Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD

THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD: "Public speakers RACE, POLICE, CORRUPTION AND THE DRUG WAR Tours spread word on harms of War on Drugs"

EFFICACY TOUR

Clifford Thornton Jr, leader of US drug policy reform group Efficacy and US NORML board member, spent eight weeks over summer touring Aotearoa talking about racism and the drug war. Thornton brought with him the experience of life in a country where the drug war is primarily racist and has become a mighty economic failure collapsing under the weight of imprisoning of so many people. During his time here, Cliff traversed the country and saw that we too are heading down the same destructive road. Like the States, drug policy is being enforced in a discriminatory way with Maori being disproportionately arrested and imprisoned. During his two months here, Cliff met a host of MPs including Nandor Tanczos, Tim Barnett, John Tamahiri, Parkura Horomia, Pete Hodgson, Leanne Dalziel, Don Brash, Nick Smith, Tony Ryall, and Rodney Hide (who urged ACT to taking a stronger line in ending drug prohibition), and United Future's Marc Alexander. Cliff also met with Police Association President Greg O'Connor, NZ Race Relations Conciliator Joris De Bres, Bruce Logan from the Maxim Institute, Waitakare Mayor Bob Harvey and Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner. Cliff got some excellent media coverage - he was interviewed on radio stations all around the country and appeared on Linda Clark's Nine 'Til Noon show., repeating his message that marijuana should be legalised and other drugs including speed, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin medicalised.

LEAP TOUR

Hot on the heels of Cliff's visit is a tour by LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), an organisation of more than 50 speakers based in the US, Canada and Britain. All of them are former "drug warriors" - police, prosecutors, judges, parole, probation and corrections officials who now speak out in opposition to the drug war. En route to the International Harm Reduction Conference in Melbourne, three key LEAP speakers are stopping off in New Zealand for ten days to talk about the harms of drug prohibition with rotary groups, MPs, the media and other interested parties. Jack Cole was Detective Lieutenant for the New Jersey State Police; Eleanor Schockett a former Florida judge, and Eddie Ellison the former chief of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad. They couldn't have arrived at a more appropriate time considering the recent scandal over in police corruption, and the publication of an old photo of Police Association President Greg O'Connor enjoying a joint. Jack Cole is a founding member and executive director of LEAP. From 1964 to 1991 he was a police officer in New Jersey, with 12 years spent undercover in the Narcotics Bureau. At one point he directed a three-year investigation of a Columbian cocaine trafficking organisation. Cole told the Sunday Star- Times that he doesn't want to tell the New Zealanders how to run the country but he does want to warn of the consequences the current law might have. He also offers alternatives which will lower drug crime and addiction. Cole also warns that drug testing at school and in the workplace should stop because it does more harm than good. He said testing converts cannabis users to stronger drugs (like P) which are more difficult to detect, and that employers and school principals would be kidding themselves to think that such a switch might not happen. Eddie Ellison is LEAP Director for Great Britain, and as the former head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, saw the change from bulk importation of cannabis in the 70s to bulk importation of heroin and cocaine. His experience in the field of drug control made clear the futility of relying solely on prohibition to lessen the effects of drug abuse on the community. He is a firm believer that drug legalisation presents a far greater opportunity to reduce the impact of drug use and the crimes associated with that use. Eleanor Schockett, a former Florida judge, became interested in drug policy when she wrote her senior paper on the administration of US drug laws and knew something was terribly wrong. As a Judge for the Circuit Court of Miami-Dade County in Florida she saw the havoc wrought by a failed drug policy. The erosion of personal liberties particularly concerned her and she vowed to speak out on the issue. Schockett has already appeared in the Listener warning that the result of New Zealand's increasingly tough stance on drugs will only be growing violence and drug use. That's exactly what happened in the US when the American government took the same approach. Image captions: Eddie Ellison Jack Cole Eleanor Schockett
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