Sunday, 30 November 2008

The Unwinnable War On Dickheads

I give up!

How many times do the Liberal Party have to hear it? The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs” was rejected by the vast majority of experts in health, in welfare, in Australia, on the whole bloody planet. Banging on about it is futile and frankly, embarrassing. You had your shot and failed ... the war was lost. We are still counting the bodies whilst those actually qualified are working furiously to analyse how to prevent it happening again. You introduced “Tough on Drugs”, the Australian version of the "War on Drugs" and it was a massive failure. Your general, AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty conceded defeat. Your commander and chief, John Howard was dismissed and Colonel Bronwyn Bishop was banished to sanitary duties. My advice ... take a hint.

What About The Winnable War On Drugs Prime Minister?

Senator Mathias Cormann
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Administration

24th November 2008

Kevin Rudd needs to commit to the ‘war on drugs’, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Administration Mathias Cormann said today.

“In his first year in office the Prime Minister has been leading a ‘war’ on just about everything,” Senator Cormann said. “Why is it then that his Government has abandoned the critically important war on drugs?” he asked.

“More than a year after the release of the comprehensive House of Representatives Committee report “The winnable war on drugs – The impact of illicit drug use on families” the Rudd Government still has not provided any response to the Parliament,” Senator Cormann said.

“In the Government’s propaganda paper on its first year in office the battle faced by too many families against the enemy of drug abuse hardly rates a mention. The time for more Committees and reviews on the challenge of drug abuse is over. This is the time to make decisions and take action.

“We need decisions focused on winning the war, not on helping the enemy gain more strength.

“The story in today’s Daily Telegraph is a shocking demonstration of how a completely misguided harm minimisation approach by Labor in NSW is failing young people and their families.

“Our children don’t need lessons on how to use harmful and illicit drugs. They need to get the clear message that drugs are bad,” Senator Cormann said.

“Of course we have to provide effective treatment to anyone with a drug problem – but it should never ever be done in a way that normalises drug use.

“Any parent would be shocked and horrified to read the advice that has been circulated to children in NSW schools, including comments such as:

If you don’t already have a reliable dealer, try to find one and stick with them;

When you’re using a new batch (of speed) only try a little at first - you can always use the rest later if you need to.

Budget for food, rent and bills BEFORE you spend money on drugs;

Don’t buy drugs on credit;

Avoid (?) dealing speed or other drugs.

“It is time the Prime Minister showed some national leadership on this.

“Teaching 14 year old kids how to use illicit drugs is just outrageous. This is another ‘harm minimisation’ booklet that should be pulped immediately!

“I look forward to meeting with Darren Marton, the founder of the ‘Drugs - No-Way’ campaign in Canberra on Wednesday, along with Ms Bronwyn Bishop, who chaired the House of Representatives Inquiry into Illicit Drugs last year,” Senator Cormann said.

If I could be a fly on the wall at any event to ever take place, I would skip The Watergate Hotel, the meeting between Howard and Costello over the leadership and even the last supper. But I wouldn’t miss the meeting that Mathias Cormann is having with Darren Marton and Bronwyn Bishop. I would have enough material to fill this blog for at least 2 years. If only they would invite Chris Pyne and help raise the average IQ above 65. And what the hell are they going to talk about? The Bishop Report is dead, Labor is in power, Bronwyn Bishop sits on the back bench, Mathias Cormann is a goose and Darren Marton is just another 'abstinence only' moop.

You have laugh at Cormann’s rhetoric.

We need decisions focused on winning the war, not on helping the enemy gain more strength.
What the hell does that mean? Who is the enemy? What decisions? Does he mean the ones that got us in this mess in the first place?

Our children don’t need lessons on how to use harmful and illicit drugs. They need to get the clear message that drugs are bad.
Drugs are bad, mkay. Now that we know that, our children should be safe. What a relief! Do they need lessons on how to use harmful and illicit drugs? Of course not because they know that drugs are bad ... mkay. Illicit drugs means illegal drugs so why would kids be involved in breaking the law? Drugs are bad ... and illegal ... and dangerous, mkay. Just as long as we don’t send the wrong message. 

But what if the kids don’t listen and decide to take drugs anyway. Is there some booklet to advise them what is the safest way to do what they have decided to do and are going to do anyway? Yes there is and ... oh wait, it’s been shredded. It was full of wrong messages ... and information that might save their life. 

The fact that drugs are harmful is even more reason to teach them the safest practice and because they are illicit means there is no regulations for drug dealers to provide instructions or warnings. Pretty inconsiderate really.

What is the wrong message? For too long now, the idea that sensible, appropriate advice will give the  green light to go ahead and take drugs has been used to appear tough on drugs or for the comfort zone of the message provider. Research has shown many times that scare tactics alone do not achieve the required result as the reality is often much different to the portrayed message. In other words, people aren’t stupid. People taking drugs are well aware of the dangers and not offering advice that might keep them alive because it ‘sends the wrong message’ is mind numbingly stupid. Using this excuse should be a flag to everyone that the messenger does not fully understood the issue or has an ulterior motive. In an advanced society, we should be examining those who use such ridiculous comments and be questioning their intelligence or motives. Such foolish actions would not be tolerated in the business world or in a lab or even in most of society but somehow it’s okay to risk our kids lives because it’s the issue of drugs. Am I missing something?

This is another ‘harm minimisation’ booklet that should be pulped immediately!
Damn that Harm Minimisation! Saving lives, reducing harm, educating our kids. What sort of message is that? What next? Telling us that alcohol is a drug? Pffft. Kids aren’t going to fall for that one. They’re not stupid you know.

In his first year in office the Prime Minister has been leading a ‘war’ on just about everything. Why is it then that his Government has abandoned the critically important war on drugs?
The current government is tackling a more pressing problem, alcohol abuse, which the Libs conveniently overlooked. The focus on drugs has much more value politically and this fact was abused by the previous government. Being an unpopular opposition, it seems it would be an ideal time to dust off the “Tough on Drugs” sham to counter the much more effective alcohol reforms of the current government. The Libs have always had a reservation about tackling our drinking habits which lacks the hysteria of drug use. It’s a piss poor excuse to drag out the redundant Bishop Report and resort to the old tricks of using fear and ignorance to gain some much needed attention.

Alcohol enjoys enormous popularity and special significance in Australian society. It is used for relaxation, socialisation and celebration. Alcohol also plays a significant role in the Australian economy, generating substantial employment, retail activity, export income and tax revenue. There is also evidence that alcohol can benefit the health of some individuals, if consumed at low levels, by contributing to the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk from middle-age onwards. Everyday, thousands of Australians benefit in some way from alcohol.
-Liberal Party’s National Alcohol Strategy 2006

Calling on the government to commit to the "War on Drugs" and to continue with the opposition’s “Tough on Drugs” policies is laughable. The "War on Drugs" is the single biggest policy failure in US political history. Most of Europe is on the verge of breaking away from their commitments to the US dominated anti-drug UN conventions and have clearly shown how Harm Minimisation is a far superior policy to the old Zero Tolerance ideology. Promoting the Bishop Report scam as the core of our drug policy is ludicrous as the rest of the world is giving support to completely opposed strategies. The problem is politicians like Cormann really don’t know much about the issue of illicit drugs and especially Harm Minimisation. Before being so arrogant and forth coming with harsh demands it might be wise to actually know what you’re talking about first.

Senator Mathias Cormann has joined the ranks of other ignorant, lying politicians like Bronwyn Bishop, Chris Pyne, Donna Faragher, Mary Wooldridge, Steve Fielding, Alan Cadman, Alex Hawke, Trish Draper, Peter Dutton, Kay Hull, Ann Bressington, Harry Quick, Luke Simpkins, Louise Markus, John Howard, Mark Vaile etc. etc. etc.

Like the "War on Drugs", the war on dickheads seems to be unwinnable.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Drug Frenzy & the Moral Massacre from Hell aka. Schoolies

When I was younger, there was no such thing as “Schoolies”. I had only first heard of it about 6-7 years ago and never thought much about it except why didn’t we do that. Each year though we hear more and more about schoolies and this year is no exception. So far, I’ve barely read anything positive written about the event and instead there has been a constant barrage of reports headlining drugs, sex, booze, violence and debauchery. Reading some of the stories makes it sound more like an analysis of a biker bash than a school event. Funny enough, the more I read, the more I wish I was young again. Some of the wonderful headlines from the last few years:
Headlines 2008 34,000 Expected For Schoolies Booze-Up (The Sunday Mail ) Police Watch Toolies, As Schoolies Want To Party (The Heraldsun) Drug Dogs For Schoolies Week (Abc) Police To Crackdown On Schoolies Driving (Smh) Roll Up For The Schoolies Rip-Off (The Courier-Mail) Police To Crackdown On Schoolies Driving (Smh) Parents Help Schoolies Stock Up On Alcohol (The Courier-Mail) Schoolies Face Security Crackdown (Daily Telegraph) Teenage Pregnancies The Unplanned Outcome Of Schoolies Week (The Courier-Mail) Headlines From 2007 Party Image 'Lure For Drugs' Olympian In Schoolies Drug Bust Schoolies Porn Claim Probed Schoolie In Vodka Binge
And the winner for most misleading headline is:
Sweaty Schoolies Caught in Virgin 'Sauna' - 2007 -A group of schoolies flying to the Gold Coast this morning found their holiday steaming up faster than they could have ever hoped when the air conditioning failed, turning their Virgin Blue flight into a sauna and grounding the plane.
Every possible outcome has been written about over the last few years and then I found the article below from the HeraldSun. You know that when the media include sex/drinking/drugs, Scientology and pro-family groups in the same article it’s going to be a doozey ... and it is.
Schoolies To Face Drug, Condom Blitz Herald-Sun Emily Power and Aaron Langmaid November 2008 MORE than 15,000 schoolies on an annual party invasion will be bombarded with safe sex and anti-drug messages. A drug information booklet sponsored by the Church of Scientology, and free condoms from a health provider will be available to school-leavers letting off steam when official celebrations start on Saturday. About 7000 Victorians will flock to the Gold Coast, at least 5000 will party at Lorne and Torquay, and up to 3000 teens are anticipated at Phillip Island after exams finish today. Volunteers from a Scientology-backed anti-drug campaign group will be at Surfers Paradise handing out free booklets about popular party substances, including cocaine, ecstasy and LSD. The guides have been produced by Drug Free Ambassadors Australia, who are backed by the Church of Scientology. The booklets, explaining the dangers and health impacts of drug use, will be available at community centres in Lorne and Torquay. A health-care provider is offering free condoms to teens on schoolies holidays. Marie Stopes International's TXT 4 Free Condomz campaign will post teens two condoms when they send a message on their mobile. The organisation said some young people were too embarrassed or didn't have the money to buy condoms at a chemist or supermarket. But family groups have warned the guides could be sending the wrong message. Pro Family Perspective president Angela Conway said the right approach was important. "It is legitimate to ask questions about this and what message it's really sending," Ms Conway said. "The reality is, sadly, kids know a lot about what's out there. This could just be promoting it."
This article is scarier than most and any rational parent would think twice before allowing their kids to be exposed to what the article suggests. First up is the horrifying tactic from a healthcare provider that has been harshly criticised by family groups as promoting something evil to our young kids ... safe sex. Yes, rub your eyes and reread it ... safe sex. This dangerous strategy of promoting safe sex via free condoms has raised that most worrying of problems ... sending the wrong message. God help our kids who get the wrong message that it’s OK to have sex before marriage. Condoms will do that! Schoolies Chiefs Reject Brothel Offer of Free Condoms Of course there’s drinking and drugs. And who’s better to protect our kids from these evils than Ron. L. Hubbard’s own army of Drug Free Ambassadors. What the hell is a Drug Free Ambassador, you may ask? Drug Free Ambassadors in their own words:
The Campaign is mirrored off the very successful Drug-Free Marshall program which has run for the last 10 years in the United States and South Africa, with thousands of children participating in programs run in their schools, pledging to remain drug-free. It has created a base of youth that say "no" and do resist the temptation to "experiment" with drugs.
With all the bad press lately about Scientology, I somehow doubt that these Drug Free Ambassadors are going to be taken too seriously, especially to a schoolie who has beer to drink. The Drug-Free Ambassadors program is just another run-of-the-mill anti-drug group with links to Drug Free Australia (DFA), Carly Crutchfield and other cult like religious groups. They don’t support Harm Minimisation, demonise cannabis and support the usual strategies of “Just Say No” campaigns. It’s also just another door for attracting scientology members and they employ the old “Q & A” strategy where they walk around with clipboards, pens and a questionnaire but under the pretence of answering drug related questions. You know the drill.
Then it became clear that most of them were tied up with the false idea that they were not supposed to promote their ideas to other people making statements like, "You can't tell people what to think" or "People have to make up their own minds." This sounds fine in theory but the result in practice was that people felt they could not "interfere" at all with someone's privacy and so they were inhibited about taking any responsibility at all! They felt it was somehow wrong to tell someone else that drug taking was a wrong thing to do. But this is what they should be doing. Not just preaching "Don't take drugs", but really knowing about the subject and the effects and giving them some cold, hard facts. We need to be able to talk to our friends when we can see they need help and reach out and do something -Drug Free Ambassadors - Church of Scientology
Maybe you might want to check out Drug Free Dave. I suggest you do.
I'm a Warrior against edictive Drugs -Drug Free Dave. Drug Free Ambassadors - Church of Scientology
With so many young people in one place there’s bound to be an huge influx of drug dealers. Victor Harbour, S.A. is one of those places. The Adelaide Advertiser has reported that Victor Harbour had an ecstasy bust with 2 men being caught in separate incidents with a staggering total of 39 ecstasy pills between them. Apart from that, no one was nicked for drink/drug driving and 32 drug diversion and cannabis expiation notices were handed out. Arrrh ... the wonders of decriminalisation. though, outdid themselves again with a report that $1 million worth of drugs were stopped on their way to schoolies. One small problem ... it was only a guess. The drugs were found in South Brisbane not Surfers Paradise and the police didn’t actually say they were for schoolies. Why bother with details when you have a potential headline with schoolies and drugs in it?
Police Seize $1m of 'Schoolies' Drugs November 2008 -Two arrested after drugs seized -Police says drugs destined for schoolies -Full coverage: Global addiction Two 20-year-old men have been arrested after Queensland police seized more than $1 million worth of drugs they fear may have been destined for schoolies week celebrations. Superintendent John Pointing, of the State Drug and Property Crime Group, said police found $17,500 in cash, two firearms and a stash of drugs, believed to be heroin, cocaine, methylamphetamine and MDMA, in two south Brisbane homes. He said it was possible the drugs were to be distributed at schoolies week and upcoming events. "We'd be naive to think that some of these drugs weren't destined for schoolies and other events ... in the near future," Supt Pointing said. "This is a very serious matter and we're very pleased to have taken this amount of drugs off the streets." Supt Pointing said parents should talk to their children about the dangers of drugs. "(Our) purpose is to raise awareness of the amount of drugs that are out there and it's timely ... for parents to think about their children, talk to their children about drugs."
When In School ... Do as the Schoolies Do We know that when young adults get their first taste of a week away from their parents that they are just like us and want to go sight seeing and experience some fine food at the best restaurants in town. Being surrounded by thousands of people their own age and away from their parents is just a minor distraction from the historical sites and local tours. Coming of age with half naked members of the opposite sex piled up in thousands of parent free apartments is just a side issue as there are the local wineries and beautiful countryside to explore. Being able to drink as much as you want and have the usual assortment of mind altering drugs available shouldn’t deter these young people from doing what we do on our holidays. Hmmm. Maybe not. But there are some alternatives to the mainstream schoolies: We have to honest about what happens at schoolies. Think back to when you were about the same age and you had a chance to go away for a week or so with the same conditions? You would want real information how ever confronting it is. The Drug Free Ambassadors or the pro-family groups will not give real information for the fear of sending the wrong message which is simply dangerous and naive. Wishing for something like good old Christian behaviour cannot replace reality. I found these well thought out and responsible links for some useful information: Reach Out: [Link] Youth Central: [Link] TXT 4 Free Condoms: [Link] For those who hate the idea of schoolies, I found quite a few people wanting it banned. Even the ex Queensland premier, Peter Beatie considered banning schoolies once but he changed his mind. God bless him. South Australia’s mother of morals (the one with a 7-11 haircut), Anne Bressington, tried to introduce a bill into parliament which gave police the power to expel any schoolie from the event if found using or possessing alcohol or drugs during Schoolies Week. Bressington also called on police to use sniffer dogs and drug testing at schoolies. It’s shouldn’t be surprising considering her various attempts at stigmatising drug users but subjecting schoolies to even harsher penalties will not reduce drug use. This is something that Bressington has never understood and why she is completely irrelevant to rational drug policy debate. One chap who really dislikes the event is pastor, Craig Lloyd from the Grace Bible Church in Brisbane. Actually, I don’t think he likes anything.
First – Get Sodom out of your lives Make sure that what you do as a family is godly. What you expose them to, which friends they choose, what you watch on TV, what you do–make sure it is godly and edifying. You don’t have to take them out of the world–but do what you can to insulate them from the world. It is hard. I know how hard it is. Talk to them. If school or friends or activities are corrupting their soul–move them. If I thought school was leading my kids astray–I would pull them out–change schools–home-school them. I still have to face the dread of schoolies. I am sure schoolies started in Sodom. Hormone fuelled promiscuity, drugs and trouble. If I trust my kids and know who they are with and where–maybe. If not–I trust my relationship is such with them that I can say no to certain ways of doing schoolies. Get Sodom out of their lives. Men, women–you don’t want the heartache of drugs, unwanted pregnancy, rebellion in your children. -Preached by Craig Lloyd
So what did happened at schoolies this year. Was it a frenzy of violence, sex and drugs that only hell itself can replicate? It’s only two days into the event so there’s plenty of time for satin to do his thing but so far it’s been a bit of a fizzer for the doomsday nay-sayers. Only a few schoolies arrested at each hotspot with the usual hangers-on causing most of the problems. Maybe they are more cunning this year or maybe they have been well behaved. Maybe the increased police and security has had an effect or God forbid, most of them took on some responsibility. Either way, it will start all over again next year with the same warnings, advice, threats, scare tactics, pleads and sensational headlines. Whatever ... I still wish I was young again.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Again ... Pot is Relatively Harmless

[Sigh] How many (real) studies do we have to have before the anti-cannabis morons go away? Below is another report that reinforces what we have known for 40 years or so - pot is relatively harmless. No amount of junk science, slandering or silly comments can change that. So why do the anti-cannabis crusaders persist? Why do they go on and on with unimportant, unreliable, non concluding theories or go to great lengths to find the smallest of loopholes to exploit. Only those with a set agenda or an ulterior motive would go to such extremes and frankly, it’s pathetic.
These people would have developed schizophrenia whether or not they used cannabis -Dr. Mikkel Arendt of Aarhus University in Risskov, Denmark
I don’t feel the need to try and explain to these people that they are wrong anymore. I’ve gone past that point as I am discovering more and more that these nay-sayers will never change their mind regardless of the evidence or truth. The difference is that the anti-cannabis crowd aren’t looking for the truth like scientists or the AOD industry, they are simply trying to discredit marijuana as dangerous so it becomes unacceptable. Whether it’s relatively safe or not doesn’t matter to the anti-cannabis zealots and they are just another step in the sinister history of trying to demonise marijuana. We need to ask ourselves one simple question. If cannabis is so dangerous, where are the bodies? Where are the millions of freaked out cannabis addicts who should be filling up our hospitals, rehabs and morgues? With so many smokers throughout the world , why hasn’t society been overrun with these damaged cannabis smokers? It only takes 5 minutes or so on the internet to find out that there are no recorded deaths due to cannabis use alone. It also becomes apparent that many normal and/or successful people have smoked cannabis recreationally without any negative consequences. What you won’t find is that cannabis is responsible for violent crimes. Unlike the legal drug alcohol, you won’t find cases of domestic violence because someone was high on dope or a fight broke out amongst a crowd of stoners. But beware, you will find many, many sensational headlines telling you that new research points to cannabis being more harmful than we first thought. Read them carefully and you see that the so called new evidence is not supported by most scientists or the research falls into the category of junk science. As a research expert said, 90% of new research is useless in the real world and research based on established evidence is much more likely to be conclusive. In other words, the dangers of cannabis has been shown to be minor for many years with thousands of reports proving that. The research used by the anti-cannabis crowd is often tricks of randomised statistics, shoddy research practices or taken out of context to shock the public. For example, you must of heard of that often used fallacy, “The cannabis of today is not what it was when our parents smoked it”. It’s bullshit. Apart from the contention that strong cannabis has always been available in the form of hash, it’s bullshit for the simple reason that people just take less of something that is stronger. If you are used to drinking 6 bottles of beer, do you drink 6 bottles of whisky if it available? No, of course not, you drink less to get the same effect. It is a vital part of their argument that alcohol can be moderated over a session of drinking but for some reason this is not so when it’s cannabis. And then there’s that long ago, dismissed gateway theory ... that is bullshit. The high levels of cannabis causing major psychosis is bullshit. It’s all bullshit. Yes there are dangers involved but they are minimal. Like all substances, some people are prone to have a reaction to cannabis and they should not participate. Common sense should prevail. The truth is simple, most cannabis smokers have no problems whatsoever and never will but there will always be a group of nutters who will try and deceive us into thinking otherwise. For those tired old moralists, read on and weep...
Pot-Induced Psychosis May Signal Schizophrenia By Anne Harding - Reuters November 2008 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have long-lasting psychotic episodes after smoking marijuana may be exhibiting early signs of schizophrenia, researchers reported Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Cannabis-induced psychosis," in which a person loses touch with reality and the symptoms persist for at least 48 hours, is an established psychiatric diagnosis, but it is controversial, Dr. Mikkel Arendt of Aarhus University in Risskov, Denmark, and colleagues note in their report. There has been little research on the condition, and doctors have a hard time distinguishing it from other psychiatric disorders or developing a specific list of symptoms by which to characterize it. In a previous study, Arendt and colleagues found that nearly half of people who had an episode of cannabis-induced psychosis went on to develop schizophrenia within the next six years. In the current study, the researchers looked at the genetic roots of both conditions by comparing the family histories of 609 people treated for cannabis-induced psychosis and 6,476 who had been treated for schizophrenia or a related psychiatric condition. They found that individuals treated for post-pot smoking psychotic episodes had the same likelihood of having a mother, sister or other "first-degree" relative with schizophrenia as did the individuals who had actually been treated for schizophrenia themselves. This suggests that cannabis-induced psychosis and schizophrenia are one and the same, the researchers note. "These people would have developed schizophrenia whether or not they used cannabis," Arendt explained in comments to Reuters Health. Based on the findings, the researcher says, "cannabis-induced psychosis is probably not a valid diagnosis. It should be considered schizophrenia." It's "very common" for people to have psychotic symptoms after using marijuana, such as hearing voices, feeling paranoid, or believing one has some type of special ability, Arendt said. But these symptoms typically last only an hour or two. "It's a very important distinction, this 48 hours criterion," he said. Other researchers have shown that pot smoking roughly doubles the risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and that people who use marijuana and go on to develop schizophrenia become psychotic earlier than people with the illness who don't use cannabis, Arendt added. It's unclear whether smoking marijuana causes schizophrenia or not, but if it does, according to the researcher, it's likely a gradual process. Nevertheless, he said, "the consensus is pretty much you should not use cannabis if you want to avoid an increased risk of schizophrenia." Anyone who experiences an extended psychotic episode after using marijuana should get help, Arendt advised. These symptoms could represent an opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia, he added, and the earlier people with this illness begin treatment, the better their prognosis. SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry, November 2008.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Legaliser

The Legaliser  
Carl Wilkinson 
November 2008

We need to manage the people who use them and help the people who misuse them, not criminalise either of them -Danny Kushlick
Danny Kushlick is the founder and head of policy and communications at Transform Drug Policy Foundation 

People will always use and misuse drugs. On that basis, we need to manage the people who use them and help the people who misuse them, not criminalise either of them. 

Prohibition is a gangsters' charter. It's the second largest opportunity for organised crime to make money to the value of £160bn a year, every year. 

We are being lied to. The public is being duped into believing that prohibition works when it doesn't. It creates crime, it creates ill health, and it destabilises producer countries and transit countries to the point where their development issues become intractable. 

Legalisation is not a panacea. There are deep social and political problems that underlie the misuse of drugs, including inequality, deprivation, discrimination. The legalisation and regulation of drugs enables us to deal with these problems, rather than criminalise the people involved. 

Prohibition is one of the most counterproductive policies on earth. There are 200 million illegal drug users worldwide. When you have that kind of money involved combined with that level of demand, you have one of the largest commodity markets on earth totally unregulated. 

If my children ever became dependent on heroin and cocaine, I'd far rather they could buy them or be prescribed them legally than have to score them from a dodgy bloke around the corner and prostitute themselves in order to support their habit. 

We need to take the supply of drugs out of the hands of some of the nastiest people on the planet and put it back into the hands of government and democratic society. 

We have a thing called Green Room Syndrome. Most politicians, before the recording light goes on, will tell you that having a war on a commodity that is used by 200 million people and perpetuates all sorts of wars and conflicts around the world should stop. But to maintain short-term political power, they'll tell you the complete opposite on the record. 
Drugs should be legalised because they're dangerous, not because they're safe. They should be brought within the law where consumers would have information like ingredients and purity guides. 

It was my experience of working with crack and heroin users in the criminal justice system that made me want to work towards drug legalisation. In prisons I saw drug users who were damaged in almost every way they could be - the last thing they needed was to be incarcerated. 

Most people who want to use illegal drugs are already using them. Their illegality is not a deterrent. 

I see legalisation as ultimately inevitable. Alcohol prohibition - a 13-year experiment - ended catastrophically after it created the mafia and corrupted every US federal institution.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Even The Feds Want Drug Policy Changes

When the head of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) criticises our drug policies, you know there’s a problem. AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty recently made his views public about the unsuccessful strategies that have been pushed on us by ignorant and self serving governments. For the first time, the AFP have denounced the route we have taken for tackling the drug problem and talked up our official policy of Harm Minimisation.
This is a real complex problem; it's not about law enforcement, it's not only about supply reduction. about how we manage harm reduction and demand reduction. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
Keelty’s comments came as a huge shock to many as the AFP has always been closely linked to government spin on drug strategies. John Howard used the AFP to falsely claim that his “Tough on Drugs” policy had broken the heroin trade into Australia and was responsible for the decline in drug use. For Keelty to do the unthinkable by denouncing the current system is a sign of the times as the world approaches a more pragmatic period regarding drug use. Why did Keelty say what he did? And why now? Paul Dillon (Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia) says Mick Keelty would have never had said publicly what he did under the Howard government.
I think it's really quite amazing that Mr Keelty has come out with these comments [...] Every single time they said they were doing anything about drugs, out would come a new police helicopter, or out would come a new customs machine. That's very easy to parade to the media and say, 'Look, we're doing something about drugs’ -Paul Dillon. Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia
Mick Keelty voiced his views at a recent discussion titled Justice Issues for Drug Use held by the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD). The criticism of his own department gave his views even more credence than usual and should not be understated. Declaring that authorities like the AFP should ‘stop quoting statistics and feeling good about themselves that they’re doing a good job’ was a brave move by Keelty. Putting the emphasis on Harm Reduction and Demand Reduction was his call without loosing sight of law & order in the process. This is Harm Minimisation in it’s purest form with the 3 prong attack being fully covered.
It can't be just as simple as saying no to drugs. It has to be more important work in drug education to ensure that future generations are not creating the sort of demand that we have in our country at the moment. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
Mick Keelty pointed out the volumes of seized drugs as an indicator of how ineffective current strategies really are.
We've seized 195 kilograms of cocaine, which equates to 195,000 street hits; 4.4 tonnes or 15 million doses of ecstasy; 27 kilograms or 270,000 hits of crystal methamphetamine, or ice; and 1.7 tonnes of precursor chemical pseudoephedrine They're enormous seizures. I remember years ago being excited about a multi-kilo seizure. But these seizures are beyond belief. -Mick Keelty. Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP)
He went on and called for a change of direction and said 'now is the time to break the pattern'. Although law enforcement wasn’t put aside, the call for change included both Harm Reduction and Demand Reduction. Probably the most important statement was that the issue at hand was complex and there were no simple answers. Accepting that a range of strategies were needed was a welcoming break from the simplistic approach that has been the basis of the Zero Tolerance agenda which coincidentally has had no success so far. I can see the likes of Drug Free Australia (DFA), Bronwyn Bishop or Piers Akerman frothing at the mouth as one of their own utters those filthy words; Harm Minimisation or Harm Reduction without publicly condemning it. Are Brian Watters, Bill Muehlenberg, Craig Thompson, Jo Baxter, Miranda Devine etc. going to change their views on Harm Minimisation now that Australia’s top cop has endorsed it? Somehow I doubt it since they don’t really understand the issue in the first place.
The question is, how many more people have to die before we reject the foolishness of these harm minimisation advocates, and their mistaken belief that illicit drug use is just a health issue, and not also a criminal justice issue? Instead of seeking harm prevention - the only proven drug policy - and a zero tolerance approach to drug use, they recklessly continue pushing the line that people will always take drugs, so we must try to make it “safer” when they do. This is not only a counsel of surrender, but it is costing people their lives. It is time the dangerous and failed ideology of the harm minimisation crowd is replaced with some realism which is genuinely compassionate and responsible. -Bill Muehlenberg. Culture Watch
The anti-Harm Minimisation crowd in Australia is becoming more and more of a fringe movement involving radicals like the religious right, evangelists and die-hard conservatives. It must be a relief for the many politicians who had to tow the party line for John Howard and found it hard to ignore science, medicine and the growing death toll. The truth always wins out in the end and Keelty was just one of the many who found it increasingly hard to maintain a vigilant agenda to a policy based on fear and rhetoric without facts or evidence. It might have taken a while but at least he had the guts to admit it.
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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Diary: It’s OK ... It’s Just Alcohol

DIARY: The more I research the more I start to notice how prevalent legal drug use is in the form of alcohol. It has all the characteristics of illicit drug use but somewhere we have accepted it as normal behaviour. You see drinking everywhere but probably don’t notice it as a form of drug use unless you actually look for it. Most of us do it ourselves but because it is only alcohol, we don’t get the same alerts going off as if it was an illicit drug. Take all the scenarios of illicit drug use and replace it with alcohol and you get a familiar picture. The ecstasy user who can’t go to a dance club without their drug of choice for the fear of not fully enjoying themselves. The cocaine or speed user who wants some confidence when going out to meet people at a party or pub including potential partners. A dope smoker who has a few pipes after work to relax. But replace the illegal drug with alcohol and you get an acceptable situation. How many young people would go to a nightclub or dance venue without drinking? Not many. You’re at a party but it doesn’t really fire up until you have a few drinks under your belt when you can approach people freely without too many inhibitions. Most of us have met someone romantically whilst drunk and is probably how most couples first hook up. It’s been a shit day at work and a few beers or glasses of wine in front of the TV is just what you need to wind down. All these are acceptable social behaviours because the drug in question is alcohol. The more sinister scenarios involving alcohol would have the government in a frenzy if alcohol was replaced with an illicit. How often have we seen people including ourselves overdosing on alcohol? Vomiting or unconscious, ranting incoherently and not able to stand, dribbling food whilst eating or unable to open a door. These moments are usually laughed off as just too much to drink. What about the intention to get drunk? It’s been a hell of a week at work or my wife left me, can be accepted as reasons to over indulge in drinking without any serious warnings from colleagues, friends or family. What would be the reaction from your work colleague if you said to them that you were going to get shitfaced tonight after a disastrous week at work and produced a bag of heroin? What if you get some bad news and say out aloud that you need a pick-me-up as you open your liquor cabinet and pull out a small bag with white powder or a hand full of pills. The reaction is not likely to be the same as if alcohol was involved. There is a common myth that alcohol is not a dangerous drug and even that one or two drinks is not like one or two doses of drugs. Ex US President, Richard Nixon said that having a glass or two of scotch did not effect you immediately compared to taking drugs that only had the purpose of getting high. This argument has been mimicked around the world defending the drinking of alcohol as a social event that has no mind altering effect unless overdone. The image of illicit drug users reaching an unacceptable high instantly is portrayed as vastly different to having a few drinks over a period of time during a social situation. This is just another myth that keeps alcohol legitimatised whilst damning any other drug that makes the law makers nervous. Alcohol effects the brain with 5-10 minutes of consumption and even one drink usually alters the mind. Also the need for a drink is just like other drugs that someone craves or desires. On the other hand, the simplistic view that all drug users get the maximum effect in one usage is just wishful thinking to keep alcohol separate from those demon drugs that ruin society. In reality, most drugs are taken over a period of time or don’t act instantaneously. I’m sure these people envisage a dope smoker for example having one bong and that’s it, then they act like they’re on acid ... spaced out and dangerous. The fact is, most drug use is administered like having rounds of drinks. The level of effect is controlled by the user and determined by how much they take and how often. The main point though is always missed by governments and the moral crusaders. People usually drink or take drugs because it’s really enjoyable. It’s can be exciting, stimulating, fun, intense, sociable, profound and any other effect that humans seem to enjoy. Whilst drinking is often associated with depression or some serious problem, it is universally accepted as mankind’s legal way of altering their mind without being classed as a drug. Almost like Huxley’s soma. In fact, a recent study found that those who don’t drink, are more miserable than drinkers. In typical form, government comments about alcohol and drugs is always cautionary including the almost mandatory confession of smoking grass when younger. Of course it’s not okay for us, the mere public to partake in drug taking but somehow it’s fine for the politician to experiment as long as they didn’t inhale, didn’t enjoy it, it made them feel unwell or they preferred to get drunk. Apart from cannabis, the drug that defies logic in Australia is speed. Methamphetamines or “ice” suffers an incredibly bad image in the MSM and is the flavour of the month for government drug hysteria rhetoric. Amphetamines though, which is a lower quality drug is rampant in Australia and incidentally is my favourite drug. Though I don’t take it much anymore, it has been responsible for many incredibly great experiences over the years. I admittedly had a problem with it but it was nothing like a heroin addiction. Getting caught up in a cycle of speed use is not pleasant but a change of scenery fixed my problem. For those others around me who often took speed, there was no long term problems and everyone turned out fine. It seems to be the equivalent of cocaine in the US and used randomly when a big night is in order. The hundreds of thousands of past users of speed must find anti-drug advertising laughable when they always show the worst case scenario as the outcome of tweaking up. Speed is an incredible drug and after the first taste, the risk factor becomes negligible. Like 99% of casual drug users, speed does not cause a problem and most people simply grow out of any regular use. The most damage is done from the copious amounts of alcohol that speed allows you drink. You can drink for days and never get completely drunk. I know I shouldn’t be crediting an illicit drug with enjoyment and I can hear the moans of not being responsible but nothing anyone says or writes can change the fact that people take drugs for pleasure. Why can legal drug companies promote getting sloshed on their product but admitting speed use is enjoyable is wrong? If you think about the damage alcohol causes compared to illicit drugs, an alien may wonder if the alcohol industry has some sort of hold on the world’s governments. Why would any sane government allow a drug as dangerous as alcohol be advertised to young people as a sign of success or allow a drug that is highly addictive to be available on every street corner? No wonder the alien is confused. Being a recovering heroin addict means no goodies for me including alcohol. Well most of the time anyway. Surprisingly the drug I miss most is alcohol, especially in the form of red wine. Since my addiction, my taste buds have gone to hell and now wine tastes like it did when I was 10 ... bitter and vinegary. I must admit that having a few drinks is a pleasure from the gods and alcohol intoxication is very nice indeed. The memories are still strong though as I sip on my soft drink each night. What does come from sobriety though is being able to watch how much others rely on alcohol for pleasure, relief, confidence, acceptance, status, depression, pain, partying, celebrating, romance, anger and the chance to have exciting, meaningless sex. The very things that are highlighted as the downside of taking illicit drugs.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Diary: Street Dealing

DIARY: I was sitting in the car waiting for Angela a few days ago and noticed 2 suspicious looking men walk past me. I can spot these people a mile off ... clean, new looking runners, freshly washed KMart jeans, short hair, often bulky and looking healthy but unshaven. They have the look and manner of someone going somewhere but not sure where. Slow meaningful paces but ready to stop at any moment. You may have noticed these people before. Always in pairs, one solid and one with a medium build. At first glance they might be a couple of likely lads looking to score but they just don’t quite fit the part and something isn’t right. Then it dawns on you ... they are undercover cops. I was in a suburb adjacent to a well known street dealing area from the days of the so called “heroin epidemic”. Although the area was cleaned up many years ago, it seems business may be on the rise in nearby suburbs. Not really unexpected I suppose considering the balloon effect. Squeeze in one area and another pops up somewhere else. I hadn’t seen a dealer in this adjacent area for at least 5 years. Not that I was particularly looking but drug dealers tend to stand out to a heroin addict. I sat there for about 20 minutes and the two cops walked past twice in both directions. I tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible without looking obvious. Maybe I was somewhat paranoid but my memories of undercover cops is not pleasant. Last time I dealt with these types of people, they were punching me in the throat whilst on the ground. I had 2-3 police officers with their knees in my back and legs as my friendly protector of the law was hammering away at my windpipe. After a short time, another friendly officer started on my stomach with his boots. They wanted my stash that I had swallowed when I was pulled over. For them it was merely a case of inciting a natural bodily function called “throwing up”. 20-30 powerful smashes into my throat with their fist or 10-15 kicks to the stomach with industrial boots should have done it. Who needs water-boarding when you can bring on the feeling of suffocation or death from kicking and punching? I don’t know how prevalent street dealing is anymore. I was initially shocked when I first found out heroin was bought from a stranger on the street as I only ever known buying drugs from a dealers house. As far as I had experienced, you had to know a dealer or have a friend who could score for you. It was never from an unknown on the streets. At the peak of the “heroin epidemic”, you could go to some well known suburbs and there would be literally dozens of heroin dealers bidding for your business. You got to know some of the dealers after while, even to the point where they knew my car and would run up to me before I even parked. Many of them were 14-16 year olds, often Vietnamese/Australian school kids. If I wanted to score early in the morning, I would go to the bus stop where I knew I would catch some students on their way to school. Many of the dealers I would see at night were also students. I only dealt with Vietnamese dealers because I had been ripped off way too often by “Aussies”. The Aussies were considered the dregs of the pack and would always give you small deals or do a runner with your cash. I still had some problems with the Vietnamese but nothing like the Aussie dealers. Some of the Vietnamese dealers were the bread winners of the household even though they were often just kids or in their early 20s. As a prime client, I was sometimes given a phone number and allowed to go directly to their house. This is how I met my current dealer and have been friends with him and his family for about 8 years now. It might seem racist but I found Aussies and European dealers unscrupulous compared to the Vietnamese/Cambodians/Chinese. Dealing with Asians also had another advantage in that you could be sure they weren’t undercover cops. When I was scoring on the streets, I sometimes saw dealers or buyers being busted. It was almost always by replicas of the two undercovers that I had just seen. Maybe it’s a police recruiting requirement to look a certain way before you can go busting junkies? It’s always worried me how someone could volunteer to catch run-of-the-mill drug users but I finally got to understand the type after meeting them on the wrong side of the law. Probably the last time I scored on the streets, I witnessed a bust that confirmed it was time from me to leave the scene. One of the arresting undercover cops was Asian and the busted couple looked more than unhappy. The arrest scene was suddenly filled with undercover cops, uniformed officers and flashing police lights. The street scene would never be the same. The street dealing was eventually cleaned up in the targeted areas but like the balloon effect predicted, other areas soon became the new hot spots. But heroin use was on the decline and the new hot spots were much more subtle than before and attracted less attention. The more experienced dealers started giving out phone numbers to clients and the huge number of undercover cops left over from the clean up eventually soaked up the last few street dealers in the new hot spots. I knew this day was coming where the open heroin markets would become the focus of an attempt to push this problem back underground where everyday day folks wouldn’t have to be subject to desperate junkies looking for a fix. It was too easy and too open. Many of the users around this time were caught up in the sudden popularity of heroin and the cheap, strong gear was too much of a temptation for many. The following months, many of these users gave up heroin and the street dealing went back underground for the long term addicted. The following few years saw heroin use go back to normal levels and this was instantly dubbed the “heroin drought” with the AFP and John Howard claiming victory for the “tough on drugs” strategy. It took a few years though before truth came out that the flood of heroin was replaced with a flood of methamphetamine as Australia’s largest suppliers of heroin simply switched products. As the AFP and Howard were busy with publicly patting each other on the back and telling Australians how they stopped the massive drug cartels in S.E. Asia, methamphetamines(ice) had slipped in and become the major illicit drug problem. The targeted approach had only squeezed the balloon and I watched as suburb after suburb reported first, a huge heroin problem and then a successful clean up from the police. Eventually, the first few suburbs popped up again and the cycle continued. It wasn’t until methamphetamines became a major problem that the heroin street dealing cycle started to diminish. The claims of success from the government were short lived of course as the drug hysterical media started reporting ice as the new national drug scourge. Back in my car watching the two undercover cops, I had to wonder what exactly they were doing here. With the AFP seizing less than 4 days worth of Australia’s daily consumption and current busts of the Mr. Bigs being insignificant, the need for media attention is critical to the perception of success. Nothing makes the government, the police and the anti-drug groups happier than a headline reporting a drug bust ... regardless of how important it is.