Cultural Baggage, September 13, 2009

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

________________


It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally Un-American... "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR" "NO MORE" "DRUG WAR"


My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs - legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

________________


Dean Becker: Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am so glad you could be with us. This promises to be a very exciting show. We are bringing back for another round to talk about his great new book he co-authored: Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink?

We are also going to be talking the forthcoming conference out in San Francisco for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and our guest Mr Paul Armentano is the deputy director and with that let us bring him on board. Hello, Paul.

Paul Armentano: Hi, Dean. Can you hear me?

Dean Becker: I hear you just fine, sir. Thank you for being with us. Paul, I have been probably more privy than most folks but I have been seeing lots and lots of newspaper columnists and editors and broadcast media talking about this book, Marijuana is Safer. Tell us why they are talking about it.

Paul Armentano: Well, I think we really hit a nerve. We really articulated what a majority of the public believes and that is... You know, the public gets this. They understand when we are talking about marijuana and we are talking about alcohol that cannabis is actually an objectively safer substance both to the individual user and to society as a whole than is booze.

And interestingly and some of your listeners may have read this about two weeks ago Rassmusen, one of the most prestigious polling firms in the country. They actually conducted a national poll. They called a thousand likely voters in America and they asked them, which do you think is the more harmful drug: marijuana or alcohol? And a majority, fifty-one percent of those who responded to the question, said that alcohol was far more dangerous than marijuana.

Conversely, only nineteen percent of those polled said that marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol. So you know this book is really articulating what a majority of the public has already determined. You know the public has got this right. The law is what is wrong.

Dean Becker: And speaking of which, you know I mean Obama and Holder indicated they weren't going to you know be so draconian in regards to the medical marijuana clubs and yet just this were there was, what was it, fourteen, sixteen clubs in San Diego alone, that were raided. What is going on, Paul?

Paul Armentano: Well, there was a major sweep in San Diego and I wish I could give your listeners better specifics about what is going on this region of southern California. But just as a quick history lesson for people who may not know, in the state of California there is arguably not a region of the state that has been more reluctant and more recalcitrant to embrace California's medical marijuana law than these counties in the southern part of the state, in San Diego.

It was only about eight or nine months ago when these counties were trying to appeal to the state's, I'm sorry, to the US Supreme Court that they should not even have to follow state law that going back to 1996 has allowed for the medical use of marijuana. So my understanding is that these raids, that the DEA did assist in, were really the offshoot of local San Diego police that from day one have made it clear that they are not going to accept any medical use of marijuana even use that is compliant under state law.

But you are correct. The United States district attorney Eric Holder has repeatedly said that the DEA is not going to be getting involved in this issue that they are not going to be going after individuals who are compliant with state law and it is still unclear as of this time why then the DEA was involved in these matters in San Diego which really looked to have been a state issue and not a federal issue.

Dean Becker: You know, Paul, I don't have my finger on the pulse but some of the statements made in regards to this situation from law enforcement gives me the impression that it is nothing more than you know rednecks with a, I can't even say the word, with an attitude towards medical marijuana or marijuana in general. They are just not going to allow it, no matter what. Your thoughts?

Paul Armentano: It is really, like I said in that part of the state we are really talking about an ongoing campaign of harassment. At this point I am unaware that any federal charges have been brought against any of the people involved in these raids. I believe I saw one news story that indicated that at most there might be federal charges brought against one or two individuals.

But as you noted earlier, this was a sweep of fourteen or fifteen different proprietors. The justification that was given by the sheriff in San Diego is what allegedly is at issue in these cases is that these individuals were making a profit off the distribution of medical marijuana and that there is some question regarding whether California law allows for an individual to make a profit or if so how much profit.

But as I noted earlier, this question is a state matter. It is not an issue for the federal government. The DEA had no business getting involved. Their involvement certainly runs counter intuitive to the promises made by president Obama and the statements made by Eric Holder.

Dean Becker: You know, in another somewhat related situation, it's Fall is fast approaching. Harvest time is approaching and in relation to that the camp authorities out in California and elsewhere around the country are doing their job wasting thousands of dollars worth of fuel and thousands of dollars worth of man power combing the mountain sides looking for the clandestine groves. Oft times you know planted by illegal aliens that have come north on behalf of the cartels. What are we going to do about this?

Paul Armentano: Well, I am glad you bring that subject up. I know you know we were planning on talking about this a little later in the half hour but you know NORML is holding our annual national conference in San Francisco later this month, September 24th through 26th. And one of the panels on this conference specifically addresses this issue.

It is called, Putting the Mexican Drug Cartels Out of Business. And this is clearly going to be one of the panels I am most excited to hear about. News media has already expressed that this is one of the panels they are most excited to hear about and we are going to address this specific question. We are going to talk to some of the leaders in drug policy reform. We are going to talk to some leaders that are ex law enforcement and we are going to address this issue.

Specifically the idea that if we regulate and legalize this market and we take it out of the hands of the drug lords, of criminal entrepreneurs. You know is that a way that we can try and absolve and get rid of some of the violence that is ongoing and that is so right now is associated with this criminal market. I mean right now we have abdicated all control over the production and distribution and sale of marijuana to criminal drug gangs. And what we need to do is take that authority and bring it back where it belongs with legal licensed business people.

Dean Becker: And I want to talk a little further then about the NORML conference and I do want folks to understand that they can attend this still. You know air fares are pretty cheap these days even buying at this late time. It is a gathering of people who have, well I don't know, decided that time is up; we have to do something about this. We are shooting ourselves in the foot every day of the week. Paul, point them where they can learn more.

Paul Armentano: Sure, if they go to NORML website. Simply going to www.norml.org or they can go to norml.org/conference, they can read about this years conference. They can read about who will be attending, who will be speaking. They can register for the conference. They can look for travel accommodations, hotels accommodations. All of that information is available on the website.

And you are right, Dean. We are about three weeks out right now from this year's conference but there is still plenty of time for people to register and to attend. And for individuals who might be more localized, or don't think that they can spare three days to come to this conference, we also have day passes available so individuals can pay a pro rate and just go for the individual day. And this is really a gathering I would encourage people not to miss. This is going to be a very important conference.

As you and I have talked about in the past, much has changed over the past six to eight to twelve months regarding the public attitude towards this issue, regarding the political landscape on this issue. And I really think this year's conference is going to encapsulate all of these changes that have taken place and it is going to discuss how we move forward in the coming years. And I think people are going to be really excited to learn about that.

Dean Becker: You know it occurs to me that one of the speakers, noted speakers I guess, for this conference will be a gentleman from my band of brothers, former police chief of Seattle, Mr. Norm Stamper, author of Breaking Rank, a guy who gets it. A guy who spent his time in the trenches of the drug war and who now stands forth calling for an end to this madness.

You know, the change in attitude you are you are speaking about. A point was made aware of just recently that you know Michael Phelps got caught smoking the bong, lost his endorsement for Kellogg's. But a few weeks back he picked up a new endorsement from Subway. People get it. He is not a criminal. He is not a bad person. He is a pretty good spokesman. And at least Subway had the ability to recognize that, right?

Paul Armentano: You know, I have maintained for some time and I have said this more recently that when we look back at the history of marijuana prohibition and we look back at when we achieved a tipping point toward the re-legalization of this drug, we can look at things like increased political support. We can look at the time where national public support finally reached fifty percent.

But what I think the ultimate tipping point is going to be, the point of no return that indicates we are ushering in a time of re-legalization. It is going to be when there is this conflux of the marijuana culture with mainstream commerce. And you have just pointed out an ideal example of that, of Subway embracing Michael Phelps.

Not so much you know they are embracing Michael Phelps the athlete. But if you look at the ad campaign they are doing with Subway. And with the URL they setup is subway.com/freshbuzz and the tag line that everyone can be their own individual. This was a wink and a nod. It was an acknowledgement. It was using Michael Phelps admission of using marijuana as a selling point because this major company recognizes that marijuana is popular. It can be marketed and that there is a large consumer constituency that will vote with their dollars.

It is no different than what Apple computer did recently when they allowed for an iPhone application that allows users to identify medical marijuana dispensaries in California. Now think about that. That is a rather amazing thing for a major corporation to do. And of course, this wasn't a decision that I am sure Apple made on a whim. I am sure they had their marketers look at this and say, I think if you do a pro/con analysis, there is a much more likelihood that we will get more business and more favorable publicity by allowing for this application than we see any sort of a downside. And they went forward and they made that decision.

And if people want to read more about this sort of changing landscape all they have to do is look at the new issue of Money magazine which just came out and is featuring a cover story that is entitled, How We'd Legalize Marijuana. And the entire crux of that story is talking about this unionization that is now taking place between the cannabis community and main stream commerce. And once that happens, the battle is ninety-nine percent won.

Dean Becker: Indeed it is. I don't know if it appears in every market, but they have had an ongoing series of commercials for Jack In The Box where this youngster, looks like a stoner, talks like a stoner. He is wanting to buy ninety-nine tacos for two cents I think it is and you know they are making fun of him a little bit but they are selling to him as well.

Paul Armentano: Yes, yes, I am familiar with the ad and Jack In The Box has done campaigns like that now for some time. That is actually not a new ad. That is an ad that is fairly several years old now. But yet again you are hitting on the point and we have seen this now for some. We see major movies being released on April 20th to tie in with the marijuana culture. We see records released on that date.

But I think it really shows where we are going and where we are heading when you see major corporations like Subway, like Apple, not only make these decisions but not – but having these decisions not inspire any sort of marijuana blowback. You know twenty years ago, even ten years ago, there is no doubt that Subway embracing Michael Phelps would be met with criticism - both among the members of the public, politicians no doubt and among concerned parents groups all over America.

There is no doubt that Apple's decision which has been highly publicized to allow for this application, it would have been met with consternation. But instead all over of the coverage of these decisions has been positive. It has been favorable. It is a win win. It is a win for these companies and it is a win for the cannabis community. And it mainstreams our issue in a way that frankly drug law reform organizations you know never could do on our own.

Dean Becker: You know, friends, we are speaking with Paul Armentano, co-author of a great book I urge you to get it. It has got the ammunition that will help you speak logically, rationally to those who you know believe that prohibition is a good thing. It is Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink? He and Steve Fox and Mason Tavert have combined to hit one out of the park and I urge you to get a copy.

Let us get back to the conference one more time. When I go out there to California I am always amazed at the relaxed culture if you will in regards to cannabis. That people, my gosh, it's legal under certain circumstances and I see people carrying around pounds of high grade stuff around in the hotels.

Whereas you know in most of the states to have possession of a joint can get you a trip to prison. Let us talk about the impact of the drug war. Are we going to hit eight hundred thousand, nine hundred thousand arrests this year? Where are we at, Paul?

Paul Armentano: Well you know we will probably find out literally within the next few days. Historically the FBI releases those numbers in their annual uniform crime report at some point in September. In fact last year I believe September 15th was the date those figures were released. And you know for those of us that work in drug law reform it is really kind of a dark day every year when those numbers come out because for the last several years each year has ushered in a new record high as far as marijuana arrests in this country go.

Last year I think the figure was eight hundred seventy-two thousand arrests for marijuana. About eighty-nine percent of those were for simple possession. There was about a five percent increase from the year before and the year before had been a five percent increase from the year before that. Unfortunately despite much of the progress we are making we are on track in the nation to be arresting about a million Americans annually by the year 2010 as shocking as that may be for some people to believe.

So those numbers for some time have been heading in the wrong direction. I am not convinced we are going to see any change in those numbers any time soon. We have larger numbers of people using marijuana. We have larger numbers of law enforcement you know enforcing marijuana laws and you know the net result of that unfortunately seems to be this continuing increase in arrests.

Dean Becker: You know one of the objections I see from the law enforcement out there in California to the quote legalization or opening up the market if you will is that well my gosh these drugs are valuable and the clubs will be raided. The growers will have their houses broken into. It sounds to me like they like the easy life of busting pot heads rather than protecting you know a business like they are supposed to do. You thoughts on that.

Paul Armentano: Well you know despite as you noted California does have a different culture. California laws are different than many of the marijuana laws in different states. Yet despite all that you know that marijuana is not legal in California. There were seventy-five thousand marijuana arrests in California for the last year we have a record for.


And you know so certainly that is not you know that figure does not correlate with a laissez faire legalization attitude in this state. There are still plenty of people who run afoul of the law in California. That said the culture in California really is different and there are certain counties in California like Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles where the police really have taken some sort of a laissez faire approach.

There are other counties like we mentioned earlier like San Bernadino county, San Diego county where really the law enforcement operates much like it is business as usual even though the law in some cases you know for over a decade have said it is not business as usual.

So really California is sort of a patchwork system of different cities and different counties law enforcement handling this issue very differently depending on where you live. And you know obviously we would like to see a more uniform approach and we would like to see law enforcement throughout the state of California interpret the law as it was meant to be interpreted rather than trying to sort of make the rules up as they go along.

Dean Becker: You know, I just moved Paul and while I was rearranging my bookshelf, I found a whole stack of this booklet. It was put together by Jerry Epstein of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. It is Are Texans Being Denied Access to a Vital Medicine? A Scientific Assessment of Marijuana. I am going to leave a stack of them here at the studio because that is where change happens, isn't it? With the individual. When enough individuals do something, speak up, do their part – that is when we are going to end this madness.

Paul Armentano: That is a great point, Dean. It is one of the reasons Steve Mason and I got together and wrote Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink? I am inspired that so many people are picking up this book, that they are reading it. I am getting so much feedback and the number one question people ask me is what can I do now that I have read this book, now that I have this information. And we actually devote one or two chapters in the book to responding to this question.

And our answer is actually relatively simple. It is simplicity. And that is begin the discussion. Simply speak up about this issue. And that doesn't mean going to a podium in the town square and just talking to anyone who walks by. It more importantly means begin the discussion with those who you know. Begin the discussion with your family. Begin the discussion with your friends. If you have a job where you don't think discussion would put your job at stake, have the discussion with your co-workers.

But it is important that we begin educating people one at a time talking about this issue. You know I said in this book if we simply discuss the use of marijuana, the responsible use of marijuana by adults in the same sort of way we discuss alcohol this battle would already be over.

But unfortunately because of seventy plus years of prohibition the government is continuing to stigmatize marijuana users, we talk about marijuana as if all use is abuse and we need to change that discussion and we certainly tried to give people the ammunition - the ideological, intellectual ammunition in this book so that they feel confident when they talk to people about marijuana that they should not be defensive. In fact, it is those who defend the current policy that ought to be defensive, not those of us advocating for change in this failed policy.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much for that. Well, we have got about ten seconds left here, Paul. Once again please point folks to your website and I do urge folks to pick up a copy: Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink? Send them to your website, Paul.

Paul Armentano: Sure. They go to www.norml.org. They can read about our conference. They can register for the conference. And if they want to pick up a copy of this book they can simply go to www.marijuanaissafer.com or they can go to amazon.com or a better book store in their neighborhood.

Dean Becker: Alright, Paul Armentano. See you next week.

Paul Armentano: Great. Thanks for having me, Dean.

Dean Becker: Alright, thank you.

______________

It's time to play Name That Drug By It's Side Effects!
Physical stimulation, appetite suppression, the prevention of altitude sickness through increased oxygen supply.
The answer, as is so obvious in lives of millions of Bolivians: coca.

________________

Throwing Down The Gauntlet

As a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and as host of weekly radio shows broadcast on 68 affiliate stations in the US and Canada, I have for years sought the input of public officials to the simple question, can you name the number one success of the drug war?

There is not one person in public office willing to answer such a basic question. More than one hundred years after the passage of the Opium Exclusion Act, the first federal anti-drug law, after the arrest of more than thirty-seven million non violent drug users and after the expenditure of one trillion dollars trying to stop the flow of drugs, there is not one cop, police chief, DEA agent, drug czar or elected official willing to spend thirty minutes on the airwaves defending this policy.

Whether they acknowledge the facts or are even aware that their collusion or that their silence in this regard means the drug warriors stand in support of ever escalating drug war and thus eternal support of Osama Bin Laden, the barbarous cartels and the violent US gangs.

Worldwide criminals are able because of drug warrior belief in prohibition to profit enormously and eternally from the sale of weeds, flowers and their extracts when the death toll from aspirin and Tylenol rivals that of all the recreational drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine which are made by untrained chemists, brought north and then cut with various household products including Lavamisol, a de-worming agent that can cause cancer and which has been found in significant amounts of cocaine seized by law enforcement.

Where is the logic to be found in support of continuing this policy? Before drug prohibition, Bayer heroin sold next to Bayer aspirin on the grocer's shelf at the very same price. Then as now aspirin is as often a killer drug. By what right, logic or scientific understanding do we allow this drug war to devour generations of our children's futures?

That is the real question. Where is the sense? Where is the benefit, the rationale by which we allow this one hundred year war to continue? Drug czars come and go. Police chiefs move from city to city and cops on the beat continue their eternal slog in waging the drug war but not one of them dares to visit my radio shows to defend the policy of ever lasting, ever escalating drug war. Their beliefs are superstition and their faith comprised of air.

This is another of my ongoing challenges to the drug czar the DEA the task force leaders to the judges, district attorneys and to cops on the beat, guards behind the walls and to criminal justice drug warriors everywhere to submit to an interview on the Drug Truth Network radio programs.

They often speak at treatment centers and junior high classes but they have thus far refused to defend this policy over the airwaves of the Drug Truth Network. Surely they are not cowards or allies of the drug barons. Perhaps they have other unspoken reasons in fighting an eternal war against man's free will. If so, I wish they would contact Dean Becker, host of Century of Lies, Cultural Baggage and the 420 Drug War News. Dean at drugtruth.net

________________


Dean Becker: Alright and that is a serious offer. I want you drug warriors to some on the show here and clarify all of this for us. I want to thank Paul Armentano of NORML for visiting us. He is co-author of Marijuana is Safer, So Why are We Driving People to Drink? Please tune in to this week's Century of Lies.

You know you guys are the answer. You know Paul and all these other folks can do everything we think possible but we can't do it without you. So we need you to please do your part and as always I remind you that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please, be careful.

________________


To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.