Cultural Baggage, October 1, 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 eddition of cultural baggage. Things are getting back to normal here at the mothership city. Most of us have electricity, I've got internet. I've got the ability to contact friends and the ability to put together another great show here. We are privileged to have with us today, Officer David Bratzer. He is a working law enforcement officer in Canada and I'm going to bring him on right now and let him tell you more about the work he does. Are you with us Dave?
David Bratzer: Hi Dean, thanks for having me on your show.
Dean Becker: David, thank you so much for being with us. We've had quite a trauma here at the mothership city with Hurricane Ike, but it's almost back to normal. Sadly, that kind of applies to the law enforcement situation here. In many ways Houston leads the world in its incarceration rate, primarily for microscopic amounts of drugs. How are things stacking up in Canada these days?
David Bratzer: In Canada it's a different story. I think in general law enforcement, the judiciary and other branches of government are more tolerant to drug use. But at the same time, drug addicts certainly do find themselves going to jail for nonviolent drug offenses, and it is something that does add to our prison population.
Dean Becker: Well, David you come from a family involved in law enforcement. Tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you into becoming a peace officer.
David Bratzer: I'm a constable in Victoria, which is on the West side of Canada, and both of my older brothers, half brothers, are police officers in the same department; one is a 5 year member and the other is a 10 year member. So I did a lot of different things in my life: Trained as an air traffic controller, taught English oversees, went to university. But when it came time to settle down, I moved back to Victoria and spoke to my brothers about policing, it is kind of a family affair, and decided that's what I wanted to do.
Dean Becker: We have in the United States, I think just an outrageous situation. The number of marijuana arrests continues to climb. It's almost 900,000 per year now. Yet our solving of more violent crimes, rape, murder, is going down. They are unable to solve more of these type crimes because I guess they are focusing too much on these minor crimes. Your thoughts on that?
David Bratzer: I think that's a great argument for ending drug prohibition. By the way, I want your viewers to know that I am here as a private civilian, on my off duty time. While I have let my department know about my interests in drug reform, it is something that I do on my own time, and doesn't represent my department necessarily. Those marijuana arrests are very easy from a policing point of view.
Dean Becker: Pot stinks.
David Bratzer: Right. It's not hard to find these marijuana users out there. I think if you look at the public harm that marijuana causes it's very low compared to other kinds of crime, particularly, violent crimes. And so, I would like to see politicians and legislatures change these laws so that marijuana is legalized and regulated. So police agencies can focus on more serious crimes.
Dean Becker: David, I was reading in your profile that one of things that brought you to your current understanding was a case where a guy was a pig farmer who was grabbing prostitutes off the street and killing them, perhaps a couple of dozen, and the wasted manpower on the drug power, when you could have caught that guy earlier. Tell us about that case.
David Bratzer: He was a pig farmer in the Vancouver area. Vancouver's east side is an area renowned for drug use and prostitution. For years these drug addicted street workers were just vanishing from the streets. It took a long time for police to figure out what was happening. He was a serial killer. And the police got him. Good for them because I think it was a very difficult investigation. But at the same time, I don't believe that women should be forced into street prostitution in order to pay for a drug addiction. I think that we should view that as a medical problem. There are a lot of different models we could treat that medical problem. Prescription heroin and other kinds of things. But if we use these different models instead of prosecuting these women, then you could make the argument that some or all of these women might still be alive today.
Dean Becker: Once again, we are speaking with David Bratzer, a working police officer out of Canada. David, I want to address this thought that they are paying the high prices in many ways for these drugs. Not just with prohibition-escalated prices, but in other ways, by being ostracized, cast off by the norm of society. And I want to reach back, here in the U.S., back in 1913, before the passing of the Harrison Narcotics act, Bayer heroin sold at the drug store on the same shelf and for the same price as Bayer aspirin. We have created this problem, have we not?
David Bratzer: Well I agree with you and there are lots of studies that show that the price of drugs has vastly inflated, literally of thousands of percentage points more than it would be on a regulated market in a legal environment. Now what does this do to our crime rates if someone is addicted to hard drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, has to spend all that money to buy their drugs? That money has to come from somewhere and usually its property crime or violent crime, such as robbery.
Dean Becker: And prostitution, in too many instances. We've seen it over the years here in the U.S. where just a small faction, a group of zealots I'd say, manage to ratchet up the rhetoric and the propaganda and manage to maintain the drug war. Whereas I think, even in the United States, the majority realizes that the drug war is not working. Am I right in that's how it's done in Canada as well.
David Bratzer: I'm just a cop on the street, and I don't necessarily know where all this came from. I'm not a very political person, actually. I don't really view the drug war as a right or left wing issue. In the States you have famous American conservatives, like William Buckley, who supported an end to drug prohibition. I agree with you, I think more people are taking a stand and realizing that this war on drugs is the wrong approach. If anything this is a medical issue and that's how we have to focus on it. But in terms of the politics, you know I think it certainly is good politics for some people in the sense that it makes them look tough on crime. What people need to realize is this is a very complex area of public policy and to take a black and white stand, and say that all illegal drugs should be banned and that everybody who uses any kind of drug is terrible, that's just the wrong approach to make.
Dean Becker: I agree with you, David. I get to speak once a month for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Have you had a chance to do any speaking for them up there?
David Bratzer: This is my first time, actually. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a great organization. When I was looking for a place to voice my concerns about drug prohibition, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition was one of the first websites I found. It was very important to me as an active duty police officer to attach myself to a credible organization, so I followed this organization for about a year and did a lot of research about this group. I'm really happy that I joined this group. I think it's important that when you are speaking out about an issue such as drug policy, which is very, like you mentioned, your viewpoint can be bent and twisted by a small group of people for their own political purposes, it's important to have a credible group behind you and I think LEAP is a credible group.
Dean Becker: I have to agree. We speak to fraternal groups and churches and schools, but more and more we are being called upon by government regulatory agencies. It shows the caliber and leadership of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Let me ask you, how big a community are you in?
David Bratzer: The city of Victoria, the region including the suburbs, is about 350,000 people.
Dean Becker: So there are drug problems and users that you encounter.
David Bratzer: Absolutely, It takes up a lot of our time as a police officer. Victoria probably has the nicest climate of all of Canada so we have lots of nice weather. We have a very large street population in our downtown; they estimate 1500-2000 homeless people and IV drug addicts. So that's pretty big when you consider the actual city, downtown area is only about 80,000 people. so you have a police department that is dealing with 2000 homeless people and drug addicts in a city proper of 80,000 people.
Dean Becker: I want to preface this with a thought. In Houston, when cops encounter white kids with microscopic amounts of drugs, or a gram of marijuana, they often pour it out, lecture them and send them on their way. And I guess that's a bit of discretion, if you will, though it's biased. Is it allowed in Victoria to nuance the approach to these situations?
David Bratzer: Absolutely, police officers in Canada and broadly across the country do have discretion when it comes to not just drug charges but other charges in general. I think that's a positive thing for police, because in truth every situation is different. The reason you are paying that person is to make a wise decision in each situation to make the best course of action. Some times a criminal charge may be appropriate, in certain circumstances, but a lot of times you can use discretion. You can not charge at all. You can make them write a letter. There are lots of different ways to go about solving a problem without charging someone criminally.
Dean Becker: Here in the U.S. We have another dire situation where local police officials can bust somebody, confiscate their property, their money, their cars, perhaps. And through a system they route it through the federal government and get back 80 percent of the proceeds.
David Bratzer: I've heard a little bit about that. I was just down in Washington at a seminar and was in Phoenix for a training, so talking to some of the American police officers, I have heard a little bit about that. We have some civil forfeiture program in my providence in British Columbia and I think it probably works different that down in the States. You can basically as I understand it you have to apply for a court order first to seize certain assets, civilly and once it is ordered you can go and seize those assets. But you can't necessarily seize the assets first and just hold on to them. It's a new program in my providence and it's not as widespread as it is in the States. I think it's actually quite common in the U.S.? If I understand that correctly.
Dean Becker: Yes, sir. Now, Karen Tandy, she's now the former head of the DEA, she was quoted about a year ago as saying that The DEA is the only government administration that almost pays for itself, because they had confiscated about a billion and half dollars through this forfeiture situation.
David Bratzer: It's funny too because when you talk about ending drug prohibition and programs like methadone and needle exchange and prescription heroin and people say things like: “I don't want to pay for people's drug addiction.” The truth is, whether or not the DEA recoups some costs, I think we all pay for the costs of the drug war, whether we realize it or not, through the effects of property crime, gang violence, the cost of our police budget. The fact is, we all pay for the drug war.
Dean Becker: When I introduce myself at most speaking events, I say that I want to kill Osama's cash cow, I want to eliminate the reason why most of these violent street gangs exist, I want to destroy the violent cartels and paramilitary south of the border, I want to eliminate most drug overdose death, curtail drug abuse, crime and addiction. And it's embraced 90 percent, 100 percent some days. People understand at last I think that we've just been fooled all these years. Am I right?
David Bratzer: I think absolutely you're right. You always need to be cautious. I certainly support incremental change toward legalization and regulation. I think Law Enforcement Against Prohibition supports that as well. You can't change all the policies overnight. Even when you end the drug prohibition, we are still going to have problems to deal with; it's not just going to be a Utopian solution. In many respects, it's just the beginning of an effort to properly treat drug addiction. I do look forward to all the different crimes that would be reduced or eliminated if we lift prohibition.
Dean Becker: Or solved.
David Bratzer: Or solved, absolutely. I also recognize that there are still going to be a lot of other issues after the end of drug prohibition that law enforcement and society are still going to have to deal with.
Dean Becker: You are absolutely right. We will always have a drug problem, there will always be a wild child out there wanting to stretch the limits. We just have to find a different solution for dealing with those folks. Most folks just grow out of the proclivity to use drugs at 25 or age 30. They are done with it.
David Bratzer: I think so and you know if you look at politicians and public officials and Police officers as well, people in bureaucratic positions in government, many of them have experimented with drugs in their youth. If you look at the presidential candidates for either party, I believe Barack Obama has admitted to using cocaine and marijuana and he's running for president of the United States, so this is pretty common and many people do stop using drugs just on their own.
Dean Becker: I have some friends here in Houston who would tell you that George Bush is indeed a walking billboard for some type of success after a strong history of drug use.
David Bratzer: I don't know about that, but I do know that many politicians in the States and up here in Canada. There is a long track record of politicians experimenting with drugs and moving on to a very successful life in whatever life they choose.
Dean Becker: We've been speaking with Mr. David Brazter a police officer from the Victoria, Canada area. I thank you for being with us. David you'll have to come visit us again.
David Bratzer: Thank you, Dean and thanks for having me on your show.
It's time to play Name That Drug by its Side Effects!
Disruptive effect on heart and blood flow, kidney disease, gout, upset stomach and ulcers.
Times up: the answer, from the manufacturer: Pepto Bismal. Heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea. Pepto.
Poppy gate: Bizarre news about the U.S. policy on controlling heroin, Featuring Glen Greenway
Glen Greenway: The hot topic this week is the U.S. economy. America's GDP is approximately 13 trillion dollars and Washington is preparing to bail out the U.S. economic sector with a $700 billion infusion of taxpayer money. The GDP of occupied Afghanistan, at least half of which is directly related to narco-trafficking represents only about 1 percent of the proposed U.S bail out package.
However, Afghanistan $4 billion narco-economy generates hundreds of billions of dollars in prohibition, price-supported profits to western nations, including the U.S. In a very real sense, Afghanistan heroin is already bailing out western financial markets. NACO supreme commander, U.S. General John Craddock is calling for the allies to target Afghanistan's clandestine heroin laboratories. Citing the UN's estimate that $100 million in drug profits is being channeled to the Taliban each year. One hundred million dollars represents only 1/10,000th of the proposed Wall Street Bail out plan.
Furthermore, critics point out that a heroin laboratory can be re-established in as little as 36 hours. The U.S. chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, comments on the Afghan-narco bonanza, “the profits from that crop are feeding that fight and the extension is, they are killing our Americans and killing our coalition partners and killing Afghan soldiers and citizens.” A recent article in the Washington Post, entitled, “As crime in creases in Kabul, so does nostalgia for the Taliban.”
The article states “more and more, people look back to the era of harsh Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, describing it as a time of security and peace.” Next week the Oprah Winfrey show and ABC's Nightline will dedicate programming to the epidemic of heroin affecting small communities in Ohio. Finally, opium tea is being marketed in Huntington, WV and a man in Santa Cruz, California has been arrested for manufacturing opium beer. This is Glen Greenway reporting for the Drug Truth Network.
Dean Becker: Well, my friends, the Drug Truth Network is now 7 years old, and to celebrate that fact, here is the latest DTN production, of a country version of eternal war.
[Bright country-rock musical accompaniment]
If they stop Afghanistan from growing opium,
And they cut down the Columbian cocaine,
When Mexico runs out of marijuana,
They think that we will stop getting high.
But the drug store on the corner is standing by.
Cut me loose, set me free
Judge what I do, not what I put inside of me.
Why do you pick my pocket?
Just let me light my rocket
Who died and made you the boss of me
Get out of my life, let me be
Phiser and Merck kill more of us
Then the cartels traffick ever could
They beg us for our silence
And the chance to do it ever more
Drugs, the first eternal war
Cut me loose, set me free
Judge what I do, not what I put inside of me.
Why do you pick my pocket?
Just let me light my rocket
Who died and made you the boss of me
Get out of my life, let me be
Are we just peasants in the field?
Let's stand for truth
Or forever kneel
Every 16 seconds we hear the slamming door
And we owe it all to eternal war
The first eternal war.
Dean Becker: Let us celebrate day 34,587 of being led to salvation by our dear drug czars.
Tens of millions of witches arrested. Thousands have died from our black market drugs. Orphans of prisoners will be our next harvest. In the name of God we will ever march on.
Monsters and demons using powders and potions, must be stopped no matter the cause. Kneel down and pray for the new inquisition. Pray for success of the new dark age. All this in the name of God.
Terry Nelson: This is Terry Nelson from LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. The headlines from the justice department scream that 175 members from the Mexican drug cartel have been arrested or indicted. I'm a retired federal officer that has dedicated service to my country. I've seen first hand the harm that drugs can do. I now serve on the board of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of more than 10,000+ members that believe that the war on drugs is a colossal public policy failure and we must pursue a different policy if we ever hope to make progress. I joined LEAP, because it's an organization that understands that we must regulate and control the distribution of dangerous drugs and to regulate and control something it must be legal.
Drugs are too dangerous to be left in the hands of drug gangs and criminal cartels. I, like others, wanted to believe that we could win the war on drugs against the powerful cartels and I have read the story too times before. I've heard the mantra that if we can just bust this leader or that leader, or make producing the crop too expensive so we can break the backs of the cartel.
But 40 years later and tens of thousands of arrested leaders and millions of arrested distributors and users, and we're spending over 5 billion dollars on Plan Columbia, we're still supporting a failed public policy. For those of you who keep count, this war has cost taxpayers over a trillion dollars and counting. What do we have to show for it except for prisons bursting at the seams, cheap and available potent drugs, and an estimated 900,000 teenagers selling drugs?
Of course, I wanted the policy to work, and I spent 30 years of my life supporting it. But as Einstein reportedly said, to continue doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity. I'm no Einstein, just a simple country boy. But I do know that what we've been doing is not working and we need to come up with a different solution to our drug problem.
We at LEAP believe that education and treatment could work. We know that the system of arrest and incarceration doesn't work. After these gangs are allegedly broken up, the violence begins and when the balance abates, we have a new gang in charge, and a five year investigation, involving hundreds of officers and tens of thousands of man hours begins again. This policy does not work and will not work. We must change the policy and have new thinking. LEAP believes that a policy of regulation and control, coupled with education and treatment, is the most humane approach to our nation's drug problem. This is Terry Nelson at LEAP at www.leap.cc. Signing off.
Dean Becker: Ok, please join us on next week's Century of Lies, our guest will be Susan Boyd, author of Witches to Crack Moms. Cultural Baggage will feature Ryan King of the Sentencing Project. You guys got to do your part. Let's end this madness of drug war and always, I remind you that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in the 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.