Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The problems inherent in the system

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  • william blake,

    The boy has been charged, which is probably more to do with local politics than the law, but the charge will almost certainly be thrown out of court for lack of evidence.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Why does Bob want people to die?

    The answer to that almost certainly lies in his definition of "people". I suspect that what he really cares about is people-like-him and if those people suffer less harm from the "others" while a few more of the "others" die then that's a price he is willing to accept.

    While I can't be certain of his motivations that analysis would be consistent with his previous statements and behaviour. The difficulty is one of empathy - the ability to consider what it feels like to have your own child affected and adjust your opinions accordingly. All too often the extreme views such as McCoskrie's lack any evidence of empathy at all - maybe we need to teach it in schools.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Luke Williamson,

    The easiest question for Bob is, "Are you prepared to include our most addictive, destructive and commonly used drug– alcohol – in your prohibition ?" My guess would be, no.

    Warkworth • Since Oct 2007 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    But let’s not pretend there are no harms from cannabis. The question is how they can be minimised.

    Nah. That's the question whose only answer is "by making cannabis use as infrequent as possible". I think it's the totally wrong question and I'm not going to go into why any more. Anyone who hasn't got it now, will never get it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Nah. That’s the question whose only answer is “by making cannabis use as infrequent as possible”.

    No, there are lots of other answers to that.

    “Try to avoid or minimise use of cannabis until at least the age of 18, thereby hugely reducing the risk of future psychosis,” is one.

    “Use a bong or a vapouriser,” is another.

    I do get your point about personal rights, and I don’t even disagree, but I don’t see that not ignoring avoidable risks is incompatible with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Russell the old joke about statistics and dam lies applies here
    It would be nice if you put the different countries numbers per million
    Because if they are as stated you do have a powerful argument for more liberal laws

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 577 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Bob wants people to die because he seriously believes the human gene pool would be better off without people like that. I have met two people in real life who have told me face to face on the drug issue that that is what they believe. When you try to point out that removing biological diversity from the gene pool (ie people more inclined to addictive behaviour) does no one any good, you get back to the fear and hatred response. The conservative mind fears and hates what it doesn't like or doesn't understand. I spoke about some of these related genetic determinants of behaviour in a 15 minutes talk once on Radio National Australia when I was living there.
    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/science-and-prisons/3312258#transcript (click on the transcript button)

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton,

    Why is cannabis less legal than Chardonnay? That is the question IMO

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    Russell the old joke about statistics and dam lies applies here
    It would be nice if you put the different countries numbers per million
    Because if they are as stated you do have a powerful argument for more liberal laws

    I did! The figure quoted in the post itself is 35.5 drug deaths per million, which is twice the European average.

    And, with some annual fluctuation, the raw number of deaths annually has roughly quadrupled since the time the hardline reforms were introduced in the early 90s. That hasn’t happened anywhere else in Europe. Countries with more liberal policies (Spain, for example) are seeing declines, in some cases quite sharply.

    We may be seeing some improvement now that they’ve finally allowed some harm-reduction measures like needle exchanges, although they seem determined still to make those hard to operate.

    Anyway, I don’t have time to go through all the data, but it’s here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    All too often the extreme views such as McCoskrie's lack any evidence of empathy at all - maybe we need to teach it in schools.

    Funny yo should mention that...

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Why does Bob want people to die?

    Family First?.
    Bob, you are one sick puppy.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    No point abusing Bob. He's driven by his genes and experience.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    No, there are lots of other answers to that.

    “Try to avoid or minimise use of cannabis until at least the age of 18, thereby hugely reducing the risk of future psychosis,” is one.

    “Use a bong or a vapouriser,” is another.

    Yup, but they're small change compared to not using it at all. Which is the money shot of minimization, to actually get to zero.

    And really, I just tire of even speaking about the harm aspect of it. So what if it harms people? It also makes them feel good, and they like it. In their millions. Hundreds of millions, in fact. That's worth way, way way more than that people get a sore throat from it. Or even that some of them even die. It really is worth human life, for humans to get to live their lives how they want. For me to even want to engage with a harm minimization it has to be about a serious harm, and cannabis just isn't that. It's tiny potatoes.

    And let's not kid ourselves that harm even is the motivation behind it being banned. It's just not. It's about exerting that power over others to take something away from them that they like because people like to do that to other people. It's got puritanical bullshit written all over it, and it's steeped in the hypocrisy of all those people tut-tutting it who have done plenty of it themselves, and who have sunk massive quantities of piss in their lives, wrecking their livers, ruining families, etc. Because they like it. Because both of those things make them feel good - the booze gets them drunk, and the small joy of taking away someone else's little pleasure is a naughty little joy they can all safely feel, so long as the hypocrisy of it continues to be bought wholesale. Shit on the stoners. Why not, there's not enough of them to make a difference? Have a laugh about how silly they are when they're stoned.

    Just like homophobia. Laugh at the queens. It's the exact same thing at work here. We could be having this argument about the dangers of anal sex, and AIDs, and how some kids might get turned into queers if it's legal. Which all might even BE real dangers. But so what? What on earth gives us the right to concentrate on anal tearing when the very sexual identity of a segment of humanity is at stake?

    I'm just not going to get dragged into being a concern troll over something like this any more. I think stoners should be out and proud and if they die of it, that's their bloody choice.

    And for the record, Russell, I know you are sympathetic. I'm not addressing this as a personal criticism of you. I'm speaking to the internet here. I'm speaking to anyone who has got caught up in this game of how we can do so much to reduce this harm that is really so tiny, and so not even our business. I'm really fucking angry that we just got blanket prohibition in this country, and I think people who can't see it came about because of a basic failure of defending simple morality need to hear this. That approach will NOT get through to the people who matter. It did not get through. The reverse happened. They intensified the war on drugs, they sought the natural position of harm minimization - zero.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    Brilliant, like toadally.
    Anyone that can use the term "Anal Tearing" in a cannabis legislation argument gets my vote any time.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Worik Stanton,

    Just desserts...

    Why is cannabis less legal than Chardonnay?
    That is the question

    alas poor Hamlet
    the 'grapes of wraith'
    bear bitter fruit!

    :- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7948 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    These stories have a "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" quality about them. It's hard to justify criminal convictions with the argument that you're trying to help people live better lives.

    People hear the word 'de-criminalisation' and imagine some sort of libertine free-for-all, but there's a case to be made for a confiscation based prohibition of the non-addictive recreational drugs.

    Since Nov 2006 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • kalypso,

    maybe we need to teach it in schools

    I believe that many schools already are: http://www.rootsofempathy.org/en/new-zealand.html

    Auckland • Since Apr 2010 • 13 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Just like homophobia. Laugh at the queens. It’s the exact same thing at work here. We could be having this argument about the dangers of anal sex, and AIDs, and how some kids might get turned into queers if it’s legal. Which all might even BE real dangers. But so what? What on earth gives us the right to concentrate on anal tearing when the very sexual identity of a segment of humanity is at stake?

    Okay, let’s take your analogy and look at what actually happened, rather than the scenario you’re conjuring for the sake of argument. Harm minimisation in response to AIDS was embraced by the gay community. Condom use was normalised and encouraged and remains the basis of AIDS prevention. People didn’t stop having sex.

    For exactly the same reason – and on the same reasoning – needle exchanges became a largely uncontroversial public health measure. We didn’t try and prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases by telling people not to inject drugs – we made it safer for them to do so.

    In Portugal, all personal drug use and possession has been decriminalised as a means of harm reduction – and drug deaths and other harms have fallen as a consequence. It’s the reason kids can get their pills tested at dance parties in various European countries. It’s the philosophy behind de-stigmatisation campaigns like Nice People Take Drugs, which is the opposite of your scenario.

    It’s nonsensical to equate the whole thing with the fuckup around the Psychoactive Substances Act. This is a battle that’s still going on. Read Harm Reduction International’s recent response to the idiotic UN Declaration on Drugs. They might not be pursuing the pure laissez-faire you want, but they’re sure as hell not the enemy.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Harm minimisation in response to AIDS was embraced by the gay community. Condom use was normalised and encouraged and remains the basis of AIDS prevention. People didn’t stop having sex.

    Without engaging in a Pollyanna retcon of history (because being HIV+ has never been a cakewalk and never will be), that was also helped enormously by a sane, evidence-based political/public policy response. It wasn't perfect by any measure, but it did make a difference.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You didn’t have senior members of either the Fouth Labour or Fifith National Governments publicly musing on whether there was something to putting HIV positive people in quarantine camps. Which did matter.

    Certainly. They also didn't ignore the problem like Reagan did as AIDS emerged as a national health crisis in 1981:

    Following discovery of the first cases in 1981, it soon became clear a national health crisis was developing. But President Reagan's response was "halting and ineffective," according to his biographer Lou Cannon. Those infected initially with this mysterious disease -- all gay men -- found themselves targeted with an unprecedented level of mean-spirited hostility.

    A significant source of Reagan's support came from the newly identified religious right and the Moral Majority, a political-action group founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. AIDS became the tool, and gay men the target, for the politics of fear, hate and discrimination. Falwell said "AIDS is the wrath of God upon homosexuals." Reagan's communications director Pat Buchanan argued that AIDS is "nature's revenge on gay men."

    With each passing month, death and suffering increased at a frightening rate. Scientists, researchers and health care professionals at every level expressed the need for funding. The response of the Reagan administration was indifference.

    That early indifference cost and continues to cost millions of lives.

    There's another interesting example in our politics. Jim Anderton was seen, with some justification, as a hard-nosed drug warrior. But as Associate Health Minister, he was open to evidence, and when presented with evidence changed his view on needle exchanges and championed them as a means of HIV prevention.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And in very timely fashion, a really interesting, well-researched story on America's belated embrace of harm reduction has popped up in my Twitter timeline.

    This is the second very good piece of writing I've read on Buzzfeed today, which slightly does my head in.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Okay, let’s take your analogy and look at what actually happened, rather than the scenario you’re conjuring for the sake of argument.

    I'm not conjuring the prohibition of homosexuality. That really happened. And it was almost always justified on the grounds of harm, at least at the end when it became less tenable to do it just on the grounds of pure mean-ness.

    Obviously, I'm not in the least bit against taking practical measures to reduce harm, like improving delivery methods and disposal units and hygiene, and different rules for children. That's ridiculous. But the context of this discussion is "the problems inherent in the system". I think there's a good reason why it's such a struggle to take steps like the brilliant move Portugal made, and that is because the entire debate is focused on the harm angle. You're even doing it in making your point about what's good about what happened in Portugal. You talk about the harms that reduced. You don't or can't (and not through any fault of your own) point out that one of the biggest goods of that is that Portuguese drug takers are freed to enjoy themselves on drugs. You're even couching the discussion of freedom in terms of harm. It's not that freedom is good, it's that taking away freedom is bad. That leaves open the whole line that if you can't prove it's bad, then there's no reason not to take away the freedom. That is the default position left open. To me, the freedom is a good in itself. And it far outweighs, in the context of the cannabis debate, almost anything that comes up in the harm angle. It does this because it applies to far, far more people than get harmed by drugs. Orders of magnitude more people in the case of drugs like cannabis.

    They might not be pursuing the pure laissez-faire you want, but they’re sure as hell not the enemy.

    I do not want laissez-faire. I want the good from drugs to be at least a part of the discussion. There are very dangerous drugs, and there is every reason to put in all sorts of consumer protections, and to initiate programs that help these people. It's just quite astonishing how every discussion about what should be done about drugs does almost nothing to look at just how much enjoyment people get out of them. The idea that there could be government initiatives to actually make drug taking easier is completely unthinkable, where for something like sport (which also harms untold people), we have departments dedicated to promoting it. The drug taker is framed as at best someone hurting themself a little bit, at worst a junkie. That's just bullshit. It's not like that. A small fraction end up junkies. Most people just have a good time. I don't see why we have to dedicate all of the discussion to the junkies.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    It wasn’t perfect by any measure, but it did make a difference.

    Whereas the needle exchange was. It gave those with any concern about HepC a chance to not share needles with a very good exchange rate on used ones and free alcohol swabs etc that together encouraged safe use along with safe needle disposal. The literature was valuable also. So in all, it is helpful to be helpful, but I agree with Ben in much of his assessment to legalise in that the hypocrisy in our democracy is just not fair for those who enjoy what should be a human right to smoke pot and why not with the same test that is applied to alcohol. That law is already there.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    You’re even doing it in making your point about what’s good about what happened in Portugal. You talk about the harms that reduced. You don’t or can’t (and not through any fault of your own) point out that one of the biggest goods of that is that Portuguese drug takers are freed to enjoy themselves on drugs.

    You clearly don’t understand what Portugal’s drug laws actually are. Portugese are not “free to enjoy themselves on drugs”. Personal drug offences were taken out of the criminal code and made administrative offences. If you get busted there, you’ll probably be fined and you may be ordered into a treatment programme. You might also be prohibited from visiting certain places or associating with certain people – or even forbidden to leave the country.

    I think these illiberal elements of the Portugese system are an unnecessary and undesirable imposition on personal freedoms and in some cases a waste of public money. But that’s how their system works. It’s not what you think it is.

    I do not want laissez-faire. I want the good from drugs to be at least a part of the discussion.

    You’re barking up the wrong tree if you expect public health agencies to do that part for you. The Ministry of Health doesn’t make table wine recommendations either.

    But no one’s preventing you from having that discussion. It’s been a part of popular culture for decades.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

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