Thursday, 28 January 2010

Stop Repeating Yourselves ... You’re Wrong

How many times do we have to witness and ultimately pay for this ridiculous attempt to please an ignorant public, boofhead politicians and the moral police? Once again, at The Big Day Out, police caught only a small percentage of attendees with drugs while thousands got through. There were dozens of officers, sniffer hounds and public searches all meant to deter drugs from entering the festival. It happens all too often now with the costs mounting up and the shock value decreasing significantly.
Year after year we repeat the same warnings before the event starts, but every year there are still people who stupidly try to get past us and fail
-Superintendent Rod Smith
Why do the police keep doing the same thing, over and over, but expect a different result? According to many, Albert Einstein made a similar observation and claimed it is a sign of insanity. Repeating the same flawed strategy again and again but somehow expecting the latest result to miraculously be different. You get the drift here. The police keep giving out dire warnings that anyone bringing in drugs to a music festival like The Big Day Out, will be caught and dealt with harshly by the courts. Each year though, only a few people get caught. Most are given a caution while thousands simply bypass the sniffer dogs and continue on like the police never existed. This is repeated for each music festival in every state. Insanity? ... or just another fault with the prohibitionist model for dealing with drugs? It doesn’t take a genius like Einstein to work this out and in fact it didn’t. The cliché was actually coined by novelist, Rita Mae Brown.
Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results
-Rita Mae Brown, Sudden Death (Bantam Books, New York, 1983), p. 68
Not only do the police re-enact the same old strategy but they try to turn it around and put it on the people who attend these festivals. This gets to the crux of the futile approach taken by our government on drug control. We are historically consumers of drugs and we are always going to partake especially young people at a music festival. Whether the constabulary are there or not, drugs are going to be smuggled in and unless every single person, including the staff, the musicians and the police themselves are stripped searched, there will be plenty to go around. That olden but golden observation becomes apparent once more - if we can’t stop drugs getting into prison, how are we going to stop drugs getting into ... the Sydney show grounds, the Melbourne show grounds etc.
A total of 381 people were arrested, with police laying 104 drug possession charges, 12 drug supply charges, six assault charges and one malicious damage charge. Police also issued nine cannabis cautions, ejected 11 drunk people and caught 18 people trying to jump the fence into the venue.
-(AAP) PerthNow
It’s becoming all too common for the police to join the chorus of crooked politicians and agenda driven anti-drug zealots pushing out fear, exaggerated harms and lies. Droning on about “no drug is a safe drug” or “we’re putting drug dealers and drug users on alert ... we will catch you!”, might keep those “crooked politicians and agenda driven anti-drug zealots” happy but it’s not really productive. Like so much of the typical anti-drug rhetoric from the media and politicians, messages from the police are often produced just to please converts of the drug war or exploitable parents who have already been paralysed with fear. Think about the hundreds of thousands who use ecstasy, speed, cannabis etc. when they go out or on special occasions. Most of them have never had a problem with their drug taking or even seen any lasting negative effect. They have undoubtedly seen booze cause some major upsets but rarely does the same happen with recreational drugs. In fact, I’d dare say it’s the opposite and they have an absolutely cracker of a night. These are the supposed targets of these anti-drug messages but with the constant stream of dire warnings never coming to fruition, the message fails to make an impact. The truth is, and it’s a hard truth ... recreational drugs are taken so often because they are enjoyable, exciting and exhilarating with very little downside. You don’t hear this mentioned very much.
There is this idea with some young people that taking drugs enhances their day out, in reality, they are putting their lives at risk by taking illegal drugs sold by people out to make a quick buck.

They might think this is just an ecstasy pill, but as police members, too often we see the tragic effect of these foolish decisions.

Make no mistake, there is no such thing as a safe party drug.


No overdoses were recorded among the 10,500 people that attended the event
-Detective Inspector Mark Zervaas - (AAP) The HeraldSun
Yep, you read that right. After all the dire warnings, his last reported comment was, “No overdoses were recorded among the 10,500 people that attended the event”. And we wonder why these messages are over looked by the target audience as just more anti-drug babble.

Apart from being totally pointless, the attempt to stop drugs entering The Big Day Out raises a bigger issue. Why is such a dangerous drug like alcohol allowed to flow freely whilst so much effort is put into stopping safer drugs like cannabis, LSD and ecstasy? This elephant-in-the-room just keeps eluding us over and over as the anti-drug zealots come up with new, fanciful arguments over and over. Remember the constant grind about dope being a gateway drug? That took 40 years of repeated research proving it a myth. Then cannabis supposedly caused all sorts of madness including psychosis, schizophrenia and amotivational syndrome. After numerous studies, they too was finally narrowed down to effect only a tiny group of people with amotivational syndrome being a complete furfie. Since then, cannabis has been blamed for causing testicular cancer, lung cancer, making us sterile, changing personalities and being anti-social. They too are loosing out to science and research which means the anti-drug brigade will have to devise new symptoms of cannabis use to scare the public.

But it’s ecstasy(MDMA) that’s getting the fear treatment at the moment. It wasn’t too long ago that ecstasy was touted as the new drug scourge crippling society. Warnings of massive depression, holes in the brain as seen in CT scans and of course addiction ... all after even one pill. The hype was so intense that the anti-methadone campaign in the US, One Pill Can Kill was mistakenly taken up by anti-ecstasy groups, the police and local nutters.

Ecstasy was perfectly legal until it hit the dance scene in the US. The DEA in spectacular form, ignored a scientific court ruling and rushed through an emergency law to class it as a schedule I drug. This put an end to promising research into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other psychological problems. It seemed that too many young(and old) Americans were just having too much fun for the DEA. But it was a Newsweek article that put MDMA on the most feared list in the US. Newsweek cited flawed research that just one pill could create “holes” in the brain and they provided a CT scan to prove it. It was later revealed that the test subject monkeys had been injected with pure methamphetamine instead of MDMA and the hole in the brain scans really meant nothing. But the damage had been done. Much to the delight of anti-drug crusaders, ecstasy was now seen as a killer. It took over 2 decades of overseas research to eat away at the myths surrounding ecstasy and only now is the real truth coming out. Not addictive, very few deaths, very few problems, statistically safer than riding a horse.
Det-Supt Charlie Carver, of the Serious and Organised Crime Squad, said many seized ecstasy pills contained harmful chemicals such as chalk and washing powder.
-The Sunday Times 
The latest strategy by the anti-drug nutters is not aimed at MDMA itself but the contaminants that are mixed in by manufacturers to extend their product. You have probably read about ecstasy being be cut with glass, rat poison, cleaning agents, heroin etc. The reality is that ecstasy is now being cut more than ever but usually with other mind altering drugs like PMA, Mephedrone, caffeine and ketamine. As far as I know, the claims of glass, heroin and poisons being included in ecstasy pills are myths.
Ecstasy has never been cheaper or more dangerous in Perth, a major new study reveals.
 -The Sunday Times 
Ironically, it’s the drug laws themselves that present the most danger. An unregulated industry(prohibition) breeds crime and a black market where there is no age restrictions, health guidelines or quality control. To top it off, the federal and state governments won’t allow doctors to run pill testing booths at music festivals or raves. This leaves users at the mercy of criminals and what they decide goes in the mix. If you have a complaint, don’t ring The Office of Fair Trading or contact a consumer rights group. The illicit drug industry handles complaints in their own special way - usually with intimidation and violence.

If we look to the club scene in London for setting the trends here in Australia, we should be worried. As MDMA is becoming scarce in London, most ecstasy pills are being filled with steroids, caffeine and mephedrone, a drug we know very little about. This has caused the arrest rate for possession of MDMA to drop significantly in London over the last few year. From 1,197 in 2006 to 773 in 2008. 2009 is looking to be less than 500. This is not a case of drug manufacturers trying to extend their profits but because of a crack down on MDMA precursors by the authorities`. China is now the sole manufacturer of the main precursor for MDMA with exports coming from only 2 countries. They are all heavily regulated and monitored with less than 5 litres in total being sold in 2008 and 2009.
Our philosophy is that we don’t want people to die in order to learn a lesson
 -Students for Sensible Drug Policy
This might keep the AFP, DEA and other drug enforcement agencies happy but as usual, their mindless obsession and limited thinking is killing people. In other words, cracking down on the relatively safe drug MDMA, has caused a surge in PMA, mephedrone, BZP, GHB and other more harmful drugs. Why are anti-drug agencies and groups so inept with logic? They think that if you simply make it harder to get a certain drug then users will just stop taking all drugs? Or when a certain area is targeted by the police - drug users just don’t give up and the dealers quit to get legitimate jobs. The drug scene simply moves somewhere else. Haven’t they ever heard of the Balloon Effect? - squeeze one end and a bulge appears somewhere else.

So when will this farce stop? We have silly, ignorant politicians making all sorts of comical statements mixed in with deceitful politicians blatantly lying for some selfish agenda. Giving their support, are the moral crusaders who are mostly happy clappers from the religious right or the new breed of racist, Howard loving, pro-Israel, Tim Blair arse licking neo-conservatives. And in case you still have missed it, we have the sensational and heavily biased Murdoch media pumping out myths, lies and inane opinion pieces designed to brainwash a susceptible public.

Anyone with a hint of intelligence should be able to see the massive flaws in the current system. For example, why do we still have a major drug problem after 50 years of being “Tough on Drugs”? Why is alcohol still legal when it kills 10 times the number of people who die from all illicit drugs combined? Where are the masses of drug induced mental health patients? Why are there still so many drugs available when every week we hear that a new bust was supposed to greatly reduce drug supply?

Where is the common sense and pragmatism? Why do we spend billions on stopping drug supplies but drugs are now easier to obtain than ever before? Why do we keep rolling out the same expensive “Tough on Drugs” strategy when it never meets it’s targets? Why aren’t politicians caught out by the media for lying when they make brash, non-truthful statements? Most anti-drug claims by politicians are simply lies with no scientific evidence but for some reason, opposing political parties don’t just let it slide by but usually try to out do them. This childish banter of “I’m tougher on drugs than you” is purely political and only exacerbates the societal damage already inflicted. And the damage is real, costing many lives and causing incredible carnage. Why is this allowed to continue without any real scrutiny from the media?

While advances in science and medicine bound along exponentially, the approach to drug use lingers in the dark ages. Keeping the public ignorant and fearful of drugs is the prime objective for politicians because it’s a vote winner. That would change if the public were more aware of the facts but with decades of propaganda, myths and fear being forced on them, they don’t have hope. It’s spooky to think that just 10-20 minutes on the intertubes would expose a 100 years of misinformation and lies with the truth there for anyone who cares to find out.

Police Arrest More Than 300 People At Big Day Out
(AAP) PerthNow
January 2010

MORE than 300 people were arrested over the two-day Big Day Out music festival in Sydney, with one person caught with 24 ecstasy tablets, police said today.

Police, including officers from the Dog Squad and Commuter Crime unit, targeted drug and alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour at the festival in Homebush on Friday and Saturday.

A total of 381 people were arrested, with police laying 104 drug possession charges, 12 drug supply charges, six assault charges and one malicious damage charge.

Police also issued nine cannabis cautions, ejected 11 drunk people and caught 18 people trying to jump the fence into the venue.

Ambulance officers were also kept busy, with 1587 people treated by St John Ambulance volunteers over both days, while 36 patients were taken to hospital.

Many of those revellers were treated for dehydration, as temperatures climbed into the 40's on both days.

Drugs seized during the police operation included cannabis, ecstasy, ice, LSD, cocaine and amphetamines.

"One person was found entering the venue allegedly in possession of 24 ecstasy tablets," police said in a statement.

Superintendent Rod Smith said most festival-goers enjoyed themselves responsibly, but some people still hadn't got the message.

"Year after year we repeat the same warnings before the event starts, but every year there are still people who stupidly try to get past us and fail," Supt Smith said in a statement.

"The results also show that anti-social behaviour won't be tolerated, and those charged over the last two days will have to face the consequences at court."

Friday, 22 January 2010

Diary: What Does Heroin Feel Like? (Part II)

Diary: The most googled search that finds it’s way to The Australian Heroin Diaries is “What Does Heroin Feel Like” or something similar. So I decided to again write about my experience under the influence of diacetylmorphine (heroin) and compare the results. I have only added a few formatting changes and one missing word. Otherwise, it is written as I experienced it (except the epilogues).
One Cool Evening

I felt the tingles all over my body but it’s stopped now.
This is good gear or maybe it’s just my meds have worn off more than usual.

I get a sudden image from a scene from Lost(TV show). John Lock is about to undergo suggery whilst Ben and co look on. After the surgery something is going to appear in the magic box. The funny thing is, Ben is on the operating table

I realise I have constantly been blocking my ears by holding my breath and clenching my jaw.

I light a smoke. I have a great big stretch rubbing my face and head intensely.
My ear blocking is becoming a background action.
I close my eyes and stretch again, twisting shoulders, neck and head. From a distance, it would look like I’m retarded. This thought makes me stop. Should I include an image to show you? Stupid thought!!!
I have a drink of raspberry.
Suddenly everything is dead quiet. I can hear a repeat of Lost coming from the lounge room. Now I can hear the fan on the PC beside me.
I butt my smoke out.

I felt straight again for a 5-10 seconds until the ear blocking kicked in again.
I notice I am scratching a lot. I’m also sweating.
I have another drink ... and a smoke.
I am staring at the cigarette before the ear blocking breaks my focus.
I’m scratching everywhere but I am not annoyed by it for some reason.
I had just nodded off for a minute or so. I had weird images of Lost racing through my mind. I can still hear it in the background.
Another drink.
I am pleasantly relaxed except for the nagging worry that I have forgotten something that is going to catch up with me. I have this constantly so I just live with it and accept that it is just part of my depression.

Did I just write that?!?!
I get a sudden rush of euphoria. It forces my eyes shut and my head starts hanging down. I must look like a real junkie now. mmmm, whatever.
I’m nodding in and out of sleep. It’s a nice feeling. I can’t think of another term except ‘nice’.

Wow, it feels like we just had an intermission.

Two intermissions!
I can’t remember why I stopped at 8:59pm? I probably fell asleep again or got side-tracked and forgot that I was writing about the experience. Anyway, it must be pretty boring to read about someone else’s high. It is almost impossible to describe that feeling that heroin brings you. I often read that it wraps you in a cotton ball while being in a state of total bliss. I think somehow that description comes from those who have never touched heroin. I can’t ever recall feeling totally isolated or being in a world of total bliss. The description possibly comes from the same people who say that it takes away all your worries and that’s why users are attracted to it. I wish I could pinpoint it that easily.

Can anyone give me an apt description of what a heroin high feels like? And please, no social workers/family of addicts/counsellors who think they understand from their experience dealing with users.

One Sunny Day

The Hit - Very easy this time. First go and wham!

Instantly I got tingling and itching all over my body. Lower spine, upper back and shoulders, head, upper arms, feet and ankles. In about 2 seconds it quickly covered all of my body. I actually felt a bit scared at first and for a second I thought, this is it... over I go. But as usual, it calmed down and seconds later I was scared it was all about to go away. Jeepers! When it appears before me in words, it strikes me as being so junkie like. Think about it - It took less than 5 seconds from fearing I was going to die to being worried I was not going to be high.

Very calm and relaxed. I have had a volatile week and it was great to feel some inner peace. I don’t worry that it won’t last, I’m just glad it’s now.

My eyes keep closing and I nod off when I am sitting down at the computer. I have had to retype this twice now because my hand rests on the keyboard when it happens. Or was it 3 times? Ah, who cares.

Getting sleepier now and nodding off for 30 seconds or more at a time. Crazy dreams! Try this one; several people including myself are carefully analysing a black and white video of some professional female cyclists cheering and celebrating the 911 attacks. It is pointed out that a man in the background is carrying an orange roadside “witches hat” that he passes to someone walking past. It’s the only coloured object. He then takes it upstairs, knocks on a door and gives it to someone when they open the door. He then unlocks a cupboard and takes out several pizza boxes and slowly heads downstairs. One of the people watching the video monitor asks to slow it down and zoom in on the pizza boxes. Slowly a pixelated image appears of a Space Invader(1970s video game) logo with big type beside it reading “Do Not Deliver”. All this started outside but turned into a nightclub by the time the pizza boxes appeared.

BTW, it took me nearly 15 minutes to type this story.

This is getting harder to do. Heroin isn’t like amphetamines, MDMA or LSD etc. where you might suddenly have a revelation or an epiphany. There’s no special magical moment that “clicks” and you discover the meaning of life. The peak of the high is spent falling asleep or nodding off. If you go to bed, you will have wild dreams which feel like they last hours but are usually only a few minutes. Even while writing this, I have nodded off and had several short dreams.

I am not cooking tonight and Mrs Wright is not very happy. Since it’s Monday, a lot of take-aways are closed so she can’t order her usual favourites. Anyway, she has finally ordered something and is waiting impatiently whilst every now and again reminding me that she is hungry.

I’m being a real junkie tonight. Several times I have lighten up a cigarette although I already have one on the go. I keep nodding off and forgetting what I was writing. The incident I mentioned before about tingling and itching all over my body. Man, there goes my Order of Australia nomination from the PM!

Dinner has arrived and Mrs Wright is demanding I come now.

As I paid the deliver dude, I thought I saw something out the corner of my eye. Delivery Dude then informs me that a massive spider is on the edge of the door, 3 inches from my head. Luckily I still understand the imperial system and ran like fuck. I threw him the bottle of napalm I have especially for spiders and he proceeded to exterminate the deadly, poisonous, evil life-taker.

I think I’m straight now.

It’s probably a good time to go.

I hate spiders as you have probably gathered. Luckily, the delivery man was once a Watchman or an X-Men and slain the beast with napalm (fly spray) and various warrior like weapons (his shoe). No ordinary man could stand strong through an experience like I had and the heroin was no contest for adrenalin and fear. I can vividly remember that night, the splattered blood, the evil monster, a near death experience. That is why I stopped writing where I did ... and it was dinner time.

I have noticed that while being smacked out, my writing is isn’t much different to when I’m normal. I’m not sure how to take this? Do I always write like a junkie on hammer or am I able to function adequately whilst being on heroin? Looking back over what I wrote, I made very few mistakes or at least corrected them as needed. I know this would not be the case if I had been drinking ... or on acid, PCP, magic mushrooms etc.

Does anyone else function well when on heroin?

Related Articles
Diary: What Does Heroin Feel Like? (Part I)
Diary: What Does Heroin Feel Like? (Part III)

Monday, 18 January 2010

2009 in Review

What a way to finish the decade!

Walt Disney’s grandson on drug charges, China executes a mentally ill drug smuggler - the first European to be put to death in China in 50 years, Pete Doherty again caught with heroin, Drugs found at St Kilda Rd police headquarters, another Australian arrested with drugs in Bali, Brittany Murphy dies from prescription drugs, another Home and Away star is caught using cocaine, UK prison guards unwittingly allowed a convicted drug dealer to grow marijuana in his cell - and even decorate the four-foot plant as a Christmas tree, Victoria Police announce that motorists having any trace of illegal drugs will be fined and have their driver’s licence suspended, Queensland doctors will be required to dob in colleagues suspected of illegal drug use, Charlie Sheen is on drugs again, heroin laced with anthrax kills 3 and most shockingly ... an Adelaide man spent his Federal Government stimulus payment on drugs.

Not surprisingly on the last night of the decade, the cops and sniffer dogs will be out in force to catch those dangerous party people taking party drugs like ecstasy, speed, pot and cocaine. The target is Melbourne's Etihad Stadium, where Sensation, the largest dance party in Australia is being held. Once you get past the moral police, you’re free to then tank up on as much booze as you want. Last year, 10 people overdosed out of a crowd of 38,200. I wonder what the alcohol overdose number was?
We are not out to dampen celebrations. Our primary aim is to ensure that those attending have a safe and enjoyable night
-Operation Commander Inspector Stephen Beith
Of course that’s smelly horse shit. If they were really concerned they would allow a pill testing booth and restrict alcohol.

So where are we at the end of 2009? In brief, the US is motor scooting ahead towards cannabis legalisation while Australia is fighting the tide and going backwards. Latin America seems to be leading the pack with drug decriminalisation followed by a progressive Europe. Russia and Asia are firmly stuck in the 1980s.

Looking back on 2009, like any other year, brings back memories of the good, bad and indifferent. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March should have been the highlight but as predicted was a tad early for too much radical change. After the failure to meet any goals set at the last UNGASS meeting in 1998, many were optimistic that a more rational and logical plan would be drafted. But the meeting was once again hijacked by the US and fellow prohibitionists including the head of the UNODC, Antonio Costa. However, there were major cracks appearing and this is probably the last of prohibition as we know it. Just for the record, the 1998 meeting produced the slogan, "A Drug-Free World - We Can Do It" and set about to wipe out all drug crops - from marijuana to opium to coca - by 2008. Not only didn’t they reach their goals but their projections went backwards. Drug use increased, more crops were planted and the black market continued to explode.

The Year of the PADDs
It’s been an interesting year for PADDs or Passive Alert Drug Detection dogs as they are now called. Even after the NSW ombudsman in 2006 concluded that the dogs were not very successful and they regularly violate the right of all citizens to be free from arbitrary search and detention, the police simply made some minor changes and ramped up their use. The report from the ombudsman said:
•73% of people identified by the dogs are not carrying drugs
•Most drugs detected are small amounts of cannabis
•Dogs are failing to detect drug dealers
In February, the unthinkable happened. 17-year-old Gemma Thoms died after collapsing at the Big Day Out music festival after she swallowed several ecstasy tablets to avoid detection by drug dogs. The response from the WA Premier and WA police commissioner was disgusting with them both dodging any blame. Gemma’s death was even used for political gain with the police commissioner attacking the Greens after they went public with the news that they had regularly warned the government that such an incident would happen.
I extend my sincere condolences to Gemma’s family, but I cannot allow misinformed people like NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale and the Youth Affairs Council of WA’s Executive Officer Lisa Laschon to apportion blame on police for this tragedy.

Police do not accept responsibility for this death.

Some of their propositions are quite frankly absurd and suggest that police should turn a blind eye, do nothing about drug possession, and ignore the State’s laws regarding illegal drugs.

Police in this state will not be modifying their tactics when it comes to people who use or deal in illegal drugs, and I believe the community of Western Australia supports that approach.

Both the State and Federal Governments put a great deal of effort into drug awareness and education, and for their part police will continue to target both drug dealers and users.

Operations such as that in relation to the Big Day Out will continue.
-Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan
PADDs are now a common sight around some train stations and entertainment areas. As you would expect, the reports of abuse and over zealous cops are coming in as more polished spin is applied to the problem. But some cops are having a hard time justifying to themselves the use of sniffer dogs and other weapons in the "War on Drugs". LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is an organisation made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of existing drug policies. They now have over 15,000 members including police, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, FBI and DEA agents and others.

It was one the year’s high points when LEAP member, Dr. Norm Stamper was brought out to Australia by Dr Alex Wodak, the President of the ADLRF. Norm’s busy schedule included various debates, group talks and media engagements to discuss sensible drug policy. The main feature of Norm’s visit was to be part of the Australia Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House, where he was part of a discussion titled: "All Forms of Drug Use Should Be Made Legal". His team included Greg Barns and Dr. Alex Wodak.

I must say his itinerary was the busiest I have ever seen. 93 appointments in 28 days! Try and get your head around the following 28 day schedule.

Norm Stamper’s Australian Schedule:
October 27, Canberra, Australia Presentation to Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform, Annual Meeting
October 27, Canberra, Australia Meeting with Mal Washer, MP, Chair, Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform
October 27, Canberra, Australia Meeting with Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens
October 27, Canberra, Australia Meeting with Kay Hull, Member of Parliament
October 27, Canberra, Australia Interview with West Australian
October 27, Canberra, Australia Interview with Sydney Morning Herald
October 26, Canberra, Australia Public Meeting, ACT Legislative Assembly London Circuit
October 26, Canberra, Australia Meeting with The Hon. Duncan Kerr, MP, and The Hon. Mal Washer, Chair of Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform, Commonwealth Parliament House
October 26, Canberra, Australia Meeting with Mr. Richard Pieper, Crime Manager, Drugs, Australian Federal Police
October 26, Canberra, Australia Presentation to Center of Excellence in Policing and Security, Australian National University
October 26, Canberra, Australia Discussion at Australian Injecting Users League
October 25, Cooma, Australia Return trip to Canberra
October 24, Cooma, Australia Dinner with Rotarians
October 24, Cooma, Australia Presentation to Rotary International Conference
October 23, Canberra, Australia Dinner with Drug Policy Reformers
October 23, Canberra, Australia Meeting with senior officials, Department of Health and Aging
October 23, Canberra, Australia Meeting with senior officials, ACT Government
October 23, Canberra, Australia Presentation to Australian Crime Commission
October 23, Canberra, Australia Meeting with Australian Federal Police, Headquarters
October 22, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to QulHN/QulVVA, Fortitude Valley
October 22, Brisbane, Australia Meeting with Lee and Chris Rush (re: son Scott on death row in Bali)
October 22, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to QulHN/QulVVA, Fortitude Valley
October 21, Brisbane, Australia Dinner with Drug Policy Reformers
October 21, Currumbin, Australia Visit to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
October 21, Brisbane, Australia Lecture at Law School, University of Queensland
October 21, Brisbane, Australia Meeting with Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart and senior staff
October 20, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to 1800 Annual Gen'l. Mtg. Qld Council of Civil Liberties, Irish Club
October 20, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to Rotary and Chamber of Commerce, Fortitude Valley
October 20, Brisbane, Australia Meeting with Members of State Parliament, Old Parliament House
October 19, Brisbane, Australia Dinner with Brisbane Drug Policy Reformers
October 19, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to Biala Needle & Syringe Programme
October 19, Brisbane, Australia Presentation to Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Edu. Ctr, University of Queensland
October 19, Brisbane, Australia Meeting with John Herron, Chair, Australian National Council on Drugs
October 16, Perth, Australia Presentation to Public Meeting, Royal Park Hall, North Perth
October 16, Perth, Australia Meeting with WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin, former Chair of Law Reform Commission
October 16, Perth, Australia Meeting with Roger Cook, WA Shadow Minister for Heath and Paul Papalia, Shadow Minister for Corrective Services
October 16, Perth, Australia Presentation at Western Australia Substance Users Association
October 16, Perth, Australia Interview with ABC Radio
October 16, Perth, Australia Testimony to WA Legislative Assembly, Education and Health Standing Committee on Adequacy and Appropriateness of Prevention and Treatment Services
October 15, Perth, Australia Dinner with Drug Policy Reformers
October 15, Perth, Australia Presentation to National Drug Research Institute Seminar, Curtin University of Technology
October 15, Perth, Australia Interview with ABC WA Statewide
October 15, Perth, Australia Meeting with Police Minister Rob Johnson
October 15, Perth, Australia Lecture at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup Campus
October 15, Perth, Australia Meeting with Assistant Police Commissioner (Traffic & Ops) Mr. Shayne Maynes
October 14, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Mr. Brett Curran, Chief of Staff to Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Corrections
October 14, Melbourne, Australia Presentation to Harm Reduction and D&A Workers, Moonee Valley Civic Centre
October 14, Melbourne, Australia Presentation to Lord Mayor and Moonee Valley City Councillors
October 14, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with City of Melbourne City Issues Team
October 13, Melbourne, Australia Meeting at Convenience Advertising
October 13, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Victorian Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary, and other leaders
October 13, Melbourne, Australia Video interview, Institute of Public Affairs
October 13, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Acting Chief Police Commissioner Kieran Walshe and senior staff
October 13, Melbourne, Australia Presentation to Office of Police Integrity and Victorian Police Force Officers
October 12, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Wade Noonan, MP at Parliament House
October 12, Melbourne, Australia Testify at Victorian Parliamentary Joint Houses, Investigatory Drug and Crime Prevention Committee
October 12, Melbourne, Australia Lecture, Monash University, Clayton Campus
October 12, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Senior Officials, Victoria Police Association, Brian Rix, President
October 12, Melbourne, Australia Meeting with Police Commissioner the Hon. Bob Cameron
October 12, Melmbourne, Australia Interview with ABC Morning Show, John Fain
October 11, Melbourne, Australia Private briefing dinner with Bill Noonan, OAM National Men's Health Ambassador
October 10, Melbourne, Australia dinner with Davis Stanley and family
October 10, Sydney, Australia, Interview with Kate Pinnock, Jailbreak 2SER
October 9, Sydney, Australia Dinner with Dr. Alex Wodak, et al
October 9, Sydney, Australia Presentation to Users and Health Workers and AIDS Assoc.
October 9, Sydney, Australia Video interview with User's News
October 9, Sydney, Australia Interview with Australian Police Journal, Sr. Sgt. Victoria Williams
October 9, Sydney, Australia Interview with Hungry Beasts (Zapruder's Other Films/ABC)
October 9, Sydney, Australia Interview with Fiveaa (Adelaide talk radio)
October 9, Sydney, Australia Presentation to Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Australia-NZ-wide videoconference
October 8, Sydney, Australia Presentation to Centre for Independent Studies, St. Leonards
October 8, Sydney, Australia Discussion with Deputy Lord Mayor of City of Sydney Ms. Marcelle Hoff, Councillors and Advisors
October 8, Sydney, Australia Lecture, University of New South Wales Law School
October 8, Sydney, Australia Interview with NSW Police News, Nicola Silva
October 8, Sydney, Australia Roundtable discussion, Australasian Society for HIV Medicine, national video linkup
October 7, Sydney, Australia Briefing to City of Sydney "Safe City Unit" and Local Area Police Commanders
October 7, Sydney, Australia Tour of St. Vincents Hospital Alcohol and Drug Services
October 7, Sydney, Australia Meeting with Detective Superintendent Tony Cook, Commander Drug and Alcohol Coordination
October 7, Sydney, Australia Interview with World Today ABC Radio, Shane McLeod
October 7, Sydney, Australia Lecture, University of Technology, "Principles of Forensic Science," law students
October 6, Sydney, Australia Visit to Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, Kings Cross
October 6, Sydney, Australia Meeting with Rev. Harry Herbert, Executive Director, UnitingCare
October 6, Sydney, Australia Meeting with Philip Kelley, Policy Advisor to Minister for Police and Mike Bailey, Policy Advisor to Attorney General and Minister for Justice
October 6, Sydney, Australia Lunch at Parliament House Dinning Room with Drug Policy Reformers
October 6, Sydney, Australia Lecture, NSW Parliament House for State Government representatives
October 5, Sydney, Australia Interview with Tony Jones, "Lateline," ABC Studios
October 5, Sydney, Australia Meeting with Dr. Wodak and Leah McLeod
October 4, Sydney, Australia Dinner with Dr. Alex Wodak
October 4, Sydney, Australia Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Panel: "All Forms of Drug Use Should Be Made Legal," Sydney Opera House
September 30, Herald Sun (Australia), phone interview with Alan Howe
September 29, Seattle Weekly, phone interview with Nina Shapiro
September 29, Conference call with Drug Policy Alliance
September 29, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Interview with Michael Duffy

Australian Politics
On the downside in the global push for rational drug laws in 2009, Australia showed the world how far our narrow minded politicians were prepared to go when enforcing their ideology on the people. WA led the revolt, turning back the hands of time that delighted conservatives everywhere. I imagine the likes of John Howard were just thrilled to see any drug policy progress being ripped out of the history books by absolute morons like WA Premier, Colin Barnett and WA Attorney General, Christian Porter. The standout act of stupidity involved repealing state cannabis laws that had actually led to a drop in use. WA’s cannabis laws were once hailed as one of the best drug policies around the globe where possession of up to 30 grams, two non-hydro plants, or smoking equipment only attracted a fine of up to $200 with an option to attend a cannabis education session. In their wisdom, Barnett and co. are pushing through a bill that will lower the amount to 10 grams and excluded growing any plants. Those caught for possession will have to pay a fine and attend compulsory treatment within 30 days or face jail. Fines for selling drug paraphernalia will increase to $5000 for sales to an adult and up to $10,000 for sales to a minor.

It’s probably no surprise that they blatantly lied about why they increased penalties for cannabis.
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
-WA Premier, Colin Barnett
During 2009, pushing the old “Tough on Drugs” rhetoric was constant by most of the Coalition and other dorky politicians from Labor, The Christian Democrats and Family First. Shadow Minister for Customs and Justice, Sussan Ley had 104 media releases in 2009 with nearly a third of them mentioning illicit drugs. While Sophie Mirabella MP was Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare, Women and Youth, she had 4 media releases and wrote at least one news article about the Rudd Government putting our youth in danger to illicit drugs. Then there was Jamie Briggs, Nick Goiran, Mike Gallacher, Mike Horan, Barry O'Farrell etc. demanding everything from banning the term “recreational drugs” to mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. Not one new idea amongst any of them. Nearly every demand has been tried locally or overseas for decades without any success whatsoever. Declaring you are “Tough on Drugs” has always been a sure vote winner but without any positive outcomes ever being realised, the cries of “won’t someone think of the children” or “we must get tough on the drug scourge” just becomes hollow rhetoric.

There were many swipes made at the Rudd government throughout the year for ignoring the "War on Drugs" and focussing too much on Alcohol. There were even calls to revisit The Bishop Report: “The Winnable War on Drugs”. After 11 years of Howard’s “Tough on Drugs” rhetoric which gave our 2nd biggest killer drug a pass, The Rudd government should be congratulated for finally targeting booze. And target booze it did. This was not some 6 month anti-drug campaign aimed at pleasing parents and moral crusaders but a conscious decision to change our drinking culture over the next few decades. The alcohol industry was accustomed to the previous government making excuses like the claim that drinking is an important part of society which provides many jobs etc. but all the crying in the world was not going to change Rudd’s mind. Such a powerful lobby group not used to loosing were not going to let something as trivial as government policy or the health of our nation get in their way. They simply produced their own statistics which were readily lapped up by the lazy media.

The Alcopops war raged on as the public started to learn more and more about the damage caused by alcohol, especially with violence. Not to miss a trick, the trash media turned up the heat on alcohol violence as well and soon it was a national problem with opinion writers, sport journalists, Neil Mitchells, state premiers and police ministers stumbling over each other to decry this scourge. The more the media reported it, the more the public demanded action ... the politicians were happy to oblige. More police, 2am lock outs, advertising campaigns, a freeze on late-night liquor licences, electronic ID and databases of thugs and even a weekend police blitz covering the whole of Australia and New Zealand. This was also a great opportunity to squeeze in some blame on drugs. Have you ever wondered why during a crackdown on alcohol and street violence that drug sniffer dogs are so prominent? WA again led the drug warriors into war with a new proposed bill for “stop and search” laws. The bill would give police the power to search people for weapons in entertainment precincts without proving grounds for suspicion. Coincidentally, it also includes searching for drugs. Yes, those dangerous party people, hugging and dancing their way through the troubled Perth suburb of Northbridge were just too much for Christian Porter and Colin Barnett to handle.

Strangely enough, the “Ice Epidemic” stopped making the headlines in 2009 as the main cause of substance induced violence. Yes, that nasty, frightening drug called ice, that caused users to rip apart emergency departments, had magically disappeared. Now, everywhere you look, the problem of alcohol aggression is being analysed by someone whipping the public into a frenzy. Is it a coincidence that a few years ago, a hospital worker reported that upper management had been convinced to blow their whole department budget on a safety room to deal with crazed ice addicts only to later reveal that the room had just been used a few times in 12 months ... for aggressive drunks.

Alcohol was the much needed “epidemic” of 2009 and probably will be in 2010. Scaremongers like the media and politicians will make sure of it. With all this frenzy over alcohol violence, there was only one problem ... violent crime has actually been decreasing since 2000!
The public's perception is that violence is increasing, but trends in violent crime reported to police since the early 1990s reveal a mixed story. Homicide has decreased by nine percent since 1990 and armed robbery by one-third since 2001, but recorded assaults and sexual assaults have both increased steadily in the past 10 years by over 40 percent and 20 percent respectively. The rate of aggravated assault appears to have contributed to the marked rise in recorded assault, and for both assault and sexual assault the rate of increase was greater for children aged under 15 years, with increases almost double that of the older age group. Neither population changes among young adult males nor rates of offending seem to explain the trends in recorded violent crime, and indicators of change in reporting to police provide only a partial explanation. Based on self-reported victimisation and reporting to police, it would seem increased reporting of assault is somewhat responsible for the rise in recorded assault rates against adult victims.
-Judy Putt: General Manager, Research - Australian Institute of Criminology
There was a lot more good news overseas than in Australia. Germany passed into law, heroin assisted treatment (HAT) after a successful 4 year trial. Denmark concluded that there was enough evidence already to implement a HAT program without the need for a local scientific study, Both Canada and The UK had major successes with their own heroin trials. Mexico and The Czech Republic decriminalised small amounts of all drugs and a report by Glenn Greenwald of the CATO Institute showed that after 8 years of similar drug decriminalisation in Portugal, drug use had actually decreased while those seeking treatment increased. In the US, the effects of a new, saner president were being felt as the DEA were told not to raid medical marijuana dispensaries and the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges was lifted. 15 US states now support medical marijuana with another 20 considering it. 6 states have bills proposing full legalisation. The DEA were also hit for a six when the American Medical Association(AMA) released a statement that medical marijuana was indeed real and for the DEA to re-evaluate the classing of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug.
The American Medical Association urges that marijuana's status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines and alternate delivery methods
- The American Medical Association (AMA)
Instead of updating the DEA website titled, Exposing the Myth of Smoked Medical Marijuana by replacing the previous AMA denial of medical benefits from cannabis with the new update, the DEA just deleted any reference to the new AMA statement. To make matters worse, the DEA didn’t change their website until they were hounded by LEAP via an email campaign. But the shifty DEA are fanatical and will stoop to any level to push their propaganda. One website, stealthily owned by the DEA, Just Think Twice, kept the link to a now defunct 2001 report from the AMA that marijuana should be retained as a Schedule I drug. The AMA had to put up a special note on their own website that they had changed their position.

Mexico dominated the bad news overseas in 2009 as the war between the drug cartels and authorities continued. The media was kept busy with shocking stories and pictures that exemplified the core failure of the "War on Drugs". Drug prohibition creates so much money that not even a country like Mexico can compete with the local crime cartels. Over 49,000 troops are deployed across Mexico including contributions from the US but still the 6 major cartels reap in billions each year. Since the Mexican government announced a crack down in 2006, 15,000 people have died including many innocent civilians.

China also made the news a few times with the execution of prisoners on drug charges. As more westerners are being caught with drugs overseas, the issue of the death penalty is finally being given some media time. To celebrate International Anti-Drug day, China executed 20 people convicted of`drug offences including several foreigners.

March 2009 figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, show that 970 Australians were arrested abroad in 2008-2009, and 507 are serving time in foreign prisons. Overseas arrests have increased by 38 per cent in the past five years with most charges related to drug offences. The CourierMail was unable to resist this moral outrage and wrote an article warning us about the tough laws overseas.
Laws All Aussie Tourists Should Know

• Penalties for drug trafficking and possession are severe and include the death penalty
• Gambling is illegal and the penalty is deportation
• The penalty for masturbation is decapitation
WTF??! ... The penalty for masturbation is decapitation? Wanting to confirm this, I referenced my trusty old copy of The International Encyclopedia of Sexuality. Nope ... No surprises here ... it wasn’t true.

Schapelle Corby remained in the news frequently as her mental state deteriorated. The year started off like it was going to be a bit more bearable for Schapelle with a request to the jail authorities to start a beauty school for the female inmates. As usual though, the lowlife Murdoch Press gave the dog whistle and the hate mongers came running. The readers section quickly filled with the typical cruel, vile comments we have come to expect from bogans reading the Daily Telegraph, Adelaide Advertiser, HeraldSun, CourierMail etc. Not long after, the pressure took it’s toll and Schapelle was again hospitalised with major depression. Once more, the bogans came crawling out of their sewerage pits as the Murdoch press started again on Schapelle.

I feel for the families of Schapelle Corby, The Bali Nine and others in overseas prisons for drug offences. Most of these prisons are not fit for animals with cruelty, disease and corruption being commonplace. It must be beyond description how they would feel seeing their loved ones in such conditions. Fuck these countries and their sovereignty. I’m sick of comments in the opinion pages saying that we should respect the laws of other countries and their sovereignty. Just like I’m sick of that constant redneck chant, “do the crime - do the time”. These people are doomed to spend decades of their life in sub-human conditions, often for drug offences that are hugely out-of-sync with civilised countries.

Questionable Raids, Shonky Figures and other Bizarre Events
Like every year, there are some completely bizarre stories that hit the papers. Like the drug raid by police at the Cheech and Chong show in Sydney. Up to 25 officers and 4 cannabis canines not only searched the crowd and the queue at the door but went to local pubs and the train station looking for dangerous 50+ year old criminals. The NSW police wasted tens of thousands of dollars, catching 6 middle age parents with small amounts of cannabis. They were all let off with a caution.

The Cheech and Chong show was just one in a series of many raids from police last year. And according to the police, nearly every raid was upsetting the drug trade in Australia and having a huge impact on illicit drug supplies. One such blitz in SA dubbed “Operation Dial” proclaimed their success especially in the South East region of SA around Mt. Gambier:
South East police snared several alleged offenders during the statewide anti-drug campaign Operation Dial on the weekend.

The crackdown, involving 250 police officers across South Australia, saw the region’s police make one arrest and several reports of illicit substance possession, sale and cultivation.

Aided by Customs officials, Mount Gambier CIB arrested a local woman for taking part in the alleged sale of methyl amphetamine, while Naracoorte police issued three fines for possession of cannabis and related equipment, a drug diversion for amphetamine possession and reported persons for the sale of prescription drugs.

Keith police also reported one man for cultivating two cannabis plants.

South East operations manager Sergeant Andy Stott said he was pleased with the results.
-Border Watch(Local newspaper for Mt. Gambier in SE South Australia)
While the massive drug busts around Australia, totalling hundreds of millions of dollars were having very little effect on drug availability, comparatively small operations were being hailed as successful. I lost count how many times the police said they were “sending a message to drugs dealers”, “stopping the flow of illegal drugs” or “putting a huge dent” in local drug markets. Like “Operation Dial”, that for the whole of SA, confiscated 9kg of cannabis, 193 cannabis plants, 9g heroin, 11g cocaine, 12g amphetamine and 93 ecstasy tablets with a supposed street value of about $60,000.
South Australia Police will continue with dedicated operations such as Operation Dial to target the detection and seizure of illicit drugs and those associated with drug related offences. The result from Operation Dial sends a very clear message about the way we view the illicit drug trade and our efforts to get these drugs off the streets.
-Detective Superintendent Scott Duval, officer in charge of the Drug Investigation Branch
The hard drugs in reality, are worth only $11,000. 9Kgs of cannabis is worth about $25,000 which leaves the plants making up the remaining $24,000. Yep, $11,000 worth of hard drugs off the street will send shock-waves through SA. And of course, the 13 arrests, 39 reports and 53 cannabis expiation notices might just cripple the drug industry completely. I wonder what Superintendent Scott Duval was thinking when he went on to say:
It's not so much about the dollar value, it's the harm these drugs cause
-Detective Superintendent Scott Duval, officer in charge of the Drug Investigation Branch
Earlier in the year, not only were Queensland police also stopping the flow of drugs onto the streets but weapons as well with 11 people arrested for a total of 22 charges. “Operation Mamba” was a success!
We believe we've obstructed a number of individual suppliers of drugs ... and it's obviously resulted in some type of reduction of the flow of drugs onto the street.
-Sergeant Laurie Shevlin. Gold Coast Police
What was this big bust reported in the media that reduced the supply of drugs and weapons onto Queensland streets? “Operation Mamba” netted a grand total of 120 grams of pot. Note that it is grams not kilograms and 120 grams at the full street price of $25 each is $3,000. And the weapons? A taser stun gun ... AND ... a baton ... AND ... a slingshot.

The year of the PADD was probably most noted for PADDs at music festivals. Right up until the last night of 2009, there were warnings that anyone taking drugs into public music festivals and dance parties were going to get caught. 50 caught here, 80 caught somewhere else ... the number of people caught with ecstasy, speed, LSD and cannabis were mounting up. But when compared with the total audiences approaching the million mark, several hundred arrests is just piddley. This raises the question ... what’s the point? The simple answer is publicity. Most of the public are now under the impression that anyone taking drugs into music festivals are bound to get caught. It keeps the parents happy I suppose.

The Australian Heroin Diaries
The readership rose again for 2009 and is approaching dizzy heights although my family are sick of leaving anonymous comments. I have noticed a lot more hits from Canberra, government departments and strange countries. Stuffed if I know what that all means? I also noticed several active readers who visit at least once a day but I don’t know who they are. Maybe you could drop me an email or comment? Another increase in hits came from the police. Several states checked in including the Australian Federal Police (AFP) but I haven’t been dragged away screaming yet. They could be plotting a national effort though or even arranging a plane for Egypt where they can question me properly. I’ll have to wait and see.

The 2 most common search requests though are “Chinese executions” and “What does heroin feel like”. I still receive hundreds of hits each month for my June 2009 article, Mass Executions - How China Celebrates Anti-Drug Day. Sadly, it seems it’s not for my salubrious writing skills but for the pics I lifted borrowed from another site called About 75% of the Chinese execution hits come via the image searching facility from Google. But the most amount of hits for a text search is via “What does heroin feel like” or similar.

One thing I was not expecting was an award. Jeepers. The Australian Heroin Diaries was chosen as one of the top 8 blogs in 2009 by - This is a news driven blog, that writes about and commentates on different countries drug policies. The author is a recovering heroin addict which gives a unique view and a much different one from politicians on drug politics. A must read for anyone interested in the politics of drug use and substance abuse.
Unfortunately there was no prize money but I am willing to sell my award if anyone is interested. Any takers? I can photoshop out “The Australian Heroin Diaries” and put your name there instead if needed.

What Does It All Mean?
The future for drug law reform looks bright for once. Hopefully, at the next UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 10 years time, prohibition will be just another dirty mark on history like alcohol prohibition is. Cannabis is only a year or 2 away from finally being legalised somewhere although it won’t be Australia. Amazingly, it will probably be the US that first steps out triggering the dominoes to fall in rapid succession. Decriminalisation will also continue be taken up by many countries over the next few years. Aside from that, heroin assisted treatment (HAT) will become more common with Australia at the top of the list.

Resistance will come from the usual suspects - politicians, conservative media loudmouths, religion and moral crusaders. Science and evidence based government policies are the key to success but anti-drug zealots will attempt to muddle logic with family values, morals and “think of the children” type drug hysteria. Not much different to how it happens today.

Ultimately, the public gets smarter every year about complex issues like drugs and as the population ages, almost all of society will have experienced drugs at least once in their life. The typical propaganda and exaggeration that we are currently bombarded with is already being questioned by a large cross section of the community, That will only grow as the truth always comes out in the end. I pity the children and grand children of hard-liners who will have to face the history books with family members being exposed as dangerous liars who ignored the facts for personal gain resulting in the death and misery of many thousands.

The biggest local issue will be what the Rudd government does with drug policy. Apart from the $20 million one-strike illicit drugs policy for sporting codes, spending $18 million on a rehashed advertising campaign from the previous government and the recent media release stating that $4 million will be dished out for tracking drug use and trends, there has been no major drug policy announced. With the push for another heroin trial and calls to establish medical marijuana provisions, it will be interesting to see if Kev’s promise of evidence based policy will prevail.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Why We Can’t Trust A. Stoner

It appears that NSW Nationals leader and acting NSW opposition leader, Andrew Stoner might be a fan of The Australian Heroin Diaries. After constantly reading about his cohorts getting so much attention here, it seems he has made a gallant effort to join them. And his efforts will be rewarded with some well deserved recognition from us. Here we go.

Andrew Stoner ... you’re a DICKHEAD!

Why is Andrew Stoner a dickhead, you ask? Well, Stoner is the latest Australian politician attempting to gain voter support by spreading lies and attacking the scientifically proven drug policy of Harm Minimisation. The outrage was triggered by a pamphlet from NSW Health - Drug Safety: Guide to a Better Night that was reportedly available to young people at “music retailers, clubs, libraries, TAFE bars, universities” etc. Hmm. Aren’t some of these places restricted to adults over 18 years old? When they say, “For God’s Sake, Won’t Someone Think Of The Children”, it must also mean the kids who illegally enter adult-only premises.
To put out a pamphlet that says Guide to a Better Night ... I think it's sending a message that to have a good night you ought to be taking drugs
-NSW Nationals leader, Andrew Stoner

Yes, he did actually say that. Stoner and others feel that giving warnings and safety advice to drug users/addicts somehow triggers kids to suddenly take up drugs or it sends the wrong message that you need drugs to have a good time. A far stretch by anyone’s imagination. The excitement was obviously having an effect on Stoner and he blurted out this beauty.
Clearly, the NSW Labor government has a philosophical approach that legal [sic] drugs are okay as long as you take them safely (but) we don't want anyone to take drugs.
-NSW Nationals leader, Andrew Stoner

It wasn’t clear if Stoner was most upset about kids having access to the pamphlet or if it was a general swing at Harm Minimisation. I don’t think he actually knew himself and it only got worse when the anti-harm minimisation nutters joined the fight. First there was Brett Murray, the motivational speaker, author and everyone’s favourite youth inspirer in the lucrative Jesus circuit.
I think this is just a sheer sign of surrender
There's going to be people out there who commit pre-meditated murder - do we make sure that we have a little pamphlet saying `(ok,) but make sure that you do it in groups'?
-Brett Murray in the Sydney Morning Herald

Followed by our old friend, Darren “Maaate” Marton who gave this magical oration:
Why isn't the government coming out with programs educating young people how to say no to drugs and also how to help their friends? Instead, they keep churning out this harm-minimisation philosophy at the expense of our kids
-No Way Campaign Foundation founder Darren Marton in the Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald were so riveted, they misspelt Darren’s name. And that was it for Darren.

So we have one guy comparing drug use to pre-meditated murder and another warning us that the evil drug policy of Harm Minimisation was costing us our kids. Some profound theories for us all to ponder.

All this hooha because a health safety pamphlet written for 18-29 year old drug users was found at places that young people might visit ... and other age groups as well. What was in this controversial pamphlet that had the NSW opposition apply for it under the FOI act? From various media articles, I found that it includes this:

-Tips for having a safe night
-Urges young people not to use drugs alone
-Advises to ignore friends who put pressure on you to take a drug when you know it doesn't suit you
-Advises young adults about finding the illegal substance that suits their personality type
-And other radical information for our young, delicate readers.
The Opposition yesterday slammed the brochure as a disgrace and families flagged a campaign to force the Government to toughen its anti-drugs messages to young people
-The Daily Telegraph

I want to know why you have to turn 18 to be a drug user/addict. I keep hearing that this information is not suitable for young people. But isn’t this the main flaw behind the anti-harm minimisation argument? - you can not deal with such a complex issue like drug use by slotting people into neat little boxes or using simple, one-size-fits-all policies. If this pamphlet is not available to a 16 or 17 year old, will they simply not take the drug they have just purchased? Is this the type of assumptions you make when you’re so used to regurgitating the, Just Say No myth? I’m sure many anti-drug warriors actually think this way and all the evidence in the world is not going to compete with the back-patting and political point scoring that currently exists.

Acting Opposition leader Andrew Stoner called for the guide to be pulped, saying the harm minimisation message will not solve the problem of drug use
-The Daily Telegraph

I wonder if Stoner really understands what harm minimisation is when he makes such damning statements? Like many of the other dickhead politicians who recently embarrassed themselves, it appears to be a case of political opportunity mixed up with ignorance and personal beliefs. Jumping on the anti-drugs bandwagon might be a proven vote winner but increasingly so, you have to sell your soul to the scientifically challenged group known so fondly as the “Anti-Harm Minimisation Nutters”. That puts Stoner in the elite company of Fred Nile, Steven Fielding, Peter Debnam, Anne Bressington, Bronwyn Bishop, John Howard etc.

Lucky him.

Call To Pulp NSW Government's 'Drugs Are OK' Guide
The Daily Telegraph/AAP
January 2010

A NSW Government brochure advising young adults about safe drug use should be pulped because it sends the wrong message, the state Opposition said.

The brochure Drug Safety: Guide to a Better Night offers tips for drug use and advises young adults about finding the illegal substance that "suits their personality type".

The Government has come under fire for making the pamphlet freely available to young people through outlets such as music retailers, clubs, libraries and universities, with some youth workers saying it "surrenders" in the war against drugs.

But NSW Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt has defended the guide, saying it has been distributed to an 18-29 age group with harm minimisation in mind.

"The Government's first position is that people shouldn't do drugs," she told Macquarie Radio.

Acting Opposition leader Andrew Stoner called for the guide to be pulped, saying the harm minimisation message will not solve the problem of drug use.

"Clearly the NSW Labor Government has a philosophical approach that legal drugs are OK as long as you take them safely (but) we don't want anyone to take drugs," Mr Stoner said.

"This ought to be pulped completely. This is sending a message that illegal drug use is OK.

"We ought to be putting our resources into ensuring kids stay off drugs and, for those who have actually become addicted, into helping to get off drugs."

If the Government does pulp the guide it would be the second time in two years it has been forced to take such drastic action.

In 2008, former health minister Reba Meagher ordered a drug guide aimed at year 9 and 10 students be destroyed because of community outrage over its similar harm minimisation approach.

Related Articles:
Accepting drug use does not mean condoning it - SMH

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Will The Daily Telegraph Writer Who Wrote This Crap Please Own Up

It doesn’t get any funnier than this.

An article(below) from The Daily Telegraph pushing that moralist cornerstone, the failed Just Say No anti-drug slogan continues with a story about a mystical cancer cure attributed to the miraculous powers of pending saint, Sister Mary MacKillop. It seems apt that miracles, God and divine intervention are gracing the same page as a moralist pushing tougher drug policies, a Just Say No ideology and drug education made especially to please the religious right, parents and voters. Who needs science, research, facts and weak minded junkies who can’t say no to drugs, when we could have miracles, faith and our prisons full of nasty drug addicts?

Mixing The Drugs Message
The Daily Telegraph
January 2010

WHEN it comes to doing drugs, the message should be "Just Say No".

Drugs are illegal to people of all ages and the problem with these so-called drug safety pamphlets is that they can be accessed by everyone - including impressionable children under 18.

Although the campaign is targeted at the 18 to 29-year-old market, the brochures can be found in places like public libraries or at rock concerts where teenagers are known to congregate.

But the issue should not only be about the age but about a drug education policy which needs to be overhauled.

The Government needs a tougher policy that sends an uncomplicated, unambiguous and more easily understood message to everyone - young and old - to just say no to drugs.

New research revealed at the weekend showed that ecstasy abuse is at an all time high, underlining that the message just doesn't seem to be getting through.

Drug education should primarily be about preventing drug use, not minimising the harm - basically to stop disaster before it occurs. It's too late after the horse has already bolted - and in the case of drug use the consequences can be irreversible.

The Daily Telegraph revealed inappropriate drug material was being circulated 18 months ago, forcing the State Government to act and pulp the material.

It is inconceivable it has happened again. Although the Government's message about drug use is ambiguous there is one thing that this debacle makes clear and that is authorities have run out of ideas on how to control drug abuse by teenagers. 

Miracles Of An Ordinary Kind

KATHLEEN Evans describes herself as an ordinary miracle. She says she was just an ordinary mum who contracted a horrible disease that was expected to take her life prematurely. And then something extraordinary happened - 10 months after doctors delivered her death sentence, Kathleen's cancer was cured.

The Evans family, Kathleen's friends, parish and now the Pope attribute this amazing survival story to the miraculous powers of Sister Mary MacKillop.

Their story has already been met with rolled eyes and sighs of disbelief from those who scoff at the notion of miracles and divine intervention. But they don't care - and nor should they.

At its core, the story of Kathleen Evans and the pending sainthood of Mary MacKillop is not all about religion or the traditions and customs of the Catholic Church. This is a story about hope and a grateful family who once had none.

It is a story about faith, courage and optimism. It is a story about the power of community and it reaffirms that when things get tough salvation - or in this case life - can be found in the support of others.

And that's something that should be celebrated by everyone, regardless of their religious persuasion.

Who writes this crap? Whoever it is, they don’t want their name associated with the piece as there is no author listed. I would’t own up either.
The Government needs a tougher policy that sends an uncomplicated, unambiguous and more easily understood message to everyone - young and old - to just say no to drugs.
-The Daily Telegraph

Hey, that’s a good idea! But hasn’t that strategy been tried before? Yes, the type of strategy that causes all the problems mentioned a few lines later. The very strategy that is now being blamed for tens of thousands of deaths over the last 10 years or maybe even a million deaths since it was first uttered by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s. Blaming the drug problem on Harm Minimisation is simply wrong as HM has never fully been implemented. Only the parts that suit the current policies have been implemented and a spattering of Harm Reduction programs like needle exchanges.
Drug education should primarily be about preventing drug use, not minimising the harm - basically to stop disaster before it occurs. It's too late after the horse has already bolted - and in the case of drug use the consequences can be irreversible.
-The Daily Telegraph

We can’t have both? If the author actually understood Harm Minimisation they would realise that it is made up of 3 strategies and not just Harm Reduction.
Demand Reduction (prevention, education and wide treatment options)
Demand-reduction strategies work to discourage people from starting to use drugs, and encourage those who do use drugs to use less or to stop. A mixture of information and education, along with regulatory controls and financial penalties, help to make drug use less attractive. A good example of a demand-reduction strategy was the graphic health information advertisements that 'Every cigarette is doing you damage'. Treatment is another example; it works to reduce a drug user's need to use drugs.

Supply Reduction (customs, law enforcement, the criminal justice and prison systems)
Supply control strategies involve legislation, regulatory controls and law enforcement. An example of a supply control strategy is liquor licensing laws restricting the sale of alcohol to persons aged 18 and over.

Harm Reduction (user education, needle programs, pharmacotherapies, etc).
Harm-reduction strategies have been controversial, because they work to reduce the risks of harm, but not necessarily to reduce drug use. For example, introducing low-alcohol beer means that people can still drink beer, but the long-term health risks can be reduced. Another example is providing injecting drug users with access to clean equipment through needle syringe programs. By reducing the risk of blood-borne infections such as hepatitis C and HIV being transferred, the risks are reduced for both the individual and the community as a whole.

Source: Australia Drug Foundation

By far, most attention is already on law enforcement followed by education. The evil Harm Reduction only receives a miserly 3% of the government’s drug budget.

Supply Prevention 56%
Harm Prevention 23%
Treatment 17%
Harm Reduction 3%

So there. A quick lesson from a drug addict blogger who sadly knows more than the imperious author poncing about as some sort of authoritative morals expert.

Related Articles:
Free Drugs Guide Offer To Children
Journalist Should Be Ashamed
Piers Akerman, His Readers, Oxycodone and The Truth
Drug Hysteria - Headlines from News Ltd.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Spinning Drug-Driving - Victorian Police Style

I have no problem with arresting those who drink-drive or take drugs and drive. I don’t care what the drug is ... driving while impaired is dangerous. And please, none of the crap saying, “driving while stoned actually makes you safer because you’re more cautious”. It’s just not true. Although cannabis has nowhere near the same level of impairment as alcohol, it still does hinder your driving.

I do have a problem though with the current proposal put forward by the Victorian police. The police say they want to bring drug-driving laws into line with drink-driving and have proposed new penalties similar to the drink-driving laws. Drink-driving penalties are determined by the alcohol content in your blood (bac) and reflects how badly it impairs your driving ability. Under a certain bac, there should be no effect on your driving skills and therefore no penalty. All very logical and scientific. The proposed drug-driving laws though do not a have a minimum level which is in effect, a zero content requirement. Some zealots say that drugs are illegal anyway so anything but a zero reading is worthy of a penalty. This just opens up a loophole where the police can use random drug-driving testing as an excuse to gain an arrest to investigate another crime.

As there is no evidence on the correlation between the level of presence of a drug and the level of impairment, it stands to reason that it is also flawed to determine a penalty regime based on alcohol which is currently scaled to reflect the seriousness of an offence based on impairment. As there is no scientific data to relate fluid/saliva samples to impairment levels, a mirroring of penalty is inappropriate.
-Civil Liberties Australia submission for Review of ACT Alcohol and Drug Driving Laws

The major flaw with this proposal is that unlike alcohol, some drugs can linger in the body for weeks or even months. Cannabis can last for up to 6 weeks or more in your system but any impairment on one’s driving ability has long gone. Imagine being in a room full of dope smokers one weekend and being busted for drug-driving the following Thursday because of passive smoking. What about if you took an ecstasy pill on Saturday night and got arrested on Tuesday for drug-driving? If it’s your second offence, you might be fined $7,000 and have your car impounded.This is simply illogical and not appropriate in a supposedly advanced society.

While this data should be available from the ACT hospitals, it needs to be also presented in the context of drug impairment and elapsed time from the drug consumption to the accident, noting that drug residue will show up in testing well after any impairment may have been a factor of an accident.
-Civil Liberties Australia submission for Review of ACT Alcohol and Drug Driving Laws

The proposal irks me for several reasons apart from the obvious. Where’s the opposition to it? Who is taking the Victorian Police to task over such a blatant act of silliness? Isn’t the Shadow Police Minister suppose to keep the government in check when it comes to these issues? What about using blood samples taken from drug-driving offences to pursue an arrest for drug use?

I’m disappointed in the Victorian Police especially Deputy Commissioner Ken Lay. I thought we had finally ended the Nixon era with a rational Police Commissioner who openly supports Harm Minimisation and drug law reform. So why did Police Commissioner, Simon Overland let this proposal slip through? Are we back to the days of telling only half-truths?

Ken Lay made some remarkable comments which sounded very much like a blurb from a politician. When compared to the comments in the article made by an actual politician, the State Roads Minister Tim Pallas, it would be hard to tell who said what.

That's a strike rate of one in 67... much higher than the drink-driving rate
-Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Ken Lay

In fact, there are more drivers killed with illicit drugs in their bodies than drivers with illegal levels of alcohol
-Victorian State Roads Minister Tim Pallas

Of course there are going to be more drug-drivers detected when some drugs linger in your body for months but alcohol is gone within 24 hours or usually less. What they also don’t mention is that while most road fatalities involving alcohol has alcohol as the cause of the accident, drugs are not responsible for most of the fatalities where drugs are detected.

Similarly, the presence of a drug(s) in an accident driver does not by itself infer that the driver caused or contributed to the accident.
-Civil Liberties Australia submission for Review of ACT Alcohol and Drug Driving Laws

This is a textbook example of spin at it’s best. By leaving out a few simple facts, much of the public will buy into it and the Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner and State Roads Minister will achieve their goal. I must say, it’s pretty sad that our police and elected officials stoop to this level so readily considering it’s 2010. Hang your heads in shame Ken Lay and Tim Pallas, hang them low.

Police Set To Crack Down On Drug Drivers With Licence Suspensions And $350 Fines From Mid-2010
Herald Sun
Stephen McMahon with AAP
December 2009

STONERS and party drug users who get caught behind the wheel face tougher new drug-driving penalties as part of a fresh crackdown to lower the state's road toll.

The State Government plans to introduce laws into Parliament next year that will include an automatic three-month licence suspension and a $350 fine for anybody caught driving while high.

The new laws will bring the penalties for drug-driving into line with drink-driving and are expected to take effect in mid-2010.

The drug test can detect speed, ecstasy and marijuana but can't pick up cocaine or heroin.

But Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ken Lay said roadside sobriety tests could be used to catch heroin and cocaine users who were driving under the influence.

"In the last financial year, almost 23,000 roadside drug tests were conducted with 341 offenders caught with an illicit substance in their system,'' Mr Lay said.

"That's a strike rate of one in 67... much higher than the drink-driving rate.''

Mr Lay admitted the drug testing had such a high strike rate because the police specifically tested major party hot spots.

"We know there are drug-affected motorists on the roads and a mandatory loss of licence will be an extra deterrent to those dangerous drivers,'' he said.

State Roads Minister Tim Pallas said traces of one or more illicit drugs were found in 30 per cent of drivers who died on Victoria's roads each year.

"In fact, there are more drivers killed with illicit drugs in their bodies than drivers with illegal levels of alcohol,'' he said.

"If the driver is caught drug-driving a second time they face a penalty imposed by the court of up to $7000 as well as a licence cancellation of at least six months.''

Two-time offenders may have their car impounded under laws announced in May.

"Motorists will see more enforcement through roadside drug testing programs, with an additional 20,000 tests - bringing the total to approximately 35,000 across Victoria - to be conducted in 2010,'' Mr Pallas said.

The road toll in Victoria stands at 283 -- down 13 on the same time last year.

The Brumby Government is aiming to reduce the annual road toll by 30 per cent within seven years.

Related Articles:
Creeping Police State
Human Rights And Random Roadside Drug Testing
Response by Civil Liberties Australia to Discussion Paper: Review of the Road Transport(Alcohol and Drugs) Act
FFDLR Submission on The Discussion Paper: Review of the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Drug Prohibition Doesn't Work - So What Do We Do Next?

Excellent article from Chris Middendorp. It really doesn't get better than this.

Drug Prohibition Doesn't Work - So What Do We Do Next?
The Age
By Chris Middendorp
January 2010

Australia needs to join the growing worldwide debate on new policies.

IT'S not Suzanne's fault that she became addicted to heroin at 16. For a while it numbed the emotional pain of the abuse she suffered as a ward of the state. Four years later, she uses heroin three times a day just to feel normal. She never knows how strong it will be and has overdosed six times in the past year. Without the first aid of ambulance officers, Suzanne would be dead - like four of her friends who died from overdoses in the past year.

Suzanne's habit costs more than $1000 a week. She engages in street sex work - the only way she has to raise that kind of money. Suzanne is sometimes beaten by the men who pay her for sex. She needs to spend every dollar she can generate on maintaining her heroin addiction. She sleeps on the streets and often goes hungry. Last winter, pneumonia nearly finished her off. She has criminal records for possession and street prostitution. She can't get a conventional job.

For many Australian drug users, the criminalisation of drugs continues to create significant misery. The more radical drug policy reformers would argue that if Suzanne could pick up a regulated dose of heroin from a chemist for $5 a day (as addicts can methadone), she could establish a healthy and safe life. In other words, her regrettable situation is largely caused by drug laws, not by the heroin itself.

It's a fair point. While current drug laws have not stopped people using drugs, they have produced two dreadful by-products. They have spawned a ruthless black market generating billions of dollars, and have turned users, often teenagers, into criminals.

Despite legal prohibition, the number of people who use illicit drugs is greater now than ever. Taking as an example marijuana, which accounts for two-thirds of all drug arrests, more than 2 million Australians will smoke this substance over the next year.

But there are indications that times may be changing. Barack Obama's Administration is the first to stop using the ''war on drugs'' rhetoric that Richard Nixon initiated when he declared the conflict 40 years ago. Obama has even said publicly that the war has been an "utter failure". This is momentous. Until recently, America had been a hectoring advocate of drug policies involving prohibition and zero tolerance - with Australia marching to the beat of their drum. In 1988, the US Congress actually passed laws declaring that the US would be drug-free by 1995. Billions of dollars have been wasted on policing, yet drugs remain a central fact of American life.

In several Latin American countries and in mainland Europe, legislators have already brought about significant reforms in drug policy in recent times. This has not involved an open-slather legalisation of drugs, but the decriminalisation of personal possession and use. Most famously, in 2001 Portugal decriminalised all drugs - from heroin to cocaine - and, to many people's surprise, overall drug use actually fell.

In Switzerland, giving addicts free heroin in supervised clinics has been deemed a success, with begging, prostitution, homelessness and burglary all dropping dramatically. A national referendum in 2008 voted overwhelmingly to retain the program, which began as a trial in 1994.

The focus of any drug debate should not be morals or the law; it should concentrate on the welfare of human beings. The common use of the term "junkie" helps us to maintain the belief that users of substances are in some way lesser beings. Part of the reason we've comfortably followed the prohibition path for so long has been mainstream culture's view of drug users as subhuman creatures who need redemption. What they really need is medical support and laws that make sense.

In Britain, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a respected drug reform group, has been working to dispel ignorance and prejudice. Believing that the time for action is now, the group recently published After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation. The document is generating worldwide support from doctors, lawmakers and commentators. It pivots on the question that if we can accept that prohibition does not work, what do we do next? How we answer this is vital.

After the War harnesses a great deal of intellectual firepower to argue the case for drug reform and social transformation. It examines how decriminalisation might work with strict regulations for vendors, outlets and venues where drugs could be used. It will upset the orthodoxy and exhilarate reformers.

The most common argument in favour of maintaining a ''war on drugs'' is that drugs are harmful. But we know that if we had to rate drugs by the harm they actually did, then alcohol and cigarettes would go to the top of the list. Regulation and education are the key. It is always worth recalling that when America made alcohol illegal through prohibition in 1919, they created powerful crime figures such as Al Capone, and people started drinking seriously dangerous moonshine, more potent than wine or beer.

Many people don't think seriously about drug use until a family member becomes affected. The law and order populism of the ''war on drugs'' has been allowed to develop precisely because free debate and careful thinking has been sidelined. Let's hope those days are numbered.

Chris Middendorp is a community worker and writer.