CANNABIS CULTURE – Judge James Gray, in his first Bay Area appearance since winning the Vice Presidential nomination for the Libertarian Party, addressed a group of drug policy reformers atOaksterdam University in Oakland, California on May 24, 2012.
Gray is a former California Superior Court Judge and Federal Prosecutor, and a longtime advocate for ending the drug war. His stance on the issue matches that of Libertarian Presidential nominee and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.
“The guns of this drug war are aimed at you,” Gray said, alluding to recent raids of Oaksterdam and other sites in California and elsewhere. He touted his ticket as the only solution for the medical marijuana industry. “There will be no medical marijuana in this country in four years if Obama or Romney are elected,” he predicted.
Although Jim Beam whiskey is his drug of choice and he has never tried marijuana, Gray came around to an anti-drug-war stance because of what he saw as a judge and prosecutor. “The harsher we get with drug crimes, the looser we get with violent crimes,” he said, adding that in Orange County, 80% of all cases involve drug crimes, leaving little resources to investigate and prosecute rape and murder, as well as fraud and environmental crimes.
Gray’s book, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed, has recently been updated, and the situation has only gotten worse since he first published it. He recalled that as a Federal prosecutor in 1978, he held the record for
the largest drug case for the year, 75 kilos of heroin. Today, 18 tons is the size of the largest bust.
Fiscal responsibility and social tolerance are major themes of the campaign. Gray pointed out that 43 cents of every dollar spent by the US is borrowed, which he called “criminal.” Like Ron Paul, he’s a non-interventionist. He’s for medical savings accounts and private-school vouchers, and wants to abolish the IRS in favor of a consumption tax, with a $200/month rebate for the poor. On immigration, he’s come around to Johnson’s stance of permitting work visas.
Gray made a case for liberals to vote Libertarian, saying, “We stand for what liberals stand for.” He said his party is “agast” about torture and detention without charges, and strongly for marriage equality. It was pointed out that the Biden trial balloon on gay marriage came 24 hours after the Johnson-Gray ticket was named. “But they can’t do that with cannabis, or immigration,” he said.
Gray said he would like to ask Obama if it would have helped his career if he’d been arrested for cocaine, which he admitted to using in his youth (along with marijuana). Putting Robert Downey Jr. in jail for his heroin addiction made as much sense as would putting Betty Ford in jail for her alcoholism, Gray said, but driving a motor vehicle while impaired is certainly a crime. As a judge, he helped to form a successful Mothers Against Drunk Driving DUI panel, in which defendants are made to listen to victims of drunk driving.
Gray favors the repeal of “stupid” mandatory minimum sentences. As a judge, he headed the Abused and Neglected Children court calendar, and said every 4-5 weeks he’d see a case in which the mother became a courier for a drug-dealing boyfriend and was sent to prison for up to 10 years. In those cases, unless a good friend or relative was able to take custody of the children, they were put up for adoption. The costs of keeping the mother incarcerated, and the children in a group home, are financial reasons he mentioned for changing policy.
Gray served in the Peace Corps and won a combat action ribbon in Vietnam. He recently visited Mexico City, where he told President Calderon he must legalize drugs, to end the corruption and killing spree in Mexico. “You don’t see drug cartels raising vineyards in our national parks to compete with Robert Mondavi,” he noted. He pointed to cigarettes as an example of how consumption of a regulated product can be reduced through changing social mores.
Gray said in The Atlantic magazine recently, “The best thing I can do for my country is to repeal drug prohibition. It’s the most patriotic thing I can do.” He stood behind that statement, and called the drug war “the hugest failed policy in their country, second only to slavery.”
The Johnson-Gray campaign is well timed with a new Rasmussen poll that reports greater support than ever for marijuana legalization in the United States: of 1,000 likely US voters asked if they’d like to see marijuana legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco, 56% said yes and only 36% said no.
“Take this campaign personally, disseminate our message, and contribute to our campaign,” he urged. If the ticket can poll at 15% support by September, they will be included in presidential debates, including a Vice Presidential debate with Biden. Right now, they’re at 7-9%, the strongest-ever showing for a Libertarian ticket, with its two strongest candidates ever.
Oaksterdam University has regrouped after its federal raid, and still offering classes, including a cultivation seminar with Ed Rosenthal and a class on
opening delivery services.