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

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rosemary McLeod - Cannabis a right to die for

Cannabis a right to die for

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/0,2106,3441901a11095,00.html
13 October 2005
Rosemary McLeod

It's a weird religion that encourages people to practise a rite that causes cancer. Isn't it time we stopped deferring to the Rastafarian cult and pointed this out?

The one undoubtedly cheerful outcome of the general election is that the Greens' Nandor Tanczos is now looking for a real job.

It was his role to attract youth votes on account of his groovy religion, his dreadlocks, his skateboarding and his call to legalise cannabis.

I used to watch him sauntering along Lambton Quay, knowing that he could well end up with a fat parliamentary pension at my expense for his pains. No wonder he looked so chipper.

Remember, last time around, the legalisation of cannabis was high on the Greens' list of priorities, and so was their showcase Rasta. This time they placed Tanczos lower on their party list, a sign, maybe, that they'd started to think about more than trying to look groovy, a hard ask at the best of times for ageing square dancers.

No electorate would ever have chosen Tanczos, an aspect of MMP that amuses me. Voters can give a resounding kick up the backside to a candidate, only to discover that they're saddled with them anyway; they're on a party list.

Was this fully understood when we embraced MMP?

How the Greens could reconcile their cannabis policy with Sue Kedgley's war against unhealthy eating has always been baffling.

She would thunder on about sprays used around battery chooks and strawberries while he explained that smoking dope was, for him and so many others, a spiritual thing that they should be legally allowed to do. Even as he left Parliament, Tanczos insisted that cannabis is "just a weed".

Weed or not, it will kill many more people from lung cancer than a sprayed strawberry ever will.

Opium poppies are just weeds, too, as are all toxic plants somewhere in the world.

That doesn't mean they're natural or good for you. It means anyone with half a brain avoids them. Weeds aren't harmless.

Ground-breaking research reported this week should hopefully bury the issue of legalising dope, and with it the cause of the skateboarding, ageing advocate formerly known as an MP.

Richard Beasley, of the Medical Research Institute, has found that heavy cannabis use could well explain why Maori have the world's highest lung-cancer rate.

Encouraged, no doubt, by the many advocates for dope, Maori � from children to elders � are using it in epidemic proportions, he says.

The drug is more cancer-inducing than tobacco. Smoking three joints a day is equivalent to smoking a packet of 20 cigarettes. Smoking three or four a day causes chronic bronchitis at the very least.

Beasley's work was among background material Wellington Coroner Garry Evans referred to when he urged last week that government policy on illegal drugs be changed from "harm minimisation" to active campaigning against drug use.

Unlike Tanczos, blinkered by his dreadlocks, Evans deals with the real consequences of drug use.

Cannabis is widely tolerated among Maori, and also widely used, says Beasley's research. That Maori also have the world's highest lung-cancer rate can hardly be a coincidence. What sort of a religion could be happy with this?

Of course, no-one forces Maori to smoke dope in their droves, but the confusing messages we give about it can't help.

It used to be the same with tobacco companies, who visited newsrooms regularly when I was a young reporter, handing out freebies. There was no proof, they insisted, that smoking led to lung cancer.

Yes, tobacco companies are wicked multinationals, but self- interest also motivates cannabis lobbyists. They are users who want it to be OK, even if it is harmful.

In reality, no-one, least of all the police, cares a lot about any adult having a couple of joints in their pocket, but what we ought to care about, surely, is the effect of their advocacy on kids. It has only helped to undermine the common-sense messages of health professionals about cannabis and, by association, other recreational drugs.

Old stoners have survived long years of sucking on dope, but not all their mates have. If they were less self-centred, they'd think about the situation Maori are in, and wonder if our high rate of youth suicide is linked to cannabis. It's a freedom issue, they say � as if freedom to kill yourself is so worth having.

(Dear Rosemary, none of your highly speculative analysis is supported by science or effective social policy as it stands. The problems you cite are all occuring on your [philosophical] watch, not ours, suggesting it is your protocols that at the root of the problem, and not those of reform. /Blair)

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