As it is, the drug courts are currently restricted to youth offenders...
Not sure where you get that information. None of the Australian ones of which I'm aware have that restriction. Victoria's, for instance, is wide-ranging and inclusive:
The Drug Court sentences and supervises the treatment of serious offenders with drug or alcohol dependency who have committed an offence under the influence of drugs, or to support a drug or alcohol habit. An offender in the Drug Court is sentenced to a two-year Drug Treatment Order, which involves a suspended custodial sentence and a treatment program aimed at addressing the offender's substance abuse.
...who are, most likely, dealing with behavioural problems - the drug use is probably symptomatic of and peripheral to the real problems.
Well effective Drug Courts have agencies who deal with more than just drugs. They tackle homelessness, joblessness, mental illness... whatever it takes to rehabilitate the offender without adding a criminal record to their list of problems.
With enactogens (Ecstacy/MDMA, mephedrone, etc) a similar thing happens, except that obsessive self-monitoring is characteristic of their effect
Thus, presumably, the cases of death or near-death from hyponatraemia (too great an intake of water) by users of such drugs? (Though I realise the numbers are so small - something like 7 death per million uses - that they've been significantly overemphasised in much anti-drug literature).
I'd thought that it was pretty much only hallucinogens which were quite good at making you realise how impaired you were and everything else (particularly alcohol) was susceptible to the "I'll be fine if I just have one more" syndrome? Some qualitative research with users rather than just reliance on statistics (where cause and effect are often conflated and/or confused) would be useful, but try finding funding for that :-/
Ideally, there would be an "at your own reasonable risk" standard
And that's why I don't think drug education is necessarily, as you state above, a waste of money even for those caught with small amounts. A lot of people (as illustrated by the examples above) don't realise how much is too much till they're taking too much and they're past realising anything at all.
OTOH spending vast amounts to tell me and countless other boring stay-at-homes via expensive TV commercials that P is bad, mmmkay, is money that could be better spent on engaging directly and intelligently (and compassionately) with anyone who's shown themselves to be inclined to take recreational drugs by virtue of their possession of small quantities thereof.
Once armed with the knowledge of what's reasonable and what the risks are, then people can take responsibility for themselves armed with the information they need to make judgements and dear old Nanny State can STFU and stop telling us how to behave.
Ferchrissakes I've just heard the Premier of WA telling the media he's "fed up with the larrikin behaviour" of his subjects... sorry, constitutents... as if that is going to do the slightest bit of good. In fact I now have an overwhelming urge to drink to excess and vomit in his begonias.
Any sensible political discourse relating to our drug laws has just become alot more unlikely with the selection of Mike Sabin as the National candidate for Northland.
Yeah I'm with Russell in the "not so sure" corner. I was pointed (by a Kiwiblogger, of all people) to an exchange he'd had with some "zero tolerance" campaigner hoping to enlist his backing when he was running his business.
His response amounted to "I'm a businessman, not a moral crusader" and "my business is about helping other businesses detect and deal appropriately with drug use by staff, not stake burning". That's the kind of pragmatic approach that, slightly altered to suit his new job, could be hugely positive.
So there may be hope there... but I'd say he needs to be engaged with post haste (and we should probably try to avoid leaping to negative conclusions about him before he's had a chance to engage and proffer an opinion based on the information he's given... that just tends to annoy the person you're hoping to lobby).
I'm still not sure if I should post this, but here goes...
I feel one of the major obstacles to harm minimisation efforts as discussed here are the organisations who follow the "12 Step" method of recovery. Their very firm belief is that total abstinence is the only way forward and many of those involved are highly antipathetic toward harm minimisation strategies.
I'm loathe to point this out because many of those people are individuals I admire and to whom I owe countless debts of gratitude for the help they have given to others at my behest. And because, for many people, abstinence does work. Just not everyone; or just not right away... sometimes it needs to be approached via reduction, substitution and other techniques.
The other barrier to change these organisations represent is, paradoxically, their anonymity. An addict can of course choose to "out" themselves, but it's frowned on by many. Thus getting someone whose life experience would be both useful and inspirational to engage publicly in debate on these issues is often impossible. There are vast resources of knowledge and experience locked up behind the door marked "_______ Anonymous", unavailable to you unless you attend. And to do so unless you're an addict yourself would be a gross breach of trust and protocol.
I know, for instance, a man of formidable intellect and courage who worked alongside Timothy Leary. The journalist part of me wants to sit him down in front of a camera; the justice policy advocate part of me wants to do the same thing for different reasons; he, however, maintains his anonymity as he is part of Narcotics Anonymous and I of course respect that.
But the educational value of a man who was there at the birth of the "counter culture" talking about those times and his experience with addiction... it quite literally pains me to see that insight unable to be more widely shared -- with policy-makers, borderline addicts, those thinking of indulging, and the wider public.
People like to get their consciousness altered... I don't think it really matters how.
Perhaps not (though the junkies I've worked with tell me it does, if they have any sort of choice at all), but it certainly matters when you want to rid yourself of the monkey on your back and you -- addicted as you are to stimulants -- find that the only legal option on offer is methadone, a depressant.
Even for those addicted to opiates there are cleaner alternatives (morphine, even prescription heroin) but, having got methadone past the wowsers, it seems no one in charge of drug policy wants to risk suggesting that perhaps doctors need more than a single tool in their kits lest it result in knees jerking against the use of anything at all.
It looks like being a non-useful exercise in stunt broadcasting.
I'm a bit ambiguous about such things... TV always dives straight for the bottom of the barrel (present company excepted, of course) but having seen the same exercise undertaken for alcohol occasionally I'd have to say that if it's done well it can serve an educative function.
I can even cite a personal instance, albeit a "backwards" one in terms of this topic: Mythbusters did an episode comparing drink driving and talking on a mobile while driving. Sure it was "fun" seeing the team get drunk but the eventual message -- that talking on a mobile (something I'd done regularly) is almost as dangerous as driving drunk (something I was proud of having never done, even in my yoof) -- actually did serve to educate me in a way no amount of heavy-handed "road safety" commercials would ever do.
If Channel 4's effort makes people aware that after x amount of drugs it's not a good idea to do y because you're actually much more impaired than you thought, it could do far more good than harm. Especially when young people have begun losing their lives to planking, an activity I can't imagine undertaking unless you're at least a little farked up.
The Law Commission review does not propose legalisation or decriminalisation of presently banned substances … emphasis on the balance shifting towards the Ministry of Health and away from the criminal justice system
One way of achieving this with minimal fright to timid politicians, while also neutralising a lot of macho police blather and generally keeping the horses calm is to introduce “drug courts”.
Their position in the criminal justice system means they gain widespread acceptance in a way that public health programs (as substitiutes for “puniutive” responses) wouldn’t, but when you look behind what they do they are public health programs, with the “sentence” usually amounting to “go away and get well”, and then the various agencies (who are sitting at the back of the court) swoop in and provide the means to do so.
Do, please, take the time to read Gerald Waters’ comprehensive overview of how it might work in NZ and offer some comment (pdf file). I was going to blog on it but haven’t had time and since Russell has opportunely raised the issue, I’ll blithely hijack his thread :-D
Disclaimer: Gerald interviewed me (WA has remarkably effective drug courts – the only problem is getting people there while the police fight tooth and nail to keep them in the “real” courts) but, aside from that, his report is filled with good sense and much research.
P.S. Might I recommend him as a Media 7 participant, RB? His email is on his website so I assume he won’t mind me mentioning it here: firstname.lastname@example.org
even murderous religious fascists deserve a fair trial
Coming very late to this debate, but having read the very many well considered opinions I come back to NRT's as the one which best encapsulates my own. We caught someone whose ranking on the 'evil scale' is up there with Stalin and Pol Pot - yay!! We shot him in the face when he was unarmed - y... wait, what?
Francis Bacon's essay "On Revenge" is, IMHO, still a touchstone in these situations:
Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out...
The most tolerable sort of revenge, is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy; but then let a man take heed, the revenge be such as there is no law to punish; else a man's enemy is still before hand, and it is two for one.
We have laws capable of taking our revenge, even for genocide in the name of bigotry. Abandoning them emboldens our enemies and dispirits those who would otherwise cheer the accomplishment without reservation.
Dismissing facts as opinions is one of the existential problems with the modern conservative movement.
Arrrgh, yes! I'm so used to actually debating people with views opposing my own that I become quite flummoxed by this approach (which is, of course, what it's designed to do).
Here in delightful Western Australia ("We loved the 1950s so much we decided to stay there") the Attorney General is fond of saying "I don't accept that". The speaker can be some looney liberal civil libertarian like myself or some clearly no-nonsense prison officer with several decades of experience under her belt, who both challenged him at the same meeting, and that's the stock answer.
That and "show me the statistics". That worked for about a year, as we all laboured to do peer-reviewed research. Then he'd look at the quantitative data and say, you guessed it, "I don't accept that".
He's also a habitual user of "air quotes" when talking about those whose views differ from his own. He recently addressed a conference I was MCing (wearing my professional hat, so I had to STFU) and referred to a prominent critic as "the (airquote) ee-con-o-mist (airquote)..." The fact that the man he was belittling is a well-respected professor and has been since the AG was in short pants didn't, of course, matter.
"I don't accept that the smell of smoke and brimstone means we're all going to hell in a handbasket. And that (airquote) dev-vil (airquote) has yet to present any credible statistics as to our pending damnation" is, sadly, quite an effective debating technique, as it leaves your opponent homicidal with rage but struggling to appear just as calm and reasonable as you look. Or that might just be me, I don't know.