Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The frustrating politics of drug reform

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  • David Cormack,

    I've wondered if Helen Clark's Labour Govt was stymied somewhat by a very draconian Jim Anderton - I still have friends who bitch and moan about Nos being made illegal.

    I sympathise with politicians on this issue. The majority of people (I think) still believe that drugs are bad mmkay and as such bad things should have punishments attached to them. Very few people talk about the successes they've had in Portugal where everything got decriminalised - Glen Greenwald's Cato institute did a fantastic review of it and signs were all almost universally positive.

    Suburbia, Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 216 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I went to the final taping of the Court Report last night at Victoria University's law school. Greg King, taking a break from being a celebrity defence lawyer at the court across the road, gave an impassioned plea for reform of NZ's justice system and changing our culture of criminalising people. He's spent a few months in the US looking at innovative ways of doing things. When Linda Clark asked why we do things the way we do in NZ he answered, 'Because New Zealand is stupid!'

    I hope some influential people listen.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2099 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to David Cormack,

    Yeah, while it's very sad what happened to Anderton's daughter (?), people with a emotional baggage in a problem usually aren't the ones to deal with that problem rationally.

    Anderton should have been given associate agriculture or something (given the need to have him (and initially the other member of his vanity party) in government at all).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Peter Dunne killed cannabis law reform in 2002, when he struck it lucky with the worm while campaigning on a Drugs are Bad Mmmkay platform. In comparison, Jim Anderton was mere sand in the vaseline.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Even the Parliamentary Green Party wound up distancing itself from its best-known law reform advocate Nandor Tanczos, if not its reform policy.

    I am not sure I'd call the current Green Party drug law policy that distant. They are still advocating for law reform , an educational focus and medical cannabis.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 503 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Jim Anderton was mere sand in the vaseline

    Wow never heard that phrase before, its kinda gritty .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 503 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Yeah, while it’s very sad what happened to Anderton’s daughter (?), people with a emotional baggage in a problem usually aren’t the ones to deal with that problem rationally.

    Anderton's daughter suffered from severe depression and took her own life. One of his sons was, however, an addict and suffered through that.

    But from what I'm told, Anderton gets a bit of a bum rap on this. He apparently did listen to evidence and changed his mind more than once on that basis.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Richard Aston,

    I am not sure I’d call the current Green Party drug law policy that distant. They are still advocating for law reform , an educational focus and medical cannabis.

    Nah, I'll stand by that. They've never distanced themselves from the policy, but I think it was felt by some senior members that having Nandor as the effective face of the party was unhelpful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red,

    cannabis offenders

    A term that always struck me as inherently contradictory. For the life of me, I can't see the offence (other than in the most narrow legalistic terms).

    As for the vile "wrong message to children" argument - although it's more on an excuse than an argument per se - well, we let adults do all sorts of things that we don't let children do: Drink. Drive. Marry. Enlist. Smoke Tobacco. Fornicate. Vote.

    Hopefully not all at once mind you.

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to dc_red,

    Drink. Drive. Marry. Enlist. Smoke Tobacco. Fornicate. Vote.

    Sounds like a great night.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Part of the problem is the pot decriminalisation lobby's own disorganisation and purism, to put it bluntly. Let's put it this way- regardless of the scale of particular social movements, they need strategic professional allies to make the case for legislative reform and evidence-based research to back it. Now, I accept that exists in abundance for medicinal cannabis, which is why I support its decriminalisation.

    However, the pot lobby keeps shooting itself in the foot with the continued existence of the ALCP, although not as much as it used to. If you want decriminalisation, then vote Green. Any other vote is a 'wasted' vote ;)
    CY.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Added to which, the total drug decriminalisation lobby needs its own lobby organisation and incrementalism isn't best. Unfortunately, whenever I urge such realism on them, I get hysterical temper tantrums from certain total decriminalisation advocates of libertarian persuasion. And they need to tackle one issue at a time- first medicinal cannabis, then possibly recreational cannabis, then a harm minimisation/risk reduction approach to E, and then perhaps a rigorous evidence-based full deconstruction of the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, Class A drugs should remain illegal due to their demonstrable harm.

    Craig Y.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Sorry- incrementalism is best. My bad! ;)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to dc_red,

    A term that always struck me as inherently contradictory. For the life of me, I can’t see the offence (other than in the most narrow legalistic terms).

    Rick Bryant got out of prison a few days ago. I struggle to see his incarceration as a good investment for the taxpayer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Young,

    Part of the problem is the pot decriminalisation lobby’s own disorganisation and purism, to put it bluntly. Let’s put it this way- regardless of the scale of particular social movements, they need strategic professional allies to make the case for legislative reform and evidence-based research to back it. Now, I accept that exists in abundance for medicinal cannabis, which is why I support its decriminalisation.

    I know that people in a position to effect change have been frequently frustrated by individuals in the decriminalisation lobby. I have occasionally felt that way myself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    He's spent a few months in the US looking at innovative ways of doing things. When Linda Clark asked why we do things the way we do in NZ he answered, 'Because New Zealand is stupid!'

    I can't even imagine what aspect of the U.S. justice system makes the N.Z. one look stupid by comparison.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Ahh, Helen Clark. I'd almost forgotten what a proper Prime Minister was like.
    Perhaps the first move could be compulsory cannabis for the National Party, party on dudes.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4897 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Jim Anderton was mere sand in the vaseline

    Wow never heard that phrase before, its kinda gritty .

    Me neither, though it would seem to hail from a similar neck o' the woods to "condom on the penis of progress". Famously used locally by Bob Jones to describe eventual Christian Democrat Graeme Lee, it appears to have an older and wider currency, though Jones might claim otherwise.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3559 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I know that people in a position to effect change have been frequently frustrated by individuals in the decriminalisation lobby. I have occasionally felt that way myself.

    You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your activists. When you're lobbying for a change in the criminal law, many of the faces are those with nothing to lose. You won't get the judges, the public servants, the plumbers, the sparkies, etc attending a J Day.

    And I'm utterly fed up with the number of experts, lawmakers and others who will talk off the record on their true views on cannabis law reform, but refuse to go on the record, fearing ridicule and professional ostracism. And with just cause. Look what happened to Don Brash.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    Ahh, Helen Clark. I’d almost forgotten what a proper Prime Minister was like.

    I interviewed her a couple of times as Leader of the Opposition. She was bracingly frank and extremely lucid.

    She got less so after becoming Prime Minister, it must be said.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Will de Cleene,

    Fair call.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    It’s typical. In the words of Umberto Eco, “irrationalism depends on the cult of action for action’s sake.” Otherwise called attacking the symptom, which effectively is the new PC.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran, in reply to David Cormack,

    Very few people talk about the successes they’ve had in Portugal where everything got decriminalised – Glen Greenwald’s Cato institute did a fantastic review of it and signs were all almost universally positive.

    I always wonder about this. Why do those pushing law reform (campaign wise, i.e. norml) never lead with this? Start getting stories like this into the media and maybe in ten years time we can have the debate like rational adults.

    Since May 2011 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The irony is that we have nearly all accepted the implicit case for public health over punishment by voting for leaders who themselves admit past illicit drug use

    I have this weird memory of a time in 1999 (or possibly 2000 - the early days of the fifth Labour government) where a whole lot of MPs admitted to having used marijuana, mostly as students. Even the PM! But the really odd thing is that it was major news for about a day, then everyone promptly forgot about it.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1863 posts Report Reply

  • dc_red, in reply to Craig Young,

    And they need to tackle one issue at a time- first medicinal cannabis, then possibly recreational cannabis, then a harm minimisation/risk reduction approach to E, and then perhaps a rigorous evidence-based full deconstruction of the Misuse of Drugs Act. However, Class A drugs should remain illegal due to their demonstrable harm.

    I agree with the sentiment, but the assertion around the "demonstrable harm" of Class A drugs is a generalization at best, and misleading at worst.

    The following have Class A status in NZ: Methamphetamine, Magic Mushrooms, Cocaine, Heroin, LSD

    Comparing these with the harm rankings for 20 common drugs by Nutt et al. (2007) in the Lancet ("Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse") we find:

    Heroin: 1st
    Cocaine: 2nd

    Methamphetamine: 8th (ranking for amphetamines in general - behind alcohol in 5th)
    LSD: 14th (behind both alcohol and tobacco)

    Shrooms: Not ranked

    Oil Patch, Alberta • Since Nov 2006 • 706 posts Report Reply

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