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Should marijuana be legalized?

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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.
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
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 fans.

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 the
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
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
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
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

KAMPIA: It's fraudulent. You know, the Institute of Medicine issued a study
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
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
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
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 cigarettes.

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
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

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
in prison for selling a pipe over the Internet?

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
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 for


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.
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

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,
pipe, yeah, we all know what they're used for, water pipes. We know what
used for. But there -- you still could be putting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 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

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 done.

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

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

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

RILEY: All right.

VENTURA: Now, here is a woman that lived and saw both. And she said, all
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

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

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
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
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.
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 available?

VENTURA: No. I don't believe any of them should be widely available. But I
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
talking about is making it available to people. Making it so the addict can
forward and say I'm an addict.

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

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
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
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
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
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 legal?

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

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
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
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

RILEY: Well ...

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

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
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 job.

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

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 prison?

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 back.


Pubdate: December 13, 2003
Source: Jesse Ventura's America (MSNBC)
Video: http://www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2365.html