Monday, 30 March 2009

Prescription Heroin Clinics - There Goes The Neighbourhood?

There are some major opponents of Sydney’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) including a few well known opinion writers. Fortunately for the public, the critics can never produce actual evidence that supports their claims of a negative impact on the surrounding area. Some of the claims include an increase in disregarded needles, drug dealers and devious behaviour and even falling local real estate values.

A group of anti-MSIC nuts were so convinced that they took a bin of disposed needles from a veterinary surgery and dumped the contents outside the MSIC. They then informed the media that it was the result of junkies that lurk around the MSIC. Luckily someone pointed out the difference between brands sold for animals and brands sold for humans.

The insatiable quest by some to keep drug treatment centres out of their suburbs is astonishing. It’s known as NIMBY(Not In My Back Yard). One can only imagine the outcry if these drug treatment centres also supplied prescription heroin as well.

Likewise in the US. Often when the establishment of a methadone clinic is proposed, there follows a mass of protests, outrage and claims that some precious suburb will be overrun with dangerous junkies. Imagine the uproar that if instead of a methadone clinic, an outlet for providing injectable heroin was proposed? The paradox of not allowing a methadone clinic is that those dangerous junkies that the community fear so much, are left without treatment which is why drug related crime occurs. A clinic would reduce this crime but for many, the fear of seeing addicts seeking treatment is more terrifying than the unseen junkie burglarising their house.

This type of thinking would make it impossible for a heroin assisted treatment (HAT) clinic to appear anywhere in America except maybe near Area 51 in the Nevada desert. As usual though, a little research dispels all those nasty preconceived ideas that helps fuel the "War on Drugs" as a war on people.

Medical Prescription Of Heroin Does Not Pose Neighbourhood Risk
Science Centric
February 2009

Providing heroin to drug addicts at medically supervised clinics does not pose risks to surrounding neighbourhoods, according to a new study by Serge Brochu, a researcher at the Universite de Montreal School of Criminology. Brochu found that the Montreal leg of the NAOMI project, otherwise know as the North American Opiate Medication Initiative, didn't have a negative impact on its surrounding neighbourhood.

Launched in 2005, the NAOMI project did not foster increased criminal acts, dangerous debris, deviant behaviour or emergency interventions in its downtown community. A comparable study of the Naomi project's sister clinic in Vancouver, led by Neil Boyd of the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, also found the impact of that heroin clinic to be negligible. The NAOMI-CI (Community Impact) studies were launched simultaneously in Montreal and Vancouver to measure the community impact of the experimental NAOMI project.

As part of his study, Brochu and his team interviewed close to 40 residents, business owners, police officers, security guards, social workers, kindergarten employees and homeless people between May 2005 and June 2008. Police data (criminal and uncivil acts) was obtained from the Service de police de la Ville de Montreal for the period from 2002 to 2008. What's more, Brochu and his team undertook 150 observational walks in the streets, alleyways, parks and parking lots within a 200-metre radius of the NAOMI clinic in to assess the levels of debris, deviant behaviour and observable emergency interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.
Data collected during the neighbourhood walks revealed that the quantity of drug injecting debris (syringes, needle covers, stericups, spoons, etc.) decreased significantly. What's more, the NAOMI clinic had no impact on the quantity of various street debris (drug containers, condoms, alcohol bottles, etc.), on deviant behaviour (loitering, solicitation, public consumption of alcohol or drugs, squeegees, or rummaging through garbage) or on observable police and ambulance interventions in the heart of the experimental sector.

The NAOMI project was established after research showed that the injection of pharmaceutical heroin is more efficient than simple methadone treatments to help some drug addicts that do not respond to traditional treatment. In Montreal, the study was led by Dr Suzanne Brissette, head of the drug addiction rehabilitation program of the Centre Hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal and a professor at the Universite de Montreal's Faculty of Medicine.

Results from the last 12 months have been very positive. NAOMI patients undergoing treatment throughout the program increased 88 percent and participants reduced their consumption of illicit drugs by 70 percent, reduced their criminal activity by 36 percent and improved their health by 20 percent.

'Steps have been taken with the Quebec Ministry of Health so this type of program can be offered to heroin addicts that don't respond to traditional treatments,' says Dr Bissette. 'These new results obtained by Professor Brochu are keeping us hopeful.'

'Studies conducted on the NAOMI project as well as my own study on the criminal impact of the project highlight its validity: the health of drug addicts is improved with no negative impact on the urban area. That said, why not continue helping these marginalised people combat their dependency problem, or at the very least, help them improve their physical health?' says Professor Brochu.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Smoking Ban - Putting the Boot into Mental Health Patients

Anti-Smoking groups are applauding the NSW government's decision to remove a smoking exemption for mental health facilities. The obvious question is, will it help patients? A third of mental health sufferers and two thirds of schizophrenics smoke but under the government plan, they have to quit or abstain while they are being treated. Is it really a good idea to put this extra unnecessary stress on people already confronting intense personal issues? Although nicotine is physically addictive, it also has a huge psychological dependancy that can make it extremely stressful to quit.

As a smoker I know about the compulsory need to reach for a cigarette regardless of the harms. Kicking nicotine addiction is simply not possible for many including myself especially during a time of stress. I don’t care how many anti-smoking groups or loud vocal nay-sayers harp on, I find it virtually impossible to quit. The idea of quitting whilst dealing with a major issue in my life is even more distant and I am sure this is the same for most long term smokers. And what bigger issue could one have to deal with than going to a psychiatric centre for a mental health problem? I could only imagine one worse scenario than having to deal with a mental health issue at a psychiatric hospital ... having to quit smoking as well.

Like most people, I understand the need for smoke free environments and designated outdoor smoking areas meet this need. But in a mindless and stupid attempt to appease anti-smoking groups, the NSW government has taken a Zero Tolerance approach and banned all smoking in mental health facilities. The alternatives ... quit smoking. This is just what someone needs whilst dealing with probably the biggest issue in their life. What a bunch of shit-for-brains.
It has been found, rather surprisingly, that nicotine has beneficial effects on brain function in schizophrenia (American Journal of Psychiatry, 1993;150(12):1856-61). Normally, people are able to adapt to background noise and disregard it, for example while having a conversation in a busy street. Recordings of brain activity show that this ability is impaired in people with schizophrenia, so they are more distracted by the surrounding environment. When they smoke, or use nicotine gum or patches, brain function normalises and they are less reactive to irrelevant sounds around them. When the nicotine is taken away, the problems return. -The Australian: Mentally Ill Smoke More And Quit Less.
Has anti-smoking hysteria gone too far? I remember when the idea of banning smoking in pubs was so far fetched, I just knew it couldn’t happen. It was the same when they first touted the idea of banning smoking in restaurants ... and offices ... and public transport ... and ... etc. So times change and we get used to it. I just want to know where the line is. 

In The Netherlands where you can buy and smoke cannabis in licensed coffee shops, they have banned tobacco smoking. Is this just anti-smoking fever gone mad or does it make sense? I’m still thinking about that one but what doesn’t make sense is removing designated outdoor smoking areas. Considering smoking is highly addictive, you would think the authorities would be more realistic. So what’s their solution ... more smoking bans. 

It’s obvious that the balance between the rights of a smoker being able to light up and the need to keep everyone else free from smoke is failing. This is especially true when anti-smoking zealots start to threaten the well being of people like they have with mental health patients. Can you see a pattern here? A group of fundamentalists with certain beliefs, forcing their views on the public through manipulation of the government. A group that is so desperate, they will ignore any harm caused by their suggestions and continue to ruthlessly push their agenda. A group that brushes off expert opinion and ignores the people they are supposed to be helping in favour of their own unqualified views. 

The common denominator is drugs and this time it’s nicotine. And their target is the patient being treated for mental health problems. The fundies just cannot let an opportunity pass to force some poor unwilling sucker to suffer like hell. The patient be damned. Who cares if they are treated successfully? Who cares if they check out because they can’t quit smoking? Who cares if it discourages patients from seeking medical help? At least they won’t smoke for a few days.

Tobacco Ban Leaves Mental Health Groups Fuming
Sydney Morning Herald
By Louise Hall - Health Reporter
March 2009

A BAN on smoking in all psychiatric facilities will go ahead despite vehement opposition from some members of the mental health community, who argue that strict anti-smoking rules will destabilise acutely ill patients and put staff at risk of violence.

NSW Health has ordered all facilities, including emergency psychiatric centres, to close designated outdoor smoking areas, confiscate tobacco products and supply free nicotine replacement therapy to staff and patients.

Anti-smoking groups say the department's decision to enforce its longstanding smoke-free policy in wards that had been granted an exemption will help to break down the "deep-rooted smoking culture" among mental health staff and patients.

The new guidelines will be implemented over at least six months to give workers, patients and visitors time to adjust and, ideally, to quit their habit, with the help of counselling and anti-smoking aids such as patches and pharmacotherapy. The director of NSW Health's Centre for Health Advancement, Liz Develin, acknowledged there was widespread hostility to the ban but said research in Britain, Canada and other Australian states showed careful planning and education can lower levels of patient distress.

About one-third of people with a mental illness smoke, rising to two-thirds for people with schizophrenia, compared to about 17 per cent of the general population.

"Some consumer groups see it as taking away a person's right but everyone has the right to be in a smoke-free environment," Ms Develin said.

The chief executive of the Cancer Council NSW, Andrew Penman, said arguments that people with psychiatric disorders smoke to self-medicate or relieve symptoms, stress and anxiety "are too easily used as excuses to justify inaction about smoking".

There was weak evidence that smoking improves the neurological functioning of people with schizophrenia, he said. But many of these patients want to quit and can quit to improve their overall wellbeing.

A spokesman for the Mental Health Council of Australia, Simon Tatz, said forcing a nicotine addict to endure withdrawal symptoms while battling an acute episode of mental illness may impose a disproportionate level of suffering on people who were already suffering enough.

"No one wants to defend smoking, but when you're dealing with people in extreme crisis, their mental health and wellbeing has to be the priority, not quitting smoking," Mr Tatz said.

Desley Casey, who has worked in the mental health field for 15 years and has been an acute psychiatric inpatient several times, said forcing people to quit when they are acutely unwell is inhumane and "goes against a patient's human rights".

She is concerned that some patients will not seek help or admit themselves to hospital if they know tobacco is banned.

Ms Casey disagreed that NSW Health had a duty of care to break the cycle of smoking and disadvantage. "Is it their duty of care to put someone through terrible nicotine withdrawal symptoms during psychosis?

"I'm a smoker and I would prefer to risk the dangers to my physical health than risk my mental health, which is far more precious to me."

Internal NSW Health documents show hospital administrators have expressed concerns that patients may abscond or become increasingly agitated or violent if not allowed to smoke.

But "in some circumstances smoking may be permitted on a case-by-case basis" if nicotine replacement therapy does not work or where "refusal may pose a significant risk of violence to a staff member, patient or another person", the draft guidelines outline.

The chief executive of the Richmond Fellowship of NSW, Fred Kong, said mental health workers often used tobacco to bond or develop relationships with patients, which could help their recovery. "I'm fearful that applying this sanction will interfere with the therapeutic relationship between staff and patients," Mr Kong said.

A review of 26 bans in psychiatric settings worldwide published in the Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry in 2005 found there was "no increase in aggression, discharge against medical advice or increased use of as needed medication" linked to smoke-free policies.

Although there has recently been a big push to help psychiatric patients quit smoking whilst in medical care, searching through the internet I have found plenty of criticism of forced smoking bans. Most of it comes from doctors and those involved in the day-to-day operations who’s only concern is the well being of the patient. Being medical professionals, they obviously understand the danger of smoking but pragmatism wins out over the rigid dichotomy between anti-smoking rhetoric and the real world of mental health services. 

Although there is growing evidence that patients can quit smoking whilst keeping their place in treatment, there is equal opposition from those who work on the ground, doing the actual work. Treating a mental health patient is already extremely complex and unless we have perfected it recently then introducing additional, non related and non critical goals, cannot make the task easier. The losers are the patients and as usual, those who don’t easily adapt to a new system are merely statistics and left to fend for themselves.

Stopping Mentally Ill People From Smoking Is Cruel
Sydney Morning Herald - Opinion: Letters
By Dr Alvaro Manovel Randwick
March 2009

As a doctor I strongly support anti-smoking policies. But there are specific issues relating to mental health patients that make the move against smokers by NSW Health deplorable ("Tobacco ban leaves mental health groups fuming", March 19).

Mental health patients may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary patients may simply stroll off the hospital grounds to smoke. But involuntary patients are detained against their will in hospital under the Mental Health Act and are not allowed that liberty.

They are by definition so mentally disordered that the last resort of the act has been invoked because they may be a risk to themselves or others. These patients are frequently agitated and smoking is one method they use to calm down. In this state they lack the capacity to consider the benefit of stopping smoking, and this is clearly not the time in their lives to introduce intransigent non-smoking rules that only escalate their agitation.

In the past these patients were allowed to go outside to smoke escorted by security staff, but since the introduction of smoking bans they may no longer do so. In hospitals all over NSW these poor individuals are being physically restrained and given sedative drugs when their agitation escalates. This infringes the spirit of the Mental Health Act, which stipulates that it may be invoked to detain a person only when there is no less restrictive means of doing so. Clearly allowing them to smoke is far less restrictive than physical restraint and sedation.

We already make these patients suffer protracted stays in crowded emergency departments, due to the failure of NSW Health to provide beds for them. It is easy to imagine what effect this has on individuals who are at the lowest ebb of mental wellbeing. To add insult to injury they are now told that their last vestige of self control - to seek solace with a smoke - is being withheld, in what must seem an arbitrary and cruel act by their carers.

Doctors are placed in the unenviable position of choosing to restrain the individual or to let them out on their own, with the risk they may abscond and harm themselves. What a sad state we have sunk to.
Related articles: Mentally Ill Smoke More And Quit Less

Friday, 20 March 2009

Do Dickhead Politicians Grow on Trees in WA?

There seems to be a spike in dickheadness lately from the WA political arena especially in regards to drug policy. Sadly, pointing out dickheads is becoming all too common on this website but it’s our duty to inform the public of this phallic phenomenon. Especially when the dickhead in question is a scurrilous politician on the public purse.

Let me introduce Luke Simpkins MP for Cowan in WA. Simpkins has given a speech in parliament in response to an article in The Australian titled, ‘Labor softens heroin stance as it splits from US policy’. The article suggested that Australia(under Labor) was being ‘soft on drugs’ by supporting Harm Minimisation at the latest UNGASS meeting in Vienna. Reading through Simpkins speech has reinforced our duty to highlight how dangerous and unrealistic politicians can be and if necessary, declare them dickheads. Declaration made!

First of all, anyone who has to rummage through the city rubbish dump looking for a copy of The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs” is destined to be a bit nutty. Secondly, admitting publicly they found it or even worse, promoting it is a serious offence to sensibility and indictable by being labelled a dickhead.

Unbelievably though, this is not the worst of it. Simpkins actually says that Harm Minimisation has failed and is a “generally discredited” approach to dealing with drugs. Eh? It’s hard to discredit something that has never been fully implemented ... and discredited by who? Fellow dickheads? Of course this was followed up with a call to implement a Zero Tolerance policy under that purposely confusing term, harm prevention. No Surrender Simpkin has creatively called his approach, “No Surrender”. No, he is not an ex advertising guru, he thought this up all by himself. So what does ‘No Surrender’ entail?
I personally advocate the harm prevention approach, which I also call the ‘no surrender’ approach. That, in my mind, includes three main strategies: to stop supply; to educate people; and to rehabilitate users through enforced treatment, either by sanctions or otherwise, and through testing, to make sure that there is actually going to be progress.
-Luke Simpkins MP Cowan (WA)
If it sounds familiar it might be because it is Harm Minimisation with the 3rd strategy reversed. Most of the pundits who express their strong opposition to Harm Minimisation seem to overlook that the first two parts are supply reduction and demand reduction.

The controversial third pillar, harm reduction is just part of the overall policy called Harm Minimisation. Anyway, here’s what Simpkins has suggested as part of his ‘No Surrender’ strategy:
-Permanent removal of children from drug-addicted parents.
-Restrictions on methadone programs
-Removal of funding for harm minimisation programs
-Removal of funding for harm minimisation publications
-Rehabilitation through forced treatment
-Restricting alcohol content
-Raising the drinking age to 21

Simpkin also hints at abstinence as the only successful outcome by testing those in treatment. How can a leader in today’s society of science and technology be so far removed from reality? Simpkins rant is not about modern medical treatment but right wing voodoo ideology likened to medieval alchemy or homeopathy.

Why can’t the Libs shake off Howard’s tough on drugs rhetoric especially references to The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs”? With the current push by the US and other nations towards a more pragmatic approach to drug policy including harm reduction, Simpkins appears like a Japanese soldier isolated on an island after WW2 not aware the war is over. To others, he is simply a dickhead.

The Article
The article in The Australian was not unexpected considering the conservative slant of Murdoch’s trash media empire. Decrying sensible alternatives to failed harsh strategies as being ‘soft on drugs’ is a common tactic. It relies on the ignorance of the public and the assumption that being ‘tough’ stops drug use and being ‘soft’ increases it.
The Rudd Government has moved to reassert the role of controversial harm-reduction strategies in the fight against the illicit drug trade, splitting from the US at a major international drug forum on the issue.
-Labor softens heroin stance as it splits from US policy -
The Australian
Controversial? It’s been part of our national drug policy since 1984. Who writes this shit? The drug forum mentioned had the US reject the term harm reduction because it include some strategies the US doesn’t support like prescription heroin and safe injection rooms.

The article fails to include that the US under Obama has over turned the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges and even endorses the program ... a harm reduction program. The consensus from the UNGASS meeting in Vienna was that the health of drug users was a priority with a aim to reduce harm. It was the terminology that had nations squabbling especially from the old school leftovers of the Bush administration. 

Concerned about the article, Tony Trimingham, Founder of Family Drug Support wrote this revealing letter to the editor of The Australian:

Dear Editor
It is with some dismay that I read the Australian’s headline (‘Labor softens heroin stance’ – 18/3/09) – the story itself appears to be about Australia at a UN meeting in Vienna promoting its balanced and pragmatic national drug strategy which combines supply, demand and harm reduction approaches. Something they are rightly deserving of praise for doing and is also something I personally know to be a view shared by many in the drug and alcohol field including the Australian National Council on Drugs. Why the media persist in trying to portray any statements about evidence based approaches that have been developed over many years and have been adopted by the majority of governments as being ‘soft’ does a disservice to the public. Do we really think that policies that end up seeing more people die, become HIV positive and being locked up in jails, such as we see in the USA and Russia is a drug strategy that should be supported and adopted by Australia?
-Tony Trimingham Founder Family Drug Support
Harm Minimisation is supposed to be Australia’s official drug policy although this escaped Bronwyn Bishop and John Howard who amazingly denied it whilst in office. Unfortunately it has never been implemented properly and we have continued to apply many of the failed strategies from the US "War on Drugs". WA had started to implement some serious policy changes with positives results but a new government seems hellbent on ignoring the success and reverting back to the rhetoric driven failures. We are also seeing this in SA from the Rann government. Is the Rudd government going to follow this lead? If the declaration at the UNGASS from 26 countries including Australia is an indication, we might finally be on the road towards some sensible drug policies.
Luke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party)
Open Australia
Constituency Statements
Illicit Drugs

I would like to speak this morning on the matter of illicit drugs. This morning in the Australian there was a highly-concerning report on the front page suggesting that the government is pursuing the failed and generally discredited harm minimisation approach to dealing with drugs. I hope that this is not true. Instead, the government should be pursuing the harm prevention approach. I personally advocate the harm prevention approach, which I also call the ‘no surrender’ approach. That, in my mind, includes three main strategies: to stop supply; to educate people; and to rehabilitate users through enforced treatment, either by sanctions or otherwise, and through testing, to make sure that there is actually going to be progress.

I would like to acknowledge the great work done by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Human Services, with their 2007 report The winnable war on drugsbecause the day that we think that we can no longer win is the day that we surrender, and I would hate to see that day. The report made a number of recommendations. There are just over 30 recommendations. I would certainly like to endorse the permanent removal of children from drug-addicted parents. I would also like to endorse restrictions on methadone programs and the absolute elimination of funding for harm minimisation programs or harm minimisation publications. I believe that these are important steps forward to address the drug situation in this country.

A lot has been said in the parliament recently about another drug—that being the legal drug of alcohol. The government is pursuing the approach of taxation to try to deal with the issue of binge drinking. I would like to see the day when we pass legislation which would restrict the alcohol content of drinks. If the government is really keen on dealing with this binge-drinking problem it might consider, as some have advocated, raising the drinking age to 21. I am sure that that would be extremely unpopular, but it may help. Ultimately these things are about free choice, but in the case of illicit drugs I think the hard line needs to be taken of harm prevention and never harm minimisation or harm reduction—or, otherwise, surrender to the scourge of illicit drugs.
Related Articles: Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters WA Liberals Become Even Sillier WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The INCB vs. Coca ... and the World

The US "War on Drugs" has various regions in it’s sights but what some people might not know is that it also targets whole nations. The US obsession with blaming other countries for feeding their own massive consumer market for illicit drugs seems to have no boundaries where nothing is safe including traditions and culture. Traditional medicines and food substances that have been used for thousands of years like khat, coca leaves and opium poppies, have no leeway in the relentless "War on Drugs" whether the target country agrees or not. The secret weapon is the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and I mean really secret. The INCB do not have an oversight committee or have to publish minutes of their meetings. In fact they do not face any scrutiny what-so-ever and can merrily make any decisions in secret that the US dictate, all under the cover of the United Nations.
The tragic irony is that it is the board's inhumane, unjust and irrational policing of the UN drug control system that has created or exacerbated most of the problems outlined in its report. The board is complicit in gifting the illegal drug market to terror groups, paramilitaries and organized criminals, contributing to the political and economic destabilization of producer and transit countries and putting millions at risk of contracting blood-borne viruses. The INCB and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime pose a greater threat to global well-being than drugs themselves. -Danny Kushlick of Transform on the INCB. March 2009
The question is, how long will the world be bullied and made to participate in a strategy that has failed dismally and controlled by the outdated, agenda driven and secretive INCB?
Drug Use Of Innocent Coca Leaf Creates Rift With US The Irish Times March 2009 UN censure of Bolivia over the product highlights a misunderstanding of a plant employed in South American cultures for thousands of years, writes PHILIP THOMPSON in La Paz IN ITS annual report released two weeks ago, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reminded Bolivia that “allow the cultivation and consumption of coca leaf . . . in particular coca leaf chewing . . . is contrary to the provisions of the 1961 Convention on Drug Control”. The castigation comes at a time when Bolivia’s relations with international drug control efforts and particularly the US are at an all-time low. The description of the INCB’s words as “unjust” by Bolivia’s foreign minister highlights the difference of opinion between his country and the West over the controversial leaf. Located at almost 4km above sea-level, La Paz is the world’s highest capital. A common sight on its busy and colourful streets are groups of women sitting by the pavement over huge cloth sacks filled with small green leaves. They are coca sellers and their clients are not hard to spot. The tell-tale bulge in the left cheek signals a wad of leaves slowly dissolving and providing energy, a palliative to hunger and thirst and a host of vitamins and minerals. Though cocaine (a powerful drug which can be chemically extracted from the plant) has given the plant a bad reputation, the consumption of the coca leaf is in fact beneficial to the health. Its mild alkaloids also provide a vital barrier against altitude sickness and fatigue to impoverished farm labourers working at up to 3km above sea-level. The Bolivian government estimates that as many as 1.2 million kilos of the leaf are consumed through traditional uses every month. Villa Fatima, La Paz’s largest coca market, provides an idea of the scale. In a faded green warehouse, colourfully dressed men and women preside over thousands of enormous 23kg sacks. The coca has been shipped in from the Yungas, Bolivia’s traditional coca-growing region and is considered the country’s best. A government-designed market, there are no middlemen here giving the cocaleros (coca growers) an opportunity to maximise their income and avoid selling the leaves to intermediaries who might process them into cocaine. The vendors are delighted to promote their wares and hand out samples to buyers and the public. The fresh green leaves dissolve when clenched between the back teeth, releasing a bitter – though not unpleasant – flavour which is accompanied by a slight numbing of the gums. Criminalisation of the plant is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was categorised as a drug along with marijuana and opium in a 1961 UN convention on drugs. However, Bolivia saw few consequences until Reagan’s administration, as part of its war on drugs in the late 1980s, pressured the Bolivian government to restrict coca production. The subsequent US-sponsored crop-eradication programmes led to violent conflicts with Bolivian coca growers who felt they were being unfairly labelled as drug producers. Their argument was – and still is – that they are producing a traditional crop that is occasionally processed into cocaine for the US market by dug traffickers. The campaign against eradication culminated in the 2005 election as president of Evo Morales, a union leader and former coca grower from the highlands. Though generally accepted as being more moderate, Morales was perceived as part of the Latin American hard left, along with Chavez and Castro. His defence of coca production would inevitably lead him into conflict with US drug policy. Morales’s approach to drug control is summed up in the phrase “no to zero coca, but yes to zero cocaine”. He has cracked down on illegal drugs and plans to redirect the entire coca crop into a new legal industry producing coca-based products such as tea, medicines and cosmetics. If successful, this will create a growing market for coca allowing him to enlarge the area under cultivation and thereby improve the income of coca growers. However, the US government fears that any increase in production will inevitably make its way on to the illegal market. Consequently, US government organisations such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and USaid have avoided co-operation with Morales and the coca unions on drug policy within Bolivia. This has made it more difficult for both parties to achieve their objectives. In recent months, US-Bolivian relations dropped to a new low, following the US ambassador’s expulsion from Bolivia in September, accused of interfering with internal politics. Perhaps in retaliation, the US state department marked Bolivia on its “drug blacklist” for not having “co-operated with the US in important efforts to combat drug trafficking”. Bolivia is now in the same category as Afghanistan and Burma – one a failed state, the other a totalitarian regime. Yet Columbia, a US ally whose coca crop had grown by 20,000 hectares (up to 120,000 hectares in total), received no mention. It appears a little paradoxical, considering Bolivia’s total coca crop sits at just 22,000 hectares. Joining in this apparent tit for tat argument, Morales has now suspended the activities of the US’s DEA in Bolivia, essentially opting out of the US war on drugs. On the domestic front, Bolivia is going through a very sensitive period. A controversial new constitution has just been passed in a national referendum giving greater rights to the indigenous majority. There has been widespread opposition among Bolivia’s wealthy eastern provinces and it remains to be seen whether they will accept it. Further attempts by the US government to interfere in Morales’ coca strategy will only increase the old sentiment that the US treats Latin America like its own backyard. Some observers suggest that co-operating with a popular president who has the trust of coca growers and is attempting to develop a legal industry for the crop could be a unique opportunity for the US. The alternative is seen as isolating a potential partner and hampering the economic development of South America’s poorest nation. Both of these outcomes might well lead to an increase in the amount of cocaine ending up on US streets. It would be easy to blame the coca-cocaine fiasco entirely on the US. But much of the trouble concerning Bolivia originates in unwillingness on the part of the international community to accept coca as a licit substance that is an essential part of Andean culture. The recent censure by the INCB is just one example of this. As David Choquehuanca, Bolivia’s foreign minister said, “They need to open their eyes to the reality . . . the rules should reflect that reality, not run contrary to it.” The reality he is talking about is the fact that the majority of Bolivians chew coca, drink it in their tea or use it in religious ceremonies. As Maria Carmen, a lady in her 70s on the streets of La Paz, says, (a wad of leaves bulging in her cheek): “For us, coca is life!”.
Related Articles: The Inquisition of the INCB Closed to reason: time for accountability for the International Narcotic Control Board The INCB is out of control and needs to be stopped Bolivian peasants suffer in drug war, speaker says

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Poll Fraud Highlights Why DFA Not Accepted by Peers

It appears that there are no boundaries to the deceit from some supporters of Drug Free Australia(DFA). A recent internet poll that questioned whether DFA have a rightful place on professional lists had to be reset after it was discovered that multiple votes had come from the same IP address. The poll was set up by James from The Australian Drug Blog and asked this simple question:
Does Drug Free Australia have a rightful place on the ADCA Update list or other professional lists?
Yes or No?
James posted a link to the poll on the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) ‘Update’ forum and the voting began. The results were immediately against DFA with 90% of participants voting no. Over the next few days it balanced up slightly to about 75% voting no until it hit the 50% mark. It was all downhill from there to about 12% from 433 votes. Somewhat surprised at the results, I discovered that it was possible to make multiple votes and the totals would sometimes jump by 3 or 4 votes within a few seconds. I then alerted James, the poll’s administrator. Further investigations by James did indeed find a problem and he informed the list that he had to reset the poll.
Hi all, A few weeks back I ran a poll on the role DFA play on this list. Over 443 'people' voted, trouble was more than half of them came from the same IP address, and all of them voted one way. In other words, multiple voting from one person occurred in a big way. I've therefore reset the poll and enabled one vote per IP address to stop fraudulent voting. The poll is now available again here:
That was a week ago and here are the results so far as at 17/03/2009 11:00 am: Who does the IP address belong to? No one has come forward and claimed responsibility and James rightfully will not disclose the IP address publicly. Known for their skewing of statistics, cherry picked data and other misleading behaviour, has DFA called on a supporter to make hundreds of votes? Was it actually a DFA member? We don’t know but either way, one or more computers via one IP address has deceitfully and fraudulently voted for over 50% of the total votes, all in favour of DFA. In technical terms, when there are a group of related computer users situated at one location, they usually only use one IP address to the internet and that is shared via a router. The IP address recorded by The Australian Drug Blog could have come from several staff members at one organisation giving the impression it was only one person. Then again, it could have just been one supporter. What we do know is that many other votes supporting DFA were from US based IP addresses which may indicate that a dog whistle went out to help with DFA’s polling. If we remove the 200+ fraudulent votes from the one source, that leaves 200+ votes with more than 50% in support for DFA. With only 64 votes in the new poll vastly against DFA, the first influx of pro DFA votes raises more questions. Were there multiple votes from many different sources? Was a call put out to like minded supporters of DFA in the US? Where are they now? With a new poll now in place and a more realistic number of voters, the true feelings of those involved with the ANCD Update list is clear. 77% of voters do not think DFA have a rightful place on professional lists. Not surprisingly, the only chance of DFA being accepted was through deceit and false information.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Drugs & Crime ... Next Suburb Please

Some articles you read deserve serious head shaking and this is one of them. Here we have the Sunshine Residents Association worried that crime has risen locally because of a zero tolerance policy on crime and drugs in the adjoining suburb of Footscray. And their solution? - do the same in Sunshine and send the drugs and crime to the next suburb. Someone should tell Darlene Reilly from the Sunshine Residents Association that if you squeeze a balloon in one spot it bulges in another. Oh, she already knows that. Pffft, who cares then, squeeze away.
Sunshine Residents Urge Zero Tolerance Approach To Crime ABC News March 2009 Residents held a rally at Sunshine Station last night, to voice their concerns about violence in the Melbourne suburb. Members of the Sunshine Residents Association say violent crime is up in their area, and something needs to be done about it. The association's Darlene Reilly says there has been an increase in the number of attacks and the intensity of the violence over the past year. She says things have deteriorated since Footscray brought in zero tolerance for crime, drugs and inappropriate behaviour. "We've seen what's happened is that's been great for their community, but it's just moved everything up the line," she said. "It's just come up the railway line and now we have it here and I think that we need to have a zero tolerance, but we need the police force, we need the numbers, we need the boys in blue on the street." Inspector Bill Mathers says police are doing what they can to help "We do have some problems with the community and crime and we're trying to address those," he said. "We've had a slight increase in robberies and armed robberies, we've had a slight decrease in assaults, so some of the things we're doing's working, but we realise there's a long way to go."

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Propaganda Files - Because We Care

There’s no better way to start The Propaganda Files than with this cracker. From the Drug Free America Foundation(DFAF), home of the infamous Calvina Fay comes this loving gesture. Drug testing is because they care. Yes, employers and schools only drug test you because they have your best interests at heart.

Organisation: Drug Free America Foundation(DFAF)
Campaign: Drug Testing
When: 2009
Link: DFAF Website
Propaganda: 9/10
Laugh Out Loud Rating: 10/10

Substance abuse prevention can and should be viewed as a common concern of employers, employees and students. Most people do not engage in illicit drug use or want to deal with the complications of working or studying with drug abusers. When misunderstandings about the testing process are clarified, drug testing has been proven a deterrent to illegal drug use and a way for workplaces and schools to be proactive in substance abuse prevention.

Are individual privacy rights violated by workplace drug testing?
-The majority of employees don’t use drugs; those who make the choice to be employed are deciding to follow the workplace rules set by the employer.
-Drug testing is highly confidential and does not subject the employee or the test results to public scrutiny.
-Employees have the right to a drug free workplace where their productivity and safety are not compromised by another’s drug use.

I know, I know, it's really funny stuff. So stop giggling like a girl or pick yourself off the floor because there are some serious issues to consider.

Bwhahahahaha hahaha haha

Bwhahahahahahahaha [snort]

"It's a privilege to know someone ..."


"It's a privilege to know someone cares that much about you"

Bwhahahahaha hehehe sniff, oh my. LOL.

I am sorry but every time I see the look on that girl's face and read the tagline I have to laugh, I really can't help it. [snort]

Now where was I. Oh yeah ...

Should your employer be responsible for the decisions you make in your personal life? If most drugs taken the day previously do not affect your work performance, why should it matter? Why isn’t alcohol treated this way? Hangovers and remaining effected by alcohol the next day is far more dangerous but is usually just laughed off. Also, I don’t buy the argument that drug test results are “just between you and me”. Imagine the scrutiny of every decision you make, every time you go to the toilet, if you’re looking tired or rundown. Could you ever take a sick day again without feeling paranoid? Will you get a reference if you leave?

The arguments for student drug testing have been discredited repeatedly but like a pack of hyenas with a rotten carcass, DFAF and other groups continue to gnaw away. Locally, DFAF’s sister group, Drug Free Australia (DFA) also won’t give up. Each study that exposes the harms of student drug testing is simply ignored by DFA and other anti-drug zealots. SA politician, Anne Bressington, who happens to be an ex DFA member went as far claiming support from groups who in fact, did not support drug testing at schools. Coincidentally, her self defined evidence was mostly based on DFAF examples via a visit to the US. You know the saying, “Hyenas of a fervour, eat the carcass together”.

More from the Propaganda Files

The Propaganda Files

Moved Here.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

New Victorian Police Chief and Legalisation

If you could convince me that legalising heroin ... if there was evidence that says that was the way to go, that that would lead to lesser harm to individuals and lesser harm to the community, I would be prepared to back it and try it. -Newly Appointed Victoria Police Chief Commissioner - Simon Overland
With the UN about to meet and make a declaration on international drug policy, it is significant that dozens of media articles damning the “War on Drugs” have appeared. The emphasis on human rights and alternative drug policy strategies have saturated the opinion pages along with public announcements by drug experts, researchers and law enforcement officials. The US and their “War on Drugs” have dictated the UN’s agenda on drug control since it first began 100 years ago and usually very little is ever written about it. That is all changing. Adding their voice is Victoria’s new Chief Commissioner of Police, Simon Overland.
I would be prepared to try decriminalisation of some drugs if there was evidence that was the best way to go -Newly Appointed Victoria Police Chief Commissioner - Simon Overland
Simon Overland is the second top ranking police official to recently voice their support for Harm Minimisation and alternative drug strategies. Last year, Federal Police Boss, Mick Kelty publicly gave his support to Harm Minimisation and made a plea to seek out a more successful drug policy. What is most striking about these comments is the call for evidence based strategies. The standard tactic for prohibitionists is to brand someone ‘soft on drugs’ if they suggest alternatives to Zero Tolerance policing so not surprisingly, Overland was cautious with his words.
But I think you would want ... to be really certain about the outcomes, and you would want rigorous evaluation and be really clear that this is achieving what you think it is going to -Newly Appointed Victoria Police Chief Commissioner - Simon Overland
The call for evidence based policies is reassuring that Victoria may have picked the best candidate for the Chief Commissioner of Police. He may have been cautious but the underlying message was obvious. Luckily Victoria’s top cop has evidence on his side. For years, experts have canned the “War on Drugs” but lately it has escalated with the public quickly catching on. Whilst politicians and anti-drug crusaders keep the trash media busy with the usual drug hysteria, more perceptive journalists and observers have started to voice their views and expose the scary truth of prohibition.
New Police Chief Open To Legalising Heroin Adelaide Now By Rick Wallace March 2009 NEW Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland says he would support decriminalising a range of drugs if the benefits outweighed the risks. In an interview with The Weekend Australian, he said he was “cautiously agnostic” about decriminalising drugs. He said police could not win the war on drugs. But while he supported harm minimisation approaches for users, dealers should face the full force of the law. “For the people who are making lots of money out of it, I am absolutely in favour of throwing everything at them and locking them away,” Mr Overland said. “But at the lower end, people who are users and, in a sense, victims themselves, then I think it’s actually about finding effective interventions. “I would be prepared to try decriminalisation of some drugs if there was evidence that was the best way to go. “I’d need to be convinced. For instance, things like cannabis, if there was evidence that that was the approach that would lead to the least harm, I would support it, but you’d want to see the evidence.” Mr Overland, who succeeded Christine Nixon this week, said he was yet to see such evidence but he was willing to be convinced about various drugs. “That applies right across the board,” he said. “If you could convince me that legalising heroin ... if there was evidence that says that was the way to go, that that would lead to lesser harm to individuals and lesser harm to the community, I would be prepared to back it and try it. “But I think you would want ... to be really certain about the outcomes, and you would want rigorous evaluation and be really clear that this is achieving what you think it is going to.” He acknowledged the political barriers to decriminalisation, but said he did not believe it was impossible to achieve.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Is Recognising Science in the US Helping to Win the War on Drugs?

Yesterday, US president, Barrack Obama reversed one of most ludicrous Bush policies implemented in the last 8 years. With his signature, the ban on stem cell research using human embryos was lifted in the US as the science community cheered on. Stem cell research has the potential to change medical science as we know it and is considered one of the most important emerging sciences of this century. The use of embryos though is considered by pro-lifers as murder in the same way they argue against abortion. They claim that progressing science for the good of mankind is breaching the sanctity of life and a group of tiny microscopic cells has the right to live. It may sound like a bad sci-fi movie plot but for the religious folk, their beliefs are more important than actually doing something good for their fellow humans. Sounds remarkably like the "War on Drugs". Other pro science changes from the Obama administration include the support for needle exchanges, the end to federal raids on state sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries, reversing the last minute ruling by Bush that allowed medical workers to refuse duties that may upset their 'conscience' and more. It also happens that the once unthinkable proposal for cannabis legalisation is gaining momentum. Sparked by the election of a pragmatic president and the ongoing economic crisis, the call for legalisation has been heard all over the US. Joining the legalisation push over the last few weeks, has been the sudden surge of articles in major media outlets all over the world damning the "War on Drugs" and a call to rethink drug policies. The US media has especially been vocal on introducing regulated cannabis sales in a bid to tap the huge black market that evades any form of taxation. Last week, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill in California proposing the legalisation and taxing of marijuana to citizens over 21 years of age saying that over $1.3 billion dollars could be raised in government revenue. Others are estimating it is worth upward of $7 billion dollars for California alone. On a country wide scale that would put newly raised taxes up to about $50 billion dollars a year. Not to be sneezed at. 1960'S Anti Drugs Propaganda The more immediate actions though involve medical marijuana. Under the Bush Administration, the DEA would often raid dispensaries in the 13 states that allowed medical marijuana, although they had a legal licence under state laws. That has now stopped since U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal authorities will abide by Obama’s election promise and honour existing medical marijuana laws approved by individual states. With science finally being recognised by the White House as essential to our future and states allowed to implement medically approved treatment with marijuana, the logic of cannabis legalisation might actually become a reality. It’s a pity it’s taken an economic disaster to open up debate but going against the embedded US anti-drug rhetoric was going to be tough without it. With the UN meeting in Vienna this week to set international drug policy for the next decade, there has been a huge increase in media articles slamming the "War on Drugs" and prohibition. All these factors are unique in that, the public are finally being exposed to a barrage of science, facts and evidence to counter the steady stream of propaganda and anti-drug lies that has infested our lives for the last 39 years.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Drug Bins in WA Brings Out the Nutters

The trial of amnesty bins for disposing illicit drugs before entering music festivals is being trailed in WA. State Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has decided that amnesty bins might help avoid more deaths by those panicking when faced with police sniffer dogs. The idea of amnesty bins is maybe lame but it offers an alternative to swallowing a whole day’s supply or getting a criminal record if caught. The real issue is why a crack down on catching users who are usually in possession of relatively safe drugs like cannabis or ecstasy?

Drugs Bin Plan Draws Barnett Ire
The Western Australian


Trials of the bins — that allow people to discard drugs before entering a concert without penalty — will begin at the Rock-It concert in Joondalup at the weekend.

Mr O’Callaghan pushed the experiment in response to the death of Kalamunda teenager Gemma Thoms, who took several ecstasy pills at the Big Day Out concert last month reportedly in fear police would catch her with the drugs.

“The Police Commissioner wants to trial it and he can do that, but it’s not something that I believe gives the right message,” Mr Barnett said. “Harm minimisation has been an absolute failure in the treatment of drugs in this State. I think the message has to be quite clear: don’t use drugs or take drugs to public events.”

Mr O’Callaghan said the trial was designed to avoid a repeat of the tragedy at the Big Day Out and would be subject to a full review.

What was surprising was the reaction from the premier Colin Barnett. He said that allowing people to discard drugs before entering a concert without penalty, would send the wrong message to the community. He then attributed the amnesty bins to Harm Minimisation being a failure. How do these people get elected? Colin Barnett is a nutter and a ruthless liar who uses the lives of his constituency for political and personal gain. If Gemma Thoms had the option to ditch her drugs in an amnesty bin she might be alive today. How Barnett can consider “sending the wrong message” is more important than her life is disturbing.

So what is it with the current WA government and their obsession with drug war rhetoric? Not too long ago, then opposition youth affairs spokeswoman Donna ‘Dippy’ Faragher made some remarkable comments relating to drugs. First she condemned the state cannabis laws that saw an actual drop in drug use and then criticised the appointment of Criminal lawyer Paul Roth as a magistrate because of his history with the Australian Marijuana Party. Prior to that both Dippy and then opposition leader, Colin Barnett criticised the current ‘soft’ cannabis laws and claimed the government was not treating drug issues seriously. Dippy even went as far as using that long time discredited myth that cannabis was a gateway drug amongst other popular misconceptions. Citing urban myths as a reason for government policy is downright scary and it would incur the wrath of the media if it was any issue aside from drugs. Not surprisingly, no media outlet picked up on this.

Ample 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. This is about protecting our community and taking the issue of drugs seriously, rather than treat it as a joke in the way Labor has since 2001.
-Donna Faragher: W.A. opposition youth affairs spokeswoman. 2008

The Western Australian website followed up the amnesty bins story on their
blog and asked readers, should drug bins be scrapped? As usual, the nutters crawled out from their cotton wool world and proceeded to strip me of any confidence I had left in mankind.

Penelope Says:
drug bins are the stupidest idea ever. seriously, if I wanted drugs, I would dip my hand in a drug bin and walk away. free drugs, fantastic.

if you were going to dispoise of your drugs at the entry to an event like this, you drop them on the ground and step on them.

thhe simple thing to do is at these events, put a line of paddy wagons up and whoever is caught with drugs on on drugs (and yes, swabs should be used like drivers in Victoria are subjected to) then they are driven away and charged. You midss out on the BDO and waste your money on a ticket, too bad so sad.

that will teach people that drugs are bad.

[snort] LOL. Penelope, the finger waving is entertaining. After reading the article I knew some twat would suggest that anyone could simply swipe a hand full of drugs from the amnesty bins. Amazing what a lack of grey matter can achieve when combined with a PC. Oh, I forgot ... Drugs Are Bad mmmkay.

What comments section would be complete without some readers saying a drug user dying is okay?

Justin B Says:
What a load of rubbish this drug bin trial is. If people die from taking all their drugs at once because they see Police at events, so be it. If they are Illegal (certain drugs), why pander to these people. With a Step-son who does drugs, by the way he doesn’t give a sh.. about the law, it would be sad if he did OD, but it would be his own fault and no one elses.

Rebecca Says:
YES the bins should be scrapped, this is the wrong idea. If they have drugs they can either get caught, or like the young girl last week possibly die from silly mistakes. It should not be tax payers money spent on things we do not need!

Craig Says:
stop the drug bins, the only way to curb drug use is not the half hearted prohibition we have now, but draconian punishments so the population live in fear of being caught with drugs.
If the choice is 5 years jail with no parole for having one illegal tablet or the death penalty for a third offence, then only the truly addicted will use drugs, and they deserve the death penalty anyway
Craig is a fuckwit, there’s no doubt about that. Interestingly, what he says could be interpreted as being sarcastic until the last few words clear it up. The fact that Craig actually typed this out and presumably reread it it back to himself is proof enough that some people should not be allowed to make comments or even vote.

Oscar T Grouch Says:
There seems to be a misconception out there that Ecstacy is relatively harmless if taken responsibly…research shows that this drug causes irrepairable brain damage, changes permanently your thought patterns, reduces your ability to produce seratonin naturally, essentially reduces your ability to experience joy/happiness without the use of drugs….it alters who you are forever!! Kids, dont believe the hype, think long and hard about what you put in your mouth. Ecstacy that is in Perth is often imported and made by third world countries in south east asia, where scruples are rare, life is cheap and dollar is king. You will more often than not be ingesting cleaner chemicals,air freshener, borax, pesticides, glass, and god knows what along with a tiny bit of MDMA and a lot of psuedoephedrine, speed or heroin. Bins are fine, they wont do any harm. What would be of a great benefit would be a neutral drug testing bus/caravan on site at these concerts that would offer free testing of pills to determine their safety prior to ingestion. It is a pipe dream, I know, because we live in the most conservative and backward state in Oz. Kids take drugs, adults take drugs, always have & always will…lets make it safer, educate dont legislate, that is the way to save lives, we dont have enough prison space as it is without locking up all the drug users….btw, prison is an excellent place to score drugs
I always love the references to research which doesn’t exist and then used as irrefutable evidence to the contrary of actual research. And you have to give kudos to talented drug producers who apparently cut ecstasy with glass or those producers who add the much more expensive heroin to “cut” the cheaper MDMA.

Unfortunately only one comment can be nominated for the annual BucketHead of the Year awards. Congratulations to nutter Chris for this cracker:

Chris Says:
Couldn’t placing the bins outside the concert potentially cause more overdoses? Concert goers may try to take their whole day’s dose before the bins causing overdoses. This could happen not because of panick but maybe because they don’t won’t to lose their drugs and still want to experience them.

Related Links:
WA Liberals Become Even Sillier
WA Liberals - Drug Policy Blues

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The Christian Institute on Drugs

There has been much debate lately about the UK government’s decision to flatly reject the advice of their own appointed expert group, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and not down grade ecstasy to a class B drug. Several media articles have suggested that by ignoring scientific evidence, common sense and reason, the UK government has failed to act in the best interests of the people.

The Christian Institute added their voice to the debate with an article titled,
'Killer' drug ecstasy to remain in class A on their website. The article was typical of their prohibitionist stance including quotes from supporters of the government’s decision.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably. The Government has a duty to protect the public and firmly believes that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.”

Unsurprisingly, the comments were the usual mishmash of moral issues and anti-drug sound bytes.

Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: “This is not some academic or scientific exercise, this is dealing with people’s lives. If we downgrade ecstasy, we are in danger of sending mixed messages out to young and vulnerable people.”

The article even included a comment from discredited anti-drug crusader, Professor, Andy Parrott.

Professor Andy Parrott of Swansea University, who has spent more than 14 years conducting research into ecstasy, says Prof Nutt has significantly understated the number of deaths caused by the drug.

In what might come as a bit of a surprise to some, the article also included a matter-of-fact statement that down classing cannabis was a disaster.

In 2004, under advice from the ACMD, the Government downgraded cannabis from class B to class C. It proved to be a disaster and the Government reversed the policy earlier this year.
The Christian Institute -  'Killer' drug ecstasy to remain in class A

But it wasn't a disaster. Cannabis use actually dropped during the period of being a class C drug. The evidence for the claimed “disaster” goes back to an earlier article by The Christian Institute:

Since the downgrade of cannabis in 2004 judges, police, parents and mental health experts have called for the move to be reversed because of the damage it has caused.

The availability of skunk - the strongest form of cannabis - has soared since the law was weakened. According to Home Office research, it now accounts for between 70% and 80% of samples seized by police, compared with 15% six years ago.

In April senior police officers called for a return to tougher laws. The Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales argued that cannabis should be returned to class B to “…send out a clear message - especially to the vulnerable and the young - that cannabis is illegal and can be dangerous.”

They said: “The downgrading to Class ‘C’ sent out the wrong message, unintentionally suggesting that cannabis was harmless and legal.”
-The Christian Institute: Lords consider plan for tougher cannabis laws

Here are the facts:

Senior police want cannabis reclassified

"This has been exacerbated by the wider availability of stronger forms of the drug. Many heroin and cocaine users began their drug dependency with cannabis use in their teens,"
-The Superintendents' Association

How about that for a statement! Hinting that cannabis will lead to heroin and cocaine dependency is straight from the anti-drug crusaders handbook of propaganda. Maybe they should have cleared up the fact that hard drug users also started drinking alcohol, coffee and slurpees too and that cannabis itself is not the factor that leads to heroin and cocaine. It ‘s mainly those at the top of the Superintendents' Association that are voicing their support to reclassify cannabis. There have been several senior police who have publicly dismissed the need to reclassify cannabis but they don’t rate a mention in any articles by The Christian Institute. Some district police chiefs have even called for an end to prohibition all together and many are not prepared to enforce cannabis laws.

Sends the wrong message
The champion of all anti-drug slogans. Whether it actually means anything in the real world is debatable. The trade off for “sending the right message” is usually the truth or even people’s lives.

Stronger potency (skunk)
Debunked. Higher potency leads to less intake which ironically is probably a a plus for stronger cannabis. A simple comparison can be made with alcohol. If someone drinks 2 bottles of beer on a given night, they wouldn’t consume 2 bottles of whisky just because it’s available. Anti-drug crusaders cannot grasp the concept that drug users pace themselves and instead subscribe to the myth that taking drugs means getting as stoned as possible, as quickly as possible.

Cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs
Disproved many years ago. The only gateway effect is from strict cannabis laws that force both hard and soft drug users into the same circles. Cannabis does not lead to users wanting something harder.

Links to mental illness

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the Advisory Council had been looking at new research from Keele University about links between cannabis and mental illness. He said the study found nothing to support a theory that rising cannabis use had led to more cases of schizophrenia.
-BBC: Police want cannabis reclassified

Cannabis use has increased ten fold since the 1960s but schizophrenia cases have not increased per capita. Also, psychosis is only triggered in those that are predisposed to the condition. Heavy use though does cause mental health problems. For an average user, moderate use does not cause mental illness.

So much for the truth.

But this is not just about the rejection of research and evidence. There is nothing factual to suggest that stricter laws prevent drug use and the fact they supported the reversal of an already successful strategy reveals how far they will go to assert their ideology. Conservative media outlets like The Christian Institute have driven the government to make irrational and totally bogus decisions that will go down in history as some of the worst policy making ever. The BBC politely sum it up.

If the government does reclassify, it would be rejecting the findings of the Advisory Council's panel of 23 drug experts, which has never happened before on a decision about drug classification.
-BBC: Police want cannabis reclassified

The Christian Institute are consistent with their agenda, using religious teachings as an excuse to support punitive treatment of drug users and the damning of harm reduction. Luckily for them, the ambiguity of the bible and a vast array of moral symbolism in religion allows them to pick and choose the parts that suit their agenda. This gives them great scope to promote their cause especially to conservatives and evangelists.

From a Christian perspective, harm reduction greases the tracks of sin.
-The Christian Institute: What we believe - Harm reduction approaches are un-Christian

Like all organisations of the religious right, they hate drugs and abstinence is king. They make several references to drug use on their website in the
What We Believe section and even include Harm Reduction as a major topic.

This philosophy is superficially appealing because it has a desirable goal – the reduction of harm. Many people have been taken in by this profoundly na├»ve philosophy. But by opposing restraint, ‘harm reduction’ actually increases the number of people involved in a harmful activity rather than reducing it.

The aims of The Christian Institute aren’t about helping addicts or finding a realistic solution. Their selective pickings from the bible and broad moral topics are merely disingenuous attempts to push conservative values and really have nothing to do with the goodwill of a loving god.

The Bible bluntly teaches that drunkenness is wrong: “Do not get drunk on wine” (Ephesians 5:18). Intoxication and loss of control are intrinsic to taking drugs.

Intoxication is also wrong because of escapism. People cannot solve their problems by running away from them. Down the ages Christians have been at the forefront of battling against the epidemic of public drunkenness and the personal tragedy of alcoholism. Now Christians must take a stand as it becomes ever more fashionable to argue for the legalisation of all drugs.
-The Christian Institute: What we believe - Taking Drugs is Wrong

I am sure a munificent Jesus would be cringing at the idea of a profit based institution using his name to alienate people. It seems this brand of religion is void of the original Christian values and more interested in becoming powerful, political and rich.

The Christian Institute exists for "the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom" and "the advancement of education". The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible. We are supported by individuals and churches throughout the UK. We believe that the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life and we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture.
-The Christian Institute website - Who we are

Monday, 2 March 2009

Dickheads in Action - February 2009

A February roundup of Dickheads who oppose common sense, rational thinking and advancing society for the benefit of everyone.

The Tricky SA Government Tightens the Sale of Hydro Equipment
The SA government has tricked us all again. Just when we thought their self imposed, stateside "War on Drugs" couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they decide to toughen laws on purchasing hydroponic equipment. And their great strategy and logic is ... who the hell knows?  I suppose the pot growers will just give up now. What else could they do when the government is this tricky? If they weren’t just dopey pot growers, they might travel interstate to purchase their growing gear or order their equipment online. At least it's good for the Victorian economy. And with tighter controls on buying equipment locally, there will always the trusty old black market. Either way, the only losers are South Australians with the loss of taxable sales, loss of jobs, business closures and police resources being wasted on paperwork, monitoring and check ups. Goddamn that SA government is tricky! 
New laws to target hydroponic trade

DFA celebrating 100 years of prohibition
Drug Free Australia supports the call by the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Professor Hamid Ghodse, to ensure that we all celebrate 100 years of collaborative effort to prevent and reduce illicit drug supply across the globe.
-Jo Baxter: DrugFree Australia (DFA}
A media release from DFA titled, Call to Celebrate! has had the AOD sector buzzing. DFA have backed the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) calling on the world to celebrate 100 years of “collaborative effort to prevent and reduce illicit drug supply across the globe”. Whilst the INCB and their rabid disciples like DFA continue to deceive us about the success of global drub controls, AOD workers are left to patch up those caught up in the carnage. I’m not sure what sort of celebrations they had in mind but I have a few ideas. A fancy dress ball maybe? Plenty of booze, balloons and a disco ball. Prohibitionists could come dressed up as one of million plus prisoners or dress in a dark suit as one of the million plus deceased. What about your favourite organised crime hero? Scareface or Carl Williams? Then again, many of us could just go as ourselves. How ironic is it that DFA are suggesting we celebrate prohibition. Just as Mexico falls rapidly into a civil war with hundreds dying each month from drug cartel related violence, with drug use peaking at the highest level in history and kids now saying it’s easier to buy drugs than alcohol. Party time!

The War On Drugs Is Being Won - Miranda Devine
Remember Andy Pandy Bolt writing an article that the war in Iraq is over and we won? Five years after the US officially claimed victory, the fighting has not stopped but fringe radical, Andy Bolt made up his own mind and announced the US has prevailed ... again. Now fellow neocon, Ms Miranda Devine has declared, the war on drugs is being won! In the Sydney Morning Herald, staunch anti-drug(except alcohol) mouthpiece, Miranda Devine has once again thrown logic to the wind and written another confusing and inaccurate rant, The War On Drugs Is Being Won. Like Andy Bolt, Devine’s ramblings are often considered self parody and satire but sadly this is not true. Devine believes her own bullshit and has gone to great lengths to squeeze the truth in her article amongst the cherry picked data and diversion tactics. I wonder if she will remove the article like Andy Bolt did when it was pointed out to him that he was delusional?

Fuck Off Libby Trickett
Champion US swimmer, Michael Phelps is guilty of doing what over 120 million other Americans have done - smoked dope. It doesn’t enhance his performance and actually hinders his chances of success if anything. Why would he be penalised at all? And why would Australian Olympic champion, Libby Trickett get so snarly over it?
Personally I think he's extremely lucky and if it had fallen under anti-doping laws, the penalty could have been double and that would have cost him a spot at the worlds. He's got to face up to the responsibilities that come with being a role model and this is simply unacceptable behaviour from someone with his stature and profile in sport. Hopefully he can learn from the mistake and it's a pretty big fall from grace after what he achieved in Beijing. It takes some of the shine off his spectacular performances in Beijing and this behaviour simply isn't OK.
-Libby Trickett. Australian Olympic Swimmer
Michael Phelps's ban too lenient, says Aussie star Libby Trickett

Queensland - Beautiful One Day ... Busted for Drugs the Next
This is not a terror alert or some major riot in Europe but a Friday night in Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Just after 10pm on Friday night, 60 police officers including the Brisbane dog squad, the State Crime Operations Command and a safety response team, appeared on the Esplanade in Mooloolaba. The police steadily moved along inspecting everyone in their way including diners coming out of restaurants, people waiting in night club queues and pedestrians. Led by a drug sniffer dog, the police approached each person on the street and repeated the warning:
Police drug dog! Don’t touch the dog. If you touch the dog you will be arrested!!!
The results were pitiful. 300 people were searched but only 9 were found with drugs and 2 with drug “utensils”. The police were quick to point out their success as the first Mooloolaba operation over a year ago had produced 48 drug charges.
We are sending a clear message to people that they need to act responsibly in public, even when they are out to have a good time, and the operations appear to be working to reduce drug possession in the Mooloolaba area.
-Police Superintendent Ben Hanbidge. Queensland Police
Success? In reality and without the spin, it either means drug users are hiding their drugs better or the police failed to repeat last year’s arrest rate. Is this really a good way to spend taxpayers money? Were 60 police officers, jack boots, overalls and police dogs really necessary? Who were the real targets? The operation reeks of a publicity stunt using fear as the underlying tactic. I can’t recall the last time a crowd of abusive drug users caused so much trouble that it required the police to attend? I also wonder if the avoidable death of Gemma Thoms and the 2006 NSW government report that criticised sniffer dogs has had any impact on their operation? Gemma Thoms overdosed and died after swallowing a whole days supply of ecstasy pills to avoid police sniffer dogs at The Big Day Out. Somehow I doubt it.
Drug crackdown cleans up Drug blitz shocks clubbers

Vatican Hates Drug Users Too
In an obvious last minute attempt at influencing the upcoming United Nations meeting in March to determine international drug policy, the Vatican issued a public statement that using drugs is "anti-life" and "so-called harm reduction leads to liberalisation of the use of drugs". The Vatican objects to harm reduction strategies like needle exchange programs, safe injecting sites and methadone. Although these strategies save lives and have been very successful, the Vatican selfishly put their ideology first. It shows once again these fundamentalists care more about pushing their stale dogma on society than actually helping people.
By making a statement against harm reduction, the Vatican has indicated that its moral objection to drug use is more important than its commitment to the sanctity of life. If the Vatican is allowed to influence the UN to adopt a naive and ineffective drug policy it will needlessly lead to the increased spread of blood-borne viruses and the death of thousands more people from HIV/AIDS.
-Release: British Drugs And Legal Advice Charity
Vatican imperils lives with drug stance, say critics