Monday, October 24, 2016

Big Pharma shells out to block cannabis legalisation

It's always been interesting to see who spends money to fight legalisation - big pharma, the alcohol industry and police and jail unions - all keen on scaring the public to increase their budgets and profits.
Here's the latest in the saga, as Arizona takes the plunge.

"For big pharma, however, an expanding amount of data explains their fears. Opiate overdoses dropped by roughly 25% in states that have legalized medical marijuana"

The company that produces Fentanyl, 100 times stronger than morphine, is paying big bucks to stall cannabis legalisation.

It's interesting to see the copy used in the anti-cannabis ads. They remind me of ads opposing marriage equality they showed on Gruen. We truly live in a post-truth world.

One ad says: "Colorado schools were promised millions in new revenues when the state approved recreational pot use", says the voiceover in one ad. Instead, schoolchildren were plagued by “marijuana edibles that look like candy."

While the candy-like edibles were definitely a regulatory oversight (now rectified I believe), the ads ignore real benefits like this:

"In Colorado alone, marijuana sales reached $996m in 2015 and raked in $135m in tax revenue. Towns have earmarked the money for road improvements, recreation centers and scholarships for low-income students."

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Legal cannabis revenues deliver major economic boost

The Marijuana Policy Project in the USA has been researching legal sales revenues for cannabis.
In the report, Arcview found that the legal marijuana market grew from $4.6 billion in 2014 to $5.7 billion in 2015, while also projecting that the 2016 market will be $7.1 billion. This incredible growth is the result of enacting new state-level marijuana laws, mostly driven by MPP.
These results must cause fiscal conservatives and prohibitionists some discomfort as it becomes more and more obvious that their ideology robs the public purse and makes their beloved tax cuts less feasible. Wedged and on the wrong side of history!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

NSW population study of medicinal cannabis challenges the official program

Further to my previous post, which questioned the approach to medicinal cannabis research being taken by the Mike Baird government, the ABC reported today on a Sydney University study in which parents of epileptic children who are being treating with the illegal substance are being asked to tell their stories.

I had been wondering why the academic conducting the official research, Professor Jennifer Martin from Newcastle University, had published the opinion piece (linked above) years before her research was complete. The piece talked up the risks of the drug and argued for the Big Pharma approach of finding selected molecules from cannabis and offering them as a (presumably) patented medicine. Academics usually go public only when research is complete and has been peer-reviewed.

When I heard today's news a penny dropped. Perhaps the Sydney University study, looking at actual users of the whole oil, might threaten the direction Mike Baird and Professor Martin have taken?

Ms Martin claimed:
There seems to be a sudden rush to make it available, as if the world was going to run out, or the evidence to use it was new and overwhelmingly good. Sadly, none of this is a reality. There is no new evidence.
If that's what the professor and her colleagues think, perhaps they are concerned that more such evidence will emerge from the Sydney University study, and that could disrupt and discredit their own line of research?

Such internecine rivalry is not unknown in academia. This might explain the unusual opinion piece with its several questionable arguments - an attempt to sway public opinion to the conservative, Big Pharma prohibitionist side.

 Given the wealth of anecdotal evidence about the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, the parents of afflicted children may not agree with Professor Martin and her view that "we already have safe and effective therapies available" and there is no need to hurry with legalisation.

One mother of a child with severe epilepsy, quoted in the ABC story, reports:
Within a week the seizures had gone from 20 or 30 big ones a day and 100 little ones, to probably four in a week - it was amazing.
Perhaps that mother is lying, but what on earth would she gain from that? She's risking a lot outing herself as a buyer of an illegal substance. If she's not lying, Professor Martin's assertions seem both highly contestable and distinctly lacking empathy.

And of course Professor Martin seems to fall into the old prohibitionist fallacy: that cannabis should remain illegal because there is no evidence of its medical benefits, while on the other hand there is little evidence because the substance is illegal and unbiased research on it has been actively suppressed by prohibitionist governments.

Professor Martin falsely conflates medical cannabis - which, properly produced, has little or no psychoactive effect and is usually taken as oil - with smoking marijuana recreationally. Even the picture with her article shows chopped green cannabis, ready to smoke, next to a baby monitor. Scary perhaps but quite misleading.

Monday, August 15, 2016

NSW is legalising medical cannabis - so why is it devolving into a Big Pharma spinfest?

Something very strange is happening in NSW. To the surprise of many, Liberal Premier Mike Baird last year announced he would legalise medical cannabis. He cited the plight of Lucy Haslam from Tamworth whose son had an incurable fatal condition and who received palliation from cannabis oil where normal treatments had failed. Her sterling activism had apparently shifted the mountain, although her son has sadly since passed away.

This seemed strange because Mike Baird appears to be in lockstep with Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, and the police always oppose any moves to legalise cannabis because they garner huge budgets from prohibition. And Big Pharma always opposes it because anyone can grow it and it might threaten sales of their own drugs. In fact that's happening - the use of pharmaceutical painkillers is dropping rapidly in US states which have legalised medical cannabis.

But wait. People in the know tell me that actual cannabis oil will not be legalised - the research ball has been thrown to the pharmaceutical industry to extract relevant molecules from cannabis and produce medicines accordingly.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The real risks of drug driving and drunk driving

With the NSW police tripling their drug-driving tests, especially targeting cannabis, it's worth noting the actual risks involved.

In summary, cannabis increases the risk of a fatal accident: 1.8x

Opioids: 3x

Stimulants including meth: 3.7x

Benzos (Valium etc): 4.8x

Alcohol at .02 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) - which is legal for most drivers: 4x

Alcohol at 0.8 BAC: 13x

Alcohol at 0.16 BAC: 35x

[As an interesting aside, people with Sleep Apnea are 7-8 times more likely to crash a car than people without the condition - As reported on ABC's PM program 4/7/2016]

Full details below courtesy of Paul Dessauer:

Drug use and fatal motor vehicle crashes:
A case-control study.
Guohua Li et al
Accident Analysis and Prevention Sept 2013

<<< ABSTRACT Drugged driving is a serious safety concern, but its role in motor vehicle crashes has not been adequately studied. Using a case-control design, the authors assessed the association between drug use and fatal crash risk. Cases (n=737) were drivers who were involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes in the continental United States during specific time periods in 2007, and controls (n=7719) were participants of the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers. Overall, 31.9% of the cases and 13.7% of the controls tested positive for at least one non-alcohol drug. The estimated odds ratios of fatal crash involvement associated with specific drug categories were 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.39, 2.39] for marijuana, 3.03 (95% CI: 2.00, 4.48) for narcotics, 3.57 (95% CI: 2.63, 4.76) for stimulants, and 4.83 (95% CI: 3.18, 7.21) for depressants. Drivers who tested positive for both alcohol and drugs were at substantially heightened risk relative to those using neither alcohol nor drugs (Odds Ratio=23.24; 95% CI: 17.79, 30.28). These results indicate that drug use is associated with a significantly increased risk of fatal crash involvement, particularly when used in combination with alcohol. >>>

Full text available;
https://www.cuinjuryresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Li-et-al-AAP-2013.pdf​

Drivers who tested positive for cannabis (detected either as actual THC in blood or THC-COOH metabolites in saliva) were found to have a 1.81:1 odds ratio – this equates to roughly an 81% greater chance of a fatal accident. Another way to express this is that a driver’s current cannabis intoxication increases the risk of road fatality by 1.8 times.

The study also examined prescribed pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in the following classes;

Opioids such as morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone were found to have an odds ratio of 3.03:1, ( or three times the risk) of fatal crash.

Stimulants such as methamphetamine, dexamphetamine, methylphenidate and phentermine have a 3.57:1 odds ratio, ( >three and a half times the risk)

Benzodiazepines such as valium or alprazolam registered a 4.83:1 risk, (nearly five times the risk).

The study compared these risk levels to alcohol, alone and in combination with other substances;

Alcohol, absent any other drug in the driver’s system, had an odds ratio of 13.64:1 (more than thirteen and a half times the risk of a sober driver).

This risk was even worse in drivers with alcohol and other drugs in their system- averaged over all it was 3.41:1.
Cannabis plus alcohol recorded the highest risk of all- this combination had an odds ratio of 23.24:1 (which is roughly equivalent to the risk associated with a driver who has not consumed cannabis or any other drugs, but who has a blood alcohol level of 0.1)

Just to put these figures into perspective, cannabis alone increased the risk of a fatal collision by 1.8 times.

Drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.02 (BAC)  have a risk of fatal collision 4 times greater than sober drivers.
(Of course, in Australia we let people with a BAC of up to 0.05 drive on our roads every day).

A blood alcohol level of 0.08 BAC increases risk of fatality 13 times.
(In many US states this is still the legal limit).

A BAC of 0.12 increases risk by 25 times.

A BAC of 0.16 increases risk 35 times.

http://www.wigmoreonalcohol.com/meta-analysis-of-fmvc-risk-at-low-bac/

Alcohol intoxication is responsible for approximately ¼ of all motor vehicle fatalities.

There is an excellent discussion of cannabis, alcohol, and motor vehicle fatalities, including some of the confounders, (such as age and gender), and the uncertainties (eg serum levels of THC are a less effective measure of impairment than blood alcohol levels),  here;
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/

Please be aware that I do not endorse driving under the influence of any psychoactive drug. Except perhaps coffee.
Please be aware that I do endorse and advocate for evidence-based policy.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Drug testing drivers doesn't work, but Duncan Gay doesn't care

"Evidence-based" seems to be a term not comprehended by some NSW Coalition ministers, especially the National Party's Duncan Gay, Roads Minister.

The decision to drastically ramp up drug testing on NSW drivers, despite the program being almost farcically ineffective, demonstrates again the ideological fairyland inhabited by Gay and his colleagues.

Too bad for the victims of this pogrom.

Greens MLC David Shoebridge has posted a comprehensive rebuttal of the program which should be read by all drivers, especially Duncan Gay.

But it's a cinch the man who just increased penalties for bike-riders by 350% won't bother. After all, those pesky bike-riders all probably smoke dope anyway, right Duncan? And after all, the rash of 4WDs being written off by cyclists just demands action, right?

You're an intellectual giant mate.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Large, long term study shows no health harms from cannabis

I've always said we needed large population studies to properly assess the long-term effects of smoking cannabis. It's too easy to skew small reductive studies, as we have repeatedly seen.

This one is a huge study of 408 males tracked from adolescence into their mid-30s and it found no difference between heavy early-onset smokers and low/non-users:
Findings from latent class growth curve analysis identified 4 distinct subgroups of marijuana users: early onset chronic users, late increasing users, adolescence-limited users, and low/nonusers. Results indicated that the 4 marijuana use trajectory groups were not significantly different in terms of their physical and mental health problems assessed in the mid-30s.
Strangely enough, it doesn't seem to be getting much of a run in the media.

The War on Drugs is unjust nonsense.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Andrew Colvin self-promotes at expense of executed men

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin thinks the
futile War on Drugs is more important than young lives.
It’s disgusting – these senior police protecting their own pointless jobs by pleading Drug War platitudes. In refusing to apologise for the Indonesian executions, AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin ignored that most heroin casualties occur BECAUSE it is illegal, and ignores the success of supervised injecting centres in preventing overdoses and deaths – a far cheaper option than the ever more privatised drug enforcement and jail industry. And he deflects the question raised by Senator Xenophon – why couldn’t the Bali Nine have been arrested on their return to Australia and these executions prevented?
Typically, Andrew Colvin uses the same dodgy stats that Indonesia's President Widodo used to whip up horror at "the scourge of drugs" - "Families and communities destroyed by drugs" - "4,000 deaths from heroin (and other opiods)" over four years - and they've taken enough heroin off the streets for "eight hits for every man, woman and CHILD in Australia" (neatly keeping the price up so criminals are eternally attracted to the trade and the cops keep their budgets, promotions and jobs) etc etc. He didn't even come up with a new cliché.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Stoned bunnies: More hilarious nonsense from the DEA

Maybe it's already happening? I found this one in Kings Cross.
Prohibitionists are really scraping the bottom of the spin barrel in their desperate campaign to preserve their jobs. If they had any sensible arguments they wouldn't have to plead this tripe.

A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent seriously told a Utah senate committee that legalising medical marijuana would lead to an epidemic of stoned rabbits. Ignoring of course that legal growers would simply fence off their crops from animals.

Agent Matt Fairbanks also brought up the spectre of illegal pot crops doing environmental damage, which is true. All the more reason to legalise it, you idiot!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/02/dea-warns-of-stoned-rabbits-if-utah-passes-medical-marijuana/

Monday, February 23, 2015

Indonesia's death penalty based on ludicrous evidence

With the 'Bali Two' facing likely execution in Indonesia, a politically threatened government is quoting "50 deaths per day because of drugs" to justify their populist decision to execute all convicted drug dealers including the Australians.

But the "50 deaths per day" is a rubbery extrapolation based, it seems, on only three (3) reports by other people that someone they knew "died because of drugs". This is not evidence in any accepted sense of the word.

Yes we know that drugs can be problematic for a very small minority of users but you will always find that these unfortunate people have other serious problems in their lives, so it's a bit facile to simply blame the drugs. It's also facile to think that prohibition stops the problems - in fact it causes most of them, as per the below billboard erected by former US drug police who have the courage to tell the truth.




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stoned driving not actually dangerous says official US traffic study


"Drivers who use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk of being in a crash than drivers who use alcohol, a new study from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows.

"And after adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than those who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving, it found."
Still the demonisation continues, with Hunter region police regularly in the media reporting apparently shocking results when they do roadside drug test blitzes - with 30%-40% of drivers showing positive to cannabis. This sort of scare tactic means penalties for drug driving are at least equal to those for drunk driving. Not only is this stupid and unfair but the huge state budget allocated to its enforcement is simply a waste. However this massive budget might provide a clue why police are so keen to continue their scare campaign.

http://www.smh.com.au/world/stoned-drivers-are-a-lot-safer-than-drunk-ones-official-us-data-shows-20150209-13a7n0.html

Monday, September 01, 2014

Legal pot is not causing the sky to fall

More early data coming out of Colorado indicates that the legalisation of cannabis has not resulted in more young people consuming it - rather, the trend is in the opposite direction. Sooner or later, I think prohibitionists are going to have to give up one of their central justifications - their claim that legalisation will create "a tsunami of stoned zombies" wandering the streets. It was always a circular argument, based only on the assumption that prohibition prevented use in the first place.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The rich, ugly faces of prohibition again rear their lying heads

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson teamed up with Mel and Betty Sembler on Fred Thompson's
disastrous 2008 presidential campaign, too. Photo via Flickr user freddthompson
As usual when a serious pot law reform emerges, the lid is lifted off a vile, self-interested hypocritical pit of prohibitionists. Cops, the jail industry, the casino industry and people with drug-testing companies spew any lie they can think of to fool the people into voting their way. The most recent example is in Florida and this excellent piece in VICE lifts the lid off the rotten cauldron.
...the Drug Free America Foundation is a legal entity that has existed since the 1970s under the old name STRAIGHT Inc. Under the previous brand, the foundation operated as a drug rehab center that was embroiled in multiple scandals for allegedly torturing children who had been admitted for experimenting with pot.
...When cops bust a marijuana dealing operation, they employ something called asset forfeiture to seize property and auction it off. The process has generated over $1 billion for law enforcement divisions around the country since 2002
Just so you know what's really behind the anti-pot propaganda.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Wizard of Oz and the opium effect

I was kindly given a 50" plasma TV on Saturday. After setting it up - and the set top box - with no manuals the rest of the weekend was a binge. Top pick, The Wizard of Oz. No wonder a whole generation grew up liking psychedelics!
In which Dorothy gets knocked out in an opium poppy field

"There will be no carbon tax in the Land of Oz!"

If only we could so simply escape the craziness.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Police forget to mention .268 blood alcohol in 'stoned driver' crash

Police really don't like it when pot gets legalised. They lose lots of budget, an easy way to boost their arrest statistics disappears and perhaps worst of all, there's all that property they can't confiscate any more.

So it looks as if, at least in one case in Colorado, they will go to any lengths to demonise legalisation. When a young guy crashed into two police cars blocking a freeway exit (with emergency lights flashing), they portrayed him as a stoned driver and forgot to mention his eye-crossing .268 percent blood alcohol content.

So really it was an extremely drunk driver with some cannabis also in his blood. As alcohol is many more times dangerous than cannabis for driving risk, the police story, gleefully amplified right across the media, is pretty close to an outright lie.

Kudos to The Washington Post (link above) for correcting the BS with their story headlined: "Colorado’s poster boy for ‘stoned driving’ was drunk off his gourd".

See my previous post for a rundown on how the prohibitionists are whipping up a scare campaign opposing legalisation in Colorado. The following graph from that Vox link puts things into perspective:




Thursday, June 05, 2014

Prohibitionists try to demonise Colorado legalisation

Prohibitionist Kevin Sabet continues to throw up a moral panic smokescreen about cannabis legalisation in Colorado on behalf of SAM - Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Sabet's latest portrays a pandemic of children admitted to hospital after ingesting legal cannabis, and more claims suggesting an epidemic of stoned drivers.

And Maureen Dowd, a New York journalist ingested possibly 16 times the recommended dose of cannabis and overdosed, having a pretty bad time which she described in print. Now, for some reason, she's not so keen on legalisation, even though it's equally possible to overdose under prohibition (in which case there's more reason for your paranoia!).

Indeed it seems that recommended doses are not printed on the labels of the cannabis candies, and it seemed Dowd was not advised and indeed didn't ask how much she should have taken - elementary information you gather before taking a couple of Aspirins.

These are good arguments for better regulation, not prohibition.

Luckily some astute writers have taken apart this latest wave of prohibitionist panic, showing that the problems happen to only a tiny minority of users, crime has gone down and even major pot seizures by Police in neighbouring states have plummeted.

Maureen Dowd's column is critiqued here and Kevin Sabet gets a dose of reality here.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A bouncer speaks his mind on the Cross

Chris is a Kings Cross Times reader who decided to throw in his two cents worth - hopefully he'll follow up with some titillating details!

My name is Chris Zlomanczuk. I've been working the doors in Kings Cross for years. I'm 25 born and bred in Sydney, have been been trying to break through as an actor for years and also have various business inspirations.

I've been working the doors since the age of 18 so I see a very different Kings Cross from the sensational headlines - although many of them are true.

There are too many names to recollect and too many faces to remember... I was scampered into strip joint THE LOVE MACHINE at age 15 and have since worked the strip at such places as Springfields bar, The Elk, The Bourbon, Empire, Sugarmill. Kit and Kaboodle, Piano Room, The Vegas, Trademark and Hugos and more. I've dined with legendary actors and business people at the famous Tropicana on Victoria St, the Piccolo on Roslyn, Cafe Hernandez on Kings Cross Rd, Bar Coluzzi on Victoria St. KINGS CROSS is a great place. I feel safer there with a local than anywhere, and it's not boring.

If I get sick of coffee shops I can head to other scenes - to The Stables Theatre for a show, or mixing and mingling with all sorts, sex workers, drug addicts, drug dealers, actors, dancers. singers, artists of all kinds. None of these people match the popular image put on them by the media.

Here, no one should be judged but unfortunately Kings cross will always be judged by the ignorant, including journalists and politicians. I've seen grams of heroin being dealt, heroin shot-up, I've seen and heard gun shots and massive Bikie brawls and still felt safe. It's all personal, and nothing to do with anyone unless you're looking for it....Kings cross is what it is and maybe everyone should lighten up and enjoy the colour!

Shock, horror! Pot causes heart attacks (or does it?)

You may have heard a few stories recently of people keeling over from a heart attack after smoking cannabis. While there is probably some increased risk from indulging for some people, at least one 'study' turns out to be very dodgy. It's been picked apart on the Alternet site:
The impetus for the mainstream media’s most recent fixation with the alleged dangers of pot is a French study, published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Investigators reviewed data collected by the French Addictovigilance Network, a national database of adverse case reports involving psychoactive substances, between the years 2006 to 2010.
Among the 9,936 total drug-related cases in the database, authors identified 35 cases (0.4 percent) in which both cardiovascular complications and cannabis were referenced.
Apart from the fact that 60% of the subjects also smoked tobacco, according to Alternet:
...it is unclear whether these subjects used cannabis in the hours prior to any adverse event. Toxicological analyses identified THC, marijuana’s primary psychoactive compound, in only 13 of the 35 total cases. In the other 22 cases, no toxicology result was available; cannabis was simply referenced in the subjects’ medical file. In all but three cases, marijuana was referenced in conjunction with other substances, some of which are well associated with health risks, such as cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, and opiates.
More detail in the original story (linked above).

Friday, May 02, 2014

Prohibitionists keep flogging evidence-free fearmongering

The increasing legalisation of cannabis in the US is putting prohibitionists further and further onto 'the back foot' as actual data emerge that contradict their fear memes. A chief among these is their claim that moves towards legalisation would "send the wrong message" and increase use among teens. Evidence that it isn't doing so has not stopped them from making the claim, as you can see at the bottom of this email chain (the email on behalf of prohibitionist Gary Christian). One point made is that, under legalisation, advertising and marketing of cannabis should NOT be allowed.


-----------------------------------------------
(Email from Paul Desseaur)

Here’s a similar article;

http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/newsarticle.aspx?articleid=1864116

(BTW- Why am I not surprised that Robert DuPont, (who, with his partner Bensinger makes millions per-annum from immunoassay urine screening), is opposed to any legalisation of cannabis use?).http://www.activistpost.com/2013/03/ex-dea-chief-lobbying-holder-to-nullify.html

This one sentence underpins the argument of the AACAP statement you have posted;

<<< Legalization of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, even if restricted to adults, is likely to be associated with (a) decreased adolescent perceptions of marijuana’s harmful effects, (b) increased marijuana use among parents and caretakers, and (c) increased adolescent access to marijuana, all of which reliably predict increased rates of adolescent marijuana use and associated problems. >>>

Is there any evidentiary basis to these assertions?

The chain of reasoning seems intuitively logical, but what does the published research tell us?

The authors reference two articles to support that sentence, the first is this one;

Legalization of Marijuana: Potential Impact on Youth, Joffe + Yancy, Pediatrics, 2004.

Full text here;

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/113/6/e632.full.pdf+html

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Watch this space - how long before Greg Hunt deletes this damning info on climate change?

Seems the Federal Government hasn't gotten around to pulling a web page that scientifically debunks global warming denier Ian Plimer's misleading nonsense. Crikey writes:
Plimer’s 2011 book —  How to Get Expelled From School (launched by John Howard and mailed by the IPA to hundreds of schools) — listed 101 questions for sceptical students to ask their “warmist” teachers, i.e. those who respect science. The federal Department of Climate Change (abolished by Abbott) prepared a response that thoroughly debunked his claims in words a child can understand. How long before Environment Minister Greg Hunt is instructed to have this demolition of Plimer taken down?
I've downloaded and saved the PDF but it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the truth to be hidden in the interests of Ian Plimer's fans like Gina Rinehart.

At the time of writing, the PDF is still online here.

I've previously blogged about Ian Plimer's unrepentant deceit here.

PS On 13 August 2014 the PDF is still up there on Greg Hunt's website. Perhaps Greg hasn't actually read it?

PPS today (18/8/16) I again checked the link and wouldn't you know it, it's gone! The department of misinformation has finally caught up. I will contact Crikey and let them know.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The US finances Mexico's biggest drug cartel: 100,000 die

This cash allegedly belonging to El Chapo was found in a car.
At the same time, the US was financing and arming his cartel.  
Well the Yanks certainly haven't changed their spots. Their recent much-publicised arrest of drug cartel supremo 'El Chapo' Guzman hides the fact that:
US agencies had armed and financed El Chapo's Sinaloa criminal empire for at least 12 years. That link has been substantiated by DEA and Justice Department court testimonies, and even US agents confirmed the financing had been approved by high-ranking officials and federal prosecutors. But the American media barely reported how entrenched the American government has become in the Mexican drug trade.
You can read more about it in this report from The Guardian.

Instead we got triumphal pictures of his arrest and a slew of 'gangster porn' - photos of his mansions, gold-plated guns and stacks of cash.

Back in 2012 they arrested El Chapo's son only it turned out they got a humble used car salesman instead. That didn't stop them parading him in front of a salad bar of weapons and cash (see pic below). If it was the wrong guy, where did the loot come from? This is just one of the more blatant examples of the total bullshit fed to us by War on Drugs propagandists. Meanwhile 100,000 people have been killed in the phoney War, many in horrendously brutal circumstances.
As The Guardian asks, "Why aren't we putting US agencies on trial for financing El Chapo's drug war?"
Oops, wrong guy! But if so, where did all the loot
and weaponry come from for this photo op?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Drug 'crimes' fuelling prison growth


I know prohibition doesn't seem to rate as an issue among Australian human rights campaigners, but if you think incarcerating hundreds of thousands of mainly non-white people for a victimless 'crime' is serious, prohibition should be up there with refugees and Indigenous health etc.

This graph from the Pew Research Centre lays it on the table.

This gobsmacking growth in prisoners is happening in a country on its straps financially, with States and the taxpayer bearing the massive cost of this misconceived blunder.

In Australia, drugs prohibition has brought about prison trends along the same lines while fuelling the daily shootings in "South-Western Sydney", gang crime and the bikie issue. Yet no-one in the government or the media EVER mentions this major root cause of the problems. Would you see an article about Al Capone that doesn't mention prohibition? Never ever. So why the disjunction here and now?

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This is a landmark in the War against Kings Cross

OK I was wrong. I had predicted that 1.30 lockouts and 3am closing would result in more violence as the Kings Cross crowds battled it out over taxis. But after three weeks of the new regime it seems the crowds have simply stopped coming. It's a landmark in the eternal War against Kings Cross.
Bayswater Road last Saturday night, showing one of several
trailer-mounted signs flashing the new regime.
I took these photos on Saturday night, when the trial closure of Bayswater Road to through traffic was being trialled. The signage flagged a 9pm closure but at 9.30 they didn't seem to be in place and the crowds and traffic were so sparse there didn't seem to be much point.
It looks as if the authorities, too, have been caught offguard at people's desertion of Sydney's late-night entertainment precinct.
It makes sense though - when I pointed out the lack of people at 9.30, a friend said "people will come later". But if there is no "later", why would they come?
People have to eat somewhere, then they have to get into the city, or they go somewhere local for some cheaper drinks before heading in. The crowds used to really hit after midnight. But what's the point of that if you are going to be locked out of all venues at 1.30? It's not worth the trip in from the 'burbs. In today's mobile phone-fuelled, flexible social landscape, people from all over the city move about, change venues and meet their friends anywhere. The 1.30 lockout freezes all that.
These ill-conceived rules were made by old farts who still think in terms of their distant youth, before mobile phones (and before drugs that help people party all night were common currency - you know, the ones that are "controlled" by prohibition). I have heard more than one old killjoy say things like "Why can't these people just go home by midnight".
The baby has truly thrown out with the bathwater and when the data are in, I now predict a sorry tale of  lost jobs, business failure and - if the data are even collected - the displacement of drunken violence to other areas and private homes.
Welcome to the nanny state.

PS I'm told 25 staff have been sacked from the Kings Cross Hotel alone after the lockouts reduced their average 1am crowd from 900 to 200.

Maybe the lockouts have an upside - The Vegas Hotel seems to be getting creative
about pulling customers, with bloke and girly shows. But these sexy boys were finding
it hard to pull girls from nearly non-existent crowds.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lockouts and new anti-alcohol laws simply deny the facts

There was a petition on the bar of my local against the NSW government's recent early lockout laws. I signed it. While I have been railing for years against this moral panic-driven nonsense, this piece by Bernard Keane on Crickey unpicks the hypocrisy of the laws and the media campaign behind it, particularly the shameful behaviour of the formerly trustworthy Sydney Morning Herald.

The piece is less than complimentary about media tart Dr Gordian Fulde from St Vincents Hospital, a doctrinaire prohibitionist who in my view should stick to his doctoring and keep his doctrines out of public commentary.

Writes Keane:
Fulde is insistent that violence is getting worse in Sydney and that alcohol is to blame. It is a claim that the Herald was happy to repeat. It is also a claim that is blatantly false... Last year’s Review of the Liquor Act 2007and Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007 showed that violent incidents on licensed premises had fallen 28% from 2007, and alcohol-related assaults had fallen 35% between 2008 and 2012. Assaults across NSW had also fallen significantly, as had hospital presentations for acute alcohol-related problems.
And for those who believe that review was a Big Grog conspiracy, you can go to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research site and look at the data yourself.
Here are the relevant data:

Keane again hits the nail on the head, ascribing the cheap populist campaign run by Sydney's newspapers to their plummetting circulation:
This takes us to the most relevant statistics about this whole sordid affair. The Sydney Morning Herald’s circulation is in freefall — it lost more than 15% of its circulation in the year to September. And in 2013, it fell 7 points in its readers’ trust, according to Essential Research’s trust in media survey, tumbling to 64%. The Telegraph is Australia’s least-trusted metro title — trusted by only 41% of its readers — and its circulation fell by nearly as much as the Herald’s in the year to September. They are two dying newspapers, each desperate to outdo the other.
The lockout laws so-far seem to be killing the Cross, which might please a few local NIMBYs but will cause hardship to all the hospitality workers and entertainers now thrown out of work.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Australia lags as world adapts to new industries

With the very public collapse of manufacturing in Australia you might think the country would nimbly leap to new industrial opportunities. Instead, we are losing them to more progressive nations.

Victoria's Hazelwood open-cut brown coal mine
still burning after some weeks.
Our race to the 19th century in fossil-based energy generation has robbed us of our once world-leading position in clean energy technology. Meanwhile South Korea, for instance, has a 3-month fast-track patent process for local innovations in clean energy, part of a program that devoted 2.7% of GDP to clean energy. By contrast, we have boosted our filthiest fossil fuel source, Victoria's brown coal mines, one of which is ironically now burning out of control after heatwave-induced bushfires. It is expected to burn for another two weeks. [Note: the fire was 'under control' as of 9 March - it burned for a little over four weeks. However there are coal mine fires on every continent except Antarctica including one in Pennsylvania that has burned since 1962.

Note#2: Radio National News reported on 21 March that the fire was officially "out"]

Then there is the Abbott Government's patchwork National Broadband Network. In a country ruled by 'the tyranny of distance', you might think state-of-the-art communications was essential.

The Coalition's internet connection vision.
But no, Malcolm Turnbull's fibre to the node concept will leave my copper connection to the home operating out of this pit just outside my front door (pictured). The cost savings inherent in this second-best model do not take into account the cost of repairing/replacing these copper tangles  left over from 100-year-old telephone technology. Impressive, no?

Now it's industrial hemp, a forest-saving, low irrigation crop with a thousand uses. As it has no intoxicating effects, there was never even any justification for banning it and now even the USA, which invented the ban, is legalising the growing of hemp. But conservative, backward Australia remains in the dark ages as it misses out on yet another opportunity to compete in the 21st century. Once the 'lucky country', should we now be known as the 'dumb country' as we race towards banana republic status?
Just say no - emblematic of Australia's
attitude to everything?


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Prohibitionists AGAIN caught out telling porkies


SAM head Kevin Sabet - he doesn't
look stupid, so why is he telling
idiotic porkies?
'It's like saying 10% of people in Australia, Canada and Bolivia scratch their ears before breakfast, therefore 30% of people scratch their ears before breakfast. Duh.'
It must be difficult for prohibitionists now the changing face of history is proving their arguments to be little but hot air and fear mongering. So you can understand why they have to fall back on complete nonsense to keep the uninformed scared. But you'd think they could at least add up, especially if they call their organisation Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM).

Close on the heels of their last misleading factoid, SAM's head Kevin Sabet has tweeted that - wait for it - 39% of HS students in Washington state report using marijuana that came from from a "medical" marijuana dispensary [his quote marks].

Shock, horror! See, they told us so - legalise it and a tsunami of pot smoking will destroy society!

Then Russ Belville from the Huffington Post looked at the source figures Sabet had quoted.  They showed only 14.9% of 12th-grade students said their pot usually came from a medical dispensary. The percentage fell for more junior grades, down to 3.8% for 9th graders.

Seems Sabet had simply added up all the percentages, apparently unaware that each one came from a different sample of people so adding them is nonsensical. It's like saying 10% of people in Australia, Canada and Bolivia scratch their ears before breakfast, therefore 30% of people scratch their ears before breakfast. Duh.

Meanwhile teenage cannabis use seems to have stayed pretty level during the rash of legalisation spreading across US states, so the scariest thing about Sabet's paper tiger is that the same smokers are getting their stuff from a legal rather than illegal source.

Embarrassed into a retreat, Sabet then tweeted implying that the students must be faking back pain or cancer, further spreading the egg over his face because the figures deal with cannabis that CAME FROM a dispensary - with no claim that the students had attended the dispensaries. It's all a bit subtle for a fossilised prohibitionist, I guess.

SAM's "smart" approach [my quote marks] apparently involves diverting cannabis users who are caught into treatment (or else get arrested again).

"The proposal is on par with forcing every alcohol user into treatment at their own cost or at a cost to the state," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director Mason Tvert. "In fact, it would be less logical because the science is clear that marijuana is far less toxic, less addictive, and less likely to be associated with acts of violence."

While Sabet denies that, everything I have previously read about SAM points in that direction.

Oh, Sabet also claims that 10% of cannabis users become addicted. No they don't, Kevin. In fact the commonly quoted figure of 9% is another dodgy bit of bad science from the prohibitionists, as the Huff Post again explains.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Old lies live on in the prohibitionist mind

No lie is too old or discredited to be recycled by our shock-jocks. The latest is Miranda Devine writing another prohibitionist rant in the Telegraph. I won't even link to the propaganda piece - why help them, even a tiny bit?

Suffice it to quote Devine's central lie, that "When the Howard government launched its Tough on Drugs strategy in 1997, drug use plummeted for the first time in three decades."

No, Miranda, it didn't. In fact Asian suppliers were switching from heroin to crystal meth and some young people were switching from cannabis to ecstasy and other chemical drugs, arguably a shift from less risky to more risky substances. This is a well-known symptom of prohibition, driving the drug industry to more potent, portable and profitable substances. The heroin drought coincided with the rise of ice.

In the same piece Devine bemoans that "A study in the Medical Journal of Australia last September found ambulance call-outs for crystal meth, aka ice, had tripled in two years."

Well, duh, Miranda. This is what happens under your beloved prohibition. But with the money you are paid to spread your poison, I guess truth is a minor consideration.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Global warming deniers lose court battle but leave taxpayers with the bill

Here's a nice, sober outline of how the international conspiracy against climate science operates. While the denialists lost their court case in New Zealand, they have successfully cast doubt on good science, wasted the time of parliament, scientists and the courts, and left taxpayers with the legal bill after liquidating the 'charitable trust' that appears to have had no function but to run this case.

As usual on The Conversation site, the comments add a lot more to the story (including the usual trolling by a climate 'sceptic').

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Latest 'coward's punch' triggers more moral panic about Kings Cross

Sean McNeil, charged with the murder of Daniel Christie.
Sadly another young life has been ended by a violent thug king-hitting innocents in the street. Daniel Christie was attacked in Kings Cross on New Year's Eve and later died in hospital. Shaun McNeil, a self-described 'mixed martial arts expert', has been charged. Bizarrely, photos show has the name of his victim tattooed on his arm (while apparently sculling Bundy rum, the one said to contain "a bushfire and a bashing in every bottle").

Predictably the anti-Kings Cross hordes (most of them from elsewhere) have spun into loud chorus blaming venues and the AHA, and calling for lockouts, earlier closing of pubs and application of the Newcastle 'solution' to Kings Cross.

The facts, however, throw a few wet blankets over the moral panic.

The attack happened at 9pm. How would earlier closing have helped in this case? Do the anti-venue crowd propose 8pm closing?

Meanwhile violence rates in Kings Cross venues have dropped by about a third (a similar rate to that of Newcastle after the lockout regime) since the similar manslaughter of Thomas Kelly - which happened at almost the same spot and at 10 pm - also nothing to do with late-night venues.

And the "coward's punch" has been used to deadly effect in other places besides Kings Cross. Strangely the anti-Cross brigade do not raise a hue-and-cry in these cases.

So, what's the bet that Shaun McNeil is a Rugby League fan, like other recent king-hit killers? When is macho footy culture going to be dragged into this debate? That sacred cow is where the real problem lies.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Best drug scare stories of 2013

Here's a neat roundup of the latest crop of blatant bullshit the media publishes about illicit drugs - and some examples of prohibitionists picking up the bullshit they themselves create to back their fallacious arguments. One example: Police try to convict a man of murder because his girlfriend died after he gave her an acid trip. Shock, horror, scary, eh? Heard that one before?

The real story turned out to be somewhat different, however. Click the link above to find out what really happened.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More prohibitionist propaganda busted - it seems legal cannabis reduces road deaths

Prohibitionists in the US are bending over backwards to show legalisation of cannabis in some US states is causing the sky to fall in, just as they always predicted. Recently an Australian prohibitionist triumphantly circulated this 'important' information on email lists:


Panic stations! Legalisation has started a rush of those dangerous stoned drivers! We told you so! (SAM, by the way, is the new soft-pedalling face of prohibition.)

Smelling a rat, I immediately asked: "Was there a corresponding increase in traffic accidents?"

No reply.

I later speculated on the lists that police, deprived of their 'easy money' busting potheads, might be doing more drug-driving tests, which would account for the increase.

Then a list member posted the following, supporting my speculations:

"...according Washington State’s Traffic Safety Commission “Target Zero” data for 2013, the fatality rate from incidents involving drunk and/or drug-affected drivers is actually the LOWEST that has been recorded in more than seven years. http://www.wtsc.wa.gov/statistics-reports/crash-data/

"So far, the 2013 fatality rate is down 22% for alcohol-related road deaths, and down 30% for other-drug-related road deaths, compared to 2012.

"If more people really are driving whilst seriously impaired, why is there no spike in road fatalities?

"And yes Michael you are quite correct, police in Washington State have indeed conducted significantly more drug tests in 2013 than in previous years.

"That last piece of information comes from Bob Caulkins, the Media & Community Relations Officer for the Washington State Patrol:

"However, the number of tests being ordered has increased, on pace for 180 more than the prior year. It can also be true that cops are more likely to order a blood test in a pot case now. As Caulkins told Huffington Post, “We’re testing blood we didn’t test before.” So do we actually have more stoned drivers on the road or are cops now just better trained and incentivized to go after them?"

Then the post got even better:

"Could it be that greater access to marijuana equals less abuse of alcohol, leading to lower traffic deaths from both?

Let's see what Time magazine has to say on the subject: