Cultural Baggage / November 07, 2010


(Country music)

War is peace. Peace through war
A hundred years of prohibition
Needs a hundred years more

We’ve gotta fund
The terrorists and gangs
To save the kids
We’ve got to do the same damn thing


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.


Alright my friends, welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We do have with us in studio, Mister Jerry Epstein. He’s one of the founding members of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas.

We’re going to be talking about a recent release through The Lancet, the a – perhaps the most prestigious medical journal on the planet, out of the UK, talking about the fact that alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all.

We’ll be talking about all that and more, but first, I wanted to share my thoughts about the failure of Prop 19 to legalize marijuana in California.

This is a Drug Truth Network editorial.

Politics in America is an irrational, costly and Orwellian pitfall, an eternal plunging of lemming citizens into the sea of desperation, which always leads to the otherworldly swelling of fat cat money bins.

Proposition 19’s failure to immediately launch pot legalization around the world is a result, not of obtuse wording or unwieldy mechanisms of control. It is the result of the failure of this nation’s politicians, media and populace to face reality.

They said, “You can’t legalize it? You gonna let ‘em get it? You can’t let ‘em get it. Won’t people get high and drive?”

They already drive a million miles after smoking cannabis with relatively few problems.

They say, “You won’t be able to tell if pot smokers are high.”

The problem lies in the Drug War addicts belief system, one of ignorance and unwarranted bliss. All the while, they display their pitiful fear like a badge and use their prejudice as a bludgeon.

So flowing their victory, they will drink another six-pack before throwing vast quantities of our treasury into their Drug War wishing well.

Children will have easier access to it. Under the current circumstance across America, all they have to do is pick up the phone and drugs will be delivered within the hour at a 17,000% mark up, benefiting the criminals, gangs and bloody Mexican cartels. We can’t let the gangs take over control.

Surely, these “NO” voting fools ever passed Economics 101. Legalization hurts the cartels and will, in effect, eliminate many US gangs altogether.

The $2 billion dollar swing to the California treasury is minimal?

Say that again next time you fire a thousand teachers and shutter dozens of public schools. Keep saying it to yourself, to protect your morals, your belief system and your fractured reality for another hundred years.

“NO” voters followed the Drug War addict leaders whose moral base is a lie, who wash up profits over the prophets.

Yes, sadly America has too many cowards supporting these leaders in eternal folly. We have too many fools, dreamers, charlatans and whores; those who know nothing but hatred and will eternally attempt to control the uncontrollable.

We can only hope that these Drug War addict leaders can continue to die off and that they do it rapidly. Then we can defeat their allies, the traffickers… at last.


Alright, I feel better. I got that out of my system. We do have with us in studio, as I said, Mister Jerry Epstein, one of the founding members of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Hello.

Jerry Epstein: Hi, how you Dean?

Dean Becker: I’m good, Jerry, with so much to talk about. Let’s begin with the fact that you just turned – returned from a retreat up in Austin, a gathering of the Drug Policy of Texas forum members. What did you guys discern? Where are you going?

Jerry Epstein: Well, we were mostly talking about the most effective ways to communicate the truths that you know about, to the public in an understandable fashion and still with the authority of science behind it.

We were working also on thinking about how this latest announcement about alcohol being the most dangerous drug dovetailes with some work that I am doing with the Baker Institute out at Rice [University].

We met with some additional people who were interested in our work including Miss Joy Strickland – Mrs. Joy Strickland, who is interested in trying to deal with the problem of teen violence.

Dean Becker: Yes.

Jerry Epstein: And it was an interesting conversation with her, in that she has been doing this work to try and fight teen violence since 1994 but it was only a few years ago that she read Judge Jim Gray’s book, which I know you’ve talked about and interviewed Judge Gray on the judge’s perspective on the Drug War.

She said a light bulb went off in her head and she realized how very much of teen violence was connected to the illegality of drugs and what we are doing to ourselves and to our children through prohibition.

Dean Becker: Yeah, it’s a – there’s no benefit to be discerned from this Drug War. It has no pay off, so to speak. Jerry, I know that you have been focusing on this issue of what you just spoke about; the fact that alcohol is the more dangerous drug and it’s just demonstrably provable. It’s just there, isn’t it?

Jerry Epstein: Well, I think it’s an arguable proposition and it was very pleasing – I mean, my personal opinion is that it is the most dangerous drug but it depends a great deal on what you choose the measure.

The interesting thing about this report is that unlike most of the previous rating systems, which still had alcohol very high and sometimes tied for first. This report did not just think about the effect the drug on the individual.

It looked at sixteen different factors and seven of those was the effect of the drug on other people. Ok, so alcohol now moves up in the rankings when you think of all the damage that it does to innocent people who are not involved with the drug and it’s – you know, we see it in things like – it is the drug most connected with fetal damage.

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: If we’re going to have somebody damaged very badly by the use of drugs during pregnancy, you know the worst one is going to be alcohol. That’s very clear.

Dean Becker: I was on the Time 4 Hemp program the other night, on election night and I was talking about the fact that I had been busted thirteen times in my life, eleven of them for being drunk with drugs in my pocket.

Jerry Epstein: Oh, ok.

Dean Becker: Since I’ve quit drinking, I have not had one bit of trouble with the law. I guess, to me, that underscores this whole thing about alcohol being the more dangerous. Your thoughts there?

Jerry Epstein: Ok, yeah. You always have to careful with drugs, just as you do with medicine. The same medicine doesn’t work the same for everybody. Everybody doesn’t work with the drugs. I drink alcohol and have never had any inclination, as most people do not.

If your DNA is such and your mental outlook or whatever it maybe – you know, I think that most of these things are, in fact, the factors that influence that are present at birth, a lot of circumstances and conditions but a lot of DNA.

When we worry about obesity, we don’t ask if you prefer pizza or fried chicken or whatever it may be or donuts. But, we seem to be obsessed with the idea that if you have something that’s responsive to a particular drug that, that suddenly makes that drug the worst drug. Well, it’s certainly not and so that’s a partial answer to what you were saying.

Dean Becker: Well, you know, fair enough. Jerry, I see you have a sheet there with some of the statistics that were released with this report. As I said earlier was published in The Lancet, a major medical journal. there in the UK. It was headed up by the former head of their drug commission, Professor David Nutt, who was fired for speaking truthfully, if I dare say, right?

Now, share some of this info with us, Jerry.

Jerry Epstein: Yeah, well, as I said, I had only given it to you a partial answer to what you said. In general, you can talk about drugs as they normally influence people or are most likely to produce bad results and alcohol is the one that gives us problems.

One of the things that BBC did, who first announced it, the study to the UK did was talk about – was talk to physicians in the emergency rooms.

Dean Becker: Um, hum.

Jerry Epstein: Ok. So, I happen to have here a Doctor Lawrence Chuter who was very – he’s in control of the emergency situations and he says that 75-80% of the problems were alcohol related.

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: Ok and when they said, “What is the rest of the problems?” Well, they were related to old age and they were related to children doing – who are at a very young age and he said it was very occasional that he ever had a problem with the illegal drugs that he had to address. But, he did occasionally.

Dean Becker: Well, then again, it’s going to happen. True.

Jerry Epstein: Sure. So, at any rate what they did was consider these sixteen different factors based on the experience of people in the UK and all the government statistics, as it relates to that.

Some of the things were difficult for the people but the overall rating was that alcohol was clearly rated as number one. Heroin and crack cocaine were rated almost together, heroin second and crack third but very close. Meth and coke – methamphetamine and cocaine were then four and five. Eighth on the list was marijuana.

Dean Becker: Um, hum.

Jerry Epstein: Quite a bit down. If you want some very approximate ratios that they came up with and remember these are not your – but 72 out of 100 was the harm rating for alcohol, whereas, heroin and crack were in the 50s. Meth and cocaine were around 30 and marijuana was around 20 or 18, some 20 I think it was.

Dean Becker: And underneath that were psilocybin and LSD and –

Jerry Epstein: There were twenty drugs rated of which marijuana was eighth and also part of the rating had to do with how popular the drug is.

Dean Becker: Hm.

Jerry Epstein: So, the first thing is you are going to expect is that alcohol is going will get a high number for the fact that there are so many alcohol abusers around.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Jerry Epstein: And because marijuana is used by so many more people than the other illicit drugs, it’s going to receive a relatively high but even then I couldn’t catch heroin or cocaine.

We have two million people in the Unites States who use large amounts of marijuana and also use large amounts of alcohol at the same time.

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: Ok, so that’s a lot of people that can show up in statistics who have this joint problem. Ha!

Dean Becker: Ha! Is that a pun?

Jerry Epstein: Yeah. (Laughs) I didn’t mean it but I got it.

Dean Becker: We’re speaking with Jerry Epstein of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Jerry, you mentioned earlier that crack smokers were pretty much going to be smoking cigarettes as well and there’s also a preponderance, almost universal that those doing – that alcoholics – that those doing cocaine tend to be alcoholics at the same time.

Jerry Epstein: A very strong tendency, in fact, it’s unusual to find a cocaine addict who is not fairly heavily involved – very heavily involved with alcohol. I always think back to Dennis Hopper, who used many drugs in large quantities and he said the reason he used so much cocaine was that it helped him stay awake so he could drink more alcohol. (Laughs)

Dean Becker: Well…

Jerry Epstein: There may be something to that with a few people, actually.

Dean Becker: Well, this is true. Jerry, I have some experience talking about this. I’ve interviewed two or three of the authors of Marijuana is Safer, So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? There’s a strong relationship, isn’t there?

Jerry Epstein: Yes, absolutely. I mean, that was the entire point of their book was simply to say, do we have the right to stop people who would like to use some drug recreationally and most people use their alcohol recreationally, of course. Why should we deprive people of using a safer drug?

As you implied earlier, Dean, about your own experiences, we’re getting more and more anecdotal reports that many people use marijuana to away from the excessive use of more dangerous drugs, often alcohol. So, it may be that we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot by not having that option.

One of the very interesting things that came out of the 1973 marijuana – the National Commission on Marijuana that President Nixon put together was a statement, which essentially said drug use is good. I thought, that’s a pretty big eye opener from a national commission. What did they mean?

What they said was, that drug use should be what we think of when people use a drug but do not harm anyone else. Something else, harmful drug use is a different matter. So, they said that the very essence of using a drug was that it made, for whatever reasons, whether we liked it or agreed with it or not, it made the user happy.

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: So, the next question was, well, did it harm someone else? They said, if it didn’t that we should in salute to the concept of individual liberty, in a free society, say, Good.”

You’re happy and if I have – should have the same freedoms whatever they might be to do whatever individually I can do, which reminded me in turn of Thomas Jefferson who used to say, “If you don’t break my leg and you don’t take my purse, it’s none of the government’s business.” (Laughs)

Dean Becker: (Laughs)

Jerry Epstein: This is pretty much on the same thing. We were talking earlier about the crack baby situation.

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: Ok, the initial problem was revealed and a wonderful doctor named [Claire] Coles, at Emory University, then decided to duplicate the work that seemed to indicate a problem and she did so very scrupulously and found that out there wasn’t a problem.

So, now she was able to talk to her other colleges around the country and say, “Check me out. Check that out and let’s see if we’ve got this right.”

So, ultimately, they were confident and they published, No Relax. Ok?

Dean Becker: Uh, Hum.

Jerry Epstein: She said in her entire career, she never received so much hate mail as she did from people for announcing, “Relax.” (Laughs)

Dean Becker: (Laughs)

Jerry Epstein: Now, she came with good news and people just vilified her and of course, she was tight the whole time. She was a very highly – and is a very highly respected researcher at Emory in Georgia.

Dean Becker: Well, alright folks –


(Game show music)

– It’s time to play: Name That Drug By It’s Side Effects

Headache, unexplained muscle pain or weakness, allergic reactions, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or throat, difficulty in breathing, rash, hives, joint pain, liver problems, nausea, inflammation of the pancreas and gall bladder.


Time’s up!

The answer: Vytorin, from Merck-Schering Plow chemicals and pharmaceuticals, a Singapore company LLC, for high cholesterol.


(Marching band music)

It’s time to lock up Willie
Mayor Bloomberg, Tim Lincecom
It’s time to lock up Bill Gates
Obama, Gore Clinton
Soon there’ll be a hundred million
Of us toking up in jail
Goodbye constitution
Farewell freedom, oh so fair


The following is taken from a press conference following the failure of Prop 19 to pass. The speaker is Doctor Ethan Nadelmann, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Ethan Nadelmann: Yeah, I was among those would initially tried to discourage Richard Lee, the key champion of this initiative, back a year and a half ago from going forward in 2010. We said wait until 2012. There will be more young people at the polls and there will be a chance of winning, etc, etc.

I have to say that I called Richard a couple of weeks ago and I said, “you know something, win or lose, you were right, because even if this thing does not prevail on election day, the transformation in the public dialog, not just in California but nationally and even internationally has been nothing short of stupendous.”

There is a sense that the debate around marijuana legalization, the argument for it has been elevated and legitimized.

You look at what happened in Colombia just a week or two ago where president Santo was at a summit with four other Latin American presidents made this the number one issue on the agenda. You look at the ways in which it provides the opportunity for leaders in Latin America to say that we need a broader discussion.

Look at the way that it’s no longer just Ron Paul or Barney Frank saying that they support legalizing marijuana but it’s members of the delegation of California and politicians popping out and saying this.

It’s members of the state legislature. It’s the labor unions. It’s the civil rights organizations. It’s the California NAACP. It’s the Latino and Black Police Officer’s Association.

There’s been a transformation in the public dialog and media coverage unlike anything that has ever before happened on the marijuana issue. So, in all of these respects, even though Prop 19 lost by a few points yesterday, it was a major, major victory.

I also want to say this, if you look at the percenta that voted. Prop 19 got more votes than Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. Each of whom spent vast fortunes to try and get themselves elected.

So, this was a very, very significant showing. Getting forty-six point something percent was way better than many of us expected. It was really an enormous success. One can also say that there was actually one hard victory that came out of this.

Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a whole bunch of very sensible drug policy reform bills on issues like needle exchange and overdose prevention but he did sign one bill, that was the one introduced by the liberal state Senator Martin Landau, that would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to down to an infraction, more or less like a traffic fine, making it a non-arrestable offense. That’s very significant in California where 61,000 people were arrested last year for marijuana possession, triple the number that were arrested twenty years ago.

Schwarzenegger almost certainly have not signed that bill if but for the fact that Prop 19 was on the ballot and but for the fact that he wanted to undermine Prop 19’s momentum by signing that. But that turns out to be a very, very hard victory.


Dean Becker: We’re speaking with Jerry Epstein of the Drug Forum Policy of Texas. You know earlier, you were asking me about the TV spots, about the alcohol versus other drugs and how it had gained fairly wide acceptance. I think that another reason why that was now presented in a more straightforward manner is that Prop 19 over the last several months has opened up this dialog about the Drug War, in general, and has allowed more forthrightly. You response here?

Jerry Epstein: I think that everything that you just played from Ethan Nadelmann summed up that situation so well. Dean, we’ve had a terrific sea change in the openness of everyone to discuss these things.

At the top of our home page, there’s a cross, a grave. It’s symbolic of all of the innocent people that have been killed in the Drug War. It, however, is the actual photograph of the grave of Ezekiel Hernandez. Zeke was a teenager, heading goats in his own backyard in Redford, Texas and they thought he was a drug dealer. They shot and killed him, right in his own backyard.

We also have the story of a Christian missionary, Ronnie Bowers.

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Jerry Epstein: And how she was flying in South America and a CIA monitoring operation mistook her, not for a missionary distributing bibles but somebody distributing drugs and they shot down her airplane and killed her.

Dean Becker: And her baby.

Jerry Epstein: And her infant child, Charity.

It also cut down her husband and her other child but they amazingly lived through it, so yeah, well, it’s a little – it’s just very painful to know the people that die. Then you see, what this is all about.

You just have to ask yourself, how do you weigh the misery of becoming the country that is the leading jailer in the free world?

Dean Becker: Right.

Jerry Epstein: Calling all these things behind in the land of the free.

Dean Becker: Calling ourselves the land of the free. Yeah.

Jerry Epstein: Yes. It’s so painful.

Dean Becker: It is. Now Jerry, your military service gives you a little more credence in making that call I think, as well. You served your country.

Jerry Epstein: I did. I did. I served. I tell the story actually. I went to Rice [University], where I majored in history and the same day that I graduated, which by the way; let me know what this country was like when all these drugs were legal.

Dean Becker: Uh, hum.

Jerry Epstein: Which was no different then it is today.

Dean Becker: Ok, a small percentage.

Jerry Epstein: Right. So at any rate, the same day that I graduated, I was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps and served for three years. In all that time, I’d lived in alcohol cultures. I lived in the alcohol culture of high school and the alcohol culture of college and the alcohol culture of the Marine Corps which was “alcohol squared.” (Laughs)

Dean Becker: (Laughs) Ok.

Jerry Epstein: And then came back. Dean, in my life, I had never seen marijuana. Ok, I’m coming back out of the Marine Corps in 1962.

I had never seen marijuana. Well, I went to work for IBM and now later I decided to go back to graduate school in the seventies.

So, I get on to the campus of U of H [University of Houston] and later and the University of St. Thomas and half the alcohol is gone because all the grad students are smoking marijuana. The whole campuses were just flooded with it by that time.

Dean Becker: Sure.

Jerry Epstein: So, what that did, I was actually getting a Masters in Sociology at U of H and we have what’s called Ethnographic Studies. This is the thing where you go talk to everybody that does whatever it is that you are interested in and here I had unintentionally blundered onto this living laboratory of getting watch thousands of occasions on which marijuana was being used, opposed to alcohol or in relationship to what I knew about alcohol.

It was so eye opening to see how better behaved and how more pleasant gatherings were under the influence of marijuana than of alcohol. So, that’s one of the things in the background. Then, as we started seeing people put in prison and we got to Lee Otis. They wanted to put them in prison for one joint and all that sort of thing.

Dean Becker: Thirty years. He got sentenced for thirty years for that joint.

Jerry Epstein: So, the entire Drug War has just left me with a sick feeling in my stomach ever since.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’ve been speaking with Mister Jerry Epstein, a founding member of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas. Jerry, do you have any closing thoughts? Be sure to once again remind folks of your website.

Jerry Epstein: The website is or or, either way it works.

Get out there and make a change, folks. Thank you.


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

This week’s question asks: How large is the US prison population?

According to the April 2010 report from the Pew Center on the States, “Survey data indicates that as of January 1, 2010, there were 1,404,053 persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, 4,777 (or 0.3 percent) fewer than there were on December 31, 2008. This marks the first year-to-year drop in the state prison population since 1972.”

However, the report goes on to say that, "In this period, however, the nation’s total prison population increased by 2,061 people because of a jump in the number of inmates under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The federal count rose by 6,838 prisoners (or 3.4 percent) in 2009, to an all-time high of 208,118.”

Added together, total state and federal prisoners now equal 1.6 million.

The Pew Center then added local jail inmates to the state and federal prisoners to conclude, “the overall incarcerated population has reached an all-time high, with 1 in 100 adults in the United States living behind bars.”


Dean Becker: We’re flat out of time. You can hear that full report from Mary Jane Borden on this Tuesday’s 420 Drug War News. You can check out more information at

Be sure to join us on next week’s program when our guest will be Brendan Kiley. He’s a reporter for The Stranger in Seattle. He’s written a massive opinion piece about the Drug War, tracing its history, tracing its outcome and just basically tracing the horror and futility of it all.

I’m going to try for at least one more week to see if I can’t garner an interview with Professor David Nutt, the UK scientist, who was sacked for speaking the truth. No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose.

As always, I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. So, 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.