Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Drug Survey from ABC's Hungry Beast

An interesting survey was commissioned by the ABC TV show, Hungry Beast. I have included some brief technical details and the questions. Go to the Hungry Beast website for the answers.


Drugs Survey
Conducted for Hungry Beast 
February 2010 

Aimee Whiting 
Research Consultant 
McNair Ingenuity Research 
Level 4, 270 Pacific Hwy  
Crows Nest NSW 2065 

The questionnaire consisted of closed-ended questions about using illegal drugs and people’s attitudes to illegal drugs in Australian society.

Overall, 1008 adults in Australia were surveyed via an online survey between 25th February and 1st March 2010. 

According to Dr Jon Krosnick of Stamford University, a leading analyst of comparative research design, in a paper published in December 2008 (National Surveys Via RDD Telephone Interviewing vs. the Internet: Comparing Sample Representativeness and Response Quality), online respondent can be more accurate and more honest than when responding to many other survey methods. A sample size of 1000 means a margin of error of +/-1.4 – +/-3.10 at the 95% confidence level. When looking at sub-samples, the margin of error is larger.  

Q1. To the best of your knowledge, have any of your friends ever tried or used illegal drugs? 

Q2. Have you personally ever tried or used illegal drugs? 

Q3. Have you ever taken or used a prescription drug that was not prescribed for you? 

Q4. Which of the following are reasons why you have tried or used illegal drugs or illegally obtained prescription drugs?  
(please select all that apply) 
a. I took it accidentally/didn’t know I was taking it 
b. my friends were using it, so I thought I’d try it 
c. to be part of a group 
d. because my friends pressured me to use it 
e. to see what it was like / curiosity 
f. to have fun 
g. to help overcome shyness and make social interaction easier 
h. to stay awake 
i. to get to sleep 
j. because I was feeling down/unhappy 
k. to help cope with life 
l. to ease physical pain 
m. to get out of it 
n. because the drug was there 
o. to ease boredom 
p. because I tried it before and I liked it 
q. because I was addicted 
r. it seemed like a good idea at the time 
s. for creative inspiration 
t. to enhance sexual experiences 
u. to enhance other experiences 
v. for spiritual reasons or seeking enlightenment 
w. for research purposes 
x. Other (Specify)________________________ 

Q5. In the last 5 years have you used: (please select all that apply) 
 a. Marijuana? 
 b. Ecstasy (MDMA)? 
 c. Speed (Meth-Amphetamine)? 
 d. Cocaine?  
 e. LSD (Acid)? 
 f. Mephedrone (Meow, “Plant Food”)? 
 g. Any other illegal drug? 
 h. None  

Q6. In the last year have you used: (display only those selected in Q5 and ‘none of the 
above’, please select all that apply) 
 a. Marijuana? 
 b. Ecstasy (MDMA)? 
 c. Speed (Meth-Amphetamine)? 
 d. Cocaine?  
 e. LSD (Acid)? 
 f. Mephedrone (Meow, “Plant Food”)? 
 g. Any other illegal drug? 
 h. None  

Q7. Before now, have you ever considered the effect that your consumption of illegal drugs might have: 
a. on the environment? 
b. on the lives of people involved in the production and supply of that drug? 

Q8. Please rate your agreement with the following statements: 

People who try or use (but do not sell) illegal drugs should have a criminal record 
People who try or use (but do not sell) illegal drugs should go to prison 
Government policies dealing with illegal drug use are effective 
Police resources should be applied to more serious crimes than pursuing people for trying or using small amounts of illegal drugs 
Some illegal drugs cause more harm than others 

The following questions are about decriminalising illegal drug use in Australia. 
By decriminalise,  we mean a situation in which the production, importation, distribution and sale of large amounts of drugs would still be illegal, but the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use would not attract criminal penalties such as prison or a criminal record. 

Q9. If illegal drug use was decriminalised: 
a. Do you think our society would be worse off? 
b. Do you think people would be more likely to try or use drugs? 
c. Would you personally be more likely to try or use drugs? 
d. Do you think people would use drugs more often? 
e. Would you personally use drugs more often? 

Q10. For each of the following drugs, please indicate whether you are in favour or not in favour of that drug being decriminalised for small amounts for personal use.  
Reminder: By decriminalise,  we mean a situation in which the production, importation, distribution and sale of large amounts of drugs would still be illegal, but the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use would not attract criminal penalties such as prison or a criminal record. 
Ecstasy (MDMA) 
Speed (Meth-Amphetamine) 
All illegal drugs 
No illegal drugs 

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Drug Law that Sends You to Jail for Helping

A disturbing new trend is emerging in Australia that I thought was only happening in the US. Anyone who supplies drugs for someone or helps them inject is being jailed if that someone dies from an overdose. This is not aimed at unscrupulous criminals who sell contaminated drugs but anyone including dealers, friends or fellow drug users who physically provide the drugs. Someone overdosing using too much heroin should not be the fault of the person supplying the drugs whether they are dealers or not. They are simply handing over a product for a buyer/user/friend who will obtain the product somewhere, regardless of where it comes from. What if it’s just two friends and one of them has been elected or volunteers to pool their money and purchase the drugs for both of them? According to the courts, it doesn’t matter and prison is a certainty.

I have trouble grasping this concept because it is singling out drug users. Not long ago, the courts dealt with someone trying to sue a bar owner who served drinks to an intoxicated man just a few hours before he had a fatal car accident. This raised the issue of responsible serving of alcohol and whether bartenders had an obligation to refuse alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. Some countries and states have made it an offence to serve intoxicated patrons but one thing is for sure, they won’t being going to prison for 10-15 years.

One reoccurring issue that also worries me is how some users are being arrested for injecting someone who has asked for their help and then overdoses. I have been in this situation dozens of times where either myself or a friend needs help injecting. Not once has it ever entered my mind that you could be arrested if one of us overdosed and died. What sort of bizarre system punishes you for helping a fellow human to do something safely? Something they are going to attempt regardless of whether you help or not? If you have seen the movie, Requiem For A Dream, you will understand what can happen to your arm if it becomes infected from injecting. Here’s a hint ... it ain’t pleasant! Do you really just refuse a friend who needs help and risk them getting abscesses in their arm or even worse ... wasting the shot of heroin?

And lastly, today’s conspiracy theory. Are these laws designed to torment drug users? There’s very little logic involved and it only applies to drugs so someone, somewhere has made a conscious decision to write a law that can create turmoil between friends intravenously using drugs. Whatever reason was behind these laws, I cannot see one benefit. It will though increase deaths and harm, create tension between drug using friends and fuel the fear of prosecution that already prevents users from ringing an ambulance when someone overdoses.

Woman Jailed Over Fatal Heroin Sale
By ACT court reporter Katherine Pohl
Posted March 2010

A 32-year-old Canberra woman who sold a fatal dose of heroin to another user has been sentenced to six months in jail.

Melissa Anne Bennett from Rivett pleaded guilty to trafficking a controlled drug.

She sold nearly 2 grams of heroin to a woman in May 2008.

They injected half a gram together before the woman left.

The buyer was later found dead in a Watson hotel.

The ACT Magistrates Court heard Bennett has mental health issues but she has improved in recent times.

Magistrate Beth Campbell said supplying heroin can have horrendous consequences, as seen in this case.

But she acknowledged the death of the woman had weighed on the defendant's mind.

She sentenced her to 18 months in jail but that will be suspended after she serves six months.

Mckinney Woman Sentenced To 10 Years For Heroin-Injection Death Of Best Friend
By Ed Housewright
March 2010

MCKINNEY — A woman convicted of killing her best friend by injecting her with heroin was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

Kristin Metz, 29, had faced a possible life term in the 2008 murder of Stevie May. The lesser sentence resulted from an agreement between prosecutors and Metz’ defense team that was approved by state District Judge Ray Wheless. No witnesses testified during the punishment phase.

As part of the deal, the defense waived the right to appeal.

"It was a fair sentence," said lead prosecutor John Lee Schomburger. "There was not any intent to kill."

Defense attorney Tom D'Amore said he also was pleased with the sentence: "It was avoid the risk to our client of a greater sentence."

A Collin County jury found her guilty Friday of causing May’s death by injecting her with heroin at her request.

The verdict in the unusual trial came moments before state District Judge Ray Wheless was about to send the panel home for the weekend. When the verdict was announced, May's mother, Kathleen May, sobbed openly in the courtroom.

A few feet away, Metz, 29, appeared calm. But she broke down in tears moments later as her attorney, Scott Palmer, sought to reassure her.

"How could they do this?" she pleaded. "How do I have any faith in justice?"

The case against Metz was considered a rarity because she was charged with murdering someone who authorities acknowledge was voluntarily committing the same criminal act: possession of heroin.

Evidence at the trial shows that at the behest of May, Metz purchased heroin from a Carrollton dealer so they both could use it back at the McKinney apartment Metz shared with her husband. But when May had trouble injecting herself, Metz — her best friend — did it for her, authorities say. The 21-year-old mother died inside Metz's apartment.

Body In Troy, Ill., Cemetery Was Heroin Overdose
By Terry Hillig
March 2010

TROY, ILL. — A man found dead in a cemetery in Troy this week suffered a heroin overdose during a drug binge with a longtime friend who has been charged in the incident, police said Thursday. 

The body of Chad Q. Bell, 29, of Troy, was found Tuesday in Friedens Cemetery, along Illinois Route 162 in that community.

His friend, Michael E. Bovinett, 36, also of Troy, was arrested Wednesday night and charged Thursday with drug-induced homicide, concealment of a homicidal death and obstructing justice, officials said.

Major Jeff Connor, deputy commander of the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis, said the two men had used drugs together in the hours before Bell's death. 

According to the charges, Bovinett injected Bell with heroin, which killed him.

Prosecutors claim Bovinett concealed the death by leaving Bell's body in the cemetery, and lied to investigators about it.

Bovinett, of the 100 block of Wayland Street, was held in the Madison County Jail in Edwardsville in lieu of $1 million bail.

Connor declined to say where the men spent the hours before Bell's death, but he did say that heroin was becoming more prevalent.

"Heroin is becoming a very cheap drug, and it's easy to find," the detective said.

Bell was last seen alive about 9 p.m. Monday. Connor said it appeared he was already dead when Bovinett left the body at the cemetery.

Port Huron Woman Charged In Heroin Overdose Death
March 2010

Shelly Lynn Campbell, 35, of Port Huron has been charged with providing the heroin that led to a Port Huron man’s overdose death.

Larry Thomas Sobczak Jr., 31, was found dead Jan 30 in his Pine Street apartment. The St. Clair County Medical Examiner’s office determined he died of a heroin overdose. Investigators believe Campbell provided Sobczak with the heroin.

She was arraigned Sunday and is being held on $10,000 bond. A preliminary exam on the charge of delivery of a controlled substance causing death is set for March 9.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Drug Hysteria Explodes in State Politics

First we had Mike Rann and his deceitful attempt to criticise Isobel Redmond for telling the truth about ecstasy and now the Tasmanian Labor Party is wrongly hammering The Greens for wanting to legalise and regulate heroin. The problem is that The Greens’ policy does NOT support legalising any drug let alone heroin. Oops. The Greens changed their drug policy to be more mainstream before the last Tasmanian election in 2006. So what is it with Labor and the sudden burst of sleazy politics and drug hysteria. It’s usually the Libs who are masters of moral panic over the issue of drugs.

Well, it appears that drug hysteria might be in fashion at the moment. State premiers; Mike Rann, Colin Barnett, Jon Stanhope and David Bartlett are all responsible for lashings of drug hysteria over the last few months. The Barlett Labor government in Tasmania were caught quoting The Greens out of context and this comes just days after the SA Rann Labor government did the same. The ACT Stanhope government recently criticised the Liberal opposition for proposing “safe limits” on certain drugs when being tested for drug-driving. Much like 0.05 being the maximum blood-alcohol content for drivers. The irony being that Stanhope originally supported this logical and much requested requirement. Stanhope also quoted the opposition out of context by focussing on the term, “safe limits” which referred to the different impairment levels of different drugs. It might sound completely logical but what politician could resist saying “there is NO SAFE limit for illicit drugs”. And who could forget the WA premier, Colin Barnett and his abysmal attempt at rejecting science, research and evidence that the drug policy at the time was working as intended. As if straight from the Politician’s Handbook of Dodgy Policy Making, Barnett, attorney general Christian Porter and fellow Liberal Party hacks repealed a successful policy on cannabis and replaced it with a tired old rehash you would expect to find in North Queensland, Texas or Family First’s social policy.

What the political parties fail to comprehend is that drug prohibition and their “Tough on Drugs” rhetoric is causing massive damage to our society. What they do understand very well though, is that after decades of disinformation and scare mongering, it has also become a sure vote winner for politicians who push the “Tough on Drugs” message to an ignorant and misinformed public. Traditionally, only The Greens and The Democrats were brave enough not to play the popular political game of who’s tougher on drugs but since the near demise of The Democrats and a policy change from The Greens, there is no longer a mainstream party actively pursuing drug law reform. But there’s no need to lay in wait for a new radical drug policy to attack. This is Australian politics and you can just make it up.

Labor Campaign Gets Dirty
By Sue Neales
March 2010

THE State Government has resorted to a massive scare campaign in the last four days before the election.

The party's latest advertising pamphlet alleges the Tasmanian Greens plan to legalise heroin.

The Labor Party yesterday dispatched 40,000 of its "Extreme Greens" colour flyers across Tasmania, to be delivered by Labor volunteers into letterboxes.

The two-sided leaflet highlights what it calls the Greens' "plan to legalise heroin" and to give Tasmania's "worst criminals the right to vote".

The flyer tells voters: "Say NO to the Greens' extreme drug and criminals voting plans. Vote Labor."

The damaging claims against the Greens are accompanied by a large photo of a syringe and an image of a criminal's fists clutching the bars with his fingers tattooed "Extreme Greens".

Labor Party state secretary John Dowling claimed the Greens were hiding their extremist policies behind a moderate front, with Greens leader "Slick Nick" McKim deliberately keeping voters in the dark about his real intentions.

But Mr McKim said the pamphlets were desperate last-ditch lies being peddled by a panicking and dirt-slinging Labor Party.

He denied the Greens had any plans to legalise heroin or any illicit drugs and condemned the Labor advertisements as the "worst type of untruth".

He also said statements the Labor pamphlets alleged were said by Greens MP Cassy O'Connor in Parliament last year bore no relation to truth or to what Ms O'Connor had actually said.

But Mr McKim did acknowledge that the Greens party website reference to giving the vote to all criminals did not exactly reflect the policy he stated last week.

Mr McKim said the website could not be changed until grassroots Greens members had voted on the policy change but he described his position requiring judges and magistrates to make individual assessments about the right to vote as further detail of the existing policy.

Mr Dowling said more than 15,000 pamphlets had been sent to the North-West and West Coast electorate of Braddon.

Braddon is regarded as a pivotal electorate in the state election on Saturday, with the Labor Government desperate to retain its three seats and to prevent Greens candidate Paul O'Halloran entering Parliament.

The latest EMRS opinion poll released on Sunday showed Labor in danger of losing one seat in Braddon to the Greens.

The rest of the anti-Greens brochures will be posted to household letterboxes in Lyons, Bass, Denison and Franklin this week.

The Government is facing losing power on Saturday, with polls all indicating Tasmanians will elect a parliament in which neither Labor nor the Liberals hold a majority of the 25 House of Assembly seats.

In such a minority government result, the Greens appear likely to win five or six seats and to be left holding the balance of power.

Both the Labor and Liberal parties have repeatedly said they will refuse to govern in any coalition or joint agreement with the Greens.

Mr Dowling said it was clear from reading Hansard parliamentary debates last year that the Greens did have a plan to legalise heroin.

He pointed to comments made by Greens health spokeswoman Cassy O'Connor during a debate about amendments to the Poisons Act as evidence that the Greens wanted to legalise heroin.

It strings together comments such as "I accept that heroin is not the scourge on our society that it used to be" with another comment, "We know prohibition is not the solution -- it does not work".

But a fuller version of the debate suggests that Ms O'Connor's comments have a much less contentious meaning when read in context.

According to Hansard during parliamentary debate on the Poison Amendment Bill on May 27, Ms O'Connor said: "I accept that heroin is not the scourge on our society that it used to be, thank goodness, although today our young people are exposed to a frightening cornucopia of illicit drugs.

"Harm minimisation is the key. We know prohibition is not the solution. It does not work.

"In fact, for some, it makes the obtaining of a substance even more enticing."

In the same debate, Health Minister Lara Giddings also said she believed Tasmania had "little or no heroin use" although prescribed opioids were being misused in the state.

Mr Dowling said the leaflets were all about holding the Greens to account in the final week of the state election campaign, exposing what he called "extremist policies".

But a furious Mr McKim said Tasmanians were now presented with a choice, to trust either him or the Premier.

"They can either believe me or David Bartlett and I will put my integrity up against David Bartlett's any day," Mr McKim said.

"He is a premier who has continually deceived Tasmania but I am happy for Tasmanians to sit in judgment."

What the Greens drug policy says:
Support strong criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for the supply of illicit drugs and the possession of illicit drugs above quantities consistent with personal use; introduce disincentives for the personal use of illicit drugs to include diversion programs, compulsory treatment, education programs and penalties.

Tasmanian Health Minister Lara Giddings
Did you notice that the Health Minister Lara Giddings, said she believed Tasmania had "little or no heroin use"?! Not only does Giddings believe there is "little or no heroin use" in Tasmania but her ”expert advice” believes the same ... and according to her, so do the police. I am finding it hard to grasp that this comment actually came from a state government Health Minister. But it was not just her bizarre ignorance that was on display. It was also the disgraceful tactics from Lara Giddings . 

Cassy O'Connor: Minister has suggested in her contribution that Tasmania has little or no heroin use. I believe it is highly wishful thinking to state that Tasmania has no heroin use. If we do not, we are unlike every other Australian state, and our society unlike any other in the Western world. Of course there are Tasmanians who are addicted to heroin, and are using it frequently. I accept that heroin is not the scourge on our society that it used to be, thank goodness, although today our young people are exposed to a frightening cornucopia of illicit drugs. Our culture encourages binge drinking of alcohol, a legal drug. I defy the minister to prove heroin is not being used at all in Tasmania. That is "notionally insane".

Lara Giddings: I want to know what circles you mix in?

Cassy O'Connor: Just get out and talk to normal people more.

Lara Giddings: I am just getting my expert advice here, but I'm just a bit worried about the circles you move in.

Cassy O'Connor: I am very comfortable with my circle of friends; I am in touch and I would suggest that if you think that there are no heroin users at all in Tasmania, you are way out of touch.

Lara Giddings: I am just saying that if you think it is widespread, that is not the advice that I am getting. I am reassured that police and my agency would know if it was more than that.

Cassy O'Connor: Do you think that every heroin user in Tasmania comes to the attention of police and/or the authorities?

This is appalling behaviour from Lara Giddings and if anything, it just firms up my belief that the integrity and standard of politicians has reached an all time low. 

Giddings repeated the Labor line that voters needed to look below the "moderate and smooth" surface of Greens Leader Nick McKim, to the "bizarre and extreme" things the Greens are really promising.

"In one debate we actually had Cassy O'Connor saying we should be decriminalising heroin," Giddings said to the Mercury, four days before Labor released its shock leaflets featuring hypodermic syringes and claims that the Greens wanted to legalise heroin.

"I'm most concerned. Scratch the surface and you have a lot of extreme positioning there by the Greens."

The big question remains - how far is Labor willing to go this week to discredit The Greens when they might have to negotiate with them next week to form government. You have to wonder if Bartlett and co. have really thought this out.

Mr Bartlett refused to concede this was false or even acknowledge Labor had mounted a negative campaign. He said the Greens, who aspired to be kingmakers after the campaign, were evading genuine scrutiny.

''I don't understand why it is [that] when I'm scrutinised it's called policy, and when the Greens and Liberals are scrutinised it's called dirty tricks,'' he said.

The Media
The article above from Sue Neales of The Mercury is an important piece that represents what has been painfully missing for so long. When was the last time you saw a MSM outlet, especially from the Murdoch stables, expose a politician or political party for lying about drugs? Almost daily, we see the media beefing up blatant lies from politicians about the effects of certain drugs or their “Tough on Drugs” solution that only makes the problem worse. If it was any other subject, the media would screaming blue murder at the contradiction with scientific evidence and carefully researched facts. But when it comes to illicit substances, it seems that politicians are free to make any claim they want. Although there is a slow growing maturity to addressing the issue of illicit drugs, much of the media still exaggerate the harms, use worst case scenarios or resort to that tired, old cliché about “sending the wrong message to children”. What ever convinced The Mercury to allow Sue Neales to lash out and expose the slimy tactics from the Labor Party is greatly welcomed in today’s environment of moral panic and drug hysteria. I somehow doubt it will catch on but I am keen to lap up any great news article that shows what journalism is really about. Well done Sue and The Mercury.

Related Articles
Greens Poised As Kingpins As Tasmanian Poll Sours - Sydney Morning Herald
You decide: The drug debate - The Mercury
Labor ringing up the dirt - The Mercury

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Arguing Over Who Is The Bigger Moron ... And Rann's Deceitful Ad.

Jeremy Hanson vs. Jon Stanhope

In a frenzy to implement drug driving laws, the ACT Liberal opposition has pumped the serving Labor government for rejecting their bill. The ALP government criticised the bill for having varying minimum legal limits for different types of drugs. If it seems logical to you that the new laws reflect the level of impairment as opposed to just a zero limit then you are not alone. Some drugs can linger in your system for weeks or months while not having any effect on your capacity to drive. This was the main concern of rights groups who wanted drug driving penalties to reflect the level of impairment based on scientific research and not just a blanket zero limit policy. The problem being that some drugs can remain in your system after the effect has worn off but alcohol has a direct link between what’s in your blood and your level of impairment.

“His unfounded attacks are based on the false statement that the Canberra Liberals RDT Legislation would test for safe limits of illegal drugs rather than test for the presence of certain illegal drugs. This is incorrect.  My legislation clearly tests for the presence of illicit drugs and states that for a prescribed illicit drug, ‘any concentration of the drug present in the blood’ would be an offence.”
-Shadow Minister for Everything, Jeremy Hanson MLA( LP) - Media Release February 2010

Several groups made submissions to the government voicing their concerns that the bill proposal would overlook scientific evidence and any trace of illicit drugs while driving would become an offence. Like us all, they were well aware that hysteria, political posturing and ignorant politicians had great influence on legislation involving drugs. Apart from not setting in minimum limits for different drugs based on their toxicology, many were concerned that drug driving could be also used for criminal persecution.

Back then, ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope and the ACT government were in total agreement with the rights groups

The Minister said I needed to be certain that the testing was about road safety and not about catching drug users and punishing them for using drugs rather than endangering other road users.

“As a Minister, I will do whatever I can to improve road safety but I am not going to be involved in punishing ACT drug users for their addiction. The Government’s attitude is clear in relation to that – we have adopted a harm minimisation approach to drug users and will stick to that.”
-Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, John Hargreaves(ALP) - Media Release April 2008

So it was a surprise when ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope criticised the opposition’s proposal for setting limits on different drugs.

"This Bill deems that Canberrans cannot drive with even low levels of marijuana or amphetamine in their systems, but allows that when it comes to other illegal drugs - cocaine, or LSD for example - ‘safe' levels could be established. Labor's upcoming Bill, by contrast, treats all illegal drugs equally.
-Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope MLA(ALP) - Media Release February 2010 

From stupid to ridiculous. The opposition denies it has varying limits on different classes of drugs which makes them just as stupid as Labor ... only not as hypocritical. And if you examine closely the drugs mentioned, you may be even more baffled - “Canberrans cannot drive with even low levels of marijuana or amphetamine in their systems”. Cannabis is the main drug of contention because it can linger in your system for weeks. Both political parties are now pushing for a zero limit on all drugs which means you can be charged for drug driving even though you haven’t smoke pot for over a week. Logical and sensible? What do you expect from politicians?

Now You Can See The Movie!

In my last post, I discussed Mike Rann’s deceitful attempt to incite drug hysteria in the up coming election. For those who weren’t convinced, he made it into a TV commercial. Look out for the manipulation of Isobel Redmond’s quote.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Cracker Comments - Feb/Mar 2010

Months ago, I mentioned that I might run a special segment called Comment of the Week. It was just a fleeting idea and remained in the To Do file ever since. But recently, I have discovered so many juicy and kooky comments that it prompted me to drag out the Comment of the Week idea.

I was going to call it Squawk of the Week.

squawk |skwɔːk|
verb [ intrans. ]
(of a bird) make a loud, harsh noise : the geese flew upriver, squawking.
• [with direct speech ] (of a person) say something in a loud, discordant tone : “What are you doing?” she squawked.
• complain or protest about something.
a loud, harsh or discordant noise made by a bird or a person.
• a complaint or protest : her plan provoked a loud squawk from her friends.

The example from the dictionary, a loud, harsh or discordant noise made by a bird or a person conjured up images of Colin Barnett farting and the harsh, scary sound it would make. - SQUAAAAWK. But I needed to focus on the actual words that comes out of his arse and not the terrifying farting sound that belongs in a scene from a gothic horror film.

Anyway, squawk was used quite a bit on the interwebs so I needed something new and original. Plus, I couldn’t see myself consistently putting out a weekly segment on time. After tossing around several ideas with friends, we came up with something simple and concise (and quick) - Cracker Comments. It could be a bunch of comments that are “crackers” or it might mean a cracker(nutty person) makes a comment. Either way, both are apt descriptions.

Mike Rann
South Australian Premier
March 2010

He also condemned Ms Redmond's attendance at a rave party.

"I just think that it's incredibly irresponsible for any political leader to attend a rave party," he said. "It comes down to values."

Ms Redmond shot back saying she had been taken out of context when she'd said "ecstasy didn't appear to be as dangerous as some other drugs". She had attended the rave with a drug and alcohol doctor and said she had been been comparing ecstasy to cocaine, crack and ice. She condemned the use of any illicit drug.
-Rann Apologises For Chantelois 'Friendship' - Sydney Morning Herald

With an election fast approaching in SA, the dirty game of politics has began with Labor firing the first shot. Media Mike has taken aim at opposition leader, Isobel Redmond and questioned her “values” for going to a rave. I have no idea why attending a rave with another politician and a drug and alcohol doctor on a fact finding mission is considered “incredibly irresponsible”. If anything, it sums up the current Labor administration that has enacted some of the worse drug laws this decade. Let’s hope Isobel doesn’t lose the shred of credibility she has ... ooops, too late.

Kevin Zuccato
AFP Assistant Commissioner
February 2010

The joint operation between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACPBS) has led to the seizure of 145 parcels nationwide since Monday, police said. Drugs were found in children's soft toys, nappies and books, among other items, AFP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Zuccato (Zuccato) told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

"I think what this demonstrates across the board is just how insidious organised crime is and the callousness of these individuals who would choose to hide narcotics in kids' toys and possibly put kids at risk," Mr Zuccato said.
-'Miaow' Drug Seized In Mail Busts - Sydney Morning Herald

Trying to establish a tenuous link between a recent drug bust and harm to kids is usually the role of slimy politicians but the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has shown recently they are prepared to stoop just as low. The comment from AFP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Zuccato is simply a disingenuous attempt at moral hysteria, an act usually reserved for politicians. If we follow his logic, importing drugs in women’s designer shoes is putting socialites at risk. You have to laugh.

Brian Watters
INCB / DFA / Salvation Army
March 2010

“The other thing that worries me greatly about the thing, we are not providing any really meaningful counselling. When they put out their statistics they say they have referred so many people to treatment. Now, I can tell you, all of the major treatment agencies, last time that I enquired which is probably a year or two, have told me that they have never had anybody come to them from the injecting room. There are certainly people being referred to substitution programs like methadone but the vast majority of people that `I have dealt with using methadone will tell you they are also using other substances.”
-Injecting Centre Pushes for Permanency - 2SER’s Razor Edge

What a twit! According to Watters, Methadone Maintenance Treatment(MMT) is not a legitimate form of treatment and doesn’t count so that’s why he claims nobody has turned up for treatment after a MSIC referral. Thousands of users have actually turned up for treatment via a referral, just not the treatment Watters approves of. And to further shine a light on his twittery, he then makes the rash statement that the “vast majority” of methadone patients use “other substances” as well.

The INCB must have watched Watters for years with great anticipation as he developed into a perfect candidate to join their board; an anti-drug zealot, a fundamentalist Christian, a member of the staunch anti-harm minimisation group, Drug Free Australia (DFA) and chummy with the then current PM, John Howard, who was also a Zero Tolerance advocate. What a scary scenario for humanity.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

INCB Arrogance Sparks Anger ... and Bwrian Slams MSIC Again

Is it time for the INCB to close it’s doors? Considering the criticism they received about their latest annual report and recent barrage of mindless media announcements, it appears they are long past their due by date ... 1962.

A previous article here focused on a media statement from INCB board member, Brian Watters. We asked why several media statements had suddenly appeared from the INCB and we discovered that they have just released their annual report. This has prompted them to address several issues from their annual report in the media. As expected, the INCB hammered home Zero Tolerance policies and criticised any country that has grown disillusioned with the "War on Drugs" by modernising their drug laws.

The Board notes with concern that in countries in South America, such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia (and in countries in North America, such as Mexico and the United States), there is a growing movement to decriminalize the possession of controlled drugs, in particular cannabis, for personal use. Regrettably, influential personalities, including former high-level politicians in countries in South America, have publicly expressed their support for that movement. The Board is concerned that the movement, if not resolutely countered by the respective Governments, will undermine national and international efforts to combat the abuse of and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs. In any case, the movement poses a threat to the coherence and effectiveness of the international drug control system and sends the wrong message to the general public.
-International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)

Medical Marijuana
One issue raised by the INCB was medical marijuana especially in Canada. The INCB said Canada is operating outside international treaty rules. The accusation that medical cannabis violates the convention is not based on the assumption that member states cannot decide to legalise medicinal, (or even personal non-medical use) of drugs. Rather, it is based on a clause of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics, which Canada has signed, and says the government must be the sole distributor of the otherwise illegal substance. Canada has more than a 1000 licensed growers who supply the medical marijuana market.  

So, these “breaches” of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics regarding medical marijuana in Canada is not related to cannabis use at all but who supplies the product. Very sneaky.

The UN's International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) annual report released today pointedly criticizes Argentina, Brazil and Mexico for moving to decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal consumption, autioning that such moves may "send the wrong message." The INCB report expresses concern over "the growing movement to decriminalize the possession of controlled drugs" and calls for this movement to be "resolutely countered" by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the United States."
-TNI/WOLA Drugs and Democracy Email Forum (Read at Mark Haden Blog)

That’s it? The regularising of medical marijuana “sends the wrong message to other countries". It’s worth noting that the US federal government has regularly denied it has any plans to decriminalise or legalise cannabis. It’s the states that worry the INCB and the comments are directed discreetly at them with the blessing of the federal government, DEA and the UN.

Latin America
If the INCB were going fruity over medical marijuana, imagine their reaction to the Latin American countries that were decriminalising all drugs albeit for small amounts. 

The INCB told Bolivia very politely that they are breaching an international convention and that the use of the traditional coca leaf in their country is an "illicit" activity. This had led to accusations that the INCB are overstepping their mandate and attempting to over-ride national sovereignty. This is because article 3, paragraph 2 of the convention makes clear that the decision to criminalise personal use of any substance is subject to each member nation’s constitutional principles and legal system. But the report, released Wednesday, drew strong criticism itself by nongovernmental agencies that are calling the INCB's criticism of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina an overstepping of the organization's mandate. The report's words for the Latin American countries constitutes "unwarranted intrusions into these countries' sovereign decision-making," said the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) in a joint statement 

The INCB report expresses concern over "the growing movement to decriminalize the possession of controlled drugs" and calls for this movement to be "resolutely countered" by the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the United States. According to the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the criticisms leveled today clearly overstep the INCB's mandate and constitute unwarranted intrusions into these countries' sovereign decision-making. TNI and WOLA are non-governmental organizations with expertise in both the UN drug control system and Latin American drug policy developments.

Bwrian Watters (again)
Adding to the recent statements from the INCB, Brian Watters under the title as International Liaison Officer for DFA, has once again dismissed the success of one of his pet hates, Sydney’s Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC). 

MSIC only operates because of a loophole in the UN treaty that allows it to be classed as scientific research. After 10 years of continually being renewed as scientific research, there is growing pressure on the NSW government to make MSIC permanent. Supporters point out that it has saved 3,000 lives, cut down ambulance call rates in Kings Cross by 80% and reduced discarded syringes by 50%. It has also referred 8000 users for treatment. But saving lives is not high on the agenda for Brian Watters when the process is not of his moral standards. In other words, drug use is evil and any treatment that is not abstinence based is not legitimate. Watters even once said that drug addiction is a sin. He claims that no major treatment centre he knows of has received a single referral from MSIC but goes on to say that they have probably been referred to substitution programs like methadone maintenance which he doesn’t consider being treatment. Watters makes the wild claim that most methadone patients use other drugs as well ... and therefore, not treatment. Yep, he is one of seven who basically dictate drug policy worldwide.

Much of this article is based on a email comment from Paul Dessauer - Outreach Coordinator, WASUA.