Sunday, 28 November 2010

Who Really Benefits from Operation Entity?

Victoria's largest drug raid - Operation Entity
The ferocity of large scale drug raids is awe inspiring for much of the public. Just look at the latest raid in Victoria - Operation Entity. It involved 630 people from the Drug Task Force, Criminal Proceeds Squad, Crime Department, Operations Response Unit, Regional Response Units, Australian Federal Police, local police, officials from the taxation department and even immigration officers . It has been described as the biggest drug raid in Victoria’s history. The raids were carried out on 115 different premises in Albanvale, Altona Meadows, Avondale Heights, Ballarat, Berwick, Burnside, Burnside Heights, Cairnlea, Caroline Springs, Dandenong, Dandenong North, Derrimut, Elphinstone, Footscray, Footscray West, Geelong, Hallam, Hampton Park, Hillside, Hopper’s Crossing, Horsham, Kings Park, Learmouth, Oakleigh East, Melton, Melton South, Narre Warren South, Noble Park, Noble Park North, Springvale, Springvale South, St Albans, Stawell, Tarneit, Taylor’s Hill, Tyrendarra, Warrnambool and Wyndham Vale. So far, 93 people have been arrested. So what was this raid about? 


Yes, pot was the target with 13,893 cannabis plants being seized. For the million plus cannabis smokers in Australia, this must make their heads spin … and not from the pot. How do the police rationalise the massive resources put into this raid? Imagine if they targeted human slaves forced into prostitution or violent gangs. The amount of resources used in this pot raid might have actually reduced more serious crimes to the point of extinction. The sheer numbers of police involved could almost wipe out complete crime categories in Victoria. What it didn’t do, is have any real effect on the drug trade. They could repeat this raid in every Australian state, every month without ever making any serious dent in the drug trade. It must be disturbing for rational thinking people to watch these huge drug raids especially when they know the police are well aware the void will be filled in just a matter of days. It’s even more disturbing when the police admit it.

We all know that once we take out syndicates of this sort, other people will step in to fill the vacuum and our job is to make this as hard for them as possible.

With the current focus on designer drugs and clandestine laboratories, it came as a surprise that cannabis was the main target. Amassing such huge resources - paid for by the public purse - is largely considered wasteful for a drug that is less harmful than alcohol. With rapidly changing attitudes and the growing evidence that cannabis only affects a tiny percentage of the population, the police are having to turn up the rhetoric to defend their actions.

Perhaps the greatest scourge in our community is the vile traffic in illicit drugs - lives and neighbourhoods are destroyed while those who profit from this trade like to think their involvement goes on unnoticed. I say, think again.

Predictably, the key word used by police when facing the media was ‘drugs’ not ‘cannabis’. It’s much easier to sell ‘drug busts’ than ‘cannabis raids’ when the eyes and ears of the nation are fixed on you. But inevitably, when forced to reveal that the raids were just for pot, some sinister description like ‘high-potency’ was added. Why do the police have to resort to using the term ‘drugs’ when they talk about cannabis? The answer is simple. They know that a large percentage of the public are sceptical about the official government position on cannabis. The reality is that there are millions of users Australia wide and most of them have never had a problem. Add to this, the major concern of cannabis use - mental health disorders -  has most scientists finally concluding from years of research that moderate use will not greatly harm anyone with the exception of young people under 21 years old and those with a family history of mental health illness. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the anti-pot brigade to put their case forward when the public, driven by scientific data, are rejecting their message as out-of-date, misleading and driven by an ulterior agenda.

The Event
The planning and resources used to carry out these raids is simply mind blowing. As we so often reminded, Operation Entity is the biggest event ever undertaken by the Victorian police. 630 people were needed to enact the searches with a massive level of support involved in the planning. 

The Operations Response Unit and the Victoria Police Crime Department led the charge with 410 officers executing warrants and searching premises. 12 teams of crime scene investigators then moved in and recorded the scene and collected evidence. 

The crime scene investigators conduct examination, enhancement and comparison of shoe, tyre and tool impressions, photography and/or video recording of crime scenes attended.

Police had to utilise the whole Transport Branch to get officers to the raids and the Central Property Management Unit had to altered their structure just to store all the evidence. They also had to arranged for 15 interpreters, 4 botanists and the Central Metropolitan Fingerprint Unit completed almost a year’s work in one day. Police hired 30 trucks on the day just to transport evidence, seized cannabis plants and equipment.

Here’s the list of the special police departments and other organisations involved:

Drug Task Force, 
Criminal Proceeds Squad, 
Crime Department, 
Operations Response Unit, 
Botany Branch – Forensics
Central Metropolitan Fingerprint Unit
Crime Scene Examination Unit
Transport Branch
Central Property Management Unit
Regional Response Units, 
Local police, 
Australian Federal Police, 
Office of Public Prosecutions
State Revenue Office
Australian Taxation Office
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Australian Crime Commission
Various power companies

The Result
According to Victoria Police, the result was a huge success. 93 arrests with more to come, 13,893 seized cannabis plants so far and the shut down of several organised drug syndicates. But how do they measure ‘success’? Was the success of Operation Entity worth the massive resources and planning? Those arrested were involved in criminal activities and the police have a duty to uphold the law. Growing industrial quantities of cannabis is a serious offence in Australia and the police acted accordingly by arresting them. But the big concern is the priority of Operation Entity and why wasn’t repugnant crime like forced prostitution, child pornography or violent street activity given the same treatment? What about organised extortion, the illegal gun trade and the gangs that terrorise our suburbs? These are insidious crimes that wreck lives and demean our society. Crimes against people will never be tolerated by the community and deserve a lot more focus from our law enforcers. Catching dope growers just doesn’t have the same urgency. 

One unspoken fact our law enforcement officers and law makers rarely mention is that no state in Australia has ever succeeded in dismantling the drug trade especially in relation to cannabis. Dope is so simple to grow, has an endless clientele and the profits are astronomical. The people who are happiest with Operation Entity are other growers and competing criminal organisations. There is a never ending list of potential growers to fill any void created by drug raids. The tougher the police are on cannabis, the more the price increases so growers will fight even harder for market share. This breeds violence and creates opportunities for organised crime to flourish. Cash is king in the criminal world and drugs offer an unlimited supply. I recall Chopper Reed telling us all that gone are the days of specialist crooks like safe crackers and bank robbers. Instead, he explains, that about 90% of all criminals are now involved in the drug trade. But it’s not just Australian states that have failed. Not even one single country has succeeded in making a dent in the drug market. This brings us to another unspoken fact from our law enforcement officers and law makers. Those countries with tough drug laws often have less success than nations with more liberal laws. In other words, being "Tough on Drugs" doesn’t usually lead to less drug use or a reduced drug supply. It can only be described as extraordinary why our politicians and police remain vigilant in their commitment to repeating the same mistakes every year. But it’s simply beyond words why they would push this approach even further.

The Hype
The Victoria Police website has posted seven news items about Operation Entity from November 23 to November 26. The media has responded by publishing an article about each post on a daily basis. It’s in our newspapers, on TV and updated online. We all know about it. But what is the message from Operation Entity? What has actually been achieved? The fact is we have seen these raids dozens of times before but the supply of cannabis remains in abundance. 

Today we have demonstrated that in protecting the community we will do all we can to stand between you and those who seek to exploit and prey upon you.'

The police keep telling us that without this operation, we are at the mercy of evil people who prey on our youth and exploit the community. We are told that these criminals make huge profits, derived from our misery, weakness and reliance on illicit drugs. What they don’t tell us is that most cannabis users get great pleasure from these evil wares and only purchase their stash from those arrested growers because there is no alternative … except becoming a grower themselves. There is also no mention of how the average pot smoker is now going to source their supply. Although most pot smokers aren’t compelled to keep a permanent supply, many will eventually start seeking out a new dealer. A lack of cannabis may also force some users to turn to harder drugs. This demand will drive new entrants into the marketplace as Operation Entity just fades into history.

It seems somewhat hypocritical that a much more harmful drug like alcohol is fully acceptable but a safer alternative is frowned upon. But it’s not just frowned upon, it’s actually illegal to the point where massive police raids like Operation Entity are rolled out. The dichotomy between medical experts and law enforcement on the topic of cannabis is staggering considering it’s 2010. It’s a real challenge to applaud the police when their message is so convoluted and contradictory.

This week's historic raids have struck a significant blow to organised drug syndicates across the state and have been an unprecedented success.

Reading through the dozens of articles about Operation Entity, I notice the police keep reassuring us that those nasty criminal organisations have been defeated and the lasting affects of the raids have made our communities safer. Sure, there’s talk of the need for ongoing operations but the message is clear - the crims have lost and the police have won. 

Disrupting networks of this sort is significant
Those involved will be brought to justice and their ill-gotten gains will be seized

Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones revealed that during the two year investigation, an estimated $400 million had already been generated by the various drug syndicates. Oddly enough, he boasted that the police had seized $20 million in assets. That leaves a whopping $380 million shortfall which must surely raise some concern for those willing to do the sums.

Victoria Police were following the money trail. This has been very, very successful for us. We'll continue not only to seize the drugs, but we'll continue to seize assets throughout the day and later on in the week we'll apply to the courts for seizure of quite a number of assets across the whole state.

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Operation Entity along with some remarkable comments. Being Victoria’s single largest police operation, it was bound to make headlines and it was inevitable that the authorities would trumpet it’s success. But this celebration of successful policing felt empty and forced. There was no moral victory or a clear cut feeling that we had fought and beaten something hideous. The rhetoric was thick with patronising messages that we had to be protected from nasty drug manufacturers and even ourselves. But in the end, we got the best of the police PR department, desperately trying to convince us that we needed Operation Entity as much as they wanted it.

Related Articles

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Cracker Comments: Oct - Nov 2010

Welcome to the latest instalment of Cracker Comments. Where self appointed experts, finger waggers and anti-science proponents assault us with their own, unique brand of moral imperativeness. 

Every week, we are treated to mind-bending analogies that defy logic and there’s no better topic than illegal drugs for these self proclaimed oracles to apply their craft. 

Brendan O'Connor
Role: : Home Affairs Minister (ALP)
Date: October 2010

With almost half-a-tonne of cocaine worth over $160 million being seized in Brisbane, the authorities are jumping for joy. It’s emotional times like these that provide a perfect environment for over zealous authorities to open their mouth before engaging their brain. 

Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O'Connor would have been told on dozens of occasions that organised crime dealing in drugs would have their main source of income removed if illicit drugs were regulated by the government. Not only would this strategy be devastating for criminal gangs but it would most likely reduce about 80% of all crime. It would be like stamping out all future cases of theft in our community. Almost too much to comprehend.

It’s really simple - remove the profit incentives and crime stops. The problem is our current approach that tackles the drug trade just isn’t working and the massive profits remain. You see, we only capture about 10-15% of all imported drugs at the moment and that’s according to the authorities. The real figures are unknown and probably much smaller. By having the knowledge that drug regulation would wipe out most criminal organisations in Australia but deciding instead to settle on stopping only 10%, is not a very logical choice. All the rhetoric in the world is not going to change the situation especially when we have heard the same old line for nearly 50 years.

"What we do know is, that if we want to dismantle organised crime we must attack the money flow, we must attack their income source"

The police were very lucky to find the boat with $160 million worth of cocaine. They were tipped off by US authorities. Without this tip, there would be another multi-million dollar load of illicit drugs in Australia. Although $160 million is a lot of money on the streets, the actual value to the crims is minute. Heroin and cocaine is marked up by about 17,000% by the time it is consumed. Add to that the built in loss factor at a ratio of one in ten and the bosses aren’t too worried at all. You have to wonder if claims of upsetting the drug kingpins is really necessary or an attempt to be seen to be doing something.

"This is a great blow landed this week by our law enforcement agencies"

A “great blow” to who? Brendan O'Connor really means, a great PR exercise.

Steve Price
Role: : Shock Jock and Opinion Writer 
Source: HeraldSun
Date: October 2010

Steve’s love affair with booze once again portrays drug use as the villain for crimes that are mostly caused by alcohol.

"Paedophiles roam the streets looking for victims, while bullies and teenagers high on drugs are desperate to rob any defenceless kid of their mobile phone or runners, or both"

How many cases have you read about where “bullies and teenagers high on drugs” have robbed a “defenceless kid of their mobile phone or runners, or both”? Let’s see, mmm, oh yeah … zero. That honour goes to bullies and teenagers pissed out their minds.

News Ltd Reader
Source: PerthNow
Date: October 2010

An article titled, Brazen Street Prostitutes Working Close To Perth Police HQ from Perth’s The Sunday Times attracted some bizarre comments. None so more than this cracker.

"Its a very dodgy area around there. Wouldn't surprise me if most of them were druggies financing their habit. Its when local residents get propositioned that it becomes bad. How about some undercover policewomen around there?? This is what they do in the movies & it seems to work!!!"
--pinkmini of Perth

Yes, it’s real.

Bob Falconer / Russell Armstrong
Role: : Former West Australian Police Commissioner / West Australian Police Union President 
Date: October 2010

As the use of tasers by police becomes more common, it seems the reasons become more fanciful. Bob Falconer rejected the idea that it is because there is no longer minimum height and weight standards for police but had his own explanation.

"Years ago, heroin was an analgesic -- they got sleepy, they got dopey. Now they're using drugs that give them the strength of five human beings and make them extremely unpredictable and violent"

Incredible … some drugs give you the strength of five human beings! Not to be left out, West Australian Police Union president Russell Armstrong added this:

“People fuelled by alcohol and drugs can't control themselves and start punching police”

Well done Bob and Russell.

Remember PCP? It too had the magically ability to give people super-human strength. Incredibly it was completely debunked by science. Who would have thought that some people would exaggerate the effects of drugs?

Sophie Mirabella
Role: Federal MP (Lib)
Date: November 2010

We all know that Sophie Mirabella can be a goose but blatantly misleading the public, time and time again is just going too far. Sophie’s anti-drug sentiments might be well known but they are not based it on anything factual. Repeating the same old line which is devoid of the truth isn’t winning Sophie any credibility.

“The Greens like to hide what they are really about. They have a motherhood statement about not legalising illegal drugs but they contradict themselves on their own website, in their own policy by saying they support prescribed heroin trials, cannabis use”

Like so many other anti-drug zealots, Sophie misses the point of the Greens’ drug policy. Medical marijuana and prescription heroin are medical programs and have nothing to do with legalisation. The Greens make it quite clear that they don’t support the legalisation of any illicit drugs but they do support Harm Minimisation and evidence based policies. A far cry from making all drugs legal.

Michael Mischin
Role: : Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General; Minister for Corrective Services (Lib) 
Source: Mischin.Blog
Date: October 2010

As we all know, WA are changing the state’s cannabis laws. Many people including experts, argue that they are not making these changes based on any evidence but purely for political and ideological reasons. The fact is, the previous policies were working while all others states with harsher laws, similar to the proposed changes, were continuing with increased drug related problems. But don’t let science, history and evidence get in the way of a good political spiel.

“Cannabis is not a ‘soft’ drug.

It is not a ‘recreational’ drug.

It is not a harmless drug.

It is a gateway drug.

Use of cannabis also increases the risk of mental illness such as schizophrenia.

It is a drug that ruins lives and I am proud that we have reversed the failed policy of the previous government.


Yes, these are tough moves but we need strong laws like this that send the right message about cannabis – that it is dangerous.”

You have to laugh. Sanctimonious boneheads frothing at the mouth because of a relatively harmless drug (for most adults) but saying very little about the carnage caused by their favourite drug … booze. Selective facts mixed in with exaggerations and lies. Claims that tough, failed and outdated law are necessary to 'send the right message'. Yes, it would be funny except these self-important, agenda driven politicians cause more pain, more carnage, more misery and more problems than cannabis ever will. 

Barry O'Farrell
Role: : NSW Opposition Leader (Lib)
Source: ABC News / Hansard
Date: October 2010

One of the true joys in life is watching politicians make an ass of themselves. It’s especially sweet when they make some grandiose proclamation to make an important point but it completely contradicts the facts. When this happens, I immediately have visions of 17th century religious leaders proclaiming the earth is flat and we should be thankful they are protecting us from falling off the edge of the world.

We got to see this during the MSIC debate in the NSW parliament last month where we heard from some politicians who opposed the safe injection centre. Although most of those present in parliament during the debate were wise enough to accept the overwhelming evidence and advice from experts. some were working on their own “flat earth” theories.  But regardless of their impassioned views that MSIC was “encouraging drug use” or ‘sending the wrong message”, none of them focussed on the extensive evidence that proved the effectiveness of the clinic. One of those politicians though - Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell - did seem to grasp the importance of evidence based policy. 

“It’s not the way to run drug policy, where policy and programs should be evidence-based, not based on the views of 12 people sitting in a marginal seat”.

The problem was that Barry had just finished denouncing the MSIC program and all the evidence that formed the government’s drug policy concerning the centre. Maybe, the evidence was not the evidence he wanted? Who cares, he had his own theory.

“I oppose this legislation because it fails to meet both the goals set down by the government when it started it

I oppose it because of my concerns the state's harm minimisation policy pays too little attention to advocating no drug use, to rescuing people from their terrible addiction, and pays too much attention to trying to manage those addictions.

Thirdly, I oppose it because I don't believe there is any safe level of drug abuse and I think it does send the wrong message.

Ahead of next year's election campaign I would encourage the premier to put funding into services that will enable those who use this centre, who want to beat this addiction, who want to get access and are prepared to pursue access and treatment through drug rehabilitation services, to get the help they deserve to rid them of their addiction.”

Ironically, Barry O'Farrell accused the Premier of playing politics over the issue.

Related Articles

Sunday, 7 November 2010

All Drugs Are Not The Same

People love drugs … this is a fact.  And many people will use drugs. Another fact.

Some will overdose, some will get sick and some will want to go home, But the vast majority will get what they paid for … a hellava’ good time. Yeah, yeah, I hear you - drugs are bad, drugs can hurt you - but so can anal sex but that act is performed at least a million times a year without a lot of complaints. 

Funny enough, the same people who complain about others having anal sex also complain about drugs.  You know the type I mean. Arrogant, conservative, self-righteous, self-important, self-appointed guardians of all things moral. They use jargon like “family values”, “personal responsibility”, “do the crime … do the time” or remind us that things were different in 1956. They were once called wowsers. 

[noun] Austral./NZ informal - a person who is publicly critical of others and the pleasures they seek; a killjoy

One common mistake made by wowsers / the media / the government / anti-drug zealots / the police / moral crusaders etc. is lumping all drugs together under the one umbrella. You often hear the police blame someone’s actions on being “under the influence of drugs” or the media describe erratic behaviour due to drugs. On Channel 7’s, The Force - Behind the Line, I heard one police officer describe a suspect as showing typical signs of drug use - hyperactive, extremely restless, nervous and pinpoint pupils. What drug causes that? The victim was caught with speed which explains most of the symptoms except pinpoint pupils are typical of heroin use not speed. Amphetamines(speed) make your pupils bigger, not smaller. This is a classic example of how all drugs are lumped into one category. 

But, all drugs are not the same. Some people perceive them to be like different kinds of liquor. e.g. whisky, beer, wine, cognac. They all look and taste differently but the effect is the same … you get stoned. Drugs though, offer a rich variety of effects, some of which can be compared to activities in the physical world. Jumping out of an aeroplane might thrill the adrenaline junkies but it doesn’t even come close to what first hooked a heroin addict. Being as cool as James Bond involves years of practice, exercise and training but why bother when a line of coke can give you same confidence? What about sex? Option one - Seven years in India learning the Karma Sutra, four years of attending the gym followed by two years of studying Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts or even A Couple’s Guide to Automobile Repairs. Option two - an ecstasy pill.

Another common misrepresentation is that unhappy people turn to drugs to dampen their emotional pain. That’s like saying all drinkers “hit the booze” to “drown their sorrows”. Of course, most drinkers indulge in alcohol because it’s enjoyable and it’s no different with drugs. And which “drugs” do they turn to? I find it hard to imagine that someone with a great burden on their shoulders will turn to ecstasy to block out the world. Or someone with suicidal tendencies overdosing themselves on pot in a half hearted attempt to end it all. I turned to heroin after the death of my wife when booze wasn’t killing me quickly enough or dampening the unbearable sorrow I was feeling. Before then, I had only used drugs like speed to enhance my night out or to experience the trippy pleasures of mushrooms, LSD and dope. The point is, I turned to a particular drug like heroin, not ice, weed or cocaine. Who knows what might have happened if I took up LSD instead of heroin?

What attracts people to different types of drugs? My experience is that people want certain drugs for different reasons. Alcohol is for socialising, dope is for chilling out, speed/ice/cocaine for partying, LSD/mushrooms for experimenting and heroin for multiple reasons. But according to many sources like the media, it’s irrelevant because … drugs are bad, mmkay!

This blanket approach to drugs has been enforced around the globe for the last 100 years. Now when any new drug appears on the market, it gets slotted under the “drugs” umbrella without any scientific examination or analysis of it’s social effect. Ecstasy(MDMA) is a classic example of how an over zealous organisation like the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) ignored all input from medical / scientific groups and pushed for a schedule I drug classification. This was despite a court ruling that it should not be banned, advice from medical experts and the successful trials that showed it to be a possible treatment for PTSD, depression and other disorders. The DEA used it’s special authority granted by the government to override the court’s decision, ignore scientific advice and make it’s own judgement. MDMA was banned and classed as a schedule I drug.

US Schedule I Drug:
(A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
(B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
(C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision

Many countries including Australia now just mimic any scheduling decisions made by the US and the UK. Not surprisingly, the only exception is when they lower the classification of a drug. It would have been interesting to see what happened if Proposition 19 in California was passed and cannabis became legal. If the example of how Australia managed the classification of UK legal highs or MDMA is any thing to go by, then we are doomed to retain only stricter scheduling of drugs but ignore any changes that reflect a loosening of restrictions.

But it’s not just government classifications that get the blanket treatment. The scheduling of drugs is also driven by how society views these substances. And this is where the sensationalist media and political rhetoric comes into action. These potent forces have been pumping disinformation into us for decades and now much of the public believes their spin. And why wouldn’t they? Just mention heroin or crack and watch instantly as normal, rational human beings turn into judgemental, irrational zealots. Try pointing out the facts and watch as disbelief overrides all evidence and reality. Listen up to the amazing array of myths that will used to attack your “extremist” views. Why is it is so damned hard to expose decades of propaganda from the government, anti-drug nutters and the media.

Just recently, Professor David Nutt was sacked from the the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), who are a group of scientists, academics and doctors commissioned by the UK government to advise on drug policy. His crime was telling the truth. Prof. Nutt was simply providing evidence that some drugs like cannabis, LSD, mushrroms and ecstasy(MDMA) are much safer, and that alcohol is far more dangerous, than the official government position or the public’s perception. The UK Home Secretary decided that maintaining flawed information about drug harms was more important than the facts so he sacked Prof. Nutt claiming he was out-of-line for criticising government policy. Can you imagine any other scientific issue that would prompt a government to dismiss the evidence and remain fooling the public with flawed information? 

Professor David Nutt has since created his own group called, the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. Last week, they published a scientific paper in the respected Lancet medical journal that measured the rates of harm from illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The results showed that alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the UK, overshadowing heroin and cocaine. At the other end of the scale, mushrooms, ecstasy and LSD were well down the list. As expected, the report has caused a frenzy of newspaper articles. 

Proper assessment of the harms caused by the misuse of drugs can inform policy makers in health, policing, and social care. We aimed to apply multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) modelling to a range of drug harms in the UK.

Members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, including two invited specialists, met in a 1-day interactive workshop to score 20 drugs on 16 criteria: nine related to the harms that a drug produces in the individual and seven to the harms to others. Drugs were scored out of 100 points, and the criteria were weighted to indicate their relative importance.

MCDA modelling showed that heroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals (part scores 34, 37, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.

These findings lend support to previous work assessing drug harms, and show how the improved scoring and weighting approach of MCDA increases the differentiation between the most and least harmful drugs. However, the findings correlate poorly with present UK drug classification, which is not based simply on considerations of harm.

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (UK).

What this report doesn’t cover though, is how these drugs would rate in a world without prohibition. By far, most problems from drug use is attributed to our drug laws. It’s the illegality of these substances that causes more damage than the drugs themselves. Heroin, for example is basically non toxic and can taken for decades without much physical damage. Cocaine, speed and GHB taken occasionally will not greatly impact on your health unless of course, it’s cut with drain cleaner. Smoking naturally grown cannabis in moderation will not usually hurt any adult who doesn’t have a history of mental health disorders. Popping an ecstasy pill (pure MDMA) every few months is not going send most people to rehab. Although moderation is the best defence against the potential, nasty side effects of illicit drug use, prohibition is the real culprit. Prohibition removes all the safe guards that could be included with regulated sales of these drugs. Prohibition puts the safety of drug users in the hands of criminals and dealers who offer no quality control or age restrictions. Even that junkie stereotype is purely a result of drugs being illegal. It’s not the drugs that make junkies look skinny, dirty and homeless - it’s the desperation from dodging police, being maligned by the public and that never ending search for money that leaves very little for rent, food etc.

For many, their deep-seated views on drugs are not going to change anytime soon. Most of the population has never experienced a world without drug prohibition and after a lifetime of misinformation and the constant drone of anti-drug sentiment, the demonising of drugs has been very effective. Separating substances into groups based on their harm might go a long way to educating the public and hopefully provide some sanity in the drug debate. We don’t want a repeat performance of Liberal hack, Chris Pyne dribbling on about pot and heroin being equally as dangerous. These theatrical performances might appease dorks like Pyne but they do nothing to keep people safe. Nor does the popular trend of outing one’s self as having tried pot at university but declaring it’s now unsafe to do so because of the latest research. Over the last few years, we have had Australia’s top politicians admitting to smoking the evil weed but warning others not to follow suit. Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Wayne Swann and Malcolm Turnbull have all made this admission but it took the current US president to actually come clean. When asked if he “inhaled” - a reference to former US president who said he tried pot but didn’t inhale - Obama said, “that’s the point, isn’t it”.

We have to end the “drugs are bad … mmkay” mentality. All drugs have specific harms when abused but some, more than others. Inexperienced people shooting up hard drugs is not a good idea but overall, binge drinking causes more harm than intravenous drug use. Dozens of night-clubbers taking ecstasy in it’s pure form will not cause anywhere near the carnage inflicted by boozers in the same venue. Smoking pot each night for years on end will only produce a tiny group of dependant users compared to drinkers who consume similar amounts to achieve the same intoxication. And contrary to popular beliefs, methamphetamines like ice cause a fraction of the violence that alcohol bestows on the community each week. 

These facts need to be explained to the public along with the truth about legal drugs like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medication. Although it’s changing slowly, all illicit drugs are still seen as something that only desperate, low life druggies will consider while incredibly, booze is considered a safe alternative. The facts are out there but if our leaders and the media are not prepared to tell us the truth then the public will remain victims of deceit and agenda driven policy. We deserve better.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Miranda Devine on Drugs Again

I always wondered why Miranda Devine was employed at the Sydney Morning Herald. She seems far more suited to a crap newspaper like The Daily Telegraph or some other News Ltd rag. And now it’s happened … Miranda the Devine has become a permanent opinion writer for The Daily Telegraph with her own blog.

Miranda Devine is a hard-hitting journalist who writes for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph
--The Daily Telegraph

What a lineup. Tim Blair, Piers Akerman and Miranda the Devine all gracing the pages of Australia’s worst newspaper.

She is the latest addition to our powerful stable of opinion writers who set the local and national agenda
--Garry Linnell: Daily Telegraph Editor 

To kick off her new job, Miranda felt it was a good idea to drag out her favourite subject … drugs. Who would of thought? And I must admit, it’s just as bad as her usual rants, showing how little she really knows about the subject. MD is notorious for seemingly just making stuff up about drugs and has even attempted to take on respected doctors with decades of experience. It can be really embarrassing.

In her “hard hitting” article, MD complains that MSIC has, “done nothing demonstrable to reduce heroin use, or cause drug addicts to abstain from the substance that is ruining their lives”. Not surprisingly, she omits the successes and actual objectives of MSIC like it has saved thousands of overdoses, cleaned up Kings Cross and reduced ambulance callouts. MSIC was never meant to reduce heroin use or cause addicts to abstain. MSIC adds to the current strategies and targets a certain group of users in a special situation. It is not meant to replace treatment or replace other programs. If we follow MD’s logic, Ventolin inhalers don’t cure asthma so they are ineffective and should be scrapped or seat belts don’t stop drink-driving deaths so they are useless also. You get the idea.

I really love MD’s reference to anti-drug warrior, Darren Marton. You see, Marton is a “former heroin addict and (an) aspiring politician”. What MD doesn’t tell us is that he has as much credibility as MD herself … none. Probably why she spelt his name wrong. The article also quotes Tim Blair for some reason and profoundly states that, “you can't smoke a cigarette in the heroin-injecting room but you can shoot smack you bought illegally on the street into your arm”. They just can’t seem to grasp that MSIC is a medical facility.

But to get some idea about the depth of MD’s article, you need not go past the opening paragraph.

Just when you think commonsense has prevailed, when the weight of evidence and experience has put the final stake into the heart of a bad idea, someone comes along and breathes new life into it.
--Miranda Devine

The weight of what evidence? What experience? Does she mean the 4th scientific report which contradicts every criticism she has ever made? The report that once again, proves MSIC is a good idea? There has only been one official report that challenges all the other quantified research and that was led by fundamentalist, Gary Christian from Drug Free Australia (DFA). DFA are an extremist, right wing, evangelist organisation who are well known in the AOD industry for regularly trying to push junk science into the medical community. This is the same group that MD’s workmate, Piers Akerman refers to when he desperately tries to argue against MSIC.

In summary, the article titled, A Dangerous Idea That Stubbornly Refuses To Die is a good read if you love comics like Mad Magazine. They both have the same level of importance to the community and they both make you chuckle.

A Dangerous Idea That Stubbornly Refuses To Die

Miranda Devine
October 2010

LIKE Dracula, there are some ideas that keep coming back as the undead. Just when you think commonsense has prevailed, when the weight of evidence and experience has put the final stake into the heart of a bad idea, someone comes along and breathes new life into it.

Take legalising drugs. We have a hard enough time dealing with binge drinking and late-night violence and all the other consequences of the legalised drug of alcohol, that you would think no one would seriously propose adding more harmful substances to the mix.

But no, the drug legalisation lobby - under the cover of harm minimisation - is gathering strength for new campaigns. They have their international meetings. They have their high-profile boosters, such as billionaire financier George Soros, who has just pledged $1 million to finance America's pro-pot force's battle over marijuana legalisation, the so-called Proposition 19.

They have their high priests - Dr Alex Wodak, long-term director of St Vincent's Hospital's drug and alcohol service, who has been trying to get marijuana legalised and sold in packets at the post office. They have their churches, such as the heroin-injecting room in Kings Cross, installed on a trial basis four years ago.

And, having done nothing demonstrable to reduce heroin use, or cause drug addicts to abstain from the substance that is ruining their lives, it was made permanent this week.

Legislation was passed in the NSW Upper House with the aid of the limp-wristed NSW Opposition, which fails to realise that a conservative party that turns its back on conservative policies never fares well at the polls.

As colleague Tim Blair points out, you can't smoke a cigarette in the heroin-injecting room but you can shoot smack you bought illegally on the street into your arm.

Former heroin addict and aspiring politician Darron Martin says: "The people of NSW should be very concerned indeed about the permanency of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross.

"Dr Alex Wodak, Australia's most prominent proponent of harm-minimisation ... and responsible for introducing it to Australia in 1985, now says more injecting rooms are needed in NSW. Look out for one near you."