The Government on drugs

It hasn’t been a good week for politics in this country, especially for the libDems. The issue of student loans and tuition fees having exposed the promises made by them as being no more than words to con people out of their vote. Quite where this particular self inflicted mess will lead for the LibDems in the long run remains to be seen of course, but it’s not the only issue they seem happy to be doing U-turns on. One of the others of course being drugs policy where they seem to be going along with the prohibition mad Tory proposals at the heart of the new drugs strategy to be announced soon. As with the issue of student fees, there are some in the LibDems unhappy with the direction their party is heading.

The was an interesting short debate in the House of Lords last week  triggered by the LibDem Lord Tavern who asked (full debate here)

whether, in the light of the recent report from the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs [ISCD] on the harmful effects of different classified and non-classified drugs, they will reconsider the present system of classification

The ISCD is the committee set up by Prof David Nutt who was sacked by the previous Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson for undermining the drugs policy by suggesting the ABC system of classification should reflect the actual harms posed by drugs. This was after cannabis had been moved from class C to class B against the advice of the government’s own appointed experts which he headed, the AMCD..

That the ABC system no longer reflects the true harms drugs can cause is pretty obvious; MDMA (ecstasy) or magic mushrooms being rated alongside Heroin or crack cocaine for example undermines any claim of a scientific base, and it was openly admitted by the last government that moving cannabis back from C to B against expert advice was done to “send a message” that cannabis use was “unacceptable” in the view of politicians, as if anyone cares what they think.

An evidence based ABC system is something the government is utterly opposed to and uses some pretty strange logic to justify as Baroness Neville-Jones (Minister of State (Security), Home Office) – a Conservative – said:

My Lords, the Government do not intend to review the drug classification system established by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The criminal justice system expects – and the Government must provide – a stable and enduring system. The current system continues to serve that purpose

Even though it clearly doesn’t serve the purpose it was intended to serve and is based on little more than political rhetoric. Can it really be right to maintain a legal system which is based on nothing more that dogma because the criminal justice system “demands” it?

Lord Tavern tried again:

My Lords, this recent report is perhaps the most thorough analysis of the impact of different drugs not only on users but on others in society at large. If the Government believe in evidence-based policy, is it not obvious that, in light of this report and of many other reports that have reached similar conclusions, the present classification-with ecstasy in class A and cannabis in class B-is in no way based on evidence of either the physical or social impact of drugs?

What David Nutt’s latest paper also suggested was that Alcohol and tobacco are amongst the most damaging drugs to society and that any sensible drugs policy would include them as drugs. Lord Tavern added:

Will the Government further accept that they would be utterly irresponsible and failing in their duty to society if they did not provide much stronger disincentives to the indulgence of the abuse of alcohol, which comes top-by miles-of all other drugs in its impact on society as a whole?

The reply was perhaps predictable

My Lords, on the whole question of drugs classification, there is clearly no consensus about what constitutes evidence.

There isn’t? Then on what basis is the law founded – at least in theory –  if not evidence of harm? What do politician claim to make the “judgements” on if not evidence?

The Government simply do not agree that a system of a sliding scale of harms, such as is suggested in the Nutt report, constitutes a good basis for government policy. We do not believe that structuring drug-harm classifications in the way that the recent report does would be better than the current basis for government policy.

The operative word there is “believe”; this is something this blog has touched on before, the whole policy of prohibition is not evidence based, it’s faith based. Prohibition is a policy politicians believe is effective but which is simply not supported by hard evidence of any kind, indeed there is much to show that it is in large part self defeating and causes far greater harm than properly controlled drug markets ever could.

Baroness Meacher (of no political party – a “crossbencher”) asked:

is the Minister aware that Mr Fedotov, who is the new executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, is urging Governments to put away their policies that criminalise drug users and to replace those policies with health policies? In the light of that advice from the United Nations, what plans does the Minister have to review the Misuse of Drugs Act?

To which the reply was

the Government certainly take seriously the need to engage the community in reducing the level of drugs misuse. Later this year, the Government will produce a drugs strategy to reinforce that side of their policy, but they do not agree that it is right and proper to decriminalise all use of drugs.

Careful watchers of political language will spot a subtle change there perhaps “do not agree that it is right and proper to decriminalise all use of drugs” seems to leave the door open to a new approach, but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking. It is also worth noting that prohibited drugs were not referred to as “controlled substances” in this debate at all, but as “classified” substances.

It sounds like we should hear about the new strategy in the next few weeks, but few are hopeful of anything other than more of the same, probably worse.

But what of alcohol and tobacco? Another LibDem, Baroness Hamwee asked a difficult question

My Lords, we tax alcohol, we regulate tobacco use and we criminalise drug use. The Minister may not want to use words such as “hypocritical” and “cynical”, but is there a consistency in this approach?

This was like a red flag to a drunk bull

My Lords, we believe that all drugs that are classified on the list are extremely harmful to society; we do not believe that alcohol taken in moderation is harmful to society. Clearly, there is alcohol abuse, but the Government already have a strategy-and we will add to it-on reducing the possibilities of that abuse. This Government are taking measures that are rather more stringent than those of the previous Administration.

So no acceptance of an inconsistency of approach, alcohol of course is the drug most often used by members of both houses and the hypocrisy is sickening. Cannabis of course is clearly capable of being used non-problematically, as are various other “classified” recreational drugs. It seems the idea of including their drug of choice as a drug is just too unacceptable to the government for reasons which have nothing to do with either evidence or logic.

In an attempt to discredit the report by Prof Nutt Lord Deben –  a Conservative – made a truly outlandish claim

Will my noble friend take very great care before she takes seriously the recent report of this independent committee on drugs? Its judgment is based on a methodology that to most of us, when looked at carefully, is shown to be entirely flawed.

Quite what evidence he based that claim on isn’t clear, but Baroness Neville-Jones was clearly glad of the support and replied

the Government have confidence in the independent advice given by their own statutory commission and we trust that advice. I am inclined to agree with the comments just made by my noble friend.

The “statutory commission” she referred to of course is the ACMD, the body David Nutt was sacked from for apparently undermining government policy by promoting an evidence based approach to drug laws.  Another LibDem  Lord Willis of Knaresborough challenged this hypocrisy:

does the Minister agree that the proposal that Professor Nutt and Professor Blakemore put forward in the Lancet and in the recent report is based not only on their own evidence but on peer-reviewed evidence? What evidence does the Minister have to say that the misuse of alcohol and tobacco, which appear in the top quartile of the list in that report, is less harmful and creates fewer deaths than the rest of the drugs in the classifications A, B and C?

To which the strange reply was

I suggest that there is a real difference between alcohol and tobacco, which taken in moderation are not harmful to society, and the drugs on the classified list. I am afraid that there is no consensus between the conclusions reached by Professor Nutt and the evidence that he took.

Which is, of course, utter rubbish. It is true that alcohol can be used non-problematically as can many other drugs, but whether that applies to tobacco is highly questionable given it’s carcinogenic and addictive nature. A labour peer, Lord Faulkner of Worcester picked her up on this point:

would the noble Baroness care to reconsider that last answer and separate alcohol from tobacco? There is no safe use of tobacco; all government advice that has ever been offered on the subject is that, when tobacco is used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions, it is a killer. Therefore, it is treated differently from alcohol?

She had to concede that point, thus somewhat undermining her own argument.

My Lords, I accept the trend of that comment from the noble Lord. It is indeed the case that tobacco is harmful, as he has just said. I think the House would agree that alcohol taken in moderation is not so harmful.

It was interesting and welcome to see the contribution from LibDem peers in this debate, they asked some good informed questions. Indeed before the formation of the present ConDem coalition, the LibDems had the closest thing to a sensible drugs policy of all the mainstream parties. For many years they had a document on the libDem website entitled “Honesty, Realism, Responsibility Proposals for the Reform of Drugs Law Policy Paper” which mysteriously vanished shortly before the last election, although Transform archived it here; it makes interesting reading.

The LibDem  2010 election manifesto stated

“Always base drugs policy on independent scientific advice, including making the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs completely independent of government.”

Which is a reasonable enough position to adopt.  Sadly, even this utterly reasonable position looks like being dropped if rumours are to be believed. Now they are in a position of real influence it seems they are about to put their collective name to the new Tory inspired drugs policy based on more of the same failed ideas and unproven rhetoric. Insisting on an evidence based approach would totally undermine the present drug policy of course and force very real change, so the promise is quietly dropped.

It will be interesting to see if the party continues to back its leader Nick Clegg who seems hell-bent on trashing his party’s stated principles or whether the LibDems will be torn apart by the thought of well deserved annihilation at the polls if he is allowed to continue.

22 thoughts on “The Government on drugs

  1. In a word… sickening.

    The hypocrisy of it.. those reading this blog know enough not to have to go into details about just how hypocritical this ‘debate’ was – more of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.

    Just one Con lord to question prof. Nutts report and that is deemed enough.. never mind that it went through peer review, that it used some quite complex statistical methodology to ascertain its outcomes… no, the chair of Veolia knows more about drugs than real experts:

    None of them are qualified to comment, which is why they should have ‘independent’ experts… the more I see in politics, the more disillusioned I become – the quickest route to reform would somehow get the DM and Sun to run campaigns in reforms favour – as that is how our politics seems to be governed. I just hope the LibCon’s new drug policy isn’t as bad as I expect (and hope for an embarrassment courtesy of the Drug Equality Alliances judicial review)..

  2. This has just been received at UKCIA and really deserves a blog entry of its own but is relevant to the issues raised above:

    *** Press release 15 November 2010 ***

    Home Secretary and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs set for embarrassment over alcohol and tobacco policy

    Separate proceedings have been initiated at the High Court against both the Home Secretary and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) for their respective abdication of power and duty under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 with respect to alcohol and tobacco control. The cases, brought by the imprisoned ‘cognitive liberty’ advocate and entheogenic chemist, US citizen Casey William Hardison, set out how the Home Secretary has failed in her legal duty to actively consult the ACMD on the possibility of bringing drinkers and smokers under the protection and control of the Act and how the ACMD have failed in their legal duty to actively recommend to the Home Secretary that possibility. Currently, drinkers and smokers are accorded special status by government and the ACMD through the mistaken belief that alcohol and tobacco are exempted from the operation of the Act. This error of law then leads the Home Secretary to another false notion: that the Act is ‘not a suitable mechanism for regulating alcohol and tobacco [users]’, and the ACMD to a similar false notion: that ‘the Misuse of Drugs framework is not appropriate for the regulation of alcohol and tobacco [users]’. These false notions are themselves provided for by a pernicious public belief that the Act mandates the ‘prohibition’ of non-medical and non-scientific commerce and use of controlled drugs. This belief couldn’t be further from legal truth. But it is a belief the Government does not want undermined.

    The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 requires the Home Secretary and the ACMD to apply relevant criteria and disregard irrelevant criteria concerning drugs misuse and social harm to their decision making process; yet the Home Secretary and the ACMD have allowed irrelevant criteria to impact their respective decisions not to speak directly to each other about alcohol and tobacco control. This ‘hear no, see no, speak no’ control policy has lead to a collective decision to exclude alcohol and tobacco from the Act’s protections on the grounds of ‘historic and cultural [factors/precedents] that lack a consistent and objective basis’. And even though both the ACMD and the Home Secretary recognise ‘that alcohol and tobacco do pose health risks and may have anti-social effects’, they accord there dangerous drugs special status because ‘their use is embedded in society and their responsible use is possible and commonplace’. These irrelevant factors have led the ACMD to acquiesce in, and the government to institute, a separate system for regulating the commerce and use of the drugs alcohol and tobacco. However the artificial divide between drugs defined as ‘controlled’ under the Act, and the so-called ‘legal’ drugs is arbitrary and unreasonable. It favours the non-medical and non-scientific misuse of alcohol and tobacco relative to any non-medical or non-scientific use of any controlled drug – a poisoned chalice not provided for by the Act. This policy is biased in favour of producers and consumers of these socially-problematic products, and ignorant of statutory duty.

    Again, the control and classification of alcohol and tobacco alongside other dangerous drugs controlled by the Act would not necessarily equate to prohibition; a full range of regulatory options are available under the Act for a lawful and rational commerce of any controlled drug for peaceful use purposes. Said another way, the Act is not a blunt instrument intended to ‘prohibit’ drugs, rather it is a beautifully nuanced ‘mechanism’ or ‘framework’ for the ‘suitable’ or ‘appropriate’ regulation of the import, export, production, supply and possession of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs so as to reduce harm from their potential misuse. Hardison shows that the Act is a well- crafted and intricate tool that can easily regulate the lawful, responsible commerce and use of alcohol and tobacco.

    The decisions under challenge are the Home Secretary’s refusal to consult the ACMD on the ‘possibility’ of bringing alcohol and tobacco users under the Act’s control, and the ACMD’s refusal to recommend that possibility. This refusal is based on overly-rigid policies that have prevented the ACMD and the Home Secretary from considering even the merits of the possibility. Hardison finds this unacceptable; will the Court?

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  3. I do hope that the court sees the hypocrisy and places alcohol and tobacco under the act. I don’t know the specifics of the judicial review process – just how likely is it to succeed? It is obvious to us but you know.. when the politicians or the media lean on judges.. it can affect outcomes..

    It would make crafting drug policy directions slightly more difficult, and recognition that these are dangerous substances (often far more dangerous than ‘illegal’ drugs).. would they create a new class for alcohol and tobacco?

    p.s. thanks UKCIA for the early update 🙂

  4. I don’t think this issue has anything to do with the ruling party’s politics – it is just a fact of life when they are in government that they have to take this line. If the government were truly scared of public opinion then they would open it up with something like a royal commission. After all they do other things that the public don’t agree with all the time and justify it with ‘scientific/expert evidence’

    Many parties and politicians have flirted with seeing sense on the drugs issue but only in opposition. When in power something makes them take the hard line. Anyone wanting reform has to tackle that ‘something’ and go for the puppet master – not the puppet. I think their is no real debate on what the relative harms of substances are or even the best way to control them but politicians will take a lot of flack and risk looking ridiculous to keep the status quo.

    This judicial review of the MDA may well tie the politicians hands since it is much harder for a judge to ignore the facts of a compelling argument. I suspect that many politicians may want to be out-manoeuvred on this matter and get on with saving money but they need an excuse to take to those who persuade them to fight for the current system. As I have said before it is worth remembering that most politicians (along with a significant proportion of the British public) are addicted to at least one of the legal drugs (alcohol or tobacco) – these days it is often alcohol – so a have a vested interest in the subject (remember the last government considered it inappropriate that drug users have any say in how the drug laws work). Also what happened to Nick Clegg’s web site that allowed the public to suggest laws that should change – he has conveniently ignored the most popular suggestions that concerned regulation of drugs (including alcohol licensing laws and smoking bans).

    If politicians …

    Ignore sense on drugs regulation.
    Carry out very unpopular military campaigns.
    Continue plans to purchase a multi-billion dollar missile system that is strategically out of date and unaffordable.

    …..It is because they simply have no choice on the matter – almost the last thing they want is to upset the public. The very last thing they want is to incur the wrath of those who put them where they are today (remember that is not the public but those who control and manipulate public opinion via the media).

  5. Speaking of taking the application of the MDA to court, does anyone know what is happening with Edwin Stratton?

  6. @phrtao, you are right, the government doesn’t mind going against public opinion.. in fact they do it quite often… I think that big ‘something’ that prevents it when coming to drugs is that there is nothing in it for the individual politicians.

    unpopular military campaigns for example – quell allies and enable huge spending on military contracts (of which I’m sure they sit on boards of defence companies)..

    deep spending cuts – only said to get elected even now it may be going against historical evidence that cutting this deep can exacerbate the recession.. too late to change and look stupid.

    opposition to minimum alcohol pricing – in the face of evidence the oppose it as many are lobbied/have vested interests in the alcohol industry.. the list goes on and on…

    As there is nothing in it for the individual politicians we have to find leverage, such as classifying alcohol/tobac under the MDA. The government could change public opinion and bring in reform so easily.. if they chose to.. but the current govt would have to do it now, at the start of their term when they could justify it.. instead they are going to promote ‘abstinence’… I would call them idiots but as they know full well what they are doing I think I would choose another word… this is an issue for the people that is going to have to be forced by the people..

    @Sam, the DEA’s site says he is going to appeal as I think he had to be convicted to be able to be allowed to appeal.. but I dont know any more than that..

  7. They are the One’s in Power, the government that is. I can see it already, they’ll state in court that it’s the Home Secretarys dicision on what drugs are controled and how. Chances are the Judge will either be a drinker or a smoker or both, and as much as i wish for Change to come. eg Prop19. its like phrtao said the media have a lot to answer for. In terms of the back handers they take from the alcohol and baccie industrys. They along with Big Pharma are not going to let you! spark up a any pure spliff or grow your own Supply as this would be an independant act which is not in accordance with the New World Order of dependence (Capitalism) apon oil, alcohol and tobbacco. accuse me of being a cynic all anybody likes but one judge is not going to tell the home secretary of England how too do her job. Im sure she will state and defend herself on the basis that its her JOb alone not a judge to draw up a framwork off control.
    We already know they dont base the laws on Science thats plain and has been so since 1971 So after 40 odd years an American LSD maker in Prison is going to be aloud to change the law in England?!. No chance what so ever. We really need to wake up in the cannabis community to the fact that until a majority of plp smoke weed itll never be legal. I dont beleave it’s for everyone. e.g my wife who suffers from depression, she wont touch the stuff and funnly enough doesnt want me doing it either because it does nothing for her along with a shit load of propaganda from the state and fear of the police kicking in my door to get a look at my now long gone garden. My Government is the same. The Green’s are now in power like in the UK but before they did slide into the well paid leather seat they wanted drugs to be looked at ,esp funnly enough, Cannabis because they knew it would win them a few extra thousand votes. With another general election 5 five years down the road in the uk they dont care who’s offended by the turnabout. Their in power. They have a large Pension .Some day the penny will drop.

    Peace and Love Dec

  8. See.. I thought that the purpose of the MDA was to control any substance that posed a problem or threat to ‘society’ regardless of what the home secretary is told to think.. under its current administration this is not the case as alcohol and tobacco, which clearly pose problems, are not under the act. I think the DEA and CH have quite a strong case and hope it goes through, but maybe Sunshine Band could enlighten us a bit as to the workings of a JD if there is time to spare? 🙂

    I agree the media have a lot to answer for, along with the alcohol and tobacco industries.. but don’t think its as clear cut as the NWO explicitly dictating these things. A foundation somewhere has to fall as too many countries are tied in by the UN conventions and they are not going to leave the UN over drugs policy alone. It will take small steps, such as this judicial review, prof. Nutt’s recent paper etc. along with something big – such as legalisation of Cannabis in the USA, to undermine the system and prompt change.

  9. Prop 19 fail’d. In Probly the Biggest Cannbis Consuming County in America!!!!!!!. fact.
    The NWO Doesnt have to dictate thats the point! if you agree with it you prosper. If you dont you on the roung end of the state.
    Its not legal nor shall it be because it suits nobody but us and we are a minority!. fact.

  10. The same thing was said about abolishing slavery or enhancement of equal/civil rights. It is not about being the minority – for example look at the Digital Economy Bill, a piece of reckless legislation rushed through parliament in wash-up that only benefited a few well-off companies and the politicians who have their fingers in associated pies… or the telecomms reforms… think back to the cash-for-lobbying.

    A lot of things happen in the interest of minorities, it just so happens that our minority (which if you include alcohol, tobacco and caffeine as ‘drugs’ we are in fact the overwhelming majority) has no vested interests from politicians.. so why would they bother.. out of the good of their hearts or their concern for the common man? Those politicians are few and far between.. if they exist at all any more.. that is why this issue will have to be forced by the people.

  11. Good points Jake. Sadly do Drinkers and Smokers of Cig’s wouldnt agree that we are the same! because their drugs are legal and still socialy excepable some how. Cannabis isnt. I get your point about civil rights but a Gay person cant stop being Gay. A Cannabis smoker can stop with the right laws/ help/ Control freaking governments so they Beleave!. I agree with your point about it being a civil rights issues sadly those lucky taxed user’s of alco and baccie wont back us up until their drugs are banned as well then i could agree that we’d be in the minority with them but we are not. Im 35 Jake ive been waiting years and i havnt yet seen any sign of change in fact its one step forward about ten back. My point about Califorina still stands if a state with hundreds of thousands of medical users and hundreds of thousands user’s cant legalise a ounce when they are given the vote to do so weve got our work cut out. If a ballot was held in Ireland or England tommorow i beleave the numbers would be even more depressing. Sad as it is to admit. sure maybe on my 75 birthday truth will win out!. ye right!.I Suppose we have to remain posative but with so much bad news this year the loss of some great Cannabis Freedom Fighters and the failure of Prop19 the impending Conservative New Drug Managment crap on the way its 4 more years of no medical need or reason for the use of cannabis to be legal, Double speak Lieing lizards.

  12. Declan, hold onto the faith!! There have been many small positive developments over the last couple of years. Harm-reduction is taking a bigger stand, human rights abuses due to drug policy are coming under higher scrutiny and rhetoric is moving away from a ‘war on drugs’ approach (even if the money doesnt appear to do so at the moment).

    Prop 19 never started from a high enough point lead, that is why many of the big financial backers waited until later to see where it was going to go. It got more votes than a republican candidate who spent over $120m compared to $4m from yes on 19. Youth turnout wasnt as high as expected. Arnie signed a decrim bill of up to an Oz for personal use in reaction to 19 so getting caught is the same as a speeding ticket. The attorney generals statement of enforcement regardless didnt help either. If nothing else 19 made the debate legitimate, they will be back in two years, with more states going for legalisation than just Cali. As the states is the main perpetrator of the war on (some) drugs, having one or more states legalising and regulating cannabis is going to cause change, it could even be the death knell for the UN conventions (I HOPE!).

    As Ethan Nadelmann said.. the wind is no longer in our faces but against our backs… and no time to cut waste as in a recession (it was one of the reasons alcohol prohibition was reversed in the early 30’s).. keep the faith, keep promoting logic and reason to those that will listen.. we need everyone we have! 🙂

  13. Thanks Jake.

    I Appreciate Posative Vibes.
    My problem with Harm reduction is it still Preaches from the Same position, that we are Roung!. We dont need Harm reduction. Consuming Cannabis isn’t Roung. Its a Adult couse, there for we dont need Harm reduction!. We need respect as adults who make a couse too consume what we wish, its called liberty. Injesting what i want too without harming anyone. My problem with harm reduction is its the same shit in a different coat. Sorry Derek im prone to blunt expressions.
    The path to Hell is paved with good intentions.
    Harm reduction is a very Americana invention to get us all into private rehab. Why lock us up when we can make a buck from telling us we are roung. Harm reduction in Ireland means keeping people hooked no Opiate replacements
    not dealing in any way why folk turn to “Drugs”. I dont see the system giving in to conpassion unless theres a buck, euro, pound in it for vested interests. Jake your a sound mind ive no dought otherwise you wouldnt be here seeking debate. That said the assheads in power dont care about liberty and freedom its about damage control they know they are roung so they invent Harm reduction without taking away the laws which make us law brackers.

  14. Jake is right, Prop. l9’s 46% was the best ever, the youth vote is commonly off in off-year elections compared to a Presidential year; the Prop. 19 debate got things underway for ’12.

    Excusing alcohol and tobacco for “embedded cultural reasons” is like authorizing “an establishment of religion”– the best cultural embeddedness a century of sledgehammer $igarette advertising could buy is now paraded as a state religion and the govt. gleefully gobbles up the $igarette tax revenue like a tithe devotedly tendered in the pew.

    Correct me if you have better research, but in the controversy so far I see no evidence that the govt. or the MP’s have been taking any note of alternative means of administration of drugt (or herb). No recognition of any difference between cannabinoid vapors harvested from a vaporizer or one-hitter and “smoke’ from a hot burning fat joint full of heat shock and carbon monoxide. (Let alone with addictive nicotine tobacco added.) No mention of any difference between massive 700-mg. overdose of specially doctored “mild” tobaccoes in hot burning $igarettes by inhalant smokers, and non-inhalant pipe and cigar smoking (nicotine absorbed through mucous membrane, not through lungs). (Lord Russell with his pipe lived to 98, George Burns with his cigar lived to 100 and his name elected two mediocre… oh well.)

    Finally, I note that the ACMD does not appear to have discussed the NEW (well, invented 2003) issue of E-CIGARETTES, both for tobacco (tried and commended by Rush Limbaugh) and for cannabis (google “Vapor Rush”). This could be the game-changer. Harm? Since 2003 not ONE (1) case reported of a fatality associated with use of an e-cigarette (or many). At WHO-estimated yearly rate, in the same time frame, 35,000,000 deaths from hot burning overdose $igarettes.

  15. @Declan, you’re right with harm reduction in that it is not an ideal situation – of course it is better to eliminate the underlying reasons why people are addicted to heroin, crack, alcohol etc. (poverty, mental illness, abuse etc.) but it is better than the full blown prohibition approach. I liken it to decriminalisation – not ideal but better than what we have currently, just look at Portugal for reference. The benefits of these half-way measures is that they prove that there are more effectual alternatives to ‘just say no’ and criminalisation, with far more compassion than prohibition.

    It should be noted that the USA govt do not actually recognise the phrase ‘harm reduction’.. just look how long it took them to allow needle exchange programs when the benefits had been seen in other countries for decades!

    Harm reduction isn’t just a phrase too.. it can mean things such as banning of smoking in indoor public places, minimum alcohol pricing or even Derek’s toke-pure campaign. So I think it most definitely has its uses in a free drug-consuming society, which, in my opinion should be the governments role when it comes to drugs – to ensure quality and reduce the harm, not disallow us our liberty… we will keep chipping away at their flawed regime and change will happen.. it has to – the current system is ultimately unsustainable!

  16. How dare you speak this heresy against politicians. we should look up to these fine examples of man and and follow them like good sheep. clearly they got to these positions by being honest, noble, and having vast scientific knowledge.

  17. Indeed Sharky – and as we touch our collective forelocks we should all be grateful for the fact that under a democratic system like ours every sheep has the right to vote for the shepherd. That after all is what freedom is – just like they taught us in school…

  18. maybe if i take enough drink and drugs, shag enough prostitutes and accept enough bribes in the process, i too can become the shepherd.
    im sure your aware that certain sheep have more votes than others in our current system, and after the concessions of the lib dems and the recent failure of prop 19 i remain depressed and cynical.
    thanks for the blogs dude.

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