Last week a conference about drug policy was held in Wellington. The only MSM news I am aware it generated was sensationalism about a sponsor who backs cannabis decriminalisation. When that was reported the NZ Drug Foundation said this:
Mr Bell said the foundation was "neutral" on the legal status of cannabis. It did not have a secret agenda, nor was it a liberal or pro-drug organisation as its opponents claimed.
But on Thursday the foundation issued this press statement,
Harsh cannabis laws defy good sense.
Drug legislation and policy tend to focus too much on enforcement and tough-talk and too little on evidence about what really works, a visiting expert told the Healthy Drug Law Symposium in Wellington today. The result is often irrational laws that cause considerable harm, he said.
Jeremy Sare is former Head of Drug Classification at the Home Office in Westminster. He has worked as Secretary to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and is currently a policy consultant for the Beckley Foundation’s Cannabis Commission.
Mr Sare said the UK Government’s claim that strong cannabis laws send a strong signal to young people about drug use was ‘nonsense on stilts’.
“Overstating the dangers of cannabis actually undermines the credibility of drug messages. Focus groups show that many young people who smoke cannabis occasionally or even regularly would not consider taking harder drugs. They obviously know there’s a difference.”
Then I checked out their website to see what else they had reported on. This is from a UN official who attended;
“There has been considerable reduction over recent decades in the consumption of opiates, the most problematic of drugs, and opium cultivation and production has been limited to just one or two countries in the main.”
However he said containment does not mean the problem has been solved and that the way the drug control system has been applied has led to other problems.
“An unintended consequence has been the huge criminal black market that now thrives in order to get prohibited substances from producers to consumers. This has led to a second problem – the displacement of resources away from public health and into law enforcement.
“It also appears we have created a system where those who fall into the web of addiction find themselves excluded and marginalised, tainted with a moral stigma, and often unable to find treatment even when they want it.”
And from another British expert;
“There is a growing consensus worldwide that health and law enforcement officials should work in partnership in order to meet drug policy objectives, which are essentially the same for both agencies – to reduce drug use and availability, and protect society from the most harmful elements of the street drug market,” he said.
“In the UK, for example, the police have specialist advisers who identify people needing treatment for drug or alcohol dependence, and refer them to health and social services. The result is that health and social services can reach marginalised groups, and police are happy with the reduction in crime that comes from successful treatment.
An American expert;
Drug control in the form of prohibition or a ‘War on Drugs’ has been a spectacular failure, a visiting American expert told a symposium in Wellington today.
Mr Trimingham, founder and Director of Family Drug Support in Sydney, Australia, is attending the Healthy Drug Law Symposium in Wellington. He told delegates today that communities need to wake up to drug issues and stop seeing them as purely a criminal matter.
And finally from another Australian expert;
Mr Vumbaca says in Australia it is now costs up to $73,000 a year for a prisoner to be in jail, while it only costs around $30,000 a year for treatment in a residential rehabilitation centre.
Prompting Mr Bell to conclude;
“The Misuse of Drugs Act was drafted in 1975 when the prevailing view was that we could punish drugs out of existence. We've been jailing the same drug users over and over again the last 30 years and it hasn't made a scrap of difference."
It seems to me that the Drug Foundation cannot be "neutral" about decriminalisation of cannabis (at least) and challenging the status quo simultaneously. Every report they made from the conference featured 'experts' advocating increasing a health approach to the drug problem. Good on them.
May 23 in history
3 hours ago