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Mark Stapleton

Time to rethink the war on drugs

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There's a priceless article in Counterpunch by Fred Gardner: Nixon on Pot, Booze and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Gardner draws on tapes of Nixon chatting with his crew to tease out the 'philosphical underpinnings' of his position on 'drugs'.

This helps explain why the 35 year old 'War on Drugs' has been such an extraordinary failure.

The policy was devised by bigots and utter fools.

Here's an extract to whet the appetite:

Nixon: A person drinks to have fun. Do you know what happened to the Romans? The last six Roman emperors were fags. The last six. Nero had a public wedding to a boy. Yeah. And they'd [unintelligible]. You know that. You know what happened to the Popes? It's all right that, po-po-Popes were laying the nuns, that's been going on for years, centuries, but, when the popes, when the Catholic Church went to hell, in, I don't know, three or four centuries ago, it was homosexual. And finally it had to be cleaned out. Now, that's what's happened to Britain, it happened earlier to France. And let's look at the strong societies. The Russians. God damn it, they root them out, they don't let them around at all. You know what I mean? I don't know what they do with them. Now, we are allowing this in this country when we show [unintelligible]. Dope? Do you think the Russians allow dope? Hell no. Not if they can allow, not if they can catch it, they send them up. You see, homosexuality, dope, immorality in general: These are the enemies of strong societies. That's why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they're trying to destroy us.

Nixon: I have seen the countries of Asia and the Middle East, portions of Latin America, and I have seen what drugs have done to those countries. Uh, everybody knows what it's done to the Chinese, the Indians are hopeless anyway, the Burmese. They have different forms of drugs [unintelligible] China and the rest of them, they've all gone down Why the hell are those Communists so hard on drugs? Well why they're so hard on drugs is because, uh, they love to booze. I mean, the Russians, they drink pretty good."

Nixon apparently believed the push to legalize drugs was - inter alia - a Jewish/Communist conspiracy to destroy American society.

I imagine today's Red Mafya get a chuckle out of that.

Edited by Sid Walker

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:blink::lol::lol::lol:

Nothing beats clear, rational thinking when formulating public policy.

Perhaps it was the 'drugs' Nixon was on, Mark?

Anthony Summers claims Nixon was a pill-popper with good reason to evade the question "have you stopped beating your wife?"

The Wonkette, discussing the similarities between Elvis and Nixon, shows the happy couple together.

She tells us: "The National Archives and the Associated Press both claim the Nixon-Elvis picture is the No. 1 most-requested photograph".

d459fd8ae51a1d8d17b7083392351965.jpg

Edited by Sid Walker

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:lol::lol::lol::lol:

Nothing beats clear, rational thinking when formulating public policy.

Perhaps it was the 'drugs' Nixon was on, Mark?

Anthony Summers claims Nixon was a pill-popper with good reason to evade the question "have you stopped beating your wife?"

The Wonkette, discussing the similarities between Elvis and Nixon, shows the happy couple together.

She tells us: "The National Archives and the Associated Press both claim the Nixon-Elvis picture is the No. 1 most-requested photograph".

d459fd8ae51a1d8d17b7083392351965.jpg

That story about Elvis charging in to the White House always cracks me up.

I was disappointed that Elvis only got a badge. Since he was packing a piece, he should have settled for nothing less than VP.

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From 'The Australian' newspaper:

Addicted to myths about opiates

Almost everything you think you know about heroin addiction is wrong, writes Theodore Dalrymple in his latest book

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

January 20, 2007

IT is not only those who take heroin who are blinded by illusions, but almost the entire population, including - or especially - the experts. Every problem in contemporary society calls forth its equal and supposedly opposite bureaucracy. The ostensible purpose of this bureaucracy is to solve that problem.

But the bureaucracy quickly develops a survival instinct and so no more wishes the problem to disappear altogether than the lion wishes to kill all the gazelle in the bush and leave itself with no food for the future.

In short, the bureaucracy of drug addiction needs drug addicts far more than drug addicts need the bureaucracy of drug addiction. Thanks to propaganda assiduously spread for many years by everyone who has concerned himself with the subject, there is now a standard or received view of heroin addiction that is almost universally accepted by the general public, by the addicts and by the bureaucracy.

This view serves the interests of the addicts who wish to continue their habit while placing the blame elsewhere, as well as the bureaucracy that wishes to continue in employment, preferably forever and at higher rates of pay.

This standard or received view conceives opiate addiction as an illness and therefore implies that there is a bona fide medical solution to it. When all the proposed "cures" fail to work, as they usually do, and when the extension of quasi-medical services to addicts is accompanied not by a decline in the prevalence of the problem but, on the contrary, by an increase, who can blame addicts if, in continuing their habit, they blame not themselves but the incompetence of those who have set themselves up as their medical saviours and offered them solutions that do not work?

But where bureaucracies are concerned, nothing succeeds like failure. For example, the budget of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse increased by 16.2 per cent between 2001 and 2002, which would be quite a creditable performance if it had been a purely commercial enterprise. In the period, $US126,394,000 was added to its budget, but it would be foolhardy to suggest that a single drug addict stopped, or will stop, taking drugs because of this extra funding.

The standard or orthodox view of heroin addiction is as follows, a view that has a different function in the case of addicts, doctors and the general public. According to this view, a man is somehow or other exposed to heroin, more or less by chance. It has a pleasurable effect on him and he takes some more, and then some more again. Before long, indeed very quickly, he is physiologically addicted, and in order to avoid the terrible suffering caused by withdrawal, he has to take more and more heroin.

Unfortunately, in order to pay for this, he often has to resort to crime, unless he belongs to that small elite of addicts who come from the moneyed classes, for his addiction precludes normal paid work but requires a large income. His powers of self-control have by now been completely destroyed or subverted by heroin. Unless he takes a substitute drug, or possibly enters a lengthy and technically rigorous rehabilitation program, he cannot give up. He is hooked for life. He needs help.

There is only a very tiny grain of truth in all this. That physiological addiction exists is undoubted. But in practically all other respects, the standard view is wrong. It is a masterpiece of the old rhetorical tricks of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi. It overlooks the most obvious salient facts.

A man is somehow or other exposed to heroin. But how is a man exposed to heroin? The use of the passive voice is here very instructive. The heroin comes to the man, the man does not go to the heroin. It is as if the heroin had a will of its own, unlike the man.

People who are genuinely exposed to strong opiates by chance, in medical circumstances, for example after an operation, very seldom become addicted to them. The vast majority of heroin addicts do not become addicted via the medical route. In fact, I do not recall one among the many hundreds whom I have met. When I ask heroin addicts why they started taking heroin, most of them reply with one of two answers. These are: "I fell in with the wrong crowd" and "heroin's everywhere".

When I reply that it is odd how I meet many people who fell in with the wrong crowd, but I never under any circumstances meet any member of the wrong crowd itself, who must therefore be lurking permanently out of my sight and hearing, the addict who has attributed his addiction to his fortuitous acquaintance with the wrong crowd smiles, or even laughs, knowingly.

Of course, it is perfectly possible, likely even, that people live in social micro-climates, in some of which heroin addiction is much more common than in others.

But there is no micro-climate, other than the self-constituted one in which addicts live, in which heroin addiction is universal, literally inescapable, as it would have to be for its ubiquity to count as the explanation of any individual addict's addiction.

DISTRESS from opiate withdrawal is overwhelmingly a social or psychological condition: it is not caused by observable physiological changes. This has extremely important implications for practice. It means that anyone who suggests withdrawal is a serious condition, worthy of and necessitating medical attention and treatment, other than treatment of the most trivial kind, is, wittingly or not, increasing the distress that withdrawal causes.

In other words, the whole apparatus of care, doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, serves not to alleviate suffering but to create and exacerbate it. (I cannot resist quoting a law first enunciated by Colin Brewer about modern society: "Suffering increases to meet the means available for itsalleviation.")

The idea of the most common method of "treatment" is substitution of heroin with a drug called methadone. This substance, which is most often taken in syrup form, but is also available as an injection and as pills, is a synthetic opiate first developed in Germany just before World War II. What we end up with (at best) is a methadone addict as well as a heroin addict, whereas we had only a heroin addict before. Neither the quadrupling of methadone prescriptions in Britain between 1982 and 1992, nor the doubling of them in the US between 1999 and 2001, had any effect on the scale of the problem. Substantial numbers of people are killed by methadone. Heroin was involved in 58 per cent of the 3961 fatal poisonings from opiates between 1993 and 1998 in England and Wales, while methadone was involved in 49 per cent.

The resort to intoxicants is a permanent and ineradicable temptation that arises from human nature. Not everyone gives in to it, however, or is equally susceptible, by virtue of their situation in life. The majority of people sometimes resort to intoxicants (or, like me with alcohol, resort to them every day), without letting them interfere with their ability to function in the world. Indeed, taken in moderation, they probably increase their ability to do so.

But there are some people for whom the desire for the consolation of illusion, and the illusion of consolation, is constant. In most Western societies, there is now a class in which tedium vitae is very common, almost normal. This is the class from which the vast majority of heroin addicts now comes. The young of this class are disaffected, and have good reason to be so. They are for the most part poor, though not of course in the absolute sense. They have no interests, intellectual or cultural. The consolations of religion are closed to them. As for their family life, loosely so-called, it is usually of an utterly chaotic nature, a quicksand of step-parents, step and half-siblings, and quite without an orderly succession of generations. Their sexual relationships are a kaleidoscope of ephemeral couplings, often with abandoned offspring as a result, motivated by an immediate need for sexual release and often complicated by primitive egotistical possessiveness leading to violence and conflict.

Their economic prospects are poor. They are unskilled in countries in which the demand for unskilled labour is limited. Any work that they do will be repetitive and dull; and while a man might once have derived satisfaction from performing a menial task well, from leading a life of modest usefulness to others, this is not an age in which such humility is very common.

In large part, this is because people live to a quite unprecedented degree in the virtual world of so-called popular culture. From the very earliest age, their lives are saturated with images of celebrities, whose attainments are often modest but who have been whisked by good fortune into a world of immense and glamorous luxury.

Crime ceases to be crime, but is rather restitution or justified revenge. The result is that, while profoundly dissatisfied with their present lot, they do not have ambitions towards which they might work in a constructive fashion, but daydreams in which everything is solved at once in a magical way, daydreams from which the emergence into reality is always painful. Any aid to the perpetuation of the state of daydreaming is therefore greatly appreciated.

The temptation to take opiates, and to continue to take them, arises from two main sources: first, man's eternal existential anxieties, to which there is no wholly satisfactory solution, at least for those who are not unself-consciously religious; and second, the particular predicament in which people find themselves.

The addict has a problem, but it is not a medical one: he does not know how to live. And on this subject the doctor has nothing, qua doctor, to offer. What he ought not do, however, is to mislead the addict, or allow the addict to mislead him, into thinking that the problem is medical and requires, or is susceptible to, a medical solution.

Edited extract from Romancing Opiates: Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy, by Theodore Dalrymple, published by Encounter Books and distributed by DA Information Services, $31.30. Dalrymple has worked as a prison doctor and as a psychiatrist in a general hospital in a British slum.

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As you're back, Mark, an update on the 30+ year old 'War on Drugs.

Latest indications are that this may prove a great year for business!

Thanks to deft work by NATO in 2001, with 'aftercare' continuing to this day, Afghanistan is now in peak opium production.

No more pesky Islamic scruples!

In fact, it looks like Afghani hash will be making a comeback too - along with plenty of cheap smack.

Notice the other key benefit of an invasion. Record crops can be now be blamed on 'insurgents', the Taliban etc.

At the time the Taliban were in power, when opium production declined sharply, that wasn't really going to work.

Now, not only is business booming - official spokepersons can once again wring their hands and blame it on someone else.

Read all about it...

Tuesday March 6, 3:39 AM

Afghan opium crop set to grow in 2007: UN

- AFP

Afghanistan's opium crop is likely rise again this year after production of the drug saw a record 50 percent jump in 2006, the United Nations warned on Monday in a new blow to eradication efforts.

A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report also pointed out clear links between the spiralling Taliban insurgency and the drugs trade in Afghanistan, which accounts for 90 percent of the world's heroin.

"This winter survey suggests that opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2007 may not be lower than the record harvest of 165,000 hectares (407,550 acres) in 2006," the report said.

However "effective countrywide eradication may alter this trend," it added. The government has boosted efforts to plough up poppy fields this year, sparking a handful of often-deadly clashes between police and farmers.

Poppy cultivation would likely increase in 15 provinces and decrease in seven, according to the report based on surveys in 508 villages in December and January.

Among those expected to see an increase were southern provinces worst hit by a Taliban-led insurgency such as Helmand, the biggest opium-growing region.

"The situation is worse in Afghanistan's richly fertile yet highly unstable southern provinces. Bear in mind that this region accounted for more than 50 percent of all opium cultivated in Afghanistan last year," the report said.

There were "clear correlations between insurgency and illicit drug-related activities," it said.

"While this is not new, Afghanistan seems to be the most obvious case in the world of how drug cultivation, refining and trafficking funds political violence, and vice versa."

The UNODC also noted a "new and disturbing" increase in cannabis cultivation.

"The last thing we need is for Afghanistan to switch from one drug to another or -- worse -- to become a world leader in cannabis as well as opium production," its report said.

In 2006 an estimated 50,000 hectares of cannabis was grown compared to 30,000 in 2005, and the figure was likely to rise again this year.

Last year's increase in the cultivation of opium, the raw ingredient of heroin, was a blow to British- and US-backed efforts costing billions of dollars to stop the drugs trade through eradicating poppy crops, cracking down on those involved and offering farmers "alternative livelihoods."

The report found that the main reason that farmers were still growing the crop was that it could earn them 10 times more than a cereal per hectare.

Farmers also felt protected against the authorities by Taliban who earned revenue through cultivation, UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa

told AFP.

Much of the problem in the south was related to corruption, including in the judiciary, and the lack of government or military authority, he said.

"Anywhere in the world, not only in Afghanistan, this sort of illicit activity is related to a lack of control of territory by authorities. It's not poverty...," he said, referring to claims by poor farmers that poppies are the most lucrative cash crop.

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Sid,

Yes, the evil of terror appears to be limitless. But WHO are the terrorists? Hmmm....

I suspect that UNODC report was ghost written by the DEA.

This spike in drug production will of course require taxpayers to cough up for more cops, courts, judges, lawyers, jails, insurance, hospital emergency room staff and doctors. The social costs of increased assaults, murders, HIV cases etc. will also be borne by the public in general.

Is all this damage to society (to keep us 'drug free') worth it?

Yes, says the DEA (annual budget in 2004 was $1.6 billion). Of course, they would say that. Without the War on Drugs many of them would be unemployed.

Yes, says the US prison building industry (2.1 million in American jails--highest in the world--80% are nonviolent offenders--so much for the land of the free).

Yes, says the pharmaceutical industry. Since the patent on heroin has long expired, the industry would suffer massively from competition from generically produced heroin, the world's most effective painkiller and still used in British hospitals, under the name Diamorphine, to treat many patients, including women experiencing difficult childbirth. Big Pharma is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it can afford two lobbyists to every US Congressman in order to make sure there's no fancy legislatin'.

Yes, say Western Governments. But its not heroin they fear but cannabis. So hardy it can grow almost anywhere, why would people pay for the production costs and associated taxes of a product they can grow themselves? Yes, its the unkindest cut of all, I can barely bring myself to say it---the Government would be cut out of the equation. There's little, if any, revenue from cannabis for them. Ouch.

Yes, say the media. What would the world be like without salacious drug scandals, disgraced athletes, politicians and celebrities, major drug busts, and record high crime rates to report? It doesn't bear thinking about.

Yes, (and many thanks) say the drug barons.

Finally, here's an interesting article from Lester Grinspoon:

http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/48749/

Marijuana Gains Wonder Drug Status

By Lester Grinspoon, Boston Globe. Posted March 3, 2007.

A new study in the journal Neurology is being hailed as unassailable proof that marijuana is a valuable medicine. It is a sad commentary on the state of modern medicine -- and US drug policy -- that we still need "proof" of something that medicine has known for 5,000 years.

The study, from the University of California at San Francisco, found smoked marijuana to be effective at relieving the extreme pain of a debilitating condition known as peripheral neuropathy. It was a study of HIV patients, but a similar type of pain caused by damage to nerves afflicts people with many other illnesses including diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Neuropathic pain is notoriously resistant to treatment with conventional pain drugs. Even powerful and addictive narcotics like morphine and OxyContin often provide little relief. This study leaves no doubt that marijuana can safely ease this type of pain.

As all marijuana research in the United States must be, the new study was conducted with government-supplied marijuana of notoriously poor quality. So it probably underestimated the potential benefit.

This is all good news, but it should not be news at all. In the 40-odd years I have been studying the medicinal uses of marijuana, I have learned that the recorded history of this medicine goes back to ancient times and that in the 19th century it became a well-established Western medicine whose versatility and safety were unquestioned. From 1840 to 1900, American and European medical journals published over 100 papers on the therapeutic uses of marijuana, also known as cannabis.

Of course, our knowledge has advanced greatly over the years. Scientists have identified over 60 unique constituents in marijuana, called cannabinoids, and we have learned much about how they work. We have also learned that our own bodies produce similar chemicals, called endocannabinoids.

The mountain of accumulated anecdotal evidence that pointed the way to the present and other clinical studies also strongly suggests there are a number of other devastating disorders and symptoms for which marijuana has been used for centuries; they deserve the same kind of careful, methodologically sound research. While few such studies have so far been completed, all have lent weight to what medicine already knew but had largely forgotten or ignored: Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, spasticity, appetite loss, certain types of pain, and other debilitating symptoms. And it is extraordinarily safe -- safer than most medicines prescribed every day. If marijuana were a new discovery rather than a well-known substance carrying cultural and political baggage, it would be hailed as a wonder drug.

The pharmaceutical industry is scrambling to isolate cannabinoids and synthesize analogs, and to package them in non-smokable forms. In time, companies will almost certainly come up with products and delivery systems that are more useful and less expensive than herbal marijuana. However, the analogs they have produced so far are more expensive than herbal marijuana, and none has shown any improvement over the plant nature gave us to take orally or to smoke.

We live in an antismoking environment. But as a method of delivering certain medicinal compounds, smoking marijuana has some real advantages: The effect is almost instantaneous, allowing the patient, who after all is the best judge, to fine-tune his or her dose to get the needed relief without intoxication. Smoked marijuana has never been demonstrated to have serious pulmonary consequences, but in any case the technology to inhale these cannabinoids without smoking marijuana already exists as vaporizers that allow for smoke-free inhalation.

Hopefully the UCSF study will add to the pressure on the US government to rethink its irrational ban on the medicinal use of marijuana -- and its destructive attacks on patients and caregivers in states that have chosen to allow such use. Rather than admit they have been mistaken all these years, federal officials can cite "important new data" and start revamping outdated and destructive policies. The new Congress could go far in establishing its bona fides as both reasonable and compassionate by immediately moving on this issue.

Such legislation would bring much-needed relief to millions of Americans suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other debilitating illnesses.

Edited by Mark Stapleton

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Sid,

Yes, the evil of terror appears to be limitless. But WHO are the terrorists? Hmmm....

I suspect that UNODC report was ghost written by the DEA.

This spike in drug production will of course require taxpayers to cough up for more cops, courts, judges, lawyers, jails, insurance, hospital emergency room staff and doctors. The social costs of increased assaults, murders, HIV cases etc. will also be borne by the public in general.

Is all this damage to society (to keep us 'drug free') worth it?

Yes, says the DEA (annual budget in 2004 was $1.6 billion). Of course, they would say that. Without the War on Drugs many of them would be unemployed.

Yes, says the US prison building industry (2.1 million in American jails--highest in the world--80% are nonviolent offenders--so much for the land of the free).

Yes, says the pharmaceutical industry. Since the patent on heroin has long expired, the industry would suffer massively from competition from generically produced heroin, the world's most effective painkiller and still used in British hospitals, under the name Diamorphine, to treat many patients, including women experiencing difficult childbirth. Big Pharma is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it can afford two lobbyists to every US Congressman in order to make sure there's no fancy legislatin'.

Yes, say Western Governments. But its not heroin they fear but cannabis. So hardy it can grow almost anywhere, why would people pay for the production costs and associated taxes of a product they can grow themselves? Yes, its the unkindest cut of all, I can barely bring myself to say it---the Government would be cut out of the equation. There's little, if any, revenue from cannabis for them. Ouch.

Yes, say the media. What would the world be like without salacious drug scandals, disgraced athletes, politicians and celebrities, major drug busts, and record high crime rates to report? It doesn't bear thinking about.

Yes, (and many thanks) say the drug barons.

Finally, here's an interesting article from Lester Grinspoon:

http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/48749/

A very interesting article, Mark. The possibility of inhalers had never occured to me. But yes, that would solve (or at least reduce) the lung damage issue, and allow for safer yet effective self-medication (or intoxication, depending on one's point of view).

I also agree with your list of War on Drugs 'beneficiaries'.

At one time I believed that when enough progressive MPs of my generation or younger were in power, they'd change at least Cannabis laws to bring these laws more into line with their own cultural practice.

But of course a disproportionate number of such politicians are lawyers. Many of them have a proud record defending the underdog - and made a tidy income defending drug cases. Some still do.

Then there's the counselling and rehab services... never to forget hundreds of thousands of small time dealers.

Most of these folk are probably Labor voters and would take a dim view of anyone who put them out of business.

It all goes to show, I guess, that when it comes to industry policy, one should give more credence to disinterested observers than participants with direct pecuniary involvement.

As Scott said earlier in this thread, for a sane take on the Drugs War at the time of its inception, Milton Friedman takes some beating.

Edited by Sid Walker

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It's not really surprising that whenever decriminalisation of illicit drugs is suggested, it is so vehemently attacked from all quarters. Prohibition has become a huge industry in itself--a parasite sucking the lifeblood out of modern society while masquerading as a bulwark against society's moral collapse.

The list of groups who benefit from destroying the lives of many of our people is almost endless. I've read that illicit drug funds represent some 30% of the wealth washing through the stock market. Even the welfare industry benefits--the Salvation Army here in Australia argues strongly against drug law reform as sending the wrong message to kids but (surprise, surprise) they recieve $800 from the Federal Government for every person they place on their rehabilitation program. They never mention this fact, of course. No wonder talk of drug law reform gets Brian Watters so hot under the collar.

If rational, sane drug laws were ever enacted it was result in a large spike in unemployment--in the short term at least. This must be acknowledged. However, it would lift a massive burden from the taxpayer and from the wider population. Less crime, ruined lives and drug deaths. At present, Western Governments value the economic imperative over the human misery cost. While the US, the major force behind the global war on drugs, has such a powerful influence over Western Governments this will remain the case.

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It's not really surprising that whenever decriminalisation of illicit drugs is suggested, it is so vehemently attacked from all quarters. Prohibition has become a huge industry in itself--a parasite sucking the lifeblood out of modern society while masquerading as a bulwark against society's moral collapse.

The list of groups who benefit from destroying the lives of many of our people is almost endless. I've read that illicit drug funds represent some 30% of the wealth washing through the stock market. Even the welfare industry benefits--the Salvation Army here in Australia argues strongly against drug law reform as sending the wrong message to kids but (surprise, surprise) they recieve $800 from the Federal Government for every person they place on their rehabilitation program. They never mention this fact, of course. No wonder talk of drug law reform gets Brian Watters so hot under the collar.

If rational, sane drug laws were ever enacted it was result in a large spike in unemployment--in the short term at least. This must be acknowledged. However, it would lift a massive burden from the taxpayer and from the wider population. Less crime, ruined lives and drug deaths. At present, Western Governments value the economic imperative over the human misery cost. While the US, the major force behind the global war on drugs, has such a powerful influence over Western Governments this will remain the case.

Good post Mark!'

Yes, unemployment might go up - and quite a few secondary sources of income would dry up.

However, considerable additional consumer spending power would be freed up. This must surely be taken into the equation. Economic modellers would have fun working it out. Perhaps they already have?

My impression - but it's only that - is that not much changes when "recreational drugs" are decriminalized (are there any recent instances of full legalization in modern societies? I can't think of any).

As most of the jails are close to full anyway, they just stop building new ones. Lawyers and police work less overtime. Psychiatrists find something else to do. Social workers still find plenty to keep themselves busy. Prelates preach about something else. Sociologists get re-employed studying the impacts of decriminalization. The media finds something else to shock us with. Organized crime... moves on to 'solve' other 'market failures.

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I think that's right Sid--repeal of the drug laws will cause a realignment in the financial system. The initial shock will be gradually blunted by counterveilling forces, mainly the fact that there will be more disposable income to be spent on other things. It would be interesting to observe the economic outcome as prohibition has artificially heated up the economies of western nations, imo. One thing's for certain---it would be a shocking result for organised crime and, to some extent, the stock market. The stock market would shed wealth as it, too, has been artificially inflated by prohibition.

There could be hope on the horizon. A British report calling for a reappraisal of the current laws has met with approval from certain parts of the media. Of course, the tabloids are up in arms about it because drug prohibition is their bread and butter.

UK: Editorial: A Startling Injection of Common Sense

URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v07/n291/a02.html

Newshawk: JimmyG

Votes: 0

Pubdate: Fri, 09 Mar 2007

Source: Independent (UK)

Copyright: 2007 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.

Contact: letters@independent.co.uk

Website: http://www.independent.co.uk/

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/209

Note: See The RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public

Policy website http://www.rsadrugscommission.org and the 335 page

report as a .pdf file at http://www.rsa.org.uk/acrobat/rsa_drugs_report.pdf

A STARTLING INJECTION OF COMMON SENSE

The report from the Royal Society of Arts Commission on Drugs tells us what most thoughtful people have known for some time: Britain's drug laws have been shaped by moral panic, rather than a rational analysis of the problem of substance abuse.

The two-year study argues that the focus of government policy should be on harm reduction. In common with last year's report by the Parliamentary Science Select Committee, it recommends that the existing "ABC" classification system be scrapped in favour of an "index of harms", which would extend the definition of drugs to include alcohol and tobacco. It also argues that there should be an emphasis on "medicalising" the problem of heroin abuse, urging the roll out of "shooting galleries" for heroin users and wider prescription of the drug by doctors.

The report's authors feel addiction should be seen as a health and social problem rather than simply a criminal justice issue. If drug taking does not harm anyone, criminal sanctions should not be applied. Jail should be reserved for only the most serious drug-related crimes.

They also correctly identify the major reason why this is not already happening: politicians. The response of the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to the proposals yesterday sums up the problem. He rejected the arguments of the RSA in favour of reform and argued that the present approach by the Government is working perfectly well. Meanwhile, the former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, who is shaping the Conservative Party's own policy on drugs, was also critical of the RSA recommendations. Mr Duncan Smith does at least have a strategy for improving on the present situation. He stresses the need for residential rehabilitation for addicts. But by arguing that getting people off drugs altogether should be the only objective of government policy, he too demonstrates why politicians are failing on this crucial issue. Too many in Westminster feel it is their responsibility to stigmatise addicts, rather than help them.

Of course, the reason ministers are clinging on to the crude policy of prohibition is that there is still a wide-spread mindset in this country, stoked up by the populist press, that all drugs are "evil" and that, by extension, so are those that take them. The summersaults performed by ministers over the downgrading of cannabis demonstrate just how in thrall to this popular prejudice they remain. The RSA report argues that: "The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others. The harmless use of illegal drugs is thus possible, indeed common." One can already predict the shrieks of alarm that will emanate from the prohibitionist lobby at this eminently reasonable statement.

The political classes have been afraid to challenge those who demand a "hard line" on drugs. They must begin to do so urgently. The present blanket prohibition is not working. A vast proportion of crime committed in Britain is related to the drugs economy. The Home Office has estimated that the social cost of drug abuse is between UKP10bn and UKP17bn a year. Our jails are bursting because they have been forced to take in so many drug addicts. As Professor Anthony King, the head of the RSA Commission, pointed out yesterday: "The quickest way into treatment is to commit a crime". What this shows is a society with its head in the sand when it comes to the question of drugs. It is high time we pulled it out.

The clock cannot be turned back when it comes to drugs. The reduction of harm must become the explicit goal of government drug policy, or we will all continue to pay a heavy price.

Edited by Mark Stapleton

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A very interesting article, Mark.

When it comes to Blunkett's reaction, "there are none so blind as those who will not see"

His reaction parallels James Callaghan (then Home Secretary) when the Wootton report was released, all those decades ago in the Autumn of the Summer of Love. Americans, more dramatically, call it 'The Fall'.

Some time ago, the Gay movement began a program of systematically outing closet homosexuals who proved themselves to be rank hypocrits while enjoying the comforts of power.

I recall Peter Tatchell led the charge in Britain.

At the time, I felt uneasy about this. It seems to me people have a right to private lives, wheover they are. I want politicians in power who are competent, caraing and honest about public policy. I don't care about their secuality.

Whether they have a right to gross hypocrisy - hypocrisy that involves pontificating about 'morals' they don't really share, or persecuting others over victimless 'crimes' that they themselves have committed and/or still commit, well, that's another matter.

Tatchell felt not. I think he has a point.

Back to the 'War on Drugs'.

I myself know ay least one MP who - at least in earlier years - "passed the dutchie" as they say in Brixton, London. Whether the individual concerned inhaled, I cannot say. I didn't take much interest at the time.

I imagine there's plenty more politicians in the same boat... to say nothing of lawyers, journalists, captains of industry...

This particular MP sits in a Parliament that some years previously enacted the most remarkable legislation to make it easier to convict Cannabis offenders. It reversed the presumption of innocence with respect to charges of 'possession' (I thought that breaches the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, but I'm old fashioned). There is no longer a right to jury trial in such cases; defendents must prove their innocence if illegal plants are found on their property. Consider how one might do that with a large rural property. How can landowners possibly know every plant growing on a few hectares - let alone tens, hundreds or thousands?

This is playing fast and loose with our civil liberties, breachig international obligations in order to intimidate more victims into pleading guilty and keeping the racket operating smoothly.

It seems to me those responsible for such laws endanger themselves - along with everyone else.

Have they never heard of frame-ups?

It only takes a political enemy to 'plant' one small plant on one's block - then arrange for an anonymous tip-off to the police - and it's camera, lights... action!

Odd it doesn't happen more often.

That it does not is probably a case of 'honor among thieves' - and another testament to the essential decency of the long-suffering general public.

Edited by Sid Walker

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