Thursday, August 14, 2008

Drugs chief dumps on prohibition

A former British senior civil servant, who once ran the anti-drugs unit in the Cabinet Office, has described the present government policy of being tough on drugs as pointless. Julian Critchley says he now believes the best way to reduce the harm caused by drugs is to legalise them.

He clearly spells out that the main obstacle to this is politicians' fear of the tabloid press.

Here's a link to Critchley's BBC audio interview, and here's a link to a fuller BBC report.

What has this to do with Kings Cross? Well, on 21 August, two local residents groups are hosting a community summit to tackle the 'late-night booze fests' and 'alcohol-fuelled violence' that some of them constantly rail about. 

I guarantee that the the 'action plan' will do nothing to tackle one of the root causes of excessive alcohol consumption in this area: the harsh persecution of pot smokers via sniffer dogs (there were TWO dogs trawling the railway station barriers the other day). 

If you publicly search and humiliate up to 100 people per week in a precinct, most of whom are pot smokers, most won't come back and those who do will mainly be drinking, drinking, drinking. Years of this strategy must have greatly moved the demographics of our visitors towards alcohol abuse.

Still, some impressive speakers are listed at the 'summit' including Dr Alex Wodak and former KX Superintendent Mark Murdoch. And the meeting seeks "positive, practical, actionable and reasonable controls" as the outcome, which is encouraging.

The meeting is at St John's Church, Darlinghurst, 7.30pm, Thursday 21 August. 

[Pictured is an unusual view of St John's and the Top of the Town apartments shot from the newly restored turret of the Kings Cross Hotel.] 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Police, doctor back up realistic view of ecstasy

The lead letter in today's Sydney Morning Herald is from a Kings Cross doctor who observes first-hand the relatively benign effects of ecstasy (even in the impure form currently available in our illegal, unregulated market).

Today's Courier Mail also tells of frontline Police in Fortitude Valley (Brisbane's Kings Cross) who are grateful for the high numbers using ecstasy because they cause so much less trouble than the drunks.

These pieces underline the yawning chasm between real frontline experience and the official 'right message' spun by governments and prohibitionists.

This is not to say that prohibitionist activists are necessarily being dishonest -- along with the rest of us, they have for generations ingested torrents of propaganda and biased junk science designed to demonise certain drugs. Lacking for the most part any direct experience of drugs or alternative cultures, they do not have any reliable way to tell fiction from fact. (The NCPIC material described in the previous two posts is a perfect example of 'biased junk science').

Today's media grabs are solidly grounded in real experience, a rare occurrence in a society where most drug users keep their mouths shut for fear of arrest. Accordingly, open-minded observers need to give extra weight to the similar message both of these stories carry -- and then question the frame of reference that supports prohibition, a difficult thing to do if you believe in it.

Monday, August 04, 2008

All bloggers wrong, implies Copeland

Professor Jan Copeland has dismissed criticism of her public position on cannabis saying "We did get some negative press but it was only from bloggers". Copeland, pictured, is director of NCPIC (National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre)

She was speaking at NDARC's 2008 Symposium and was presumably referring to the many critical responses she received to an opinion piece she published on an ABC site (linked in the post below).

Several commenters exposed her criticisms of cannabis as flawed, quoting scientific studies at length. Despite the NCPIC website claiming to present evidence-based information, Copeland has ignored the content of these criticisms and rubbished them on the grounds that they were on a blog – a blog that she had started off herself!

Does this mean all blogs are wrong? Or does it mean that Professor Jan Copeland is just using that as an excuse to ignore extensive evidence that challenges her political bias?

After all, her organisation has a website and we all know you can't trust information from the web (especially if buying tickets for the Olympics). So all the information on her NCPIC site should also be ignored, at least by Copeland's questionable logic.

Even funnier, when they answer the phone at NCPIC they omit the 'prevention' bit from their name. I suppose that's because they know 'prevention' is the buzzword of conservative christian fundamentalists who want mandatory detention for all young people caught with cannabis, and it's becoming an embarrassment for a supposedly 'evidence-based' organisation.

Also strange is that Paul Dillon, previously known for his balanced reporting on drug matters, is the organisation's Communications Officer. The optimistic view is that Dillon will hit his stride soon and balance out the one-sided spin from Copeland. 

Here's a link in which Dillon lists the addictiveness of different drugs. After explaining how drug information needs to be accurate or kids just don't believe it, he offers these ratings:

"[Nicotine is no. 1, alcohol is no. 10] Heroin is about number 13, and ecstasy and cannabis are a lot further down the list."

That makes Copeland's description last week of young cannabis smokers as "a hard core of addicts" seem a bit purple, doesn't it?

But what would I know? I'm only a blogger.

PS This lead letter in The Sydney Morning Herald (Aug 1) nicely exposes how the NCPIC spin contradicts its own evidence.