Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When the drug warriors turn

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  • George Darroch,

    "It is up to ordinary citizens to declare a truce in this unwinnable war.", an opinion piece in the journal The Lancet declares, reviewing a recent film.

    It's easy to see the insanity of the United States and make loaded assumptions that the war being fought there isn't the same one experienced back home. It is (though we have few guns, thankfully - violence is felt less severely), and the impacts on communities are large. While asking what Obama can do is interesting, it's more worth our time to examine under what circumstances a Key or [insert Labour leader here] would reshape our environment.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I think the war has different drivers here, and I don't know that it's the same war. For example, concern from leaders in poorer communities about the effects of drugs on their young people. It's genuine, not posturing, and if we believe in decriminalisation/legalisation we need to communicate better the harm that current policy has on their young people as they become enmeshed in the "justice" system. Or on another front, we don't have the prison-industrial complex here -- in the US, I understand that prison operators and correctional officer unions are amongst the biggest lobbyists for their domestic policy.

    One of my minor missions in Labour is to get decriminalisation on the policy agenda. Labour is ostensibly committed to evidence-based policy and that seems like a good lever to me. Young Labour had some good wins at the conference this year, and I note that Di Whitter from Just Speak gave a session on this topic.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2948 posts Report Reply

  • Konrad Kurta, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    All good points. I still think there's a knee-jerk, "drugs are bad, mmmkay?", bent to strongly opinionated and poorly researched voters. I can't see National tackling this issue if it alienates their core voters (fairly conservative older white folk) so the Greens and Labour would have to tackle it. It'd be a tough PR battle, and a subject that the likes of Colin Craig/the Family First wingnuts would use as evidence that the sky is falling. We still have the same conservative posturing as the US, too, but when this issues comes to head - and it will - I hope that we find room for a grounded, reasonable national discourse. If that happens, there should eventually be public consensus for meaningful reform.

    South Korea • Since Dec 2012 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I think the war has different drivers here, and I don’t know that it’s the same war. For example, concern from leaders in poorer communities about the effects of drugs on their young people. It’s genuine, not posturing, and if we believe in decriminalisation/legalisation we need to communicate better the harm that current policy has on their young people as they become enmeshed in the “justice” system.

    Quite so. On the other hand, it may well be that major reform in other places will help make reform more politically palatable here.

    The new Psychoactive Substances Bill is actually world-leading -- reformers the world over are watching to see how it goes. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future it's also critically flawed in ruling out of its process anything that's already illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Given the mounting evidence that synthetic cannabinoids are potentially much more risky than actual cannabis, that doesn't make any bloody sense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Konrad Kurta,

    All good points. I still think there’s a knee-jerk, “drugs are bad, mmmkay?”, bent to strongly opinionated and poorly researched voters. I can’t see National tackling this issue if it alienates their core voters (fairly conservative older white folk)

    Judith Collins is a particular offender. She's cynical to the core on this one. I don't know if she actually believes what she says, but she'll keep on saying it out of sheer political calculation.

    Peter Dunne, on the other hand, probably cops more stick than he deserves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Given the mounting evidence that synthetic cannabinoids are potentially much more risky than actual cannabis, that doesn't make any bloody sense.

    I can personally attest to that, having spent my 40th birthday at the A&E with an experienced stoner friend who make the mistake of popping outside to have a couple of puffs of Kronic. He actually lapsed into unconsciousness during dinner 4 times. It was quite bizarre, and unsettling, we thought he might be having a heart attack. But no, it was all the Kronic. In another incident, the same fellow (yes, he was this foolish) found himself confronted with armed police at his door, having called the police on himself during a Kronic induced psychotic break. In 10 years of smoking dope in large quantities, nothing like that had ever happened to him.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to BenWilson,

    10 years of smoking dope in large quantities, nothing like that had ever happened to him.

    Geezus!
    Marijuana has been used recreationally, medicinally, prophylactically for millenia-
    the human system copes with it…but new whacko crap – not.
    To downgrade the conversation- I think the same criterion applies to butter versus margerine (and yes, I am aware that certain human populations dont handle dairy products well-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    In 10 years of smoking dope in large quantities, nothing like that had ever happened to him.

    The crazy thing is that it might not have been the same Kronic he smoked a month before. The active ingredients get banned and swapped out whack-a-mole style.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The active ingredients get banned and swapped out whack-a-mole style

    Yup and it's not clear if it was all synthetic cannabis either. Those effects smacked of an actual tranquilizer. Noticing him all silent, I asked him if he felt a bit sick when the dinner arrived and then his eyes rolled back and he fell toward me - I caught his head to prevent him going into the pasta, and held him for about 30 seconds, another person bracing him beside, and then he regained consciousness and had no memory that it had happened at all. This repeated several times (although he was sitting on the floor after the second time, waiting for an ambulance to come). In between the bouts of unconsciousness he was completely lucid. It was really bizarre. I'll certainly remember that birthday party.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Sounds Wicked! But one does wonder, why not just have pot and meth, if that's your thing? As he concludes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    This government, and any government that follows, will have a real problem with anything 'evidence-based' because that will entail including alcohol in the equation. We all saw recently how government deals with any regulation of the alcohol industry, i.e. cave in. It is very difficult to be teaching the kids all about harm reduction and science-based studies, and regulating access to currently illegal drugs, while at the same time pumping out ads for alcohol on TV, cinema, newspaper, etc.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Which does raise the interesting question of how much overlap currently exists between the Christian Right and the narcoconservative 'anti-drug' pressure groups. Konrad is quite right about the Conservative Party and drug prohibitionism, given recent comments by Colin C on that very matter. They've got a funny way of showing it with alcohol policy, given that when marriage equality emerged as an issue, everything else was immediately neglected (including the Alcohol Law Reform Act).

    Still, one does suspect that given marriage equality and adoption reform will mostly conclude LGBT legislative reform apart from more substantive protections for the transgender community, the Christian Right will cast around for something else to depict as A Threat to The Family Unit. I suspect either euthanasia and/or drug policy will be the Moral Panics du jour in that context.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    Indeed, the hypocrisy of the "soft on booze, hard on weed" brigade knows no bounds. Could one reason be that the financial model of cannabis is inherently anarchistic? The fact that Du Pont was a major player in getting it banned in the States, in order to protect its chemical industry patch, speaks volumes.

    Another theory is plain old racism - given W.R.Hearst's Mexophobic spin on the whole thing in the first place. According to Michelle Alexander, Jim Crow never died out, but rather it mutated into the War on Drugs.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4252 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    And yet, as long as anything but NORML are the face of reform, the conversation will stall. I imagine it will take a Gareth Morgan style figure to charge a public debate; someone squarely from middle-and-respected New Zealand.

    (Not that Morgan can assume that mantle comfortably any time soon, he's said too much.)

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2132 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Ross Bell,

    I would be interested to hear from a biochemist on that. My semi-educated thought would be that receptors don't work like that - some kind of ester of two psychoactive molecules is unlikely to behave like either or both of them.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4444 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    The couple of times I tried Kronic it was actually really nice.

    [insert Labour leader here]

    God I wish someone would.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    NORML and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis, George, but you're right. They don't seem to realise that they're seen as single-issue zealots, apart from the medicinal cannabis issue. It's sad, really. A serious senior politician needs to sit down with them and tell them the political facts of life.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 370 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4252 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to DeepRed,

    Like these guys are suggesting:

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1189 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    and while I'm off the subject::

    http://archive.org/details/reefer_madness1938

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1189 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Same comment as I made in a previous thread and as pointed out at the end of the post...

    We should really stop doing what doesn't work and try something else.

    But in this case it's more complex. I see two big problems with stopping the current response, first is too many people profit from the status quo - on both sides. Not just the people making money selling drugs but also the people making money enforcing the "war on drugs". Both groups have sufficient funds to corrupt just about anyone and do.

    But the second problem is that it is not entirely clear what the aim of the the "war on drugs" really is. It is loudly not "reducing harm" yet harm is what is used to justify the war. It is also not that the public want to be drug free, far from it, the public are quite keen on their drugs of choice. It might be that people don't want to see the victims of drug abuse "in their back yard".

    Until there is widespread agreement on what the aim of any drug policy should really be (reducing harm would be a good start for me) then figuring our what works and what doesn't is going to be hard. Having sorted out the aim, the first problem remains.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3347 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Annnnnnd ... the backlash:

    A group of ex-US drug enforcement chiefs say Washington must crack down on marijuana use in two states that recently voted to legalise the drug.

    Eight former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) leaders urged the Obama administration to sue the states

    Sanho Tree is quoted:

    Sanho Tree, a drug policy analyst who supports legalisation, said the DEA chiefs' warnings were "scare tactics".

    Their letter is an attempt to goad the Obama administration into a show-down with the states in the Supreme Court, said Mr Tree, director of the drug policy project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

    "Most of these drug policy statements are about turf, which is really about budgets," said Mr Tree. He said drug enforcement agencies were attempting to "maintain a monopoly on doctrine".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18837 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Under the US Constitution, federal law trumps state law

    Not really. The federal government can only legislate for certain things. They purport to have authority over drug use under the Commerce Clause. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court (the members of which are political appointees and often not the best lawyers in the country, as they are here) is quite capable of declaring black to be white in these matters.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4444 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Until there is widespread agreement on what the aim of any drug policy should really be (reducing harm would be a good start for me) then figuring our what works and what doesn't is going to be hard.

    Totally agree on your main point here, aimlessness is really pernicious in policy. But I think the idea of harm reduction needs to be firmed up a lot, too, before I would not see it as having prohibition as a final resting state also. It's still a philosophy that treats the desire to do any drugs as an illness. If so, our entire drinking society is sick to the core, and over time the aim of such policy would be to cure us of our drinking.

    I think it's an improvement on punitive prohibition, sure, but, as I see it, there still needs to be developed an angle which takes into account the actual positive reasons that people might want to do drugs. The idea that our society is a morass of various kinds of illnesses to be cured is still puritanically motivated, IMHO. It's a kind of thinking that has no limit to what kind of things it could cure - the only criterion is that they cause some harm somewhere. So people need to be cured of their BDSM, their enjoyment of extreme sports, their reliance on fossil fuel produced food...so it goes. If the counter arguments aren't to rely entirely on tradition ("Well, we've always been allowed to use a chainsaw before!!") then some kind of framework is needed that takes the positive side of the utilitarian equation (from whence the harm-reduction ethos first came) into account.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8499 posts Report Reply

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