Island Life by David Slack


He cooks that crystal meth cuz his shine don't sell

The humble photo opportunity is the meat and drink of modern journalism.

Just like the food you eat, it can be modelled as a pyramid. At its vast base would be the pictures of the businessmen in suits grinning stupidly as they shake hands with the awkwardly self-conscious recipient of an unfeasibly large cardboard cheque.

Up the top, at the sharp point, you will find the booty call. Criminal booty. One or more law enforcement officers face the camera, each one of them solemn and lantern-jawed, chest just bursting with pride, surrounded by the spoils of a criminal enterprise come undone.

This picture comes from the archives of the Sylva Herald in North Carolina. You can click here to see a clearer image of the 'shine being decanted onto the road. What a great little newspaper it is. Had a group of kids not exploded a pipe bomb at their high school, and had one of them not been due to give the salutatorian speech at their class graduation, I might never have passed their way. Now I drop in every few months. It is presently so cold there, the waterfalls are frozen.

The rivers freeze solid and the brightest kids in the school blow up buildings. Who wouldn't feel like a bracing slug or two of something neat on a cold winter evening? The Sylva Herald is a little coy about the circumstances of the moonshine bust. Readers are merely given the reference details should they feel sufficiently inquisitive to visit the library and pull out a dusty copy of the original story.

Illicit distilling has a history both glorious and ignoble. Our own Hokonui tale sits more on the side of the angels than sinners unless you believe that alcohol itself is the devil's cup. At least they made something worth paying for. In the 1870s, NZ Geographic reports, whisky in New Zealand was imported mostly from Scotland and Australia and was frequently so watered down it was said "A dram was often offered a chair as it didn't have the strength to stand up."

When it comes to alcohol and drugs and prohibition, read the history books. It looks like a fool's game. As generally law-abiding as I am, I can't disagree with the news release the Mild Greens issued at the beginning of the year. They tore into the head of the Northland police organised-crime squad, who had declared to the Northern Advocate that his team expected to find and seize a record number of cannabis plants this growing season. Over the past five years, cannabis-plant seizures had been steadily increasing, he said, and then he got to the bit that lit the fuse for the Mild Greens.

Cannabis is still the base funding for other drug and criminal offending.

"Bollocks", exploded the Mild Greens.

It is the prohibition of cannabis that is the base funding and every one knows it. You don't need to be Einstein to see the connection between cannabis and crime is its 'legal status' and police are being simplistic and deceitful about 'drugs causing crime'.

I'm on the side of the argument that doubts the efficacy of prohibition. Don't like the harm done by drugs, including the most widely used - alcohol - but don't have any faith that prohibition will fix it. I sometimes wonder if the Police truly believe it in their hearts either.

But a burning pile of weed makes a hell of a photo call.

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