Friday, October 09, 2009
Confronting the fear of legalisation
The demonisation of recreational drugs has been a sustained and well-funded campaign going back to the days of Reefer Madness and beyond. As a result, many people have an acute fear and loathing of illicit drugs, which divides them from users who have tested the truth and found the War on Drugs to be largely based on scaremongering.
Last night Dr Norm Stamper, ex Police Chief of San Diego and Seattle and who now campaigns for regulated legalisation, spoke in Sydney about this.
"I agree in principle to what you are saying," said one listener, "but how can any government possibly consider the legalisation of a drug like methamphetamine [ice]?"
Dr Stamper told the story of a person he met who had been an ice addict for ten years before getting clean, and who was similarly horrified at the prospect of legalising it. Dr Stamper replied by asking where had the addict obtained his drugs every day for ten years, and pointing out that this continuous availability showed prohibition had failed. The man hadn't thought of it that way, and neither do prohibitionists want you to see it like that.
But, as Dr Stamper pointed out, "It doesn't matter what the drug, the principle is the same."
Listeners at the Centre for Independent Studies last night went through the usual litany of objections, the next one being a concern that regulated legalisation would tempt more people to try such drugs. Dr Stamper referred to the recent Zogby Poll which asked 1,028 people this very question. Only 0.6% said 'Yes'. After all -- as I keep asking people -- if heroin was legal would you start sticking a needle in your arm? So-far the answer has been 100% 'No'.
Another scary drug is LSD which, while inspiring the likes of Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Martin Sharpe, has also messed with the brains of various 'acid casualties' -- all under prohibition of course. Yet the drug is making a research renaissance as Swiss and US clinicians find its guided use can produce excellent results in treating cluster headaches, depression and post-traumatic stress, often removing the cause of the problem rather than just masking the symptoms like legal antidepressants. Such research was shut down in the 1960s when acid was made illegal. So much for the evidence base of the War on Drugs.
Warning: Don't try this at home, especially with a new 'super LSD' available on the black market in Australia called DOI which police claim produces a three-day trip.
Pictured: Dr Norm Stamper speaking at a meeting in Parliament House last week.