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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Drug Sanity revisited, by Dave Currie

Drug Sanity revisited 10/1/2009

A very good afternoon to you. This programme is ‘Drug Sanity revisited’ and is presented for the Drug Policy and Education Council, DPEC. I’m Dave Currie. (also see previous post; 'Drug Sanity Revisited' by Dave Currie /Blair)

One can only wonder why New Zealand governments have followed United States Drug policy for so long without question. There has never been a period of calm when the government has taken time to assess the outcomes of U.S. prohibitionist policy and decide whether it needs toning down.

In Victorian Britain the free and open use of opium and cocaine was ended with the Pharmacy An image of a 1901 examination in the faculty ...Image via WikipediaAct of 1868. Earlier there were no restrictions on self medication or recreation using opiates or other drugs. Opium was readily available at the corner grocers. However eventually some doctors and moralists became alarmed at the phenomenon of addiction and even tried to label it as a disease, which affected a person’s will.

The book ‘Opium and the people’ gives the case of a stable opium eating addict labelled Mr A. He yielded to the popular prejudice against opium eating and tried repeatedly, without success, to break it off. He was able to do a good days work, mental as well as physical, and was entirely free from a variety of minor troubles having a nervous origin, which used to annoy him before he began his opium habit. Opium was commonly used for self medication and doctors would often prescribe it.

The Pharmacy Act gave chemists the sole right to dispense opium and other so-called poisons. I think if an addict is happy with his addiction then there is no good reason for other people to worry about it. Morphine use was common in Victorian times and many bathrooms had a supply of the drug and the means to inject it. Not all users would get addicted. Heroin came on the scene later with the mistaken belief that it could rescue people from morphine addiction. Unfortunately it turned out to be even more addictive than morphine! Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.Image via Wikipedia

After prohibition was in place addicts had to turn to the illegal market to get their fix. This state of affairs has continued to the present day. For many years in Britain, the medical profession supplied heroin addicts and this practice cut out the illegal dealers. This worked fine until pressure from the USA combined with the advent of methadone ended the system. Methadone relieves withdrawal symptoms but does not give the high that addicts are after. Addicts are happy with methadone in that it can control unpleasant withdrawal symptoms caused by heroin scarcity. But methadone does not end the illegal market in heroin and has little effect in reducing deaths from overdose or the rate at which addicts get HIV.
Dr John Marks, a British doctor, carried out an experiment in the English town of Widnes on Merseyside in which he showed that prescribing MerseysideImage via Wikipediadrugs of choice to addicts led to a better outcome than giving them methadone. Over a 5-year period he prescribed heroin cigarettes of known dosage to heroin addicts, with instructions for their safe use rather than prescribing injectible heroin. Cocaine users were given cocaine, and amphetamine users amphetamine. Between 1985 and 1990 the experiment yielded extraordinary results, but these were not surprising to legalisation advocates. In this severely deprived town, plagued with property crime and endemic unemployment there was no motivation to get educated. However at the end of the 5-year experiment there was a 96% drop in thefts and breakins, a 92% drop in new cases of addiction, no new cases of drug-related HIV, and no deaths from heroin overdose.

The experiment was carried out when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and she was US First Lady Nancy Reagan with UK Prime Minis...Image via Wikipediastrongly opposed to drug legalization. Pressure was brought on Marks to end his experiment. Then, of course, it was inevitable that the illegal dealers commenced business again, and soon prohibition crime returned to its former levels, the addiction rate rose and the rates of overdose and HIV returned to their former levels. Marks’s experiment yielded two important findings.
  • 1. Prescribing heroin to addicts is preferable to prescribing methadone.
  • 2. A controlled legal market in drugs is preferable to prohibition.
Once politicians understand this there may be some progress in ending the drug war.

The Swiss seem to have cottoned on to Dr Marks’s ideas and provide addicts with heroin in a special injection room with clean, sterile needles available. Over a trial period, there was a 60% drop in drug related crime.

This is not as much as that experienced in Widnes. But overall, Switzerland is a more prosperous Location of Switzerland in Europe on 1.Image via Wikipediacountry than Britain, and may lack really deprived areas such as Widnes. But paradoxically they have not acted on a referendum to allow small-scale cannabis growing and use.

Even the Russians after reassessing cannabis have lowered its rating, so that now they have removed criminal penalties and the possibility of jail for simple possession. You can have the equivalent of 10 marijuana cigarettes before any penalty is applied. Of course in Russia the big drug problem is Vodka, i.e. alcohol as it is in New Zealand. Here our prohibitionist politicians use special pleading for alcohol to allow possession and use of alcohol in any amounts. They prefer to persecute the minority cannabis users, who by and large are unlikely to number more than 8% of the population.

I think it is outrageous that such a useful drug as cannabis is prohibited at all, and medical use should certainly be allowed. The American Doctors Association has called for reclassification of cannabis. In Finland the Health Ministry approves cannabis prescriptions. Also the Canadian, German and Italian governments have expressed interest in buying Dutch medical marijuana. In the USA New Mexico has legalised medical use of marijuana, while Oregon has increased the number of plants allowed for medical patients.

The World Health Organisation’s Expert Committee has recommended reclassification of an active component of cannabis, THC, up to a less severe category.

Cannabis has numerous medical applications. It can help people after a stroke by its anti-spasmodic effects and it can help some patients with multiple sclerosis. It may help prevent Alzheimers. Many recreational users feel a lot better about life when using cannabis and they don’t feel so distressed the next day as they would after alcohol use. Andrew Weil an expert on cannabis has said it is one of the least toxic drugs known to modern medicine.

However local drug secret police recently made the outrageous claim that their cannabis seizures and arrests of growers save New Zealand over 300 million dollars a year in health costs. Police know nothing about drugs and should not make wild statements to justify their dubious and futile industrial espionage against the production of a very valuable commodity. Their efforts put the price of marijuana up and this simply attracts more people into the growing industry.

Acceleration of real crime is one result of police efforts and it’s a wonder no one in authority has twigged that our horrific rate of crime and imprisonment is in large part due to government drug policy.

The new National led government has great plans to build more jails. But I suggest to them that this is unwise in view of the collapse of the financial markets. What money is available should be used to build hospitals and pay medical staff. The situation would be greatly improved by legalising marijuana.

At this point I will close. You can get a copy of my book ‘Marijuana- facts and case for legalisation’ by telephoning me at Wellington 5891902. That is 5891902. There will be a repeat of this programme on Saturday the 27th of December. Good afternoon and have a nice weekend. I’ll fade out with a track from ‘Wish you were here’ by Pink Floyd.


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