Cultural Baggage, January 24, 2010

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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Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. As we all know, the drug war is drawing to an end. When that day arrives will depend mostly on how much you get involved. But to help motivate and encourage you, I'm going to bring you two of the best speakers I know of from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. First of we'll hear from Mr. Peter Christ, one of the founding members and then we'll hear from Neill Franklin, a working Baltimore cop, who really 'get's it'.
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Hello. My name is Peter Christ. I'm one of the co-founders of LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a 501c3 non-profit organization. It is trying to bring a major change to American drug policy by moving to a regulated and controlled marketplace rather than a prohibitionary marketplace.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, I spent twenty years in law enforcement. Retiring as a Captain in the spring of 1989, after twenty years of service. I worked in the suburb of the City of Buffalo, called the Town of Tonawanda. We had about a hundred and ten officer department. Served a community of roughly eighty-five thousand people.

Immediately upon retiring I got myself involved in drug policy reform because after twenty years of police work, in fact not after but during twenty years of police work, I saw the futility of this policy in our society and felt the only thing I could do with the rest of my life was to try to bring a change to this policy.

Well, it's interesting when you mention Obama, Bush and Clinton. These are three people that used, what are currently illegal drugs. They admit to that, all three of them do. Mr. Bush not quite as readily, but certainly alludes to it, by saying that he doesn't talk about anything that happened before he was twenty-five years old. So when you ask someone to give you just a little old police advice, when you ask someone a question and they say they don't talk about that, that's a yes. OK, so that's how you tell a yes.

All three of them did not have the great misfortune of being arrested for that behavior. If they had, none of them would have been President. So that is the type of impact that this type of policy has on people. On the other hand, there's much more; many more people in this year that aren't lucky enough, in our society, to not be arrested for it. We have a little saying at LEAP and that is, 'You can recover from your addiction, you never recover from your conviction.'

What we mean by that is, you get a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction; a criminal conviction on your record, that goes with you to every job interview you go to for the rest of your life. It never goes away. It's there forever.

On the other hand. Drug use or drug abuse, if that's what you happen to fall into, can happen for a couple years in your life and you can come out of it and nobody knows that it happened to you. There's no asking on your job application whether you ever had this problem, or anything like that.

In fact, we know what works in our society. Overwhelmingly, that treatment and education work. We should know what doesn't work and that is filling half of our prison cells in this country with non-violent drug offenders.

Anytime I mention the word 'prison', I always like to point out one simple fact that we should all be aware of and that is, in this wonderful country of the United States of America with the largest prison population in the world and the biggest prison system in the world, we do not have, in the United States of America, one 'drug free' prison and if we can't keep drugs out of prison, the next time you hear somebody talk about a drug free community or a drug free neighborhood or a drug free America, just think how ludicrous that statement is.

I relate this a little bit off subject but I relate this to, I remember many years ago watching a Johnny Carson show and there was some actor on and he had just had - sixty-one years old, or whatever - had just his big first movie success and Johnny Carson says to him, “Boy, you're a real overnight success”, and his response was, “Yeah, it only took me forty years to become an overnight success.”

So we've been working at this a long time. Sometime the work has seemed futile. But then, joyous little things happening. Like for instance the current drug czar, Kerlikowske, in a news conference mentioned LEAP. Now don't misunderstand me, he wasn't praising the work that we do, but he at least acknowledged our presence and they have to acknowledge you before they can start listening to you.

So it's growing. Just takes a long time to make major social change in any society. You know when twenty years ago when the Berlin Wall fell, we looked at that as overnight success, too. But we forget the decades of people who worked to bring that about and the day it came down was just the day it came down. That was not the only day that the work was being done. There was a lot of work that led up to it.

So this takes a lot of time. This takes a lot of perseverance and it takes never giving up. I have ultimate faith in the intelligence of our species and I think that it may take awhile. But if you keep telling the truth, over and over and over again, eventually they get it.

When we first started LEAP in 2002 I had some people ask me, “What is your plan for this organization?” and I said, “My plan for this organization is to create an organization that will create the type of view that people see, that will allow working law enforcement people to feel comfortable in joining us and how we did that was, we stayed on point. We only are about ending the policy of prohibition in America.

We are not medical marijuana people particularly, but obviously if you end prohibition, there's no more discussion about whether marijuana should be legal or not, because the prohibition's over with; it would be legal. But that is, we don't go off on the side issues. We stay on point and the reason we stay on that point so narrowly, is because it is the only thing we could really speak to from our experience and our point of expertise.

We are not the ones to set up the regulatory system but when people ask me, 'Well, how would that look?' I say, 'Any form of regulation is better than what we're doing now.' If we simply take all of these currently banned drugs and only move them to the prescription drug program, that would create a regulated and controlled market place and we could work from that point on. Or if we decided we're going to sell some of these like we sell tobacco or alcohol over the counter, that also would be a regulated program and give us more control over it.

What we have created in our thinking in America is what I call, 'The Drug Monolith', and what I mean by that is, if we hear about an overdose someplace, we say, 'Drug problem.' Then we hear about a drive-by shooting someplace, and you've all heard this phrase, 'Drug related shooting'. We hear about that and we say, 'Drug problem.' In reality, these are two profoundly separate and different problems.

That overdose, that is in fact the drug problem. That is connected with the use and abuse of these dangerous substances and that is driven by a thing called 'Human desire'. People choose to do this activity. On the other hand that drive-by shooting, that's not the drug problem, that's the drug 'policy' problem. Just like the Saint Valentines Day Massacre back in Chicago in 1929 wasn't an alcohol related shooting, but a prohibition related shooting.

This violence that we're hearing about in American cities on the Mexican border is not drug related violence, but drug prohibition related violence. The interesting thing about the separation of these two things is this. Some of you may disagree with me but, I don't think we're going to be very successful in changing human desire. On the other hand when it comes to policy, we have shown in our history and I'm sure we'll show in our future, that bad policy is something we are able to change and correct.

One of the things that LEAP has brought to this discussion, is again the professionalism of law enforcement and we are speaking to that issue and as I said earlier, we are staying on that narrow point. The thing that we bring to the debate on this is, up until LEAP, pretty basically if there was a debate about drug policy it was the judge or the DEA or the Police Chief or the DEA agent who was debating the crazy hippie who said, 'We should legalize drugs...'.

Now, because of LEAP, it is the DEA agent debating the DEA agent. It is the judge debating the judge. It is the police chief debating the police chief and now to the audience the decision is, what judge are you going to believe? Not, 'Are you going to believe the judge or the crazy hippie?' but, 'Which judge are you going to believe?' and now we have to focus on the issue and I believe that when you focus on the issue we will eventually be proven to be correct in our choice of policy in this society.

LEAP is a multi-member organization. We allow anybody can join LEAP. It costs nothing to join. All you do is basically put your name on our mailing list to show you that you support what we do. You can get a hold of us by going to copssaylegalizedrugs.org. That will take you to the LEAP website or you can go to LEAP leap.cc or, I'll make it real easy for you. All you got to do is type the word LEAP into Google and we're the first thing that pops up.

So, go to the web site. See what you think of us. If you think we're on the right path please, put your name on our mailing list. Be part of change, rather than being part of a failed policy.
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Alright. Once again that was Peter Christ, one of the co-founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Stay tuned after the break and we'll hear from Neill Franklin, a working Baltimore cop.
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It's time to play: "Name That Drug - By It's Side Effects!"

Nausea, heartburn, development of bleeding ulcers, vomiting, swelling of the brain, extensive liver damage, difficulty with mental functioning, Reye's syndrome and death.

(((gong)))

Time's up! The answer: Aspirin.

Another FDA approved product.
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Prohibitions fill the world with vice and crime
It's left a trail of death, graft and slime
It can't stop what it's meant to stop
Everybody knows this, but the cops

Prohibition don't prohibit, worth a dime.
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My name is Neill Franklin. I am a member; a speaker of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, LEAP.

First of all, it's been quite refreshing. Very refreshing to be able to share; to get this information out to the public. They need to hear it. They need to hear about what this prohibition is doing to our country; what it's doing to our communities; what it's doing to those, what I say, innocent members of our community. I'm talking about our children.

From death to being enticed into this illegal drug market. Everything from being runners of drugs to selling drugs and what happens next, then comes the violence. Then comes the violence that's associated with those drug dealers protecting their market share of the business.

So it's just been great to be able to get that word out and to be able to focus. For example, we know the numbers of people who have died in Mexico as it relates to prohibition of drugs. Last year, in 2008, it was well above six thousand people. The numbers are still climbing, this year in 2009 and they're going to continue to climb in the year 2010 and beyond, unless we do something about it.

But what about those numbers here in the US? I'm not just talking about those people involved in the gang; in this illegal drug market. You know, as they refer to themselves as the gang bangers and so on. I'm not just talking them. I'm talking about the cops that die. I'm talking about the cops that are shot and are paralyzed. It goes beyond that. What about the innocent citizens?

What about the families who... like the Dawson family in Baltimore City, who's home was fire bombed in the middle of the night? You had a mother, a father and five children who perished in a fire bombing, because they did not want drug dealing and the associated violence on their corner, right next to their home.

What about the young kids in Baltimore we have every year, who are caught in the crossfire of these neighborhood drug wars? As people, these entrepreneurs in the illegal drug market strive to regain or to gain their market share.

Black Americans are the least that use drugs, however they are the most when it comes to filling up prisons. The law enforcement efforts are predominantly in impoverished areas in our communities, of low income families. That's where law enforcement get their, as I would say, their best bang for their buck.

Even though majority of illegal drug use occurs in the suburbs, outside of our cities, the concentrated law enforcement efforts are in the cities, in the concentrated areas. Because, as some of the terms we use, that's where the duck pond is. That's where it's easy to acquire the numbers that you need; to get the arrests that you need. No matter whether the offense is for major drug dealing or whether it's for simple possession.

An arrest is an arrest when it comes to compiling the statistics so you can get the financing from the federal government in your law enforcement efforts. Unfortunately the more arrests that you make in a community, the more money you get from the federal government, that comes into law enforcement.

The other thing as far as truth that many of our citizens do not know, is just how far reaching prohibition is. Prohibition obviously, as I spoke to already, does damage in our communities. The other side to this is, we don't talk about what it really prevents us from doing. It prevents us from doing good things in a community. It prevents us from focusing upon those things that need to be focused upon. The true root causes for people using drugs, for instance. Mental health issues, case in point.

The average law enforcement agency in a community such as Baltimore, where I'm from, will spend seventy-five to eighty percent of it's time on a daily basis, dealing with drug related issues, the drug dealing issue, the 911 calls for service, the homicides, the shootings, the stabbings, the clearing of drug corners per se. It costs money to do that. It costs intellect to do that. It costs man hours to do that. The money that we put into corrections and judicial system and so on and so forth.

What would happen if we could take our money, if we could take our intellect, if we could take our human resources - time, man hours, and put it toward the root cause of people using drugs? Mental hearth. We have dozens, hundreds of kids on a daily basis that are abused in our cities, and what do they do? They self medicate. They don't have a health care program where they could go and get mental health treatment to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist. So what do they do? They do what they know and they use and abuse drugs. Because we don't have the time, effort or money to deal with the root issue.

Drug prohibition prevents us from doing our due diligence in solving those root issues. That's just one. There are many, domestic violence. The rape issues that we have. Right now in Baltimore, we have someone on the East side of Baltimore who's just going crazy. I believe right now the number is... seven victims within the past month/month and a half, of raping young women on bus stops, in their homes. Yeah... law enforcement. They're addressing it. But think of how much energy they could put into that particular case, if they didn't have drug corners to clear.

Thirty-three years of law enforcement experience beginning back in 1976. As early as 1979, around 1979/1980, I became a narcotics agent for the Maryland State Police. My very first search warrant involved a young man. I believe he was a student at the University of Maryland. I worked in College Park, Maryland and he had a marijuana plant, probably about two and a half to three feet tall, growing on his balcony and this is how we would bring a new member of the narcotics team in.

So what they did, they took me out and we cruised an apartment complex. Saw the marijuana plant on the balcony. Wrote a search warrant for the apartment. Found nothing else. However, this young man was convicted for, not just possession, but manufacturing of a schedule one drug. I'm curious, I'm really curious about this individual, how that affected his life. I don't know but how that may have affected his life. I'm sure it wasn't positive and this individual wasn't causing harm to anyone. It's all about our policy.

So, I had the experience from being a narcotics agent, going down into Calvert County, Maryland and arresting and doing a case on the number of individuals down there, who all I had to do was bring them before the judge, that was it, and went into the management of narcotics task forces. Which were a multi-jurisdictional task force involving many agencies coming together in a particular county.

After I became a narcotics agent I then eventually, a few years down the road, moved into becoming a commander for narcotics task forces across the state of Maryland and they were multi-jurisdictional task forces involving, for instance, Sheriff's department, local agencies, State Police and even sometimes the Feds/DEA, would come in and join us and we would go out and enforce the drug policies in those particular jurisdictions.

I began in Western Maryland then moved to the Eastern part of Maryland and... These were many task forces. There was a lot of money dumped into these and a lot of man hours, a lot of time, a lot of effort for going out and making these drug cases and arrests. Even prior to that, I spent four yeas in the Division of Corrections Investigative Unit for the State of Maryland. So we handled their internal investigations as well as criminal investigations.

Many, if not most of, our criminal cases surrounded the smuggling of drugs into the prisons. Believe me, there are more drugs in prisons than out on the streets. So if you can't keep it from behind our prison walls, I don't know how you're going to keep it from reaching the general population, out here in the streets. So prohibition doesn't work. If you can't have prohibition in heavily secured prisons, how are you going to have it out here in a free world, in a free society?

I then moved from there into the commander of a combined criminal and narcotics region for Maryland. Still with the Maryland State Police and that's when I really began to see the money we were dumping into this war. As I started to see the money coming in, by way of grants and other means, from the federal government, Byrne Grant and so on, to support this law enforcement effort. The numbers were staggering.

But, even more so, when I finally retired from the Maryland State Police as the Head of Training. I than went to Baltimore as the Head of Training for Baltimore and then moved from training into Human Resources and as the Chief of Human Resources I got a look at exactly how much money we spent for vehicles. Under Human Resources was finance, for the department. So I got to look at the budget. I got to play a role in creating the budget and dealing with the budget, the fleet; vehicle fleet and all the resources that the department used. But, to sign a quarter of a million dollar bill for rental cars for one month... for one month, is unbelievable. That's just for rental cars for the organized crime division at that time and they dealt with narcotics enforcement. Unbelievable.

But the numbers, like I say and this is as typical, this is one agency, this is Baltimore. Baltimore only has a population of about six hundred thousand people. So what happens in New York? Chicago? Detroit? Philadelphia, where the numbers are over a million and the police agencies are huge? Los Angeles? Dallas, Texas? Austin and Miami? I mean, the financial numbers have got to be out of this world.

We've had Jeffrey Myron do a national perspective, which came to roughly about seventy-six point eight billion dollars that we're losing nationally, as it relates to the war on drugs. But that was low end. I would really like to see a detail depiction of what a city like Baltimore is using and losing, as it relates to the war on drugs. Right now they're struggling to make ends meet. Have no money for education.

Are the politicians bracing the need for change? One on one, yes. But they're still hesitant.

Dean Becker: {In the background} Behind closed doors.

Neill Franklin: Behind closed doors. They get it. They understand it. They know what this policy does to a community. However, in public, for some reason they think that their constituency wouldn't understand. But, you know the polls have been done. The constituency, they're ready. They are ready to move. They have come out and said that these policies have failed, for the war on drugs and that we need to move on to something else.

What I think we need; what I really think we need, which many of our federal legislatures are trying to avoid and what Senator Webb is moving towards, is a really good discussion on this whole criminal justice system, which will include this war on drugs. That discussion being out in the open and out where the public can see it and get good information... we have that and then maybe our politicians will be willing to openly come out and move. Behind closed doors, they get.

Let me tell you what I've seen and why I have made the choices that I'm about to explain to you. There are many volunteer efforts that I'm involved in. From Children's First, I'm on the board for Children's First in Baltimore, which is about kids and mentoring and so on, which is extremely important. Faith Base Community Council, which is about getting more community people into law enforcement. An organization called Turnaround Incorporated, which is an organization I'm the board president of for domestic violence, child sexual assault. It's an advocate organization providing very meaningful and needy counseling for victims of rape and domestic violence in Baltimore and Baltimore County, and there are others.

But when I started really looking into these policies and the war on drugs and the devastation and I saw how far reaching it is and how it prevents us from supplying decent education to our kids. How it prevents us from supplying and financing the needed mental health attention that our kids need. Because we have many kids who self medicate because of physical abuse, sexual abuse, all types of abuse when they're growing up in our communities. That's my opinion, the root cause for drug abuse.

We have a failed education system. In Baltimore City our drop out rate is sixty percent. Sixty percent of our young black males drop out of high school. They're enticed. They're encouraged to enter the illegal drug market. What a waste of intellect. What a waste of life! Because many of these kids go into this and they don't expect to live long.

We have the devastation, I mentioned before. The Dawson Family of seven, who was murdered. I had a very close friend, Ed Toatley, who was assassinated back in October of 2000. Very fine State Trooper, he was. There are others in law enforcement who were murdered.

I have put most of these things aside so I can focus primarily on this effort with LEAP because I know for a fact, if we end prohibition, if we end these failed policies that we would... hmm, pave the way for so many good things to happen in our communities.

What I just mentioned to you, I only mentioned a very small percentage of things. I didn't even get in to talking about the bridges that will be re-established between law enforcement and community. We know those are broken and they're broken because police have pretty much have occupied communities, in a negative way, when it comes to clearing corners and dealing with these drug prohibition problems.

The list is long, folks. But if you want this country and other countries to prosper, and I mean really prosper, we have to take the first step and break down this 'Berlin Wall' of prohibition. You do that and it will be so much easier to implement so many other things that need to happen.

For me? What I've just said to you, it's about our future. It's about our kids.

It's about our kids.
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Dean Becker: The question really boils down to, 'Who do you want controlling these so called controlled substances?' Walgreens, selling to adults, like you and your friends? Or barbarous criminals worldwide, selling dangerous concoctions at outrageous prices to our kids?

Please, be careful. Because currently no one knows, what's in that bag.

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.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org