Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prohibitionist campaign struggles with self-contradiction

The prohibitionist group Drug Free Australia is promoting a worldwide petition commending and supporting the War on Drugs. Its header states it is from Parliament House NSW but no Parliamentarian is identified in the document.

The No Place for Drugs Commitment, A Proclamation about the Harms of Illicit Drugs is Co-sponsored by Drug Free Australia and Women’s Federation for World Peace, for whom a web search reveals only a listing in a business directory and the Yellow Pages, with a Seaforth NSW address but no website [I have since learned WFWP is a branch of the Moonies].

The Commitment lavishly praises the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which remains radically prohibitionist and claims to control drugs, despite worldwide evidence that drugs are rife and the War on Drugs kills thousands of people each year.

The Commitment focuses on harms to children and indigenous communities but contains typical rhetoric such as: "drugs control the body and mind of individual consumers, drug crops and drug cartels control farmers, and trafficking and crime controls communities;"
-- which seems to be a tacit admission that prohibition has failed to control drugs, especially after UNODC declared in 1998 it would make the world drug-free in ten years.

Herschel Baker of Drug Free Australia included me in a broadcast email promoting the Commitment. Concerned that their message could actually result in more harm to children, I replied to the address list as follows:

I have read the commitment disseminated by Herschel Baker of Drug Free Australia and commend the concern shown for children, who indeed should be kept away from drugs.

However the core message in the commitment is that prohibition is an effective way to do this. Given the latest claims about an eight-year-old Australian indigenous child smoking cannabis, it is evident that prohibition and the war on drugs has failed in its objective.

The Commitment itself claims that indigenous drug use is 21 times higher than the general population. This recognises that prohibition is therefore 21 times less effective among indigenous communities. Do you seriously believe society can intensify its war on drugs by a factor of 21 to combat this, or that it would be effective?

It's more likely that drug use by indigenous children is a symptom of wider social problems in those communities. What is wrong with the eight-year-old's parenting and environment that leads to the child's cannabis use? And even if prohibition did choke the supply of cannabis to that community, the child would most likely turn to sniffing glue or petrol, or drinking alcohol, all of which are far more dangerous than cannabis.

The cure for this problem is a lot more complex than drug prohibition, and concentrating on this one aspect risks diverting attention from the deeper causes of the problem. The drug use is not the fundamental problem -- it is a symptom of the problem.

The illicit drugs industry rivals the global oil industry in size, so the UN's Antonio Maria Costa's depiction of this as a 'stabilised' market is a hollow claim.

I and many other responsible people who support the reform of drug laws believe regulation and education based on truth rather than one-sided arguments will effect better control over drugs than prohibition, which historically creates the fertile ground for the very illicit industry that it seeks to proscribe.

It must be admitted that drugs are not 'controlled' when they are easily available to any young person in any town in most countries of the world.

I urge you to reconsider your position. Prohibition in fact worsens problems and puts young people at greater risk. I am sure supporters of this Commitment have the very best intentions but the solution they support in fact aggravates danger and harm.


Michael Gormly

The petition today has 25 names including Drug Free America head Calvina Fay -- although a couple of people have signed twice and Herschel Baker's own name is misspelt.

Below is a cut-and-paste of the signature list today -- for the record, as it will probably be edited in future:

Peter Phillips
EDward Kenneth Dove
John Chapman
Nan Ott
Jan Baker
Sandra Bennett
mary gillespie
Chuck Doucette
lynn sanchez
Mina Carakushansky
Elizabeth Pallett
jeremiah ronshausen
amy ronshausen
Bill Cameron
Bill Cameron
David Raynes
Lana Beck
Karen Belanger
Dianne Glymph
Dianne Glymph
Frans Koopmans
Cecilia Piedra
Calvina Fay
chris behrens
Hereschel Baker

1 comment:

Terry Wright said...

Hehehehe. 25 names so far. God Damn they're dynamic, that DFA lot!

I think I will actually be sad when DFA fizzle away. They remind me of Dad's Army and keep me amused on a rainy afternoon.

I noticed David Raynes signed. If ever you would not want someone on your side, it's this guy. An utter ****up.

Look him up. (he's from the UK btw)

Good one as usual, Michael. Keep it up.