Cultural Baggage April 25, 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.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to what I consider to be a very important edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a moment, we're going to bring in the current DA. The district attorney of Harris County. This is a county of approximately four million people. I hope you folks in the rest of North America appreciate why we're producing what might otherwise be described as a local show.

For years, Houston has led the world in it's incarceration rate. I think we're taking steps now, to get rid of that reputation. In the last few weeks, we've had Constable Victor Trevino. We've had the sheriff, Adrian Garcia and tonight, I'm proud and privileged to have with us, the district attorney, former judge here in Harris County, Pat Lykos. Hello, Ms. Lykos.

DA Pat Lykos: Dean, it's good to be with you again.

Dean Becker: Thank you so much for being with us. Pat, I came down to your offices a few weeks back and met with you and several members of your staff. We talked about this drug war and we agreed that we would look at some of the history. Perhaps some of the mechanisms of it and I'm glad to know that I was accepted. You guys took some of what I said, I suppose with a grain of salt, but you were willing to listen and I thank you for that.

DA Pat Lykos: Well, of course. You're a very bright man, Mr. Becker.

Dean Becker: Why, thank you, thank you. You're so kind. Now District Attorney Lykos, we have over the decades of the drug war, it's kind of escalated incrementally of the positions of law enforcement and of justice, getting a little more onerous. But I think we've kind of hit the peak, if you will, and starting to back down from that, at this point. Would you agree with that?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, I think the place we are in history now, is that we want to stop addiction and there was so much hyperbole in the past. Anything that we can do to reduce demand for drugs, I think will be beneficial to society.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. My theory... and again, I've spent twenty-five thousand hours investigating this, is that if we want to take away our children's easy access, the best way of course would be to get rid of the black market. To destroy the reason for it's existence. Now that's some time down the road. That's not what I want you to talk about today. We're going to talk about changes that are perhaps on the horizon. Investigations that are underway. Correct?

DA Pat Lykos: That's correct. But their abuses of drugs. It's not necessarily just the illicit drugs that are produced by the various cartels. You also have abuse of pharmaceuticals. The diversion of pharmaceuticals into then, the black market.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. Again, that is happening under the policy of prohibition. I think it shows some of the failings of that overall process. Now, you have made some changes. You're no longer arresting those with... Is it under one, one hundredth of a gram of these harder drugs? Correct?

DA Pat Lykos: That's absolutely correct.

Dean Becker: That is helping to some degree to cut down on the jail overcrowding?

DA Pat Lykos: It has. That's a byproduct of it. But the reason why I did it, is that that is the smallest amount that can be tested twice. So the defense can test it, as well as the state.

Dean Becker: I see. Yes, ma'am. Now, there has been a lot of hoopla of late, about the County asking the City to stop arresting people, I think it was for minor traffic convictions. Because the jail was too full and it's kind of had starts and stops. Kind of showing that we have reached our capacity in some degrees. Right?

DA Pat Lykos: That's correct.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. We've gone over this before and I'm not going to try to 'hold your feet to the fire'. I'm sure you have valid reasons. But, there was a House Bill 2391. I don't know how it's implemented, what the number is now, for it's actuality.

But it said that, 'It was no longer necessary to arrest those for under four ounces of marijuana. For those doing graffiti, check writing, other lesser crimes under five hundred dollars of damage.' Do you think we will consider making use of that bill, anytime soon?

DA Pat Lykos: I do not.

Dean Becker: You do not? OK. As I understand it, you were handed quite a task when you took this job. There are so many, four million, people in this county. There are all kinds of crimes. From the worst to the least and the legislature has handed you the authority to enforce all of these laws. It's quite a load. Is it not?

DA Pat Lykos: You're absolutely right and we have a budget freeze on now. So we can't replace people who leave the office; who move out of town.

Dean Becker: It's been a month/six weeks ago now, that the local CBS affiliate did a story talking about the jail overcrowding, the lack of financial resources. The fact that the Children's Protective Services was being cut back a hundred thousand dollars. The Constable's, ten million dollars. The Sheriff's office, forty million dollars and we talked a few weeks back that even the DA's office is having a budget shortfall of four hundred thousand dollars.

DA Pat Lykos: No. Four million.

Dean Becker: Four million! Let me put that comma in here then. OK. That has made your job all that much more difficult, has it not?

DA Pat Lykos: Oh, absolutely.

Dean Becker: We have, in this city, the reputation of being the 'World's leading jailer'. During our visit I brought up this point. I was hoping that you had some time to ruminate about it. That is that this policy, the mechanism in place in Houston, has made that reputation possible, that we have been the worlds leading jailer, and that it was a design set in place by the elders. By people who have long since died, for the most part. But it has now ratcheted up to the point where we arrest, I heard last week, forty-five people for marijuana possession a week ago, on Monday. That just doesn't help the jail overcrowding. Doesn't help our financial burden, if you will.

I guess what I'm leading to ma'am, is that those people have long since died. Yet what they set in place, has served as a trap for our young people. Because we're perhaps the worlds largest drug distribution hub, has led many of them to lives of crime or addiction and they fell into the trap, if you will, set by these elders. Your response, please?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, you know. No one is compelled to sell drugs. No one is compelled to break the law. Dean, I want to make it clear that we're trying to help young people. We have a diversion program for them, especially for juveniles, where they can go under supervision. We will not file charges and undergo drug treatment. They have to attend school and so forth, to put them on the right pathway of life. So we do believe in second chances and these are for non-violent offenders

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. I appreciate that. Even the Drug Czar goes around saying, 'We don't want to call it a drug war anymore. We want to provide more treatment. We want to change our process. But the truth be told, until those numbers of arrests drop and the number of those seeking treatment are rising, we're still doing the same old thing. Your thoughts, ma'am? Isn't it time for them to actually implement what they're saying?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, I don't know what the so-called Drug Czar is actually saying now. We're getting mixed signals out of Washington D.C. The whole issue is to dampen the demand for drugs. Why do people take these drugs?

Dean Becker: There are many reasons, as I understand it. In talking with some psychiatrists over the years, I've learned that a lot of it has to do with Post Traumatic Stress. Whether it's survival of a rape, or a hold-up, or whatever. People get traumatized in life. Maybe sexual abuse when they are growing up. But it tends to lead people down that path and...

Look, I'm all for treatment when it's necessary. I'm all for ratcheting down the levers of justice, insofar as incarcerating people, for crimes where they hurt nobody except perhaps themselves. I hope you recall, when I was leaving our discussion a few weeks back I was saying, “Let's judge people by their actions, not the contents of their pocket.” Do you think we could ever get back to that?

DA Pat Lykos: Yeah, we do have to judge people by their actions. But what you described earlier, is self medication and that leads to terrible tragedies. It leads to overdoses. It leads to ruined lives. On Friday, I attended the Houston Council on Alcoholism and Drugs.

Meredith Baxter, the actress, was a keynote speaker and she's used virtually every drug under the sun including marijuana, which she condemned. Alcohol, cocaine, you name it. It was self medication and until she came to terms with her traumatic experiences earlier in life, she continued to be an addict. Now she's clean and she happy and she is leading a fruitful life. So I don't believe in self medication.

But then you talk about legalizing drugs and so forth. We have so many pharmaceuticals that are legal drugs, that people obtain and then sell on the black market. How do we reduce the demand? Why do people have to intoxicate themselves? Whether it's alcohol or pills, whatever it might be?

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. That's a very powerful question. I do know this. My good friend Jerry Epstein, former President of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, has done a lot of analysis in this regard and he summed it up that, 'Eighty-five percent of the problem is from alcohol. About another ten percent is from pharmaceuticals and the other five percent is from the hard drugs, meth and heroin and so forth'.

We have been focusing on the wrong area. I'm not saying I want to prohibit alcohol again. That proved to be a massive failure. But I guess what I'm saying is, I want to prevent some of those overdoses. I want to prevent children's easy access, which is available through the black market in drugs. Which produces this contaminated stuff, that is even more dangerous than Merck and Pfizer might produce.

We're talking with Pat Lykos, the District Attorney of Harris County. City and county of about four million people. Pat, I want to get back to the thought that when we worry too much about the children, we tend to spend to protect. We tend to do everything possible to protect them, yet over the years we spent over a trillion dollars trying to stop them having that access. Yet most law enforcement officers will tell you that children have an easier access to marijuana and these other drugs, than they do to alcohol and tobacco. Aren't we going about this a little bass ackwards?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, it's obvious that the approaches that we've used, are not working and so we have to look at alternatives. But you just mentioned that most of the abuse of intoxicants is alcohol and that's a legal substance. So I would submit respectfully, that legalizing drugs is not the answer.

Dean Becker: Yes...

DA Pat Lykos: I'm talking about the ones that are presently unlawful and just recall, around the turn of the 19th and 20th century, the opium dens that we had in the United States. Recall how Britian controlled the huge Country of China through opium, in getting their best and their brightest hooked on drugs. You're seeing the same thing now in Afghanistan, where opium is cheaper than tobacco.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. Speaking earlier about Gil Kerlikowske, the drug czar. He recently appeared before a house sub-committee sponcered by Dennis Kucinich. I have just a little clip from that. I'd like to share with you and then get your response.

unknown: Think if we were successful at wiping out the opium poppies in Afghanistan. The anticipated affect on drug consumption in the US would be very small?

Gil Kerlikowske: It would be very small in Afghanistan. Because very little of the drugs come to the United States.

unknown: During the period when the Taliban surpressed it, was there a noticeable rise in the world drug price or not?

Gil Kerlikowske: I don't know the price issue. I do know that the people that needed herion, or were addicted to heroin, could still get heroin. There might have been a dip. But then, when the production in the 'golden triangle' in Greece, it filled the void. Remember too, there's heroin that's produced out of Mexico.

Dean Becker: Alright. DA Lykos, they're talking about the balloon effect. It's been mentioned before. Like in Columbia, where the cut down on the growth of the Coca plants there. It pops up in Boluvia, Peru and elsewhere. That there's always going to be somebody who wants to play, 'Who wants to be a billionaire?'

In the Houston area - the Harris County community, when you stop a drug seller, when you bust a gang, it continues on just the same? Does it not? Is there hope that we can make a difference in the next five years? That we can eliminate all the drug sellers?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, I don't know that we can eliminate all the drug sellers and you are absolutely right. As long as there's a demand, than criminals will find a way to meet it. The number one priority is to reduce the demand.

Dean Becker: Right, right.

DA Pat Lykos: Then we have to convince young people, not to become involved and destroy their communities. What really upsets me the most, is that the drug dealers are biggots. Because they pick our neighborhoods that are the poorest and they ruin life for hardworking people.

Dean Becker: They do. Look, I'm with you a hundred and ninty-nine percent there. OK? I mean, I want to eliminate the reason for these gangs to exist in our neighborhood. I want Merck to make it and I want Walgreens to sell only to adults and anybody who sells drugs to our kids, I'll be with you on that jury locking them up as long as you want.

DA Pat Lykos: But Dean, right now they diverting.

Dean Becker: Meaning what, ma'am? I don't...

DA Pat Lykos: They're diverting pharmaceuitacles. They do the doctor shopping and they fraugalent prescriptions. So even though this is legally produced and can be purchased, you still have a black market for drugs that are manufactured by Pfiser and Merck.

Dean Becker: Right. Again, I won't dispute that. I guess the point being that, if adults had a legal ability to purchase these drugs at one cent on the black market price, that we could do much to eliminate those gangs and their reason for existence. Your thoughts, ma'am?

DA Pat Lykos: Well, who's going to manufacture it?

Dean Becker: Merck. Pfizer.

DA Pat Lykos: OK, and how's it to be dispensed?

Dean Becker: Through Walgreens.

DA Pat Lykos: You think so?

Dean Becker: If we reach back in time to 1913, before the Harrison Narchotics Act. Following the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act which said, 'You must tell us what's in that bag or that bottle,' and I think that's where we had it pegged right. Where people knew what they were buying.

But when that Harrison Narcotics Act came along, it said 'Adults are no longer capable of deciding for themselves what they're going to put into their own body. We're going to leave that in the hands of medicine and government...' and people turn to the black market when the doctors would no longer... Actually, the government stopped the doctors from providing it.

But I guess the point I'm leading here to, is that Bayer Heroin sold next to Bayer Aspirin on the grocers shelf, at the very same price, in 1913. Then as now, aspirin and heroin are about as deadly. The fact that heroin kills a lot of people in this country, is due to the fact that nobody knows what's in that bag or even if it's heroin that they are purchasing. Your thoughts, ma'am?

DA Pat Lykos: First of all, aspirin is a medicine and it's probably the oldest miracle drug around, OK? It does have side effects and you're right about the adulterants and dilutents that are in illicit drugs. It's just unbelievable. But no one knows the chromosome damage it's done by using psychetropic types of drugs. Heroin, what is the use of heroin except under a medical setting?

Dean Becker: I think in the day, aspirin was for a headach and a heroin tablet was for when you smashed your thumb with a hammer. I think that was the difference between the two.

DA Pat Lykos: But you know, heroin is extremely addictive.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. Especially when taken intravenously or snorted through the nasel passages and again, that's a product of prohibition, itself. As I mentioned, heroin sold in a tablet, much like aspirin does now. It was only because of prohibition and the increased price of heroin, that more people turned to injection so as to make better use of that high priced product.

DA Pat Lykos: But again, if you have it this inexpensive, something like heroin is extremely addictive. Then you're going to have a lot of people who are marginalized in life, who can't hold down a job, who can't have healthy emotional relationships. I mean, why are we promoting people to drug themselves?

Dean Becker: Again, I'm hoping people will steer clear of drugs. Let me tell you a quick story. I tried every drug there is, except probably ecstasy. Because it wasn't invented by the time I quit. But what I learned is that, I feel bad saying this to the DA but, I was busted thirteen times. Nine of them for being drunk, with drugs in my pocket. I'll just fess up to it.

Now the point of it is, this coming May 8th, will make twenty-five years since I've had a drink of alcohol. Since that point in time, I've had no traffic tickets, no fights, no domestic abuse. None of that. Yet every day, I must drive by a hundred stores. Convience stores, grocery stores, liquer stores, all selling my drug of demise, if you will, alcohol.

DA Pat Lykos: It was a poison to you.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am and I guess my point I'm trying to get to is, we have to trust adults to take care of business. To do what's right with their life and the fact that I am an addict, an alcohol addict if you will, that gets over it. That gets by. That continues and perseveres, despite the fact that that drug of choice is everywhere, waiting on me and we have to hold other adults accountable to control themselves and their compulsions towards these drugs. Then, as I say ma'am, to judge people by their actions, not the contents of their pocket. Your response?

DA Pat Lykos: Again, I think you've actually proved my point, is the availability of alcohol and the harm that its done. I don't want to make drugs that are even more dangerous, more addictive, available. Dean, life is such a high itself and we're in a situation now, where they're talking about banning tobacco and legalizing marijuana. If this is not surreal, I do not know what is.

Dean Becker: Well ma'am, the truth be told, there was a Dr. Donald Tashkin, worked for the National Institiute on Drug Abuse. He set out about five or six years ago to prove just how dangerous and deadly marijuana was and when he was done, he found that it led to no instances of cancer.

That it did not have the major fallout that it was told before. He even talked about, for those people that smoked tobacco as well, that it actually helps to work towards getting cancer, when you use tobacco. It's not the deamon that it was cast to be a hundred years ago.

DA Pat Lykos: Well, I think a hundred years ago, there was a certain about of hysteria and hyperbole. But there has not been enough study on the long term use of marijuana. So to say that it's a harmless intoxicant, I think is certainly premature.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. Again, I don't mean to say harmless. Like all drugs, it can lead to complications for certain individuals and it's not for everybody. I agree with you there. Secondarily, I'd like to point out that there have been, since the year 2000, some one hundred and twenty plus studies done by major medical universities and government agencies and none of them have found the great harms, that have been led to believe in the past, about marijuana.

We're speaking with District Attorney Pat Lykos, Harris County. City of about four million people, here in Texas. Pat, I gave you a copy of a book, Drug War Facts. I know you're plate is full. I don't know if you had a chance to look through it. But I'm looking here at a chart from NIDA. It's talking about the addictive qualities of popular drugs and it shows nicotine to be the most addictive, then heroin, then cocaine, then alcohol, then caffeine and then marijuana.

There's varying catagories here. But in many ways, marijuana is less addictive than caffeine. I want to ask you this. How many crimes have you seen where people were just out of control on marijuana? Going berserk and harming others?

DA Pat Lykos: One of the worst capitol murder trials I ever presided over, involved the use of beer and marijuana and it was the abduction and murder, South main, several years ago. That's just one example.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am.

DA Pat Lykos: So to say that marijuana's just a harmless drug, it may be this synergistic effect with alcohol, I don't know.

Dean Becker: Right.

DA Pat Lykos: But it certainly is a dangerous drug to use and drive. Just as alcohol is dangerous to use and drive.

Dean Becker: Right. Now, I appreciate you throwing the beer, mixed in with the marijuana. Because it's often used to stigmatize or demonize marijuana users. The fact is that, we just have to open this 'Pandora's box'. To take out each and every part of this drug war and look at it, to see if it's actually validating or fulfilling what we thought it would do.

DA Pat Lykos: I couldn't agree with you more. We need to examine what we've done. What's successful? What's failed?

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. When I spoke to Constable Trevino and Sheriff Garcia, I brought this up. What I asked of them and what I'm asking of you ma'am, is that we do just that. What you were just saying. That we open up this Pandora's box. That we examine it and I beg you to please, take these thoughts, these considerations to the State Legislators and even to the Federal Legislators, to ask them to find a better way to help the City of Houston. To help the state.

To help all of us find a better way to go about this so that we're not squandering our money. So that we could save money for teachers and to hire new police officers, etc. That we can use this money in a more productive way. Rather than, and if you'll allow, squandering it, throwining it down this drug war hole, that's just never provided the benefits that it was suppose to. Your thoughts, ma'am?

DA Pat Lykos: I want to save people and one of the most important things the legislature can do, is to establish detoxification centers. So that in these neighborhoods and... Dean , I'm sure you've seen it. Where these people have... smoking crack and so forth, and they're passed out.

Children shouldn't have to see that. They shouldn't have to put up with the drug dealers selling this poison and if we could take these individuals for their own personal safety... Because so many of them are robbed, because they're impared. So many of them are beaten, by sadists. If we could take them into treatment and to get them off of drugs so... I'm all in favor of treatment. I mean, that's one approach that we need to take. We need to reduce that demand.

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am. This is going to be a long process, undoing this web if you will, from my perspective and I hope that you and I can continue to work together. If ever there's an opportunity, I would love to speak to these legislators and others to inform them of some of the things that in their hard work and their career, they haven't had time to delve into.

DA Pat Lykos: As you well know, I welcome your ideas...

Dean Becker: Yes, ma'am.

DA Pat Lykos: ...and your thoughts. But the thing that's most concerning to me, is things like crystal meth and the changes that are irreversible...

Dean Becker: Yes.

DA Pat Lykos: ...that they make in the brain.

Dean Becker: You're so right. Once again, we've been speaking with District Attorney Pat Lykos of Harris County. Pat, we're basically out of time. Thank you so much for being with us and we'll be in touch.

DA Pat Lykos: It's always a pleasure.

Dean Becker: Thank you. Alright. Bye, bye.

DA Pat Lykos: Bye.

It's time to play: "Name That Drug - By It's Side Effects!"

Hypertensive crisis, Coronary artery vasospasm, Transient myocardial ischemia, Myocardial infarction, Ventricular tachycardia and Ventricular fibrillation.


Time's up! The answer from GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals:

Imitrex! For Migraines

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.

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