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, March 28, 2009

Retired judge says it is time to end war on marijuana.

David A. Nichols was a Whatcom County, superior court judge for 20 years, retiring in 2004. [Washington State (Seattle is Christchurch Sister City) ]


Posted on Saturday, Mar. 21, 2009

A recent letter to the editor argued against reforming marijuana laws, missing the mark entirely in my opinion. After serving as a Whatcom County superior court judge for 20 years, I can assure you that the prohibition of marijuana has been a colossal failure. Arresting, prosecuting, and jailing people are an expensive and ineffective way to address a public health issue.

We should take a lesson from recent anti-tobacco public education campaigns targeted at youth. Youth initiation rates of cigarette smoking have plummeted in recent years, both in Washington and nationwide. We did not have to arrest a single cigarette smoker to accomplish these successes.

It is time we take a hard look at the irrefutable fact that marijuana prohibition is causing more harm than good. I think we can do better. That is why I support Senate Bill 5615, which has been introduced in the Washington state Legislature. This bill would make adult possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor crime. The state estimates that the bill would save Washington taxpayers over $16 million each year, and the experience of the 12 other states who have already taken this step demonstrates no negative impact to their communities.

It is my fervent belief that this state and nation must come to recognize that continuing to treat drug users as criminals perpetuates an evil that rewards the drug sellers and corrupts our society. Until we honestly and appropriately deal with the entire drug issue as a health problem analogous to tobacco or liquor, and not as a "war" we cannot win, we will continue to reap the whirlwind of huge world-wide illegal drug profits which are costing us billions, threatening the stability of nations, causing soaring crime rates and diverting money which is sorely needed elsewhere.

The pending legislation in Olympia is a first step toward a rational approach to the drug problem and deserves to be supported by all of us.

With the exception of a few brave souls willing to stake their careers on speaking out, the nation and world are mystifyingly deaf and mute to the reality that the "war on drugs" not only is not working; it is having the opposite effect of escalating the problem exponentially.

The present generation has forgotten that emotions also ran rampant in the years leading up to Prohibition. Convinced that alcohol was evil and that society would be ruined if it were not outlawed, Congress was persuaded to pass legislation which had the inevitable result of encouraging the black market to flourish, allowing organized crime to gain a foothold which it has never relinquished, to seize control and enjoy huge profits, requiring the creation of colossal state and federal police forces to combat the crime and wasting millions of dollars, only to be repealed when enough people realized that the efforts were availing nothing. We now sensibly have liquor under state control, and treat addiction as a health problem.

We have also been smart enough to treat tobacco use the same way. Cigarettes are regulated but not proscribed. We have left it to the culture to censure cigarette smoking, which has been far more effective than if we criminalized their use.

Why cannot we understand that, even though alcohol and nicotine abuse cause far more damage and loss of productivity to our society than do drugs, by not criminalizing their use but treating their misuse as a health problem instead of a crime has allowed us to avoid all the problems that now beset us as we wage the "war on drugs?"

If we ever want to stop the craziness and futility of our present anti-drug approach, we must de-criminalize possession and use of all drugs. Education, addiction treatment and state regulation need to replace arrests, trials, jail sentences, growth of cartels and drug gangs, corrupt government institutions, and the mindless head-bashing against brick walls that characterize what we are doing now.

It will never work. It didn't work in the past. If we would only study the past, maybe we would not be condemned to repeat it. Read More...

Dave is also an excellent artist having exhibited throughout Northwest. His art may be viewed (here and) at the Blue Horse Gallery in Bellingham, The Insights Gallery, Anacortes, WA & the Seaside Gallery, Laconner, WA.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Legalize Drugs to End Border Violence - Miron

Mexican soldiers stand over a detained man aft...Image via Wikipedia

Harvard Lecturer: Legalize Drugs to End Border Violence

(Published 03/24/2009 by Talkleft)

Another voice in the small but growing crowd urging legalization of drugs to end the Mexico drug war violence: Harvard Senior Lecturer in Economics Jeffrey Miron.

Argument 1: Prohibition creates violence. It happened with alcohol and gambling. End the prohibition, end the violence. [More...]

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after. Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question. The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs (emphasis supplied.)

But, there are other reasons, according to Miron: Such as, legalize drugs, reduce bribery.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade.

Criminalization of drugs erodes our constitutional rights:

Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.

Prohibition is bad for national security:

Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

Prohibition harms the public health:

Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Prohibition breeds disrespect for the rule of law:

Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

And the number one reason that may resonate with the public in these perilous economic times: Prohibition is a financial drain.

Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

President Obama's new plan to spend $700 million for border security is the wrong approach. And that's in addition to Merida:

The funds, meant to assist what administration officials described as an "anti-smuggling effort," will complement ongoing U.S. aid to Mexico under the Merida initiative, a three-year $1.4 billion package aimed at helping Mexico fight the drug cartels with law enforcement training, military equipment and improved intelligence cooperation.

The war on drugs is a failure. Plan Mexico will crash and burn.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Doggy Data Matching

What Dog Breed are You? The Dog Breed Personal...Image by leef_smith via Flickr

So here we have it, big hairy Dogs cause crime, and the Police said it was Pot!

In 2006, Jaclyn Barnes led headed a team of researchers in Cincinnati which looked at the behaviors of owners of high risk for aggression dog breeds. Specifically they collected data from the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in Ohio looking for evidence of criminal convictions.

A total of 166 owners of high risk dogs were compared with 189 owners of low risk dogs. The high risk dog owners had nearly 10 times more criminal convictions than other dog owners. Breaking the data down by categories of criminal behavior they found that high risk dog owners were 6.8 times more likely to be convicted of an aggressive crime, 2.8 times more likely to have carried out a crime involving children, 2.4 times more likely to have perpetrated domestic violence, and 5.4 times more likely to have an alcohol related conviction when compared to low risk dog owners.......

Perhaps the NZ Police need to establish and budget at NHQ, a National Dog Intelligence Bureau! [They profess to be good at Harm Index's, even Doggy ones.]

Sensible Sentencing might go for "You are sentenced to 'Life with a Cocker Spaniel', we'll reform your evil ways!".

Do Repeat offenders get a brace of Dalmatians? and how soon will we be able to tell criminals by how fluffy their dog is?

Blair Anderson,
Barking Mad Doggy Analyst.

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Three Strikes, Prison Muster and

Three Strikes, Prison Muster and

The role of drug policy in elevating both real and imagined social dysfunction is behind the clamoring for 'sensible sentencing'. This is attributable to the enforcement of USA centric United Nations International Conventions that have been highly critisised by its own Human Rights Rapporteur and other NGO's in Vienna.

Vienna International Centre (Image via Wikipedia

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Manfred Nowak, has called on UN member states to adopt a rights based approach to drug policies in his forthcoming report to the Human Rights Council. Recognising that the human rights and drug policy regimes in the UN have 'evolved practically detached' from each other, Prof Nowak's report submitted for the 10th session of the Council draws the attention of members states to the issues of 'drug users in the context of the criminal justice system and situations resulting from restricted access to drugs for palliative care.'

Last weeks presentations to the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs [CND] put good measure to the massive scale of the problem and highlighted the exclusion of harm reduction and cost/benefit analysis of this crucial justice policy.
"Instead, they produced a declaration that is not only weak - it actually undermines fundamental health and human rights obligations." - Prof. Gerry Stimson, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association.

Lip service to policy being 'underpinned by health' was highlighted by Assoc. Minister of Health, Hon Peter Dunne telling the review that NZ continues to have an 'abstinance' focus, yet he failed to tell them we legally regulated psychoactive recreational drug use on the 6th of Nov. last year.

New Zealand, instead ratified yet again the legacy of US "justice" Puritanism.

The 1973 NY Gov. Rockefeller Drug Laws, President Reagan's 1980's militarisation of Police coupled to "Just Saying No" , CA Gov. Pete Wilson's 1994 "Three Strikes", NY Gov. Guliani's 'Broken Windows' and the myth of 'crack babies' and other stories under Bush/Clinton has lead to record incarceration rates and displaced resources where 'prison building' is marketed as job creation and of social benefit.

Yet drugs are cheaper and more available everywhere.? Perhaps the academics ARE right, the policy IS both counterproductive AND deficient.?

The problem within the current 'justice dialog' is politicised white privilege on top of intersectoral governance failure.

See this creative 'comic' style presentation by "the Real Cost of Prisons Project" (courtesy of Families Against Mandatory Minimums) at

W. Churchill, before he was ever famous, said 'we will be judged as a civilisation by how we treat those who have erred against us.'

New Zealand has a unique position with the broad terms of reference for the Law Commission drug policy review. It may yet yield best practice harm reduction in a rights, and thus responsibilities context. With Cannabis identified as the elephant in the room, and the NZ law already in place to restrict and regulate for adult use, and much of the justice 'costs and consequences' will disappear.
Imagine, the public disbelief if we were to read, "We are closing three prisons, we just don't have the muster to warrant keeping them".

Blair Anderson

Social Ecologist 'at large'

ph (643) 389 4065 cell 027 265 7219

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

NZ On Drugs, Human Rights and Harm Reduction

New Zealand made a strong statement supporting both human rights and harm reduction. \

It's a synopsis of NZ's presentation that omits that Dunne also talked about 'restricted substances' and that it presents a legislative R18 'soft drug' option Beyond2008 when it was introduced into NZ law on Nov 6th 2008.

If the CND presentations by New Zealand highlighted anything at all, it was the bastardisation of the consensus of (and input into) Wellington Beyond2008.

The participation 'by civil society' depends on where your standing, and who one enlists to enforce non-participation. [But only Ross would understand the significance of that management decision.]

As the Beckley Cannabis Commission Report quite clearly highlights: Cannabis Use:

"Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug, making it the mainstay of the 'War on Drugs'. The UN has estimated that cannabis is used by 4% of the global adult population. The number of users has risen by 10% since their last estimate in 2005, despite the call for a drug free world. This compares to a figure of 1% for the use of all other illegal drugs combined. However, the focus of international attention has concentrated on that 1% which causes the most harms leading to cannabis being largely ignored in international drug policy discussions."

I wouldnt expect the CND panel to have any difficulty with the perception of NZ acting as a global 'social pioneer' in needle exchange thanks to the heroic work of Doctor John Dobson. (I do resent that Mr Dunne et all should claim any credit for the harm minimization and lives saved which one could easily draw from his presentation. Niether he, nor the Government of the day, can ethically claim any drug policy kudos there, they continue to live in a world where there are only problematic drugs and problematic use)

However, with New Zealand featuring at the top of the scale for cannabis arrests AND consumption all Dunne could offer is the promise of abstention.

Doubtless he will in due course produce the 'evidence' he knows just how this is to be achieved... that will be just after he pulls his head out of his a....

The most important bits of the CND meetings were the side meeting with the NGO's. There, real progress was made. I suspect the Drug Foundation (the NGO we sent) may have more juicy bits to share with us yet? Especially the bit about human rights and engagement with the 'stoners' (the principles that underpin 'no decision about us without us', disability law would be a nice place to start)

A useful point of discussion and would aid advancing the debate in NZ would be to hear what [if any] feedback has it had on the NZ Drug Harm Index [NZDHI]? And since it was launched under the aegis of a 'Healthy Drug Law" symposium what shortcomings [if any] does the NZ Drug Foundation see in the 2010 Police Drug Strategy?

I would be keen to hear if NZDF supports ENCOD's call for a year of reflection and if so... how much it is prepared to engage civil society AND cannabis users in that process.

Blair Anderson

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

NZ gets all Human and Civil and Regulatory!

Eleanor Roosevelt and United Nations Universal...Image via Wikipedia

New Zealand makes strong statement on human rights and harm reduction at HLM

New Zealand made a strong statement supporting both human rights and harm reduction. The statement said that the provision of needle exchange in New Zealand was responsible for the country having one of the lowest rates of HIV among people who inject drugs anywhere in the world.

It then discussed New Zealand's approach to formulating drug policy, and that there was a need to implement policies that work rather than just make people feel good. It also explained the country's drug regulation model. (huh "Class D, your kidding Mr Dunne, have you gone mad and made soft recreational drugs R18 and for sale? )

Street Outreach Services needle exchange, on t...Image via Wikipedia

New Zealand called for the prioritisation of human rights and the need for states to be compliant with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New Zealand expressed its opposition to the death penalty, and expressed support for civil society's involvement in the forumulation of drug policy.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Yates, Garrett and ACT

Canadian packaging of a case of Sativex vials

Image via Wikipedia

Neville Yates was jailed for possession (cultivating for his own use). He was 'narced' on by a paid informer. It was his ninth conviction (proving if nothing else he had convictions). His defence, that cannabis was safer than his medical alternatives was voided by the Judge. The Judge 'politicised' that which was non-political. He sentenced Neville to 60% increase in his sentence (3 -> 5 months) purportedly for allowing the use of the court as a forum the pro cannabis agenda (also reported by the PRESS during the case, but no evidence was presented that supported the Judges view).

Politics never came into it... until his Member of Parliament, appeared in his defence (how often has that ever happened). He had two senior doctors, one an expert in Sativex modality, a professor of pain and the surgeon who removed his leg standing by. If drug policy is about 'health' and best practice, do not expect to see it in a court of law. It was Neville's second visit to jail for the same offence of self supply.  (home detention was not possible as that was the scene of the crime)

The question for ACT and anyone else is 'and did it stop him smoking pot?, if not what purpose did it serve? what were the unintended consequences and who benefits?.'

Another friend was sentenced to 18 months for 'not being in possesion' and was raped, twice. Nothing was ever the same again.

I too have been 'fined' under duress of 'Class B' much longer jailable offence category for possessing cannabis that I had no knowledge of. Plea bargains make for easy convictions. Rightly or wrongly, Police use the 'serious offence' with heavy duty jail time as leverage to 'get their man, expiditiously'. Jail terms, even when not served, when used as duress are profoundly destabilising of justice and cloud the truth.
I have meet Mr Garrett on the hustings and for a trained lawyer, I would  have difficulty in distinguishing his skills and knowledge around drug issues to that of a trained seal, willing to say and do anything to get his next feed.

Prohibition and all that it represents is contrary to the principles of the Association of Citizens and Taxpayers. And that says very little for Mr Garrett or ACT.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A slight rise in drug crime (Sallies)

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 19:  Two year-old Van...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

A slight rise in drug crime

Drug offences rose slightly between 2007 and 2008 from 18,908 in 2007 (year ending 30 June) to 19,259 in 2008. Within this overall rise there was a shift in the composition of these offences with more Cannabis related offences (14,449 to 15,288) and fewer offences for other and most often harder, drugs (4,450 to 3,971). Overall the level drug related crime is 13% lower in 2008 than in 2004 when there were 22,249 drug offences of which 18,271 were Cannabis related.

see FIGURE 20: Convictions for drug offences 2004-2008

Notably the Salvation Army says in its summary (Report Card)

For the available data it is difficult to know if the war on illicit drugs is being won or lost. The recent rise in cannabis related offences may indicate a changing emphasis by Police.

New Zealand Police Special Tactics Groupd duri...Cannabis Harm Reduction Squad
on route to saving someone
from themselves.

Image via Wikipedia

[Actually the heading is perverse, there was a significant reduction in drug crime (13% lower) but the figures demonstrate that 'Policing Success' is entirely dependent on measuring cannabis convictions and thus policing practice, not prevalence of use or relative harm. The BERL Drug Harm Index report is all the more sillier! /Blair ]

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Criminogenic Cannabis Culture Policed

(snip from STUFF - Nelson Mail))

The recovery of stolen property and firearms showed that cannabis offending was linked to other crimes, Mr Savage said. (why? because it said so in the Drug Harm Index?)

The seven-day operation saw teams of between 14 and 17 police officers search properties, carry out land searches, and conduct aerial searches using an Air Force Iroquois helicopter.

Mr McGurk said the scale of the problem of cannabis being grown in the region meant police would continue to target growers through similar operations. (and the cost/benefit is? Oh that's right, Drug Harm Index again... )

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Drug Prohibition: illiberal, murderous and pointless. [the Economist]

How to stop the drug wars

Mar 5th 2009 - From The Economist print edition

Prohibition has failed; legalisation is the least bad solution

Illustration by Noma Bar

English opium shipsImage via Wikipedia

A HUNDRED years ago a group of foreign diplomats gathered in Shanghai for the first-ever international effort to ban trade in a narcotic drug. On February 26th 1909 they agreed to set up the International Opium Commission—just a few decades after Britain had fought a war with China to assert its right to peddle the stuff. Many other bans of mood-altering drugs have followed. In 1998 the UN General Assembly committed member countries to achieving a “drug-free world” and to “eliminating or significantly reducing” the production of opium, cocaine and cannabis by 2008.

That is the kind of promise politicians love to make. It assuages the sen

A field of opium poppies in Burma.Image via Wikipedia

se of moral panic that has been the handmaiden of prohibition for a century. It is intended to reassure the parents of teenagers across the world. Yet it is a hugely irresponsible promise, because it cannot be fulfilled.Next week ministers from around the world gather in Vienna to set international drug policy for the next decade. Like first-world-war generals, many will claim that all that is needed is more of the same. In fact the war on drugs has been a disaster, creating failed states in the developing world even as addiction has flourished in the rich world. By any sensible measure, this 100-year struggle has been illiberal, murderous and pointless.

That is why The Economist continues to believe that the least bad policy is to legalise drugs. “Least bad” does not mean good. Legalisation, though clearly better for producer countries, would bring (different) risks to consumer countries. As we outline below, many vulnerable drug-takers would suffer. But in our view, more would gain.

The evidence of Failure

Nowadays the UN Office on Drugs and Crime no longer talks about a drug-free world. Its boast is that the drug market has “stabilised”, meaning that more than 200m people, or almost 5% of the world’s adult population, still take illegal drugs—roughly the same proportion as a decade ago. (Like most purported drug facts, this one is just an educated guess: evidential rigour is another casualty of illegality.) The production of cocaine and opium is probably about the same as it was a decade ago; that of cannabis is higher. Consumption of cocaine has declined gradually in the United States from its peak in the early 1980s, but the path is uneven (it remains higher than in the mid-1990s), and it is rising in many places, including Europe.This is not for want of effort. The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences, locking up half a million of them; tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars. In the developing world blood is being shed at an astonishing rate. In Mexico more than 800 policemen and soldiers have been killed since December 2006 (and the annual overall death toll is running at over 6,000). This week yet another leader of a troubled drug-ridden country—Guinea Bissau—was assassinated.Yet prohibition itself vitiates the efforts of the drug warriors. The price of an illegal substance is determined more by the cost of distribution than of production. Take cocaine:
the mark-up between coca field and consumer is more than a hundredfold. Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set
mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States. Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year. But it is not clear that drug demand drops when prices rise. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the drug business quickly adapts to market disruption. At best, effective repression merely forces it to shift production sites. Thus opium has moved from Turkey and Thailand to Myanmar and southern Afghanistan, where it undermines the West’s efforts to defeat the Taliban.Al Capone, but on a global scaleIndeed, far from reducing crime, prohibition has fostered gangsterism on a scale that the world has never seen before. According to the UN’s perhaps inflated estimate, the illegal drug industry is worth some $320 billion a year. In the West it makes criminals of otherwise law-abiding citizens (the current American president could easily have ended up in prison for his youthful experiments with “blow”). It also makes drugs more dangerous: addicts buy heavily adulterated cocaine and heroin; many use dirty needles to inject themselves, spreading HIV; the wretches who succumb to “crack” or “meth” are outside the law, with only
their pushers to “treat” them. But it is countries in the emerging world that pay most of the price. Even a relatively developed democracy such as Mexico now finds itself in a life-or-death struggle against gangsters. American officials,
including a former drug tsar, have publicly worried about having a “narco state” as their neighbour.The failure of the drug war has led a few of its braver generals, especially from Europe and Latin America, to suggest shifting the focus from locking up people to public health and “harm reduction” (such as encouraging addicts to use clean needles). This approach would put more emphasis on public education and the treatment of addicts, and less on the harassment of peasants who grow coca and the punishment of consumers of “soft” drugs for personal use. That would be a step in the right direction. But it is unlikely to be adequately funded, and it does nothing to take organised crime out of the picture. Legalisation would not only drive away the gangsters; it would transform drugs from a law-and-order problem into a public-health problem, which is how they ought to be treated. Governments would tax and regulate the
drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction. The sale of drugs to minors should remain banned. Different drugs would command different levels of taxation and regulation. This system would be fiddly and imperfect, requiring constant monitoring and hard-to-measure trade-offs. Post-tax prices should be set at a level that would strike a balance between damping down use on the one hand, and discouraging a black market and the desperate acts of theft and prostitution to which addicts now resort to feed their habits. Selling even this flawed system to people in producer countries, where organised crime is the central political issue, is fairly easy. The tough part comes in the consumer countries, where addiction is the main political battle. Plenty of American parents might accept that legalisation would be the right answer for the people of Latin America, Asia and Africa; they might even see its usefulness in the fight against terrorism. But their immediate fear would be for their own children.That fear is based in large part on the presumption that more people would take drugs under a legal regime. That presumption may be wrong. There is no correlation between the harshness of drug laws and the incidence of drug-taking: citizens living under tough regimes (notably America but also Britain) take more drugs, not fewer. Embarrassed drug warriors blame this on alleged cultural differences, but even in fairly similar countries tough rules make little difference to the number of addicts: harsh Sweden and more liberal Norway have precisely the same addiction rates. Legalisation might reduce both supply (pushers by definition push) and demand (part of that dangerous thrill would go). Nobody knows for certain. But it is hard to argue that sales of any product that is made cheaper, safer and more widely available would fall. Any honest proponent of legalisation would be wise to assume that drug-taking as a whole would rise.There are two main reasons for arguing that prohibition should be scrapped all the same. The first is one of liberal principle. Although some illegal drugs are extremely dangerous to some people, most are not especially harmful. (Tobacco is more
addictive than virtually all of them.) Most consumers of illegal drugs, including cocaine and even heroin, take them only occasionally. They do so because they derive enjoyment from them (as they do from whisky or a Marlboro Light). It is not the state’s job to stop them from doing so. What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope. A calculated gamble, or nother century of failure? This newspaper first argued for legalisation 20 years ago (see article). Reviewing the evidence again (see article), prohibition seems even more harmful, especially for the poor and weak of the world. Legalisation
would not drive gangsters completely out of drugs; as with alcohol and cigarettes, there would be taxes to avoid and rules to subvert. Nor would it automatically cure failed states like Afghanistan. Our solution is a messy one; but a century of manifest failure argues for trying it.

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Creating Fears Where There Should Be None - CHCH STAR

The above Christchurch Star article published late last month was dangerously pre-emptive of evidence based discussion in the community - the journalistic flaw was the presumption there is good reason to reproduce this claptrap. The STAR's "Cannabis, Mental Illness Link" [23rd Feb ] seems to be in anticipation of a New Zealand "talk to frank" public mental health message but sourced from the UK's "Independent" newspaper.
Unquestionably written in a UK political context it has little relevance to New Zealand where drug policy is being reviewed by the NZ Law Commission, essentially to take the 'politics out of drug policy'. The UK's equivalent of our Expert Advisory Committee recommended that the status of cannabis remain at the new status of C, and that the move to B was political symbolism.

The slant in our community newspaper is without merit and couched in language which is clearly so inflated as to make it untruthful. It is creating fears where there should be none. As was stated in the 1998 Health Select Cmte report on cannabis and mental health, the harms are largely overstated.

3D rendering of the THC molecule.THC in 3D,
'despite there being a lot of it around these days, there has been no corresponding increase in mental health issues' /Blair
Image via Wikipedia

Compare to a more honest piece of journalism from the UK, see here. It is notable that this is from a UK treatment provider who understands causation vs correlation and who should so succinctly with informed balance and reason make the shallow descriptive rhetoric of the Independent (and thus the CHCH Star) look infantile at best.

Given the politicised nature of the debate around the UK 'reclassification' and New Zealands public consultation surrounding drug issues about to begin, this 'mental health pitface' informed view is deserving of a wider audience.

“Reclassification [upwards to 'B' / Blair] is not ‘fit for purpose,’ it is no deterrent. There are no precise figures, but every survey shows that the use of cannabis has been coming down since 2002 and continues to drop. However, the number of incidents recorded by the police involving cannabis have rocketed, largely because of the use of sniffer dogs and the police’s policy of stopping people in the street.”

“There has been no rise in recorded figures for psychotic symptoms, or specifically, schizophrenia.”But there is no firm evidence that cannabis triggers mental illness on its own.”

Much has been made of the fact that ‘skunk’ cannabis is stronger. it has been bred to have higher levels of THC, which is likely to pro-psychotic. But it also contains levels of two other chemicals – CBD and CBN – which are anti-psychotic, and which probably cancel the effect of the THC.

“There is no evidence that cannabis kills anyone. On the other hand, it’s estimated that 40,000 youngsters die each year directly or indirectly from alcohol abuse,” said Mike.“In terms of all the drugs available to young people, cannabis is the least dangerous. I’m not lobbying for the legalisation of cannabis. But I do want us to keep the drug’s dangers in perspective.”
Beefing up the UK Class B reclassification... Talk to Frank indeed... Young people would find this multi million pound television pitch laughable. We are talking about what defines 'teenage' mental health where the diganostic standard [DSMIV] would even have us define being SAD as unhealthy and shy people, mentaly ill.

I can only but wonder what an advertising campaign might look like if the truth were told about Gin.

Blair Anderson
(643) 389 4065 cell 027 265 7219

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Dunne delusional delegation to UN drugs conference

Dunne leads NZ delegation to UN drugs conference

Hon Peter Dunne
Minister of Revenue
Associate Minister of Health
Friday, 6 March 2009 Media Release

Dunne leads NZ delegation to UN drugs conference

Associate Health Minister and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne tomorrow leads the New Zealand delegation to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, spearheading the country’s contribution to a new declaration on international drugs control.

“This is an important event because no nation fights drugs on its own. They are a global blight and the fight needs to be conducted at an international level,” Mr Dunne said.

He said New Zealand, as a party to all three United Nations Conventions under which worldwide drug control is based, took its commitments in the global fight against drugs very seriously.

Mr Dunne said the declaration coming out of the UN conference would acknowledge the achievements of the last decade, but would essentially be looking towards the goal of eliminating or significantly reducing the manufacture, marketing and supply of illegal drugs. (So when is it going to start working Peter?)

“This is a case of ‘think globally and act locally’… Ultimately the commitments and advances we make in Vienna are part of how we will deal with the scourge of drugs in New Zealand in the years ahead,” he said.

The conference begins in Vienna on Thursday, and the New Zealand delegation includes Ministry of Health officials and a New Zealand Drug Foundation official. Mr Dunne returns to New Zealand next weekend.

(UNODC Chief says.... if it wasnt for 'drug control' the situation would be as bad as tobacco and alcohol. see

"Our policy is based on strong opposition to the misuse of drugs." - Dunne, Through the Maze, Healthy Drug Law Symposium (Te Papa, Feb. 2009)

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Holmes & Co.: [on] the Marijuana Question

Sheep say drugs are badImage by mfcrowl via Flickr

"I've long believed the public is way ahead of the politicians on drug policy, especially when it comes to marijuana." The gutless wonders on Beacon Hill (Boston, Mass./Blair) couldn't even bring themselves to vote on the petition to remove all criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana. Holmes & Co.: [on] the Marijuana Question. - Rick Holmes, see []

The funding contributions of G. Soros (even if at arms length via his funding of the wider goals of the Open Society Institute) his little to do with any argument rationalising drug prohibitions. If Soros had indirectly provided resources to UNESCO, would that make him a saint? He, nor the argument at hand is defined by the nominal contribution he made. His contribution, again indirectly, aided the "thru the maze" International Healthy Drug Policy Symposium held in

Location of Wellington within New ZealandImage via Wikipedia

Wellington, New Zealand recently. It drew participation of those politicians who professed the wisdom of accepting new evidence, weighting harm reduction and whom to a tee, argued for holding the prohibitory line. Notably the attendees, primarily drawn from the treatment sector, participation 'fee', even if indirectly subsidised by Soros, gave politicians (Hon Peter Dunnes speech notes) and Police a platform to defend prohibition. (albeit absent one credible cannabis consumer in the room. Some test? - in fact, for one advocate of d-classification, contrary to and apparently very offensive to Police National Drug Intelligence Bureau's well, intelligence, was threatened by one Police representative [Stuart Mills, the head of the NDIB], with getting a 'couple of his brothers down' presumably as silent dissent was not allowed outside the Symposium either. )

In the Spotlight Peter Dunne's Address to International Drug Policy Symposium

This symposium is indeed timely as it occurs shortly before a particularly significant high-level meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, which will meet next month to discuss progress made in meeting the targets set out in the 1998 declaration of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session. New Zealand is one of over 180 members of the United Nations that are parties to the three United Nations Conventions, under which worldwide drug control is based.

As a signatory to the Conventions, New Zealand is an active member of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and I will be representing this country at the high-level segment next month in Vienna, where the course for international drug control for the next ten years will be charted. I expect that Member States will agree to a new Declaration acknowledging both the achievements over the last ten years in containing the drug problem worldwide, but also how far we still have to go to achieve our goals for eliminating or significantly reducing the manufacture, marketing and supply of illegal drugs.

We know, too, of the widespread use of cannabis in our society, across many age and socio-economic groups, and the calls from a number of quarters for the law to take a softer approach to its use, because it is allegedly not as dangerous as other drugs.
Let me make it very clear this morning: relaxing the current laws on cannabis is not on this Government’s agenda. Too many mental health problems, respiratory diseases and health and social problems that we already have to deal with are associated with cannabis, and we do not accept the argument that softening the laws will somehow resolve these issues. It simply will not.

The opportunity was lost to argue much cannabis use, indeed most cannabis use is non-problematic. Nor discussed was the 'legislative rules and regulations model' - Class D, passed "by Order in Council" [Nov06.2008 Royal assent] an international conventions compliant classification respectful of adult choice for recreational use of psychoactive 'soft' drugs that makes full provision for place of sale, packaging, manufacture, cultivation, advertising, and health promotion with consumer protection administered by the Ministry of Health.

Read it slowly: New Zealand is the first country in the world to avoid the moral hazard, treat drug sales more like alcohol, and legally regulate potentially 'any drug' - by executive order guided by expert advice. The model or 'restricted substances regulations' creates an opportunity to self regulate and deliver significant economic benefits.

Consider this extract from The budgetary implications of drugs prohibition: Italy, 2000-05. Marco Rossi, Universita' La Sapienza.

"From a budgetary point of view, our results clearly showed that the main implication of prohibition consist in the loss of the monetary taxes on drugs sales: about 4/5 of the total fiscal cost of prohibition. In particular, cannabis prohibition was very costly: almost 2/3 of the total cost of drugs prohibition in Italy from 2000-05 are attributable to its prohibition only.
This study addresses only the criminal justice costs of enforcing drugs prohibition; it does not addresses any possible change in prevention, education, or treatment activities. Prohibition also has other budgetary implications, as it tends to generate crime, and it lowers drugs

Discurso del Presidente Zapatero ante la Asamb...Class D goes to UN?
Image via Wikipedia

consumers' health. Anyway, in this study we omitted to estimate the budgetary implications of of these prohibition-induced effects, as we omitted to estimate the income taxes that could be levied on legalized drug dealers' profits."

New Zealand has stretched the possibilities up for discussion at the upcoming UNODC/UNGASS review process, but it has largely gone unnoticed even in New Zealand. Not a jot. No one cared. It is what former Prime Minister Rt Hon. Helen Clark described as "partial prohibition", with Police, Justice, Corrections et al. bound by Ottawa Charter conventions.

Putting 'Class D' in the mix resolves the tensions surrounding 'vexing issues' like the media's and politics propensity for information asymmetry while removing the moral hazard (state as drug dealer) problem surrounding the quality of drugs in a retail sales perspective.

No one gives a whit that there are thousands of variants of the drug 'alcohol' taxed such that best is dearest = dearest is best.

Yet we still classified illicit drugs as ABC, where A is not supposed mean 'really excellent' and by dint of prohibition, ensure they then sell at the highest 'social cost'?

Class D resolves the policy tensions economically and maximises the social dividend. It deserves a wider audience.

Associate Minister of Health, Peter Dunne at Healthy Drug Law said "New Zealand has a separate classification and regulations for substances considered to have psychoactive

Sherlock Holmes in WashingtonImage via Wikipedia

properties, but representing a low risk of harm. These can be legally supplied and used, but with restrictions around age, marketing and availability. We believe this to be a potentially more effective approach to low risk substances rather than having them remain uncontrolled and unregulated. "

suggestion: Google ("Class D" Cannabis)

(PS: my dog is called Holmes. Sherlock was the first injecting drug user in British Literature. The culturally imbued health promotion message is 'if your going to do serious drugs, make sure your best friend is a Doctor'. )

Blair Anderson ‹(•¿•)›

Spokesperson on Climate Change, Environment and Associate 'Shadow' Law And Order.

Social Ecologist 'at large'

ph (643) 389 4065 cell 027 265 7219

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