Cultural Baggage November 22, 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.

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Dean Becker: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Last week I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico attending the Drug Policy Alliance Conference which had more than one thousand attendees from around the world. You heard the opening and closing panels from the conference on last week's show.

This week we have some separate interviews I did. First up we will hear from Danny Kushlik from the Transform Organization in the UK talking about their new book, the Blueprint for Regulation. We will also hear from Mr. Ira Glasser twenty five years as head of the ACLU and a board member for the Drug Policy Alliance. First up, Danny Kushlik.

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Dean Becker: Could I get just a quick sound bite from you?

Danny Kushlik: Of course you can. I ate four babies and I smoked a hell of a lot of crack before breakfast this morning.

[laughter]

Danny Kushlik: Cause that is what legalizers do.

Dean Becker: OK, alright. Danny, if you will, introduce yourself. Tell us about...

Danny Kushlik: Sure, I am Danny Kushlik and I am head of policy and communications for Transform Drug Policy Foundation and I am here in Albuquerque at the DPA conference to disseminate and energize and infuse people about our latest in our series After the War on Drugs following from After the War on Drugs: Options for Control, and After the War on Drugs: Tools for the Debate. We are now telling the world about Blueprint for Regulation which basically shows how to regulate and control currently prohibited drugs in a post prohibition world.

Dean Becker: Danny, this is a major conference one of this is every other year they do this. It is a gathering of academics and authors and scientists and just people who give a damn about what is happening with this drug war. How has the book been received?

Danny Kushlik: To be honest I have really been taken aback by people's willingness to get behind what even a few years ago would have been very, very difficult for people. I think people have... we... one of the things is that we told people we have been working on this thing for a while so there have been two things going on. One is that there has been a huge vacuum in terms of people presenting what the details of what an alternative regime might look like. And the other one is that we tell people what we have been working on so they have been looking forward to it. Now it has come to fruition.

It just feels like it is the right thing in the right place at absolutely the right time and it is quite extraordinary. So people are not kind of going, woah, that is scary. They are saying, we needed this. A colleague of mine has been saying that this is going to be one hell of a calling card. And I think that both organizationally for us it is a great way to move in to beginning a dialogue when you actually just talk about the nuts and bolts, the practicalities rather than the values and the principles that sit behind it.

But also it's to do with timing and we didn't, you know none of these things happened by planning. Apart from anything else it is a year late, but hell, it has worked, it's worked. And people are ready for it. They are very enthusiastic and they love it. The only problem is they are stuck in customs. And I can't hand them out as much as I'd like so... so I am just on a book [ ] With no books. You can download it online though.

Dean Becker: Danny, I know that as a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, many times at the end of the presentation, people say, this is well and good but what is the solution? How will we actually control and regulate. I think it would be an excellent answer to those doubting Thomas' to show them a copy of that book and point them to your web site. Your thoughts on that?

Danny Kushlik: Once people are moved to recognize the absolute sham and counter productivity of the current regime of prohibition, the question is automatically begged, so how do you do it? And then, you know I think all of us have a shorthand for dealing with that which is to do with you know there are only so many ways that you can actually control and regulate drugs. You know you have got doctors, pharmacies, and licensed retailers and it is a shorthand that I have been using for a long time. But I think to actually have a definitive, written work that you can just fill that gap with is... it should raise the level of the debate. And also I think provide people with [ ]. Something practical that they can put in the place of what we have now. And I think it is going to be invaluable.

So one of the things that we are going to be doing is sending out boxes of these things to organizations like LEAP and DPA and anyone who is presenting alternatives because while it doesn't have all the answers it provides enough of a foundation that it will give enough support so that people don't think that legalization and regulation mean that they are stepping off a precipice. It has that functionality, that solidity to it that is really going to fill that gap and enable people to move on quicker and hopefully bring about the end to the drug war.

Dean Becker: There have been some very outspoken people in the UK. I believe if I remember the gentleman's name it was an officer Brian Paddick who had worked to in a London suburb to make it unnecessary to arrest everybody for marijuana because it was a waste of the police officer's time. He had some success and some setbacks as I understand.

There was a more recent situation. A professor, a scientist, last name, was it David Nutt, I believe, got kicked out for wanting to talk the truth about drugs and several of his advisors, some five or more have now quit. It seems that in US, UK maybe anywhere in the world to speak about this can get you in some deep shit, if you hear me. What's your thoughts? I mean, are we rounding that corner? Is it becoming more possible to speak this truth?

Danny Kushlik: OK, so here we are in a situation in the UK where I, you know I am here flogging the blueprint, the alternative regime, the regulated regime. But on the back of you know a week or two ago, Professor David Nutt, the chief scientific advisor to the government was sacked partly because of articulating what was a very inconvenient truth which was that the science shows that you are more likely to die horse riding than you are taking ecstasy, even in it's illegal form. And but what he also did was questioned policy changes that the government had made specifically the move from rescheduling cannabis from class C to class B moving it up the schedules and challenging government policy and that is not generally what government advisors are supposed to do and so he broke protocol as well.

But what has been brilliant in terms of what happened to David after that was that the level of support that he got from the scientific community and in the press was extraordinary. And that could have easily gone the other way. You know in a different situation, he could have been taken apart. And he has an unfortunate name where he could have just been treated as a total nutbag and he wasn't, he wasn't.

The level of support that he got in the scientific community and I think particularly for scientists who feel that they have been sidelined by government populism, electioneering and grandstanding to playing on the fears of the public for their own political capitol. It has worn very, very thin. And so there was whilst him being sacked was appalling, the level of support he got was so overwhelming it leaves most of us feeling very positive about the political environment in the UK and I think that that bodes very well for presenting an evidence based way forward from here on in.

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Dean Becker: You are listening to the Cultural Baggage Show on the Drug Truth Network. This is an interview I conducted with Danny Kushlik of the Transform Organization in the UK who just issued a new book, Blueprint for Regulation. We continue...

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Dean Becker: You know Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance has been quoted numerous times here of late for his thought that for years we were leaning in to this strong wind and now we have the wind at our back. And many other, well, some other organizations, including a recent pronouncement by the American Medical Association that it is time to maybe move marijuana out of schedule one to some lesser stature.

And others in the US, politicians, have begun to nibble at the edges of this this. Our senator Jim Webb is wanting to consider a new, review perhaps of our drug laws and the way we implement these things. Is it in the US we have many people who are afraid to speak up. They have got to pee in the cup. They are afraid that they will get sacked from their jobs for just daring to question the current situation. Is it as bad in the UK as what happened to professor Nutt?

Danny Kushlik: The environment in the UK is now one that is conducive to questioning. The tide has turned. And you know I will give you watery metaphor instead of a windy one from Ethan, so the tide has turned. We are now as opposed to swimming against the tide we now have an opportunity to surf. And we have a window of opportunity that will last as long as people feel the freedom of not having George Bush and I don't know whether it's the not-Bush effect or the Obama effect or some combination of the two is giving people a new lease of life, a breath of fresh air.

And I think that I mean the question is how long does that policy window remain open? If something goes wrong for Obama and the republicans get in next term, things could swing around quite easily. But I think that the bigger question really is how dependant does the rest of the world have to be on the US for wider political change generally than specifically on drug law reform and I think that is something that we really need to begin to question. Because to the extent that there are changes in Latin America and in mainland Europe potentially in New Zealand that you have a coalition of a very eclectic group of non-US activity that could create change and we needn't be dependant on the political whims of the US administration, the American will of the people if that becomes reactionary maybe that is not such a big problem as long as we haven't got all of our eggs in the US basket.

Dean Becker: This brings to mind a circumstance, a perception I have developed over the years. The Mexicans, the cartels have a phrase, plato or plomo, the silver or the lead, you take the money or do their bidding or they will kill you. And the US in my opinion has been running the drug war kind of in, maybe they weren't going to kill anybody, but they were either going to fund you if you participate, like countries like Bolivia and Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan, et cetera. But if you join in this drug war, participate, or we are not going to fund you, we are going to cast you aside. It is time for that change, right?

Danny Kushlik: The signs are very strong not only that nation states that would normally have been beholden to the US for cash that that pressure in terms of complying with the prohibition. The problem that they have I think, if you think about places like Afghanistan and Colombia is that you can't see that pressure bearing fruit. And even the US isn't rampantly eradicating poppies in Afghanistan and whilst there is still recent news, military activity in Colombia...

It is difficult to see the Latin Americans as a whole just bending over and sucking up cause it's... You just have a sense that there is something else going on that means that the US isn't holding all the cards and I think that the whole, the economic crisis is just having massive repercussions not least of which is diminishing the cojones of the US in terms of world politics and I think that to the extent that they feel dis empowered and emasculated to a certain extent I mean they are still clearly a superpower. That bodes well for the rest of the world on every level.

And the progressive moves in the drug war in drug policy reform have that breathing space and that's... People are feeling it. It is tangible. You can smell it, you can taste it, you can touch it. And there is a level of confidence that I haven't seen in my time before.

Dean Becker: We are speaking with Danny Kushlik of Transform. Has a just released a brand new book. The title again, Danny?

Danny Kushlik: The title is, folks, downloadable from the Transform web site, or you can get in contact and we will send you a hard copy is After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation.

Dean Becker: Talk to the American audience. It is time for them to do their part, right?

Danny Kushlik: The thing is now we are in a different environment and you as American citizens have vastly more room for maneuver than you have ever had before and you need to grasp this opportunity. But mainly what you need to do is go and to those of you who are signed up already for reform is go and tell those people who are not that they are being duped. That they are being duped into supporting something which does the complete opposite of securing the borders of the US, of protecting children, of making the US a better place to be.

And that only the application of an alternative regime based on legal regulation will produce the kind of security, the kind of protection for our kids and the kind of quality of life that and the goals we are all looking for. And you have the opportunity now to say that openly without fear.

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Dean Becker: Once again, that was Danny Kushlik from the Transform Organization in the UK. And you can download a copy of this new book Blueprint for Regulation by going to their web site which is tdpf.org.uk
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It's time to play Name that Drug by it's Side Effects!

Fever, headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, influenza like symptoms, fatigue, edema, diarrhea, depression, hypertension, plasmapheresis, frambocytopena, renal dysfunction and death.

Time's Up!

The answer from Bristol Meyers Squibb, Plavix, to fight blood clots.
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Dean Becker: You are listening to the Cultural Baggage show on the Drug Truth Network. This is Dean Becker and we are listening to interviews I conducted at the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Albuquerque last week. Next up Ira Glasser.
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Ira Glasser: Ira Glasser. I worked for the ACLU thirty-four years. I was executive director from 1970 to 78 at the New York Civil Liberties Union and then National Executive Director of the ACLU from 78 until I retired in the middle of 2001. I was involved with drug policy reform and civil liberties violations that resulted from drug prohibition.

Back in the early days of the NYCLU in the late sixties I was involved with that issue throughout my time at the ACLU because race discrimination, illegal searches, urine testing, all kinds of violations of traditional civil liberties took place in the context of drug prohibition. So I became involved early on with the predecessor organization of DPA, the Drug Policy Foundation and in fact met Ethan at the Drug Policy Foundation conference when he was still teaching at Princeton. And he an I were speakers at the Drug Policy Foundation conference in Washington back in 1989. And we stayed friends and colleagues and I stayed involved with that until the Drug Policy Foundation became merged with Ethan's organization. And I have been president of the board of directors of the Drug Policy Alliance since its inception.

Dean Becker: Now, I, we have made progress over the years. It seems that you know very incremental stuff for the first few decades if you will of our attempts but it seems in the last couple of years the rate of progress has sped up considerably and as you said in your speech then in the preliminary session today, we are wearing through the rocks in a couple of places and it is through, well, tell us...

Ira Glasser: Well, I think the analogy I made was to the crumbling of the Berlin wall twenty years ago in 1989 and how that seemed so remote a possibility even a short while before and everyone sort of took it as a sudden and unexpected result but it actually was the result of decades of all kinds of grass roots pressure and other larger factors from both below and above that we could, that premises upon which the wall stood so that when that stuff finally crumbled, it seemed like it was overnight but it was actually the cumulative result of many, many years of apparently futile and incremental pressures.

And why it happened was because of this bubbling up of pressure from below and all this incremental change. You know the what I call the water dripping on a stone - That each drop seems futile cause how could a drop of water do anything to a stone but when the water drips steadily and relentlessly and there are a lot of drops, the stone eventually softens and splinters and crumbles. And that is the way a lot of social change takes place. And that is the situation that I think the drug policy reform movement is in now.

I think we started playing this game back forty years ago really in the shadow of our own goal posts, if I may use a football metaphor. And with our own goal that we wanted to reach way at the end, almost impossible to see it was so far away at the end of this very long football field. Now I think we are inside the twenty yard line. And those last twenty yards may be the hardest yards to gain but we can see the goal now. It is close enough to touch. And we are going to get thrown for a few losses and you know we are going to have to keep fighting and the other side is not going to give up. But a few big plays and we're - we have got a touchdown.

And I think it is beginning to happen in a number of areas. I think it is beginning to happen in the sense that there is more and more awareness of and intolerance for the racial targeting that goes on with respect to the way the war on drugs is prosecuted. And that wasn't true as recently as ten years ago.

I mean I would appear at these conferences even within the DPA and there would be not many people of color here and the whites in the audience were not particularly sensitive to the fact that black and brown people were the major victims of the war on drugs. That is not true anymore. There is tremendous understanding now and the issue of racial discrimination and racial targeting is well integrated in to the movement now and is part of it and it is increasingly understood outside the movement too as something which is intolerable.

This is very important because when alcohol prohibition was repealed, it didn't eradicate it. What it did was it took the federal government out of it and said states can do what they want. And some states continued to be dry states. Some states continued to be. But other states didn't and therefore the whole structure of alcohol prohibition fell apart. Something close to that is about to happen with marijuana.

And I mean we have the AMA yesterday making a radical change in its own policy of whether or not marijuana should be studied seriously as a medicine and taken off of schedule I of the Drug Enforcement Administration. We have had senator Webb in Virginia put in a bill that proposes to have a commission that studies drug policy and all it's consequences and for the moment has the issue of legalization on the table to be discussed. It's become an issue of mainstream media discussion. It is something that the polls are showing enormous increases in the number of people in this country who appear to accept marijuana legalization.

The violence on the border of Texas and New Mexico with Mexico that has come about heavily because of the criminalization of the gangs that are marketing marijuana is having an impact. So what we are dealing with here a sense that we are really on the edge on the brink of the kind of dramatic transformative change in this getting rid of the war on drugs that we have sought for so many years.

And it is important to remember that this war on drugs has never been a war on drugs. That has always been fantasy. It has never affected in any way the drug traffic, it has never affected drug use, it has never affected drug sales any more than alcohol prohibition did. What the war on drugs has been in fact is the war on fundamental freedoms. It has been a war on privacy. It has been a war on constitutional rights. What justice Marshall once called a drug exception to the constitution? It has been a war on personal autonomy and freedom to do with your own body what you want as long as you are not hurting anybody else or forcing anybody else. And above all it has been a war on black and brown people who have been disproportionate targets in the way in which the drug war has been enforced.

And in a sense it has been a successor system to Jim Crow. You know, it's been... the criminal justice system and the prisons have become the mechanism by which blacks are separated out from the rest of society, targeted, incarcerated and subjugated. And just as Jim Crow was the successor system to slavery, so the drug war has been a successor system to Jim Crow. It began in a big way. Richard Nixon's administration after 1968. And 1968 was exactly the time that the federal civil rights legislation got rid of Jim Crow. So I don't think that that timing is an accident.

And all of that is beginning now to have a sense that we are on the edge as I said of some transformative victories. They won't be total and they won't necessarily be you know be unresisted by our adversaries but we are there. We are going to go back to the football again, the legendary coach, Vince Lomabardi of the Green Bay Packers who was more successful than almost anybody else when he retired, they had this dinner for him. Somebody got up and talked about him; what a great coach he was and how many more games he won than he lost and he got up in response and said, you know I never lost a football game. Once in a while time ran out. And in our game, time never runs out, we just keep on playing. And as I said now I think we are inside their twenty yard line on a number of issues and all we have got to do is call a couple of good plays.

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Dean Becker: Alright, once again that was Ira Glasser former head of the ACLU, on the board of directors for the Drug Policy Alliance. You can check out many of these panels from the conference at drugpolicy.org. So it is first and goal and it will remain so until we score. And I remind you once again that that because of prohibition, you don't know what is in that bag. Please be careful.

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

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

Tap dancing on the edge of the abyss...