Cultural Baggage, July 08, 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.
Hello my friends welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I am so proud to have our guest with us today. He is a retired provincial court judge out of British Columbia. He is one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. He writes an ongoing column for a paper up there and let's just bring him on the air. Judge Paradis, are you with us?
Jerry Paradis: I am right here.
Dean Becker: Thank you so much for being here today, sir. If you will, tell the listeners a bit about your life experience – your work.
Jerry Paradis: Well, I was Provincial Court Judge appointed in 1975 and I retired in 2003. Over those 28 years - actually 3 of those were spent on a leave of absence at another job – twenty five years on the bench, I heard well over a thousand cases involving drugs: their use, their distribution, their sale, their importation, the production, the manufacture. The whole thing.
Over that period of time, I slowly but surely came to the conclusion that our attempts to try to deal with the problems that will flow from drug misuse or abuse. The approach we have chose which was one of prohibition and punishment was doomed to failure. It was really causing far more problems than it was solving.
When I retired I wrote a piece on that issue and it eventually got to the attention of LEAP just about at the same time as I learned about LEAP – I hadn't been aware of LEAP at all. Jack Cole and I sort of called each other on the same day to chat about joining the organization.
Dean Becker: And we now speak on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to various organizations. We get called upon more and more by governmental agencies for our knowledge in that respect. You have done quite a bit of international travel to investigate the nature of this drug war and its implications overseas, right?
Jerry Paradis: Well, I have traveled – I have been to Columbia. I spent some time in Columbia having a look at the effect of Plan Columbia – the American finance of plant eradication down there. I was in the province where that being very heavily used - that process of eradication.
I was finding out what it was doing to ordinary farmers who weren't growing coca, let alone those who are barely scraping out a fundamental existence by growing coca and then watching the price of that escalate thousands of percents until it reaches the streets of the United States. I also... well, I'm sorry.
Dean Becker: No, go ahead, sir, I didn't mean to...
Jerry Paradis: Well, I also – that was sort of to learn something – I traveled to New Zealand last year to speak – for about a month I was down there to speak on behalf of LEAP about that country's situation with its drug laws. I have been to Europe and spent time in the Netherlands talking to people there, so I have done a little bit of traveling but those are the only three overseas treks I have taken leaving aside the ones to the United States to meet with the people from LEAP.
Dean Becker: OK, well, fair enough. That still gave you a better snapshot of how things work. You know, I hear many times these prosecutors or DEA spokesmen talk about the Netherlands going to hell in a hand basket basically. What was your observation?
Jerry Paradis: Of course, that is not so. Look, Dean, I think it is important – just recently, an economist by the name of Jeffrey Myron wrote a book about the cost of the drug war to the United States Treasury and in that article he made the point that – and I really subscribe to this now – he made the point that it is time for the other side to prove its point. It is not time for us to continue to debate that prohibition is bad. It is obvious it is bad.
So, anytime anyone speaks like that, for example, like the Netherlands, you have got to assume that they are not speaking accurately and take it from there. The Netherlands is not home free – there is no doubt about it. There are still illegal drugs in the Netherlands. The cafés in Amsterdam still have to buy their marijuana on the black market.
But, for the users, the police are turning a blind eye and that is a matter of policy to the users in the cafés but there is still [ ] flows and there will be a supply. But they are still very much in the drug war regarding other drugs and to a small degree marijuana on the distribution and sales side.
In the meantime, though, there is no doubt that far fewer Dutch smoke marijuana than Americans per capita – far fewer and certainly not nearly as young as young in life as Americans do. So, there is that to consider as well. And also hard drugs - although I hate to use that expression – but also heroin and cocaine, there is much less use there per capita than there is in the United States with its very draconian laws.
Dean Becker: And I guess that is the point that they kind of brew up a witches brew that you know takes the failure of say the needle park - was that in Switzerland I think – and just try to say that's how things are everywhere because if they were to stop and look at the results of this drug war, the US is suffering the worst even though we have the most draconian, I guess, short of Saudi Arabia, of policies, right?
Jerry Paradis: I think that is quite true, you are absolutely right.
Dean Becker: Now when you went to Columbia, you toured with Witness for Peace. I went with them on a trip to Bolivia. I'm sure...
Jerry Paradis: Oh, you did the Bolivia trip, I see. That's great. I got some photographs from San Ho Tree, who I assume was part of your...
Dean Becker: He was indeed.
Jerry Paradis: Yeah, I got some photographs of him on that awful road in Bolivia that you have to travel to get from a particular important place to another one. I was stunned. I would not have taken that trip if my life depended on it. You're a brave man.
Dean Becker: Well, it was - the roads, we actually had several of the Witness for Peace team would sit up front with the bus driver cause it's 3 o'clock in the morning, we're trying to make it to Le Paz, and the roads are, oh my god, six thousand feet down off the, you know, curve, and they kept feeding him big chaws of coca leaf to make sure he was invigorated.
Jerry Paradis: That's interesting.
Dean Becker: Yeah. It was quite a trip but I wouldn't trade it for the world. It was very interesting. Actually, I'm allowed to do the Drugs, Crime, Politics Show tonight on the Houston Media TV. It's hmstv.org for you Houston listeners. Tune in, it's at 8:30 central.
We are going to have some scenes of coca harvest and the coca warehouses down there in Cochabamba. It just brings to mind: these people don't have the cocaine problem. If people want to get a little buzz, they get a little chaw of coca and go about their business. Everyone I met - from the Justice Minister down to the Christian minister, the prisoners and the guards – were all chewing coca and nobody saw it as a problem.
Jerry Paradis: No, absolutely not, and we did and that is the traditional thing. The problem is perceived to exist because suddenly there became a huge demand for the alkaloid exclusively of the coca leaf, which doesn't really come out when you chew it. All it does is help you with altitude sickness for one thing, which I found out when I was traveling in Peru. It's great to chew on that to avoid that. The coca leaf does very little to you.
It's the more serious – I don't even know what the process is, but equate it to distilling it and it – the market in the United States exploded in the 80s. The demand for that particular substance exploded and it was the United States demand that lead to the supply being created and now we try to stop the supply – you do while having pretty significantly failed to have any effect on demand whatsoever with – even with some of the most awful laws I have ever encountered regarding drugs.
I am sometimes stunned by some of the States' laws – particularly the ones that prohibit drug felony convicts who have been released from jail and done their time from getting any kind of public assistance. There are a few states that do that. As if it's not enough to send someone to jail for six to ten years for a small amount of cocaine, or crack, usually, they want to really make sure that that person stays down and I can't understand where that thinking comes from.
Dean Becker: No, neither can I, sir. Alright friends, we are speaking with Jerry Paradis. He is a retired provincial court judge out of British Columbia. He is one of my band of brothers in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. And, by the way, that website is leap.cc – check out his credentials there. Check out LEAP. See if you can't join in support of our efforts. Jerry, you do an ongoing series of columns in the North Shore News, based in British Columbia, Canada, right?
Jerry Paradis: In North Vancouver, that is where I live.
Dean Becker: North Vancouver. I am looking – I kinda copied a list of some of the latest ones: Supreme Court Fails Grow Op Forfeit Test. Tell us about that article.
Jerry Paradis: Well, it's a bit complicated but I'll try to make it understandable to your audience. Quite recently the law was changed to allow for the prosecutors here, we call them the crown, for the crown to ask for the forfeiture of property in which a grow op was conducted.
And at the trial level it was a mess because no one had any guidance as to a: when property should be forfeited, what would be the rules for that? And b: whether you had to forfeit all of it or only part of it and if you agreed that you could only forfeit part or you could ask for forfeiture of only part – what would guide you and how much because this ended up being a penalty, essentially a fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of any other penalty that might be imposed and that included jail terms and fines and all the rest of it.
So, it's not unlike what I was just talking about with the rather incomprehensible laws of some of the United States. In any event, three cases found their way to our Supreme Court in Ottawa and the court set down some basic rules and they were so basic and so general that there is no more guidance now than there was before.
But they did at least confirm that you can forfeit only part of a property. If forfeiture is ordered, it doesn't have to be for all of the property. And I was amazed by the failure of the Supreme Court which is looked to to establish guidelines for trial courts, both in your country and in mine.
And as our Courts of Appeal - you have districts, we have one for each province – are looked at for guidance or the Courts of Appeal look to the Supreme Court for guidance and the judges that decided those three decisions simply said 'eh, yeah, it's ok, let's let them off.'
They simply didn't create any kind of rules that judges could look at at the trial level and say 'OK, well this is a case that requires no forfeiture at all or this is one that requires forfeiture of the whole property or this is one that requires partial forfeiture. They gave absolutely no guidance on that at all. That was a terrible thing.
Dean Becker: Yeah, and too often that happens. Little fragmentary rulings here in the United States still leaves people wondering still leave police with the opinion that they can still run roughshod. It's just too...
Oh, speaking of forfeiture, I wanted to say I wish your elected officials, your Parliament or whoever up there could come down to Houston. Could come down and tour Texas and look at the little towns that have set up money traps – not just speed traps.
But people come through and they frisk them and search their car and if they find money, they'll take the money. If the car is any good, they'll take the car. And these people are guilty until proven innocent at that point and it goes on all the time. You guys...
Jerry Paradis: Who are these people? It sounds like it criminals, the banditos, just south of you.
Dean Becker: You are right on the money, sir and I guess that's the point. We have, in the US especially; I think we lead the worldwide effort to continue prohibition. But, we have pushed it to the extreme – take away rights, shred that constitution, the snitches don't have to appear in court...
Thank god last week the Supreme Court ruled that these lab technicians do have to appear in court. I think if these defense attorneys here would insist that that happen, it would make a huge dent in this drug war because they can't appear for every trial to validate that cocaine bag was real. Your thoughts...
Jerry Paradis: Oh, I see. We have a certificate process here where anyone officially designated as a person who can do it can swear that he examined the substance and concludes that it is indeed cocaine and then sign a certificate and that certificate is accepted as evidence in the absence of the person appearing.
Dean Becker: Well, we'll see how it pans out but that was my understanding of the ruling.
Jerry Paradis: Well, I am not surprised and think it's not a bad idea. I think we came to that conclusion here though because ninety percent of the time, it was accurate. Of course the person had cocaine. That is what they are dealing in. Very seldom did they find somebody who was simply duping somebody into buying just white powder, baking powder, what have you.
Anyway. But we simply do it on that basis and I am out of the game now for six years so that doesn't really affect me but it's interesting to hear that you have had that ruling. I think that will make it very, be an interesting thing to follow.
Dean Becker: Well, it was put forward the day after they ruled that it's no longer appropriate to strip down a thirteen year old looking for an ibuprofen. You know, that's...
Jerry Paradis: Woah!
Dean Becker: That's how far gone we have gotten, you know?
Jerry Paradis: Ibuprofen?
Dean Becker: Yeah.
Jerry Paradis: Is that prohibited?
Dean Becker: Well, it's, you know, it's over the counter but it's not supposed to be in school, was the problem. So they stripped this thirteen year old girl down looking for an ibuprofen. And the Supreme Court 5 - 4 I think ruled, no actually that was 8 to 1 on that one on that one that that was not to be allowed.
Jerry Paradis: Oh my. How did it ever get that far? Whoever ruled that it could be allowed? That's really interesting.
Dean Becker: Well, this is America, sir. I don't' know what to tell you. We believe in this false religion of drug war. We think it has some validity. We – I am not including me in there.
We are speaking with Jerry Paradis. He is a retired provincial court judge out of British Columbia. Jerry, I want to just focus on the fact: we – as is said earlier – the US leads the world wide effort and do you feel that influence? Is it part of this idea that Canada needs to provide mandatory minimums? Do we have any influence in that?
Jerry Paradis: I don't think so. I really don't because this government was told unequivocally by virtually everyone – all but three people and there was about twenty five witnesses who appeared before the committee that was considering the bill – were told that that has absolutely no effect on curbing crime of any kind and even less effect with drug crime because it's a replaceable one. You mandatorily jail a seller and someone will take his place within hours if not days. So, it really is...
They were told, I think, what they are doing with that and as with a number of other initiatives on the tough on crime front is to try to differentiate themselves from the liberals who they will allege when an election comes are soft on crime.
So the liberals have pretty much forfeited a lot of their supporters support – including mine – by allowing these bills to pass so they won't be perceived to be soft on crime. But, this government knows not trying to cozy up to the United States. It was trying to appease. Think of [ ] base as being pretty much the same as the base of our ruling party.
Dean Becker: Oh boy. That's sad, sir, that that could exist outside our shores. Well, let's see. Judge, I want to kind of back up to the point where the politicians... I try to talk to a lot of local politicians, state politicians or even to federal level and bring forward this idea.
You know, he could proclaim, I want to kill Osama's fattest cash cow. I want to rid the... I want to put sugar in the gas tank of these barbarous cartels in Mexico and I want to eliminate the reason for most of these violent street gangs to exist. And how do you do that?
You end prohibition. And let his opponent step forward and say, no I want to continue funding the Taliban or the gangs need our support. To me it seems like a win- win to the courageous politician. Your thoughts on that.
Jerry Paradis: I can't add to what you said because I agree with you completely. The whole focus of LEAP, and certainly well, it's mine anyway, is to speak to as many people as I can so that they will then speak to other people and may end up, either directly or indirectly , getting the word through to their members of Parliament or their members of a provincial legislature.
But, better still, members of Parliament, federally, to let them know that if they start to think creatively and wisely about the drug war, they aren't going to be punished at the polls. They simply carry that as a piece of gospel and they shouldn't anymore so my object is to try to get them to understand that the ride, if it hasn't changed already, is changing quite rapidly.
They might just as well put themselves ahead of the curve and step in there and start doing something better than we have. The trouble has always been that it's a long process. It's not going to happen overnight, even if we would want it.
I think part of the problem is that they are paralyzed by the thought of how complicated it would be to undo the one hundred years of this horribly dysfunctional policy. I think that plays a big role in why things aren't changing at the moment.
Dean Becker: Yeah. Alright, Judge. I do appreciate you so much being with us here on Cultural Baggage. I hope you will take an invitation here in the near future to come back and chew on it some more because it needs more attention.
Jerry Paradis: I'd be happy to.
Dean Becker: I thank you, sir, for your years of service and for your courage in becoming a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Thank you, judge.
Jerry Paradis: Thank you very much, thanks for having me.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir.
[cuts to music]
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Just like Luke Skywalker circling the legs of the at-at in order to bring the monstrous beast to the ground, so too are we; circling the legs of the drug war, entangling it's mechanisms in its own lies and hypocrisy so that one day we too may bring down our beast.
The drug war is a jedi trick from the dark side.
This is the Drug Truth Network.
Hello this is [ ].
Please tell your children to buy my Kazakhstan opium and heroins so my children can live long enough to grow [ ] for harvest.
Paul Montano: Paul Montano, deputy director of NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington DC.
Dean Becker: Paul, there is much news these days about the drug war – all kinds of aspects – international, national and many of the states have made a lot of progress in the last few months - many legislatures looking at medical marijuana, certainly. What's your observation? Are we at a turning point?
Paul Montano: Well, I think, indeed, we are at a critical mass. The public certainly gets it. The public is aware now more than ever that particularly on the issue of marijuana reform that our current policies don't make any sense.
They don't make sense from a fiscal standpoint. They don't make sense from a civil liberties standpoint. And they simply don't make sense when we compare them to our sense that we have of Americans simply as it comes to justice and common fairness.
So I think there has really been an epiphany in these last few months where the majority of Americans have awakened and realized that the drug war doesn't make any sense. It shouldn't continue in its present form and that adults should have the legal option to use marijuana in a manner very similar to how they how they already have the option to use alcohol.
I really get the sense that there have been more Americans waking up to this realization in the last few months than there really had been in the previous years and decades before it.
Dean Becker: Well, I would agree with you. Paul, we have an event coming up this September that I hope I can get some sort of funding to attend. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is holding their annual convention once again in San Francisco. Would you kind of tell us when that is and what we might expect at this event?
Paul Montano: Sure. The Dates are September 24th through September 25th – that's a Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and our conference will be taking place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Francisco.
This is, your listeners may know, is the largest attended drug policy reform that takes place every year and we are certainly hoping that this year it is the most well attended of any of our conferences. We are expecting well over 500 people to attend. We are trying to bring in a diverse group of distinguished speakers.
And we really want to address what we just talked about earlier – what we perceive to be a marijuana zeitgeist that we are calling it – this recognition from the public and from some politicians and some pundits that, in fact, marijuana law reform is not the third rail of politics, that at this point it is simply common sense.
They can see the agenda for the list of speakers and panels at this year's conference and they can do that by going to www.norml.org – norml.org. The conference information will appear on the front page and they can also look into some of the social events we have planned this year as well.
If the past is precedent, this will be a tremendous opportunity for individuals to learn about this issue and also network with other friends and professionals who share this interest in marijuana law reform.
The following public service announcement was produced by the Marijuana Policy Project Foundation. It features an actual Califonia marijuana consumer. This began airing on July 8th across California on the cable and broadcast television channels.
Sacramento says huge cuts to schools, health care and police are inevitable due to California's budget crisis. Even our state parks could be closed.
But, the governor and legislature are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes.
We are marijuana consumers. Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share. Taxes from California's marijuana industry could pay the salaries of twenty thousand teachers.
Isn't it time?
Prohibition, the drug traffickers dream, enjoyed everywhere.
[cuts to music]
We all need reeducation.
We demand more thought control.
More guns and money for the cartels.
Congress, let those drug gangs grow.
Dean Becker: Ah, yes Congress, let those drug gangs grow! That's what we are all about in America. We are the largest supporters, the best friends the drug lords could ever hope for. And why? Because those cartels have littile companies that provide contributions to those politicians. Someday, I'll have the time to do the accounting and audit work on that one. I want to thank Judge Paradis out of British Columbia. Great interview.
ant to recommend that you join us on the next Century of Lies. Our guest will be Ryan Grim. He's author of This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America. And, as always, my friends, you are the answer to this. You have to do your part. I remind you once again 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.