Friday, February 25, 2011

"I drank the bong water"

George Clooney, "World's sexiest man" (?) focuses
on Barak Obama
You've gotta laugh. Actor George Clooney's advice to aspiring political candidates is a sign of the times.
Far from Bill Clinton's coy "I didn't inhale", left-leaning George explains in the SMH why he wouldn't run for office himself:
"I f**ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that's the truth," said Clooney, who has twice been declared People magazine's sexiest man alive.
Clooney, 49, said a smart political campaigner would "start from the beginning by saying, 'I did it all. I drank the bong water. Now let's talk about issues' That's gonna be my campaign slogan: 'I drank the bong water.'?"
It's a far cry from the po-faced admonitions of prohibitionists who beat up the dangers of cannabis to foment moral panic. Clooney is the polar opposite of the deadhead psychotic cannabis addict usually portrayed by these temperance campaigners.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Research we can believe in?

Prohibitionists governments like those of Australia and the USA pour a lot of money into research on cannabis, but only if the research is trying to establish harms.

Despite this, the relatively harmless nature of the drug means there are few if any damning results. Even the current focus on trying to prove cannabis causes psychosis is producing only tenuous links, even as the media seem to accept any old research as gospel.

An article by cannabis law reformer Paul Armentano outlines the Obama Government's betrayal of its own commitment to evidence-based policy - "Change we can believe in". The American Medical Association also called for more research into medical cannabis, raising hopes among reformers.

Armentano writes:

Those hopes were snuffed, however, when a representative from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world's research on controlled substances, reaffirmed its longstanding "no medi-pot" policy to The New York Times. "As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use," a spokesperson told the paper in 2010. " We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana."
In other words, they only look for harms. Anything researched in this way would create a bad picture, so it is hardly scientifically balanced. Other agencies such as Australia's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) follow a similar policy, spending large amounts of scarce national health funding on their unbalanced research and subsequent anti-cannabis propaganda. NCPIC last year was funded for a further four years.

Meanwhile many people wait years for elective surgery and the shortage of nurses means more are working long or double shifts, while post-operative patients who in former times would have been cared for in hospital for a few days are filled with painkillers and immediately sent home. And try seeing a doctor on a Sunday in Sydney city. My advice is, stay healthy!

Prohibition surely screws up our national priorities.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No wonder the police love prohibition - they share the assets with criminals

A story in today's Sydney Morning Herald entitled 'The untouchables: crime fighters let gangsters take the money and run' exposes the dirty underside of prohibition.

In countries which encourage confiscation of assets suspected of having been illegally earned, the thirst for the assets tends to overshadow justice. It seems The NSW Crime Commission is no exception.

The story begins:
THE state's most secretive law enforcement agency has been sharing the proceeds of crime with organised crime figures, cutting deals that allow them to walk away with millions of dollars.
As one of the main earners for organised crime is prohibited drugs, this pattern is closely linked to prohibition. Another salient quote:
But critics say such deals do not make a dent in the amount of drugs sold in Sydney and, as they are struck in private, do little to deter crime.
Increasingly, prohibition is being exposed as an ineffective racket feeding bloated law enforcement interests.

When the Coalition wins power in March, beware their privatisation creed: their ultra-conservative christian prohibitionist faction, led by MLC David Clarke, will no doubt push for tougher prohibition while their money men are likely to support privatised prisons, no doubt with contracts that guarantee profits profits -- read 'guaranteed human input' -- for the lucky financiers.

It's an ugly scenario.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ludicrous priorities: As the law collapses, the War on Drugs continues

A nice article in The Guardian illustrates in a nutshell the stupidity of the War on Drugs and the unthinking mindset of those who believe in it.

Camden, New Jersey has a failing administration. It's a deprived, crime-ridden neighbourhood that is so broke is has just laid off nearly half its police force and raised taxes by 23%, according to The Guardian.

While readers of this blog will understand how drug prohibition both creates crime and doesn't work, the local police don't understand this and they name fighting drugs as one of the top priorities for the remains of their police force.

We are coming up to the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs. While the US has spent over a trillion dollars on this war, drugs are just as plentiful, much more varied and relatively cheaper than they were back in the 1970s. over half the arrests over that time have been for cannabis, a drug that has never caused a single death.

While an obscenely rich country might be able to gloss over this colossal waste of money, times are tougher now and enclaves like Camden show just how wasteful, profligate and ineffective prohibition is. It's time for a new way of thinking, but that seems to be one of the most difficult challenges for the human mind.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greens warn of new era of terror for NSW

According to the NSW Greens, "There’s a real chance that after the March election, a conservative coalition of the Liberals, the Nationals, the Shooters and Fishers Party, Family First and Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats could control the NSW parliament."

Apart from anything else, this would give far-right Christian extremists like Liberal powerbroker David Clarke a big say in the NSW drug laws. Picture an intolerant police-like state with people in many minority cultures being persecuted and jailed under the banner of 'drug prevention'. They are all 'sinners', after all.

The Greens have produced a pretty good 1m:33sec zombie-flick about the prospects, obviously targeting the youth audience and hoping it will go viral. Check it out!

Such a conservative coalition would want to cut back or kill harm minimisation programs that are proved to work. They would like to close down the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre and they hate Methadone replacement programs for addicts. Already-scarce Rehab places would likely dry up and be replaced by compulsory and coercive cold-turkey style abstinence programs (which DON'T work) and ever-expanding jails (privately run for profit, of course).

Around the world now there is a trend for conservative governments to gain power on such issues as immigration and when they get power they crack down on 'illicit' drugs. That's why the Dutch coffee shops are being closed or regulated into insolvency. It would be a real backward step if it happened here.

New 'potaganda' ignites the naysayers

Among my circles it's said that if Miranda Devine opposes you, you must be on a good track. Trouble is, she writes superficially plausible 'sound-bites' very well, so her latest attack on drug law reform will convince some people who don't really know the facts.

Again Ms Devine is fuelled by a report from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC), a body generously funded by our cash-strapped health department to demonise cannabis under the guise of science.

Their work to date has been, on the whole, almost laughable, one study attempting to link cannabis and violence through a dodgy analysis of patients at St Vincents Hospital Emergency. Never mind that one doctor who worked there said he had never once seen a patient present because of cannabis problems.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Matthew Chesher ecstasy bust spreads enlightenment

Happy new year, dear reader. I'm back from a research trip/holiday into the wilds of regional Australia. What can I say about it? For one thing it's not so damn humid as Sydney, he said, dripping with sweat even with the fan on full.

While I was away education minister Verity Firth's husband,  Matthew Chesher, was arrested for allegedly buying one tablet of 'ecstasy'. What he actually bought we may never know because prohibition means drug supply is unregulated and provided, by definition, by criminals.

The stupidity of this arrest and the predictable outcry of horror from hypocritical politicians and journalists made me roll my eyes. Don't forget that true ecstasy (MDMA) carries less risk than peanuts according to New Scientist.

At least this farce, and waste of public money, has spawned a number of enlightened articles, notably this one by Alex Wodak, in which he describes how this incident would have been a complete non-event in countries like Portugal where drug use is treated as a personal health matter and remedial intervention occurs only when the user is dysfunctional.

But one popular blogger, Jack Marx, really nailed it with an acerbic piece that neatly compares the damage and mayhem caused by this arrest with the alternative had it not occurred -- that a bloke probably would have had a great evening.