CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

New Year Celebrations Begin Around the World; Russia's New Anti-Terrorism Efforts; Pot Already a Growing Problem in Colorado Schools Ahead of Recreational Legalization; Concerns over Marijuana Legalization; 2016 election Forecasts

Aired December 31, 2013 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's not new year's if you don't have The Bee Gees.

You've been looking at some amazing pictures from Beijing, Hong Kong and (inaudible). Minutes, five minutes, worth of fireworks and counting so far in these locations. Some of the most amazing fireworks we have seen in these cities, they keep on getting bigger every year.

Stay with CNN throughout the day. We will keep bringing you these celebrations.

In four hours, it will be midnight in Dubai, and that city will try to set the world record for the biggest fireworks display ever. It has 400,000. You heard that right, 400,000 pyrotechnics ready to go off. That will be amazing to see.

And on the subject of amazing, be sure to watch "AMERICA'S NEW YEAR'S CELEBRATIONS" right here on CNN. Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin host a three-hour extravaganza. That starts at 9:00 Eastern, right here, tonight.

Honestly, you can't get enough of these pictures and these celebrations, a very happy, happy early morning now on the other side of the world.

It is late morning here and the last day of the year in the United States. We're going to move on now to the news of the day.

There are some major new anti-terrorism efforts right now in Russia after two suspected suicide bomb attacks in two days.

Police in the city of Volgograd have detained dozens of people, but the attacks have the world now wondering about the safety of the upcoming Olympic Games.

Diana Magnay in Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a huge security sweep going on in the city of Volgograd.

Around 5,000 security officials checking on buildings and checking people's documents, this as the investigators continue to sift through the debris, the DNA evidence, trying to piece together what happened.

Russian authorities have discovered a link between the two, deadly suicide bombings in Volgograd.

Monday morning's attack on a crowded trolley kills 16, and on Sunday, a massive explosion rocked the city's railway station.

This chilling surveillance video captures the horrific incident at a security checkpoint when a suicide bomber detonated 22 pounds of TNT, killing 18.

Authorities now say both bombs contained similar shrapnel, a sign they originated from the same region.

The attacks highlight the terrorist threat that Russia faces as it hosts the Winter Olympic Games next month in Sochi, just 400 miles south of the devastation.

WILLIAM RATHBURN, 1996 ATLANTA OLYMPICS SECURITY DIRECTOR: All of the Olympic sites will have physical, electronic security. Everybody will be screened.

So, I think it will be difficult for someone, a terrorist, to set off a bomb inside a village or venue.

MAGNAY: Russia's President Vladimir Putin is personally involved in security plans and promising maximum security in Sochi.

But Russian authorities say they will not change security measures they already have in place, confident that they're well prepared.

U.S. authorities have offered full support to the Russian government in ramping up security measures.

In a statement, the United States Olympic Committee says in part, "We're always concerned with the safety of our delegation and the Sochi games are no different in that regard."

An effort by the committee to avoid a repeat occurrence of the bombing that killed two at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

RATHBURN: What concerns me is when you harden targets, you often force the terrorists to select softer targets.

So that makes everything else in Sochi and the surrounding area vulnerable.

MAGNAY: Targets like transportation hubs where tourists and athletes will travel to and from the games.

President Putin's claim that he can protect the Olympics also rests in part on whether he can control the situation in the North Caucasus. And he claims that he can.

But it would seem as though terrorists were intent on proving that he cannot. Diana Magnay, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Diana Magnay in Moscow, our thanks to you.

A fireball shot into the air when a train carrying crude oil crashed into another train in North Dakota. A passerby got this jaw-dropping video.

No one was hurt in the crash, but the sheriff's office said the smoke coming off the burning oil could be harmful.

Crews were testing the air this morning. The sheriff advised people in nearby areas to evacuate.

Seventy-four people stuck on a ship in Antarctica will celebrate new year's eve there in the ice. The helicopter's ready to airlift the passengers out, but the weather's been so bad the helicopter can't get to them yet.

Still, they've been preparing the helicopter landing site. Twenty-two crew members will stay with the ship.

Formula One racing star Michael Schumacher has improved slightly after a serious head injury. His doctors say they were able to do surgery yesterday, but it is too early to know much else right now.

Schumacher hit his head in a skiing accident on Sunday. This new video shows a helicopter airlifting him off the slopes.

His manager says he ran into a rock under the snow, sending him flying, then he landed on another rock.

Beyonce is defending the use of audio from the Challenger disaster in her new song, "XO."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That clip is from moments after the space shuttle took off in 1986. The widower of Challenger's commander called Beyonce's use of that audio "disappointing."

In a statement, Beyonce says it was intended as a tribute to the Challenger crew.

So, in just a few hours, adults in Colorado can buy marijuana in retail stores. So what message is this sending to kids? We will go inside the schools to hear from students, plus talk to a former drug advisor -- former advisor to drug stars who says this is a bad idea for kids and community. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW, everyone. I'm John Berman.

Starting tomorrow, adults in Colorado can go to a state-licensed liquor store and legally buy up to one ounce of marijuana. Not as medicine, they can do it just for fun.

There is concern, though, especially from high school educators, that the new law will make marijuana more tempting for teenagers.

Our Ana Cabrera reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Colorado schools have a pot problem.

How many people around your age do you know who have smoked marijuana?

MARCUS CARRASCO, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Almost I want to say nine out of ten -

CABRERA: Really?

CARRASCO: -- students.

CABRERA: It's that prevalent?

CARRASCO: Yeah, definitely.

MELIK ELLISTON, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: Now that it's legal, everybody's just getting it.

CABRERA: While still illegal for people under 21, younger people are finding ways to get their hands on marijuana, and we found they don't shy away from talking about it.

ELLISTON: I see people selling it. And I think it's easy for people to get now.

CABRERA: Even for somebody who's underage?

ELLISTON: Yeah.

CABRERA: Do you know of anybody who comes to school high or gets high during lunch break, for example?

CARRASCO: Oh, yeah, this is -- yeah, definitely.

CABRERA: It's not that uncommon.

CARRASCO: Yeah, it's not uncommon at all. There's a bunch of people that come to this school high.

CABRERA: While some teens seem to think using marijuana is OK, schools are trying to send a message that it's not.

Pot is now the number one reason students are kicked out of Colorado public schools, 230 expelled last year because of marijuana, according to the Colorado department of education, pot proving to be a bigger problem than alcohol, disobedience or weapons violations.

CHRISTINE HARMS, COLORADO SCHOOL SAFETY RESOURCE CENTER: The message we would like to get out from the School Safety Resource Center is we really need parents to be talking to their children about the risks.

DR. PAULA RIGGS, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The evidence is very clear it's addictive.

CABRERA: Adolescent and addiction specialist, Dr. Paula Riggs, says one out of six kids who tries marijuana as a teenager will become addicted. She says compared to the 1960s, the marijuana sold today has a higher concentration of THC, a chemical that impacts memory and learning, reaction time and motor skills. Riggs says a developing brain is most vulnerable.

RIGGS: Daily or near daily use can be associated with 6 to 8 point reduction in the adult IQ. You don't get that back.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Our Ana Cabrera reporting.

A former adviser to the White House drug czars under both President Bush and President Clinton sees the new Colorado marijuana law as a threat to teenagers. Paul Chabot joins us now from Los Angeles. Thanks for joining us.

PAUL CHABOT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DRUG CZAR ADVISER: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

BERMAN: What's your major concern here? Is it just about a teenager that we're sending the wrong message to them?

CHABOT: That's a huge part of this. I congratulate you on that segment. I think if voters had a chance to see what was going on in Colorado schools at the time they voted for this law, they might not have voted for it. Our concern is that this is really about big marijuana, much like big tobacco in the 1980's, and the drug legalization movement is starting off to medical marijuana and now marijuana legalization and their end-state is overall drug legalization by desensitizing the American population.

But look, if I can send a message - I worked for two administrations, I'm a father. I like to deliver this message to President Obama as a father. Our president has got to get out in front of this issue. He's been quiet, he's been on the sidelines, he has not addressed this epidemic. While other drugs, alcohol, tobacco are down, marijuana use is skyrocketing amongst our youth. We've got an epidemic amongst us. We need leadership now.

BERMAN: You said this is like big tobacco. You're comparing marijuana sales to big tobacco. I'm not sure I understand what you mean there. The tobacco companies are these huge multi-million dollar corporations.

CHABOT: Absolutely. And there's a lot of people behind the marijuana movement who intend to make a lot of money. There's a former Microsoft executive who has looked at launching a business. You can look at the food products, the food product the pot-tarts, the lollipops with marijuana infused.

This is about money. This has never been about sick people. This is about generating lots of money. And just like tobacco, some argued that it targeted kids for a population. We now see a lot of the products made with marijuana are marketed towards youth. This is about making money. We've got to worry about domestic marijuana cartels in our communities, in Colorado, Washington. And sadly, maybe other states, unless we turn the tide.

BERMAN: But the laws are in place, much like they are for alcohol, to keep marijuana out of the hands of teenagers. It's not legal for people under 21, decriminalized for people 18-21. They won't go to jail, but they'll still have to pay fines here. So again, I'm sure you hear this all the time, but how is this different than alcohol?

CHABOT: And that's a huge problem is the marijuana movement has a number of talking points. And one of those is about alcohol. Look, our message is, we've got enough problems already with alcohol and DUI, spousal abuse, domestic violence. Why do we need to cross a bridge into another product. Once we go down this road of legalization, it's going to be hard to turn back.

Let me be critical for a moment of the Obama administration on this. The federal government could have gotten involved in Colorado and Washington. They chose not to. They could have sued. However, what they've done, look at other states, they've sued Texas they've sued Arizona over immigration, over voting laws. But yet they've turned a blind eye in what's happening in these very catastrophic events with drug legalization in these states.

BERMAN: They didn't really turn a blind eye to it. It hasn't happened yet. So, there haven't been catastrophic events. I mean this law doesn't go into place for another few hours. We don't know what affect it will have. The attorney general has made it clear that they will not impose the federal laws on marijuana in Colorado and ultimately Washington state when that law goes into effect.

But let me remind you what Colorado voters say, because 58 percent there, that's a lot more than the majority, 58 percent said they wanted to legalize pot. That's a far cry from 1995 when just 25 percent were in favor of legalization here. Do you feel the argument slipping away from you as more and more Americans seem to be saying pot is okay?

CHABOT: Yes. Absolutely. It is slipping away. And it's slipping away because, again, big marijuana. They've got lots of paid lobbyists. They've got billionaires that fund their marijuana legalization initiatives. It's hard for us to counter their messaging in the media as well as commercials.

Look, a big reason the American population is following this is because they say, let's tax it and regulate it. Well, in Colorad, they're looking at taxing at around 28 percent. Who is going to come in behind that? it's going to be the black market, which is going to explode. I write about this in my book, "Eternal Battle Against Evil" about the drug cartel influence that we already have in this country. We're going to see, I think, more of this. Let me mention to you briefly, and you may be aware of this: in California, in my home state, we've seen the marijuana money corrupt local elected officials by bribes. We're concerned that this drug money is going to be the same thing in these other states as well.

BERMAN: Paul Chabot, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate your perspective on the eve of this major change in Colorado's laws. Important to keep this in perspective as we go forward. I really appreciate it.

CHABOT: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: We're going to talk more now about the legal implications of this as the new Colorado law goes into effect in about 14 hours. What will happen inside these states? How will law enforcement react to this? Joining me now Danny Cevallos, a CNN legal analyst and defense attorney, and HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney6 Joey Jackson.

Danny Let me start with you here because our guest there, Paul Chabot, just brought up the dichotomy between the federal law and state laws. He says the president has got to make some kind of statement about marijuana, but hasn't his administration already made a sort of statement by the attorney general saying we're not going to impose the federal law there?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. That's a nice statement but again it creates a constitutional crisis. It's not enough for the attorney general to say, I'm not going to enforce a well established federal law. If anything, that's a derogation of his duty.

The problem is this: we currently have federal law that outlaws marijuana. Colorado and Washington are literally disregarding federal law. It's nice to know that 58 percent of the voters want to legalize marijuana. But that is legally irrelevant while there's still a federal law outlawing marijuana. And nowhere is this more apparent than at the airport.

You can see the crisis, these two issues meeting head to head at the Denver airport where it's a municipally-owned entity, however it is so federally regulated it must abide by federal laws. So, the fact that Eric Holder is saying, well, I'm not going to enforce federal law, that's not good enough. It's still illegal. And he really, in a way, does not have the discretion to simply disregard existing federal law. This crisis has to be resolved first and right away.

BERMAN: Joey, what about some of the other issues, some of the other gray areas that people see here legally, especially including 18 to 21 year olds. For them in Colorado, marijuana has become decriminalized. You're not going to go to jail if you're caught with pot. You'll get fined. Is that just another strange twilight figure here?

JOWY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a major problem and I speak to this from a human perspective in that I have a teenage son. I'm frightened to death, you know, the message that it can potentially send. But just on the issue itself, in terms of the federal government and what they do, I see the federal government as being deferential. Every state is a sovereignty, John, and as a result of that, every state has an elected legislature and governor. It's up to each state whether it be discussion relating to gun control or pot. No matter what it is, every state picks its poison. This state has decided in its infinite wisdom it will do this.

The federal government has opted to be deferential and say we're going to respect the sovereignty of its people. And so as you pointed, John, initially, it hasn't gone into effect. It's a few hours away. We'll see how it plays out. But it could be problematic between the 21-year-old group and the 16-year-old group that it's hands-off for. We'll see how it's enforced within this particular state.

BERMAN: Maybe a case where the laws are catching up to societal norms here. We'll have to wait and see how this all gets implemented, when the implications are. Danny Cevallos, Joey Jackson, thanks so much for your insights on this. Stick around for me, please.

As you are toasting and celebrating the new year, get ready for the next round of elections; 2014 could bring a change of power to Congress. We'll have a look ahead when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: 2014 just hours away now. And for Washington, there's a ton at stake. We're talking midterm elections, state races with national implications. And then, of course, there's the race for 2016 which could very well start in 2014. Will Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie give away their plans? CNN political analyst John Avlon joins me now.

John, I want to start with the current president. President Obama in the center of conversation for the year ahead. The big question a lot of people are asking right now is what kind of president will we see, especially at the beginning? Will it be confrontational president? Will it be an accommodating president? What are you predicting?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, John, presidents need to walk a line between being realists and idealists. And you'll see President Obama, I think in that State of the Union address January 28, setting forward a firm tone with Republicans, but one that has an outreach to appeal to independent and swing voters in those crucial midterm elections. A lot of liberals believe that whenever presidents reach out to conservatives it's been like Lucy and the football. But I think a president can't take too hard a tone because he does need to show himself to be the most reasonable guy in the room in Washington at a time when approval ratings in Washington overall are at historic lows. BERMAN: Let's talk about Congress. We have a Republican House and Democratic Senate. What are the chances you see of either of these houses flipping? I think the action is probably in the Senate where Republicans need to pick up, what, six seats to flip it?

AVLON: That's right, well look, I'll dust off my crystal ball for you reluctantly, but I think the most likely outcome at this point, a long way out, is the margins in both Houses will shift. Republicans have a 17 seat margin in the House of Representatives. Democrats may be able to make some gains if they can pick up some swing seats. Although, redistricting locks in a Republican edge.

Those six seats in the Senate, that's where a lot of the action and attention will be. Many of them are Democrats fighting to hold on to seats in what are now Republican states, particular in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina. So, that's where a lot of the action will be. Some Democrats are playing defense. My guess is that Republicans will probably pick up seats, but will they pick up enough. That's the huge question. Whether they'll are a united Republican Congress in President Obama in the final two years of his term, or whether it will look more like Bill Clinton's final midterm elections where Democrats made gains and it solidified a certain status quo in Washington through the end of his term

BERMAN: They're playing defense both geographically, because some of these seats are more Republican states, and playing defense on the issues many of them defending the Obamacare issue. I want to move on to 2016.