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, April 29, 2011

Don vs Rodney, Bring Back Hide.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 28:  Dr Don Bras...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeNothing identifies the inconsistency to party principles in the Rodney Hide vs Don Brash ACT Party leadership coupe than that surrounding drug policy.

Either drugs are an issue or they are not. On the eve of the release of the Law Commission review on Drug Policy, the alcohol debate and other inconsistencies in “state care” health promotion this contrast (and philosophical and party principled inconsistency) has been overlooked.

When Brash was speaking in Christchurch when he was Nat’s leader he was grotesquely ill informed on the subject unable to field even the most basic of questions surrounding drug use and the war on drugs yet he claims to aspire to Friedman economic theory. Such a man is undeserving of of the oxygen the media is giving him. Bring back Rodney!

Don Brash SezImage by jemsweb via Flickr
Blair Anderson
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blair's Third War

From: David Nutt's Blog: Evidence not Exageration

Blair's Third War

Professor David Nutt | April 26, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

I write this from Mexico, where the 'War on Drugs' and clashing drug cartels have claimed thousands of lives. The billions of dollars worth of aid being pumped in countries in South America, Afghanistan and elsewhere have resulted in, at best, the 'balloon effect', where production is pushed down in one area only to pop up in another. In the forty years since the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 'War on Drugs' has morphed from a figurative battle to a literal one. The fog of war has driven politicians to go beyond the bounds of law in their lust for battle: the Single Convention allows for the medical and scientific use of controlled drugs and yet, many countries interpret it as prohibiting all use of all Schedule I drugs, hindering potentially life changing research.
Domestic law has also been trampled upon in the rush to act tough on drugs. The UK's 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act [MDAct] was designed to remove decision-making about drugs from the party politics of parliament to minimise the risk that short term party interests might lead to bad laws.  The MDAct classified drugs in three levels – A B C – based on their relative harms of drugs, which were decided upon by an expert group, the ACMD [Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs]. This worked well for the first 30 years and even Margaret Thatcher accepted its recommendations on needle-exchange to limit HIV spread.  Though this went against her political philosophy, she accepted that it was logical to be guided by experts and was rewarded by the UK leading the world in terms of slowing the rate of HIV spread from intravenous drug use.
In the last decade under Tony Blair's government, things began to change. It decided it knew better than experts and hunted for evidence to support its policy decisions rather than the other way round.  In late 2004, Blair decided to wage a different type of war – this time on drugs. For unknown reasons – at least not explained in his autobiography – he decided to ignore the MDAct (i.e. break the law)  and make decisions on drugs without consulting the experts on ACMD. He convened a special meeting of senior police, military and customs officials, from which the war was initiated.
The first salvo was aimed at magic mushrooms. These were legal at the time  but the government decided that they had to be hard on head-shops selling freeze-dried preparations so they made them a Class A drug without consulting the ACMD.  The well known adage  "the first casualty of war is the truth" certainly applied to the mushroom decision as by no metric are mushrooms as harmful as the real Class A drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin.
The mushrooms were an easy battle to win and perhaps this rewarding feeling of success fueled the next campaign against cannabis. In 2004, all preparations of cannabis had been made Class C (they had been either Class A or Class B previously). This downgrading was made after an extensive review of the evidence by the ACMD, yet was viciously opposed by parts of the media and many politicians.  From that date a concerted war was waged against cannabis users justified by statements that cannabis, particularly the new variant skunk, was more harmful than its Class C status would indicate.
Gordon Brown continued the war when he took over as Prime Minister. Within weeks of coming to power, he made the absurd claim that "skunk was lethal" when in reality cannabis, in contrast to alcohol and controlled drugs, has never killed anyone by direct toxicity/poisoning.  He oversaw  a new Home Office war policy of increasing convictions for cannabis users in an attempt to deter use. This doubled the number of people convicted for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004/5 to 158,000 in 2007/8.  Police with sniffer dogs became a common site on London tube stations where young men were searched and prosecuted if cannabis was found.  That this behaviour almost certainly breached their human rights was ignored; rights have a lesser place when at war. Predictably an even greater injustice was seen by the ethnic bias in convictions with Asian and Afro-Caribbean men being significantly overrepresented.
Worse, the war extended to those using cannabis for medicinal purposes such a people with multiple sclerosis or spasticity. Police would conduct dawn raids on possible users, smashing down their front doors just in case they might leap from their wheelchairs and abseil out the window! Why? Because violence is what wars allow, if not demand.
The war on medicinal cannabis became more aggressive in 2005 when the Law Lords seriously aggravated the situation of those using cannabis for medicinal purposes. They colluded with the government by changing the law to disallow the centuries old "Defense of Necessity" for medicinal cannabis use. This common law allows users to plead that their use of a drug was simply and solely to ameliorate a medical condition for which other treatments had not worked.  The Law Lords decided that since the government had decreed that cannabis was sufficiently harmful to be a Class B drug, patients should be deterred from using it by removing this defense. A truly cruel and inhumane piece of legislation that brings shame on those who enacted it and great distress to those prosecuted because of it.  However it was predictable as the corruption of the law is a recognized element of war.
The final battle before my sacking was on MDMA (ecstasy). This had been classified alongside cocaine and heroin as a Class A drug ever since it was made illegal. This was patently absurd from any evidence-based perspective but the government had actively resisted any attempts to review the evidence on which ecstasy was classified until ordered to do so by a Select Committee report. When the ACMD with the help of a NICE health technology assessment unit reported that its harms had been overestimated and were commensurate with a Class B status, the government refused to reclassify.
My response to both the cannabis and ecstasy decisions was to point out how they undermined the scientific integrity of the MDAct and, by allowing longer than appropriate prison sentences, were bound to lead to injustice. Moreover, I believed that these decisions could increase the harms from legal drugs particularly alcohol; by scaring people from ecstasy and cannabis they might be increasing use of alcohol, a more harmful drug.  By fighting battles on mushrooms, cannabis and ecstasy the government was deflecting attention away from the rising tide of deaths from alcohol.
Military wars are evaluated through public enquiries - surely it is time to seek the truth about the war on drugs and make good the damage done to drug users, their families and the scientific process caused by this unhappy example of political lust for wars.

Blair Anderson 
ph nz  (643) 389 4065   nz cell 027 265 7219
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Challenging the Warrant under Statute Interpretations

there is a well-established and perfectly sensible rule of statutory interpretation which says that where one statute replaces another, and where the new statute does not repeat a particular provision in the previous one, then it is to be presumed that Parliament has omitted that earlier provision deliberately, and therefore the legal situation is different from what it was under the previous law. (OpEd by David Round "free" beaches)
What might this say about a possible legal defence for cannabis possession based on statutory interpretation using the "Class D" provisions of the restricted substances regulations [RSR] where it explicitly cites that there are currently no restricted substances, and where provisions to regulate are (ie: pending cannabimetic indoles  AKA synthetic THC ) to be administered by the Ministry of Health?

Is the law regarding possession of natural THC without force and effect? And does the provisions for sale, manufacture, advertising etc of synthetic indoles speak to and thus override the previous legislative instrument.
Is Associate Minister Dunne being thrifty with the truth (ie: politically deceptive )  when he postulates variously that these indoles have to be classified as hazardous... if clearly they are not. ?
Was former 'drug law' warrant holder Minister of Health Hon. Annette King right to describe cannabis legislation (in particular as it stood prior to the Restricted Substances Regulations) as making an Arse of the Law? 
note:  The warrant for all drug surveillance, arrests, convictions and incarcerations are made under the master status of the current serving Minister of Health, not Police, not Justice, not Corrections and certainly not Border Control/Customs. It is a law exacted to save us from ourselves. It is absent tripartite scrutiny. Where is the complainant?
The Law Commission Drug Policy review has effectively written off consideration of the RSR for natural THC attributing the difficulty to 'politically not possible' hiding under the blanket of our international obligations to the Single Conventions and subsequent Covenants.
Suggesting the correct forum to test  "statutory interpretation" of the RSR is a NZ High Court,  or is such a court to high for such trivial matters?

Blair Anderson 
ph nz  (643) 389 4065   nz cell 027 265 7219

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Legal Drugs, Schools and Restorative Justice

STUFF comments by
Blair Anderson #3 12:33 pm Apr 12 2011 UNDP Ms. Helen Clark meeting with New Zealand ...Image via Wikipedia

Opunake's Principal maria Potter response seems to be the pragmatic one here.

Unfortunately MP Dunne et al are unable to get over what the evidence says, and why a statutory empowered expert review committee recommended legally regulate as Dunne still touts prohibition - as if we only redoubled our efforts it might eventually work.

What we have (now) is Helen Clark's partial prohibition. One that places possession and sale of cannabis like substances as R18. This has merit. And unless media and other commentators give balance to the merits the message the 2008 restricted substances regulations send will be lost. Not that Dunne is about to let on these regulations were brought in to protect young people.

Without doubt, these regulation do challenge our sensibilities as to why cannabis is not included under them, more especially as it was United Future who held Labour to a thou shalt not talk about cannabis in this term of parliament or we'll chop up the treasury cheque book despite there being a global revision of drug policy. Dunne went to the UN and pretended the 2008 regulations didn't exist. He attended various Ministry of Health drug policy events at Te Papa and refused to acknowledge that experts were calling the 2008 regulations world class. Indeed Professor Nutt former chair of the UK expert advisory committee (ACMD) said of these regulations "I wish I had thought of them first" and whens asked if cannabis should be in them, "absolutely" he replied in answer to questions at the Christchurch, Otago School of Medicine lectures last year. So why haven't we heard about these regulations?

Could it be because they became law the day John Key became right and honorable? Could it be because they were gazetted and got royal seal of approval smack in the middle of the 2008 election and no one noticed? Or is it because good drug policy is just plain boring....

Our current response, as correspondent Mbossa points out effectively makes these soft 'alternatives' to alcohol and cigarettes compulsory and a right of passage. With such double standards, we couldn't set up our kids for failure if we tried...

From my colleague and Education Professor Rodney Skagar (yes he visted NZ on a lecture tour on Drug Ed.) -

Although we urge young people to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, our national surveys show that many do not heed our warnings. To prevent adolescents who do experiment from falling into abusive patterns, we need to create fallback strategies that focus on safety. Putting safety first requires that we be careful to provide our young people with credible information and resources. We also need to teach our teenagers how to identify and handle problems with alcohol and other drugs—if and when they occur—and how to get help and support.

Join us at the Safety First Project in advocating for reality-based approaches to drug education at home and in school that foster open and honest dialogue around the risks and consequences of drug use. We also invite you to critically examine random student [sniffing, searching and] drug testing, an invasive policy that can erode relationships of trust between students and adults at school and unintentionally direct students to more dangerous behaviors.

Blair Anderson, Christchurch NZ. Educators for Sensible Drug Policy.
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Health Minister Dunne Goes "Legalise!"

JWH-018 a THC analogImage via WikipediaDunne signals R18 ban on synthetic cannabinoid substances

Wednesday 30 March 2011, 5:30PM /  By Peter Dunne

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne today delivered a strong warning to anyone selling synthetic cannabinoid substances that the Government is going to tighten up on their products, including making it illegal to sell them to those under 18.

He said a number of controls are to be placed around products containing synthetic substances producing similar effects to cannabis.

“The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs (EACD) says it is unacceptable for products containing these substances to be widely available without controls placed on their packaging, marketing and sale, and I fully agree,” Mr Dunne said.

The committee has recommended restricting all synthetic substances with cannabinomimetic effects under the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005.

”I have accepted the committee’s advice on this.”
Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submissionImage via Wikipedia 
In order for the committee’s advice to be implemented, an amendment Act, which allows hazardous substances to also be classified as restricted substances must be passed. This is currently before Parliament awaiting its second reading.

The legislation will allow the Government to put in place controls to prevent the sale of these products to young people, aggressive marketing and generally cut their widespread availability.

”I have instructed the Ministry of Health to begin the process of putting the necessary controls in place. I expect these changes to come into effect next year."

”In the meantime, I am putting traders in these products on notice that it is irresponsible to market, sell or offer to sell to anyone under the age of 18."

“My advice for anyone considering using any unregulated substance is to avoid them completely,” Mr Dunne said.

Background information:

Smoking products such as “Spice”, Kronic”, Aroma” and “Dream” are available in New Zealand from ‘party pill’ outlets, online retailers and an increasing number of dairies and convenience stores.

Some products are identified as ‘herbal smoking blends’ or ‘legal highs’. These products contain vegetable matter that has been treated with synthetic cannbinomimetic substances to create products that can be bought and smoked to produce psychoactive effects similar to those of cannabis.

A number of products have been tested and found to contain substances from the naphthoylindole chemical group, including JWH-018 (1-pentyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole) and JWH-073 (1-butyl-3-(1-naphthoyl)indole).

Once the amendment is passed, cannbinomimetic substances will be added to the restricted substances schedule and the controls outlined below will then apply to the synthetic cannabinoids.

Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 and the Misuse of Drugs (Restricted Substances) Regulations 2008 provide controls around the marketing and availability of restricted substances. These controls include:

A minimum purchase ages of 18 years

•Prohibitions on free of charge distribution or the offering of such products as a reward
•Restrictions limiting all advertising (except internet-based advertising) to only the inside of a premises selling restricted substances and a requirement that such advertising not be visible or audible from outside such premises
•Prohibitions on selling such products from any venue with a liquor licence, or from service stations, or from non-fixed premises such as caravans or street carts
•Prohibitions on selling such products from places where children or minors gather, including but not limited to, schools, recreational facilities and sporting facilities
•Requirements for all products to contain warning labels, including warning against driving or operating machinery following use, and contact details of the manufacturer and the National Poisons Centre
•Requirements for all products to clearly state the synthetic cannabinomimetic substances they contain on the packet
•Requirements that all such products be sold in child resistant and tamper-proof containers

Blair Anderson
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