Monday, December 15, 2008

Taking the mickey out of Council

Apropos the stencil-buffing issue blogged below, artist Numskull made the theme the centrepiece of his show at MTV Gallery in Yurong Street recently. See the pic! 

Friends tell me the opening was PACKED. This pic was first to sell @ $650. That's a lot of money to pay for "graffiti" or "vandalism"!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Prohibition is bursting our jails

"Jails bursting at the seams," the front page of the Sun-Herald shouted at me as I lined up at the supermarket this morning to buy my breakfast and lunch ingredients.

Back home, the SMH graphic you see was coincidentally up on my monitor. It illustrates the fall in burglaries paralleling the heroin drought of the past few years, clearly showing how much of the crime we bear and the justice system we pay for is caused by addicts who need wads of cash to buy prohibitively expensive illicit drugs.

Yes, we know they shouldn't, but the fact is they do.

While the government's response seems to be to privatise jails, neither they nor the media have the guts or the intelligence to question prohibition, a major contributor to the overcrowding problem, even as it is falling apart at the seams.

One classic response of conservatives is to claim that legal, controlled availability would increase drug use and they have small selective data sets to support this.

But globally, the trend shows the opposite: Tough-on-drugs countries almost all have higher rates of drug usage than relatively liberal countries – for example rates of cannabis use, heroin use and incarceration in The Netherlands are about half those of the US, home of the War on Drugs. In the UK, cannabis use declined significantly during the time it was downgraded to a Category C substance, in line with worldwide trends. Despite this, an electorally challenged Gordon Brown has ignored the advice of his senior advisory panel and upgraded cannabis to Category B.

In Australia, states which have decriminalised to some extent show usage trends similar to other states who have not.

If our jails are bursting at the seams, let's look at the role of prohibition in that and whether it is in fact achieving any of its aims. 

PS 8/12/08: An article in The Wall Street Journal celebrates the anniversary of the end of prohibition in 1933. It points out that people at the time not only understood prohibition had failed but also could remember a time before prohibition so they were not so alarmed at the prospect of legalisation. It's an eloquent piece. Read it here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Rare commonsense about recreational drugs

At the same time 68% of Swiss voters supported their prescribed heroin  program, Lisa Pryor published a thoughtful view in the SMH about why alcohol is legal and ecstasy isn't.

She reports on a drug conference which looked at personalities in terms of strong engines and weak brakes (or vice versa). Confidence, outgoing personality, goal-setting and reward-seeking make for a "strong engine" and are qualities we try to instill into young people. Research shows that "strong engine" types are also those who use ecstasy to enhance the good things in life, as opposed to "weak engine/strong brake" types who are more likely to choose drugs which provide an escape from bad times -- like alcohol, valium [and heroin]. 

Prior says ecstasy should be legal and ways should also be found to minimise drug use in teenagers who are still developing their prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls inhibition or its opposite -- in other words, the brakes.

Ideally, people should have strong engines and strong brakes.

Pryor challenges the 'normative' view that people who drink are OK and those who take ecstasy (MDMA) are 'screwy', a widespread misconception that underpins prohibition.

PS: A Swiss mother who opposed heroin prescription said she would rather her four children were dead than on prescription heroin. Now that's screwy!

PPS (22/12/08) A "bad batch" of GHB (also known as fantasy or liquid ecstasy) hospitalised 12 and overdosed another 30 at a Melbourne rave party, reports The Age.
GHB is the drug that killed Dianne Brimble on THAT cruise. No prizes for guessing that this blog sees this latest incident as another failure of prohibition -- first because the drug was so freely available despite the law, and secondly because this sort of waste of people and resources would be  far less likely if people could get reliable, good quality ecstasy MDMA at their local Chemist. Why would you take illegal and dangerous GHB when safe, legal ecstasy is available? The effects are similar, I am told. Meanwhile the prohibitionists rant about MDMA as if it was just as dangerous as GHB, so kids are put at risk through misinformation. GHB is dangerous and MDMA isn't but the truth is apparently "the wrong message", so lies prevail.