Wednesday, October 30, 2013

As legal cannabis spreads in the US, surprise! The sky has not fallen.

A map of the USA showing states in green that have
legalised medical marijuana use. States in orange
have legalised recreational use (as of November 2012).
It must be a worst-case scenario for prohibitionists. Their horror scenarios warning against legal cannabis, always evidence-free, are quickly being roundly refuted by reality.

As this New York Times story shows, there are no armies of stoned teenage zombies staggering around the streets, crime has not increased, there is no carnage on the roads and it looks as if less alcohol is being consumed - explaining why self-interested alcohol industry bodies oppose legalisation.

Meanwhile some counties are raking in a nice little tax earner.

True, there are some downsides. Some people have complained about the smell emanating from their neighbours' cannabis crops, a very serious first-world problem I would say. And precincts that didn't properly regulate medical marijuana outlets have had some local nuisances.

Still prohibitionists bang their drums, one police advocate complaining that new relaxed rules have resulted in "robberies of cash-rich marijuana farms in Northern California". I guess he would prefer to continue locking up disproportionate numbers of Blacks and Hispanics on pot charges instead of solving actual crime, or the old system where illegal growers could not report similar robberies and perhaps resort to illegal means of obtaining justice (the Al Capone/bikie gang factor). Or maybe he's just concerned that his fiefdom will shrink now it is no longer so super-sized by prohibition.

Meanwhile 58% of Americans support legalising the drug. Prohibitionists must be panicking (because one thing's for sure - most of them will not let reality change their ideology-based opinions).

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Teen tragedy reported but the point is totally missed - again

Drugs for sale on the Silk Road site.
Again I found myself shouting at the TV last night as ABC's 7.30 reported on the death of James Munro at Sydney's recent Defcon festival after taking some pills.

His grief-stricken father was featured, saying the things you would expect someone to say in such horrible circumstances.

He and the editors focused the blame on the Silk Road website, now shut down. It seems James had bought his pills there, believing them to be MDMA ecstasy.

James and two friends had driven all night from Melbourne. While waiting in line to enter the festival,  the presence of police with sniffer dogs induced James to take his three pills. Within 15 minutes he was convulsing and later died in hospital after suffering a 42-degree temperature.

James' father thinks his son would still be alive if Silk Road had been shut down two weeks earlier, and he could be right.

But maybe not. The whole story is really about prohibition, and it is very arguable that prohibition killed James Munro. But, as usual, that subject was entirely absent from the story.

The elements of the tragedy are all too common.

The police and sniffer dogs who triggered James' tragic decision to drop a probable overdose of pills are simply the face of prohibition.

The story pointed out that no-one knows what is actually in these illicit substances - very true, but that too is entirely because of prohibition. If the better quality drugs were legal, regulated and properly labelled with dosages - like legal pharmaceuticals - most damage could be averted. What James suffered sounds like an allergic reaction, but to what?

Silk Road, a marketplace for unregulated, unlabelled drugs, also thrived under prohibition, and if it had been shut down earlier James could have obtained his drugs from another site or from the streets of Melbourne, so shutting it down may not have saved the teenager's life. That's also a feature of prohibition - shut down one dealer and several more pop up immediately.

Because most public discourse about drugs, like this story on 7.30, boils down to "Just say no", good constructive advice about safe drug use is hard to find.

The kids drove all night, so they were physically and mentally low before starting an all-day festival on drugs. Properly advised people would know this is not a good idea at all.

To report stories like this without mentioning prohibition is misleading, unbalanced and irresponsible, only perpetuating the prohibition framework that in fact contributes to the tragedies.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Aussie idiots chase their own tails but never mention the War

Discarded syringes in a Kings Cross gutter
- this is not what prohibition is supposed to look like.
Why are there so many idiots in Australia? Especially, it seems, among police, politicians, academics and journalists.

A lengthy piece on ABC Radio National this morning looked at the escalating War on Bikies in Queensland and Victoria, where they are apparently supplying methamphetamines (Ice) more and more into regional and country towns.

As usual, however, prohibition was not mentioned once in any report on the above that I heard.

The brilliantly intelligent Queensland government is going to - wait for it - ban bikies from working in tattoo parlours!!! Woo-hoo, that'll do it!

RN's James Carlton this morning interviewed Criminal Law Professor Andreas Schloenhardt from Queensland University who specialises in organised crime and 'narcotrafficking'.

Carlton asked Prof Schloenhardt what was the root cause of the drugs/gangs problem. Professor Schloenhardt replied: "That's the $64 million dollar question". I'm thinking: "Here comes a mention of Prohibition!" but no -  he went on to say that we needed to do more research into the gangs and "engage" with them. Hello! Engage with the nice bikies and they'll just stop dealing drugs? Is this gentleman serious? No doubt the professor himself would be the best person to get any such funding.

Mind you Radio National might have edited out talk of prohibition, in which case I apologise to the good professor but it looks like the old pattern of people making money from prohibition having a vested interest in defending it.

Contrast this imbecilic Australian discourse with what's going on in the UK, where Durham's chief constable Mike Barton - the intelligence lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers - wrote an opinion piece in The Observer calling for decriminalisation and regulation of Class A drugs because "prohibition had put billions of pounds into the hands of villains who sell adulterated drugs on the streets".
Britain's police forces all map the activities of organised crime. In my force area we have 43 organised crime groups on our radar. Most of them have their primary source of income in illicit drug supply; all of them are involved in some way. These criminals are often local heroes and role models for young people who covet their wealth. Decriminalising their commodity will immediately cut off their income stream and destroy their power.
In a separate BBC piece, medical researchers show that the "War on illegal drugs is failing" because the drugs "are now cheaper and purer than at any time over the last 20 years".
The report said street prices of drugs had fallen in real terms between 1990 and 2010, while their purity and potency had increased. In Europe, for example, the average price of opiates and cocaine, adjusted for inflation and purity, decreased by 74% and 51% respectively between 1990 and 2010, the Vancouver-based centre said. The seven drug surveillance systems the study looked at had at least 10 years of information on the price and purity of cannabis, cocaine and opiates, including heroin.
Among the 945 comments underneath that story was this bit of light relief:
"Only a user loses drugs" - Wideboy