Marijuana, Heroin, Richard Stratton discussed on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory
Okay. Welcome back to coast to coast, Richard Stratton with us for a couple of hours tonight. He wrote the novel smack goddess during his eight-year term in federal prison. He's now it claimed filmmaker screenwriter his films have won prizes cans film festival. The Berlin film festival is a writer and consultant for HBO's ause. That's the story about being in prison. He's the founder of prison life, the former editor and publisher of high times contributed to Rolling Stone. Esquire G Q, and so many others in here. He is on coast to coast as we talk about his work smuggler's blues. Richard great book. Interesting life. Welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you for having them. A pleasure. Let me ask you this. Let's let's go back. I guess to the beginning eight years in federal prison. What happened would you do? Well, smuggled pot is basically what I did. And I. I was convicted under what they call the kingpin law. And fortunately for me, I was sentenced in nineteen Eighty-four. If I've been sentenced to ninety eighty six I would have had a mandatory life without parole sentence. And in fact in Syracuse New York recently to Canadians would just sentenced to life without parole for importing marijuana for smuggling pot, even though it's virtually legal in this country now Leo in several states legal for recreational use in a few states and believe me they're making a lot of money with tax returns. But we still have these unbelievably harsh laws on the federal books. And you know, like, I said, I if I had been sense to couple of years later, I'd still be in prison. I never would I I'd be there instead of out here with a family and career and a whole life. So it's something really think about the marijuana laws that poor story of that guy in New Orleans twenty years to life for thirty one dollars worth of candy bars. He still. Now since we've got over three million people in prison in this country. It's just out of control. I mean, what why why are we doing, you know, there's almost no rehabilitation behind bars. People don't get any kind of training or counseling for what they're gonna do when they get out. So I don't know the criminal could be Justice system is very badly screwed up, and, you know, Bama claimed he was going to do something about it. And I think he did actually they did let guys go. But a lot of these people who are locked up are locked up for nonviolent crimes. You know, many of them of most of these guys are jail for drugs are Latinos or African Americans from inner city neighborhoods who have virtually no other alternative. I mean, I would say no other alternative but had very few other alternatives for employment. So they'll go out and start selling drugs, and they go to prison for incredibly long time. I mean, if the laws are out of control. In richard. Let me ask you this in terms of I want to get into the eight years that you spent because I think that's ridiculous for what the what they did to you. But I have been a longtime advocate of not because of usage what I just think. It would it would minimize crime of legalizing Oliver everything cocaine heroin all of it. And let people do what they wanna do to their own bodies for crying out loud in. I don't think this is just me speaking that it's going to increase drug use. By any larger amount at all because I think anybody who wants to use drugs right now. We'll be able to find them and can't find them, and they are finding them. I don't know. What do you think of that? Well, I I agree with you one hundred percent. In fact, they found in the states where they have legalized marijuana. It's gone down to give the usage of marijuana has gone down amongst teenagers because it's not a big thrill anymore. It's not the forbidden fruit anymore. So I think that the whole way that we're dealing with this drug issue in this country is is just it's wrong. I mean, the idea of just say, no N O W should be just say know, K N O W, and what we need to do is we need to educate people about the the pitfalls in the dangers of. There's no question that. Drug usage can be dangerous. I'm not here to say that God would kill you. They can kill you, of course. But so can alcohol kill you and food. And I see people on the street all the time smoking cigarettes. So how can they do that to killing themselves? But the point is that as you say in a free society, it's not up to the government to tell us how we can alter our consciousness as long as we're not hurting other people. This is the American way of life and the thing that most interests me now about this whole marijuana movement in this country is the way that Americans have finally said, you know, what these laws are insane. I mean, I grew up during the whole Reefer madness era. We were told that you know, you smoke a couple joints. And the next thing. You know, you'll be main lining heroin. You'll be out raping young women in the streets. And we were like, what did you just what happens is the government tells you these things you get high, and you you realize it's not true. And then you begin to question everything you question, the Kennedy's assassination. You question. Why are we in Vietnam? So I think it's very interesting. How the marijuana MU? Movement has kind of re sparked this whole idea of participatory democracy. We've had people say all across the nation. These laws are ridiculous. We're not going to adhere to them. It's probably the largest exhibition of a civil and criminal disobedience that in the history of our country where people just say, you know, what we're gonna smoke this pot. We're not gonna listen to you guys. So I I think that's fascinating. I think that marijuana as a metaphor for how American democracy works is to me. The most exciting thing about it, quite frankly. And I think that right now. As you. I'm sure no of the major problems that they have in this country right now, it's heroin. I mean air when oh it's growing like crazy. It's become so much suburban these days to exactly in a lot of it comes because these people get addicted to opioids through prescription drugs. So again, we're failing to educate people about the Homs and the and the dangers of these drugs. I think really if we spent even a quarter of the money that we spend locking people up for. I mean, it costs a lot of money to a lot of people just like forty thousand dollars a year to keep over three million dollars three million people in prison if we took percentage of that money and use it for drug education for rehabilitation, and we got smart about realizing that it's not gonna work the the the legal approach the law enforcement approach it didn't work for during prohibition. And it's not working during drug prohibition. So it's really time. I think for for. Us to wake up and change the tune here, and people are just they're so concerned that if all the drugs are legal where we don't go after these people that everyone's gonna start using. And that's not the case. It's not the case. And that's a really interesting thing about it. And I do think it has a lot to do with the idea of the forbidden fruit. It's more exciting people say to me, you know, they talked to me about marijuana now. And I said, well, I was in the business when it was fun when it was exciting. I'm not really interested in getting into the legal marijuana business because I've got other things to do. But it's it's the the forbidden fruit. And meanwhile, what we do is we empower and enrich a really dangerous segment of the culture. Which is these drug lords gave these guys in Mexico, Colombia and other countries don't have any kind of scruples, they'll kill your whole family, if you that's right? Yeah. It's we're what we're doing is empowering them in Richardson them, keeping these drugs illegal. They don't have the the ethics of the Italian mob that they used to have in the thirties and forties where your family was hands off. That's right. Just one after you these these cartels will go after your kids, and your wife and everything else. Yeah. It's a lot more vicious than the whole cocaine thing. I mean, like changed the whole the whole picture here in this country. What what did the TV show, Richard breaking bad due to people in terms of glorifying methamphetamine? Well, you know, I watched that show. I binged watched it just not too long ago and. Addicted isn't it? The drug. Yeah. I mean, the first three seasons. I thought were incredible. Once they started to get to the to the Mexicans. They, you know, they kind of dipped down into the to the area of caricatures and in the end with that Gatling gun or whatever. Skyway from a mild mannered chemistry to to a mass murderer. So, but I mean, I don't know if they if they glamorized because those guys were tweaking on on, you know, they they were pretty pathetic impre- sad. The matthews. Methamphetamines an unbelievably dangerous drug. It's what does your nervous? It's all it's all dangerous. We need to educate people about it. I mean, I see these ads on TV about cigarette smoking what it can do to you. And it's like, oh my God. I mean, it'll kill you wipe out your lungs and everything else. So how did you? We're coming up on a break. Pretty simple. We got a little few minutes here before we come back. How did you get caught? What happ? Well, how I got caught was the oldest way you get caught in this business. Someone else got caught doing something else. Lebanese guys got caught here in New York City selling heroin something which I never had anything to do with. In fact, that was one of the reasons I fell out with these guys with because I refuse to have anything to do with heroin. They got busted selling heroin. The DA knew about me 'cause I have been involved in the founding of high times magazine, and I was involved in the the the attempt to legalize marijuana from a long long time ago. So did they knew about me they'd arrested me in nineteen seventy eight. But the case the case got thrown out. So they knew about me, and they were looking for a way to get me. And they arrested these Lebanese guys here in New York City. Hold on right there, Richard. We're gonna come right back and pick up that story fascinating smuggler's blues. That's the name of his work. We'll be back in a moment at coast to coast. AM? Coast insiders, the new version of the coast to coast AM app is now available for iphone and.