12/22/17 Bill Martin

Professor William Martin Dir of James A Baker Drug Policy at Rice, Wash Rep Roger Goodman on failure of drug war + Tulia Defense Atty Jeff Blackburn

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TRANSCRIPT

CULTURAL BAGGAGE

DECEMBER 22, 2017

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection, and the liars whose support for drug war empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason for existence to tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

As 2017 draws to a close, I thought I would bring back some of my more illustrious and longtime allies in trying to end this drug war. Let us begin.

It's that time of year when we all kind of reflect on the, what's happened over the last year, perhaps what will happen in the coming years, and that's kind of what I do here on the Drug Truth Network, is to examine the drug war, where it's been, what it's done, and try to project where it might go, where it might ought to go.

I work with a great group of friends, associates, within the Baker Institute at Rice University, and the gentleman who heads up this effort is Professor William Martin. He's a Fellow in Religion and Public Policy at the Baker Institute. He directs the Institute's Drug Policy Program. His areas of research and writing focus on two major issues: the political implications of religion, and the ways to reduce the harms associated with both drug abuse and drug policy. And with that, I want to welcome my friend, Professor William Martin. Hello, Mister Martin.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Hello, Dean, it's good to talk with you again.

DEAN BECKER: You know, I'm going to use the phrase Bill, because you are my friend, and I appreciate this alliance. It's been some years back that you guys invited me to be a part of this effort, to be a contributor to the gathering of information, because that's what you have done. Right, Bill?

WILLIAM MARTIN: That's correct. I've known about you since -- I've known about your radio programs and the, and just really thought that the collection, the recordings themselves, and the transcripts of them, just such a valuable thing, and I know you have it on a website, but we wanted to be part of that and have part of that on our Baker Institute drug policy website as well, because that will bring in a different set of people, and it also provides a, will provide a continuing resource for people, an archive for people in the future, and I think it will be used increasingly in the future.

And, what I've been working on, just as you know, I mean, your book, To End The War On Drugs, draws on at least a hundred of those interviews over the years, and is very, very helpful. And I've just done something, as you are well aware, that draws on some much more recent ones, that's quite pertinent to what's going on in Houston, and I think it can have influence throughout the country.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. It's titled up, Houston Leaders On Drug Reforms, that's the link on the Baker website, but, well, I'm kinda patting myself on the back, but what does this contain, sir?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, this, the full name of it is Houston Area Law Enforcement Leaders Favor Drug Policy Reform, but that's a little long to put right on the first -- front of the website. But, it's an issue brief, that's one of the kinds of publications we have, not very long, but packed with information.

And this one, what I've done is to, I was very much impressed with the interviews that you have done over the years, as I said, but particularly in the last couple of years, when you started -- well, going back to 2014, when you interviewed police chief Charles McClelland. And in 2014, you did an interview with him that went national, perhaps international, when he acknowledged that the war on drugs was an -- quoting from this article, which I'll talk about in a moment, "Most of us who are law enforcement executives believe that the war on drugs, the 1980s drug policies, was a miserable failure. There's no doubt about that."

Well, that got a lot of attention, a lot of attention to your program and a lot of attention to Chief McClelland, and to have a chief of the fourth largest city in America say, you know, what we've been doing is wrong. And, interestingly, while that got a lot of attention, I don't think it got a lot of flack for him. And that brought other people -- was helpful in bringing other people to say, it's okeh to speak out in favor of sensible policies.

And then, you interviewed then-candidate for the district attorney Kim Ogg, and then later, after she was elected, you interviewed her again, and probably will, I'm certain will again, and the new Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, and the Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. And listening to those interviews, and reading the transcripts, it was really remarkable how much they agreed, and how that, all the major law enforcement officials in Houston and Harris County are essentially on the same page.

The differences among them are very slight. And that's, I thought that was -- you know, I thought the people that, our constituency and other people need to know about this. So, I did, I looked at these interviews, which you did, and in the very first sentence we give you credit for that, and you certainly deserve it. My title is compiled and edited, but it's clear that you are the one that's responsible for these interviews. And we very much value your contribution to our program, and to drug policy reform.

But, what I've done with this issue brief is to look at various aspects of drug policy as it has, where it's failed, and as it has -- what they're now putting out there, as letting people know what's going on in Houston and Harris County, and hoping that will have a wider influence.

DEAN BECKER: Just last week, I, well a couple of weeks back, I interviewed two of those former law enforcement officials, Charles McClelland and Clarence Bradford. And they both complimented me, they both, I don't even know how to say it, underscored what they had previously said, and now that they're not wearing the badge, were even more willing to speak of that need for change.

And, I felt the, I don't know, I guess it was a compliment, I think it was Clarence Bradford who told me, I don't know what you did, some sort of voodoo or something, but you were able to change the mindset of law enforcement here in Houston. And that, to me, was just a huge compliment. Your response there, Bill.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, I think -- I think you have really played a role in that, and Kim Ogg has said publicly, and on your program, that you helped change her mind, and commended you for bringing this to the, you know, public's attention through the program. Rodney Ellis said something of the same sort, I know, that he was commending you, said you're helping get that out there, and, then both of them have spoken well about the freedom of the media, and the importance of the media, not to just fall in line with, you know, what's maybe, the common un-wisdom, but to go ahead and look at things, listen to competing voices. And I think, I feel like, sometimes, like you, I can be optimistic.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

WILLIAM MARTIN: But, I feel like that, not so much this particular publication, but the unanimity among -- the unanimity among our leading officials that this publication highlights, can, it possibly signals a significant breakthrough, certainly in our city, which I think the elections have already indicated that, and then, in the state, and perhaps beyond that.

DEAN BECKER: It seems that the rate of change is chomping at the bit, for lack of a better way to put it, that there are many people who know this truth and have been holding back for fear of being ostracized, demonized, losing an election, whatever. But, that fear is dissipating. Your thought there, professor.

WILLIAM MARTIN: I think -- I think that's true, and I was just thinking about the ways in which it has moved from a, you know, from locally to nationally. Here, our local police and city officials, who may be thinking, you know, this war on drugs has not been working, but I dare not -- I dare not cross, because I'll get trouble from the police, and then, as Kim Ogg announced that, when she rolled out here Marijuana Misdemeanor Program in March, or in February, she said, she pointed to the fact that she had more than a hundred law enforcement officials -- municipalities, you know, sheriffs, smaller kinds of things in various parts of the law enforcement system in this area, great unanimity among them.

So, now, local officials and police that might be thinking, I don't know if I should try to do something better here, or change things here, I may get some flack. They can look and say, look, all of the leaders and many of the -- most of my colleagues in this field believe we ought to make these changes.

Then, people who are running for office in Houston no longer have to say, I'm going to throw them in the can and sit on the lid. They can -- and Houston's been changing in that, of course, these elections, the fact that these people are in office, proves that. But they can also say, look, the bills that -- the things, the changes I want to make are those that our leading law enforcement officials think are the best thing to do.

And then, if those people are elected, then they go the state legislature, and they're defending a bill, a reform bill, they can say, this is not a wild, radical idea. This is what the major law enforcement officials and many, many -- you know, more than a hundred lesser law enforcement officials in Houston, Harris County, are standing for, so what I'm standing for is what makes sense to them, what they feel will be, will make Houston a better, a better and more just city.

And then, beyond that, you know, a number of reforms have come out of Seattle. But it's possible for people in Texas, and Oklahoma, to say, well, that's Seattle, and they smoke pot in church, probably. But, when it comes from Houston, and Harris County, the fourth largest city and the third largest county in America, you have to listen. You have to say, my goodness, if Houston is pulling off reform, then we have to pay attention to this.

So I think that what these people are doing, and what you have called attention to in -- by interviewing them, and having all of them on record, and now knowing, I think they knew before this thing, but now, having tangible documentation that we've gone public with this, and we agree, that that's -- that strengthens them, and some of them are talking about, okeh, there are other things that we should consider.

So I believe that this is, I think you've made a tremendous contribution, here, and I hope, I really request, that your listeners -- but they can just google, the easy way, just google Baker Institute drug policy program, and that will come up, and on the front page, the -- right now the top item, but it will be on there for a long time, this Houston Law Enforcement Favors Reform. And pull that down, and then tell their friends about it, and ask their friends to access that page.

And while they're there, they -- there's a big stripe down at the bottom, a green stripe that says Drug Truth Network. Drug Truth Network. They can, I think drug tooth might have to do with meth, but anyway, Drug Truth Network, they can look up past programs of yours, which are all indexed there and archived.

DEAN BECKER: Well, in total, we're approaching 7,000, I think, early part of next year we'll hit that goal. That's not seven thousand hours, we have the 420 Drug War News included in that total, little three minute pieces. But it's 7,000 shares, if you will, with radio stations around the country, up into Canada. I'm quite proud of all that, and I'm quite proud of my association with the James A. Baker III Institute, and my association with Professor William Martin, our guest, at this time.

You know, Bill, I think about this, you know, this recent issue brief you put out regarding Houston leaders on drug reform. But that's not the only you've put out. It kind of ties in, last week I interviewed -- well, over the past several weeks I've been interviewing coroners about carfentanyl, I've been talking to those who run this safe consumption room up in Canada, and I've been talking to law enforcement officials.

Last week, I spoke to the current sheriff of King County, Seattle, Mister John Urquhart. And we started talking about safe injection sites, and he says, I'm totally against it, other than the fact there's nothing else, and so therefore I'm for these safe injection sites. Your thought there, Bill. We want to bring that idea forward here in the state of Texas, here in Houston, don't we?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Oh, I think that's -- I think it really is a good idea, and, as you well know, I've worked on needle exchange programs for now fifteen years. One of the first things I undertook when I founded the drug policy program here, and the reason I undertook it was because I thought this makes so much sense. If I just explain this to people, there's no way they can oppose it.

Well, I was overly optimistic. But, I think this is sort of like Sheriff Urquhart is saying. They say, do you want to have people coming places and giving them needles so they can continue their heroin habit? Well, there are other -- you know, I'd like for them to stop, to say I'm going to clean up and not do this anymore, but in the meantime, let's reduce the harm from what they're doing. We know, it's proven all over the world, even the radical conservative Imams and mullahs in Iran have authorized needle exchange programs, because it has been proven to cut down dramatically on HIV/AIDS and on hepatitis C.

So, you can say, okeh, ideally, everybody would just stop, but before they do that, let us have a way in which they can have -- not transmit these diseases to other -- to their, you know, lovers, their family members, to their friends, and that's exactly what, I mean, that's -- a safe injection site, that's one of the things that safe injection sites do.

So, yes, I'm very much in favor of that. I think it's probably a step after we get needle exchange programs, which I think someday we will get.

DEAN BECKER: And, you know, in that same interview with Sheriff Urquhart, he was talking about, it's gaining traction in his city of Seattle, but he says it's far from being implemented because of the -- that fear you were talking about, not in my neighborhood.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: That sort of attitude.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, it's -- it happens, and I've known some, some officials in Texas who raised that same thing. What am I going to -- what am I going to say to my children if there's a needle exchange program in my neighborhood, and I said in the first place, it's probably not going to be in your neighborhood, but that's a bad answer.

Here are the things that you can say, and had several key legislators who have said, you know, I just can no longer deny the science, and in fact did change their votes. Not just because of what I said, but just looking at the -- looking at the science, looking at things I'd written, looking at the material I brought to them, just saying, you know, we can't just go on denying science forever.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

WILLIAM MARTIN: And, so I think, you know, we, even in the last couple of years, we've gotten federal -- and others, federal money available for needle exchange programs, particularly in Indiana and Kentucky. The reason that federal money was loosened up was because in Indiana, Mike Pence was the governor, and in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell -- it was Mitch McConnell, and in the House, Hal Rogers, who is head of the House Appropriations Committee, it was very much in their area, and so they then decided, we will do that.

However, they still hold back a little. Now, the money for needle -- federal money for needle exchange can go to vans, it can go buildings, it can go to salaries, but it can't go for needles themselves. So they're -- they can keep an ideological -- they can retain their ideological virginity, and say we did not have needles with those people.

DEAN BECKER: Right. Well, you know --

WILLIAM MARTIN: However, we still get -- the money is still going to come, so that's a great advance.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'm trying to remember the year, I think it was like 2007, 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that would allow for one county, I believe it was Bexar --

WILLIAM MARTIN: Bexar.

DEAN BECKER: -- San Antonio.

WILLIAM MARTIN: San Antonio.

DEAN BECKER: To set up a needle exchange, and then was it the mayor who said not in my town, and it --

WILLIAM MARTIN: The DA. The DA.

DEAN BECKER: And it just did not happen, as a result.

WILLIAM MARTIN: They arrested -- she had arrested the people who were out there doing what the legislature had intended for them to do, arresting them on the charge that they were distributing drug paraphernalia. The legislature, and understand why they didn't, they hadn't really thought that -- hadn't thought about that. But now, they're -- they still, and, they still have the right to do that in Bexar County, and efforts are being made, I will not be surprised if Bexar County begins a needle exchange program in 2018.

DEAN BECKER: Well, that would be a good thing, to save some lives. Bill, I've got a -- I don't know, just talk about the overall scope of the drug policy group within the Baker Institute. It's not just you and me, there are other associates and allies. Do you want to talk about who else is involved, please?

WILLIAM MARTIN: Sure. My close colleague here, a resident working in the, you know, working just down the hall from me, is Katie Neill, Katharine Neill Harris. And Katie Neill, Doctor Neill Harris, is now, she came, she was here for three years as a post-doc, and before that, Nathan Jones, who's now a professor at Sam Houston, in the department of -- school of criminal justice there, was here for two years.

But, in the last year, we received a grant from the Glassell Family Foundation, and now Katie is the Alfred C. Glassell III Fellow in Drug Policy at the Baker Institute. That was a significant gift, and she works on all of these things, is very, as, I know you have interviewed her, I feel sure, and she's very smart and articulate and is doing a lot of work now on opioids, particularly.

As, we have non-resident scholars who work with us, and people who are contributing experts like yourself. Jerry Epstein, our mutual friend. We also, one of the people who we share with the Drug -- with the Mexico Center is Gary Hale, who was a 31-year veteran of the DEA, and was head of the, head of -- intelligence chief of the Houston office for the last nine years of his career, and responsible for intel for the whole Texas border. And then after he retired from that, he became the liaison between the United States and Mexico for the Merida Initiative and other things going on there.

So he has deep roots, but he also thinks, for example, that a lot of the things that have gone on, I mean, he has written about the DEA, and the federal government ought to quit messing with marijuana. And he says, let us try, let's experiment with things that would work better than what we're not doing, so -- what we're now doing, so, he's a valuable member of our team as well.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir, and the -- perhaps the newest one is the inclusion of an ally of mine, I've known now for near 20 years, but, Brian C. Bennett. Brian caught my attention many years ago with his accumulation of data, his presentation of data. Let's talk about what he brings to the effort.

WILLIAM MARTIN: He has gathered -- the major, two of the major sources of information about drug use in the United States are the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and Monitoring the -- which interviews 70,000 people each year, in face to face, extended face to face interviews, and the Monitoring the Future, which interviews about 50,000 teenagers each year, with follow-ups in subsequent years with a smaller sample.

And this, when people talk about what, how many people are using such and such a drug, and this year, or the last five years, all of that comes from -- most of that comes, it's not the only thing, but most of that comes from these surveys, and they are confirmed by other surveys, repeatedly. So they're -- they're not perfect data, but they are the best we have, and the best we're likely to get.

And, a long time ago, they come out with these voluminous tables, and some, some very helpful charts, but a long time ago, Brian Bennett, who's an intel analyst himself, and awfully good at turning data into pictures, started making charts that show -- well, the classic charts are, show lifetime use of a given drug, and then last year -- use in the last year, and then use in the last month. And on all of these, the pattern is very clear, that there's -- that use goes down over time. That's a pattern that has been the case for a long, long time.

For example, 44 people -- 44 percent of Americans 12 and older have used marijuana, and, but only about 7 percent, or 8 percent, in the last, I think in the last month. When you, then you look at heroin, we are in the midst of a heroin -- an opioid epidemic, but the data show that it effects really only about one percent of the population. That's a lot of people, but it's still not every other person you know that's going to become a heroin addict.

And having those charts, to visualize that, those data, is really arresting to people, and I use them when I give talks. I spoke to the Harris County Democratic Lawyers last week, and the people say, can we use those charts? They are there, they are there to be used, so, if you go to the Baker Institute Drug Policy Program, on the front page, down there, there's a set of green bars with writing on them, and one of them is the Drug Truth Network, but the other is the Brian C. Bennett charts.

And there's all -- so if you click on that, there's information about how the work is, how the data are gathered and why these are the best data we have, and then you can look at -- it's, I should tell you, a number of people have said it, not simply is it -- it's addictive, when you start looking at those charts.

DEAN BECKER: All right, Bill. You know, I have regret, or, I don't know, a nagging, because I can't get anybody from the DEA or high echelons of government, ONDCP, you know, the guys who believe in the drug war, the ones who want it to last forever. I can't get them to come on my show and defend the policy. Your response to that thought, Bill.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, I know that's true, and I'm sorry. We were able, on our initial program at the Baker Institute in 2002, we were able to get Asa Hutchinson, who was then head of the DEA, to come. We would not have been able to get him, I think, without the good offices of Secretary James Baker, for whom the Baker Institute is named, and who is, I'd like to point out, he is a supporter of our program. And has always been, from the -- from before it started.

But, they don't like to show up, it seems. I think the, now, part of the Mexico Center here is Gil Kerlikowske, who is the former head of the OND -- of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, out of the White House, and he has a much more moderate view, and I think the current -- current feds, they've softened, they're becoming much more reasonable on these things, so --

DEAN BECKER: Well.

WILLIAM MARTIN: -- that's a good, that's a good sign. But the fact that they, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, says people who use marijuana are bad people, and I'd like to go back to mandatory minimums, that's not very helpful.

DEAN BECKER: No. And, Bill, it kind of boils down to rope-a-dope, in a way. They're just, they're just taking the punishment for now, hoping we'll tire out, but I don't -- I think I'm right at 20 years of activism, and I don't feel tired yet. Bill, we're going to have to wrap it up, but I want to just bring it back to this website, the Baker Institute drug policy website, features former DEA, it's ensconced at the prestigious Rice University, with the blessing of former Secretary James A. Baker III, and led by you, sir, Professor William Martin.

You're known for your writings, for your biography of Billy Graham, and for being a level-headed person, I think is the best way to put it, a man with dignity, and, Bill, your closing thoughts, please, sir.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Well, by the way, the biography of Billy Graham, with four new chapters, will be -- is now scheduled to be published by Zondervan in March of next year. So it's -- I appreciate your mentioning that.

Yes, I'm hardly a radical person, but I also feel that I am -- I am offended by irrational public policy. And I taught criminology for 35 years as well as teaching sociology of religion, and clearly, through that, it was impossible not to see our drug -- our drug policy program, our drug policy causes more harm, I believe, than the drugs themselves, which indeed can cause harm.

So, for me, it's a matter of, you know, I sometimes speak of it as my drug policy ministry, that I believe that it's a just cause, and that I can, because I'm not seen as a radical, not like you, Dean, I'm not an ex-hippie.

DEAN BECKER: I'm still a hippie, but go ahead.

WILLIAM MARTIN: Okeh, I'm -- I'm old enough to be an ex almost anything, but, I'm, I just feel like it's so my children and grandchildren smile, but I think they think it's a good idea for me to stand for these things. So I try.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Flying projectiles, flu-like symptoms, itching, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, low blood pressure, may affect heart function and immune response, should not be used by pregnant or breast-feeding women nor by children under the age of 12. Time's up! The answer: mistletoe. The American mistletoe is poisonous, deadly in fact. The European mistletoe is undergoing clinical trials because it has been shown to kill cancer cells.

You know, over the years I've been privileged to talk to several officials, police chiefs, and others, who have seen the light, so to speak, in regards to drug war policies. Today, lucky once again to speak to a representative for the state of Washington who has been putting forward this information for years, and I'm proud to welcome to the show Representative Roger Goodman. Hello, Sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: Hi, Dean, it's good to be back with you.

DEAN BECKER: Roger, I'm really astounded. Some of the interviews I've been doing of late are so powerful, so full of information and reasons why we need to change direction on this drug war. The flow of information is finally having a stronger impact, is it not?

ROGER GOODMAN: I actually think we're way beyond the tipping point now, culturally, that a candidate who wants to crank up the drug war might not be able to win an election. And that we're seeing blowback nationwide, even among county prosecutors, from the current administration -- federal administration's approach. Twelve years ago, when I ran for office, I was kind of on the cutting edge, and they tried to hit me hard.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: Because -- and, you know, that I was a drug legalizer, and a crusader, and all that, and my popularity actually shot up. The public is ahead of the politicians, and so we need to listen to the public.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, and, I've got to agree with you, sir. I think, you know, I've had discussions with a couple of other individuals this week about the fact that there are just a select number of politicians in positions of power that lead hearings in Congress or, you know, sessions to discuss the drug laws, and, it's just stymied, been stymied for decades, right?

ROGER GOODMAN: It has, but now we're really seeing a lot of momentum. I can tell you a very specific example. Yesterday, I held a hearing in my committee, I'm the chair of the Public Safety Committee in the House of Representatives in the Washington State Legislature, and, which is actually kind of ironic, because, you know, out here in Washington state we've legalized marijuana, and so it's not even in my committee anymore, it's in the Commerce Committee.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

ROGER GOODMAN: But, we held a hearing on the use of jails, and it used to be, maybe, you know, less than ten years ago, that we just locked everybody up, and most of it was the drug war. And my Republican colleagues out here are arguing that it just costs too much, we should be taking a look at addiction, and mental health, and helping people, and do something other than just lock them up in jail. Because they even recognize that it only makes worse.

And so we're seeing a real paradigm shift, not just in, you know, the public's mind, but in the halls of power, and it's very exciting.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, it is. You know, I think I was pointing to states like Texas, where I was saying there are just a couple of leaders that just won't allow any votes to be taken that don't want that change to happen, and they block it in whatever fashion they can.

But, we have, in Washington state, you know, you've been forerunners with the medical and then recreational cannabis, and I hear talk that they're considering at least in Seattle implementing a safe injection site. I imagine that's months, if not years, away from being completed. But the fact that that discussion is taking place is also another sign of progress, right?

ROGER GOODMAN: It is, and, I've actually been talking very broadly about our -- I mean, we're trying to take a look at this opioid crisis in a comprehensive way, and part of it is to provide a safe place for injection drug users to, if they want to inject there, that would be great, but it's also an access to treatment, there's people who care about them there, and, I have to say, that's a little bit too progressive for most folks.

They're like, what are -- are you kidding me? Like, they can shoot up drugs? And I'm like, well, they're not going to stop, they're long term, chronic, high volume users, they're probably socially dislocated, and it's -- this problem's not going to go away, so why don't we bring it indoors and medicalize it, and, you can see in their eyes, people start to think, well, you know, maybe, if it's research based, maybe we should give it a try.

I do want to say, though, that this opioid crisis is a problem of white people, a lot of white middle class people, who are becoming addicted to opiates and then, unfortunately, overdosing, it's a very complex problem, we've got massive imports of fentanyl from China and up from Mexico, that's lacing the heroin, so people don't know what they've got. But, it's a problem in white America.

And, the old drug war was about vulnerable and unpopular groups in our society: Mexicans, African Americans, Latinos, the Chinese, way back in the opium wars. So it's kind of interesting, and I lament it, actually, that, you know, we're taking a look at the public health response to problematic substance use only because it's white people now. When it was people of color, it was just lock 'em up because they're, you know, it was their problem, it wasn't the substance problem.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, you know, Roger, I've had this little mantra I've been repeating for over a decade now, it goes something like this, if I was a politician, I think I could get elected by saying I want to stop funding these terrorists that grow the flowers we forbid, I want to eliminate our enrichment of these barbarous cartels that kill tens of thousands, I want to take away the ability of these gangs to recruit our children through distribution of these contaminated drugs, and I basically want to eliminate most overdose deaths by legalizing drugs, actually controlling the supposedly controlled substances. Your response, sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: Yeah, I mean, you have to be careful with the words. If you say legalize, and I'm not afraid to use the word legalize, but, it kind of sounds like you're standing on the corner handing drugs out to everybody, a free for all, you know.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

ROGER GOODMAN: And, so, regulate, or control, those are the words that I like to use. We need to regulate, and the other really key thing is, it's not about the drugs, it's about the drug markets. We need to regulate the markets, we need to control the markets, because they're illegal markets. We've yielded control of these markets to criminals.

And then when people think in economic terms, that, wow, this is a market, and it's out of control, and it's causing a lot of, you know, mayhem, and public costs, and death, then, it changes people's perspective on that, and, so, and it also veers us away from this racist, you know, approach to the people who are using drugs. Talk about, we need to control the market.

So, what I say is, why should we leave this market up to the criminals to control? And people don't know how to respond to that, I mean, you know, what else are you going to say, well, yeah, we should. What they want to do is say, well, we need to eradicate these drugs, and the response to that is, well, how are you going to do that? We've just had almost a century now of trying to do that and it only made the problem worse, didn't it?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

ROGER GOODMAN: Yeah, so.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, I, you mentioned fentanyl earlier, carfentanyl, as I understand it, it is ten thousand times stronger than morphine itself. And it brings to mind, you know, if a person could smuggle a little one ounce bag of carfentanyl, that's equivalent to 625 pounds of heroin. How in the hell could we stop this flow?

ROGER GOODMAN: Wow. It is not -- now here's a challenge, because, and yes, I'm, I see the opioid crisis, there are three major parts to it. The first is this import of mostly Chinese and Mexican fentanyl from, you know, from the cartels, that is being laced -- it's lacing, you know, the opiate used, and so people don't know what they've got and they're -- we've got 60,000 people a year now in the United States dying from this, so that's the first huge problem.

The second one is medical practice. Doctors are over-prescribing opiates, and they don't want to -- we don't really want to acknowledge that, and the hospitals and the doctors are very defensive, but it's a reality, because that gets people hooked.

And then the third part is treatment, and medical care, you know, actually providing access, particularly to people who don't have the means for, you know, if they have a problematic use that they need treatment with, medication assisted treatment, you know, substituting another drugs, and so forth.

So, it's a complex problem, but as to the criminal organizations from out of the country, importing this toxic stuff into, you know, across our borders, that actually is a law enforcement issue, and I am very willing to support a, whatever we can do to prevent the import across our borders, whether it's new detection devices, or international criminal investigations. It's a very difficult problem, but that one, I'm actually willing to sort of take the criminal law approach, to prevent it from getting into our country. It's still a vexing problem.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it is, and again, if we were actually to allow pharma, big pharma, to produce this stuff, as I understand it, back when cocaine was legal, first part of the twentieth century, it sold for two dollars a gram at the drug store and it was pure, and nobody was overdosing, because they know what they were taking.

I close this show with the thought, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, and to please be careful. And we've just set this up for failure, every aspect of this is designed to fail, and perpetuate itself through that failure. Your thought, sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: Yes, so, I don't know what the demand is for opiates, exactly, it's probably about two million Americans, I guess, who are habitual users, and this is not medical use, this is what we might call non-medical use. They use it for many different reasons, they're sort of self-medicating, and so forth.

It's not the same huge, critical mass that we have with cannabis use, where we have 120 million Americans who've tried it at one time or another. And that led to the pretty rapid cultural shift now, where, as you know, a considerable majority of Americans realize that cannabis should be, that, you know, prohibition should be eliminated and we should assert regulatory control, as we have done, in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, I mean, it's sweeping across the country.

But, heroin and the opiates, a little bit more of a difficult cultural shift, because there's not that critical mass of people who have experience with it. But I do -- I do believe that we should re-medicalize heroin. Heroin was, as you know, synthesized by Bayer pharmaceutical company, in 1898 [sic: Bayer began commercial scale production of heroin in 1898, but it was first synthesized in 1874 by C.R. Alder Wright]. It still is the best cough suppressant in the entire pharmacopoeia, and pain reliever, and if administered, you know, under medical direction, it could still, it could be very useful.

But medicalizing it isn't quite as far as, you know, what we might call recreational use, but I think re-medicalizing heroin would go some, some ways towards ending prohibition, in a way, and maybe undercutting the market.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, well, you mentioned when Bayer first invented heroin, it was sold on the grocer's shelf, right next to Bayer aspirin, in a tablet -- in a tablet form.

ROGER GOODMAN: Yeah, it was the wonder drug. Yeah.

DEAN BECKER: And the aspirin was for when you had a headache, and the heroin was for when you smashed your thumb with a hammer.

ROGER GOODMAN: It also helped with, there were a lot of pulmonary diseases at the time, influenza, and so forth, and so it helped to reduce coughs, you know, it was a cough suppressant. But, yeah, and as you may know, aspirin, there's, thousands of people every year die in this country now from aspirin. So, you know, these, these are pharmaceuticals, and they're potentially hazardous, and, you know, isn't that a reason we should regulate them? I mean --

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

ROGER GOODMAN: If it's the most dangerous substance on the planet, I think that calls not for prohibiting it, but for regulating it. We regulate dynamite, we regulate uranium, we regulate, you know, dangerous stuff, and so, if heroin's that bad, we should regulate it. You know, it's sort of a rational argument.

DEAN BECKER: No, exactly right. Friends, we're speaking with Mister Roger Goodman, he's a representative for the state of Washington. Roger, I don't know, sir, I'm an optimist. I'm a problematic optimist. I just think there's, that we're this close, and I'm holding my fingers about a quarter inch apart here, to changing this. That all we have to do is open the discussion, allow both sides to present their facts, and I think in an open environment with, I don't know, rational leadership, we could change these, today, because there's no benefit, there's no real reason, for this drug war to continue. Your thought there, sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: We are changing it today, already, and here in Washington state, and all the way up and down the west coast now, and in Nevada and Colorado and Massachusetts and Maine and a whole bunch more states to come, we have asserted regulatory control over the cannabis market, and I can tell you in Washington state, young people are using less, eighth graders are using less cannabis than they were before we legalized. DUIs, impaired driving, is way down, because people are substituting away from beer, and they're using cannabis instead and not driving.

We are bringing in a half a billion dollars in Washington state in revenue to pay for health care for the poor, people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. This is all good news. And so this I think is just the beginning of the paradigm shift away from the prohibition regime, which is just the most caustic, the worst policy since slavery, right? And now let's move on to some of these other substances, including heroin, I say we should re-medicalize it.

The FDA, as you may know, is now on a fast track to make MDMA, or ecstasy, available for treatment of PTSD, because it's been clearly shown that ecstasy helps with PTSD for veterans and so forth, more than anything else. So even the federal government is recognizing this. So psychedelics, like MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, could be very useful for palliative care at end of life, and for anti-depression, you know, so we're really getting to that point now where the conversation is acceptable, and they're not sort of, you know, not letting people into the room anymore.

This is a legitimate conversation, and I also think the millennials and people in the younger generation get it. They totally get it. My children, who are only in their teens, will look back, and like, wow, really, we locked people up for that, are you kidding? So, I think it's a generational change, and I'm just as optimistic as you are.

DEAN BECKER: You guys in Washington, up and down the west coast, as you're saying, yes, there is a lot of progress, but there's states like Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, where the BS is still put forward, the lies are still presented as if they were factual, and I guess I'm saying, if your representatives could be in a debate with the representatives from Oklahoma, perhaps you could sway the discussion, but they cling to that reefer madness and the old drug war fallacies still. Your thought there, sir.

ROGER GOODMAN: Many of them do, and I am vice chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures Law and Justice Committee, so I actually just got back from California last week, and I was with legislators from South Carolina, from Kentucky, from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and yes, there are some legislators who are, just have their, they've got a closed mind. They have beliefs, they have opinions, they have a faith in something. I don't believe that we should be legislating based on beliefs, and faith, and opinion, I believe we should be legislating, that our laws should be based on facts, and objective evidence, and research.

And so, as I meet with them, I'm very deliberate, and I'm not in their face, but I do talk about the research and the objective evidence, for instance, that cannabis legalization in Washington has reduced youth consumption, reduced deaths on our roadways, generated almost a billion dollars in revenue, and they, they're actually listening, a little bit. They even acknowledge in their own states that it's a tough -- it's a tough go, politically, but I think maybe even they'll come along eventually.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you know, I saw a post today, it had a picture of a billboard in Nevada that says every three days, somebody dies on the streets with marijuana in their system. And, I think that's, it's trying to bring back reefer madness, but the fact of the matter is, every three days someone is found with marijuana in their system in a car crash doesn't mean a damn thing, does it?

ROGER GOODMAN: It doesn't, and the federal government in particular is distorting these statistics, because as you know, the traces of THC are in the system for up to a month after use, and so, here in Washington state we measure only active THC metabolites, so if you're in a crash you have to have a blood test.

And last year we had seven deaths on our roadways directly related to marijuana impairment. We had 55 deaths related to alcohol impairment. And we had about 150 deaths related to alcohol mixed with other drugs, so alcohol really is the problem. By the way, we had 171 deaths related to texting and driving.

DEAN BECKER: Oh, I'm sorry to laugh, but that's just crazy.

ROGER GOODMAN: Yeah, so, you know, the numbers show that yes, cannabis is a potentially hazardous substance. You should not drive and most people don't, because they realize, you know, that marijuana effects people differently from alcohol, when you're under the influence of alcohol you think you can do anything, you know.

DEAN BECKER: Sure.

ROGER GOODMAN: And, and so I just think, as we go forward, we'll see that the evidence is pretty clear, and I think, as I say, the younger generation, they want to get real, they don't like these fantasy policies, you know, drug free America and, you know, all this, this dangerous policy, actually, that's been heading us down the wrong direction. So, let's tough it out, and let's keep banging the drum, because I think the drug war is winding down for sure.

And it's exciting, because you and I have been working on this for 15, 20 years now, and any politician, and certainly like this federal administration, that wants to crank up the drug war again, they do so at their own peril. It is not going to be successful.

DEAN BECKER: Marijuana kills thousands of our kids every day.

It was back on September 29 of the year 2000, I was in Austin. I was attending a march. It was a lot of folks who had been, had their lives disrupted in a little Texas town called Tulia, and it was there to educate and perhaps embolden our legislators to do something about this, to keep it from recurring, because it was a real travesty, a perfect example of the drug war run amok.

And one of those who was instrumental in that march, and especially instrumental in proving the inequities that was going on in that city of Tulia was attorney Jeff Blackburn, and he's with me now. Jeff, how are you, sir?

JEFF BLACKBURN: I'm doing great, as always, I'm really, really honored that you've put me on the show, and I'm flattered that you looked me up.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Jeff, the heck of it is, it was that day, September 29, I was walking next to I think about a ten year old little black boy, and we were between us carrying a sign in protest to what was going on here in the state of Texas. And it was in that march, it was looking at the face of that child, with so much determination and commitment on his face, that gave me the courage, the motivation, to do what I've been doing the last 17 years.

And I want to thank you, first off, for being a part of that, of my awakening, of being part of the, oh, I don't know, the backing. I felt the courage to continue, because people of good caliber were thinking along the same lines, and I want to thank you for that, sir.

JEFF BLACKBURN: Well, I didn't know that, and you're welcome, but I've got to tell you, that's, Dean, what a great example of what it will take ultimately to reverse prohibition, put an end to the war on drugs. It's not about legislation, it's not really about, I mean, it looks like it's about legislation, but what it's really about is the transformation of people's thinking, some of which get transformed into not just thinking differently about the war on drugs but doing something about the war on drugs.

It's that political transformational community based process, with guys like you, and me, and the rest of people that see, you know, that become involved and they see the power that the people really have. And I, you know, I think that's continuing, I mean, look, look how far in some ways we've come, and I'm no apologist for the system, but, but it's through the relentless efforts of people like you, and others, but especially, you've done a huge amount to raise people's consciousness, and, you know, like, tireless work to do that. And it's beginning to -- I think it's beginning to show.

And I think there are a lot more Dean Beckers just waiting for the call out there, and they'll, they'll get called, and they'll show up.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I, from your mouth to god's ear, I certainly hope so. But, we are making progress, it seems there, there really is no one left in government at the federal, state, or local level willing to defend this policy of drug prohibition. It just can't be done, can it.

JEFF BLACKBURN: Well, I don't know if I agree with you on that, because you have to remember, too, that the policy of prohibition was never good policy to begin with. It was a money maker. It still is. Tulia was all about making money, for the local messed up community that was desperate to get it, they were a collapsed rural economy, they wanted, you know, to them a million dollars in grant money looked like ten billion. You know?

DEAN BECKER: Right.

JEFF BLACKBURN: So, as long as criminal justice is perceived as a profit center, which it still is, there will always be bad policy. It's never about, oh is this a good idea or not. To us, to regular people out here, it's about, is this a good idea or a bad idea, well, we know it's a bad idea, and the evidence is there, and there's, you can't argue with it.

But, law enforcement is a machine that just keeps going. And of course, every now and then, they'll find these real primitive throwbacks, like Jeff Sessions, who are so -- who, I mean, he probably really believes the nonsense that he says, you know, that marijuana causes, you know, mixed marriages or something, I don't know. You know?

DEAN BECKER: He said marijuana -- good people don't smoke marijuana, is what he said.

JEFF BLACKBURN: Right. Right.

DEAN BECKER: And, it's just so preposterous. Now, I want to kind of update folks on what Tulia was about. It, I mentioned the drug war run amok. That's what happened there, right?

JEFF BLACKBURN: Yeah, basically. There was a system in Texas at that time that fortunately, using Tulia, we were able to abolish, and also suing a bunch of counties, called the regional task force system.

And the fundamental flaw to this thing was that, and what we had throughout Texas, because you have to remember, I mean, folks in Houston don't get it sometimes, and even I don't, way up here in the middle of nowhere. Hell, we've got 254 counties, okeh?

DEAN BECKER: Yeah.

JEFF BLACKBURN: All of which are operating their own little crumby criminal justice system that's crumby in its own way, each one of them, okeh. But in these little counties especially, where what you've really got are frankly not very smart people in charge, I mean, you know, smart people don't move to a place like Swisher County, Texas, you know, population four thousand something, they don't.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

JEFF BLACKBURN: And incidentally, I've done more of these cases, or cases like Tulia, in other parts of the state, and they're, you know, almost always in these rural areas, there's a lot of racism, they want to get rid of black people, or brown people, and what better way to do it than to nail them for drugs?

DEAN BECKER: Well, that's it. Be sure to join us next week, we'll hear more from Tulia attorney Jeff Blackburn, and a recap of the year 2017. Again I remind you, 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. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network, archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. And we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

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