Cultural Baggage, June 4, 2008
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison, and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Dean Becker: Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. You know, it's getting more and more exciting each week when I come in to do these shows because we are making progress and, you know, there's two steps forward and one step back and that even applies to many of our allies. Consider Mexico's dilemma at this moment. And we're going to talk about the situation in Canada with our guest today, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin. Welcome, sir.
Senator Nolin: Good afternoon, sir.
Dean Becker: Thank you so much for being our guest. I'm so glad to have you with us again.
Senator Nolin: Well, it's always a pleasure to be talking with you and your auditors.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. We have heard the news coming out of Canada. It just gets pretty confusing at times. In some ways it sounds like they're trying to emulate my gulag filling station city here of Houston.
Senator Nolin: [laughter]
Dean Becker: They're instituting mandatory minimums now, right?
Senator Nolin: It's still in parliament and the lower house has not even released the bill yet. And of course the Senate has not even started looking at it. So, we have many questions on the effectiveness of minimum sentences. Of course, we are relying a lot on your experience in many states in the U.S. who have for many years, if not decades, used the minimum sentencing as a possible way to bring safer streets and you and I know it's not reality.
Dean Becker: No, sir. Texas leads the U.S. in its incarceration and just today our local paper carried a story about jail overcrowding here. And this is a city of about three million people. We currently have about 12,000 people locked up in our jails, let alone the thousands that we send to prison each year. So, in our jails alone we have 400 people per 100,000 behind bars. That's just outrageous.
Senator Nolin: Now, the real question, and of course as a Canadian it's not for me to question the appropriateness of your public policies but at the end of the day any individual should question his or her representatives asking 'Am I safer today than I was ten years ago because of all that?' That is the question.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. And in so many cases people go in for the non-violent crimes and then they spend years in an 'educational' system, if you will, the prison whereby they come out violent and angry and more knowledgeable of how to commit crimes. It's...
Senator Nolin: Yeah. And that is why many of my colleagues in the Senate, we, in the Canadian Senate, I should say, we are looking at all those measures as a--if we can really educate, if can really rehabilitate, we can really give values or influence the minds of people who could become criminals, let's do it. Let's invest in that. But if we are just using the criminal law and the sentencing measures to basically, let's say, give ourselves just a feeling that we avenge, revenged on those people, it's probably not the best way to spend our money.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. I wish to heck that some benefactor could arrange for your prime minister and the group of the politicians wanting these mandatory minimums to come to Texas, to visit our jails, to visit our prisons to see how many people are locked up for -- and here in Houston you don't even have to have a bag of dope, all you've got to do is have an empty bag, you know, with a couple of grains in the corner--that's a felony. You're going to prison.
Senator Nolin: Well, Mr. Becker, I don't know if the committee, the committee of the House of Commons here in Ottawa or the Senate committee would want to travel to Texas. I, for one, would recommend them to do it. But we can also rely a lot on the expert witnesses, scholars, who have looked at your experience and made some sort, to draw lessons on it out of your experience and probably we can do that thing here in Ottawa.
Dean Becker: Yes. My friends, we are speaking with Senator Pierre Claude Nolin out of Canada. And Senator, I want to ask you: there was a, I guess it was about a week or ten days ago, the British Colombia Supreme Court, I don't know quite how to interpret this, maybe you can explain it, but they declared the drug laws unconstitutional?
Senator Nolin: What they did, first they had in front, the Supreme Court of British Colombia had in front of them a request for an injunction. I don't know if you're aware but maybe you are, but your auditors are not, we have in Vancouver a safe supervised injection facility which operates under an executive exemption to operate. So it means that the law, the drug laws don't apply in that facility. The exemption was to end at the end of June and the benefactors of such an exemption went to court, BC Supreme Court, last month. And they asked for an injunction for the government to renew, at least for a year, to order for the exemption to survive the end of June and last for another year, giving time to everybody to come to an agreement on the future and fate of such a unique site in North America. So, to achieve that court had to rule as unconstitutional two sections of the drug laws: trafficking and possession.
Dean Becker: That's a couple of powerful...
Senator Nolin: [laughter] But they also added that it was only, should be, that declaration should be understood in the meaning of possessing or trafficking or exchanging an illegal substance for the purpose of safe injecting it in a supervised site. Not outside. Look, it is an important decision. Of course, the government of Canada will appeal that. They have 30 days and I'm sure they will appeal but it's a very healthy debate, I think, that we hold that in North America and because we need more of those safe injection sites because we, as governments, we must take, our first priority should be the care of all of our citizens. And that is a basic fundamental obligation we have.
Dean Becker: Well, here in Texas we are the last hold-out, if you will. We do not even have a legal needle exchange program in this state. The district attorneys just won't have it.
Senator Nolin: What's the HIV/AIDS prevalence in Texas?
Dean Becker: It is very high, sir.
Senator Nolin: Usually that comes, that's...one is a consequence of the other. If you want access to needle exchange freely unfettered is one of the first harm reduction steps that you, a jurisdiction takes to, when they want to curb down the HIV/AIDS and all these sufferings and harms caused by injectable drugs.
Dean Becker: I've heard it said that the average cost for the state and the counties to care, hospitalize and otherwise tend to the needs of the HIV and Hep C people who contact this through using used syringes is about $170,000 and yet people are just blind to that fiscal irresponsibility.
Senator Nolin: But, Dean, if I may call you Dean...
Dean Becker: Yes, please.
Senator Nolin: Let's be honest one to each other. Most of those decision makers...why are they doing that?
Dean Becker: For votes?
Senator Nolin: I think yes, for votes, but they are doing that because they are imposing on everybody their values, their moral values. And, well, we all have personal moral values but I don't think anybody can impose on someone else his or her values.
Dean Becker: No, I would agree one hundred percent, sir.
Senator Nolin: And that's why for me, the most important principle in all that is the obligation we have to alleviate the quality of life of all our citizens.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir.
Senator Nolin: And needle exchange is only one of those steps. So that's when I hear and I read about what's happening in the United States I don't judge that but we have the same problem in Canada. Some politicians are putting their personal values, moral values, as some kind of a benchmark. You are with me and good or you are against me and bad. And I don't think the world is made or should be built around those principles.
Dean Becker: Well, you know, last night in anticipation of our discussion I checked out some of the newspaper recent articles out of Canada. Let me read briefly from this one, I hope I get this one right, Saanich News...
Senator Nolin: Saanich, that's another, that's in British Colombia.
Dean Becker: And it says 'Questions arise after police raid wrong home.' And I want to preface the reading here with this: in the United States we have horrible situations where 90-year-old people are, have their doors kicked in and killed by police officers, they fake the warrants, they plant drugs on the people...but let me read this story.
An internal review into a wrongful police raid on a Saanich family's house isn't good enough, says B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director.
Murray Mollard says these kinds of cases should be investigated by an independent third party, rather than the Saanich police department.
“There needs to be a fair, thorough, independent and impartial process to assess whether it was wrong,” Mollard said. “There needs to be a system of accountability when this happens.”
And, sir, to me there are so seldom a true and independent investigation. Your thought?
Senator Nolin: Yes, in Canada, in most jurisdictions, it's not all and I'm just, because I'm not one hundred percent convinced that it is the way in all the provinces, there's always a parallel structure who is with, legally, statutorily, structured to examine complaints of police action.
Dean Becker: Well, we have, I'm not even going to get into the situation here. We cover that on other shows. But this place is a madhouse insofar as...
Senator Nolin: And for obvious reasons I'll not comment on what you just said.
Dean Becker: Here's another story from The Outlook.
CRIMINALS WITHOUT BORDERS
A look of puzzlement didn't cross WVPD chief Kash Heed's face when he read this recent front-page headline in a national magazine: "B.C. world crime superpower."
And as you are probably aware, sir, I am a former cop, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and we have taken a look at this on the global scale and it is the policy of prohibition that, you know, feeds the Taliban's cash cow, that empowers these cartels and paramilitary and gives reason for these violent gangs to exist. Is it not?
Senator Nolin: You're absolutely right. If we had the power you and I can, this afternoon, rule that coffee is illegal and guess what? People won't stop drinking coffee. And who's going to make profit out of that prohibition? Those who have coffee. And organize and structure a network of traffic of coffee. Are we going to get rich? Of course we're going to get rich. Same thing. The substance, as you say in the introduction of your show, I don't recommend or judge or comment on whatever drugs legal or illegal someone is taking. But, I think, and you will agree with me, we should less look at the substance and look much more at the illegality, the prohibition of the substance. The big problem is the prohibition. Less is the substance.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. I don't even know how to say this, but I have been of late interviewing candidates, Republican and Democrat for the district attorney, I talked to the head of the police union here, and what strikes me is when we're sitting in the studio, when we're on the air, they can only go so far in the discussion. They can dabble in maybe a minor need for change or something. But when the discussion is over and we're out in the foyer here at the studio, well, they'll admit that it's basackwards. That it's not working. That there needs to be a change. And I run into that when I visit my legislators or judges in their offices, various folks. What can we do to break that log jam?
Senator Nolin: Dean, we have the same problem in Canada. Ministers, not to say prime ministers, have in the intimacy of their office or my office agree with me. Publicly they cannot. How to break the log jam? I think we, North Americans, I think we hold the key, the keys of the solution. We are perceived as the masterminds of prohibition that started in the mid-10's, during the first world war, and, look, it's not only perception, it's reality. We drove the international prohibition structure and the Europeans, I think, are watching us. They are counting on us to see some light at the end of the tunnel. And when all our political masters are meeting under the structure of those international treaties that governs prohibition of substances, psychoactive substances, it's where we could, North Americans, Canadians and Americans, we should, we should have a much more open discussion.
Now, you're going to tell me 'our politicians are afraid.' They're afraid of what? They're afraid of a not well informed population. And it's why you, Dean, that's why you're important. You are part of the disseminating process of good information. Not judging politicians, just making them aware and repeating that, repeating that. One day one politician, one important politician on the international scene will say 'well, colleagues, we have to change the way to look at that problem. We have a phenomenon, let's change the paradigm. We have used prohibition to take care of a social phenomenon. We were wrong. We should change the approach. How can we do that?' And that's how it's going to start.
Dean Becker: Once again, we're speaking with Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Canadian Senator. And, sir, you were the chair of the group that performed some major studies about drugs, how it impacts the society, how to, perhaps, move forward. It's been a few years back now.
Senator Nolin: Yes, 2002. September of 2002. Exactly one year after the events in New York and Washington.
Dean Becker: And one was focused primarily on cannabis but one that was kind of set aside, am I right in saying that, dealt with all drugs, did it not?
Senator Nolin: Well, we had the main, our main mandate was to look after cannabis because it's the most popular, most, yes, popular illegal substance around the world. But we, to come to a valid conclusion, we had to look into other substances. And we looked into the guiding principle that should govern a public policy on psychoactive substances. So you're right to say that our findings are on all the array of psychoactive substances but we have to focus on cannabis.
Dean Becker: Now, you are one of many members of Canadian authority, I guess I should say, that have worked with, and primarily it's been in the Vancouver area, a whole series of mayors have come forward, gaining more traction, more support for their wanting to end the harms of the prohibition, right?
Senator Nolin: Those successive mayors of Vancouver, Mayor Owen, Mayor Campbell, by the way Mayor Campbell is now a Canadian senator sitting next to me in the senate...
Dean Becker: And a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Senator Nolin: ...and a former coroner and a former member of the law enforcement community and Mayor McDonald, they're all, they're all--look, it's, Vancover, it's a unique place. To get votes they have to support that. Because in Vancouver and in the surrounding area they came to the conclusion that prohibition and there's a phenomenon and we must look at the phenomenon with solid principles and we need to be clear on the objectives. What are those objectives? I think, for me, it's quite simple. Complicated to get there but quite simple. What we want is to reduce the problematic use of any substances. That, for me, should be our objective. Not to eliminate. Reduce problematic use of any substances. To which, to get there it means that prohibition should not be in the way because you have to admit that, if only the problematic use are of a concern for the state for health reasons it means that some uses are not of concern. Prohibition does not allow that. Prohibition instructs everybody to ban everything. And we all know that's not a solution. It's said that because we have those laws that your kids, my kids, are not going to try it. But what we have to do is prevent the problematic use of all those substances. So, to prevent that, in an intelligent way and respectful way for their intelligence, we have to be very honest with our teenagers. And we have to tell them that it's not all users, not all users are problematic but some are problematic and we are concerned about that. But we cannot have that open discussion with our adolescents if prohibition is in the way.
Dean Becker: So true.
Senator Nolin: So, in Vancouver, they found the light. [laughter]
Dean Becker: Well, I've been up there and it certainly was a bright locale. I think they have understood this problem and are working to truly solve it.
Senator Nolin: They have and that's why successive mayor in Vancouver to won their election and I think we owe to Mayor Owen, the first one to put his political weight behind, probably you've heard about the four pillars policy in Vancouver, and he is the one. He should be commended for having the smartness to support the plan. And since then everybody in Vancouver who wants to win a municipal election and probably at the provincial level also must support such plan.
Dean Becker: And that's actually great progress in my mind's eye. And the situation here in America is really going to take courage by, as you said, some select individual, some politician or small group of individuals daring to speak the truth, being willing to kill Osama's cash cow and deal with the gangs from the other direction.
Senator Nolin: Yes, exactly. Exactly. I recall the governor in the state next to yours, in New Mexico...
Dean Becker: Gary Johnson.
Senator Nolin: Johnson, exactly. He had exactly--he was a republican--he had a very pragmatic approach towards substances and he was speaking the truth.
Dean Becker: And didn't suffer any consequences for it. Actually moved a lot of his ideas through his legislature.
Senator Nolin: That's it exactly.
Dean Becker: I guess we're just going to have to convince the politicians here to have the courage to speak the truth.
Senator Nolin: Politicians are afraid of the people. They're afraid. And they must--it reminds me of when we created the committee here in the senate in the end of the 90s--many elected politicians in the house of commons were afraid to be part of that because they thought that the population would be, ought to be against us. And when they found out that we had the popular support to do what we were doing and when you look at all the polls in Canada on the various aspect of drug policies, we were right and we are still right and the population is overwhelmingly supporting us. So that's why politicians in Canada are more and more afraid of the population. Those who are maintaining a solid support for prohibition are those who are doing it for moral values, moral principles.
Dean Becker: Right. I think their morals are highly suspect. Well, Senator Nolin...
Senator Nolin: Well, no, I don't want to comment. It's not, like I told you, we all have moral values that are driving our lives. What, where I have a problem is when someone's moral values is driving someone else's life. I have enough problems with my moral values. I don't want to impose them on anybody else but me.
Dean Becker: I hear you, sir. We thank you so much for being with us, Senator Nolin. We'll be doing this again soon.
Senator Nolin: Dean, don't hesitate to call.
Dean Becker: I will not, sir. And thank you so much. I look forward to our next meeting.
Senator Nolin: OK! Bye-bye.
Dean Becker: Bye-bye.
It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Physical stimulation, appetite suppression, the prevention of altitude sickness through increased oxygen supply.
Time's up! The answer, as is so obvious in the lives of millions of Bolivians--Coca.
If Albert Einstein were alive today he'd help to end drug prohibition. Einstein once wrote 'the prestige of government has been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government than passing laws which cannot be enforced.'
Join Students for Sensible Drug Policy and teach policy makers a lesson from one of history's smartest men. Visit www.SchoolsNotPrisons.com to find out if there's a chapter at your school or how to start one.
Dean Becker: OK, my friends. I want to thank Senator Nolin for being with us. I want to invite you to be with us next week on this show. We will have with us Mr. Ray Hill, the patriarch of the mothership station of the Drug Truth Network and we'll be talking about, and drawing comparisons, between the war on gay people and the war on people who use drugs and there's so many similarities. I think it's something that many of our listeners will appreciate. And also, next week on the Century of Lies show we're going to be talking to several medical marijuana users who use it for various maladies and we're going to talk about the physical and the mental and the spiritual observations, I mean, what does it do to you? How do you feel? Do you get drunk, do you fall down the hallway? What does it do to the human condition? And we're going to get that for you next week and I'm going to substitute my closing now.
There is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. We've been duped! The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Please do your part to help end this madness.
Visit our website, EndProhibition.Org.
Prohibido istac evilesco.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, on behalf of engineer Phillip Guffy, 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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