Cultural Baggage / October 10, 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.


Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. My name is Dean Becker. This is the nine-year anniversary of Drug Truth Network. Here in just a couple of moments, we’re going to bring in our main guest of this program, Hanna Dershowitz. She’s with the Women’s Medical Marijuana Movement and the Prop 19 forces out in California but first this Drug Truth Network editorial/Abolitionist Moment.


(Bagpipe music in background)

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Abolitionist Moment.

Most of us know the truth about drug prohibition and yet most are afraid to speak it. How many Mexicans will have to die before we learn to speak? We have more than 28,000 dead, so far.

How many Drug War orphans do we need in Mexico? We have over 50,000 thus far who are not provided any support from the Mexican government. How many Drug War orphans do we need in the US? At this point in time, more than 2,000,000 kids in the US have one or more parents behind bars for drug crimes.

How many trillions will we throw into the wishing well of drug prohibition? Thus far, we’ve spent $1,000,000,000,000 trying to stop the flow of drugs and $10,000,000,000,000 to make it continue.

How many non-violent user drug arrests will be enough? We’ve had more than 38,000,000 US Citizens arrested for drugs, thus far. Marijuana arrests have now taken over the lead from hard drugs with more than 800,000 arrests last year alone. When will we decide to take away our children’s easy access to drugs? That will only happen when we decide to tax, regulate and actually control the distribution for adults of these so-called controlled substances?

Until such time, our policy will continue to encourage street gangs to prosper by selling contaminated, even deadly concoctions to our children at a mark up 17,000%. How much money do we need to make available to terrorists, if they will only dare to grow flowers on distant mountainsides? When will we decide to destroy the barbarous cartels in Mexico and Colombia?

We must recognize the futility that for every drug baron we bring to justice, another corn farmer will step down from his tractor and to play Who Wants to be a Billionaire? How long will allow the “morals” of ignorance, the superstitious leaders or the outright involvement with trafficking organizations by our elected officials and intelligence agencies to continue until we realize that the Drug War is a fraud of massive proportion?

The death toll from recreational drugs pales in comparison to alcohol, tobacco and legal drugs, obesity, hospital infections, driving and especially Drug War. What will you tell your kids and grandkids YOU did to help the Hundred Year War on logic and proportion on truth and reality itself? Please, help to end the madness. Do it for the children.


Alright, do it for the children. I think that partially – at least partially motivates our guest for today, Hanna Dershowitz. Are you with us?

Hanna Dershowitz: I am. Hello, how are you?

Dean Becker: I am well Hanna. I’ve been seeing a lot of your great writing of late, The LA Times, The Orange County Register and The San Francisco Daily Journal, just in the last month or so. Let’s talk about, if we will, what motivates you to do this, to write these things, to get involved?

Hanna Dershowitz: I think what motivates me is that every basic value or priority, by which I make my decisions and think about things leads to not understanding why we’re perpetuating this war on marijuana and drugs. I also am a lawyer and a mother and when I think about my children – I have a seven-year-old daughter and a five-year-old son and my son just started kindergarten.

So, I think about what kind of a world I’d like my children to grow up in and I feel that it’s extremely important that we understand that prohibition doesn’t stop kids from using marijuana. In fact, it makes it even easier to get than alcohol.

I am motivated by civil liberties concerns and civil rights and fairness concerns, rules of law concerns, concerns about fiscal responsibly and pragmatic public policy. I just – when I think about this failed policy, this relic of a policy that we are left with, it doesn’t seem like the right thing to pass on to my children and all of our children.

Dean Becker: I want to refer back to the column in The San Francisco Daily Journal. You were talking about there, why attorneys must sound off about on this drug reform – and before I get you to respond, I want to say this.

It’s been my belief, my contention for years now, that those in science, those in medicine and attorneys, as you say, those professionals who know this truth yet fail to speak are doing a great disservice to their nation and even their families, right?

Hanna Dershowitz: I absolutely agree and I think particularly with criminal justice related reforms, attorneys, I think, have an obligation to speak up especially because the only organized voice that you hear in the legal community is from the prosecutors.

I think that there is the possibility that there’s an implication that there is only one or few the academic community – excuse me, the legal community – and from my own work and talking to many, many attorneys, I really believe that there’s a super majority of lawyers who favor reform. Yet, it’s uncomfortable perhaps or people have fears of speaking out about it.

I think that when there’s a possible misimpression that the legal community has a unitary viewpoint on this. It’s very important for attorneys who feel differently to speak up. Also, I am very palpably aware of the power of when especially the private bar speaks out in the public interest.

So, actually when I lived where you live and I worked on criminal justice reform, I very much was – I was impressed by how powerful it is when you have white shoe law attorneys coming into hearings on criminal justice issues and speaking up about those issues.

So, I think that both because it is powerful and because it is – there’s a misimpression out there, it’s very important for attorneys to find their voice on this issue and lend their voices to a chorus that will hopefully be at least countervailing, if not drown out those prohibitionist voices that are so strong and so well paid for.

Dean Becker: Well, yeah, in the past few days there’ve been a couple of shows. [Stephen] Colbert had Joseph Califano versus Governor Gary Johnson.

Hanna Dershowitz: Gary Johnson, right.

Dean Becker: Then, yesterday morning The Washington Journal had – Oh, trying to remember – it was Allen St. Pierre versus Asa Hutchinson, former Drug Czar. It just seems to me, what was contained within those discussions was the media’s belief it’s necessary to do the “he said/she said” even though when one side is still clinging to the old rumors, innuendo and canards that marijuana leads to hard drugs, it’s addicting and on down the line. That they are still aloud to say these things to “balance” the discussion, your response to that?

Hanna Dershowitz: Well, I think that it is – when I think about the arguments, I feel that the cogent arguments, the rational arguments do all come out in favor of legalization. I mean, there’s really nothing that we’re getting for this country in the way that we’re prosecuting this war on marijuana and drugs. It just makes things more unsafe.

You mentioned the myth of the – where drugs can lead to harder drugs, where marijuana can be a “gateway” drug. Even thought that has been just roundly refuted in the studies and even though milk and alcohol and many other things are just as much of a gateway as marijuana is and marijuana is really more of a drug of terminus than a drug of gateway, those are still put out there, almost as if they’re a real argument.

I think that you’re right, it’s unfortunate that some of those old stale arguments are able to be trotted out and then it takes some work to explain why they’re not accurate. So, I mean, I certainly agree with you that the rational arguments are often pitted against some fear based arguments the really don’t have – have not been born out of research or evidence. It’s difficult.

Dean Becker: Well, yes, it is. Once again we’re talking with Hanna Dershowitz. She’s co-chair of the Proposition 19, legal sub-committee and wears many other hats, I’m sure. You know, I’ve heard it said and I wish I would know who to attribute it to but the reason the drug war continues, bad journalism. I think that’s just absolutely true.

You had another piece of in The LA Times and – let’s see if I can read my writing here. The federal law is inconsistent with – inconsistencies should not stop Californians from legalizing marijuana. They talk about there that the federal law would overrule California if they were to do this. One of many misconceptions attached to Prop 19, right?

Hanna Dershowitz: I think that’s right. Certainly, there’s no positive conflict. There’s nothing that the federal government can do to say California or any other state has to have to have laws that prohibit marijuana or has to be involved in enforcing the federal laws. In fact, that would be a violation of the anti-commandeering principle that would require states to do something for the federal government. Even so, even beyond that, I don’t think federalism is meant to be a stranglehold on the states. I think the point was supposed to be that the states are these laboratories for reform.

I think that there is no question that innovation in this area is coming down the pike from states. If it doesn’t happen – and I hope it does on November 2nd with Proposition 19 in California – it’s going to happen soon in another state near you. We are going to see, I think, a domino effect.

I think that it is time and people are really – it’s really starting to catch on that this is a relic that has been handed to us and is just completely ineffective and wasteful policy. It is not doing anybody any good. In fact, it’s causing more harm than good.

So, I don’t think that from the legal perspective it’s really a question of whether California can do this. I think California can. There will certainly be some interesting outcomes with – the federal government is going to have to determine what forward looking kinds of responses it’s going to take by innovation by states.

I don’t think that the old ways are going to work and I don’t think that anyone is going to tolerate, nor does the government have the money to sort of march in with guns drawn and say that we’re going to take over the enforcement that’s abandoned by California at the state level. That would take a drastic increase in budget and a seismic shift of priorities at the federal level and I don’t think that that’s likely to happen. So, I think it’s really more of a political question really than a legal question although there will certainly be some interesting legal responses from the federal government.

I hope that the federal government will figure out a way of harmonizing its laws with what’s coming from states because I think that this policy has proven ineffective and we knew that from prohibition but we somehow didn’t learn it back then. I think that the modern world is about to learn this lesson and it’s starting to happen. So, that’s why that is an important issue to think about but I don’t think it should be something that gives any pause to California voters for sure. I think that California should pass Proposition 19 and that will help bring on the beginning of the end which is already underway.

Dean Becker: It is indeed. You kind of sense that, I mean again, the major media from the high level stuff, The Washington Post today and The New York Times had another story about marijuana, I think that folks about my age were buying marijuana for their parents to treat their illness. When you get the mainstream, laying it out so cleanly really, as you say, I think the end is near.

You were talking about Cultural Baggage but the fact of the matter is I use the phrase that this Drug War has been handed down from one generation of politicians to the next as if it were the Ark of the Covenant and yet if people would just take the lid off of that they would see that there is no floor in that box. There is absolutely nothing in it.

You had another piece in The Orange County Register and well, let’s see, just a week ago, ten days ago or something that you co-wrote with Judge James P. Gray. He of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and now a retired Superior Court Judge out of Orange County. How was that received?

Hanna Dershowitz: I think it was received well. I didn’t get a lot of direct response to that but I think – I mean that piece was partly just to respond to some inaccurate claims that had been propounded about what the affects might be and the employment and the roadway context and I really don’t think that those arguments are very – are valid in any way but I think they were worthy of some discussion and the paper wanted to have both sides write something about it.

So, we talked about how this really will not be – the sky is not going to fall and we talked in terms of the roadways about how the problems of tomorrow are the problems of today. This is nothing new.

Nothing will change under Prop 19 in terms of the laws against driving under the influence of anything. We now that there are a lot of roadway hazards out there from texting to people driving while they’re exhausted or driving while intoxicated on alcohol or any other number of legal, illegal or just bad idea kinds of influences.

So, those are real questions. We do need to try to improve roadway safety as much as we can but there’s – I just don’t see how Proposition 19 one way or another will affect things, except for the fact that there are some technological solutions that maybe police departments will be more quick on the uptake to adopt.

Roadside cheek swabs that are being marketed, I know, by at least a dozen – maybe it’s not quite a dozen but a very large number of organizations already marketing products that can possibly offer an easier, quicker test for marijuana and not just metabolize what’s leftover in the body but actually marijuana – THC levels in the blood and so – excuse me, not just in the blood but in the check swab or the blood is another way to find that out.

I just – on the road safety, people need to be educated and make good choices and they do or they don’t irrespective of what the law says. We haven’t, however, seen an increase in roadway problems in states that have had medical marijuana or relaxed their laws on marijuana. So, there – it’s not really a correlation it’s just something that is being put out there to scare people.

I think people may be scared of roadway problems and they’re scared of texting and they’re scared of a lot of things but the question of whether marijuana is legal or illegal does not solve or ameliorate that problem anyway.

Dean Becker: No, it doesn’t. You know, it’s always been my contention that FEAR is what gives the Drug War life. Now, there is one other piece that you had recently, now about three weeks ago. It was on AlterNet, Why Parents Should Support Legalizing Pot.

We’ve been talking about that but there are several points contained within that I’d like to kind of list or go through before we close this out. You talk about rejecting ineffective and damaging policy.

Hanna Dershowitz: Yes.

Dean Becker: Go ahead.

Hanna Dershowitz: Sure. I think that partly because the policy is just wrong and it’s ineffective and it’s not helping our kids and partly because – I think you said something in the beginning about how important it is to be part of solving something that is this big of a problem with such a natural solution. We are in a situation right now of lawlessness and there is no control and kids have an easier time getting marijuana than they do getting alcohol.

So, how can we not try to fix that and try to improve that? How can we have an honest conversation with our kids and help them learn how to navigate into adulthood with judgment so they can – I feel like it’s important for me to teach my kids and I try to do this now. How to moderate their intake of sweets and later it will be caffeine and how to make good decisions about study and extra curricular activities.

I’m worried about them driving and there’s some questions I’ll have to teach them judgment on how they use the internet, about sex and yes, marijuana, prescription drugs and alcohol. Of course, it’s important for both private and public education to help teach our kids ways to manage the many, many things that they’re going to be exposed to.

Dean Becker: And tempted by.

Hanna Dershowitz: There is nothing in the prohibition of marijuana that keeps out kids from getting exposed to marijuana. So, I think that the most dangerous thing about marijuana today is jail. So, I hope that my kids never try marijuana. I hope that they don’t – I hope that they learn to make whatever judgments they’re going to make but I don’t think that we should be derailing people’s lives with the kinds of collateral consequences that we attach to marijuana arrests. I just don’t think that fosters good outcomes. I don’t think it helps us have reasonable and honest conversations with our youth. I don’t think it helps public safety.

Yet, by the way, if we legalize it and control it and regulate it, we can provide for possibly more control to access from kids and also we can use those tax revenues to shore up our crumbling institutions and invest in our communities and help our kids have options.

So, I just – I think that as a mother, one of the things I said in that piece is that I see my community work that I do in my neighborhood to improve the school lunches, to improve our parks and all of those things. I see those as – of a peace with my work on Proposition 19 and marijuana reform because I think as a mother that is just as much a part of what I’m improving community safety as is that other work in terms of parks and other things like that. So, I think that even though it may sound counterintuitive, legalizing marijuana makes things better and safer for our children.

Dean Becker: Alright, once again, we’ve been speaking with Hanna Dershowitz, co-chair of the Prop 19, legal sub-committee out there in California, wanting to legalize marijuana for adults twenty-one and over.

We’ve got just about thirty seconds left here. I know you work with the Women’s Marijuana Movement and they’ve been pretty gung ho, especially in the last week or so. Do you want to point folks towards that website? Or anywhere out on the web that you’d like folks to consider?

Hanna Dershowitz: I don’t have a website for that, I’m sorry but I can say that there’s going to be a rally in Sacramento on Wednesday that I am going to, to help raise that awareness but I will say women were instrumental again in bringing about the repeal of prohibition in the 1930s and I hope that women are instrumental again in ending modern day prohibition of marijuana. I hope that everybody will look for that organization. I’m sorry that I can’t give the URL but I think it’s – all these organizations of women supporting the legalization of marijuana reform are very important and will be instrumental as this movement keeps going.

Dean Becker: Alright, Hanna Dershowitz, thank you so much for being with us here on Cultural Baggage.

Hanna Dershowitz: Thank you so much for having me.


(Game show music)

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, Reyes syndrome and death.


Time’s up!

The answer: aspirin, another FDA approved product.


(Harmonica music)

The DEA’s a joker
The FDA’s a joke
The joke is on the USA
So why not take a poke.


(Action music, followed by emotional piano music)

On the impoverished streets of the inner city it is not uncommon to see poor souls that have thrown away all that was precious in their lives to feed their drug addiction. Homeless, jobless and hopeless.

A heroin junkie lies unconscious in an alley. A woman sells herself for a rock of crack. The only thing worse than the cold reality of these tragedies is the notion that we should legalize these activities.

Did you know that tobacco kills over 440,000 people every year? And alcohol claims the lives of over 75,000 each year? That’s over a half a million deaths per year on the two substances we HAVE legalized and those aren’t the two most dangerous substances.

Imagine the damage crack and heroin would do. Imagine the numbers for math and ecstasy in addition to the half a million for tobacco and alcohol. When you really sit down and weigh the options, you begin to realize what our politicians and legislatures have known for over a century.

Your freedom just isn’t worth it.

This has been Winston Frances with the Official Government Truth.


You gonna let 'em get it? It’s gonna be legal? You gonna let 'em get it? At least right now, we don’t let 'em get it but you’re gonna let 'em… get it. I don’t wanna let 'em get it.


Mary Jane Borden: Hello Drug Policy Aficionados, I’m Mary Jane Borden, editor of Drug War Facts.

Rather than answering a single question this week, I’m going to answer sixteen of them.

A new fact sheet is now available in the Marijuana chapter of Drug War Facts called Marijuana Facts from Drug War Facts. In .pdf format, listeners can find it at

It is fact [sheet] #2. This fact sheet provides answers to the sixteen most commonly asked questions about marijuana, many of which have been answered during these Drug Truth Network shows.

As typical on Drug War Facts, the answer to each question is referenced from credible sources, usually government data, clinical studies or think tank reports. Included with each fact is a direct quotation or numbers referenced directly from the source and then linked back to that source.

Mark Grey the Co-chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy, the organization that produces Drug War Facts, expressed the need for this fact sheet by stating, “The debate on whether to tax and regulate marijuana should be fact based, so that: 1) California can develop the most effective policy. It is too easy when it comes to marijuana for people to lose sight of what is true and what is false, what it myth and what is reality. We are providing this resource to the media to make sure that the debate remains elevated to fact based information.”

Listeners can download this new marijuana fact sheet for their own reference, to use as a handout at events, rallies, meetings and more. The fact sheet’s two pages can easily be printed front/back to make an easily to use one page flier.

Each fact in this new marijuana fact sheet can be found in the Marijuana, Drug Use or Gateway chapters of Drug War Facts at If you have a question for which you need facts, please email it to me at

I’ll try to answer your question in an upcoming show. So, remember when you need facts about drugs and drug policy you can get the facts at Drug War Facts.


Alright, I hope you enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage. Join us next week. Our guest will be Terrance Poppa. He’s author of a great book, Drug Lord. It tells about the horrors going on in Mexico.

On the Century of Lies show next week will be Allen Clear, Head of the Harm Reduction Coalition, talking about a conference that they are having next month in Austin, Texas.

Be sure to join us on our next Century of Lies show, which follows next on most of the Drug Truth Networks. Our guest will be Jim Brewer, author of I’m Not High. We’ll get a chance to hopefully hear his impression of Joe Pesci, the Goat Boy and maybe a little bit from his movie Half Baked.

Folks, you are the answer. You know that, you’ve got to act. You’ve got to do something. Take care of one other. I’ve been trying to take care of you and your kids. You’ve got to do your part, please. Again, I remind you 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.

Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.

Transcript provided by: Ayn Morgan of

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.