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

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paradis On Hammers, Airguns and Reason

Drugs should be decriminalised and regulated

The shooting of Sergeant Don Wilkinson and the hammer homicide of John John Hapeta were unnecessary crimes. Blair Mulholland explains why here.


They were crimes that resulted directly out of the prohibition of drugs. With Wilkinson, the facts are relatively clear. The circumstances as I understand them surrounding the death of Hapeta are that he was starting out selling Cannabis and the two youths who murdered him were “protecting their patch”.

One would lose count of the number of burglaries committed, or the number of cars stolen, or the aggravated robberies committed each year in order solely for the offenders to obtain cash to purchase prohibited drugs on the black market. The prohibition of drugs, whether they’re called recreational or whatever label attaches, not only does not work, it in fact makes society more dangerous and unsafe. If we want a safer and crime-reduced country then all drugs should be decriminalised and regulated immediately. The regulation can occur through the sale by government controlled stores. These stores would be a monopoly and they would not be allowed to advertise.

Those are my beliefs. They are also the view of Judge Jerry Paradis who is in New Zealand to present to a government ministry on drug prevention. Judge Paradis is a member of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and was a Canadian District Judge for 28 years. He’s seen it all.

During his lecture at AUT on Friday he spoke of how during his bench service, the supply side of illegal drugs increased hugely yet the number of addicts stayed relatively stable: the increase of drugs did not result in more drug problems. Of course that is because individuals are able to decide for themselves that drugs are bad news and the increase in their supply didn’t mean humans weren’t able to choose not to use them.

Judge Paradis described how the drive to take drugs was innate and therefore there will always be demand to match the supply. The LeDain Report, a Canadian Government commissioned report in 1972, was the most extensive report ever undertaken in Canada on the prohibition of drugs whose thesis was that the criminal law is the least effective way to deal with drug issues. In New Zealand during the last two weeks we have seen just that.

A better example of the way prohibition has conclusively and demonstrably failed is the USA. One of the most morally righteous countries in the World decided to “get tough on drugs” during the Nixon era [1968-1976]. The odd reasoning behind it was that drugs are bad for you and your health and well-being. The USA decided to “deal” with the inevitable social and health problems caused by drug abuse by invoking the criminal law. It has spent between then and now approximately $US 1,000,000,000,000.00 [One Trillion dollars] on the issue. The Drug Enforcement Agency budget in 1971 was $75 million dollars. In 2001 it was $1.6 Billion. As a result of this “war on drugs” drug arrests quadrupled and the percentage of prison inmates committed for drug offences increased from 26% in 1973 to 56% in 2001. Yet the drug ‘problem’, and of course related crime problems, have got worse. Prohibition has failed.

What prohibition does is this:

1. It creates a black market – approximately $500 Billion per annum worldwide and gives enormous profits for the drug cartels;
2. Property crime, violent crime and other violent crime (all known as drug related crime) increases;
3. There is no quality control over the drugs being taken: who knows what that white pill contains;
4. It is a tremendous drain on police, court and justice resources.

In short, the cost of prohibition is exorbitant. It is unnecessary. It is draining. All of these reasons are why, in New Zealand, drugs should be decriminalised and regulated.

Judge Paradis stated that during his time on the Bench, 60% of the crimes that came before him were drug prohibition crimes. That can be reduced overnight by decriminalising and regulating drugs.

Section 4 of New Zealand’s Sale of Liquor Act is a relevant starting point for the policy prescription. It says:

The object of this Act is to establish a reasonable system of control over the sale and supply of liquor to the public with the aim of contributing to the reduction of liquor abuse, so far as that can be achieved by legislative means.


Section 4 acknowledges control over the supply; has the aim of contributing to the reduction of abuse; but only so far as that can be achieved by the law.

That is what the crux is. The criminal law can only achieve so much in dealing with drug prohibition crimes. The two recent murders highlight that the level of muchness is in fact very low.

Let's forget about being precious on this issue and face reality: prohibition is an abject failure.

Let's get some personal responsibility back into people's lives. Let's face it, if 'P' was decriminalised and its supply regulated overnight would you go and buy some tomorrow? Most would answer 'NO' because it's bad shit. The ones who would can be helped through medicine, not handcuffs.

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