Round Table Meeting with Judge James P. Gray, Judy K. Thompson & Ron Niehouse (MCJ)
By Medical Cannabis Journal (California)
Judge Gray on the issues of Medical Cannabis and Cannabis Prohibition:
By: Judy Thompson & Ron Niehouse, Thanks to: Judge Jim Gray.
Judge Gray: Let’s get to business, what may I do for you?
MJC: Can we start with, who are you & what do you do?
Judge Gray: Well sure, I am Judge Jim Gray. I retired from the Orange County Superior court in January 2009, after being on the bench for 25 years. Honestly I’m a former drug warrior. I prosecuted cases for the United States Attorney’s office in Los Angeles. I actually wrote up charge sheets when I was Navy Jag for the Naval Air Station in Guam. Defended fellow shipmates as a criminal defense attorney when I was in the navy as well. And then just started once I was on the bench to see what we were doing. Having it, in effect in a microcosm be seen in my own courtroom that we were churning low level drug offenders through the system for no good purpose. That we were arresting & incarcerating even big time dealers. Did that mean that heroin or marijuana or whatever was no longer available in Costa Mesa or Anaheim or whatever? No it was basically an employment opportunity for someone else. So I did something highly unusual back on April 8th 1992 & held a press conference as a sitting judge saying our nation’s drug policy is not working. We couldn’t do it worse if we tried & I recommended at the time that we legalize heroin, cocaine & marijuana under a program that I set forth. I have not changed away from that at all except to learn that it really is not the legalization of drugs, it’s the strictly regulated control of the drugs. And that’s an important distinction that honestly Governor Gary Johnson hasn’t quite yet figured out yet either. We have not legalized alcohol. We have not legalized cigarettes. We have a strictly regulated control, because there are age restrictions. There are special licenses. There’s some restrictions on advertising. So that means it’s not a legalized product. Your tape recorder that you’re using here is a legalized product. The price is set by the free-market. You or your 12 year old daughter can go & buy a gross of them if you want to with no restrictions & you cannot do that with cigarettes. So I’ve been speaking about this really important issue ever since. I’ve written a couple of books on it. I have spoken out as publicly as possible consistent with getting my job done. And it’s honestly something that I believe the most patriotic thing I can do for the country I love is help us repeal this failed & hopeless policy of drug prohibition.
MJC: On that note, what are your thoughts on the U.N. World Health Org. 2011 report on the war on drugs?
Judge Gray: Fortunately people are beginning to understand. There is the World Health Org. There was the Global Commission on Drug Policy, with huge people, very important influential people in the world community. The former Secretary General of the United Nations. George Schultz, (the former Secretary of State of the United States), three Presidents from Latin America, (Columbia, Brazil & Mexico), Vicente Fox, also from Mexico. Jimmy Carter, President of the United States. So people are beginning to understand, not only nationally, certainly Mexico is the biggest example of violence just gone completely off the charts, and it will continue to get worse although it’s hard to think it could get worse than actually attacking a theater & setting fire to it & closing the exits. That’s about as morally at the bottom of the barrel I could think of, but probably someone will come up with something even worse. So people are beginning to understand & it really is a question of liberty. They don’t understand that yet. But it makes as much sense to me to have the government tell me what I as an adult can put into my body as it does what I put into my mind. It’s none of their business & eventually from my perch in the criminal justice system, & I’ve spent pretty much all my adult life doing this, eventually we will realize what the criminal justice system is good at & should go back to, is holding people accountable for their actions but not what they put into their bodies. The other thing that people are understanding, & (this is not a reason for change but it’s a nice side benefit), & that is that for example that marijuana is the largest untaxed crop in the world today basically, certainly the largest cash crop in the state of California. So let’s regulate it, control it, & make it less available for children than it is today & tax it as well. And wouldn’t you prefer to take a lot of money away from Mexican Drug Cartels or pretty much every juvenile gang in the state or in the country because they make most of their money from the sale of illegal drugs, mostly marijuana & put it into fixing roads, educating children & for health care. So people are beginning to know that. I’m proud to say & in fact I have a meeting at 10:00 today with the man who is hosting a fund-raiser for our “Regulate Marijuana Like Wine” initiative that will be on the ballot in Nov. 2012 that I really request you & your readers to support.
MJC: (interjects) I was going to ask you that next…
Judge Gray: You can see the current draft & we’re going to be submitting it, I think this week at “regulatemarijuanalikewine.com”. And you can also give some support on that same website & it’s going to pass. I tell people that Prop 19 actually passed here in CA. but we’re going to delay implementation for 2 years. Our new initiative is better. We address really right at the beginning what were perceived to be the defects in Prop 19 where we say that it will not affect anybody that is impaired or using marijuana in public or in the workplace. The Chamber of Commerce in my view just tortured the language of Prop 19, to say that an employee can go out on a coffee break, smoke marijuana, get stoned & come back to work & the employer couldn’t do anything about it, well I thought that was silly but that concerned a lot of people. But now that’s been addressed. Driving under the influence, providing marijuana to anyone under the age of 21, anyone under the age of 21 for possessing or selling or using marijuana.
MJC: (interjects) Thank-you so much for that.
Judge Gray: It expressly says at the very beginning this does not change any of those rules or regulations. It also says there will be no commercial advertising of recreational marijuana, which by the way is my contribution, I believe that strongly.
MJC: And as far as this goes this will be on the website for our readers to review, when?
Judge Gray: Oh Good.
MJC: I heard you on Weds, on ‘LEAP-Day” with Peter Christ. I think what he does on Wednesdays is a really awesome thing. I really appreciate “LEAP” & what they do. I know that you’re involved with “LEAP”.
Judge Gray: I have been.
Judge Gray: “LEAP”– Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is going to be one of the critical factors in bringing about change. This Thurs. we’re having this fund-raiser for Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. It’s actually sponsored by the son of the Segerstrom family. Segerstroms own South Coast Plaza. You can go to the Performing Arts Center, it’s the Segerstroms Arts Center. And he owns a winery, the Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery, & he’s the guy that has his Lamborghini posted on the wall of his living room, I mean doesn’t everybody? (chuckles).. He came to us & said “I want to host a fund-raiser for this initiative” & so we’re going to go & talk to him soon. But also we now find that Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is endorsing this as well, is gong to be at the fund-raiser. Assembly Chris Norby is going to be at the fund-raiser is endorsing this. My goodness, Chapman University President Jim Dody is endorsing what we’re doing, allowed to use his name & more. So it’s beginning to be mainstream & I talked about Prop 19. It really did pass because it mainlined the conversation. It didn’t pass by the number of votes. We only got a little more than 46%. But it became okay to discuss this & okay even to contemplate having it win.
Judge Gray: And that’s really all we need, & then another 2 years goes by & we see that further deterioration in Mexico & Columbia & Afghanistan & California & the lack of money & the rest, so it’s going to work if we do our jobs correctly it’s going to pass.
MJC: So as far as “LEAP”, you’re not active with “LEAP” right now?
Judge Gray: I am, I’m an active “LEAP” speaker. I’ve gone on speaking tours that they have organized, one in the Midwest, back on the eastern seaboard; they throw me gigs all the time.
MJC: I figured so. At this time our country is going through some major changes with cannabis & initiatives even rescheduling..
Judge Gray: I hope…
MJC: You do hope?
Judge Gray: Oh sincerely. Look, it’s foolhardy to have marijuana be a Schedule1 drug, absolutely foolhardy! And it’s demonstrably hypocritical. Look, Schedule 1 means it has no medicinal value whatsoever. Heroin is on there as well. Cocaine is a Schedule 2 drug, which as you know can be prescribed by a medical Dr. & should be. If Dentists could prescribe cocaine instead of getting those shots of Novocain they could just rub (as I understand it), rub cocaine on your gums & do it that way. So good! And if you want to see hypocrisy you look at the drug of Marinol which is a synthetic marijuana, has the same properties, the same THC but it’s synthetic. Why is it a Schedule 2 drug & marijuana a Schedule 1 drug & the answer to that is really straightforward & easy. A pharmaceutical company cannot patent a plant; they cannot reserve that for themselves. But they can patent a artificial plant. So Marinol is, (now they have money), & that is a Schedule 2 drug, where the natural substance is a Schedule 1, & the answer is money. It’s beyond hypocrisy. It is chutzpah for the government to do this & shame on them!
MJC: Where do you see the medical cannabis patients, where are the largest problems would you say in the next year the patient may be facing? Not only in Ca. but I’m talking nationally?
Judge Gray: Nationally? It’s illegal. It is still illegal under federal law even in those 14 states & the District of Columbia. We do fortunately have Barney Frank, Rohrabacher, Ron Paul & maybe others are sponsoring a bill to make it no longer illegal under federal law for medical marijuana if in fact it’s legal in that particular state. I hope it passes for heavens sake, I hope it goes beyond that. But the biggest problem, the biggest danger of marijuana across the board is that it’s illegal. And jail is a far worse harm than anything can do or has ever done.
MJC: If you had a message that you could give to our readers, (which is going to be online & in paper format), the message would be …
Judge Gray: Hang in there, help is on the way. I believe in Colorado that they will have a successful initiative. Maybe in Washington & I believe in CA. it will be as well. So if they can just hang in there, do it right under the law (which I always recommend) & honestly to the degree possible, do it above board particularly if you are a medical marijuana dispensary. Read the rules & regulations of your state. The first thing you’re going to want to do as your putting in plans to go to the medical dispensary is you go & talk to the mayor of your town & the chief of police of your town & say, you know, “my name is Jim Gray & this is my belief & I’m looking at Prop 215 (or whatever other state we’re talking about), I want to do this right & if you ever hear any indication that there is something that we’re doing that is not right, please tell me right away. And this is where we want to be & this is what we’re going to do & I believe we’re under the law & I request your blessing”.
MJC: Let me ask you one question. Because we are trying to get our readers, the focus of our readers is gearing them towards the physicians & education. Because our physicians are not up on the laws & writing the recommendations. They don’t understand that it’s okay for them as physicians to write the recommendations. So I’m asking you, what would you tell them?
Judge Gray: First of all, the Drs. do know that it is illegal to prescribe a Schedule 1 drug. So then we come into the whole Prop 215 area of making a recommendation. Instead the United States Supreme court has said that it is a 1st Amendment right for a medical Dr. to discuss these issues with his or her patients & to recommend this. So that is not a violation of law it can not be sanctioned under the code of the United States Supreme Court. And that’s CA. & the United States Supreme Court, otherwise I’m not as knowledgeable about medical marijuana law as maybe I should be & at this point I’m giving legal advice & I really hesitate to do that because it can be complicated & there are attorneys that know it a lot better than I do.
Judge Gray: It’s awfully hard to be too critical of medical Drs.
Judge Gray: My goodness with regard to other issues there are probably tens of thousands of people in our country today that are in unnecessary pain. Why? Because their medical Drs. are so intimidated by the DEA that they’re afraid to prescribe enough pain medication to keep them out of pain & it’s awfully hard to get too upset with the Drs. because the DEA is making them do file double & triplicate or quadruplicate & they’re hounding them. It’s the same potential sanction with medical marijuana. The federal government is making all kinds of noises about prosecuting or certainly taking away the license of medical Drs. So a lot of them feel that it just isn’t worth it, I’m just not going to do that & it’s hard to quarrel with them.
MJC: yes, & I, having a medical condition, it’s a tough one.
Judge Gray: It’s a tough one. You look at Angel Raich, bless her heart forever, goodness sakes she’s taking on the government of the United States of America. It’s kind of an awesome task & the federal government, the Supreme Court really did her dirt! It was just a dumb ruling, the “Raich Case”. And the way I see it is twofold. Number 1, based upon the rational of the Raich Case if her marijuana that she was raising in her own garden for her own personal usage could be deemed to be a violation of state law because of the Commerce Clause & that’s the only hook they can pin those to, and the rationale was if she wasn’t raising it herself she could have bought it from someone else & that other marijuana, whatever it might have been, could have been in interstate commerce. That was their rationale. And if that’s the case the rocks in your backyard also could be in interstate commerce for exactly the same rationale. But let me tell you my take on this because, & this is just me this isn’t based on anything. The United States Supreme court didn’t particularly care about Angel Raich, didn’t care about medical marijuana & didn’t care about this whole issue. What they care about is the environmental programs. The Snail-Darter I assure you is not in interstate commerce & most of the Spotted Owls aren’t either but it’s the same hook, it’s the same rationale. So if they found in favor of Angel Raich which they probably didn’t care about they would have lost all of that federal programming for the environment & they didn’t want to go there.
Judge Gray: Now that’s just me. But that’s just my view on this entire issue. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. Doesn’t really make you proud of our institution in that way.
MJC: No, no. But people like you do & I thank you for sitting down with us today.
Judge Gray: You’re welcome, you’re welcome. Again I think it’s the most patriotic thing I can do for the country. This is funny, I went yesterday to a party for retired judges here in Orange County, Ca. & one of them came up to me & was getting kind of emotional even, shaking my hand, looking me square in the eye & saying “Jim, thank-you for what you are doing, I’m really, But I don’t agree with all of it!” You know, I mean, why did he have to say that & just “No! I Wouldn’t!” … So we haven’t gotten quite that far. But at least people are appreciating that we’re doing this. Years ago, years ago, 15 years ago, I was speaking at an ABA-American Bar Association talking to (I did it 4 times), talking to a group of Appellate Justices & Supreme Court Justices from around the country & there was one, he actually has made himself known since then, that he was the Supreme court justice from the state of North Carolina & he heard my presentation & actually wrote me a letter after this saying: “Dear Jim, thank-you for what you are doing. I agree with you. I see this all the time on my desk with all of these drug cases coming across my desk & it isn’t working & it’s just taking up terrible amounts of time & it’s ruining people’s lives. But, I love my job. I gave up a lucrative law practice to have this job & if I were to speak out like you are I would have to spend all my time defending myself & I couldn’t get my job done so I’m not going to join you, but thanks for what you are doing.” And I thought to myself I didn’t ask you to join me. But this was just his catharsis. Since then (it was an elected position & I guess they had term limits so once he left the job then he has come out & spoken about this too.) I kept thinking to myself at the time & in fact I’ve written about this in my book, in fact I have a new edition of my book “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed & What We Can Do About it, A Judicial indictment of The War On Drugs” I just finished my final review of it yesterday so it will be out in early to late November & will be the 2nd edition. I even quoted him as an unknown in a state in the South saying “you know, if we are intimidating the very people in our society away from a discussion, the ones that have the information, that have the ability, that have the wisdom, that have the insight, what a tragedy. And you know something? That is a direct function of our policy of the United States of America. Not only is it drug prohibition. Not only is it to demonize not just drug users, ALL drug users & it’s to keep from having a discussion. That is the three prongs of our system today. And it’s working. But decreasingly so. People do not draw distinctions at all between drug use, drug misuse, drug abuse or even addiction. If you’re gonna use any, well no, not my drug cause it’s a legal drug, that’s alcohol, that’s okay. I can be a social drinker. But if you’re marijuana, you’re the devil weed. They don’t draw those distinctions intentionally. And they will accuse me of being a drug legalizer. Well, what does that mean? Anytime you’re a drug legalizer it has the intended connotation that I don’t care if your 12 year old daughter buys some cocaine in a vending machine across from her junior high school. That’s the connotation that they want. Because it will freeze peoples minds. It will stop the discussion in its tracks & that’s exactly the intended outcome.
MJC: Now speaking of your book that is coming out in the near future, the book that’s available now is called?
Judge Gray; I have 3 books out.
MJC: I know you have several.
Judge Gray: This is the most current book that I have out which is a voter’s handbook & I’m proud of it. This is one that is meant for judges & new attorneys & it’s called “Wearing the Robe”. If you use my website it’s “judgejimgray.com” & if people have additional questions, all of these are on there.
MJC: Is it okay if I direct people to there?
Judge Gray: Please.
MJC: We can put something together & I’ll have you revue it before I upload anything, but I like to let people know about these books.
Judge Gray: please, I’d appreciate it. Also I am proud to say, although this has nothing to do with drug policy, I have a musical being preformed. It’s going to be a Vanguard & it’s coming up & it’s basically talking about students making good choices & expanding their horizons & all the rest.
MJC: Are you in it?
Judge Gray: No, no I’m not going to be in it. I’ll just watch.
MJC: So you’re not going to sing, you’re not gong to dance?
Judge Gray: No, unless there’s a command performance which is highly unlikely .. (laughs)
MJC: When is the first time we’ll be able to see this?
Judge Gray: The 16th of Sept. It’ll be done for 12 shows on Sat. Sun, & Mon. the last 2 weeks of Sept. & 1st weekend in Oct. So please come, please come.
MJC: Oh we will be there!
Judge Gray: And bring students, Jr. High School, High School students, I think they’ll like it.
MJC: Well that’s a no brainer! Absolutely ! … Well I want to thank-you one more time, I know you have things to do.
Judge Gray: Thank-you.
MJC: Do you have anything you’d like to close with that I didn’t cover?
Judge Gray: What you are doing is really important! The more honest, full, open discussion we can have on these areas the better. And you’re dealing with medical marijuana & people that are really in pain. I had a mother-in-law who got cancer & this was a long time ago, & she thought Laetrile which was taken from the seeds of apricots. There was a whole movement at the time that Laetrile would combat her cancer & the United States Government made Laetrile illegal. Bone-headed decision. If it harms you & it’s going to kill you they should make it illegal I suppose. But what they should do is require truth-in-labeling saying we have found that not only is this no helpful, but it’ll probably upset your stomach or something like that. But no, if it didn’t do what they were saying it would do the United States Government bans it. So she has cancer, so she now has a decision to make. She’s very patriotic. She wouldn’t jaywalk; she was just a little old lady who was trying to do her best. She ended up deciding to go down to Mexico & buying these laetrile pills down there & smuggling them back into the country. Well it’s her health, it’s her life & she thought they would help her. The people that are involved with medical marijuana frequently are the same type of people. Go down to Leisure World at what’s Laguna Woods now, whatever, these are people, come on these are people in their 70s, they’re in their 80s they could be in their 90s. They’ve never violated a hair of the law in their life & now they’re forced with the same decision. You are giving them solace. Thank-you. They need to show that there are support groups there. They’re not going to be an Angel Raich they don’t want to create problems. But they also don’t want to be in pain & they want to be able to eat a meal & be able to hold it down. You are helping them. Thank-you.
MJC: Thank-you, thank-you. That means a lot to me.
Judge Gray: You should realize what you are doing. You are helping vulnerable people, & they need it & we appreciate it. Okay.
MJC: Wow! Thank-you! Thank-you so much!
Judge Gray: You’re Welcome. See we’re all Americans.
MJC: And we’ll be talking about your initiative & obviously voting on your initiative.
Judge Gray: Please do.
MJC: Do you think there’s going to be more than one initiative on the ballot this year?
Judge Gray: I think not. I think there will be one in Colorado. I think there will be one in Washington, Washington’s a little more iffy. By God, there’s going to be one in California & it’s going to be ours. We may get a big amount of contributions to take care of all the funding or we may not. Come to our fund-raiser on Thurs. if you can. Have you heard about it? It’s on regulatemarijuanalikewine.com & you’ll see it.
© This article is copyrighted by Medical Cannabis Journal 01-03-2012medical cannabis journal prop 215 judge james gray ron niehouse
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