Talk Show on KRFC 88.9FM Featuring
ARTHUR: Good evening, and welcome to the Bullhorn Talk Show on 88.9 FM. My name is Eddie Arthur and I'll be your host for the next hour in our discussion of the Drug war and drug laws. Our guests tonight are Jeffery Sweetin, he's the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Denver Field Division for the DEA. That covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana. Dan Cochran is a local Libertarian. Troy Lepper is a Sociology professor at CSU, and we also have Allen St. Pierre from Washington D.C., who is the NORML Foundation executive director. We will not be taking any phone calls today, however, if you'd like to call in, you could at 221-5075 and our operators will be able to take your questions and we can read them on the air. So I'd like to start by having everybody introduce themselves. Let's start with Allen St. Pierre. Allen, are you there? Allen, are you there?
ST. PIERRE: Yes, I am. Good evening.
ARTHUR: [LAUGHS] Hi. How are you tonight?
ST. PIERRE: A great pleasure.
ARTHUR: Could you tell us a
little bit about yourself, what brings you to this discussion, and what
your stance is, in short, on the Drug war?
ST. PIERRE: Sure. I'm 37 years
old, I'm the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform
of Marijuana Law Foundation in Washington D.C., the oldest and largest
organization dedicated to reforming marijuana laws for adult use. And
for 33 years, NORML's had a three-pronged argument, very simply put, that
an adult, when using marijuana responsibly in a way similar to alcohol,
should not face serious criminal or civil penalties, that a person who
is sick and dying, or since threatened, and has a physician's recommendation
and/or prescription should be able to have access to marijuana in the
way that the voters of Colorado voted for it, and, lastly, almost all
the other countries of the world, particularly Canada and most of Europe
and Asia, grow the none psychoactive strain of the plant, known as hemp,
for industrial purposes. So our argument is quite simple: we need to change
the marijuana laws. We're really one of the last countries to have such
ARTHUR: All right. Thank you
very much. Jeffery Sweetin, could we get a brief introduction from you?
SWEETIN: Yes, I just would say
that's a lot to take on. Hopefully we're not going to, in the hour, try
to take on all that. But what I would say is that this nation is founded
on the idea that laws can be changed. There are legitimate ways to change
that. My concern is that organizations like NORML, they muddy up the issues
with medical marijuana issues and talk about it as medicine and good science,
and really it's not only unethical, but it's just wrong. NORML needs to
admit what it is that they're after and then try to change those laws.
ARTHUR: All right. Dan Cochran,
tell us a little bit about yourself.
COCHRAN: Certainly. I'm with
the Libertarian Party and have been active with the Libertarian Party
for about ten years. I've served on their State Board of Directors, as
well as run for political office, most recently for Lieutenant Governor
of Colorado in 1998. The Libertarian view is basically that this is a
personal responsibility issue, that government should not be involved
in legislating drug laws, and they basically should be legal.
ARTHUR: All right. Troy Lepper.
LEPPER: Yeah, I'm a sociologist,
therefore I'm really interested in how the war on drugs is being framed,
and not just how the war on drugs is being framed as a social problem,
but who is more impacted by this war on drugs. Are there certain groups
in the population that feel the weight of the war on drugs? May that population
be minorities, Blacks, Latinos, compared to the White population that
suffers or does not suffer from these laws? So I'm really interested in
understanding how we frame the issues and who exactly is impacted by the
war on drugs.
ARTHUR: Let's start with Agent
Sweetin. Are we winning the Drug war?
SWEETIN: Well, as we discussed
earlier, it's difficult for me to answer a question that's already couched
in difficult terms. We talk about a war on drugs. We just went through
a war in Iraq, and if you think about what we did in a war, there were
a lot of differences than what I do. You know, are we winning or are we
not winning? First of all, I believe we're succeeding in our mission,
but I also feel like I need to say that we're the only category of law
enforcement and criminal enforcement that is couched in terms of a war.
That comes from the legalizers that are interested in saying, "OK,
we've lost. Let's stop." That's an attitude we don't talk about with
homicide or robbery. Nobody asks how the war on homicide's going or the
war on child abuse. Drugs are illegal because they're bad. There are laws
that exist to protect people and to protect society, and we enforce those
laws very simply. A war is an armed aggression against other nations.
ARTHUR: Right. Let me stop you
there. Well, then, let me just re-ask it. Is your organization getting
SWEETIN: Absolutely we're getting
somewhere. Every time an organization that preys on people, that makes
money through the pain of other people, violates laws that have been passed
by legislators that we've elected, the people of this land have elected,
every time we dismantle one of those organizations, we have succeeded.
And believe me, we are succeeding.
ARTHUR: What special sort of
conditions do you have to deal with here in the Rocky Mountain Region?
You've just recently become director of the office in Denver. Is it different
in Denver than it would be in California, or...? You know, is there something
unique to your job in Denver?
SWEETIN: The things that are
unique, the drugs that we deal with differ a little bit regionally. There
tends to be more methamphetamine issues here than some of the other areas
along the East Coast. There are certainly more club drugs in some of the
college environments like here in Fort Collins. Also, what I will say
is we have better partners here than we do in a lot of places. The citizens
of Colorado and particularly the city of Fort Collins have been great
partners in what it is that we're trying to do. So basically, drug enforcement
is the same everywhere, but sometimes the drugs change.
ARTHUR: Mm-hmm. And is marijuana,
for instance, a problem here, or is it mostly crystal meth? And what's
the biggest monster that you have to deal with?
SWEETIN: Well, the biggest monster
is that we have to deal with all of them. In terms of marijuana, marijuana
is the most abused drug in the United States, so we're certainly not exempt
from that. But at the same time you have to deal with methamphetamine
and predatory drugs that are being dropped in girls' drinks in bars. So
we deal with them all everywhere is the answer.
ARTHUR: Mm-hmm. How would we
know...? You know, there's a question: Are we winning the Drug war? Is
it doing any good? How will we know that...? You know, the price of drugs
hasn't really changed. What kind of things on the street would an average
citizen notice to know that their tax money's being used in the right
place, or is having an effect?
SWEETIN: Well, there's a couple
things. I mean, drug use overall and drug availability overall is down
about a third in the last 15 years. The... the outlook...
ARTHUR: And where do you get
SWEETIN: Well, I can get you
those statistics, but I think even a caller, everybody will agree that
drug use is down. Drug use of cocaine is down more than any of the other
ARTHUR: Is drug use down with
high school students and teenagers?
SWEETIN: Oh, I don't know the
exact breakdown by age, but there are actual fluctuations in those statistics.
They go up and down. As far as I'm concerned, the most obvious sign that,
as you call, the Drug war is succeeding is that the group that was out
there selling drugs to the people's kids when they were walking home from
school... When those groups are in prison after being prosecuted, that's
success. You keep coming back to the fact that the goal is, "We've
won the war, we can go do something else." We keep couching this
in an area that really makes the legalizers very happy. "Oops, we
haven't succeeded. Let's scrap it." We don't do that with education,
and we still have illiterate people in the United States. So what are
the obvious signs? The obvious signs are that there's a lot of people
that tried to become millionaires on other people's pain that are now
ARTHUR: If the price isn't going
down, then is supply being affected?
SWEETIN: Well, supply is being
affected, we believe. There's two answers to that question. One is availability.
Availability doesn't seem to fluctuate, because how do you prove what's
available when you don't have it, when you don't seize it? Uh, purity
of cocaine... I'm sorry, of heroin has reduced. There's a lot of theories
on why that is. We like to believe perhaps one theory is the DEA success
theory, that there's less available, so the purity's down. The argument
of availability is difficult. We're frequently asked, ''How much dope
got through in the United States?'' Well, it's impossible to prove. So
all we can prove is what we've done, not what we haven't done.
ARTHUR: So what you're saying
is that when you call it a drug war, it implies some sort of ending, and
you're saying there will be no end. Is that what you're saying?
SWEETIN: Well, I believe there
will always be people abusing chemicals. There will always be people that
are preying on other people. Just like there's people right now trying
to convince medical patients that smoked marijuana is what they're being
deprived of and what will heal them or make them feel better. I'm a father
of two kids. I would love to see a day where I could go work bank robberies.
Is that reality in this nation? Probably no more reality than us saying,
''OK, we no longer have to work child abuse.''
ARTHUR: So the DEA, can you
explain exactly what their mandate is?
SWEETIN: DEA's mandate, boiled down, is primarily to enforce Title 21 of the U.S. Code, which is the drug code. So our primary mission is an enforcement mission. There are other missions inside
DEA which include drug education
those kinds of things.
ARTHUR: Mm-hmm. OK. Uh, Dan,
did you have a comment? And anyone who wants to break in is welcome to.
COCHRAN: Yeah, I'd like to just
comment regarding Jeffrey's comment, the DEA's position that they're having
success with the drug war. Just to give you a little of my own personal
experience. Long before I entered into politics and became active with
the Libertarian Party, and really was all that politically aware, President
Bush, Sr. was elected to office back in 1988. In '89 he declared a war
on drugs and really stepped up the drug war, and I recall that very specifically
because I wrestled with the fact, you know, is this really the right thing?
And I decided it probably is. If we can eliminate drugs from our society,
this is a good measure. And he came out and declared that we would eliminate
drugs from our society, and in fact, with billions of dollars being spent,
drug availability decreased shortly after that. There was a substantial
effect, but it didn't take long, six months or so, before the drug suppliers
found a method of getting around all of the new laws and all of the new
agents out there enforcing those laws and drug use ended up right back
up where it was; the drug problem was right back where it was, and it
became very clear to me after about a year that this effort by President
Bush, Sr., had failed. And a real good definition of sanity, one that
is often attributed to Albert Einstein, but I think it actually pre-dates
him, is that if you continue to do something expecting success and it
is not producing success, then you're insane. That's a definition of insanity,
to continue to do the same thing expecting success, but it's not successful.
Clearly, Bush's drug war was not successful, so there had to be some other
method, something else that we should be doing rather than infringing
on people's rights, rather than going out there and creating a bunch of
additional laws, imprisoning people, often times for non-violent offenses.
Likewise, when I got involved with the Libertarian Party, I found another
possible solution, and I've found that the Libertarian Party was very
much aligned with my belief in other areas, and I believe it's a good
ARTHUR: Why don't you tell us
exactly what that solution would be, if you could do it.
COCHRAN: Sure, certainly. So,
obviously, the drug problem's not going to go away. It doesn't matter
whether we spend billions of dollars a year fighting it, or we put our
resources in other areas. The Libertarian position is essentially that
drugs should be legalized, and this is drugs across the spectrum. I'm
not talking just marijuana or cocaine or aerosol paints or...
ARTHUR: Crack and methamphetamine?
COCHRAN: Yes. Obviously, we
want to treat those drugs very much the same way that we treat other things
in our society, and I think Colorado has a very good system, for example,
for dealing with alcohol. And this should be a states issue, not a federal
issue. If it's different in one state than another state, so be it. Colorado,
in dealing with alcohol, you have to be age 21. Go into a liquor store
to purchase the alcohol, and if you're under that age, it's not available
to you unless somebody over that age is making it illegally available
to you. And the emphasis here is then that person is making it illegally
ARTHUR: So you're saying crack
should be available to anyone over 21?
COCHRAN: I have no problem with
that. This is an individual responsibility. Is it my place to say whether
they should have access to it or not?
ARTHUR: Sure. Well, let's take
it a little bit farther. What do you think would happen? You know, just
realistically if that were to occur?
COCHRAN: Sure. Number one, the
people who are inclined to use crack, who are going out there and buying
it on the black market today, would be buying it over the counter, probably
from some pharmaceutical firm, so they would be getting a much better
grade of crack, a grade of crack that does not have all the dangerous
byproducts associated with it and the unknown manufacturing methods. We
would also be eliminating the black market crime that is associated with
the drug trade today. And that's probably the most horrible aspect of
our so-called war on drugsthe black market crime that's associated
with it. That's why we repealed alcohol prohibition, because of the crime
associated with alcohol prohibition back in the 20's.
ARTHUR: Many people would just
say that if you were to allow people easy access to crack as there is
easy access to booze that it would be a nightmare. That people just would
not be able to control themselves. It's just too powerful a drug to really
allow easy access to. Do you agree or disagree with that?
COCHRAN: I think alcohol's a
pretty powerful drug. So is tobacco and obviously if you abuse cold medicine,
that's a pretty powerful drug. We have easy access to a whole number of
things in this society, and those people that are inclined to abuse this
stuff are going to abuse it. I don't care whether they have to find somebody
on some dark street corner to purchase it from or if they go down to their
local liquor store.
ARTHUR: So your stance is that
people should be allowed to kill themselves or do whatever they want as
long as it's within their home or only happening to themselves?
COCHRAN: Yeah, if people are
crazy enough to kill themselves, I certainly am not going to be able to
stop them regardless of what laws I enact. Regardless how we try to legislate
morality, and let's face it, if you really have control over your life,
then you have control over how your life is lived and how you die. If
you don't have control over your life, then we're not in a free society.
ST. PIERRE: Yes, sir.
ARTHUR: How do you think the
drug war is going?
ST. PIERRE: Well, I think they
certainly can give some pretty mixed results here. Well, I'm right across
the street from the White House over at the Department of Treasury, and,
of course, there's an agency there called the ATFAlcohol, Tobacco,
and Firearms. All three of those things are really dangerous. Alcohol,
of course, we know the whole history of it being made legal, illegal.
Of course, it's a very dangerous drug. We have all these restrictions
as Dan has aptly talked about. Uh, tobacco: tobacco kills 400,000 Americans
each year. It's legal, it's taxed at the local, state, and federal level.
And then of course firearms and all the interesting stuff that comes with
firearms. But what that division of the Treasury does is not make any
of those products illegal. All they do is make sure that those products
are properly sold and taxed from the point that they are created to the
point that they are sold, and they do that pretty well, and that is exactly
the control I think Dan was alluding tothat by putting these things
in the legal stream of commerce we give the control to parents, business
managers, and, of course, government officials and law enforcement would
generally want to have, using the same mores and values, changing as they
are, for things like alcohol and tobacco. For everybody on this phone,
we've all grown up at a time where tobacco... You used to be able to smoke
indoors anywhere, on elevators, on airplane flights, you could drive fairly
drunk, you could have open liquor. All those things have changed in our
lives, and I think everybody on this phone would agree for the better.
So why not bring that same legal and moral control with something like
marijuana, which one 1 of 3 people between the ages of 18 and 24 years
uses? Between 24 and 65, 1 out of 7 adults use marijuana. Despite it being
illegal for 65 years, despite a 23 billion dollar, uh, federal anti-drug
program of which at least half of that is marijuana related. Just in the
federal dollars, not the 50 states.
ARTHUR: Allen, why do you personally
think the government wouldn't want to legalize it? It seems like there
would be a lot of money in it, is that correct?
ST. PIERRE: I certainly agree
so. There's a lot of reasons. One could obviously give a dissertation
at this point why, but there's a couple of obvious things. Some are just
clear self-interest. There are at least 20 federal beaucracies involved
with drug prohibition, whether they're something as obvious as the DEA,
something like the ONDCP, the Drug Czar's office or the scientific aspects
of it, like NAIDA, and so many acronymed organizations nobody has ever
heard of, basically here in the Beltway and with all sort of organs at
the state level working to basically further the status quo. Then you've
got the most obvious of all. You've got alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical
companies that give money to the DARE program, to the Partnership for
a Drug-Free America. I mean, think about that. A drug company or alcohol
or pharmaceutical company giving money to something called a Drug-Free
America. It's rhetorically and morally absurd. So once we put away that
sort of moral aspect of it, one has to ask the question, as you have,
why would we have this policy in place? And it's mainly because people
have been too apathetic and/or scared to make this the same type of issue
like they do over reproductive rights, over gun rights, over environmental
rights. They have to get über political. And so with a tiny budget,
about a million dollars a year, NORML and a number of other drug policy
groups which, in total, have about a thirteen million dollar a year budget,
take on this massive goliath. But like the story of Goliath, we know what
happened. Goliath fell with this minor stone. And that stone is the Constitution,
pragmatism, public health concerns and all of Europe is moving this direction
save for Greece, Finland, and France. Canada is right on the doorstep
of decriminalizing. Of course, today the AP headline that the Prime Minister
acknowledges, they will decriminalize cannabis and move toward a Dutch-like
model where it's legally distributed. So it leaves us in the United States
in a really difficult position. So I think that at some point, people
just have to get really political, get involved with groups like NORML,
and certainly commend law enforcement for doing what they need to do to
focus on drugs of true and terrific harm and to stop the abuse of those
substances, and certainly where they're not taxed and legally controlled.
But where adults legally, or should I say responsibly, use these products
in the same way that I think that they do with alcohol, that should be
the sort of system we have in place because it clearly works much better
ARTHUR: All right, Allen, let
me stop you there. Jeffery what do you think about marijuana? Isn't most
of the resources, aren't most of the arrests from marijuana and the sale
of marijuana in your organization?
ARTHUR: Oh, OK.
SWEETIN: That's absolutely not
ARTHUR: What are they from?
SWEETIN: First of all, let me...
Well, I'll go back to what Allen said.
ARTHUR: Sure. Yep.
SWEETIN: But, you know, the
statistics are across the board. A lot of that depends on the regional
focus you have. I was a drug agent in south Florida and probably close
to 100 percent of the arrests I made there were for cocainefor cocaine
trafficking, smuggling, importationso the misinformation that the
public is getting about how there's all these poor marijuana smokers that
are populating the federal prisons, that's bad information. And that's...
ST. PIERRE: But Jeff, it would
be really important to note here that you, the good folks in the federal
government, make less than 3 percent of all criminal drug arrests. So
therefore, you're correct, but you're being very specific here in not
letting everybody know that for the state and county, which we all get
to fund through our taxes, they in fact do arrest. There were 724,000
marijuana arrests in the last statistical year of 2001, 88 percent of
them for simple possession.
SWEETIN: Well, Allen, you're
right. I can't defend that. One problem is, I'm one speaker that's trying
to uphold the law, and there's three speakers that are against it. So
there's no speaker here to uphold the state and local thing, so I'm going
to obviously have to focus on the federal side.
ST. PIERRE: Sure.
SWEETIN: But in terms of your
numbers on drug use, my numbers on drug use indicate that only 5 percent
of Americans use drugs, period. Your numbers seem to indicate that everbody's
sitting around getting high all day anyway, so we might as well make it
legal. So you and I already differ in our statistics, which we could argue
for hours, but you certainly don't agree with Dan. See, this is the problem.
You're talking about control the dangerous drugs, Dan is saying, "Give
everybody everything they want, just make sure nothing bad happens."
So what I'm saying is, my take on it is, I supervise 97 drug agents that
work out on the street that we keep talking about. When you go to do that...
I mean, Dan would have us... Fortunately, I believe Dan to be in the minority,
otherwise people could get crack at the drugstore. I mean, that's something
that's so ludicrous it actually scares me, the thought of kids walking
into a drugstore and getting crack. Dan might argue that, "Well,
we wouldn't sell it to kids." Well, we all know how well that's worked
with alcohol and cigarettes. But my argument to you would be that, listen,
this country is built... And you said ityou talked about the Constitution
and Goliaththis country is built on the idea that laws can change.
We elect our own legislature. My concern is misinformation. People need
to know that their... You know, whether it's the medical marijuana fallacy,
whether it's the issue of everybody's around getting high and we're the
last bastion of sobriety in the whole world after Greece and Canada, I
think we've got to be honest. Why haven't we changed that? Why haven't
you changed that?
ST. PIERRE: Well, I could actually
obviously turn it on its head. After 70 years and spending hundreds of
billions of dollars, Jeff, hundreds of billions. In 1982, the drug budget
for the federal government was just barely 2 billion. It is now 25 billion
dollars, which doesn't even include the military or the Bureau of Prisons.
That's the federal drug numbers. So here you make this sort of complaint.
Well, why is it that there's misinformation out there? You all have the
200 million dollar-a- year anti-drug campaign which everybody here has
seen on TV because you get 30 impressions a week before Americans. And
we scoff at the idea that if you use marijuana, you support terrorism,
that's patently absurd. So you've got that access, you've got the D.A.R.E.
program in 70 percent of the schools, you've got this massive budget,
so I guess, really, the question Jeff, why is it that your side is losing?
Why did the good citizens of Colorado, despite your best efforts, vote
in favor of marijuana for medical purposes? You call it a sham. Well,
you're insulting the majority of people around you. That's sort of a pejorative
thing to do, don't you think?
SWEETIN: Well, I'd like to answer
ST. PIERRE: Please.
SWEETIN: You asked me why the
good citizens of Colorado did it. My answer is that you lied to them.
That's my answer.
ST. PIERRE: Oh, well, excuse
me. You had all of the political apparatus within Colorado keep it off
the ballot for a year. You came back, the good citizens voted for it,
most of the editorial boards there, which now I guess you would claim
were duped by NORML and its little million-dollar budget. So you've got
the multi-million- dollar budget there, you've had the access for seven
decades to change the minds of Americans and you have failed to do that,
Jeff. I think the real burden here is on the status quo. Why is it that
all of these failures and infirmities are so readily identified?
SWEETIN: Well, I think the burden
is really on the people that want to make the change.
ST. PIERRE: Which they did,
and you fought them all the way, didn't you, Jeff?
SWEETIN: Well, first of all,
let me clarify something about the legislation, because we...
ARTHUR: I just wanted to just
get your personal opinion and everybody else's about marijuana. Is that
a dangerous drug that should be illegal, and selling it should bring you
huge prison sentences?
COCHRAN: If I may step in, I
think marijuana is a dangerous drug, just as some cold medicines are,
just as spray paint is, just as a variety of legal things are, and it's
no more dangerous than many of the stuff that's legal.
LEPPER: No, I don't believe
that marijuana is a dangerous drug. There's no correlation, there's no
causes of death due to marijuana. We tend to judge whether a drug is harmful
based on the harm that it causes individuals, and there's no correlation
between marijuana being a harmful drug to the individuals that use it.
Now, the structures and the crime and things along that that go along
with the illegal drug trade, sure, there are problems there.
ARTHUR: Jeff, I didn't mean
to cut you off.
SWEETIN: That's all right.
ARTHUR: I just want to get people's
opinion on that and yours as well. As a drug enforcement official, what
do you think about marijuana?
SWEETIN: Well, I believe...
I agree with Troy. Well, no, I agree with Dan. I'm sorry, I got Troy and
Dan mixed up. I agree that marijuana is a harmful substance. I believe
that it's illegal for a reason, that it's a good reason, that it's harmful,
that the social cost and medical cost of marijuana warrant its control.
ARTHUR: Well, control or being
SWEETIN: Well that's what I
ARTHUR: You know, and people
would ask, "What about alcohol? What about tobacco?"
SWEETIN: Well, I'm not going
to... If you think I'm going to sit here and defend tobacco and alcohol,
those are harmful substances, but to say, "You know what? Since those
are harmful substances and they're legal, let's make everything legal
that's harmful." If you were to ask Dan, "Should hand grenades,
anthrax, should those all be legal?" You might be surprised with
what his answer is.
ARTHUR: But should people be
going to prison for smoking it or possessing it or selling small amounts
SWEETIN: Well, first, let me
say that a lot of the information about inmates and what they're in there
for is misleading. Many of the people that... And Allen, I'm sure, will
admit this as well. Many of the people that are in prison that we constantly
say are inand I'm dealing mostly with the federal population, as
Allen saidthat says "drug possession," those were plead
down from some pretty heinous distribution crimes at times because of
the necessity for plea bargaining. So let's... let's be honest enough
to say that we're not wholesale, particularly at the federal level, incarcerating
ST. PIERRE: Well, yeah, if I
may, Jeff is absolutely correct regarding in the federal system. Most
people are pleading down because the federal government, quite clearly
as it should, should only be concentrating on large distribution and syndication,
so of course that makes sense. But again, the grist in the millstone is
the states and the hundreds of thousands of people that are being arrested
at the state level. And I can assure you, if you go into the neighboring
state of Idaho and get caught with a marijuana cigarette, you're going
to be drawn into the criminal justice system in a very harsh way, and
it's going to cost the taxpayers of Idaho a lot of money as juxtaposed
say for Colorado where, 20 years ago, the legislature passed a law allowing
for a small amount to be decriminalized. So after a quick interface, the
government ascertains you're not a bad person, you're not a fleeing felon,
you're not a terrorist, that's a good thing, and they take the marijuana
off the street. Well, arguably, under Jeff's scheme, that's a good thing.
And then they get about a 100 to 200 dollar, I call it a left-handed tax,
it's a fine. That seems to be a reasonable middle ground that I'm hoping
most of us can agree is better than outright prohibition where young people
lose access to their student loans, people in Section 8 housing get thrown
out, veterans get thrown out of the Veteran's Affairs stuff, that if you
hold a CDL license, a commercial driver's license, that you don't lose
that just for a single marijuana cigarette.
ARTHUR: I guess what I'm curious
about is, on a day-to-day basis, Jeff, what do your agents see? What kind
of destruction? And have you always been...? You know, I get the impression
that you fully believe in what you're doing, and was that always the case,
or is it what you've seen on the streets that's really changed your mind
or really reinforced your feelings?
SWEETIN: Well, first let me
say, everybody in this debate believes in what they're saying. I mean,
that should go without saying, but what my agency on a daily basis sees
are organizations that are really organized crime business organizations
that are making money on other people's pain and addiction and inability
to stop using drugs. We see large amounts of money generated that we would
argue would still be generated whether you tried to control these as some
of these guys have said. But has it changed me? I think through the years
I've become more convinced, maybe because I'm now a father, and the drugs
that I've worked against all my life and the organizations... now it's
personal. I will acknowledge to you that I also worry about alcohol, I
also worry about cough medicine and everything kids are using. But I also
believe that that's a pretty light argument for why we should give kids
more access to things. I believe that that legalization would increase
use, it would increase access and it would increase what it costs the
government to try to deal with the social problems.
ARTHUR: Do you get the impression
that, and we were talking about this earlier, that the government is a
bit obsessed with drugs in general? You know, why is there not a war on
homelessness or hunger? You know, why is so much money being spent to
stop people from doing drugs? You know, people drink as well, but there
is not a huge war, and you know alcohol is a huge destructive device in
society. You know, sometimes it just seems as though... Well it's almost
like the red scare, you know? Kind of. There's gloom and doom everywhere.
You know, I'm sure you must see it, but I personally don't. I mean, sure
I know people who have drug problems, I know many, many more who have
alcohol problems. But does it seem all imbalanced, or do you think it's
an appropriate amount of force and energy that's being put into the eradication?
SWEETIN: That's another big
question with a couple of questions in it. Let me say that, you know,
you talk about the red scare and the overreaction, as you would describe
it. Let me also say that I'm the only one in this debate that represents,
or that serves, the U.S. public. I mean, I know Allen serves his constituents
and everybody else here serves people that agree with them, but I basically
took an oath, as do my guys, to uphold what the U.S. public wants. And
so for me, you know, I don't think it is all gloom and doom. I don't think
my guys believe that. I think what I see is, I see that the government
is charged with, and the agents of the government are charged with doing
everything in their power that they believe to be in the best interest
of the public, and that's where we disagree. The disagreement is that
we vehemently believe that drugs are dangerous, there's a high social
cost, there's a huge financial cost. People die from drugs. We can all
agree that abused drugs lead to that. But what we don't agree on is what
should our reaction to that be. Well, that's why we have the government
we have. So my argument would be, whatever the government's reaction is,
we're not in a third world country where the government tells us what
to do and we have to take it. Allen acts as if we've got to stop this
government that's out of control. Well, we're the government. My argument
would be, "Allen, if your method was that acceptable to the people
of the United States, we wouldn't be having these debates." But the
bottom line is, 95 percent of the people in this country don't use drugs.
And state by state, except for where the medical marijuana issue has been
used by NORML as a "red herring," to quote the former director
of NORML, as a "red herring" to get marijuana back and get some
acceptance so that they could move towards smoked marijuana.
ST. PIERRE: Well, you know,
I mean, if you don't mind, Jeff, I mean, what a cardinal sin. I mean,
think about the people that are listening to you. You're insulting the
majority of people who voted for this even though you've had all this
opportunity to sway them otherwise.
SWEETIN: Well, I can't legally
do that, Allen.
ST. PIERRE: And why do you think
[INAUDIBLE] because right now as the polling goes, 36 percent of Americans
want marijuana just straight up, legal, sold right next to alcohol. Not
a majority, but a near plurality that has gone up 20 percent.
SWEETIN: I don't believe that
ST. PIERRE: Excuse me, in almost
ten years, decriminalization, as we discussed earlier, which is just a
basic fine, rather than get broadened to the criminal justice system,
70 percent of Americans want that system. And then lastly, medical marijuana.
You can't find a poll or focus group or a vote result where you're going
to find less than 60 percent, and it usually ranges in the 80 percentile.
So, therefore, you are absolutely correct, Jeff. When the people want
these things to happen, you and the other agents who work for the federal
government, John Walters, should stop going to the states and interfering
with the state's ability to pass these laws. Three weeks ago in Missouri,
just the little town of Columbia, Missouri, had three agents from the
federal government, the Men in Black, show up from the government. We,
the taxpayers, paid for them to go down there and showboat, go to editorial
boards, go to anti-drug groups, do the whole photo-op thing. That is indi...
When you say that you swore to uphold the Constitution, that's exactly
what you guys do. But if you want to take your money privately through
other private, independent, like the Colorado Narcotics Officers Association
or some other private group, that's great! But you cannot say that the
federal government does not use federal taxpayer dollars to interfere
with local and state initiatives.
SWEETIN: What? I'm not legally
permitted to do that, Allen. If I...
ST. PIERRE: Yeah, you're not,
but John Walters and his agents do.
SWEETIN: Who are John Walters'
ST. PIERRE: And by the way,
the DEA absolutely participates in these press conferences.
SWEETIN: Well, the press I'm
allowed to do. That's why I'm here today. But here's why I'm here. The
reason I'm here is because you're giving one side of the story, and you
talk about your budget as being a lowly budget, but you and I both know
that's not true. You've been well funded for 15 years.
ST. PIERRE: Excuse me. Let's
be very clear. Anybody can go to the IRS. All of the non-profit organizations
such as myself, unlike your organizations do not file public records.
We can't find out what you get paid. The public can find out to the dime
what I get paid.
SWEETIN: Absolutely incorrect.
ST. PIERRE: Last year's budget
was 700,000 dollars. Let's be clear.
SWEETIN: Allen, let me interrupt
you. Let me interrupt you. You say you're sitting at the Treasury Department
right now. You know as well as I do, you can find out through public record
what I make. I do a financial disclosure every year. You can pull it up
and tell me exactly what I make.
ST. PIERRE: Then great, we both
have transparencies, so why would you accuse me of otherwise?
SWEETIN: What I'm telling you
is you're acting like the DEA agents and federal agents are out there
trying to stop these initiatives. Here's what we're trying to do, if you
can legitimately change that law, then that's the American way.
ST. PIERRE: Excuse me, Jeff.
What did the citizens of Colorado do?
SWEETIN: The citizens...
ST. PIERRE: They legitimately
voted for it. It's in the State Constitution, is it not?
SWEETIN: Here's my concern.
ST. PIERRE: Is it not? Yes or
SWEETIN: Uh, yeah, I believe
ST. PIERRE: OK. Because we want
the citizens to understand what the law is. We don't want them to mis...
have to misinform them, Jeff.
SWEETIN: No, I'm not... I disagree
with you on that. I don't think you want them to.
ST. PIERRE: It's not the law?
SWEETIN: Did the former director
of NORML not say in a direct quote...?
ST. PIERRE: In 1978 in a two-lane
paper. That is wonderful propaganda that you took right out of your own
"How to Hold Your Own in a Drug Legalization Debate."
SWEETIN: That's exactly where
I took it.
ST. PIERRE: A manual that the
DEA pays for and distributes all around the United States, correct Jeff?
SWEETIN: Actually no. This was
written by the California Narcotics Officers Association.
ST. PIERRE: Narcotics Office
Association, Tom Gorman. I'm aware of the propaganda. That's why I'm so
used to listening to DEA agents repeat it over and over again.
ARTHUR: Let me break in. Allen.
ST. PIERRE: But you don't answer
the question. Why is it that the majority of Coloradoans, even if it is
in your words, "a red herring", why did they vote for it? Why
are you wrong and they're...?
ARTHUR: All right, Allen, let
him answer and then we'll move on.
SWEETIN: Well, I've taken that
as a quote, Allen. I mean, that's exactly the book I took it out of. I
mean, you take stuff out of the federal budget. I think it's unreasonable
to assume that I'm just going to come here and try and educate the public
on the other side of the argument.
ST. PIERRE: We know the playbook.
We know the playbook. We've all heard it. So the question is why are the
people in Colorado wrong and you're right?
ARTHUR: Wait, wait, wait, wait.
Allen, let me... We've just got to refocus here. All right, what I'd like
to do is ask about reformation of the drug laws. Troy, do you believe
that, you know, things are as they should be? That the drug laws are OK,
or are you for any change at all? Or does it seem appropriate to you?
LEPPER: Well, as I said when
I started this, I'm concerned with who is actually impacted by the war
on drugs. It's my belief that you can't declare a war on drugs. You declare
a war on people. And more people, or certain people, are affected by the
war on drugs more than others. According to the Center on Juvenile and
Criminal Justice, at almost every stage of the criminal justice process,
Whites fare better than African-Americans and the Latinos. One-third of
the White first-offenders had their charges reduced, compared to only
one-quarter of African-Americans and Latinos. White offenders received
rehabilitative placements in the community at twice the rates of Blacks
or Latinos. Latinos went to prison for drug offenses at twice the rate
of Whites. African-Americans received prison sentences one-third more
frequently than Whites. There's clearly certain populations that are impacted
by this war on drugs, quote unquote, "War on Drugs," than others,
and I have a major concern with that. If the law is going to be administered,
the law should be administered fairly across the board. There should not
be certain individuals in a system that gain access to rehabilitative
possibilities more so than others. And a lot of that's directly due to
how much money you can bring to the table when you're busted. And certain
populations find themselves disadvantaged financially, and not just financially,
but structurally. And as a sociologist, these are my concerns. I want
to know why it is that certain groups are impacted more than others. Not
to mention the fact that, you know, I've already mentioned that I believe
that marijuana is not a harmful substance and support more what Dan's
saying. You know, legalize it, set up clinics, tax it. If you have problems,
go to the clinic, take care of your problem, and move on. It's not an
incarceration issue. I believe that we find more people that... These
petty drug offenders, these marijuana offenders, if they do find themselves
in the prison system, one of the concerns is they come out more of a hardened
criminal than they were when they went in. And this is a defect, if you
will, of the present legislation on the war on drugs. These are the concerns
that I have. Not to mention, you know, how we perceive this problem. You
know, what is the problem? What is the problem compared to other substances?
We've discussed these issues. So I guess that's were I come from. And
I don't know if I answered your question, but that's kind of where I'm
ARTHUR: Right. Jeff, do you
see any of that on the street, or do your agents see that, or does that
at all ring true to you that, you know, the majority of the people who
suffer from the drug laws are actually Black or Latino, not White, whereas
the majority of users are actually White?
SWEETIN: First, I would disagree
with the last part that the majority of the users are White. I'm not really
comfortable agreeing to that. Are there inequities in the criminal justice
system? Sadly there are. It would be like me saying, you know, that because
the education system unfairly educates White kids better than it does
Black kids or Hispanic kids or illegal immigrants, that perhaps we should
scrap the system. I am not going to make a very good case that there isn't
discrimination everywhere, in every system, every bureaucracy. If I were
to ask Troy, "Is there discrimination at CSU in any form?" Troy
would be trapped, he would have to say, "Of course there is."
ARTHUR: So are you for reformation
of the drug laws that are discriminatory?
SWEETIN: Well, I don't think
it's the laws. I don't think laws are discriminatory. I think it's the
people that enforce them tend to make mistakes, and at times they can
be discriminatory. One of the things about...
ARTHUR: Can you give me an example,
or what do you mean by that?
SWEETIN: Well, I mean, how can
a law be discriminatory? I mean, there's been allegations that the laws
ARTHUR: Well, for instance the
law that says when you're caught with crack, it's a huge penalty. You,
I believe, must got to jail if you're caught with crack. And that's the
only drug where there's a mandatory sentence. Am I wrong about that? I
know you're not a lawyer. But in...
SWEETIN: Well, actually you
are wrong about that, but what I think... I understand what you're trying
to say. You're trying to draw the cocaine, hydrochloride, and crack disparity
that's long been argued in this country. The disparity is that crack cocaine...
The sentencing guidelines federally generally give more jail time to someone
for crack distribution than they do for powder cocaine distribution. That's
the way the law...
ARTHUR: Well, and also use,
correct? But isn't use of crack mostly among lower-income people, and
isn't that discriminatory?
SWEETIN: Well, I don't work
use cases. I mean, the... the DEA guys are not out there looking for somebody
that's using crack.
SWEETIN: We don't have enough
guys, we don't have enough time.
SWEETIN: We don't prosecute
users. But I will say that that has been a common argument in America
for the last few years. The problem with that argument is the law wasn't
discriminatory. The law was actually enacted because the dangers and the
addictive qualities of crack are more severe than powder cocaine. Crack
is merely just one recipe preparation of powder coke. But when you find
crack, the cost to society is greater. And I believe the legislators said,
"You know what? The societal cost is greater, so let's make the penalty
ARTHUR: Right, but what do you
believe? You know? I'm trying to get your personal opinion. If somebody's
caught with less than a gram of mushrooms, should what they're indicted
for or charged with be the same as kidnapping? I think it's a class three
felony. You know, does that seem fair, you know what I mean? How do you
feel personally? I'm just curious.
SWEETIN: Well, personally, I'm
not really that familiar with the state laws and how the kidnapping statute
lines up with mushroom possession or whatever.
ARTHUR: Well, it's a class three
SWEETIN: Let me use the crack
example. Crack... You know, the people that have argued that disparity
in crack assert that it's unfair to the people in lower socio-economic
areas, in the projects, we mentioned the housing projects earlier, that
it's unfair to those people for that sentencing to be higher. I would
ask the people, and I would ask these guys, when was the last time you
talked to a mother that lived in those projects? I've talked to them.
I've talked to those mothers, and you know what they say? "Absolutely.
Crack is ruining our lives." Now if you look at the difference to
that mother of a money launderer who's laundering 200 million dollars
a year and a crack distributor who offers her kid crack every time he
walks home from school, what does she want dealt with? Where does she
want the severe sentence? Her kid's not going to get kidnapped. She has
no ransom to pay. What she wants is serious penalties for the kid that's
trying to sell her kid crack.
ST. PIERRE: Well, no doubt every
parent would want to have such a thing happen, Jeff, but let me see if
I can put this into an analogy that maybe some of us can relate to. You
know, going after somebody for crack cocaine in a more severe way than
say something like cocaine, which is essentially chemically, save for
an addition, the same drug, is like going after somebody and giving them
a more enhanced penalty for having malt liquor rather than regular beer.
And who drinks malt liquor in society? I lived in one of these neighbourhoods,
by the way. I lived in downtown D.C., a place the DEA and the Drug Czar
came and had a little press conference declaring that the District of
Columbia would be drug free within three or four years. Well, you know,
of course that's not the case. But the same could be said regarding this
malt liquor and beer analogy in terms of going after individuals who use
malt liquor who tend to be, generally speaking, African- Americans who
are buying malt liquor, high potency beer in these stores. And to go after
them as if they had any greater moral turpitude than somebody who's drinking
beer or rot-gut wine, just seems rather absurd.
SWEETIN: Well, you are the one
that asserted controls like alcohol. Alcohol is controlled based on its
ST. PIERRE: Correct.
SWEETIN: Hard liquor is controlled
at a higher level than beer is.
ST. PIERRE: Correct.
SWEETIN: And I still believe
alcohol is a terrible example. First of all, what alcohol has cost this
nation in terms of resources is phenomenal.
ST. PIERRE: But you would never...
Excuse me, but this would be your opportunity... If your argument is to
make any sense, Jeff, this is your opportunity to say, because it is so
damaging and because almost everybody on this phone has had somebody in
their family or close to them totally ill-effected if not killed, like
I have in my family people who have abused alcohol, would you make it
illegal? Would you make the Adolph Coors family similar to the Cartels?
SWEETIN: Well, as you know,
Allen, I'm an executive branch guy. I don't make laws.
ST. PIERRE: Well, I know, but
that's the thing. We can have some fun with you here because the average
person, I think, thinks about it along these lines and says, "Wait
a minute. What really is the difference between these people named Philip
Morris and R.J.R. Reynolds, Adolph Coors and Freddy Heineken?"
SWEETIN: Well, I don't believe
that the average person does, or I believe we wouldn't have to have...
ST. PIERRE: No, they really
do. That's why [INAUDIBLE] that's why you lose at the polls, my friend.
SWEETIN: You know, Allen, what's
interesting is the Legislature could change this anytime the U.S. public
wanted them to. Yet every time I bring up the fact that if you really
have that argument, if the majority really believes that, go change the
law. But see every time I say that, Allen, you have to interrupt.
ST. PIERRE: Well, OK, that's
true. So a couple of years ago when we were in Colorado trying to simply
get a hemp law passed, your office sent out individuals, maybe even yourself,
to testify against something as innocuous as hemp. So you do spend your
time and effort going before legislators trying to impact the laws that,
you're right, you're sworn to uphold. But you also try to change. I mean,
the executive cop-out, it's not applicable here.
SWEETIN: Well, it's interesting
that my argument is a cop-out and your argument is the poor downtrodden
ST. PIERRE: Yeah, that's why [INAUDIBLE] should be responsible to legally control these
[INAUDIBLE] That is what you're
ARTHUR: All right, let me stop
you guys. Allen, just, uh, hold on second. I guess I'd like to, uh, hear
from Allen. Let's say NORML was allowed to get everything they wanted.
What would that be?
ST. PIERRE: Sure, very quickly,
how do we control alcohol? Either the state sells the liquor, that's in
the case of about 16 to 17 states, or it is sold through private distribution,
through ABC control. There's liability, there's control, there's licensing,
there's taxation at the local and federal and state level, there's potency
control, there's everything a person would want. Is it perfect? Of course
not. And, of course, when Jeff's kids get old enough, he'll have to worry
about them getting fake ID's to break that system, though few will do
it. But the point being here, that you can have a system in place that
looks very similar. The protocols, I daresay, that we are developing for
tobacco are going to completely comport with that for marijuana. Is an
individual going to be able to walk down the street puffing? Not likely.
In a home? In a restaurant? No. That seems to be the case where the society
is moving towards regarding tobacco. In my lifetime, tobacco has been
cut in half. We didn't use the Criminal Justice System, we didn't do racial
profiling, we didn't build prisons, we didn't take people's excrement
and drug test it, we didn't have all of these things. How did we drive
down the use of a highly addictive substance that is legal and taxed?
We used the Public Health Service. We used doctors, nurses, and the Public
Health Service. We did not use, forgive me, Jeff, narcs and confidential
informants and the whole sordid things that are necessary to find out
what people are doing in the secret of their homes.
ARTHUR: Right. OK, Allen, let
me stop you there. That is a relevant question. If we were able to stop
or really curb tobacco use in the United States, although it's moving
everywhere else in the world, why couldn't that be done with other drugs
that are equally as addictive? Jeff.
SWEETIN: Well, I would just
say that we're missing one point that concerns me as a taxpayer, and that's
that the estimates areand I'm sure Allen will have a better stat
and probably remind me as I'm saying minebut that drug abuse, right
now, costs the government about 160 to 180 billion dollars a year. Drug
abuse. OK? We talk a lot about the enforcement budget. Government budgets
are expensive; I'll acknowledge that as much as anyone. But if we legalize
drugs, everyone's got to admit... No, they don't have to admit, but doesn't
everyone here believe that use will increase? Certainly, Allen believes
ARTHUR: Yes, but wait, Allen...
ST. PIERRE: No, I think [INAUDIBLE]
to agree. It would, but then what would be the harm measured therein?
You could look at things like, "Well, were there greater fatalities
on the side of the road? Was there a greater incidence of lung cancer?"
But, you know, Jeff, we've had 11 commissioned studies since 1888.
ST. PIERRE: We've had massive,
massive government studies.
ARTHUR: Let me... Allen. Allen.
ST. PIERRE: We've had 13,000
studies done by the federal government and state governments on marijuana...
ARTHUR: Allen. [ASIDE: Turn
ST. PIERRE: And it just doesn't
reach that level of harm. [INAUDIBLE]
ARTHUR: Allen, I'm sorry, you've
got to kind of hold back here a little bit and let me break in. I'd like
to follow up with that. You know, if drugs were legalizedalthough
that's really probably going way too farif there was some sort of
reasonable drug laws, you know, where the sentence fit the crime, isn't
it possible that America would be allowed to grow? You know, there would
be this... Well, for instance, in Europe, kids can drink at a young age,
but it doesn't turn them into alcoholics. I think sometimes the drug war
possibly... You know, if you tell a teenager that something is evil, and
you should never do it, and it's a huge monster and, worse, it's going
to really tick off your parents, isn't that what they want to do? You
know, aren't we taunting them to do drugs if we tell them not to? And
is there any chance that de-emphasizing that might do more of what we're
trying to do at all?
SWEETIN: I assume you're asking
me since you're looking at me. I would just say that we need to get out
on the table, throughout this alcohol/drug comparison, that the statistics
I have indicate that 10 percent of drinkers suffer from alcoholism, eventually,
10 percent. The side of that stat is 75 percent of abusers of illicit
drugs become addicted to illicit drugs. So let's go in with our eyes open.
ARTHUR: Wait. Addicted, but
then do they quit? Or do they...?
SWEETIN: Well, addiction is
stopped through a lot of ways. People can stop their own addictions; I'm
not an addiction expert, but that addiction comes with a social cost.
So if we're arguing this on the line of alcohol, let's not say that all
we're doing is we're opening up another form of alcohol. The other thing
I would add is that the three guysand we haven't let everybody speak
very muchbut Dan and the NORML organization, they don't even agree.
Now we're discussing this legalization. They are pro-legalization, and
they don't even agree on what should be legalized. So this debate needs
to occur in the full light of day that, OK, the Libertarians are talking
about PCP, crack, methamphetamine, club drugs, GHB, GBL. I think, and
correct me if I'm wrong, Allen, you guys are just talking about marijuana.
ST. PIERRE: We're one-note johnnies
SWEETIN: Right, so if the legalizers
can't agree, how can we expect the U.S. public to figure this out?
ARTHUR: Well, that's like saying,
you know, if we can't agree, then we shouldn't keep discussing it.
SWEETIN: No, I agree we should
discuss it. That's why I'm here.
SWEETIN: We should discuss it.
SWEETIN: But we should understand
that it's not legalizers and non-legalizers and government goliath agents,
it's, "Let's decide what we're talking about and see if people want
ARTHUR: And what about treatment?
Does putting, uh, the drug dealers in jail and...? Is that the right way
to go? You know, someone who is selling marijuana or, I don't know, mushrooms
or LSD or something like that, is putting them away for a long time the
most effective thing you can do?
COCHRAN: If they're creating
acts of violence, that's an appropriate thing to do, but if they're not
creating acts of violence towards somebody else... In other words they're
using drugs for their own detriment or benefit, whichever way they choose
to look at it, then it's wrong to be incarcerating these people. It's
wrong to be infringing upon their freedom to destroy their life if that's
what they choose to do. One thing that I've seen in all the discussion
here, and as a Libertarian, I want to just point out that there's some
commonality that we're seeing in some of this discussion. Some of the
commonality is, we've got some bad laws in this country. I think even
Jeff agrees with this, that there are... He's out there enforcing some
of these laws that maybe he doesn't like some of them. He can't admit
to that, whether he likes them or not, but we're seeing... Certainly Allen
has pointed out a number of bad laws. Jeff made an extremely good point
that it is we the people who are responsible for changing those laws.
As long as the people continue to elect the same politicians that continue
to enact these bad laws, federal laws that override state constitutional
amendments, these type of things, we're going to have these problems.
The voters have got to quit electing Democrats and Republicans that are
bringing these bad laws down upon us. And I want to put a name to the
drug issue, if I may, and then I'll be done for tonight. Steve Cubby lived
in California. Steve Cubby was involved in the legalization of medical
marijuana in California. He has adrenal cancer, a rare form of cancer.
He believes, whether it'sand ones can argue the pointbut he
believes the best way for him to maintain a quality of life is through
medical marijuana. He signed up for medical marijuana, he took it. He
had federal agents, and I can't say right offhand whether it was DEA agents
or not, but he had federal agents override the state constitutional amendment
and come in and arrest him and charge him with crimes. He has been fighting
that, he became active in the Libertarian Party after being charged with
these crimes. The most recent thing in Steve Cubby's situation is he has
had to move to Canada in order to continue the medical treatment that
he believes is right for him, and the Canadian government is currently
conducting hearings to determine whether or not Steve Cubby should be
allowed political asylum in Canada. Political asylum from the tyranny
that exists in the United States. This is something we normally expect
other people to come to the United States for, and today it has gotten
so bad that people are having to go to other countries to get asylum from
the United States government.
ARTHUR: Right. Thank you, Dan.
I guess I'd like to... I know it seems like we're ganging up on you here,
Jeff, and I guess that we kind of are since there's three to one and you're
great for holding your own.
ARTHUR: OK. [LAUGHS] All right,
I guess I'd like to end with the question, you know, I've been a human
being in the United States here for 34 years, and I haven't seen any difference
in the way people use drugs or get them or how much they cost. I guess,
how will we ever know that we're doing the right thing if there isn't
some...? How do we measure it, you know?
SWEETIN: Well, the simple answer
is what we do is we fight crime and we... Interestingly, and I'll end
as I started off, what I do for a living, it's different than what I did
when I was a uniformed policeman. People aren't asking me everyday for
a report card on how do I know you're successful. You know the same argument
that Allen would make that the jails are full of drug traffickers, and
I paraphrased you there, Allen. But that same argument is what I show
as success. I believe that those lawsand let me just correct, there
aren't laws I'm out there enforcing that I disagree withthe laws
that I enforce are... There aren't actually that many of them in Title
21, but I don't walk around upset that I'm enforcing these laws. But the
evidence is what we have done, not what you see. And to put law enforcement
into that area, in any form of law enforcement, sets us up for the inability
to evaluate. So the argument that comes from the war example: sixteen
days it took us to get to Baghdad and we were done.
ARTHUR: How about just a corporate
example? You know, OK, so we're selling... I don't know, if you were...
How in the DEA do you know that you're getting somewhere? You know, just
plain and simply, if the drug cost hasn't gone down, then is there any
chance... Let me ask you this, let me put it to you this way. Is there
anything that would change your mind about the drug war? You know, could
it go too far? Or you know, would you be worn out after 40 years of being
a drug crusader? You know, do you have people in your organization who
just say, "You know, it just doesn't seem like we're putting a dent
COCHRAN: We can't keep drugs
out of prison; we're certainly not going to keep them off the street.
SWEETIN: Well, that was an interesting
editorial comment there, but in answer to your question, what would change
my mind? I think what would change my mind is if I felt like and my people
felt like the majority of Americans totally disagreed with the laws we're
enforcing. I do believe that if that were true, we wouldn't be enforcing
them; they would no longer be laws. What my concern is, and let me end
with this, is that we're not giving true information out. We're using
medical marijuana, we're using these other things, and a lot of this is
opinion. But we're using that to muddy the issue. Interestingly, the decriminalization
effort, where Allen had his three tenets at the beginning, if those are
really what NORML wants, that's what NORML needs to tell everybody. And
the medical marijuana issue should be left out of it, until the science
proves it. You know, we keep talking about this poor guy that's dying
of cancer, he believes that's the right medicine for him. But what if
he believes in other things as well? What if he believes that anthrax
and hand grenades help him heal? Well, the government eventually has to
say, "You know, that doesn't work. The science isn't there."
ST. PIERRE: Well, Jeff, that
would be great if we were talking about hand grenades and anthrax. We're
talking about cannabis here. I mean, come on, bring it back to earth.
ARTHUR: Allen we'll give you
a follow-up here, just give me a second. All right, ladies and gentlemen,
you've been... That was Jeffrey Sweetin, the Special Agent in Charge of
the Denver Field Division of the DEA that covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah,
and Montana. I'd like to thank you, Jeffrey, for coming in. Even though
people may not agree with the drug laws you enforce, I think everybody
understands that your job is extremely dangerous, and that's appreciated
along with your agents. Allen what were you going to say?
ST. PIERRE: Well, I mean, I
just wanted to address Jefferey's concern there, feigned as I think it
is, regarding whether or not people use marijuana for medical purposes.
ARTHUR: OK, this is... Can you
make this...? Thirty seconds.
ST. PIERRE: Very simply. You
asked the question, how do we know? We don't know. You can go to the omb.gov
or the NORML web page, norml.org, and read a report that was put out about
three weeks ago, from the Office of Management and Budget. It gave the
DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, a zero. It could not measure
whether it was doing good, whether it was doing bad, whether it was pushing
the numbers down, whether it was using its resources. That is certainly
not an indictment against the field offices, in deference to Jeff. They
have the most difficult jobs out there, but back here in La-La Land, inside
the Beltway, they got a zero. The worst rating a bureaucracy in the United
States has ever received. So I'm sad to say that what we really have,
to use a metaphor to end here, is it's like emptying the ocean with a
spoon. You can do it, but why would we take such a herculean effort in
our lifetime when we could have a much more pragmatic program in place?
ARTHUR: All right thank you
very much. That was Allen St. Pierre, who is the Foundation Executive
Director of NORML in Washington, D.C. Thank you Allen for being with us.
Dan, anything you'd like to end with?
COCHRAN: Well, I'd just like
to say for those people that would like to get more information on the
Libertarian Party, go out to the website at www.lp.org, or you can go
to lpcolorado.org for the Colorado Libertarian site.
ARTHUR: OK. And Jeffrey, the
DEA's the web address, is it gov?
SWEETIN: It's dea.gov, that's
ARTHUR: That's right. That's
right. And NORML is... Allen, what's NORML's?
ST. PIERRE: norml.org.
ARTHUR: OK, thank you very much.
Troy, thank you. Is there anything you'd like to end with?
LEPPER: I don't know. I guess
I'd like to say that if you ask me what the first step in drug reform
is, it's removing marijuana from a class-one narcotic. I think that as
far as the general public is concerned, marijuana is probably their major
concern in the inequities in the war on drugs. Why is that thrown as a
class-one narcotic? We could debate that for a long time. And the last
thing would be, I believe, what I would hope to see happen is for us as
theorists and administrators to start taking a critical look at the prison
industrial complex, the growth of the prison industrial complex, especially
in relation to the war on drugs. Is there a correlation between the two?
There could be, and I think that there's a lot of room for studies and
just a critical view of what that growth means to the war on drugs. And
thanks for having me, Eddie.
ARTHUR: All right, thank you
very much. That was Troy Lepper, a sociology professor at CSU. I'd like
to thank you for listening to the Bullhorn Talk Show on 88.9 FM, our discussion
tonight was about drug laws and the drug war.
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