Friday, 30 October 2009

Drug Users are Part of the Community and Deserve Respect

Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL)

Drug Users Say:  

We Are Part Of The Community And Deserve To Be Treated With Respect And Dignity
The national peak organisation representing people who use illicit drugs, the Australian Injecting and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL), is joining with communities of people who use illicit drugs from around the world to celebrate International Drug Users Day on 1 November 2009.

In celebrating this day we are speaking as people who use illicit drugs to tell the world that we are valuable members of the community, who come from all walks of life and are people who care about the world we live in. We are proud of our survival in a climate that criminalises, demonises and stigmatises all people who use illicit drugs as worthless, selfish, criminals.

Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer stated “We are not a small and insignificant group of people; we are your family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, in short, we are part of your community. We deserve equitable access to health services, civil and human rights and same respect and opportunities afforded all members of Australian society.”

We live with the constant grief of losing loved ones due to overdose and diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Love ones whose lives could have been saved had we removed the criminalisation of drug use and provided access to an expanded range of drug treatments now available in many countries around the world. As a community we have fought hard for our right to access drug treatments that are accessible, affordable and meet our needs.

On International Drug Users Day 2009 AIVL is calling for an expansion to the range of treatment options available including heroin prescription programs and injectable methadone, buprenorphine and morphine. “The international evidence is indisputable in relation to the efficacy of these programs. Numerous evaluations have now shown that providing injectable pharmacotherapy programs has improved people’s health, their social and living conditions, their ability to participate in study and employment and reduced crime.” Ms Madden added.

AIVL believes one of the most important aspects of these programs is that they save lives. Australian and international studies have shown that people who access drug treatment programs are significantly more protected from dying due to a drug-related overdose than those not in pharmacotherapy treatment. One Australian study has shown that; one in 100 people using heroin on the street die from overdose compared with one overdose death for every 485 people for those on a methadone pharmacotherapy program.

“Australian drug users deserve access to programs that protect their lives and should be given the opportunity to choose from the widest possible evidence-based drug treatment options in order to get the best ‘treatment fit’. Furthermore, we want these choices now, not as a last option when we have hit so-called ‘rock bottom’. Being able to engage in a drug treatment option of our choice, that suits our needs, should not have to come at the price of our lives being in devastation before we are offered or become eligible for these programs” stressed Ms Madden.

Too often heroin prescription programs are talked about only as an option of ‘last resort’. AIVL is concerned that we are thinking about heroin prescription in the wrong way. It should be offered alongside other treatment options for anyone seeking to manage an opioid dependency. “We believe we should have access to the full range of treatment options available, anything less is an infringement upon our human rights and potentially exposes many people to discrimination, criminalisation, disease and death simply because we have refused to heed the now overwhelming evidence supporting such programs” Ms Madden concluded.

Media Contact: Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer on ph: (02) 6279 1600 or mobile: 0414 628 136.

Annie Madden
Executive Officer
Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL)

Ph: (02) 6279 1600
Fax: (02) 6279 1610
Mobile: 0414 628 136

Street Address:
Level 2, Sydney Building
112-116 Alinga Street
Canberra ACT 2601

Postal Address:
GPO Box 1552
Canberra ACT 2601

Thursday, 29 October 2009

UN vs UN - Decriminalising Drug Use and Human Rights Abuse

When the UN's top health rights official publicly contradicts the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), you know something is brewing.

Driven by the US’s "War on Drugs", the UNODC along with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) have kept an iron grip on how the world administers their drug policies promoting fear, intimidation and harsh laws. This has resulted in millions of unnecessary deaths and untold suffering around the world especially for minority groups. This prohibitionist approach is also responsible for; a huge shortage of morphine for pain treatment(especially poorer nations), a rapidly growing prison population, much of the world’s crime, extreme alienation and despair for users and addicts and the world’s second largest industry giving organised crime/terrorists $400 billion dollar a year.

The UN’s policy of denying drug use is a medical issue and putting it firmly under the wing of law enforcement has been taken up differently by each country with some going to extremes. Because the UN’s drug policies is based on the belief that drug use is immoral, countries are free to interpret the moral aspect to suit their ideology or political position. Although the recent trend is to replace the moral argument with facts and science, most countries have followed the UN/US lead and implemented a harsh, cruel system to deal with drugs.

In a surprise speech, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Anand Grover has heavily criticised some Asian countries for their treatment of drug users and addicts which is ironic because they are simply following the guidelines of the UN’s drug policy. Anand Grover pointed that after years of abuse, cruel treatment practices and draconian laws, the 90% relapse rate was a sign that the current system was a failure. But the biggest upset was his call for decriminalisation of drug use. Something that the UNODC has firmly rejected as an option under any circumstance.

This must come as a real shock for Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UNODC. He has continually dodged questions about the effectiveness of UN drug policy over the years and ignored many requests to explain why countries with more liberal drug laws have far fewer drug problems than those that support UN drug policies. Costa has also fluffed off claims of human rights abuse resulting from the UN’s prohibitionist strategy. For one of his own to discredit the policies he so rigourously defends must add to his frustration of pushing such failed policies. But it’s just another blow in a long line of criticism that has followed Costa and his impotent yet arrogant support of prohibition.

Listen to an interview with Anand Grover on Radio National or read it here

UN Official Calls For Decriminalizing Drug Use
Monsters and
October 2009

Hanoi - The UN's top health rights official called Tuesday for the decriminalization of drug use and an end to mandatory drug rehabilitation camps in Asia, which he said amounted to 'keeping sick people jailed.'

Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, made the call at a conference on international health rights in Hanoi.

'The criminalization of these practices actually hinders the right to health of all persons,' Grover said. He denounced the practice by many Asian states, including China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, of compelling drug addicts to detoxify in mass treatment camps.

There are over 50,000 inmates of mandatory drug treatment camps in Vietnam, and up to 350,000 in China, according to the Open Society Institute.

Heroin addicts who detoxify in rehabilitation camps have relapse rates exceeding 90 per cent. Most scientific experts now advocate oral substitution therapy with drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine, which eliminate the craving for heroin.

But many countries are reluctant to embrace such therapy, which they consider substituting one drug dependency for another. In Vietnam, heroin addicts are sent to mandatory rehabilitation centers for up to four years.

Several Vietnamese experts at the conference said their country was gradually moving away from the treatment center approach and embracing substitution therapy. The country's 2007 law on AIDS adopted a so-called 'harm reduction' approach to drug addiction, rather than focusing solely on detoxification.

A pilot program of Vietnamese methadone clinics began operating in April 2008. Six methadone clinics now serve 1600 former heroin addicts in Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City, funded with grants from the US PEPFAR anti-AIDS program.

About 95 per cent of those receiving methadone have stuck with the program, said Dr Nguyen To Nhu, Vietnam program director of Family Health International, which helps run the clinics.

Dr Le Giang, a Vietnamese researcher who has studied the clinics, said the failure of detoxification at treatment camps often led to a fatalistic belief that quitting heroin was impossible.

'Many families, and even drug users themselves, completely lost their faith in treatment,' Giang said. He said many users had been inspired by the ability of methadone to restore their 'ownership of their own bodies and lives.'

Giang said there was 'much more openness, from the top level to the community level, to talk about [methadone treatment], but there's still a long way to go.'

© Copyright 2007 by

Related Articles:
Drug Addiction Treatment Camp
2009 U.N. World Drug Report - What’s All The Fuss?
Asian Drug Users Unite To Form Regional Organisation

Saturday, 24 October 2009

40,000 Users Quit to Prevent One Case of Schizophrenia

0.0025% - That’s the chances of preventing one single case of schizophrenia when an average user ceases using cannabis. In other words, you would have to stop 40,000 average cannabis users to prevent one case of schizophrenia. For heavy users, it would require 7,800 of them to stop using cannabis to prevent one case of schizophrenia. That’s a rate of 0.013%. These are the latest findings from scientists in the UK.

Excuse my average intelligence and lack of science degree but shouldn’t facts like this remove the consideration of schizophrenia in determining drug policies regarding cannabis? Can the cannabis debate now exclude schizophrenia? Will governments and anti-drug crusaders suddenly drop their key argument against cannabis in light of the growing evidence? Or will this study simply be ignored as they hang on to public ignorance, parental fear and tenuous links that served them so well in the past? If we use history as a guide, the anti-cannabis zealots will ignore this new evidence for as long as possible and continue to skirt around the important issues. This will suit the government just fine considering we still have some politicians quoting that old, debunked Gateway Theory as a reason why they are going to tighten cannabis laws.

The chances are that you will not read about this result in any major newspaper or media outlet. It was only a few months ago that Keele university in the UK concluded that whilst cannabis use had increased by about 400% since the 1980s, cases of mental health disorders had not increased as well but actually decreased slightly. You may not remember this news because it was not reported by Australia’s MSM or by any major international media outlet that I noticed. No wonder the public is so ignorant about drugs when our major media organisations do not publish any information that might upset the anti-drug bandwagon. Add to that the reluctance of our politicians to use these findings in their policies and instead droning on with anti-drug rhetoric from the 80s.

New Study Suggests Minimal Relationship Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia or Psychosis
October 2009

Last year the UK government reclassified cannabis from a class C to a class B drug, partly out of concerns that cannabis, especially the more potent varieties, may increase the risk of schizophrenia in young people. But the evidence for the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia or psychosis remains controversial. A new study has determined that it may be necessary to stop thousands of cannabis users in order to prevent a single case of schizophrenia.

Scientists from Bristol, Cambridge and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took the latest information on numbers of cannabis users, the risk of developing schizophrenia, and the risk that cannabis use causes schizophrenia to estimate how many cannabis users may need to be stopped to prevent one case of schizophrenia.

The study found it would be necessary to stop 2800 heavy cannabis users in young men and over 5000 heavy cannabis users in young women to prevent a single case of schizophrenia. Among light cannabis users, those numbers rise to over 10,000 young men and nearly 30,000 young women to prevent one case of schizophrenia.

That's just part of the story. Interventions to prevent cannabis use typically do not succeed for every person who is treated. Depending on how effective an intervention is at preventing cannabis use, it would be necessary to treat even higher numbers of users to achieve the thousands of successful results necessary to prevent a very few cases of schizophrenia.

Matt Hickman, one of the authors of the report published last week in the scholarly journal Addiction, said that "preventing cannabis use is important for many reasons - including reducing tobacco and drug dependence and improving school performance. But our evidence suggests that focusing on schizophrenia may have been misguided. Our research cannot resolve the question whether cannabis causes schizophrenia, but does show that many people need to give up cannabis in order to have an impact on the number of people with schizophrenia. The likely impact of re-classifying cannabis in the UK on schizophrenia or psychosis incidence is very uncertain."

Thursday, 22 October 2009

WARNING! - Drug Users Being Responsible ... Again!

What is it with the mention of drugs that send journalists into a frenzy of drug hysteria? Is it the journalist or is it the media organisation they are writing for that creates a maelstrom of exaggeration, panic and moral frenzy? The Australian Heroin Diaries has previously reported on some real cracker articles by Fiona Connelly, Sally Morrell, Piers Akerhead, Miranda Devine, Laurie Nowell etc. Except for the Devine Ms. Miranda, they all write for So what possessed Ben Harvy and Lauren Zwaans to write the article in the Adelaide Advertiser titled, Drug Dealers And Users Can Google Up A Few Hits?

Let’s see. It had nothing to do with drug dealers, nothing to do with “hits” and nothing to do with Google. That kind of spoils the clever headline pun. Maybe it’s part of the Adelaide Advertiser’s attempt to run it’s own special investigation like the CourierMail’s, The Drug Scourge from a few months back? Gawd, I hope not. Why then write about the website, I can recall reading about a few times but that was years ago. It’s not surprising though since has been around for nearly 10 years. So why is this news all of a sudden? There’s nothing new to report except a few comments from Drug and Alcohol Services (South Australia) executive director Keith Evans and SA Detective Inspector John De Candia. And what was the important message that commanded a whole article in a city newspaper ... Drugs are Bad mmkay! Oh, and a threat of life in jail if you are “carrying commercial and large commercial quantities” of illegal drugs. I must acknowledge Keith Evans and John De Candia though for the advice that seeking information from might be rife with danger. Since the government flatly refuses to offer pill testing services (a decision they both support), the alternative is to pop away and hope for the best. Thanks for the safety tip fellas.

However you interpret the article, it’s still old news.

Pill Poppers Sharing Drug Reviews Online
Drug Users Issue Ecstasy Warning
Deadly New Mix Of Nye Party Drugs
Drug Takers Use Web To Find Best Deals For Cocaine, Ice, Heroin, Ecstasy wrote about and their article, Pill Poppers Sharing Drug Reviews Online back in July 2008. It’s a great insight into how source their information. is an international website run by Enlighten Harm Reduction, a lobbyist organisation in Melbourne. Please check them out as they provide some excellent services.

Drug Dealers And Users Can Google Up A Few Hits
Adelaide Advertiser
By Ben Harvy and Lauren Zwaans
October 2009

A WEBSITE acting as an open forum for ecstasy dealers and users is exposing the truth about Adelaide's drug underworld.

The website contains conversations between people about their experiences with drugs and the latest pills to hit the streets.

On the website, there are candid recommendations between users on what pills they deem "safe" to try, which is worrying experts.

Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia executive director Keith Evans said there was a cultural phenomenon emerging in which people saw themselves as "experts".

"It's a really worrying trend - the sort of culture that says `I got it from Jim. Everybody who's got their stuff from Jim has said Jim's stuff is good and therefore ipso facto I believe Jim's stuff is good, we'll all search out Jim'," he said.

"The reality isn't like that.

"Where Jim happens to have got it (the drugs) from will differ and even if you take out the legal consequences of it, you're always taking a gamble - it's Russian roulette."

The most recent Adelaide update on the pillreports website was submitted by user machetevip: "I'm going to be trying these Saturday night (ecstasy pills) and will update with a user report but so far these are looking quite good," he wrote.

A subsequent report detailed a timeline of machetevip's experience on the drugs.

"I was dancing and chatty and had some nice feelings on them," machetevip said.

There were 12 responses to the user report.

But Detective Inspector John De Candia said the health and legal consequences of illicit drug taking remained.

"Just because they're buying from the same seller does not mean they're buying from the same batch," he said. "It does not provide them any safeguards."

He said trafficking penalties in Australia for carrying commercial and large commercial quantities could result in "hefty penalties" ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Syringe Exchange Programs Are Saving Lives

Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) have been controversial since they were first officially introduced in the Netherlands in 1984. Since then, the issue of giving out clean syringes to inject illicit drugs has plagued politicians worldwide. They were faced with opposition from vocal moral crusaders, an ignorant public and attacks from other politicians while there was growing scientific evidence that SEPs prevented many deaths. It was a case of losing voters or losing lives. While most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand etc. worried about losing lives to HIV/AIDS, the US worried more about losing votes. As cases of HIV/AIDS and Hep C. rocketed up in the US, early adopters of SEPs, especially Australia had much better success at minimising the spread of blood borne diseases.

Giving out clean syringes to drug users existed long before SEPs was made official. In 1970, the San Francisco State University unofficially gave away clean syringes as a way to deal with yellow jaundice and abscesses from shooting heroin. This practice spread to the San Francisco General Hospital and in the early days of the HIV epidemic, some doctors and nurses would leave unopened packets of syringes in clear view of drug users then leave the room expecting the packets to be gone when they returned. Looking back now, it really hits home how draconian we can be in this so called modern civilisation.

United States
Regardless of this evidence, the use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs was banned in the United States of America in 1988. Most U.S. states criminalize the possession of needles without a prescription, even going so far as to arrest people as they leave private needle-exchange facilities. Nonetheless, every state in the United States has a program that supports needle exchange in some form or the purchase of new needles without a prescription at pharmacies.These programs were introduced during the Clinton Administration but were disbanded following negative public reactions to the initiatives. Covert programs still exist within the United States.

Although the evidence has been conclusive for decades from dozens of well established studies, the US remained defiant. At least 7 attempts to introduce federal recognition and funding for SEPs have been over turned by the reigning president of the time. President Bill Clinton promised to change the federal position but his drug czar, William Mcafferey convinced him that allowing SEPs would “send the wrong message” in their fight against drugs. it is estimated that 10,000 lives and 500 million dollars in health care could have been saved during his 8 year presidency if Bill Clinton removed the ban on federal funding.

By 2000, 36% of all AIDS cases and approximately 50% of new HIV infections had occurred among injecting drug users and their partners.
I do not favor needle exchange programs and other so-called harm reduction strategies to combat drug use. I support a comprehensive mix of prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement and supply interdiction to curb drug use and promote a healthy drug free America, not misguided efforts to weaken drug laws and needle exchange programs signal nothing but abdication, that these dangers are here to stay. America needs a president who will aim not just for risk reduction, but for risk elimination that offers people hope and recovery, not a dead end approach that offers despair and addiction.
-President G.W. Bush. Annual meeting of the AIDS foundation of Chicago. 2000

The ban on federal funding remains. In the run up to the 2008 election, Barrack Obama made a key campaign pledge to remove the ban on federal funding for SEPs. In May 2009 after being elected president, the pledge disappeared off the Obama website and when his health budget appeared shortly afterwards, the ban remained, buried deep on page 795.

It started in 1986 with a group of Sydney users who illegally distributed clean syringes at St. Vincent’s hospital under the watch of Dr. Alex Wodak. Since then, Australia has become an international leader in harm reduction with one of lowest rates of HIV/AIDS infections. Unfortunately though, with over a decade of conservative governments and strong criticism of harm reduction from the media, Australia has started to stagnate, losing it’s once impeccable reputation. While SEPs remain a major part of our health system, more recent Harm Reduction strategies are being ignored or opposed by the federal and state governments. The only major exception is the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross.

In the early years of HIV/AIDS before condoms and clean needles were standard fare, the government took a pragmatic approach and spent $150 million dollars between 1988 and 2000. This prevented intravenous drug users from an estimated 25,000 cases of HIV and 21,000 cases of hepatitis C. A saving for taxpayers of up to $7.7 billion dollars.

Since then, the total lives saved and the amount of reduced costs is staggering. Surprisingly, there are still some groups who oppose SEPs and lobby the government not to increase the number of programs. The most recent controversial proposal is the introduction of SEPs into prisons but in terms of targeting susceptible groups, prisoners have the highest rate of blood borne diseases in our society. This is mostly because of a high number of intravenous drug users in prison who are also sharing hard to get needles. Those opposed to SEPs in prison use the same old reasoning that causes most of the current drug problems we have already. You have probably heard them before e.g. “it’s a prison, not a holiday camp” or “it sends the wrong message” or “we should be getting these people off drugs not encouraging them to use more” or “we should be trying to stop drugs getting into prison not making it easier for them to use drugs”. Of course, these arguments simply ignore the reality of drug use and places selfish ideology before the safety of others.
The issue is this — there are about 20,000 men and women being released every year. Many of them have got significant health problems, with blood-borne disease a major element of that. They are going in and out of the prison system and bringing those diseases to their families and their communities. Making clean needles accessible is one easy, relatively cheap way of dealing with that. It’s called public health.
-Gino Vumbaca. CEO of the Australian National Council on Drugs

Sterile injecting equipment in prisons is a no brainer just as a prison methadone program is. Access to these basic health resources is vital to tackling the spread of blood born disease especially in prison where the problem is most prevalent. Denying these services in prison is simply sentencing injecting drug users to a life of suffering or death. Each day that these programs are opposed, a few more fellow humans are tagged for an early grave.

Needle Program Success
The Age
By Julia Medew
October 2009

TAXI drivers, tradesmen and body builders are among the growing number of people using St Kilda's 24-hour needle and syringe exchange program - the only service that operates all night, every night in Victoria.

The manager of health services for the Salvation Army's Crisis Service, Sue White, said that since the Grey Street program started operating round the clock in late 2007, it had helped an extra 1000 people get clean equipment every month.

Aside from local sex workers, she said, tradesmen were using the after-hours service alongside truck drivers and a small number of taxi drivers.

Body builders who take steroids were also attending.

An evaluation of the 24-hour service by the Salvation Army and Monash University found it had contributed to a 51 per cent rise in the number of needles and syringes being distributed between August 2007 and September 2008. The number returned for safe disposal increased 26 per cent.

Ms White said the service had prevented people from sharing equipment - a practice known to spread viruses including HIV and hepatitis C. It had also exposed people to referrals for counselling, detox programs and other health-care services.

The evaluation found that since the service extended its hours, there had been little change in drug-related crime or complaints to the local council.

Ms White said other needle and syringe exchanges should consider expanding their hours, based on its success.

A Victorian Taxi Directorate spokeswoman said it was not aware of any drivers using drugs. She said it was working with police ''to identify drivers who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol''.

A spokesman for the Victorian Taxi Association said he had also not heard of drivers using illicit drugs.

''It's very surprising and a bit concerning … It's something we will look at,'' he said.

I had to chuckle at the comments from the various taxi organisations. Both spokespeople claimed they had never, ever heard of a driver that used drugs.They sounded stunned!. Why wouldn’t taxi drivers be drug users? Are taxi drivers exempt from such evils in society? In my time, I have seen a taxi driver score heroin from a street dealer, had dozens of cabs drive me then wait while I score and I even purchased speed from one taxi driver. Over a 20 year period and you would expect it to happen sometime. Their responses appeared more like an instant reaction to protect their organisation than the truth. Regardless of their reasons, it had me smiling for a few minutes.

Friday, 16 October 2009

WA Do Not Want Tougher Cannabis Laws from 1981

An update on the proposed new cannabis laws for WA.

Although the currently elected Liberals were ecstatic and clapped loudly for Colin Barnett’s plans it seems the public are not too happy to turn back the clock on the state’s cannabis laws. An article from PerthNow has attracted a whopping 544 comments to date with 99% of readers hammering Barnett’s new policies. This is the most commented article I have ever seen on any News Ltd. website. Also it’s not one of the main newspaper sites for Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane but Perth. Murdoch’s newspapers are notoriously aimed at conservatives and red necks which explains the negative feedback usually shown towards liberal drug issues. Why then, are readers of PerthNow raising so much opposition to tougher cannabis laws?

PerthNow had a poll that asked the readers, Does WA need tougher laws governing marijuana?
Out of 2364 votes, 43% said yes, 48% said no and 8% said What day is it?

Lies, Lies and More Lies
You might want to visit the government’s website and read their media release, Liberal-National Government to overturn soft-on-drugs legislation. Beware - it contains the usual deceptive, anti-drug rhetoric that has dominated the world’s political scene for decades.

It starts with the claim that the political enemy is “Soft on Drugs”. When translated from political babble, it usually means, “smart” on drugs via an attempt to deal with the drug issue rationally and realistically. The soft-on-drugs term is dying a slow death and is still only used by those who see the public as naive enough to swallow their spin. You may recall John Howard calling everyone soft-on-drugs when they mentioned any strategy that differed to his “Tough on Drugs” mantra. Barnett concludes in his opening paragraph that the soft-on-drugs approach “has left lives ruined”. This is a lie as drug use has continued to decreased under the so called soft-on-drugs strategy. Where is the media on this? Where is the opposition disputing these claims? To the contrary, Barnett’s tough-on-drugs proposal has been shown over and over again to ruin lives . How can such a blatant lie not be picked up?

Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs.
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

A gateway drug? The only time cannabis is a gateway drug is when users are forced underground and exposed to dealers and users of hard drugs. This happens when a government doesn’t separate soft drugs from hard drugs. But this is not what he meant. Barnett is subscribing to the old myth that cannabis is a stepping stone to harder drugs. This very claim should render the whole media release as fallacious political dribble. The gateway theory has been scientifically debunked many times over and is only used by desperate anti-drug nutters who are woefully detached from the drug issue. Even hardened anti-drug warriors have mostly given up on the gateway theory which again shows up Barnett as an out-of-touch meathead who is pushing through laws based on nothing more than his own misguided views. Where is the science and evidence behind such ridiculous claims? And again, why isn’t the media and the opposition shooting this down? Barnett is flat out lying and quoting urban myths as the basis for laws that affect millions of people is outright dangerous.

What about the claims of schizophrenia. This was ruled out last year by scientists as merely the effects of cannabis mimicking the symptoms of schizophrenia. When the effects of cannabis wore off, so did the supposed schizophrenia. Psychosis was also ruled out as being caused by cannabis except for those who have a family history of metal health problems. Barnett has lied again. For such an important health related law to be passed, you would expect that some scientific evidence be provided. The problem is that the latest evidence is completely polar to Barnett’s claims and any real attempt at providing evidence would be shot down is minutes.

The Government believes a tougher approach against drugs is necessary to send a clear message not to use drugs
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

This statement is just not acceptable from a state premier or a representative of the people. All evidence and research has shown that tough laws and penalties have never significantly deterred overall drug use in any country. Why hasn’t someone pointed out to the government that what they believe and what is true are completely different. If they really do believe this then the Barnett government need to step down now. Western Australians should not be governed by a group so obviously stupid ... and capable of such blatant lying.

The Government will also replace the failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN) with the Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS)
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

Failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN)? Just how has it failed? The main reason cited is that only 5% of those issued with a CIN attended a drug counselling course. Under Barnett’s new Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS), anyone issued a CIRS will have to attend a Cannabis Intervention Education course or face further charges. Again, a lack of understanding from the government has cannabis users earmarked as drug addicts or needing drug counselling. This is ludicrous as cannabis causes far fewer problems for users and society as does alcohol, which is legal and freely available to adults. Cannabis is not addictive and very few people end up with a dependency problem. Alcohol on the other hand is highly addictive and over a million people are classed as problem drinkers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to force those involved in alcohol related offences to be sent to counselling?

The elephant in the room is still the unanswered question - if the current policy is working why change it? Apart from the excuse that only 5% of those issued a CIN actually go to a drug counselling class, Barnett has simply said that the previous laws are soft-on-drugs. The way I see it is that it all boils down to Barnett’s personal views and modern conservative ideology. That or the South Park send up of anti-drug warriors and their simpleton approach ... drugs are bad, mmkay. There is no actual new evidence or findings to warrant these new drug laws. If anything, new strategies should be put on trial that follow the success of the current laws. The amounts seem fine at 30 grams and 2 plants and don’t need increasing but maybe we should consider legalising the 2 home grown plants for personal use. This would certainly remove many dealers and keep users away from them. There’s a whole range of ideas that could be implemented using proper, scientific monitoring to find the right balance between public acceptability and the right to use a relatively safe drug. The benefits would include the reduction of drug dealers, crime and unnecessary criminal records.

The repeal of the Cannabis Control Act will reinstate the primary responsibility for cannabis cautioning under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981.
-Ministerial Media Statement from Colin Barnett - 11 October, 2009

Should we be going back to laws drafted 28 years ago? Worldwide experience has clearly shown that drug laws from the 1980s have caused societal carnage and ruined millions of lives including many preventable deaths. To ignore these facts is downright criminal and condemns many Australians to a life of misery. The 28 year old laws are steeped in ignorance and “Just Say No” drug hysteria which might appeal to Barnett and his troupe of silly old men but they should be left to history as a reminder of what not to do.

What we knew back then is a fraction of what we know today. Science and evidence based research has replaced ideology and moral panic. The many myths created back then have been debunked or laughed off and many of the policies have been the most unsuccessful ever put into law. For a current government to try and re-establish these dangerous and failed policies should send shock waves through the community. It appears that a large percentage of Western Australians understand the ramifications of such foolish actions and will undoubtedly be heard in the next election.

Sun 11 October, 2009
Liberal-National Government to overturn soft-on-drugs legislation [link]

Portfolio: Premier

New anti-cannabis laws will mark the start of the Liberal-National Government’s fight to turn around eight years of a soft-on-drugs approach by the previous Labor government which has left lives ruined.

Premier Colin Barnett today announced the Government would this week introduce legislation to repeal the Cannabis Control Act 2003 and make changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 and the Young Offenders Act 1994, sending a clear message that the current State Government did not endorse illicit drug use.

Mr Barnett said the cannabis-related legislation was the first in a series of steps the Government would take to send a clear anti-drugs message to the community and toughen penalties for people who broke the law through drug-related offences.

According to the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, cannabis was the most widely used illicit drug in Western Australia with an annual usage rate of 10.8 per cent.

“The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation,” the Premier said.

“Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs.

“The Government believes a tougher approach against drugs is necessary to send a clear message not to use drugs, but we also recognise the existence of a criminal record has a serious impact on a person’s future employment prospects. At present, once a conviction is recorded, it remains on a person’s criminal record for at least 10 years.

“Under the Government’s proposed laws, a person convicted of minor cannabis possession offences will be able to apply to have a conviction spent after three years, provided they are not convicted of further offences during that period.

“This approach ensures minor drug offenders who demonstrate they are prepared to take responsibility and rehabilitate themselves are given an opportunity to turn their lives around.”

The new cannabis-related laws will:

• prosecute the possession of more than 10 grams of cannabis. This is a reduction from the previous Labor government’s stance where prosecution only occurred when it was more than 30 grams
• result in subsequent offences for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences
• prosecute people for cultivating cannabis plants. Under the previous Labor government’s regime, people could grow two cannabis plants per person, per household without facing criminal charges
• make it illegal for cannabis smoking implements to be sold to anyone, including adults. Currently it is only an offence to sell these implements to children
• increase fines for the sale of smoking implements. The new laws will allow for fines of up to $5,000 for sale to an adult and up to $10,000 for sale to a minor. Bodies corporate will be fined equivalent to five times these amounts.

The Government will also replace the failed Cannabis Infringement Notice scheme (CIN) with the Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS).

“The CIRS has a primary focus on education and takes a firm, yet compassionate, approach to people found to be in possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis,” Mr Barnett said.

“Under the new scheme, anyone caught will have no option but to attend a Cannabis Intervention education session within 28 days of the offence or face prosecution through the courts.

“Unlike the soft system we have inherited where people can be issued with infringement notices ad nauseam, juveniles will only be eligible for two notices and adults for one.

“After that they will be prosecuted for further offences.”

A person will not be eligible for a CIRS if they are caught cultivating or in possession of plants.

The new CIRS sessions will differ significantly from the current CIN scheme because:
offenders will not have the option of just paying the fine and avoiding the education session
if a person fails to attend the session they will be prosecuted.
This year, under the soft system the Liberal-National Government inherited from Labor, only five per cent of offenders actually participated in an education session.

The Premier said further anti-drug legislation would be introduced in coming months.

“The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply,” he said.

“Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offences for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants.

“The Government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits.”

The repeal of the Cannabis Control Act will reinstate the primary responsibility for cannabis cautioning under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981.

With the repeal of the Act, all registered Cannabis Infringement notices will be deemed ‘paid’ after they have been registered with the Fines Enforcement Registry for 12 months. This will allow police to destroy their cannabis stockpile which is retained for evidentiary purposes.

Premier's office: 9222 9475

Related Articles:
The Final Proof - Colin Barnett is a Dickhead
Do Dickhead Politicians Grow on Trees in WA?
Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters
The Liberal Party on Drugs
WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues
WA Liberals Become Even Sillier

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Prohibition - Britney Spears Style

From the sublime to the ridiculous...

It seems that our Britney is not taking any chances in her quest to remain clean from drugs and alcohol. Apparently as part of her child custody agreement, she has made it compulsory for the huge crew on her current tour to sign a contract that prohibits the use of drugs or alcohol. I get the drug ban but alcohol is still legal as far as I know. But there’s more bad news for Britney’s staff. They can’t even have a glass of wine or beer with dinner ... including their days off! And just in case anyone plans to be sneaky, her crew must be available for random drug and alcohol tests.

I know that the behaviour of others can have an impact on your attempts to remain clean and sober but WTF? I’m surprised she didn’t make the audience sign an agreement that they were free from mind altering substances. I wonder if she ran this idea past the Australian consulate? Or possibly the UN? I know, I know ... leave Britney alone. The problem is that this time Britney is not stressed out by forgetting her undies or having her head shaved in public. She is making these decisions with a supposedly clear, substance free mind.

Maybe Britney should have stayed on drugs?

Spears Demands Drug Tests
The Straits Times
October 2009

SYDNEY - POP STAR Britney Spears is reportedly demanding her support crew endure random drug tests during her current tour of Australia, reported Australian media outlets.

The ban is part of a confidential contract that outlaws alcohol and drugs on her tour and also covers the 150 Australian staff that have joined her 277-strong touring crew, reported the Sunday Herald Sun.

'Britney's rule is clear - zero tolerance,' a well-placed concert industry source said. 'No drink. No drugs. If you do not comply, you do not tour with Britney.' The blanket alcohol ban reportedly extends to drinking beer or wine with a meal, even on days off.

Spears' sold-out Circus tour will perform in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth in November.

The strict policy is part of Spears' child custody agreement. Sons Sean Preston, 4, and Jayden James, 3, will travel to Australia with Spears. Her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, will also be in the tour entourage, reported the Sunday Herald Sun newspaper.

The newspaper saw the confidential contract, reporting that it states: 'No alcohol. No drugs. These are terms of being on this tour.' Anyone found breaching those terms would have their contract terminated. It also said everyone on Spears' Circus tour is subject to random drug and alcohol tests. Those who sign the contract are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The Final Proof - Colin Barnett is a Dickhead

After months of threatening us that he will prove without doubt that he is a dickhead, WA Premier Colin Barnett has finally done it. Yes, Colin Barnett is now officially a first class, top notch dickhead. While we all secretly knew it as he continued with his promise to wind back the successful drug strategies of the previous government, we can now be safe in the knowledge that Barnett is indeed, a dickhead. But let’s not mince words here. Barnett is more than a dickhead, he’s a bumbling, self righteous, agenda driven, fat fuckwit.
Mr Barnett said he knew he would be accused of breaching civil liberties but it was a small price to pay if people felt safer.
-The Australian

At yesterday's state Liberal conference, Barnett gave a rousing speech that had fellow Libs frothing at the mouth. His “Tough on Crime” election promise was finally being given the go ahead with the introduction of several new “tough” laws “in a bid to reclaim the streets from thugs”. The problem is that in his haste to be “tough” on thugs, street crime and violence, he has forgotten to tell us that it is really about cannabis. His sweeping statements about weapons and violence were intermingled with the supposed danger of cannabis. But the real reason for bringing the new stop and search laws is not about thugs and weapons but catching drug users. Imagine if he announced that WA is enacting the toughest stop and search laws in Australia to catch pot smokers?
The cannabis of today is not the cannabis of the 60s or 70s. It is far stronger, it is harmful.
-WA Premier Colin Barnett 

All the rhetoric in the world doesn’t change the fact that the effects of cannabis cause no violence on the streets, street crime nor does it make thugs out of people. That honour goes to alcohol. But this isn’t about the facts associated with cannabis use. It’s about his personal views and ideology, his political position and his inability to separate fact and fiction. For dickheads like Barnett, the real world is broken and only a conservative utopia will save mankind from moral collapse. Most of societies problems are because of drugs and a lack of “family values”. Violence, corruption and ecological carnage is secondary.
He (Colin Barnett) accused the former government of trying to con the community into believing cannabis was harmless, when it was ruining lives
-The Australian

Ironically, under the current drug policy introduced by the previous government, cannabis use is declining and less people are unnecessarily given a criminal record. What is the government trying to achieve by changing the drug laws? This has never been answered by the Barnett government but instead replaced with the usual anti-drug rhetoric we have become accustomed to over the last 4 decades. It also comes at a time when the world trend of many countries is to follow science and evidence by decriminalising or considering the legalisation of cannabis. Arguments against cannabis have been greatly diminished in the last 12 months with research showing that links to mental health problems are non existent for those without pre-existing conditions. And like the Gateway Theory, claims of today’s cannabis being 10-20 times as potent have been debunked. Even that old myth that cannabis makes users lazy and unmotivated has been disproved. The real crunch is that the legal drug alcohol is much, much more harmful and dangerous than cannabis.
We will act on that small minority that destroy the quality of life and the amenity of this great state for the silent majority.
-WA Premier Colin Barnett 

So, what is Barnett and his band of merry men going to achieve by being tough on crime? Under all the hype, there is officially only one non-drug related new law - being able to search people without a reason. But we know the real agenda for this. The “tough on crime” speech was really about cannabis. Barnett has proved how far he will go to push his misguided views onto the public. But this is not just about some fat, over paid dickhead putting in place silly laws but the serious, real world consequences of his actions. Banning drug paraphernalia will lead to some serious problems for drug users. Having access to properly made crack pipes stop the spread of blood born disease like HIV/AIDS and Hep C. Purchasing a bong will stop users making their own which can give off dangerous fumes from plastic containers. To be blunt, not having these products kill people. Lowering the amount of cannabis that someone can carry will drive up the rate of convictions. Again, normal, responsible adults are facing jail or a criminal record. The previous limit of 30 grams covered those who bought the common amount of an ounce or half an ounce. Now, half an ounce will put them just 4 grams above the legal limit. This of course means that a cannabis user has to visit an illegal dealer more often and this leaves them more vulnerable to being caught. Even with the 10 year limit on your criminal record for minor drug charges being dropped to 3 years, the new laws still increase the risk of being labelled a criminal. Those caught with less than the new 10 gram threshold are forced into treatment whether they need it or not. This is an old trick used in the US to give anti-cannabis groups a rubbery statistic to further their cause. For example, the latest claim from anti-drug warriors in the US is that cannabis is much more harmful than it used to be. Their evidence - most of those in treatment are now in for cannabis abuse but years ago hardly anyone came in for cannabis issues alone. What they don’t tell us is that 99% of those in treatment for cannabis abuse are involuntary patients. Yep, forced in there by the courts, family interventions and work related issues. Watch this issue arise soon in Australia.

I once asked if dickheads grow on trees in WA. We all know the answer but the trees that produce these dickheads appear to be a certain type ... politician trees. I am noticing that these trees are not just native to WA but are found all over Australia. They must just bloom early in WA.

Police Empowered For West's Drug War
The Australian
By Amanda O'Brien
October 2009

WEST Australian police will have the nation's toughest powers to stop and search people under a plan, unveiled yesterday, which removes the need for them to show any grounds for suspecting an offence.

Premier Colin Barnett said it was intolerable that people caught with weapons or drugs were being let off in court because police could not establish that there were sufficient grounds to search them.

He said legislation would be introduced within weeks to allow anyone to be stopped and searched without reason in a bid to reclaim the streets from thugs.

To thunderous applause at yesterday's state Liberal conference, Australia's only Liberal Premier said law and order was a defining issue at the September 2008 election.

"I make no apologies," he said. "We will act on that small minority that destroy the quality of life and the amenity of this great state for the silent majority."

Mr Barnett said he knew he would be accused of breaching civil liberties but it was a small price to pay if people felt safer.

He thrilled delegates by promising to also introduce legislation within days to throw out the former Labor government's contentious 2003 drug laws, which allow people to grow two cannabis plants per household without criminal charge.

He said it was a ridiculous law and any cultivation would be an offence in future.

The amount of cannabis triggering prosecution for possession would also be slashed from 30g to 10g, and selling paraphernalia such as bongs and pipes would become illegal. "It is absolutely disgraceful that, under Labor's approach, we have lottery kiosks selling bongs in Western Australia. Not any more."

He said the community had shown at the election it wanted strong laws.

The police commissioner would designate particular areas as "stop and search" zones, and the public would know where they were. Entertainment areas such as Northbridge in Perth and Fremantle were priorities.

"Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Mr Barnett said.

"It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane.

"We will reclaim Northbridge and other areas of entertainment and hospitality for law-abiding young people, for women to go there alone, for families and older citizens."

He said Labor had failed on law and order, and he accused the former government of trying to con the community into believing cannabis was harmless, when it was ruining lives.

"The cannabis of today is not the cannabis of the 60s or 70s. It is far stronger, it is harmful," he said.

Under the new laws, anyone found with more than 10g of cannabis, enough for 10 to 20 joints, would face a criminal conviction. Anyone with less than 10g would be forced to attend counselling.

In his only concession, the Premier said criminal records for minor drug offences would be expunged after three years, rather than 10, if no further offences were committed.

Related Articles:
Do Dickhead Politicians Grow on Trees in WA?
Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters
The Liberal Party on Drugs
WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues
WA Liberals Become Even Sillier

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

SA Drug Raids aka Operation Dial - Was it a Success?

Drug Blitz Devastate Regional Cartels - UPDATED
In a previous article, Drug Blitz Devastate Regional Cartels, I mocked the success of regional drug raids around the Mt. Gambier area. One anonymous reader has kindly pointed out that “Operation Dial” had more success than I had acknowledged.
These are the drugs we have taken off the streets: 9kg of cannabis, 193 cannabis plants, 9g heroin, 11g cocaine, 12g amphetamine and 93 ecstasy tablets.
-Anonymous (Comment on The Australian Heroin Diaries)

A few links were also supplied to some media coverage. It appears that Operation Dial was a state wide operation and not just for the Mt. Gambier region. This waters down the criticism of using an excessive number of officers for the operation as the 250 police were used state wide. Also, the total amount of drugs, stolen goods and cash seized is much more than I reported on. It must appear that Operation Dial was more successful than I suggested. But was it really that successful?
It's not so much about the dollar value, it's the harm these drugs cause.
There is a clear link between drugs and crime.
-Detective Superintendent Scott Duval, officer in charge of the Drug Investigation Branch

There has been quite a few substantial drug busts lately totalling tens of millions of dollars. The Qantas cocaine ring, confiscating 20 million ecstasy tablets in WA, $5 million inner Melbourne drug bust, NT’s largest drug syndicate etc. The amount of drugs picked up by police has totalled several tonnes of coke, speed, heroin, ecstasy and cannabis. The dollar value is in the tens of millions if not hundreds of millions. So how does this compare to South Australia’s Operation Dial? Forgetting the pot, a grand total of 32 grams of cocaine, speed and heroin and 93 ecstasy pills. The 250 police officers, again starts to feel like overkill for such a small total of confiscated drugs. Some perspective might help. Every day Australians spend about $15 million dollars on illegal and illegally obtained drugs (excluding cannabis which is about $9 million dollars daily). Heroin users buy about 6,000-7000 grams daily and speed is about double that. Cannabis is used about 45 times the rate of heroin use. Although these figures are very, very rough, you get the idea. Removing 32 grams of hard drugs from a market that uses thousands of grams everyday is not going to cause a great deal of stress for the professional drug dealers.

The essential question is ... are these raids actually doing any good? Of course the police will answer yes. So too will the politicians, anti-drug warriors and the media albeit for different reasons. I would argue the opposite and say that when looked at pragmatically, the damage caused by these raids far outweighs the benefits.

What is really achieved by removing a small amount of illicit drugs from the market and what positive outcomes are there to catching the people involved? Those that rely on the dealers for highly addictive drugs like heroin will panic when their source is removed. They will need a fix within 12-24 hours of their last use and the options are not usually good. If they find another dealer, they risk being scammed which leaves them in a worse situation with their drug money gone. This exposes them to committing a possible crime or annoying family and friends once again for money. If they can’t find another heroin dealer, they may have to resort to buying methadone, prescription opiates or even barbiturates which just means another dealer has more business than usual. We can’t forget also what happens during the period between using. Addicts going through harrowing withdrawals, driving from place to place desperately trying to relieve the pain. This is all from one local heroin dealer going out of business for a week or two. No problems for the professional dealers or Mr. Bigs, no reduction in the total amount of drugs bought but more crime and desperation from users and user/dealers.

And then there’s the party drugs like ice, speed and ecstasy. On a Friday or Saturday night, there’s hundreds of young people in the local area preparing to take one of these drugs. They’re heard the dangers from the various anti-drug ads but have never experienced anything like what they’re told. As you would expect, hearing the same old message but never actually experiencing anything close to it, they simply ignore any warnings. They have been told that if they even take speed once they will end up with a face like Wilson Tuckey or be involved in a massive punch up with their parents. “These extreme situations never happen so the warnings about taking GBH are probably bullshit as well ... it can’t be that bad ... can it?”. Anyway, what choice do they have? There’s no speed or ecstasy this weekend because their dealer got caught. “Someone mentioned that there’s some methadone going around and as well as Special K (Ketamine). How much do you take? ... Isn’t methadone like meth?”.

What about cannabis? You were once allowed to grow 2 plants for personal use in SA but the Rann government fixed that up very quickly. Now, you are a criminal if you grow your own. Of course this led to an increase of pot dealers and a sum gain for the prison system. The SA parliament is thick with anti-drug rhetoric and has many moral crusaders. For a once progressive and liberal state, it is now bogged down with ideology and social conservatives that have pulled SA back into the dark ages. I doubt if there is any benefit from raiding small cannabis crops and I’m sure that most police are embarrassed to do so.

Believe or not, most dealers are users who sell drugs to fund their own addiction or dependency including gambling. The Mr. Bigs that we hear so much about are limited in numbers and are heavily outnumbered by smaller dealers. Even going up the chain, the middle men are usually users as well but have good contacts. Often they are more business savvy and are able to get their hands on larger amounts of cash to kick off their venture. Sometimes they are street level dealers as well but the smarter ones will remove themselves from this riskier market. The supply chain is delicate and any bust can cause grief down the line but rarely up the line. Small time user/dealers run a tight schedule where the money made from retail sales go straight to their next pickup. This is where they take what they need for the next day or so and they sell the rest. Then it’s just a cycle with little room for problems.

So how do the public envision these raids? Any drugs confiscated by police is easily replaced from higher up so it’s just more business for them. The real damage done is to the lower end of the market where money is tightest, risks are highest and people are most vulnerable. The police will proudly announce their catch and tell us all how they disrupted the flow of illegal drugs into the community. The media beef it up a bit, the politicians pat themselves on the back and the public cheer on. In reality, the only winners are the Mr. Bigs. The police have wasted their limited budget and resources on catching small fry which has no effect on the overall drug market. The user/dealers and users have their already complicated lives made even more stressful which often results in more crime or dealers cutting the product to recoup losses. The public are falsely led to believe that the drug problem is under control and we are being rid of sleazy drug dealers who hang around the schools and sell our kids dangerous drugs.

The total value of so called hard drugs (non cannabis) confiscated by police is about $11,000 and out of the $120,000 cash that was seized, $116,000 was from one bust on one address. Also, $100,000 worth of stolen goods were recovered from one raid. The police searched 137 homes with 56 suspects being reported for crimes, 66 ‘on the spot’ fines issued and 13 people were arrested. Two firearms were found. Maybe the stolen goods were a significant find but what about the actual drugs? Operation Dial confiscated less than 0.001% of the estimated drug market in SA. This is hardly earth moving stuff but with a bit of the old police marketing magic called “Drugs on the Table”, Operation Dial springs to life.

The “Drugs on the Table” strategy is a sour hangover from the 1970s following in the steps of the US who were keen to push the Nixon’s newly announced, "War on Drugs". It is meant to sound impressive with neat piles of confiscated drugs, money and weapons. Of course, most of busts actually come from low end dealers and users but it still gives the all important impression that the government and police are tough on drugs and there’s zero tolerance for this evil scourge in our society. This message gives the moral conservatives, mild heart palpitations and parents, a sense of security. Nearly 40 years on and not much has changed in police strategies. Surely a policy lasting 40 years must indicate that it is highly successful? Let’s see; drugs are now cheaper, stronger and more available than ever before. The cost to maintain prohibition in Australia is about $5 billion dollars annually. I don’t know the exact figures but let’s look at the US as an example. The DEA budget has risen from $65 million annually in the 1970’s to $19.2 Billion in 2007. The total cost to the US is a whopping $69 billion per year. The public never hear the negative side though and are instead presented with “drugs on the table” and quotes from the police or politicians telling us how happy they are with the results.
South Australia Police will continue with dedicated operations such as Operation Dial to target the detection and seizure of illicit drugs and those associated with drug related offences. The result from Operation Dial sends a very clear message about the way we view the illicit drug trade and our efforts to get these drugs off the streets.
-Detective Superintendent Scott Duval, officer in charge of the Drug Investigation Branch

Was Operation Dial a success? Compared to the havoc, suffering and possible deaths resulting from the raid, it’s a shallow victory at best. Most importantly, it really depends on what you call a success.

Related Articles:
SA Police Raid Hundreds Of Houses For Drugs, Weapons, Cash - Adelaide Advertiser
Drug Seizures And Arrests - SA Police Media Services
Drug Blitz Devastate Regional Cartels - The Australian Heroin Diaries

Monday, 5 October 2009

Jeepers - HeraldSun Says Prohibition has Failed

What is going on in Murdoch land? First the Adelaide Advertiser publishes a rational article on illicit drugs and now the HeraldSun publishes 2 of them ... on the same day! The last 2 articles might be from the same writer but nevertheless it’s still a shock. The real surprise though is who the author is - Alan Howe. For someone with a few horrible ultra right opinions, Alan Howe seems to be taking a long walk to the opposite side of ideology park. Howe has written before about the criminal justice system not being tough enough and pushes for longer and harsher sentences for those convicted in court. Nearly half of those charged with criminal offences are drug related which makes Howe’s article even more surprising. All that aside, it’s hard to argue that drug prohibition has been successful and to point out it’s failure is an easy task when the facts are known. Why this has eluded so many for so long will become more remarkable as the years pass. But let’s not take any credit away from Alan Howe who must have struggled with his own feelings to write not one but two articles on the matter. And then there's the potential falling out with the boss.

Prohibition Has Failed
Herald Sun
By Alan Howe
October 2009

EVEN among the bulging annals of American improbability, this meeting was right up there.

The two most famous faces on the planet joined in a war on drugs -- the War on Terror of its day.

Since mid-1969, US president Richard Nixon had toyed with the notion of declaring drugs public enemy No.1.

Then, late in 1970, he received a surprise call from the King. Not a phone call. Elvis Presley turned up, uninvited, at the White House asking to see the president.

"I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and communist brainwashing techniques,'' he told the fascinated Nixon.

"And I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good . . . the drug culture, the hippie elements, Black Panthers, etc, do not consider me as their enemy, or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it, sir."

He asked to be made a Federal Agent at Large. Nixon presented him with the badge. Elvis presented Nixon with a World War II-era Colt 45, the pair nicely ticking off America's twin evils.

Nixon kept the meeting secret for a time and months later launched his offensive against the drugs scourge.

What a dream ticket: Presley, the biggest rock star of all time, would be dead in just over six years, having consumed 19,000 doses of sedatives, stimulants and narcotics in his last 30 months; the gin-soaked Nixon, sometimes too drunk to take calls from other world leaders, liked to pop a mood-altering prescription drug called Dilantin, illegally supplied to him in 1000-capsule bottles.

The US war on drugs is estimated to have cost more than $1 trillion -- more than enough money to put Osama bin Laden on the moon. It puts a million Americans in jail each year.

Plenty of Australians are jailed each year, too, for possessing and using illegal drugs.

1In a little-publicised contribution to Kevin Rudd's 2020 summit last year, Brisbane doctor Wendell Rosevear, who has worked in the prison system for decades, called for all drugs to be legalised. He believes the billions of dollars spent in Australia on policing, convicting and jailing addicts and their suppliers should be spent on drug intervention and education programs.

"Drugs are illegal, so we put people in jail to solve the problem and we label people who use drugs as bad -- it doesn't make them feel valuable,'' he said. "If we think we can just put it out of sight, out of mind, we are actually devaluing people and not solving the problem.''

Given that the West's various wars on drugs have failed so miserably, perhaps we should look more closely at Rosevear's proposals.

Certainly, he is not alone. Arriving in Australia today is Norm Stamper, the legendary former chief of the Seattle police, and also a campaigner for legalisation of all drugs.

Stamper is being hosted by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, which believes we can minimise the damage from the drugs trade -- the violence, property crimes and deadly infectious diseases, not to mention the dizzying and untaxed profits being made by Australia's drug gangs -- if we relax our laws.

"That America proclaimed drugs public enemy No.1 and declared all-out war on them I now see as a colossal mistake,'' Stamper said from Washington state at the weekend as he prepared for his trip.

"The war was not against drugs so much as it was against people,'' he said.
"Particularly people of colour, and young people and poor people.

"We've incarcerated tens of millions of non-violent drug offenders and yet drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher levels of potency than when we declared war against them.''

I'd call that failure. He does. You'd probably agree.

Stamper is a prominent member of a 13,000-strong international organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) that includes current and former police officers, district attorneys, drug enforcement administration officers, homeland security agents, prosecutors, judges and prison wardens who want an end to the prohibition of now-illegal drugs.

They see the lessons of the US Prohibition 90 years ago being forgotten. Back then, alcohol manufacture, sale and transportation were outlawed. It barely affected consumption, but it led to deeply rooted criminal systems being established and crime rates soaring as demand was met, albeit illegally. Like it is with serious drugs today.

STAMPER sees "softer'' drugs, such as marijuana, being decriminalised first, and when lessons are learned, harder drugs following suit.

Having worked in San Diego, he has first-hand experience of the Mexico towns that are now are the front line of the drug cartel wars for control of the lucrative drugs trade.

Ideally, Stamper sees the state growing, manufacturing and controlling the supply of drugs, although LEAP does not have a view on this.

Of course, that's a much stricter regime than we have for the manufacture and sale of alcohol, notwithstanding the alcohol-fuelled violence that so regularly sees injury and death on Melbourne streets.

Cartels Sell Their Nation's Soul
Herald Sun
By Alan Howe
October 2009

THE big boys of the drugs trade make our Underbelly idiots look like they've been on Jenny Craig.

All the numbers are big: Mexico's Attorney-General said his country has spent $US6.5 billion in the past two years fighting the drug gangs.

The cartels will earn about $US15 billion this year; more than 6000 Mexicans will die in cartel warfare in 2009; Mexico has 130,000 standing soldiers, while the two biggest cartels are believed to have 100,000 between them; 24,000 Mexican soldiers are assigned to tackle the drug bosses; 5000 troops work in the town of Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso -- 250 people are murdered there each month.

Last month gunmen broke into a drug rehabilitation centre there, lined up 17 young men and shot them dead. It only just made the news.

The drug cartels openly advertise on street hoardings for government soldiers to defect to them. It's better pay and the kills are more regular.

Mexico is descending into nothing more than a narco-state supplying the demands of Americans who want to get high: in one dreadful weekend in Tijuana nine men were found decapitated; three were policemen, their badges found in their mouths.

Some months back a dozen soldiers were found, also decapitated, their hands tied behind their backs. Heads are rolled on to popular dance floors and tortured bodies turn up in school playgrounds.

It is all too much for some. Former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso now sides with Australia's Wendell Rosevear and Seattle's Norm Stamper.

"The status of addicts must change from that of drug buyers in the illegal market to that of patients cared for in the public health system,'' he wrote two weeks ago.

He wants attention moved from repression of drug users and focused instead on treatment and prevention, the direction in which Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador had already moved.

Related Articles:
Oops! Adelaide Advertiser Gets It Right
Fairfax Media Fights the Good Fight
Drug Hysteria - Headlines from News Ltd

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Danes Consider Dutch Style Cannabis Shops

I wondered why it took so long for another country to adopt the Dutch model of cannabis “Coffee Shops”. It seems to work quite well except for the worry about drug tourism but if more countries adopted this idea, this wouldn’t be a problem. The most interesting factor of this Danish proposal is that supply is from legal crops whereas the Dutch model doesn’t stipulate where the retail outlets (coffee shops) source their supplies from. I can’t wait to hear the screams of prohibitionists as their heads implode.

Council May Enter Drug Trade
The Copenhagen Post
September 2009

Decriminialising cannabis is eyed as a means to take the trade away from criminal gangs

City supports draft model to offer small quantities of cannabis to residents at current street prices

A City Council majority is backing a plan to legalise the sale of cannabis, which could see two thirds of the market taken away from criminal gangs, reports Politiken newspaper.

The paper cites a memorandum drawn up by council staff, proposing that state-licensed shops sell the drug in small quantities at 50 kroner per gram – similar to the current street price.

The illegal cannabis trade in Copenhagen is estimated to be worth more than a billion kroner annually and if 40 state-run ‘coffee shops’ were set up, they could turn over about 700 million kroner a year.
The council report states the cannabis would be sourced from legal plantations and suggests a three-year trial period. It also states research shows that decriminalising the drug doesn’t lead to more drug abuse.

‘Drug use is not higher in countries that have already decriminalised hash for personal use,’ said the report.

The Social Democrats, Social Liberals, Socialist People’s Party, Red-Green Alliance plus Liberal councillor Lars Dueholm have secured a majority for the model suggested.

However, the legal pot would only be available to city residents. Thor Buch Grønlykke, spokesman for the Social Democrats, explained that this would prevent ‘hash tourism’.

Grønlykke also insisted the licensed stores would be staffed by healthcare professionals.

‘The hash must be sold from places where people are scrutinised closely so the young and vulnerable people can’t buy the drugs,’ he said.

Recent statistics show that almost 50 percent of Danes between the age of 16 and 44 have tried hash and there are around 7000 addicts nationwide.

The council plans to send its finalised proposal to the Justice Ministry before the end of the year as the plan would require a legislative change.