Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The frustrating politics of drug reform

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  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    what did you think of Greg King’s performance?

    Very entertaining, and Greg seemed very obviously energised. He said he didn't want to run for Parliament, but you kinda got the impression he did...

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    But he would have to go straight in as Minister of Justice - don't think he would have any patience for the climb up to it.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2009 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Sacha,

    How did Portugal's political process enable decriminalisation?

    I believe that much of continental Europe has been amenable to liberal policies in general as part of a 'recoil-reaction' to mid-20th century fascism (Portugal was a dictatorship until 1974). Unfortunately this natural liberalism seems to be declining (and being twisted into islamophobia) as that fascism slips into more distant memory.

    Because (most of) the 'anglosphere' remained nominally democratic through the 20th century, this effect didn't take place and politics remained dominated by 'moderate authoritarianism'.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4362 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell, in reply to Sacha,

    Yeah. i've talked with head drug official who says great cross party support and importantly a very supportive media. main issue now is maintaining funding for treatment services in current financial crisis.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 90 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Because (most of) the ‘anglosphere’ remained nominally democratic through the 20th century, this effect didn’t take place and politics remained dominated by ‘moderate authoritarianism’.

    And in the Anglosphere, it's dog-whistle politics and hyper-materialism.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4064 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Russell Brown,

    >10% of our population through the courts.

    and >10% could be 90%. :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5924 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Craig Young,

    And they need to tackle one issue at a time- first medicinal cannabis,

    You might enjoy this investigative piece on how long it takes to get a prescription in California. Personally I'm not convinced that undermining the integrity of the medical industry is a responsible starting point. Regardless of benefits, there are usually viable synthetic alternatives to treat issues. Putting pressure on Doctors to prescribe smoke inhalation to patients and in turn be the gatekeepers seems at odds with their raison d'etre, obviously there are edible alternatives but people seem to prefer smoking it.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to chris,

    there are edible alternatives but people seem to prefer smoking it.

    Vaporizers are popular for those concerned with smoke.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5924 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Russell Brown,

    re we prepared to drag >10% of our population through the courts.

    I’d be hesitant emphasizing this too much Russell. ‘Drag’ being a loaded verb, in this case describing the routine case of people walking in and walking / being escorted out…

    Citizens choosing to break laws and in turn suffering the consequences, is not the strongest argument against these laws, which by virtue of being tend to criminalize percentages of the population. My singular issue here being that it seems to relegate the real and immeasurably more significant social and economic costs to a secondary position, behind the inconvenience of a fine/ court appearance.

    You went into more detail here:

    It is not exactly that nothing has happened. The courts, and to some extent the Police, have taken matters in their own hands by discharging or diverting more and more minor cannabis offenders – thousands of them every year. Effectively, the system is doing its best to route around the paralysis of the legislature – but without the tools that properly legislated reform would provide.

    Yes, less people are being processed, but more cannabis is being confiscated, a good fraction of the money saved on policing / processing being passed back onto dealers/ growers . The policing and court costs aren’t a scratch on an $800,000,000 industry, just as those arrested aren’t the most harmed by prohibition, and imho it’s these two blades (in conjunction with Nutt at al) that constitute the strongest argument addressing prohibition. (sorry I feel like a drag for taking this line !-).

    Out of interest Russell what font is this, I love these capital H.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Sofie Bribiesca,

    Vaporizers are popular for those concerned with smoke.

    and each to their own Sofie ;p

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to chris,

    and each to their own Sofie ;p

    Ahh, but normally one shares ;)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 5924 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    That wasn’t a categorical refusal Sofie, but I’d have to think about it. Personally, vaporized cannabis seems akin to IV wine.

    Sorry Russell I was careless above:

    "less people are being processed, but more cannabis is being confiscated"

    intending: ‘more cannabis confiscation goes unreported.’ Apologies.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • slarty, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I'm going to say [citation needed] on your proposition

    As I'm not in a position to recount the story over a beer, a good start is "Collateral Damage" by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (2007)

    p29 is goes to the issues with the unique way the US has interpreted the (UN) Trafficking Protocol, but the whole thing is interesting in how it explores the damage caused by domestic political posturing has on such a serious matter.

    I must say Matthew, I think it's a little naive to think that the US even considers whether a matter actually affects them...

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • david westcot,

    Your`e right on the money here Russel - I would further add....... Prohibition of low-harm drugs - ecstasy,pot ,shrooms etc. is an outdated,hypocriticl,poorly-evidenced policy based largely on U.S. driven UN conventions initiated by the likes of Anslinger [Google him!],& Nixon & their cohort of very bigoted ignorant & conservative leadership.The resultant cascade effect of half-truths, propaganda,& a grossly biased research & associated funding edifice [85% of ALL global illicit drug research is U.S. govt. funded] has ensured worldwide uptake of this grossly dysfunctional & nannystatist policy. Reversing 80 years & $1000 billion of drug-war paranoia will not be easy; law commission recomendations are a small step in the right direction. I urge anyone interested in a rational take on this issue to look at the expert harm profiling of the Nutt- Blakemore reports [ 2007 & 2010 The Lancet] where alchohol is shown to be FAR MORE HARMFUL,DANGEROUS & ADDICTIVE than the above- mentioned drugs; in the 2010 report alchohol rated #1 , LSD & shrooms #19, MDMA #17,pot #8 .The puritanical Americans will no doubt stick to their whacky moral compass that includes broken healthcare, failing schools, and a massive interventionist military. But the rest of us should follow common sense & challenge strongly a bankrupt policy built around widespread ignorance of the evidence base & political expediency.The inability &/or desire of the media to address this issue sees policy in a stuck position. Interviewers typically are not backgrounded & thus unable to ask the hard questions needed to move this issue into rational discourse . Can`t see any change without a massive effort to spotlight the issue of relative harms & honest evidence-based cost/benefit analysis - oops I forgot - drug benefits is a taboo concept - interesting to note tho that therapeutic benefits is one of the 7 NZ EACD classification criteria . Unfortunately Tyranny of the majority can be a tuff little ole chestnut to crack without strong &determined political organization -the current criminalisation paradigm makes this rather unlikely. Tough !!

    dunedin • Since Jun 2012 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Bell,

    kia ora

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16281 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    A recent Gallup poll found that 50% of US voters support the full legalisation of cannabis. A younger generation apparently sees the issue in different terms, Republicans, conservatives and the elderly are opposed.

    Since Nov 2006 • 554 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to david westcot,

    Excellent rant David , thanks

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 453 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to slarty,

    I must say Matthew, I think it’s a little naive to think that the US even considers whether a matter actually affects them

    More that they tend not to pay attention to anything unless it affects them.

    Also, are you sure you're positioned to call me naive when you appear to be ignoring the discussion within NZ about our child sex trade? This is not something the US just made up because it somehow suits their internal politics.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    I find myself in the position of supporting medicinal cannabis decriminalisation, given that it can have useful palliative effects for PLWAs within my own community, but I despair of NORML and ALCP's disorganisation and absence of available expertise. And like it or not, that's how social change happens- to succeed, social movements need to tap amenable and available expertise and counter populist conservatives. It worked with the decriminalisation of homosexuality and sex work, the corporal punishment of children ban and liberalisation of abortion. It will have to be done in the cannabis and wider drug policy reform debates too.- CY

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 368 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Craig Young,

    Are you volunteering Craig? -
    I wonder if it is not a normal evolution that "ginger groups" kick off debate but other groups more able to "tap amenable and available expertise and counter populist conservatives" rise up to carry the social change into mainstream thinking.

    Looks to me like we need a new voice in this public debate somewhere between NORML and the Law Commission .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 453 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Citizens choosing to break laws and in turn suffering the consequences, is not the strongest argument against these laws, which by virtue of being tend to criminalize percentages of the population

    I'd say it's a *very* good argument against using the law as an instrument of social control.

    The more people's normal activities are proscribed, the less commitment they have to society as a whole. If you take the Venn diagram of populations indulging in illegal activities (drug users, boy racers, copyright violators...) then you start to cover an (un-) surprisingly large chunk of the population.

    I'd argue having more minimal laws based on wide consent is much better and more effective.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4362 posts Report Reply

  • slarty, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    This is not something the US just made up because it somehow suits their internal politics.

    Sorry! Didn't spot the irony :)

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to slarty,

    Sorry! Didn’t spot the irony :)

    Have some NZ Government thought on the issue:
    http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/publications-archived/2002/protecting-our-innocence/child-prostitution

    http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/speechpapers/NZ%20trafficking%20Paper%20-%20final%20-%203%20Feb.pdf

    Also, we've been on the State Department's list since 2007, along with Australia. This is not a new issue. Again, you seem to think they've manufactured some random concern for whatever reason, instead of wondering whether there's actually fire causing the smoke.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3889 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Craig Young,

    In all fairness Craig, you are right that NORML and ALCP’s disorganisation (and not limited to) would seem to be stymieing progress and your argument regarding incremental decriminalisation has merit. If that’s what it would take to get a foot in the door then so be it, my misgivings are only that it could be taken by legislators as an end in itself and we’d end up with a situation similar to Canada:

    patients complain of the single strain selection as well as low potency, providing a pre-ground product put through a wood chipper (which deteriorates rapidly) as well as gamma irradation and foul taste and smell.

    + a bunch of synthetics.

    But on that note, I’d also have misgivings about the lauded Portugese model, where decriminalisation entails far stiffer penalties than users face in New Zealand:

    Fines, ranging from 25 to 150 EURO. These figures are based on the Portuguese minimum wage of about 330 EURO (Banco de Portugal, 2001) and translate into hours of work lost.

    Suspension of the right to practice if the user has a licensed profession (e.g. medical doctor, taxi driver) and may endanger another person or someone’s possessions.

    Ban on visiting certain places (e.g. specific discotheques!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    Ban on associating with specific other persons.

    Interdiction to travel abroad.

    Requirement to report periodically to the committee.

    Withdrawal of the right to carry a gun.

    Confiscation of personal possessions.

    Cessation of subsidies or allowances that a person receives from a public agency.

    decriminalisation or descriminalização…

    Am I mistaken or is Australia sound years ahead of New Zealand in sensibly addressing this issue?

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 890 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert,

    Apart from reason and evidence based reasons why some or drugs should be decriminalised/legalised we have this to deal with from our media - Face-chewer had taken marijuana

    Since Nov 2006 • 78 posts Report Reply

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