The Dim-Post

September 26, 2011

Wrong direction

Filed under: drugs,Politics — danylmc @ 7:24 am

Via the Herald:

Act leader Don Brash wants the use of cannabis decriminalised, saying too much valuable police time is taken up enforcing a law that is flouted by about 400,000 people a year.

Former Police Minister and Act Epsom candidate John Banks could not be reached for comment last night.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key said: “National has long held the view this would be a step in the wrong direction.”

Police Minister Judith Collins also said Act’s cannabis policy was going in the wrong direction.

Once again, here’s the Lancet’s Drug Harm Index:

The status quo is that the state spends a vast sum (Brash estimates $100 million per year) and uses the power of the criminal justice system to destroy thousands of lives – for no gain. The only people who profit from the status quo are criminal organisations that are enriched by drug prohibition, and politicians who pretend they’re getting ‘tough on crime’ because they’re locking up potheads.

I doubt Key’s position is based on polling – this is just a gut-instinct response. And I predict that the majority of the population will support decriminalisation. That isn’t going to make them vote ACT, of course. I think the Venn diagram of potential ACT voters and people who support drug liberalisation has a pretty tiny intersection.

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32 Comments »

  1. “The only people who profit from the status quo are criminal organisations that are enriched by drug prohibition”

    I remember a cop telling me once that if cannabis was legalised, insurance premiums would go up: lots of people otherwise engaged in the black market for dope would instead turn to stealing instead.

    Seriously though, something would need to fill the vaccuum for those currently making money out of it being illegal. All those naughty gang people won’t just find gainful employment.

    Comment by MeToo — September 26, 2011 @ 7:33 am

  2. *daylight savings – too early to proofread*

    Comment by MeToo — September 26, 2011 @ 7:34 am

  3. So if legality was based on that chart we should decriminalize LSD before cannabis.

    Comment by Rick Rowling — September 26, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  4. Can’t antagonise your core supporters – unless you’re the 4th Labour govt, in which case you do but try and make a virtue of it. Still doesn’t end well.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 26, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  5. So if legality was based on that chart we should decriminalize LSD before cannabis.

    Do I hear, “Both?”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 26, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  6. I remember a cop telling me once that if cannabis was legalised, insurance premiums would go up: lots of people otherwise engaged in the black market for dope would instead turn to stealing instead.

    We should make a harmless activity a crime, so that we can arrest people for that instead of committing serious crimes?

    Why don’t we just make alcohol and tobacco illegal, then we can arrest people for selling them instead of cannabis?

    Comment by danylmc — September 26, 2011 @ 7:54 am

  7. I say decriminalise the lot. They did that in Portugal 10 years ago, and the number of drug-related deaths have halved over that time,

    Comment by toad — September 26, 2011 @ 8:02 am

  8. Ecstasy’s classification as a class A drug is also ridiculous. In a classic case of trying to find evidence to justify their pre-set opinion, vast sums of treasure have been expended by Anglosphere governments trying to discover some mental or physical health reason the justify not just keeping MDMA illegal, but class A. Surely nothing more reflects the impotent This vast expenditure has turned up nothing, and all keeping it illegal has done has been to adulterate street drugs with all sorts of crap.

    in the meantime, happy huggy clubbers everywhere are being rounded up and given drug convictions for no good health or legal reason. Good, productive citizens (often with high paying and highly skilled jobs) are being dealt savage prison sentences for doing little more than getting all hippy on the disco biscuits and helping out their mate (AKA “dealing”). Fish in the barrel stuff for the cops, who get to bust “white collar crime syndicates dealing in class A drugs” – and a tragic waste of lives and taxpayers money for for the commons.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2011 @ 8:34 am

  9. Posted to early – para one again…

    Ecstasy’s classification as a class A drug is also ridiculous. In a classic case of trying to find the evidence to justify their pre-set opinion, vast sums of treasure have been expended by Anglosphere governments trying to discover some mental or physical health reason to justify not just keeping MDMA illegal, but as a class A drug. Surely nothing more reflects the impotent rage of the state to not be able to stop use than the sort of barbaric legal savagery that is directed at users of MDMA? This vast expenditure has turned up nothing at all in terms of even minor/moderate health isuues, and all keeping MDMA illegal has done has been to adulterate street drugs with all sorts of crap that DOES hurt people.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  10. It could be that Don Brash knows of polling that he’s yet to do that will show that decriminalisatioon of cannabis will motivate 15-40% of those on unemployment and sickness benefits to go out and get jobs.

    Comment by Pete George — September 26, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  11. …and vote for Act of course.

    Comment by Pete George — September 26, 2011 @ 8:50 am

  12. That graph can’t be right.

    It suggests that some drugs I haven’t tried are less dangerous than ones I have, so clearly there’s an error somewhere ;-)

    Comment by Kahikatea — September 26, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  13. Psycho #5 – “both” if you’re basing it on this chart then I guess so.

    /don’t use either, don’t know enough about costs/benefits to have a strong opinion on legalising or not.

    Comment by Rick Rowling — September 26, 2011 @ 9:05 am

  14. “I say decriminalise the lot”

    ^ This

    “And I predict that the majority of the population will support decriminalisation”

    I’m not so sure about this. Some people are very for it, some people are very against it. However, there is a large “swing group” that will always have a slight bias towards the status quo – it is amazing how many people you talk to who will come out slightly against it because “people on drugs do weird stuff” … true story.

    Comment by Matt Nolan — September 26, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  15. “destroy thousands of lives ”
    Any evidence of these destroyed lives, there must be some lage heaps somewhere
    Or are we talking about the people who can’t teach because of a criminal conviction, I reckon that would be a save

    On the other hand I like the de-crimimalisation of all drugs that would save millions

    Comment by Raymond A Francis — September 26, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  16. Brash’s mistake is that the drug of choice among Epsom voters is cocaine, not cannabis.

    Comment by toad — September 26, 2011 @ 9:39 am

  17. @Matt Nolan – The thing about drugs is a weird miasma of hysteria and hypocrisy immediately engulfs any attempt at a sensible debate. People largely believe what they are told by the “authorities” and for forty or fifty years the general population has been subjected to an unrelenting propaganda barrage from the police anfd the government that legalising drugs would mean the end of civilisation, the en-masse corruption of youth and the undermining of every Presbyterian value ever held dear in the breasts of hard working and law abiding people.

    If legalised, pot-smoking hippies would cruise the land in flower bedecked VW Combis, frightening cow cockies and stalwart citizens alike. Cocaine would be sold in 1.5kg bags next to the flour in supermarkets (within reach of small hands! Will no one think of the children!?). clubbers would engage in far more fun than is thought good for anyone – and stay up after 3am, a time after which we all know no good can come. And worst of all, these drug users would all be at least temporarily immune to the stern Bennett-tictine admonishment that a relentless focus on work is what makes us all truly free.

    So keep it illegal, it is only those who threaten our way of life who want drugs legalised anyway.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  18. Given that the Lancet chart factors in the entire social ecosystem of drug usage in terms of social (i.e drug cartel violence + terrorism in the case of cocaine and heroin) as well as personal harm, isn’t it more educational to compare the direct personal harm characteristics of substance abuse ‘apples for apples’ before discussing decriminalisation?

    I don’t think it adds anything to the discussion when a chart suggest habitual consumption of Rinse or glue sniffing is somehow less harmful than having bedtime scotch.

    I would also suggest destroying the lives of thousands’ is a touch hyperbolic given this interesting report which suggests a long term down-trend in total convictions and imprisonment for cannibas usage indicating either (a) a failure on the part of police to detect / prosecute effectively or (b) a far more nuanced approach from the courts on the issue.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  19. Just back to the politics of it all – Brash exhibits some seriously Messianic tendencies doesn’t he? He seems to politically act like he thinks he is some kind of political Jesus Christ, bestowing his sermons from the mount is a sort of stream of conciousness that needs to be captured and interpreted by Brashites who he imagines seek to do his bidding.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 26, 2011 @ 10:24 am

  20. Given that the Lancet chart factors in the entire social ecosystem of drug usage in terms of social (i.e drug cartel violence + terrorism in the case of cocaine and heroin) as well as personal harm, isn’t it more educational to compare the direct personal harm characteristics of substance abuse ‘apples for apples’ before discussing decriminalisation?
    I’d have to look back at the methodology* but IIRC availability, societal harm etc account for at most a third of the criteria? It is a “flaw” in the rankings in that it slightly colours the availability to do “of they were all legal” comparisons (alcohol and cannabis receive higher scores simply because they’re more widely available for example) but the overall view is roughly consistent.

    * there is no WAY I’m high enough for that at 10.30am

    Comment by garethw — September 26, 2011 @ 10:39 am

  21. Let me register my surprise that GHB is so low down on that chart…didn’t a number of unfortunates die from that when it was popular around the scene in the first half of the 2000s?

    Comment by David C — September 26, 2011 @ 10:45 am

  22. It’s worked for him so far Sanctuary, he’s been able to take over their religion, and he’s effectively excommunicated all the current disciples.

    However he has nothing like the popular following of John Key, and it looks like he won’t have many seats at his table, so he might struggle to merge religions on the fly.

    Comment by Pete George — September 26, 2011 @ 10:47 am

  23. I’d have to look back at the methodology* but IIRC availability, societal harm etc account for at most a third of the criteria?

    After a lazy look on the Lancet;

    Methods
    Members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, including two invited specialists, met in a 1-day interactive workshop to score 20 drugs on 16 criteria: nine related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to the harms to others. Drugs were scored out of 100 points, and the criteria were weighted to indicate their relative importance.

    And in the spirit of John ‘My scientist is better than your scientist’ Key, an abstract from PubMed relating to Nutt’s method.

    ‘It is argued that problems arise in modelling drug harms using rankable single figure indices when determinants of harm reflect pharmacology translated through a complex prism of social and behavioural variables, in turn influenced by a range of policy environments. The delphic methodolgy used is highly vulnerable to subjective judgements and even the more robust measures, such as drug related death and dependence, can be understood as socially constructed.’

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2011 @ 11:12 am

  24. Yes. The only real criteria are “If you could buy all of these down the supermarket at reasonable prices, what effect on your health would they have, how addictive are they, and how likely are they to turn you into a violent nutter when you take them?”

    Including things like cocaine and heroin causing harm because they’re highly profitable to criminal gangs is pointless – there’s nothing inherent in the drugs that causes that harm – the harm is “socially constructed.”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 26, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  25. @ Milt

    I would call the slavery of narcotic addiction harmful, to the extent that it inhibits people ability to live a fruitful life.

    Having known a considerable number of junkies over the years, I believe that if they put as much concerted effort into other activities as they did into scoring gear, most would be incredibly successful.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  26. @”6.I remember a cop telling me once that if cannabis was legalised, insurance premiums would go up: lots of people otherwise engaged in the black market for dope would instead turn to stealing instead.

    We should make a harmless activity a crime, so that we can arrest people for that instead of committing serious crimes?”

    I watched The Wire; therefore I know that the war of drugs is a failure. And I’m a social libertarian, so I support legalisation in principle. But to argue that it will have no consequences is naive. I wonder if the economies of certain rural areas of NZ will survive? Maybe they will do better, if they are allowed to grow for a legal market? Or will no one want their product if you can grow your own? I wonder if any policy wonks have modelled these scenarios?

    Comment by MeToo — September 26, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  27. I agree re addiction – included it in the “real” criteria. It’s totting up the harm caused by criminal gangs as though it were something inherent in the drugs themselves I object to.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — September 26, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  28. I wonder if any policy wonks have modelled these scenarios?

    Not specific to rural areas but <a href="www.berl.co.nz/155a1.page"wonkily enough.

    In summary from the Law Commission:

    ‘Drug production ($518.7 million). This represents the value of resources that were diverted and used for the production of drugs. It is made up primarily of cannabis production ($243.2 million) and amphetamine production ($230.9 million).’

    Figures above do not count alcohol but it’s all in the BERL report.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  29. html fail

    try here

    Comment by Gregor W — September 26, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  30. I know a farmer who only managed to keep his farm during a downturn because he grew an illicit crop for a few years. I’m sure that qualifies as “resources that were diverted” but for that famrer it was a good thing, not a bad thing.

    Comment by MeToo — September 26, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  31. Where is Jenkum on this scale?

    Comment by J Mex — September 26, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  32. >Where is Jenkum on this scale?

    At the shit end.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — September 28, 2011 @ 10:30 am


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