A Drug War Carol

Jesse Ventura, the TV host, had a tremendously interesting discussion regarding:
Should marijuana be legalized?

JESSE VENTURA, HOST: Imagine an alien suddenly dropped into the 21st
century America. He goes to a Monday night football game and witnesses
thousands of people guzzling a liquid refreshment as fast as vendors
can supply it. Observing the spectacle of the game itself, the alien
is constantly distracted by fans whose behavior seems to become more
and more bizarre. He watches as fights break out between half-naked
fans with painted bodies.

By the end of the contest, on the playing field, he notes that most of
the people around him seem to have lost their ability to walk and for
some reason, their speech has changed. Words are less audible. They
seem to be talking in slow motion. Once the game is over, he watches
the fans stumbling toward their cars, cursing and threatening other

Clearly, the alien observes, something has caused these fans to have a
mind-altering experience. But whatever is going on, it seems to be
acceptable behavior for this society, because all the while, many
police officers observe the behavior, but remain at a distance and
don't interfere.

The next day, the alien attends a lecture on a college campus. After
lecture, he's invited by some students to a party. At the party,
students are sitting around drawing smoke from a bottle-like structure
with water in it. The smoke is inhaled into their bodies, the
conversation is friendly, calm and respectful, and music is playing in
the background. But all of a sudden, many police officers arrive with
guns, grab the water-filled bottle, put handcuffs on everyone in the
room, and take them off to jail. The alien is totally confused.

Welcome to the United States of America, the land of hypocrisy.


VENTURA: It's time to do it.

How simple can it get?

I'm sure I'll get plenty of heat over that, but so what?

You may not always want to hear it, but you will get honesty.


VENTURA: Welcome to JESSE VENTURA'S AMERICA, the show that isn't afraid
to tackle tough issues and take, maybe, sometimes unpopular stands.

As you can see, free Tommy. I'll get to that later. First I want to
welcome our audience. Our audience is made up from people from all
walks of life. They're not pundits. They're real people. They are not
politicians, they're common ordinary citizens. Audience, get ready,
because we're going to talk about a very emotional issue.

Drugs have been a serious problem for many individuals and for our
country as a whole. But are we making any headway? We'll talk with
critics of the war on drugs and we'll talk with the representative of
the federal Office of Drug Control Policy. And be assured, we'll be
asking a few tough questions.

Our first guest is Robert Kampia, probably the most ardent spokesperson
for ending the war on marijuana users in America. Rob is executive
director of the Marijuana Policy Project based in Washington, D.C. Rob,
give us a little background. What is the Marijuana Project, Rob?

ROB KAMPIA, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: We're a national organization. We
have dues-paying membership across the country, a staff of 21 people in
D.C. who are working to end the federal government's war on marijuana
users. And we do that primarily through lobbying state legislatures,
running ballot initiatives and lobbying Congress directly.

VENTURA: Rob, do you think there's any chance in hell that they're
going to relax their laws on marijuana and make it legal? Do you
believe that?

KAMPIA: Absolutely. You know ...

VENTURA: What indications are you being given ...

KAMPIA: We have ...

VENTURA: ... that they are going in that direction?

KAMPIA: Well, on the medical marijuana front, which we, you know, keep
separate from the full issue of regulating marijuana, like alcohol,
medical marijuana, we win every battle. There's been seven ballot
initiatives, all seven have passed. Medical marijuana is now legal in
eight states.

VENTURA: But -- can I interject? You're saying you're winning but the
feds come in and overrule the states.


VENTURA: And they tell -- they tell the states, no, you can't do this.
We're going to imprison doctors. That's not happening?

KAMPIA: No, the feds go in and they shut down wide-scale large medical
marijuana distributors. And those are not really legal under state law
any way. But they're not touching the core of these laws, which is
that it allows patients to grow their own and to use medical marijuana
in the privacy of their home. Those laws are standing and they are
working well.

VENTURA: You know, Rob, you hear this talk all the time that well, we
don't dare legalize marijuana because it is the gateway drug. Everyone
starts with marijuana, and then will progress to cocaine and
eventually, get on heroin and what we would call the hardcore drugs.
Do you find that as factual or fraudulent?

KAMPIA: It's fraudulent. You know, the Institute of Medicine issued a
study four years ago, which was actually commissioned by the White
House drug czar's office. And they said that there is no gateway from
marijuana to the hard drugs.
I mean, look at it logically. Most people who use marijuana do not use
cocaine. It's not a gateway. To the extent that you want to argue it
is a gateway, there is some people who when they go and they buy
marijuana from a drug dealer, that drug dealer is also, you know, has
LSD, cocaine, heroin, what have you.


KAMPIA: And so, if you want to talk about a gateway, you could say that
the drug dealers are the gateway. And if you regulated marijuana and
brought it in off the streets, an adult who wanted to go and purchase
marijuana would not see cocaine or heroin or what have you. That's the
way to eliminate it.

VENTURA: I would come back and say the gateway drug is tobacco. And I
say that only from my own personal experience. When we were little
kids, the first thing you always did, you found the kid that could
write the best. And that kid would write, please give my son so and so
two packs of Marlboro and sign it. And you'd walk into the local
little grocery store in those days. We all had the little mom and pop
groceries on almost every corner anyway, and, you know, the guy in
there, if you had a note, OK. You're buying them for your parents. And
I'd be out back in the alley passing out the cigarettes and everybody,
I don't know, seventh, eighth grade, whatever we were, smoking

So to me, if they want to talk gateway drug, the gateway drug in
America is tobacco. That's the first -- And let me say, when you're
under what? 18, that's illegal. Excuse me. How many years did it --
did it take for us to admit that children smoking was illegal? I
remember it was laughed off for most part at all. Well, he's just
smoking. Who cares? Anyway, Rob, what about, you hear about cancer and
you hear about the toxic of smoking. Doesn't -- isn't marijuana the
same? You're ingesting smoke into your body? Isn't it going to give
you cancer the same way tobacco will?



KAMPIA: There's no scientific evidence that shows that smoking
marijuana causes cancer.

VENTURA: But they tell -- they tell you there's more carcinogens in it
than there is in tobacco. Are they being untruthful to us?

KAMPIA: It's fair to say that there is more tars and -- and other nasty
chemicals in marijuana than there is in any one hit that you would take
off of a tobacco cigarette. But I wouldn't use the word carcinogens.
Let's -- let's be honest here. There's something like 90 million
Americans have used marijuana. If marijuana really led to cancer,
where are the bodies?

VENTURA: OK, stay with us. We'll take a break, we'll be right back, and
we'll take a look at some of the most outrageous criminal activity in
the country. You won't want to miss it. Stay tuned.


VENTURA: Welcome back to JESSE VENTURA'S AMERICA. We're talking about
the war on drugs, and our next guest is Stan Levenson. Stan is an
attorney from Pittsburgh who defended the infamous Tommy Chong when Mr.
Chong was charged with selling water pipes as drug paraphernalia.
Tommy Chong was arrested this year when the FBI, the Drug Enforcement
Agency, and Attorney General Ashcroft's office and many local law
enforcement agencies got together for Operation "Pipe Dream." Stan,
what do you think about all this? I mean you -- you represented Tommy.
Give us a background. What happened here? Why is Tommy Chong serving
nine months in prison for selling a pipe over the Internet?

that. Unfortunately, Tommy will be probably the only one of the 55
defendants charged with no prior criminal convictions who will see the
inside of the jail cell. Everybody else thus far who has no prior
criminal convictions has gotten house arrest and work releases, which
is what we were asking for for Tommy and thought it would be the
appropriate sentence.

VENTURA: Why -- why didn't Tommy get that if he's never been convicted
of anything before and this is his first offense, why wouldn't he get
what the other defendants got?

LEVENSON: I don't know for sure. But he is certainly the poster boy


LEVENSON: And I think that putting him in jail lent credibility, such
as it is, to this -- to this whole silly endeavor.

VENTURA: Now, isn't it true that Tommy plea bargained and accepted a
jail term, as I heard, correct me if I am wrong, to save his wife and
his child?

LEVENSON: You're partially right.


LEVENSON: Tommy determined from the outset that he was not going to
contest the charges. If we could arrange a deal that would assure that
neither his son nor his wife were charged.


LEVENSON: We were able to arrange that deal after several months of
negotiating with the U.S. Attorney's office. So instead of charging
Tommy's wife or son, the corporation was the second defendant. So it
was Tommy and the corporation. Tommy did not expect, nor did we, that
he was going to get a jail sentence out of this. We were fully
expecting that he would get house arrest and the work release.

VENTURA: First of all, counselor, let me ask this. How can this be
against the law? You're selling a pipe. He wasn't selling the actual
marijuana. I mean, that pipe, yeah, we all know what they're used for,
water pipes. We know what they're used for. But there -- you still
could be putting Bull Durham in it.

LEVENSON: They -- unfortunately, that's an argument that's not accepted
by the courts. However ...


LEVENSON: Because our lawmakers have determined that they need to
protect us from this evil by having a statute on the books that makes
it unlawful to sell this kind of equipment that can be used for smoking
marijuana. It is a ridiculous law. It has seen little law enforcement
until this operation in Pittsburgh earlier this year. As a criminal
defense lawyer for 37 years, I can tell you, this is the first federal
case I've ever had and I do a lot of drug work, where this was a
charge. I was quite surprised even to see this on the books.

VENTURA: Do you think we're going in a direction today of these laws
getting even worse, counselor? Or are we going in a direction to where
they're starting to back off now? Tommy Chong out of the mix.

LEVENSON: No, we're going in serious reverse. We've been thrown back
about 70 or 80 years by recent enforcement policies and ...

VENTURA: Why -- why do you think that's happening?

LEVENSON: I can't answer that question. I'm sure that Attorney General
Ashcroft has a reason for it. It bewilders me what that reason could
be. With everything else that's going on in this world, I don't
understand why this particular emphasis, especially since the war on
drugs has been an unmitigated failure. We keep incarcerating more and
more people for longer and longer amounts of time. And all we're doing
is building more jails. We're certainly not reducing the use of drugs
in this country.

VENTURA: Counselor, we're out of time. We want to thank you very much
for your time and please, give Tommy my best, tell him we're all
wishing him well and we're behind him on this show 100 percent. Thank
you, counselor.

LEVENSON: I will tell him.

VENTURA: Thank you. Stay with us. Because when we come back, a
representative of the drug czar's office will join us in our
discussion, and I can tell our audience is just itching to weigh in on
this one. Stay with us.


VENTURA: Welcome back to JESSE VENTURA'S AMERICA. Joining me now is
Tom Riley. Mr. Riley is the director of public affairs for the Office
of National Drug Control Policy.


VENTURA: Hi, Tom, how are you?

RILEY: Thanks for having me on the show.

VENTURA: Well, it's my pleasure but you may not say that when you're

RILEY: I was -- You've already got me. You're a common sense guy, and
you are falling for all that baloney that was spilled out by the first
two guests.

VENTURA: Well, first of all, being a common sense guy is exactly what
I'm talking about, Tom. My -- let me ask you this.

RILEY: Sure.

VENTURA: Would you -- would you have supported the prohibition of
alcohol 75 years ago?

RILEY: I'm glad you brought up the alcohol example. I mean, as a
governor, you must have known firsthand the cost of alcohol. I hear
this argument a lot of times, like alcohol ...

VENTURA: That isn't what I asked you, Tom. I asked you a specific
question. Don't give me a spin. I said ...

RILEY: I would not have ...

VENTURA: I said, would you have supported the prohibition of alcohol 75
years ago?

RILEY: I don't think I would have.


RILEY: Because alcohol for better or worse, and a lot of times for
worse, it's a close call, is long entrenched and ingrained part of our
culture and our society. I mean you go back thousands of years. The
first writing is about alcohol, the Bible, everything else. It is
really hard to reach in ...

VENTURA: Really? Well, Tom, wait a minute.

RILEY: ... and pull this out of the society.

VENTURA: Let me object something down here.


VENTURA: If you believe that God -- God also made the marijuana plant.

RILEY: I'm talking about society. I'm talking about -- about our
culture and our society.

VENTURA: Wait, you just said the Bible.

RILEY: It's hard to pull it out of our society.

VENTURA: All right.

RILEY: It is hard-wired.

VENTURA: Tom, my point is this: my mother lived through prohibition of
alcohol. She passed away a couple years ago. She was a very bright
woman. A nurse, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), World War II vet in Africa. She
looked at me in her latter years and said, you know, this war on drugs
is identical to the prohibition of alcohol.

RILEY: All right.

VENTURA: Now, here is a woman that lived and saw both. And she said,
all they're doing is creating criminals' wealth, because criminals like
Al Capone got wealthy during the prohibition of alcohol and criminals
like Pablo Escobar are getting wealthy today because of the prohibition
of drugs. How do you answer that?

RILEY: Prohibition is a hard policy. It's a tough policy. But the
problem with drugs in this country isn't about one policy or another.
It is about drug use. It is about drug addiction. There are seven
million Americans right now with a clinically diagnosable addiction to
drugs. The costs that has to society are staggering. Health care
costs, education costs, violent crime. All these things.

VENTURA: And imagine how staggering it is, Tom, to have to pay the
prices for these illegal drugs. You don't see people out holding
people up to get their next drink. You don't see people out sticking
up the 7-eleven store to buy a pack of smokes. But when they're
addicted to these other substances, the price goes through the roof
because they're illegal and therefore, they have to commit other crimes
to support their addictions.

RILEY: Most of the violence that's associated with drugs is people who
are on drugs, not drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is a crime.
That's what prohibition is about. But the thing that drives it is that
most of the violent crime that's committed, or most of the crime,
period, that's committed are having to do with drugs. It's people who
are on drugs committing violent crimes. If you make it legal, if you
make it cheaper, you make it more available, you are going to have more
violence, more addiction, more crime.

VENTURA: Tom, that is not true. Stop lying to us.

RILEY: Oh, now, come on.

VENTURA: Stop lying to us. That is not true. You know -- don't tell
me that. I've smoked pot, Tom. I've admitted it. I've done it. I've
done all of the big three. I've done tobacco, I've done alcohol, and
I've done marijuana, Tom. Guess what? Marijuana is the least of the
three, pal.

RILEY: What about ... I mean -- you did ...

VENTURA: Wake up to that. How many people smoke pot and go home and
beat their wives up? How many people drink and go home and beat their
wives up? Let's talk common sense here, Tom.

RILEY: OK, OK, OK. But you said you'd answer me one tough question.

VENTURA: Go ahead.

RILEY: Which is what do you think about drugs like methamphetamine or
crack, cocaine? Should they be illegal or should they be widely

VENTURA: No. I don't believe any of them should be widely available.
But I think they should be available at hospitals without people being
forced to face prosecution ...

RILEY: Wait a minute.

VENTURA: ... to support their habit.


VENTURA: Nobody is talking about putting them in the 7-eleven. And
you, guys, use that crap all the time. There ain't -- nobody talking
about that. What we're talking about is making it available to people.
Making it so the addict can come forward and say I'm an addict.

RILEY: How do they get addicted? They were -- they born addicted to
cocaine or crack?

VENTURA: No, they weren't. But how do you ...

RILEY: ... fight it.

VENTURA: Well, how do you get addicted to cigarettes?

RILEY: By trying it. By having it marketed to you. By having it
widely available like cigarettes are.

VENTURA: Well, let me ask you this, Tom. In our Constitution, it says
the right to the pursuit of happiness, doesn't it? It doesn't say
anything in there that your pursuit of happiness might be that you want
to be stupid.

RILEY: And ...

VENTURA: There is nothing in our country that says you can't be stupid.
And yet you, people, want to throw people in jail for being stupid.

RILEY: Well, no, that's not true. That's not true.

VENTURA: That's totally true.

RILEY: Who is in jail for drugs? I ask you that.

VENTURA: Tommy Chong.

RILEY: Tommy Chong? You know, OK, you want to talk about? Even
marijuana, which is the most controversial, the average amounts that
someone is in jail for marijuana possession for it is over 100 pounds.
They're drug traffickers. It's not college kids.

VENTURA: And you're not being truthful with me. We will be back right
after this. He has given us federal spin, baby.


VENTURA: Welcome back to JESSE VENTURA'S AMERICA where we're talking
about the war, but not the war that most people are talking about
today. We're talking about the war on drugs. You think that the war
in Iraq is a tough one. Well, stick with us. Because we're going to
talk more and more about how much it costs the taxpayers billions more
than Iraq and it's had far more casualties and hundreds of thousands of
more prisoners than Iraq. And again, I'm not talking about World War
II or Vietnam. I'm talking about the war on drugs. With us is
Tom Riley, the director of public affairs for the Office of National
Drug Control Policy. First of all, Tom, I want to say thank you. You
got guts. You got courage because you came on here. No, and I say
that in all seriousness. I really appreciate it. You've allowed me to
hammer you a little bit today. But then again, that's kind of your
job, isn't it?

RILEY: Oh, it is. But I think that this is one of those ones, I think
drug legalization is one of those ideas that, you know, it sounds like
an easy answer to a complicated problem. You were talking earlier
about, you know, the drug war, the drug effort being something that's
gone on for a long time and costs a lot of money. It does. It is
really hard. But the thing we're trying to do is to reduce drug use.
Because it is the consequences of drug use that are the hard part. Can
I ask you one more thing?

VENTURA: That if you really want to get drug use, then you should be
leading for the prohibition of tobacco and alcohol. You know ...

RILEY: Alcohol and tobacco do terrible damage to our society. Health
costs. You said before, people getting drunk and committing crimes and
violence to the family. That's -- that's huge. It's a huge problem.
And anybody who says it isn't is lying to you.


RILEY: But on the other hand, why would we want to make that bigger?
Why would we want to make that -- take that already giant problem and
make it worse by having more drugs?

VENTURA: Because -- because you're not going to make it bigger, Tom,
and I'll tell you why. I've been over to the Netherlands. I've been
over to Holland. And they have -- they have a holiday there called
Queen's Day, which is the biggest holiday in town where all the
merchants come from out of town. It's a big party. I talked to a
couple cabbies there, and if you really want to know about somewhere,
talk to a cab driver, because they're down on the street level.
They're not sitting up in offices wearing suits and ties and all that.
You know what they told me in Holland, Tom, where drugs are pretty well

RILEY: Marijuana.

VENTURA: No. They said they're going to -- they said they're going to
thinking of banning alcohol on Queen's Day because of all the problems
it causes. Now, you laugh over that. The point of the matter is this.
I said to him, why do you need to ban alcohol? He said because there
is fights, there is disruptive behavior; there is everything that goes
along with it. I said what about the cannabis smokers? He said
they're not a problem. There hasn't even been talk of that.

RILEY: Well, let me respond to you there with two parts. One is that,
you know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the Netherlands, just paradise, one, the
biggest movement there is to move away from cannabis cafes. About half
of them have been shut down in the last few years and they just barely
staved off a government measure to cut them -- to shut them down this
year. You can take other countries in Europe like Sweden, which have
tougher anti-marijuana laws than we do. And they have much lower drug
use than us or than Netherlands. So you can pick and choose. That's
fair. But you know what -- you said something earlier that.

VENTURA: Go ahead.

RILEY: I'm a good Republican. I'm skeptical of the federal government,
too. You said ...

VENTURA: Oh, no, no, no.

RILEY: ... that federal spin ...

VENTURA: Wait a minute, Tom. Don't fire that at me. I just found out
you Republicans have increased spending 26 percent.

RILEY: Wait ...

VENTURA: Don't tell me you're a good Republican ...

RILEY: You told audience ...

VENTURA: ... or you are anti-government, because you, Republicans, want
as much to control government as anybody.

RILEY: Yeah, but you told the audience to not believe the federal spin.
OK, don't. I mean you know what are you saying? And you say, don't
believe me about marijuana being harmful, about marijuana being
addictive, about people being in trouble, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a
dangerous drug. Don't believe me.


RILEY: Don't believe the lobbyists from the ...

VENTURA: I don't ...

RILEY: ... don't believe the activists either.

VENTURA: Tom, I know.

RILEY: Do you know what you can do?

VENTURA: You know why I don't believe you? Because I'm 52 years old
and I've tried it.

RILEY: Well, then...


VENTURA: And so you can't tell me ...

RILEY: Well ...

VENTURA: You can't -- you can't excuse the pun, blow smoke in my eyes
on that one.

RILEY: Well ...

VENTURA: Because I've done it. Number one, it is not addictive. It is
not addictive.

RILEY: You know what? You don't -- I said, you don't have to believe
me, but there's some people that you should believe. Don't even
believe the government if you don't want to. Minnesota is a great
state for a treatment. They have some of the best treatment centers in
the country. Call them. Anybody watching this,
open up your yellow pages right now. Pick a treatment center random,
drug treatment, people work in drug treatment are the people who pick
up the mess on the drug problem.

VENTURA: And they also ...

RILEY: God bless them.

VENTURA: And Tom, they get paid for it, don't they? So they want their

RILEY: So the good people who are working in drug treatment ...

VENTURA: Follow the money, Tom! Tom, follow the money. Let's go to
the audience.

RILEY: If marijuana is harmful or addictive, ask them. And you know
what? I'm confident that no matter who you pick, if they're medically
reputable, they are going to say the same thing, they are going to say
wow, it is a much bigger problem than most people realize.

VENTURA: Sure, it is. But they name as biggest alcohol and tobacco,

RILEY: That doesn't mean -- that doesn't mean we add to our problem. We
should try to reduce our problems.

VENTURA: Come on. It's called freedom, Tom. Freedom. Freedom.

RILEY: Freedom ...

VENTURA: Freedom to be stupid if I want to.

RILEY: Freedom to destroy our (UNINTELLIGIBLE) community?


RILEY: No, I don't think that's ...

VENTURA: Audience, go ahead, fire away at Tom.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I'm wondering what he thinks about those with
debilitating medical conditions who choose to use marijuana as a
medicine? Do you think that they should be arrested and thrown into

RILEY: I think that the medical marijuana issue has been very cagily
used by people like your first guest as a wedge issue to try to get
this in. Now, you know what? You said earlier about blowing smoke.
That's -- that's definitely an issue that's got some complication to
it. Is -- are there elements of the cannabis plant that might have
medical uses? I don't know. Let's let scientists decide that and let
them make -- turn it into medicines.

VENTURA: Well ...

RILEY: But I do know ...

VENTURA: Tom, scientists are -- scientists ...

RILEY: ... there's no smoked weeds that are a medicine.

VENTURA: Wait, Tom. Science has already proven it.

RILEY: How is that?

VENTURA: How is that? Well, first of all, they know for a fact that it
helps chemotherapy patients to eat. Now, if you can't put proper
nutrition in your body, how are you supposed to battle and use those
drugs to fight cancer? And Tom, let me ask you this. If I've got
cancer, you can go straight to hell if you think I'm not going to try
marijuana to help myself. What other, if I've got cancer, what do I
care what the government says to me?

RILEY: Well, I hope you care what your doctor says to you, because he
probably prescribes something for you, which is far more efficacious,
far more proven and far more controlled. There's plenty of other
medicines for those thing. And again, look at the people who are
advocating for this. Is it the American Medical Association? Is it
the Chemotherapy Association? Is it the American Cancer Institute?
No. It is the marijuana legalizers. And you're a skeptical
guy. I mean, why aren't medical professions and the patients
organizations pushing for this?

VENTURA: Because they wouldn't dare to go against you, guys, Tom, the
government. That's why. You're not fooling me on that one. I've been
around too long. Tom, thank you very much. You have great courage. I
appreciate it. And we 'll bring you back again if you dare.

RILEY: I'll be here.

VENTURA: All right, here we go. He'll be here. We have to take a
break, move on to another subject. But thank you to Tom, Rob and Stan,
for a very interesting discussion. But if you think the war on drugs
gets to me -- stay tuned for our next segment when we'll be talking out
pork -- and we're not talking about little piggies. We'll be right


Source: Jesse Ventura's America (MSNBC)
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