Sunday, December 8, 2013

JON CARDIN INTERVIEW PART 2: Attorney General Candidate Talks About Marijuana Legalization & Agricultural Pollution

This is part 2 of 3 of Maryland Juice writer Dan Furmansky's exclusive interview with Delegate Jon Cardin (a candidate for Attorney General).



DAN FURMANSKY: There has been a great deal of discussion lately about mass incarceration, especially as it relates to the War on Drugs. The ACLU report you no doubt saw has pointed out the massive disparities in marijuana-related arrests among blacks and whites in Maryland, despite the fact that usage rates among the two communities are completely comparable…

JON CARDIN: The report just said not quite, I think 2.9 or 3 percent…no, 3 times more likely if you’re black to be arrested and incarcerated for marijuana use than if you’re white. I mean, that’s outrageous when usage is essentially equal.

DAN FURMANSKY: So let me ask you this: Some support a bill by your colleague from District 11 [Sen. Bobby Zirkin] to make possession of very small amounts of marijuana a civil, rather than a criminal, offense. But this is considered by many to be merely a band-aid, unfortunately, because law enforcement will still use alleged marijuana possession to target people based on race and it doesn’t do anything to drive away the underground market and regulate who is growing and who is selling marijuana, and to whom, in our state. With Colorado and Washington replacing marijuana prohibition with taxation and regulation of marijuana, do you feel Maryland is ready to make a similar move?

JON CARDIN: I support Senator Zirkin’s bill, number one. Number two, I have supported the movement towards not just decriminalization, but to…the ability to tax and regulate—legalize, tax and regulate—the use of marijuana. I think that not only is this an opportunity for revenue, it’s an opportunity to reduce or get rid of the black market and it allows us to kind of handle firsthand, the inappropriate use in a way that can be dealt with cheaper than incarceration and through the legal process, but rather through an intervention process.

I think that recreational use is…could…will…let’s be transparent here…create other issues, and possibly, other legal ramifications, and cultural, and community ramifications that need to be considered. But I am certainly open to the conversation about doing it, because we need to look at new, next-generation ways of controlling the problem side and to providing a community that actually works well together.

DAN FURMANSKY: As the top law enforcement official, how would you advocate for reforms that would reduce crime and recidivism in the state of Maryland?

JON CARDIN: Um…I would contend that you, you said the top law enforcement official?

DAN FURMANSKY: Yeah. Is that a fair assessment of the role of Attorney General?

JON CARDIN: Yeah, the Attorney General does have a capacity to deal with law enforcement. In the criminal system, obviously it focuses on the appeals process. The first thing I would do is, number one, if the state's attorney sent me a case that was in any way polluted with racial profiling, I would refuse to take and handle that appeal. Period. And what that says is that…the state's attorney needs to be very, very…focused on doing the right thing and making sure that all their i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

In terms of recidivism, we have tremendous opportunities and we have a terrible record of, you know, 80% recidivism in certain arenas. But we know the answer. There are programs that have shown dramatic decrease in recidivism like the Maryland Cares—I’m going to get the name wrong, but I have to jog my memory for it—which is a program for re-entry of violent crime individuals where you have a person go in and work with an individual, an inmate before they are released, in advance, close to when they are going to be released, and work with the family to set them up and prepare them for re-entry. [The Maryland Correctional Enterprises CARES program]. And it has shown a more than 40% drop in recidivism.

The problem is funding, and the issue that we have is how can the Attorney General help advise the Administration and Department of Corrections and the Governor's Office on crime prevention or making sure that those programs are funded because when we’re paying up to $50,000 a year for an inmate versus a couple thousand dollars a year to have these re-entry programs done, it’s a no brainer to make sure that happens.


DAN FURMANSKY: Quick question on ag [agricultural] pollution.

JON CARDIN: 1029? Senate Bill 1029?

DAN FURMANSKY: Was that the Ag Certainty bill? Yes, I wanted to positively call out your vote…on the so-called Ag-Certainty bill. [Editor's Note: Del. Cardin was one of 27 legislators to vote against the “Maryland Agricultural Certainty Program” legislation which would grant certain agricultural operations a whopping 10-year exemption from new rules to protect water quality. The bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. O’Malley. Del. Braveboy supported the legislation, while Del. Frick and Sen. Frosh also voted against it.]

Farming in Maryland remains the largest source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, and within agriculture, it is manure application to fields that takes the pollution prize. A 2010 study estimated that farms on Maryland’s Eastern Shore produce 300,000+ tons of excess poultry litter beyond the capacity of local cropland to assimilate nutrients. And of course the vast majority of farms on the Eastern Shore are part of the factory farming system, where they are contracted to either grow chickens as food crops or provide soy or grains as feed to one of the so-called multi-billion dollar integrators who produce poultry, such as Tyson, Perdue, and Mountainaire.

It’s clear that if we in Maryland don’t successfully address the issue of poultry manure that comes from this factory system, we won’t get clean water. Given this, how will you prioritize enforcing the Clean Water Act against the poultry industry, including these big poultry integrators who operate their grower facilities?

JON CARDIN: Number one, I mean obviously, you have to look at each case as it comes and determine whether there is a legitimate case and a legitimate issue and then devote the resources appropriate to the issue. My goal, my vision and my philosophy has been always been ends-tested programs. What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? We’re tying to accomplish a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. If we are, what’s the way to get there? The way to get there is to mediate the use of these environmental hazards in a way that’s more expeditious, less expensive than litigation and actually accomplishes our goal faster and in more friendly environment and I will do that. And if it means I have to go after the bad actors to demonstrate that those of you guys who are on the verge better clean up your act, then we’ll do that as well. I don’t believe that the status quo will work because our Bay depends on us on figuring out how to clean it up. But I also believe that we have to also look at other ways than simply just litigating our way out of it. I just think that that’s going be too slow, laborious, and expensive.

DAN FURMANSKY: Have they done much litigation? I mean Attorney General Gansler hasn’t done any ag litigation in Maryland….

JON CARDIN: Hudson Farms. [Editor's Note: The case at hand involved litigation against Perdue and its chicken-raising contractor on the Lower Eastern Shore, the Hudson Farm, for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act and polluting the Pocomoke River and Chesapeake Bay. The plaintiffs lost the case when the judge found the point source of the pollution could plausibly have been cattle roaming on the farm, as opposed to chicken litter, and cattle manure in this case was not covered under the Clean Water Act. Notably, the Hudsons did not file a nutrient management plan, as required by law, for five years, and also acknowledged that they failed to conduct a soil test on the farm, despite being required to do so every three years. Nevertheless, following the resolution of the case, the House of Delegates authorized $300,000 in taxpayer money for the legal fees of Alan Hudson, the farmer.]

DAN FURMANSKY: I mean, that wasn’t the state’s involvement. That was the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic.

JON CARDIN: The Attorney General’s Office gave…he didn’t have his hands on it, but the Attorney General’s Office was certainly involved in making sure that was proceeding. It had to. They’re the ones who are given the authority to do that kind of thing…

DAN FURMANSKY: My understanding of it was that it was litigated by the Waterkeeper Alliance with the assistance of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic. From conversations that I’ve had, with some of the attorneys who had been involved in the case, I don’t think they felt that the Attorney Gansler was aggressive with Maryland-based ag polluters.

JON CARDIN: Obviously he has not been the lead on anything, I don’t think they were directly involved, but they were certainly aware of what was going on and they were…they did not stop the litigation even at the point they realized that was going to fail.

DAN FURMANSKY: So let me ask you a specific legislative question: there was an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill that gave the Board of Public Works the authority to grant funding to recoup the legal expenses of the Hudson farm. Did you vote for that?

JON CARDIN: I don’t remember what I did, but I probably would have. I mean, let’s be honest, the state lost the case. [Editor’s Note: this was not a case litigated by the state, but by the Waterkeeper Alliance].

DAN FURMANSKY: Would we reimburse any other industry? I mean the Hudsons, they are businesspeople. They run a business in Maryland. Shouldn’t this be a part of the cost of doing business in Maryland?

JON CARDIN: Uh, so, attorneys fees is a whole separate question. The question is…do we allow attorneys fee for any business…and I am open… I believe that if you do allow attorneys fees, you give incentives for people to really figure out which issues are the ones that are the most important to litigate, or which ones are the strongest to litigate. Because we as a society cannot afford…I just don’t think we can afford to make litigation our only way of improving the environment. It’s got to be an open, transparent conversation, I just philosophically believe that.

DAN FURMANSKY: Some people say that the case shone the spotlight on the fact that in Maryland, these nutrient management plans are secret. They are shrouded in secrecy. Somebody from the general public…

JON CARDIN: That’s a 1029 issue also.

DAN FURMANSKY: Do you support making nutrient management plans open and available for the public to see?

JON CARDIN: I have no problem with transparency. I know that there are trade secret issues that are out there and I think there are ways to create transparency, or at least to provide information, even if it’s through confidential communication, in order to make sure that, you know, we can actually use our finite resources to go after folks that are actually the real bad actors.

DAN FURMANSKY: Traditional point sources of pollution under the Clean Water Act (such as power plants and wastewater treatment plants) view water pollution trading as a way to avoid meeting current Clean Water Act permit requirements. Another words, instead of upgrading plants to meet permit limits, they purchase the right to pollute. How will you enforce permits where point source facilities can purchase their way out of compliance?

JON CARDIN: Again, looking at the office of Attorney General, the question is: what are we allowed to do? And how can we enforce that if it’s legal? But from a public policy standpoint, my goal would be to clean the Bay. And if this is working against that goal, then we need to work both from the perspective of the Attorney Generals’ Association—the National Attorney Generals’ association, NAAG, as well as contacts that we have in Washington, D.C. to make sure that—I’m assuming this is federal by nature—and certainly I have plenty of contacts from my old life in D.C. and from my family and other folks to be able to work with them to make sure that the end goal is what’s accomplished and not a way of getting around it through the mechanisms that are aimed to…to try to improve, but in a much more, I guess, slower or inefficient way.


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