Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ice not a drug of violence

It seems that amphetamines don't make people any more violent than normal. It seems, rather, that criminals tend to be violent according to a study of nearly 100,000 people by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Yet it's true that people who seriously abuse ice -- or cocaine for that matter -- can and do have violent psychotic episodes. Any cases that I know of have been preceded by long intense injecting binges of perhaps two weeks with lack of sleep and proper food contributing. I surmise that people who do this must be so few they are not significant statistically.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Email campaign targets UN drugs boss

One way powerful prohibitionists shore up their position is by appointing reactionaries to key positions -- for example Mr Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Mr Costa has several times publicly evaded a simple question about the effectiveness of prohibition, finally resorting to an outright lie. An international email campaign has been organised to persuade him to answer the question properly.

Read the facts, watch the videos, email Mr Costa at

Then pass it on to your friends! It's important to act now as on March 11-12 a High Level Segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will review the implementation of targets adopted by the UNGASS in 1998 when they decided the War on Drugs would result in a 'Drug-free world' by now. I don't think it worked. 

(UNGASS = United Nations General Assembly Special Session.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Drug War 'logic' beggars belief

The website highlights some of the stupid arguments put forward by prohibitionists. Are these people idiots, brainwashed or just calculatingly dishonest?

The recent incident involving Michael Phelps getting caught smoking pot has caused the age long debate to rear its head again on whether or not we should legalize or at least decriminalize our drug laws. The idea in attacking the drug laws is that people should be free to make their own decisions. The problem with that line of reasoning is that you would never be able to draw the line on establishing any law. Everything would have to be legal, including armed robbery, murder, assault, etc. In essence, it would be anarchy. [Shreveport Times]

Stopthedrugwar replies succinctly:

We want to legalize marijuana, but not murder. Does that make sense? Armed robbery, etc. would still be illegal. No one will ever try to legalize violent crime, so shut up and stop worrying about that.

Then the same idiot claims that the rise of pot cafés in Amsterdam proves that legalisation increases use, ignoring the fact that, per capita, 3-4 times FEWER Dutch smoke cannabis than people in the US. Perhaps the rise in pot cafés is due to refugee tokers from prohibitionist countries enjoying a relaxing holiday, classic "balloon effect".

And from the Wall Street Journal:
If the drug effort were failing there would be no violence," a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. There is violence "because these guys are flailing. We're taking these guys out. The worst thing you could do is stop now.
He's talking about the mass murder in Mexico as drug cartels fight for massive profits from the illicit US market (see post below).

If success = mass murder does it not occur to these people that the cure is worse than the problem?

These prohibitionists also say higher prices (and therefore profits) generated by the War are a sign of success. What would failure look like again?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Drug War failed, say three ex-presidents

Three ex-presidents from South America have slammed the US-driven War on Drugs, claiming it was pushing their fragile democracies to breaking point, reports The Australian. They cited the ongoing massacres happening in their countries, endemic police corruption and continuing use of illicit drugs.

The US claimed the violence was evidence their strategy was working as it showed the drug cartels were under pressure.

Over 6,000 people were killed in Mexico last year with decapitation becoming fashionable. It's a small price to pay for keeping a few conservatives happy and our jails full, I suppose.

Meanwhile nearly seven tonnes of cocaine was found on a ship in international waters off Mexico in a joint operation between the US Coast Guard and the Mexicans, who took the loot and the crew back to the undoubted security of Oaxaca.  What could possibly go wrong, Señor?

PS (17 02 09) An erudite article in The Independent (UK) puts a passionate case for regulated legalisation of recreational drugs. Some snippets...

"Drugs syndicates control 8 per cent of global GDP – which means they have greater resources than many national armies. They own helicopters and submarines and they can afford to spread the woodworm of corruption through poor countries right to the top."The cartels offer Mexican police and politicians a choice: plato o plomo. Silver or lead. Take a bribe, or take a bullet."

"When alcohol was legalised [after prohibition], the murder-rate fell off a cliff – and continued to drop for the next 10 years. (Rates of alcoholism, revealingly, remained the same.)"

Ecstasy use up, sniffer dogs on the nose, pub lockouts dumped

While ecstasy use is "shooting up" according to the SMH, sniffer dogs finally got the bad report they deserve. Says the Herald

"In one case considered by the ombudsman, an operation costing about $41,000 resulted in a $1000 fine.

"A 2007 National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre report found that most people who knew dogs would be at an event beforehand simply made a better effort to conceal their drugs."

Bureau of Crime Statistics figures showed the number of "ecstasy incidents" in inner Sydney rose from 211 to 540 over the 24 months to September last year. 

And in another wild stab at a figure by the 2007 National Household Survey, the number of users in Australia had risen to 600,000. (Recent estimates in Britain have ranged from 500,000 every weekend to 400,000 users nationally. Someone is talking nonsense but the trend is clear).

As usual the plod cited the terrible chemicals used to make pills as a reason not to take them, blissfully unaware that this was also a rationale for legalising them and regulating manufacture and distribution. He was silent on the dangers of peanuts (see post below!).

This week I wrote a major editorial on the subject for The City News, suggesting that the constant blitzing by sniffer dogs on streets and in clubs was simply turning more people to alcohol which in turn created worse problems. The above picture, taken in Kings Cross, was captioned: "Police humiliating the counter-culture and imposing the alcohol monoculture".

Pub lockouts dumped
While the mainstream press hasn't picked up this idea yet, events again reflect the themes of this blog as, after only four months, the lockout policy applied to 48 pubs is to be dumped in favour of a "star rating" supposedly indicating the danger level of a pub. It's just as stupid but at least it's less draconian and this time the pubs will be consulted.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ecstasy safer than peanuts: New Scientist

Can't help laughing at the analogy in this New Scientist editorial:

"Say you have to decide whether to give a stranger a peanut or ecstasy. Which is safest? Ecstasy, of course.

"A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA."

The piece goes on to lament the absurd nature of drug laws and policies that kowtow to the tabloid press instead of to rational evidence.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cabramatta ran on bent cops

The SMH today tells of the resurrection of Sydney's Cabramatta from junkie hellhole to normal suburb. Prohibitionists often use it to illustrate the success of a Get Tough on Drugs policy. But those in the know say the crackdown just displaced the problems to other suburbs. Now it appears the bad old days spawned police corruption, that inevitable twin of prohibition. From the Herald story: 

"Now, the suburb is like any other, Mr Lalic says. The drug problem has instead spread up and down the railway line to nearby suburbs he says.

"The former assistant police commissioner Clive Small - who in his new book Smack Express writes that police corruption contributed to the drug problem in Cabramatta - says that determined police action and the heroin drought contributed to cleaning it up.

"Cocaine and methamphetamines are the drugs of choice now, he says, but they are sold away from the public eye. Even though they are a bigger problem than heroin ever was there is insufficient public awareness, Mr Small says."

PS (21/02/09)  The Australian has published a lengthy report on Smack Express by its co-author, Tom Gilling. While revealing the pervasive power of organised crime in Australia, and recognising the sheer scale of the money and corruption involved, it ends with a whimper: 

If we as a country don’t stand up now against organised crime, the battle will be lost, and it will be our own fault.

Not a word about how prohibition provides the fertile fields for our modern-day Al Capones and their $multi-billion business. The article remains safely within a trite 'cops vs robbers' framework. I'll be reading the book in the hope it goes further.

Gang violence in Vancouver linked to prohibition

Three Canadian newspapers this week, reacting to an epidemic of public gangland shooting murders, have blamed it on drug prohibition and called for an examination of controlled, taxed supply policies.

The price of cocaine in particular has soared because of the War on Drugs, ironically one of the aims of the War. But high prices mean high profits and the gangs become all the more vicious in pursuit of the loot. It's Al Capone all over again and it's clear the harms of prohibition are worse than the harms of drugs, which are occurring in any case.

See an editorial from The Province journal in Vancouver here. 

When will the Australian media begin catching up?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Prohibitionists persecute quadriplegic

Already living a life-sentence trapped in a body that does not function because of a car accident, quadriplegic Paul Baker faces another as the NSW legal system works out what to do with him after convicting him of manufacturing ecstasy.

The cost of care to keep this unfortunate man in jail is reported to exceed the $300k per year we shell out to keep a prisoner in maximum security.

The drug itself is dangerous in certain circumstances – about as dangerous as international air travel if you compare the number of people who use it to the casualties. 

But, since the 1930s, prohibitionists have carefully constructed a moral panic about first cannabis and then every other recreational drug besides alcohol. No-one has done the same about air travel. So most of us sit, contentedly cocooned in our misinformed mindset and happily let  the forces of prohibition destroy people's lives in the name of a social illusion.

As long as it happens to someone else, we can ignore it, right? Even when a quadriplegic is to be jailed for committing a crime that's no more harmful than a Qantas pilot doing his job. What a travesty of justice.

According to our own crime researcher Don Weatherburn, you have to inflict harm to prevent harm, a puzzling proposition bordering on the Kafka-esque. But no-one weighs up and compares the harms. Likely no significant harm would have come to anyone if Mr Baker had actually produced good quality MDMA ecstasy (and a lot of people would have had a brilliantly good time). But locking him up for the rest of his life -- at our expense -- is a definite harm. And it won't even teach him a lesson because the lesson is nonsense.

From Wikipedia:
The chief executive of the UK Medical Research Council stated that MDMA is "on the bottom of the scale of harm," and was rated to be of lesser concern than alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis, as well as several classes of prescription medications, when examining the harmfulness of twenty popular recreational drugs. The UK study placed great weight on the risk for acute physical harm, the propensity for physical and psychological dependency on the drug, and the negative familial and societal impacts of the drug. Based on these factors, the study placed MDMA at number 18 in the list.[78]

It's worth checking the link on the above quote. Apparently 500,000 people take ecstasy every weekend in the UK. When this is taken into account, the moral panic that prohibitionists create about the drug falls into an evidence-based perspective. Let's get real, please, and leave Paul Baker to his own devices.