drug War & DTN Editorial

Audio file



MARCH 4, 2020

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 which empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason to existence to tens of thousands of violent U.S. gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, this is Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High and this is Cultural Baggage. I have got a great, positive show lined up for you. Put your ears on and let’s go.

About 11 or 12 years ago I went up to Vancouver, Canada and I toured the InSite center up there, which is a needle exchange and a safe injection center where drug users could come in and use drugs safely with medical supervisors on staff and as I understand it, they have saved the lives of thousands of people over the years including those who overdose and in this age people don’t know what they are buying or what kind of drug is actually in the bag they package. Here in Texas we have had situations like Baer County in San Antonio which was given approval for a test site for a needle exchange program and the mayor objected to it. I don’t know how that has turned out, perhaps we will learn more in that regard as we get in to our interview today with Mr. David Duffield. He is with the Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, and I want to welcome him to the program. Hello, David.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Hello, thank you. That particular project was a pilot program for syringe access, not a consumption site. Bexar County picked it up but the city of San Antonio, which encompasses most of Bexar County refused it and so it was left to kind of mold. It was not picked up by anybody and they weren’t able to move on it, so nothing happened from that pilot program.

DEAN BECKER: We have a somewhat similar situation up in Philadelphia right now where a federal judge approved them starting a safe injection facility called Safe House, but I understand that in just the last couple of days there have been people saying not only “not in my backyard”, but “not in my city” and there have been huge numbers of protestors. Have you seen that news as well, David?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. It is a site that has actually been kind of operational but underground for a while and there are several sites like that in San Francisco and New York and they are all operating underground. The minute that site went aboveground, they zeroed in on it.

DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind that so many people think that needle exchange or safe consumption sites are attracting drug users and encouraging drug users. Nothing could be further from the truth. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Well it doesn’t encourage them but it does attract them because that is where they are going to go.

DEAN BECKER: Okay. Yeah.

DAVID DUFFIELD: It doesn’t encourage any drug use – but we want them to go there. That is the whole point. It is a place that they can gather, collect supplies, take care of themselves, and go about their business of living while enjoying the dignity rights that goes with that. That said, it means that they have to gather at one spot, which makes them vulnerable to attack, protest, and being shut down.

DEAN BECKER: You and I have had a couple of brief discussions, and I think ideally we would like to encourage and motivate the legislature to allow for safe consumption facilities in Houston and around the state. Perhaps they could have six shopping center locations around this major city for the drug users in our town. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: That would be the best news possible, but my thoughts are that we have to step up for a syringe access pilot program and make that more of the focus and then go for a safe consumption spot but that’s me.

DEAN BECKER: I am a legalizer, you know that, David.


DEAN BECKER: I think incrementalism is stupid and a killer.



DEAN BECKER: Ideally that would be a good thing.

DAVID DUFFIELD: Of course. That is what we all want – a safe place for people to get supplies, get help, get in recovery if that is what they choose to do. We want to help them stay alive and have dignity in their choices. I would love to have a bunch of these facilities around but first I would like to have syringe access legal so that we can meet the people so they know what we are up to.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Let’s hone in on our city. Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, tell us about that organization, David?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Two of us started this when we were at Legacy Community Health and we saw that they had syringe boxes out on the counters where people could buy them. I knew that people would probably steal those so that they could have clean syringes so I offered to put some money down to pay for the ones that were stolen and they would not go after the people who were stealing them. It turns out that they were empty, but after that conversation started we realized that we had a shared thought as you said, that people have the right to be safe from disease and have a sense that they are a part of the world around them. Just because they are shooting dope doesn’t mean that they can’t be a part of the world around them and have all of those same rights, and to be safe from harm. We can present them some type of alternative. We also wanted a way to get fentanyl strips out to the dealers, narcan and naloxone out to the people that are shooting heroin, information to people that are shooting methamphetamine, information about safe sex, and safe syringe sharing. We put together a group of people in a grassroots way. There are several ways to do harm reduction and one is kind of anti-government, one is where we believe the system will help increase our exposure and get needle exchange legal in Houston. We chose to go with supporting the systems such as the universities and the police and try to work within those systems to bring around this change.

DEAN BECKER: How long have you been in play, so to speak?

DAVID DUFFIELD: We organized harm reduction almost two years ago. It took us about seven months to figure out exactly what we could do, who we needed to understand, and then tried to start identifying the neighborhoods or areas that we could do the work. We kept running in to liability issues so we were advised by the National Harm Reduction Coalition to perhaps separate our harm reduction and we called this second group Shape Shifters, which was going to be our underground name and it turned out that we really didn’t use it. So now we are just harm reduction doing syringe access.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about your compadres, your partners, those who are aware and in support of your work.

DAVID DUFFIELD: We have lawyers, teachers, social workers, LCDC, a lot of lived experienced people on our board. We have some that are not. I am lived experience with 25 years of shooting meth. Then we started working our way toward Legacy Community Health, which was guiding us. We started working on the HIV/HEP C prevention route and we used that as a way to get money towards our syringes. The syringes are like our candy and we use those syringes to engage with IV drug users because that is what they want and then we can expand on HIV prevention, blood bourn prevention and narcan overdose reversals. We started working with the University of Texas, and I have to tell you that they are a great supporter. They don’t have any compunction at all to help us and they do everything that they can to support us. There is a grant coming down the line that Dr. Scheck is suggesting that perhaps we can integrate a mobile unit with University of Texas. Dr. Mike Wilkerson who is also with UT has been a great supporter from the very beginning. He has been doing studies on methamphetamine in the gay community. We also work closely with the Health Department. I am part of the CPG, which is the Community Prevention Group and we try to reengage the Health Department. We have had HIV/HEP C and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) engage with us trying to support us a little bit. We have also been working a lot of the blood borne disease aspects of it just so that we can get funding for our syringes. We do HIV testing as well. We work with AAMA, which is the Association for Advancement of Mexican American’s on the east side of town.
We have engaged with Ed Gonzalez, the Sheriff as well as Art Acevedo. They are both very supportive, they are just waiting for laws to change. We are working with Texas Harm Reduction Alliance up in Austin to try to do a statewide initiative; they are doing policy work up there. We work with the Houston Viral Hepatitis Task Force, Giliad Compass helps us with funding, AIDS United has funded all of our syringes, and they are the only ones because we can’t buy syringes from any federal money. We also have the Culmer Family Foundation, which is a wonderful foundation that gave us our first large grant. We just got another large grant from AIDS United, which is all used to buy syringes and supplies. We worked hard to get the money from that angle.

DEAN BECKER: David, I want to say that I am impressed to be honest, almost astounded that you have gained that much support. It brings to mind that up in Philadelphia the mayor and the council, and the folks working in this arena did seek to open a compassion center and yet the populous, which from what I can tell is mostly a bunch of young people who should know better but they seem to be objecting to the very idea of saving lives. It astounds me. What is your response?

DAVID DUFFIELD: A lot of our participants that we give syringes, narcan, and naloxone are young people and I am kind of surprised about that, too. I would expect that it would be maybe that it is some sort of reverse shame. I don’t understand that one myself. We have talked about how we would try to go through perhaps – New Orleans did this for a while and they were pretty successful – by going through the city council we are kind of giving up on state for now. It is going to be another two to four years as Governor Abbott is against us on every level. The best way to angle in then is through the city council and go for local stuff. That is why Houston Harm Reduction is working harder with Harris County and Houston Health Department, and the local authorities. Mayor Sylvester Turner stands off but he is in support of us, as well as Judge Lena Hidalgo. We are moving towards a more localized setting just to get syringe pilot programs so that we are not arrested for doing the work that we do. Let me tell you, Dean. Nowhere have we heard the word “no”. Nobody has said “no way, not gonna happen, and not here”. They are all supportive but they are waiting for state legislation. Our great city is open and ready for it, we just have to keep waiting for the laws to change on that end. This is why we work the HIV, Hepatitis prevention angle, which is a very important angle. We can’t look at it as just a place to support people that inject drugs, which does need a lot of support.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I didn’t hear mention of our District Attorney, Kim Ogg. In my talks with her I think she would be very amenable to this. Your thought?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. From everything we hear, she is quite friendly and we are very happy about that. We just haven’t approached her because we weren’t ready yet. We wanted to make sure we had all of our ducks in a row, with an active outreach that we could show that we could do the work without disturbing the neighborhoods around us.

DEAN BECKER: She has done her homework and understands the failure and futility of the drug war itself and is ready to make changes wherever possible and wherever state law will allow. It has been an ambition of mine to do something in this regard. Hallelujah, you guys are already here doing this! I guess I just didn’t have the knowledge or the contacts, or the grapevine, so to speak, to be aware of what you guys are doing. My hat is off to you! Secondarily, I am willing to work with you to put this on the radio. My good friends at the Baker Institute and Dr. Richard Andrews as well are very supportive of this. Your talk of the city council and the county commissioners and perhaps local politicians need to be educated. We need to make it where they are as motivated as you are. Your thought there?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Yes. I totally agree! We have got some support but they are waiting until they know Abbott is going to pass it on any level. We are still working for Good Samaritan Laws to be reversed, and the paraphernalia laws to be changed. At the same time, we are just continuing our work. The city’s Health Department has identified several parks that we can go and start doing some work. We are working out a plan to do a cleanup at the park so we can get the constables and some of the neighborhood people to see that we are there and then we can start working in those areas. That is how we do it. Our first outreach in Houston was in Montrose and the first thing we had to do was go to the local constable and told him what we were doing and we were able to give him some narcan for a family member that was suffering and he has been supportive. It touches everybody, Dean, you know that.

DEAN BECKER: I do. I am not going to name any names, but some of the police chiefs and some of the sheriffs in this town now or past have told me they have family members who benefit from medical marijuana and while this is a whole different subject, they are aware that the laws need a little change and that is almost universal. We just have these die hard politicians such as Abbott, who have built a brick wall. Somehow we have either got to knock it down, climb over it, or get rid of him. Right?

DAVID DUFFIELD: It is easy for them to debate what I always call the politics of sin, in that they can debate things like abortion, needle exchange, HIV and they equate that with male sex and they use that as something that they can throw out as red meat to debate and in the middle, people are dying. If they are not dying, they are suffering because they are disconnected from the world around them and they are isolated in some type of place where they are considered “less than”, and they are citizens who have every right to have the care, joy, and support of our city, our community members, and the systems that actually help pay taxes when they pay rent, buy food and gas. They are still paying their share.

DEAN BECKER: It is so true. Well friends, once again we have been speaking with Mr. David Duffield, he is with the Houston Harm Reduction Alliance. David, I want to give you a minute to point folks to your website and give us any closing thoughts to kick folks in the butt and get folks on board with this effort. What do you have to close us out with today?

DAVID DUFFIELD: Dean, we are trying our hardest to get syringe access moving. I think that is the best way. If you want to help us out, we have a Facebook page which is Houston Harm Reduction Alliance, you can join us there. We have a website:, you can find information there. We have email where you can contact us if you have a family member that is in need of syringes, narcan, or naloxone. If you would like to volunteer and help with outreach, we would love all the support we can get. We are looking for nurses that may be able to help us with wound care. Please reach out. If you feel like you want to donate towards our cause, feel free to do that any time you want.

DEAN BECKER: A week ago a judge handed down a ruling that would let an organization called Safe House based in Philadelphia open a supervised injection site but they ran in to a lot of objections from the community. Immediately after, Safe House announced it would pause its plans to open their facility. The owner of Constitution Health Plaza on South Broad Street, which had been the slated location for the site, confirmed that plans for Safe House to be housed there had been canceled. This response came after a long day of community outrage and was just days after a federal judge issued a ruling that gave the nonprofit the go ahead to open what would be the nation’s first supervised injection facility. Following the judge’s ruling a press conference was held in Philadelphia to allow Safe House to discuss their plans, but they were interrupted perhaps semi-permanently by some protestors. You can hear their attitude, if nothing else.

FEMALE VOICE1: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stop saying anything. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you never came in to our communities and you never talked to us. You don’t come to our meetings. When we had a meeting about crime where were you to tell us about what was going on?

FEMALE VOICE2: We are happy to come to community meetings.

FEMALE VOICE1: You blindsided us! So tell everybody in South Philly, generations of families who have college degrees, who sit and stay in their community and raise their children there because for you, that is the street you go down when you go to an Eagles game and a Sixer’s game. You don’t sit there and live in that community. You don’t walk on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my husband and I do to pass Trunk Avenue. You don’t take your kids to the daycare like I do. What about the mothers who have to walk by and step over the bags to take their kids in to the daycare. Are you going to clean our outside? I don’t care about inside. I care about the evils outside. I care about bags sitting outside. I care about what my children have to see at six and ten years old that I have to explain hardened drug addiction. This is unacceptable, and you were a sneak about it. Look at us when we tell you, Mr. Rendell, you were a sneak. I will not call you Governor, because you are no longer Governor. You are a sneak. Now answer that!

DEAN BECKER: If I had been there, and if that lady would have allowed, I would have responded with the thought that it is because of prohibition that these people are in these desperate straits that they are using on sidewalks and leaving their bags and their syringes, and are being ostracized and driven from employment, credit, housing, and education. It is prohibition which gives individuals like the lady complaining the “moral superiority” to deny rights, freedoms, and life to drug users.

It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effects. Body odor, headaches, thinning hairline, increased sex drive, depression, mood disturbances, agitation, high blood pressure, severe anxiety and rage, kidney or liver disease, suicidal thoughts, rape, murder, and war. Where 50% of the Earth’s population produces large amounts of this drug and seeks to inject it in to the remaining population. Time’s up! The answer: testosterone, it’s in the bag.

Next up, the thoughts of a gentleman running for President of the United States, one Bernard Sanders.

BERNIE SANDERS: We have a criminal justice system today that is not only broken, it is racist. We have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China and one of the reasons for that is a horrific war on drugs so I do believe that on Day One, we will change the Federal Controlled Substance Act, which if you can believe, now equates heroin with marijuana. That’s insane!
We are going to take marijuana out of that and effectively legalize marijuana in every state in the country. What we are also going to do is move to expunge the records of those people arrested for possession of marijuana, and I’ll tell you what else we are going to do; we are going to provide help to the African American, Latino, and Native American community to start businesses to sell legal marijuana, rather than let a few corporations control the legalized marijuana market.

DEAN BECKER: Next up, reporting from Portland, Oregon and for his main station, KBOO, is Drug Truth Network Reporter, Doug McVay, talking about Oregon’s bill put on the ballot to decriminalize up to four grams of any drug.

FEMALE VOICE: Hi, I am Haven Wheelock, I am a Chief Petitioner on IP44, which is an Initiative trying to move Substance Use Disorder out of the criminal justice system and put it in the hands of the health care profession.

DOUG MCVAY: Okay. Initiative Petition 44 is just starting out, you have a lot of signatures to go. This would be for the 2020 ballot?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. We are shooting to have it on the ballot for November of 2020, and we are very hopeful that we will make it to the ballot and get this past to change the way our state addresses substance use.

DOUG MCVAY: Specifically, what is going to happen? Is it something about possession charges? What’s the deal?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. What this Initiative is going to do is use existing marijuana tax revenue to fund drug treatment statewide. It is also going to move simple possession to the possession of small amounts of drugs. Currently it is a misdemeanor and this Initiative will move it to a violation that can be waived if you show up for a drug assessment.

DOUG MCVAY: What happens to people who have a misdemeanor arrest? Why is this important?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: It is important for a couple of major reasons. One, when you are arrested for substance use you are actually more likely to die in the first two weeks after you are released so not having people cycle in and out of jail where they are at increased risk of death is really important. Also, any criminalization causes stigmatization and we talk a lot about how stigmatized drug use and drug addiction is and if we are really trying to address that stigma, we need to stop criminalizing people across the board for symptoms of their disease.

DOUG MCVAY: The other side of this is there is a lot of marijuana tax revenue coming in and this would just move some of that tax revenue in to treatment?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: Yes. The idea is to take unallocated monies so that money that has already been allocated stays where it is at but any revenue about that would be moved in to substance use treatment across the state. When I say treatment, I am talking full-spectrum treatment so everything from harm reduction services like syringe exchange and overdose prevention, long term recovery support, housing, and legal clinics that are all very flexible so that jurisdictions can choose how to best support their community and what their biggest needs are.

DOUG MCVAY: How can people find out more and support this?

HAVEN WHEELOCK: If you want to get involved, please check out our website:, where you can sign up to volunteer, you can sign up to host events, you can share your addiction story because it is so prevalent in our community. Sign on to the website and get involved as best you can – and don’t forget to vote!

DOUG MCVAY: I have been speaking with Haven Wheelock, she is a Portland area public health and harm reduction advocate, and one of the chief petitioner’s for Initiative Petition 44. Reporting for KBOO News, I’m Doug McVay.


It puzzles me that Republican’s ideas that benefit only themselves and their corporate masters ensures that they are forced to lie, weasel, manipulate, contort, gerrymander, and collude to maintain their power base. Now just as with the drug war, what I do not understand or perhaps appreciate is their words and desires being embraced without contemplation. It is their ability to say and do the same thing over and over again, and again and to do it so easily to be taken as fact with no proof being necessary in a land that is not filled with moneys or bright puppy dogs, but rather by supposedly intelligent human beings who I always thought could learn from experience; but with the constant criminality of the Red Hat Clan, now glommed on to dictatorial postulation and implementation, embracing a gentler nearly, but not quite Nazi-lite perspective. I can only assume that half of American citizens are either hypnotized, held for ransom, or just plain daft.

The insane are in charge of the asylum, the fox in charge of breeding the hens. The cartels need drug war to make their billions; oh what will it take to motivate, to examine the century of lies? What will it take to motivate you to speak of what’s before your eyes?

Closing it up today, but if anybody out there thinks my pronouncements poked you in the eye, I am sorry. I meant to poke you in the brain and again, because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listener’s 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.

Please visit our website at: