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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Is Iran Collapsing?; America's High: The Case For and Against Pot

Aired June 17, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, breaking news and a big question: Is Iran collapsing? Another major protest rally gearing up right now as we speak, reports that some police officers are now protecting marchers from the hated paramilitary, the baton-wielding plainclothes security officers fully backing Ahmadinejad.

New signs the government is squeezing harder, slowing Internet connections, trying to stop the world from seeing the protest is mainly peaceful and plainly massive.

Tonight, as we have every night, we are piercing the fire wall the Iranian government is trying to build, taking you inside, with new signs tonight this story could be approaching a major turning point.

Also ahead this hour: President Obama's historic decision on same-sex couples in the federal work force. Or was it a presidential cop-out of historic dimensions? Hundreds of thousands of people may be affected, plenty of others, though, bitterly disappointed. We will show you what the decision does and why so many gay civil rights activists say it is nowhere near enough.

And, later, you will meet a pot pioneer. He is trying to be the king of all marijuana businessmen. He's not a drug lord. He's totally legit, part of our weeklong look at pot in America.

We begin with the breaking news, a new morning and new protests building in Iran's capital, organizers expecting even larger crowds, much larger, they say, than the one today.

And, just for perspective, I want you to take a look at the latest video out of Iran, amateur video, the government not highlighting this protest at all, showing only the briefest shot of it, 19 seconds, a few times all night. Let's take a look at that video. Just as important, listen carefully.

You hear street noises. You hear crowd sounds, a few horns, but no shouting, no chanting, no aggression, some of the marchers even taping their mouths shut, the quiet intended to speak loudly to send a message, their leader, the defeated presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, apparently trying to defeat violence with silence.

He's also defying Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who called on him to stop and wait for the election process to play itself out. He didn't do that. The ayatollah is expected to address the country on Friday with yet another mass rally planned on that day. Now, again, the video you just saw was taken by amateurs, made it out of Iran through unauthorized channels. And we should point out, there was a whole lot less video today than yesterday, thanks to the government crackdown.

To give you an idea of the official version, this is what they are showing at this hour on the two official state-run networks. This is a live signal, a painting show and a show about computers. That's what they're showing on official state television in Iran, no rallies, no protests, no uprising.

If you look at Iranian state TV, everything is normal.

More now from Reza Sayah on the ground in Tehran. The connection, again, because the government is slowing Internet speeds, could be choppy at times. We apologize.

Reza, we have seen violence, we have seen very loud rallies, but not today. As we just saw, today was very quiet. It's clearly a strategy by the opposition, but what's the goal?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the goal is to get a new vote. That's what the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi have been calling for over and over again. And they're not running out of steam.

If you were to tell me a couple of weeks ago that we would see five consecutive days of protests and demonstrations against the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I would have had a difficult time believing you, especially without government permission.

This is unprecedented. But these supporters continue to come out day after day, another demonstration scheduled today. Yesterday, we had one. Of course, CNN cameras and members of the foreign media not allowed to cover these events, so we have done our best to get as many eyes and ears out there as possible. And they report back to us with pictures, with word of mouth, but there is a large gathering.

And their trademark has really become the silent marches. Their slogans are on placards and posters. Their peace signs are up in the air. And that's perhaps their way to avoid these clashes, these brutal crackdowns that we have seen on the parts of police earlier during this week. That's perhaps why we haven't seen some of that violence in the past couple of days -- Anderson.

COOPER: Any expectation what's going to happen in the next couple of hours? Another huge rally expected today.


Late this afternoon, Mr. Mousavi has organized another gathering in a major city square. And, this time, he's asking his supporters not to wear the color green, the green of course the symbolic color of the campaign. He's asked his supporters to replace that color with black, their way of mourning for the protesters that were killed on Monday. And, once again, you can expect to see riot police out there, the members of the Basij. And the crowds continue to grow. The government has said, wait until the legal process takes shape, wait until the Guardian Council does the partial recount. But, again, the Mousavi camp continues to say, no, they want a revote.

COOPER: All right. Well, stay safe.

There's been global solidarity with the protesters almost from the beginning. Web sites, including the BBC, blogger Andrew Sullivan, who has been on this program, changing their color scheme to green, the color of the opposition.

And, today, the World Cup qualifiers in Seoul -- take a look -- this happened in South Korea -- members of the Iranian soccer team wore green wristbands signifying their support of the opposition. They wore them the entire first half of play.

As we said, the images we're seeing are remarkable, even though the ones from inside Iran are getting harder and harder to come by. We have shown you the peaceful protests so far, but there's also been significant violence over the last couple of days. For the most part, it has been apparently perpetrated by government security forces against protesters.

Here's what we have seen over the last several days.


COOPER (voice-over): All the video is raw, nearly all of it disturbing.

A man -- we don't know his name or when this happened -- is dragged through the streets, police, over and over, hitting him with their batons, a large welt visible over his right shoulder. He's nearly unconscious, but there is no mercy.

These are the images the Iranian government does not want you to see, but hundreds of thousands of people at marches like this one in Tehran are sending their own pictures. There are simply too many people and images for the government to stop.

There are peaceful protests, like this one today. And then there is violence. These images emerging just today, protesters in Tehran running to escape the sting of police sticks coming down on anyone in their way, including this young woman, who, after being knocked down, bravely gets back up to yell at police.

Also today, people in the city of Esfahan screaming out in pain from their wounds and getting help in stitching up their open cuts. On Sunday, a report from Tehran University said that police violently attacked students in a dormitory and that one building caught fire. These images show what appears to be a badly burned dorm room, what look to be textbooks scattered on the ground, charred.

Today, as the polls leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, called for more peaceful protests, it's expected that many Iranians will once again heed his call, armed with defiance and video and cell phone cameras, determined to document what foreign reporters cannot.


COOPER: Well, their gamble, that, by showing restraint, protesters will be able to peel off members of the security forces or at least present the government with a stark choice of backing down or cracking down. They're gambling literally with their lives.

Some more images here, still pictures, all of them unauthorized, of what the gamble looks like at street level.

And, as we show them to you, I want to bring in Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University.

Professor Milani, thanks for being with us.

You have been monitoring events in Iran. Is Iran collapsing?

ABBAS MILANI, DIRECTOR OF IRANIAN STUDIES, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I think Iran is on the verge of a major change. Whether it will collapse into a kind of a failed state, I doubt, but I think we're not going to see a return to a regime where Mr. Ahmadinejad did as he wished and his words were the law of the land. Those days, I think, are finished.

COOPER: Now, you view what's happening right now in Iran as a direct move by -- by the Revolutionary Guard to steal the election for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

What exactly does that mean? Explain to the folks at home who the Revolutionary Guard is. And why would they want to steal the election for Ahmadinejad?

MILANI: The Revolutionary Guards are a group of about 150,000 to 170,000 people. They were created by Mr. Khomeini as an ideological army to replace the army that existed in Iran. Khomeini distrusted that army as being royalists.

They were kept out of politics during the entire Khomeini era. But Mr. Khamenei, who does -- did not have the charisma of Khomeini, nor did he have the religious authority of Khomeini, began to use them to eliminate his opposition and consolidate his rule.


COOPER: So -- so, are these the people we see with the batons, plainclothes people, who are just beating people in the streets?

MILANI: Some of them are the Revolutionary Guards. Some of the people you see are what are called the Basij. Threat are about a million to three million. They are gangs-cum-militia. They are very well paid. They are subsidized by the regime. They are now under the direct command of the Revolutionary Guards. And they are the only supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad. And, by every indication -- and there are more indications coming out every day how they stole the election -- on the night of the election, when they realized that the votes were not in their favor, they decided to attack Mousavi's campaign.

They had initially called from the government and told Mousavi that he has won the election. A few minutes later, we have this from the spokesperson for Mr. Mousavi, a very prominent filmmaker. And a few minutes later, they attacked the campaign headquarters. They seized all the documents, because they were tabulating votes in a parallel tabulation system.

They seized all of those, and then declared Mr. Ahmadinejad a winner by an incredibly unbelievable margin.

COOPER: The -- the president of Iran is not the one ultimately in charge. We all think of Ahmadinejad as the president, and he's the guy in charge. It's -- he's not. It's the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who you have been talking about.

Is his power in jeopardy?

MILANI: I think his power is definitely in jeopardy.

It's in jeopardy if he uses the military and the Basij to crack down. And then one can expect that military, that Revolutionary Guard military and the Basij will expect more political power, and they will chip away at his absolutist authoritarian rule.

If, on the other hand, he caves in and allows another election, which is the minimal demand the opposition now has, his word will also has -- have been completely discredited.

So, I think, as I said in the beginning, the days of Mr. Khamenei, I think, as the kind of absolutist leader who ran the show, and his words were writ laws, the law of the land, they have ended.

COOPER: It's fascinating -- either way, major change ahead.

Abbas Milani, professor, appreciate your time. We will have you on again. Thank you.

MILANI: Thank you.

COOPER: A lot more to see online. Go to You can view more images from today, images the Iranian government doesn't want you to see.

Also,, obviously, is where you can find the live chat happening now, other viewers watching the program around the world on there right now in conversation. Join them. Let us know what you think.

Up next: the latest philandering senator. Normally, this wouldn't even be a story, but this senator has spoken out often and loudly for so-called family values. Hypocrisy in Washington, say it ain't so.

Also tonight, President Obama giving small benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, but is this a compromise or a cop-out? Tonight, Academy Award-winning screenwriter and gay civil rights activist Dustin Lance Black joins me, also Richard Socarides, former adviser to President Clinton.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta with facts you need to know about marijuana and your health -- you have heard people say it's addictive this week. Others say it's not at all. What's the truth? We will ask Sanjay.

And text us your questions to him. Text them to 94553. The message has to start with the letters A.C., then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include A.C. first, with a space, we will not receive the text.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Well, if we had to guess, the past 24 hours have not been pleasant for Senator John Ensign of Nevada, nor for his family. A conservative with national aspirations, he went before the cameras yesterday, admitted he had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer more than a year ago.

He said he was sorry and that he remains deeply committed to his service in the U.S. Senate.

Now, normally, this wouldn't even be a story we discuss in-depth on this program, but it's another in a series of examples of political hypocrisy. The senator has repeatedly held himself up as a defender of so-called family values and has held his colleagues in government to standards apparently he himself does not seem to follow.

Here's Tom Foreman with details.


SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: Let me start....

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elected officials don't come more conservative than Senator John Ensign, pro-guns, pro- church, pro-family. It all makes this admission that much more difficult.

ENSIGN: Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It's absolutely the worst thing that I have ever done in my life.

FOREMAN: That worst thing involved a woman who worked for him, Cindy Hampton, the wife of another staff member. Ensign's office says the affair started near Christmas 2007 and lasted until August. Neither of the Cindy Hamptons works for Ensign currently, and his own wife is standing by him now.

But political pals are shakier.

ENSIGN: I rise to make a parliamentary...

FOREMAN: On Capitol Hill, Ensign has been a Republican stalwart...


CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The question is on the first article of impeachment.


FOREMAN: ... voting for Bill Clinton's impeachment, saying that, after all the stonewalling over Monica Lewinsky, the then president had -- quote -- "no credibility left."

As a born-again Christian, Ensign opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, and he called on fellow GOP Senator Larry Craig to resign over that airport bathroom arrest.


ENSIGN: We need people who are in office who will hold themselves to a little higher standard.


FOREMAN: Ensign's own affair started two months later.

(on camera): Ensign's dyed-in-the-wool conservative credentials sparked talk of a presidential bid. But now he has resigned an important leadership role in the Senate, and close friends are unsure if he can even continue as a spokesman for the party.


SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: I don't know. I think the future determines that. He's a bright young man. And there are lots of people who make mistakes.


FOREMAN: In terms of sex scandals, that's a reality that has ripped both parties. But, John Ensign climbed so high as a defender of moral values, his fall may be particularly hard for Republicans to bear, and for his career to survive.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Senator Ensign didn't name the woman he had the affair with or her husband, who also worked his campaign.

But, today, Cindy and Doug Hampton issued a statement through their lawyer, saying -- quote -- "It's unfortunate the senator chose to air this very personal matter, especially after the Hamptons did everything possible to keep this matter private. It is equally unfortunate that he did so without concern for the effect such an announcement would have on the Hampton family."

Clearly, not all the parties were on the same page about going public with the scandal. While the specifics of the story are unique and clearly devastating for the two families, the basic plotline is pretty familiar: A powerful man in public office who presents the world a picture-perfect family life, rails against infidelity, commits the very acts he publicly condemns.

Gary Neuman is the author of "The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can Do to Prevent It." He's also a licensed family counselor and a rabbi. He joins me now.

Gary, you know, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone does dumb things that they shouldn't do, but -- but not everyone repeatedly preaches something that they then don't follow up in their own life.


Not knowing this senator, you know, per se, obviously, you know, men have this fanciful way of compartmentalizing their lives. They can actually do one thing and believe one thing, and they can espouse something different.

And all men are kind of trained to compartmentalize, but there are those men of power who definitely, you know, are masterful at it. And I think that's what we have seen in this case.

COOPER: It's interesting, though. You know, Senator Ensign called Bill Clinton's conduct over Lewinsky embarrassing. He called Larry Craig a disgrace. He seemed to go out of his way to speak out in the name of marriage.

I mean, does that make sense to you that, then, he would do this?

NEUMAN: Well, you know, it makes sense to the extent -- not knowing him personally -- but, you know, in my book -- you know, I did research of 100 men who cheated and 100 men who remained faithful.

One of the fascinating things about men, the majority of them, is that most of them were not claiming to look for an affair. Most of them did not realize how susceptible they were by an -- to an affair through the lack of emotional connection to their spouse, and then were floored by how much some admiration. some connectivity at the workplace, the number-one place where people do meet their mistress, meant to them. And they just went with that.

And, of course, it's disgraceful. However, it's something that happens very commonly, and not just to men of power, but to many, many men, about 50 percent of married men. And, you know, they continue down that path, you know, and until, you know, they continue to lie about it. They continue to destroy their family, very often somebody is presented with actual evidence or information. And then about 25 percent of them still lie after that fact.

COOPER: It's devastating, obviously, for a lot of families involved here.

Gary Neuman, appreciate your time. Thank you.

NEUMAN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Coming up next: the latest on Air France 447, new evidence suggesting the jet did in fact break up midair.

Also, President Obama's decision on some rights for same-sex couples and the critics who say it doesn't go far enough. We will talk with a former adviser to the -- to President Clinton on gay issues and Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the movie "Milk."

We're also continuing our special report, "America's High: The Case For and Against Pot." Tonight, meet a guy they call King Bong, a man who's turning legalized marijuana into a big business empire.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Let's check some of the other stories we're following right now.

Erica Hill joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tonight, investigators say there is growing evidence that Air France Flight 447 broke up in the air before crashing into the Atlantic last month, as autopsies have revealed fractures in the legs, hips and arms of the victims. And experts say those injuries, plus the fact that large pieces of wreckage have been recovered, support the theory of an in-air breakup.

President Obama proposing sweeping changes to the way the nation's financial system is regulated. The goal here is to prevent another economic crisis. The new rules would apply to a vast range of products, everything from simple home loans to Wall Street's most complex deals. The plan would also create a new agency to protect consumers.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this wasn't just the failure of individuals. This was a failure of the entire system. We're proposing a new and powerful agency charged with one, just one job: looking out for ordinary consumers.


HILL: And the nation has a new texting champ. I know. You're thinking, who knew there was a competition? Well, there is one, sponsored by a mobile phone company, of course. Fifteen-year-old Kate Moore from Des Moines, Iowa, beat out 20 other finalists in the two-day challenge. She pocketed $50,000.

Kate, it turns out, sends out some 14,000 texts a month. And get this. She's only had her cell phone, Anderson, for eight months.

COOPER: I -- I liked how she was looking when she was texting. I don't know if you saw that. She was looking like every teenager looks when they text, like they cannot be bothered. You know what I mean?

HILL: Right. Right.

COOPER: Like, even though she was in this competition...

HILL: Except that she's about to win $50,000. But it was a very serious conversation. They had to text this very long message at the end. And they had to get all the abbreviations right.

I mean, the kids...


HILL: ... these days, it's just crazy.

COOPER: Oh, there she is. Look. She's like, oh, God, who could be bothered doing this? Oh, my God.

HILL: Whatever.


HILL: I guess I will send this text.

COOPER: LOL. OK. Now I'm done. OK. All right.

HILL: C-U-L-8-R.



Is it lots of laughs or laugh out loud? I never know on LOL. I don't use it, personally.

HILL: I don't like the LOL.

COOPER: Anyone? Anyone?

HILL: It kind of bugs me. I will be honest.


HILL: I think it's supposed to be laugh out loud, isn't it? COOPER: Is it? I don't know.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: I don't care.

Just ahead...

HILL: Jerry (ph) says laugh out loud.

COOPER: All right.


COOPER: Just ahead: A groundbreaking step on the road to same- sex rights -- or is it? Why critics say President Obama's decision to extend some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees is actually a cop-out.

Also our special weeklong report, "America's High: The Case For and Against Pot." Tonight, we dig deeper with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta, an unfiltered look at pot's ingredients and whether or not they really are addictive.

Plus, a bizarre and brazen alleged fraud -- why police say a 47- year-old man dressed up as his dead mother for six years. Oh, yeah. Talk about mom issues.

In Hollywood, it was the Bates Motel. Real life, it's Brooklyn.



COOPER: In our "Nation Divided" segment: President Obama is getting decidedly mixed reviews on his announcement that he will sign a memorandum tomorrow extending some benefits to same-sex partners of gay federal employees, some very limited benefits.

Here's why.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under current law, we cannot provide same-sex couples are the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. That's why I'm proud to announce my support for the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act, a piece of legislation that will guarantee these rights for all federal employees.

Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminator. I think it interferes with state's rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.


COOPER: He said tomorrow. Obviously, he signed it today.

What President Obama didn't mention is that his administration, through the Justice Department, just this month, filed a brief arguing in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

This action, along with his failure to remove, to overturn don't ask/don't tell, as well as lack of movement on the HIV travel ban, has outraged many gay civil rights activists.

Joining me now is Richard Socarides, an attorney and former adviser to President Clinton on gay issues, also gay civil rights activist and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who has recently won the Academy Award for his screenplay for "Milk."

Lance, are these benefits really a big step forward for -- for gay people?

DUSTIN LANCE BLACK, SCREENWRITER: No, not -- you mean this memorandum specifically?


BLACK: Not at all.

I mean, the problem with this is that it is partial equality. Like -- so many of the most important benefits for domestic partners aren't in this memorandum, like health care.

And I have got to say, the big problem with sending a message like this, that partial equality is enough, is that I think it still says to, like, you know, the young people, the gay and lesbian young people out there in America that are listening to this and watching this, it still says, you are still second class. You still don't deserve everything. You're still like second-class citizens.

And the danger there is that, you know, in this day and age, still, gay and lesbian kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight brothers and sisters, nine times more likely that they come from unaccepting homes and environments.

And, so, it's, like, we cannot send the messages, our federal government cannot send the messages to these kids out there who are struggling to come out that they are still less than, that they are still second-class.

COOPER: Richard, do you think the president has betrayed gay and lesbian Americans, based on his campaign promises?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, FORMER ADVISER TO FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON ON GAY ISSUES: Well, I think he deserves some credit for what he did today. I mean, I think it was a positive. It was long overdue. And I think it's going to end up being way too little and way too late.

And I think his basic problem is, is that he overpromised during the campaign, and now he's -- he's really underdelivered. COOPER: Why do you think he's underdelivering?

SOCARIDES: I think that they're too focused on not repeating the mistakes of the Clinton era. They -- they sort of learned too well what those mistakes were.

COOPER: They being who? Rahm Emanuel?

SOCARIDES: Well, I wouldn't single out Rahm. I mean, I -- I -- I worked at the White House, and I know what the pressures are. And I worked with Rahm for almost eight years.

So, you know, he's a fair person. And he is for basic equality, just like the president is. But I think -- I think it was -- you know, they're -- they have multifaceted excuses. They have got a lot going on. They have, you know, been saving the banking system, trying to -- trying to end two wars.

But they're playing this out in an old political era. And the debate on this has changed so dramatically. I mean, gay people in Iowa are being married, not in Massachusetts, but in Iowa. And the president has been talking about hospital visitation rights. It is reactive. It is very behind the curve, and they've badly miscalculated it.

COOPER: Let me ask you that. I mean, there are people who say -- Richard sort of reference that -- that look, there's wars going on. There's an economic crisis. This is -- you know, for a small percentage of the population, this is a big deal. But for the rest of the population, the people will say, this isn't as big a deal as some of the other stuff the president has on his plate.

BLACK: Well, to them I would say, I know that there is a lot that this country is facing right now. That is true. And gay and lesbian people want to help and fight to repair all of that, to fix our country, to heal our country. And we do deserve full and equal rights. At this moment we deserve it.

There is never a convenient time to give full and equal civil rights in this country. That is not the tradition of this country. You know, we had peace and prosperity for eight years under Clinton. And what did we get? We got "don't ask, don't tell." I do not think there's a connection between full and equal civil rights and the convenient time of peace and prosperity.

COOPER: Do you think the president has betrayed gay and lesbian America?

BLACK: You know, I think -- I don't want to guess that he has or has not. I think that he could do a lot of good for gay and lesbian people. He's said that he would. I think we need to hold him to those promises. I think that we need to have our voices heard.

We made that mistake in the Clinton administration, as well. We're not making our dissatisfaction heard enough. And I'm urging -- urging gay and lesbian people, from all 435 congressional districts, to march with me on Washington on October 11 and not just to have our voices made, but also to organize and to figure out how we do the grassroots activism we need to do. I mean, we tell our personal stories, so we can go back to our hometowns and go back to our congressional districts.

What the president needs to do now is enunciate a very specific plan going forward. What action is he going to take? Remind people why they were for him? Remind him that he was -- people how he was a champion of equal rights. His time is pretty much...

COOPER: Has he spoken about -- about gay marriage at all with all the changes in all these states, has he really talked about that?

SOCARIDES: Not really until day. I mean, you know, up until today, the most he really said about gays and lesbians since he's been president is when the controversy around the inaugural and -- and his choice of speakers at the inaugural. He's been really silent.

COOPER: Of all the things that are relatively easy for him to do, the HIV travel ban -- the HIV travel ban seems to be the easiest thing he could do.

SOCARIDES: You would think it would be easy. I'm told that they have budgetary issues on that now. You know, the law is now that you have to score these things and they have to be budget neutral. And the budget office has come up with some numbers that seemed out of whack, but I'm told that they really are trying to get the HIV travel ban done and done quickly.

But on any -- no one of these issues is going to fix this for him now. I mean, there have been -- people continue to be discharged from the military for no good reason. There's been no progress on repealing DOMA. He said today again that he was going to work to repeal DOMA, but he has said absolutely nothing -- or done absolutely nothing to try to get it done up until now.

COOPER: Bottom line, you're disappointed?

BLACK: Yes, I am. I am -- I've been disappointed, you know, since his inauguration. And I have great hope for this president. I think this president is a great communicator. He has the power to change. He has the power to lead. And I know he can't do everything himself, but he has the power to lead this Congress to full equality and save a lot of lives out there.

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Dustin Lance Black, good to have you on. Richard Socarides, as well. Thank you very much.

Go to to read President Obama's full statement about his decision on expanding benefits for gay and lesbian federal workers.

Tomorrow on the program, two big interviews, my conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Tough questions on the unrest in Iran, the danger in North Korea, the Mideast and much, much more. Also Angelina Jolie, the good will ambassador, joins me on World Refugee Day to talk about one of the most important missions of her life. Hillary Clinton and Angelina Jolie both tomorrow on 360.

You can also join the live chat happening now at And next, our weeklong series "America's High: The Case for and Against Pot." Meet a man who's made marijuana his business and why he says legalizing pot would be good for America.

And the truth about pot and what it does to your body or doesn't do. Benefits, dangers. We'll get answers from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And a massive drug bust in Mexico, a ton of cocaine found hidden inside the bodies of frozen sharks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Should marijuana be legal? That's the question at the center of our weeklong special, "America's High: The Case for and Against Pot."

We've interviewed Melissa Etheridge, who said she used medical marijuana after her diagnosis of breast cancer. We've also taken you on a road -- on a raid at a national forest, where a Mexican drug cartels are planting marijuana gardens.

As the battle rages, marijuana keeps entering this country. This week, Border Patrol agents in California found nearly 200 pounds of pot hidden in two vehicles. These pictures from that seize -- seizure. Arrests were made in both instances.

There are places right here in America, though, where it's perfectly OK to own and smoke pot. And tonight you're going to meet a legal pusher of the drug who believes it can help sick people.

Joe Johns reports.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If marijuana has a future as a legitimate business in this country, Paul Stanford of Portland is a true pot pioneer.

PAUL STANFORD, MARIJUANA ADVOCATE: I feel a little bit more relaxed. I can feel that I've had a couple of little puffs here.

JOHNS: Call it his Oregon Trail. For 25 years he's pushed to legalize marijuana. In fact for the last decade, he's hosted a cable access show on it.

STANFORD: Our infamous dancing cannabis leaves.

JOHNS: He founded what he says was the fist medical marijuana consultation and referral service in Oregon. The company has amassed files on 64,000 patients in eight states where medical marijuana is legal, matching people who want it to doctors who can provide it. Stanford says it's a $3 million a year business.

These plants are also Stanford's. He's licensed by the state to grow them for medical marijuana. He gives it away in closed-door meetings like this.

The next frontier for this pioneer?

STANFORD: We need to take this market out of the hands of the kids and substance abusers who control it today and put it in the hands of the state, where the age limit is strictly enforced and where we can get tax revenue.

JOHNS: He's trying to get an initiative on the ballot here in Oregon that would allow for a state taxation and regulation of marijuana. But he's failed in past efforts to legalize it here.

(on camera) It doesn't cost much to raise these plants. The whole operation runs on a shoe string, basically. But if this were scaled out so that marijuana was being sold all over the country and it were legalized, there are some people who say the costs to society would be much greater than the benefits.

(voice-over) It's a guessing game, but a moderate estimate says if marijuana were decriminalized, it would save about $13 billion for not having to enforce marijuana laws. And if pot were taxed like alcohol and cigarettes, it would mean about 7 billion, a net gain for government of $20 billion.

(on camera) But that's not a complete pictures. Comparing alcohol to pot, one professor at USC said alcohol taxes only cover about 10 percent of alcohol related costs like drunk driving. And tobacco taxes only cover about 20 percent of tobacco-related medical costs.

(voice-over) So what about marijuana? If legalized, would we see more accidents or lower worker productivity? And what about health effects, higher insurance rates? In Paul Stanford's garden, it's all blue skies.

STANFORD: That's assuming that marijuana is like alcohol and tobacco, and it isn't. Marijuana is a healthy alternative and much safer than alcohol and tobacco.

JOHNS (on camera): But what about the cartels and the brutal international drug trade? Those who support legalization say it will stem the violence. But critics say the cartels will simply slash their prices or ramp up trade in other drugs, like cocaine or methamphetamine.

(voice-over) Stanford says there's no proof that would happen, and he remains confident in the mantra of legalization.

STANFORD: Marijuana is a lot safer than alcohol, has a lot of medicinal benefits. And so if we look at the science, we're going to win. JOHNS: But given the national experience with legalized recreational drugs, who knows where this Oregon Trail will lead.

Joe Johns, CNN, Portland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, there's of course a very brutal side to the business of pot. And a documentary filmmaker describes one chilling encounter. You can read about that at

What's the truth about pot? We're going to get some medical facts, particularly about medical marijuana, from Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Text us your questions for him to 94553. The message has to start with the letters "AC," then a space, then your name and question. If you don't include "AC" first and a space, we're not going to get the text.

Plus brazen and truly bizarre. A guy is accused of posing as his dead mother, all police say, in a scheme to steal thousands of dollars. The story and pictures ahead.

And breaking news from Iran. We'll have the latest details on the protests and the violence. Be right back.


COOPER: Before the break, we introduced you to a man in Oregon, a pot pioneer of sorts, who believes that science shows marijuana has health benefits. Does it? One doctor we spoke to this week called pot the best medication he's ever worked with. Others say it's a potent, addictive, gateway drug with dangerous side effects that ruins lives and families. Both sides have studies to prove their case.

So what exactly are the facts? To try to get some answers, 360 MD Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us.

Now Sanjay, let's get at it. Are there benefits to medical marijuana? Is there a case for its use, because the patients we talk to swear by it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the answer is yes. I mean, there are some medical benefits to marijuana, and this is more than just anecdotal evidence now, Anderson. There are some studies to sort of back that up.

We know that there are receptors in the brain, cannabinoid receptors. And they control things like your pain levels, your hunger levels, things related to your mood. And therein lies some of the possible benefits, medically, of marijuana.

For example, someone who's having terrible malnourishment or terrible nausea as a result of chemotherapy or the effect of HIV/AIDS, using marijuana could stimulate appetite.

Neuropathic pain, Anderson, something I deal with quite a bit as a neurosurgeon. It's that lancinating nerve pain that's often caused by trauma or some sort of injury or surgery. Sometimes it can be very refractive to pain medications. Marijuana can help there, as well.

Multiple sclerosis, something else that I treat. That's something that can cause significant tremors, for example. Marijuana can help.

But the caveat, Anderson, is that sometimes other medications which we know more about may be better alternatives. So it can help, but there might be other things that are even better.

COOPER: Is there medical evidence that it can be dangerous? What do doctors say?

GUPTA: Well, most of the studies on this really look at some of the shorter term effects of marijuana. It is hard to make the statement right now about the longer term dangers of marijuana.

The medical community as a whole, for example the American Medical Association is against the smoking of marijuana. That is a stance that they take as an organized medical association.

But there are several areas in the brain, again, that marijuana affects. The hippocampus, Anderson, is an area that's responsible for memory. So short-memory problems is something that is often cited.

Also the developing brain. Is marijuana -- does it have somehow a greater impact on the developing brain? There are studies on this, although as I looked at it today, it is not conclusive. It's a real concern.

There's also, you know, this idea that you talk about THC, the active ingredient that Joe Johns was talking about in a lot of the other pieces this week. But there are 300 other compounds or so, as well. And what exactly do they do?

And finally, this issue that you raised, Anderson, about addiction. Is it addictive? You're going to find conflicting studies, not an exact number. But anywhere between 5 and 9 percent of people who smoke marijuana regularly could become addicted. Take a look there, as compared to other substances: tobacco, 31 percent; heroin, 23; cocaine 17. You can see the numbers there, and you have cannabis at the bottom, 9 percent.

So there is that risk, as well, Anderson.

COOPER: Because, I mean, other people like Melissa Etheridge. I said the addictive question. She basically just laughed and said, "Absolutely not. There's no way it's physically addictive."

Other people say, well, maybe psychologically it has some addictive. Does one make a difference between possible psychological addiction and physical addiction?

GUPTA: That's a great question. And when you talk about addiction, typically, from a medical standpoint, you are talking about some sort of physical addiction. So the body changes in some way. It could be a mood related thing, but associated with that mood that may have -- you know, some sort of physical manifestations of the withdrawal. So there are criteria for withdrawal.

COOPER: We got a text question I want to get to. Matthew from New Mexico asks, "Can we not obtain the medical benefits of marijuana without smoking it?" So how about that? I mean, there is this federally-approved drug on the market, Marinol, that treats the same symptoms as the medical marijuana does. Some people say it doesn't work fast enough. Is Marinol just not a decent substitute?

GUPTA: I don't think we're there yet. It's a synthetic form of THC. So the disadvantage, you get rid of a lot of those other compounds that we don't know a lot about.

One of the disadvantages, just mentioned, it's a pill, so it may not work fast enough. One thing about using marijuana, either smoking it or vaporizing it, is you can titrate it a little bit more easily. So you can get the appropriate dose. With the pill, you may take too much or too little. It's a little bit harder to titrate.

COOPER: All right. Interesting information. Sanjay Gupta, appreciate it. Thanks, Sanjay.

Tomorrow our special pot continues. A stunning report about how the collapse of the housing market may be fueling the growth of marijuana. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A three bedroom ranch, a cut lawn, a family of three and a $500,000 a year illegal business in just one room.

(on camera) This is what could only be described as a pot factory. In a garage on a suburban street in Miami. Look at just the water system. That brings the water to every individual plant that's in one of these pots.

And these plants, seven feet tall, just all in a garage that you would not notice from the street.


COOPER: Fascinating.

Up next tonight, though, a cold case solved. A boy who disappeared in 1955, now and then. He says that's him, that missing child in the poster. But is there a DNA match? We'll try to find that out.

And what a catch. Mexican authorities find a ton of cocaine smuggled inside frozen sharks. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Quick correction tonight in our Iran coverage. We mentioned the BBC and Andrew Sullivan changing their Web site color scheme to green in solidarity with the protesters. Andrew Sullivan did, and he praised the BBC for doing the same. But what he and we did not know is the green color scheme is simply one of many that they change at random. They did not change it for the protestors. Mr. Sullivan issues a correction, and now so do we. We regret the error.

Still to come, tonight's "Shot." The bizarre photos of a man accused of posing as his dead mother. Cops say he wore a dress, wig and makeup for years to try to pull off the scheme.

First, Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin."

HILL: Anderson, a nearly 55-year-old mystery may be solved. Police say a private DNA test shows a probability that this Michigan man was a 2-year-old who vanished in 1955 outside a Long Island New York bakery.

John Barnes says he was doing research online, trying to find out about his childhood, and came across photos of the missing boy's mother and thought she looked familiar. There was a massive manhunt for the boy when he disappeared.

Barnes is convinced he is not a blood relative of the family that raised him. His real name is Stephen Damman.

Two girls, one 8 and the other 10, went on the wrong planes while traveling solo on Continental Airlines. One wound up in Arkansas instead of North Carolina. The other -- and this happened the following day: ended up in Newark, not in Cleveland, as intended.

Eventually the girls did get to the right locations, but the mother of one of the girls called this total incompetence, continental says it is reviewing the situation.

And the Mexican navy found 870 packages of cocaine, weighing nearly one ton, 2,000 pounds in a shipment of frozen sharks because where else would you put it?

COOPER: Unbelievable. Crazy.

Coming up now, our "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one we can come up with for a photo we put on the blog.

Tonight's picture, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listening to President Obama and the South Korean president conduct a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

Staff winner tonight, Steve. His caption: "Are you sure these are my seats? Wait, is that Biden in the front row?"


COOPER: Can't even really see that picture.

HILL: It showed up a lot better in the e-mail.


HILL: It's on the Web site.

COOPER: Looks like a tree.

HILL: AC360 got with...

COOPER: has got it all there.

Our winner what is David from Florida. His caption: "What is Randi Kaye looking for in the Rose Garden?"

I don't understand the picture. Oh, I see, marijuana plants.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: Your "AC360" t-shirt is on the way. Dave, I appreciate it very much. I apologize for my stupidity.

Still ahead -- a middle-aged accused of dressing up as his dead mother, bilking the government out of tens of thousands of dollars. His alleged scheme went on for six years. He was dressed like his mother for "60 Years"; many congratulations Your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

The man accused of dressing up as his dead mother, bilking to the government out of tens of thousands of dollars. His alleged scheme was bilking like his mother for six years. How much money could it possibly be worth to do that?

Plus, breaking news from Iran. New signs tonight the government is squeezing harder. And also new signals that the crisis may be reaching a major turning point.


COOPER: Erica, tonight's "Shot" is proof that Norman Bates is alive and well and apparently living in Brooklyn.

HILL: Wasn't very long (ph).

COOPER: Take a look at this surveillance video. Police say that on the left is 49-year-old Thomas Prusik-Parkin in the dress and wig. They say for the past six years -- yes, six, count them -- he's been impersonating his dead mother and bilking the government out of $115,000. In social security payments and rent subsidies.

So for six years he's been doing this for $115,000. I did a little math. That comes out to about $18,000 a year. Does he really think it's worth it? Really?

I mean, and then get this. He's been doing this since 2003, allegedly duped both city and federal agencies, banks, courts over and over again for $18,000 a year.

HILL: Crazy. COOPER: Until this week, busted along with an accomplice, a 47- year-old friend who posed as nephew in some of the schemes. OK, so now he has to split the $18,000 a year with this brain surgeon, his fake nephew.

HILL: You know what else is sort of brain surgeonesque? The fact that he met up with investigators dressed as his mother. Yes.

COOPER: So it's amazing he's getting $15,000 a year to dress in a wig.

HILL: Are you saying it's not worth it?

COOPER: Yes. It doesn't seem worth it to me. I don't know.

The creepy tricky part. There he is. There he is. And I guess that's the accomplice. The really creepy Norman Bates part, when the son was arrested, the guy who's dressing up as his mother, he reportedly told "The Texan," and I Quote, "I held my mother when she was dying and breathed in her last breath, so I am my mother."


COOPER: The therapy bills alone are going to be $100,000 a year.

HILL: Yea. I think I'm going to need some therapy after that one.

COOPER: All right. See all the most recent "Shots" on the Web site,

Anyway, Coming up at the top, of the hour, the serious stuff. The latest from the story breaking out of Iran as protesters get ready for what could be the biggest protest yet, as the government tries to stop the world from seeing it. Breaking news. We'll be fight back.