Thursday, September 23, 2010

More on the Don Weathurburn and Wayne Hall opinion piece

A friend defended by email one part of the piece by Don Weatherburn and Wayne Hall (first see post below),  writing the following:
Friend: This, for example, I agree with although I question the way drug law enforcement is enforced and whether certain aspects of the law is workable:

Weathurburn & Hall: "It's a sad fact that many dependent drug users only seek treatment when the personal and financial cost of continued drug use gets too high. The financial cost is attributable in large part to prohibition.

"The personal cost includes trouble with police and the courts, which is one of the most commonly cited reasons for entering treatment.

"Coercing drug-dependent offenders into treatment is known to be effective in reducing drug use and drug-related crime.

"We don't have to choose between treatment and drug law enforcement. We can and should support both."

This is nothing more than Drug War rhetoric. The first sentence would more accurately read "It's a sad fact that VERY FEW dependent drug users seek treatment only when the personal and financial cost of continued drug use gets too high."

The statement projects the Drug War myth that illicit drugs users are typically dysfunctional addicts and that drug use is a scourge on society. The facts, however, do not support this characterisation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More experts talk nonsense in the media

Researchers Don Weatherburn and Wayne Hall have seriously damaged their professional credibility in an opinion piece in today's SMH.

They attempt to rebut several arguments for drug law reform but contradict themselves and rely on obvious fallacies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Charges dropped over Elizabeth Bay drug death

On the same day news broke that the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings cross will be legitimised (see post below), the SMH also reports that Manslaughter charges have been dropped over the overdose death of a former Socceroo player in Elizabeth Bay last year:
Prosecutors have withdrawn a manslaughter charge against a woman linked to the drug-related death of former Socceroo Ian Gray.

Mr Gray, 46, was found dead in the lounge room of his apartment in Elizabeth Bay in Sydney's east on February 15.

A court has heard previously that he was found to have a "plethora" of drugs in his system, including heroin.
Sherryn Marie Davis, 22, pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing equipment for the administration of a prohibited drug.

It's just more tragic 'collateral damage' from the failed War on Drugs.

Mexico's drug war comes to Sydney as Injecting Centre legitimised

It's official - the cocaine boom in Australia is being supplied by Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, says a report in today's SMH.

Well it had to be coming from somewhere, and the quality has been much better than in recent years, I am told, so this news is no real surprise.

Reports of rich punters paying up to $500 a gram for the best product explain how there is a profit to be made out of what must be a torturously difficult business -- getting tonnes of an illegal substance right across the planet, evading armies of police and customs to supply an illegal distribution network here.

This price, and the profits, are of course possible because prohibition makes it so. Despite this, there is again no mention of prohibition in the lengthy SMH report.

It even takes a swipe at users because they indirectly support this violent, murderous cartel, ignoring the fact that it's the government's prohibition regime that makes it so.

The ABC's AM program, however, ran the legalisation story front and centre, piggybacking it on the news that the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross was to be legitimised, quoting drug law reformers Tony Trimingham, Dr Alex Wodak and Wayside Chapel Pastor Graham Long.

Premier Kristina Keneally announced the MSIC move yesterday, ending a pattern in which legislation had to be passed regularly to maintain funding for the Centre. An incoming Coalition government could have finished the Centre by simply doing nothing, a possibility given fierce opposition from far right Christians in the Liberals led by MLC David Clarke. This faction advocates a moralistic zero tolerance enforcement approach, arguing that the Centre legitimises and perpetuates drug use.

But founding Director of the Centre Dr Ingrid van Beek commented on 702 radio that such moral objectors “would rather see people dead than addicted – really I’ve never gotten that.”

Wayside Chapel Pastor Graham Long then joined other drug law reformers on the national AM program calling for an end the the War on Drugs, which he said had failed.

“There is no shortage of drugs,” he said. “You can buy anything you want at any time. Give me a minute and I’ll be back with anything you like.”

Dr Alex Wodak from St Vincent’s hospital said the global drug trade was worth $320bn a year which gave drug dealers more access to resources than law enforcement.

Tony Trimingham made similar comments. Mr Trimingham is a founder of Family Drug Support, a group based on the families of people who, like Mr Trimingham’s son, died or suffered from drug addiction but realise that prohibition is a problem, not a solution

Even Kings Cross Police Superintendent Tony Crandell commented on radio that "Prohibition isn't working", in the context of a supportive message about the MSIC having improved amenity for local residents. It underlines the difficulty police face. Tasked with prosecution the War on Drugs, they must either put their heads in the sand and believe the prohibition myths or carry out their duties knowing they are nearly futile.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Incredible discovery: Australians like to drink!

Salvation Army musos spread the message on
Kings Cross station, London - where the tubas were
shiny, the playing excellent and the
fractional platform numbers bemusing
The nanny state kicked into overdrive yesterday with blanket media coverage of a survey by those teetotalling prohibitionists, the Salvation Army.

Despite going into pubs across the country for decades collecting money in buckets, the Army needed to conduct a survey to establish that:

• 4 million Australians drink out of habit (hmmn, that would include me)

• 1.4 million of "them" drink to feel "normal". This seems a bit shocking until it's explained that "normal" can mean simply that people think it's normal to drink when they socialise, celebrate or commiserate. (Hmmn, that would again include me).

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Salvation Army state drug and alcohol services co-ordinator, Kathryn Wright, said the findings were alarming and showed a culture saturated by alcohol.
It seems that when a few drinks in a pub relaxes people enough to throw money into buckets, that isn't so alarming to the Sallies.

But worst of all, did you know that some people "drink to get drunk"! Get out of here, who would have thought? Next they'll tell me people eat to prevent hunger, or smoke pot to get stoned!

This sanctimonious and mindless non-news nevertheless got blanket coverage from the media who are not generally known for their temperance, happily feeding a general moral panic which is stridently calling for the night economy of cities to be shut down.

Now THAT's alarming!

It would be interested to know where the funding came from for the survey and PR campaign. The cash certainly didn't go to the poor and needy. Perhaps the Sallies should go back to charity and tuba-playing. Leave the propaganda out, please! Meanwhile I'm happy with my habits, I don't cause problems for others or myself with my drinking, and resent being preached to.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Detective murdured in War on Drugs

Some of the armed and armoured police who swarmed
 into Bankstown after the shooting
(photo Kate Gehragty, SMH)
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:
William Crews, a 26-year-old detective-in-training, was taken to Liverpool Hospital after he was shot in the head with a .22 calibre rifle. He was pronounced dead at 12.30am today.

Mr Crews, a detective senior constable originally from rural Australia, was involved in a raid on an apartment building on Cairds Avenue, Bankstown, about 9pm. Officers were executing a search warrant for drugs when a number of shots were fired.

A group of people inside the building opened fire and the officer was shot, sources said.

Five people were initially arrested, while police had to negotiate the surrender of another three suspects. 
Detective Crews was a member of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad. The incident sparked an inrush of police, from the Riot Squad to counter-terrorism specialists and helicopters. The whole street was cordoned off and residents were cowering in fear, several saying they did not feel safe in their own suburb.

The media is following a well-worn route here, reporting the tragedy in terms of heroic police, bad guys, guns and of course DRUGS.

But I will be very surprised if public figure mentions prohibition and the War on Drugs - the fundamental cause of all this pain, mayhem and massive spending of public money.

The sad fact is that this death, and others, are unnecessary. The victims are casualties in and martyrs to a War which causes far more harm than the drugs it fails to control.

No drugs were found in the raid. [On day two of this story no-one has been charged with murder and there is speculation the policeman was shot by one of his own colleagues in "friendly fire", making this a double tragedy. Two men named Nguyen and Geehad were charged with shooting offences.]

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cocaine: the new ecstasy

Cocaine use in Sydney is booming, say some analysts in this weekend's SMH.

Punters are paying up to $500 a gram to be assured of a quality product. Some say the boom is caused by a shortage of ecstasy after disruptions to the international supply of precursor materials. This is a perfect example of the 'balloon effect' -- squeeze the balloon in one place and it swells in another, making prohibition a rather pointless exercise. This is especially so as restricting a relatively safe, non-addictive drug like ecstasy-MDMA pushes people to more dangerous drugs including cocaine which is addictive.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ben Cousins prompts a good debate on prohibition

A recent series of letters in The Sydney Morning Herald contains succinct rebuttals of prohibition. SMH readers tend to think a bit more deeply than the average Joe, so these letters offer little hope that the public in general is waking up. Still, I am sure the following conversation would not have appeared a few years ago. Things are moving on.

30 August 2010

Devine misses the point on Cousins drug story
I was appalled by Miranda Devine's article on the Ben Cousins' documentary and her opinion on drug addiction and those afflicted by the disease (''Seven's weak tackle on Cousins'', August 28-29).

However, the tragedy is that the most Australians would agree with her. Whatever your opinion of Ben Cousins, he has done a great thing in getting people talking about addiction.

Drugs are a serious problem in society. If people are genuinely concerned and fear for their children becoming another statistic, they should not listen to opinions of journalists but to those who have lived through the experience. None of the addiction specialists who shared their views on the documentary condemned Cousins, and these are the people we should be listening to.

I was in active addiction for nearly 25 years and was deeply offended by Devine's comments. Over the years I've had to deal with the death of many of my friends at the hands of drugs. I'm sure their parents would be comforted by Devine's wisdom that ''they were not afflicted by a disease. They were simply narcissists who took drugs because it makes them feel good.'' Until people understand that addiction is a mental health issue and drug abuse is symptomatic of underlying mental disorders we will continue to watch our children die. The children being sexually abused and neglected today are tomorrow's drug addicts.

Alison Fitzgibbon Broadmeadow

The replies start, 31 August 2010:

A choice disease
Alison Fitzgibbon (Letters, August 30) says ''addiction is a mental health issue and drug abuse is symptomatic of underlying mental disorders''. Really?

Then how does she explain that very first time? Is it mental health disorders that prompt a young trendy to pop a pill in a nightclub? I don't think so. As for drug addiction being a disease, with the possible exception of sexually transmitted diseases, I can't think of a single disease that gives a person complete choice over whether to be exposed to it.

Daniel Lewis Rushcutters Bay