Fracking Crazy…

There is a pattern in the way the Barnett Government conducts business.

Two separate independent reports (an Auditor General’s review and the Hunter Report) have found that the WA EPA has refused to assess the environmental impacts of gas fracking.  Not only are the gas companies refusing to release any information about what chemicals are being pumped underground, the Department of Mines and Petroleum lacks the legal powers to hold the gas industry to account.  The reports condemn the  Department for comprehensively failing in its duties to manage the environmental impact of all mining activity in WA.   Not surprisingly, there is a call for  an immediate moratorium on gas fracking in WA until regulations are in place that can guarantee full protection for groundwater, human health and the environment.

With that level of government incompetence and kowtowing to the mining industry, it’s not a huge jump to consider that perhaps the banning of ‘Kronic’ last year by Mr Barnett’s government had little to do with anecdotal harms, but rather more to do with mining companies executives being unhappy that they couldn’t stop 10% -30% of their workers from legally using it, nor identify who was using it with their on-site urine and saliva tests.

It also raises questions regarding the primary motivation of the government for repealing   effective cannabis laws, and replacing them with ineffective and expensive draconian legislation that turns approx 200,000 Western Australian citizens who use cannabis into criminals.

Consider, the Liberal government continues to outsource key parts of the justice system to  Serco, a multinational, private security company.  Serco now holds all major justice contracts in WA, including the management of Acacia prison, the prisoner transport system, the home detention system and court custodial services and Australia’s immigration detention centres.  Just  recently, Serco were awarded the government contract to manage a new youth prison that will house 18 to 24-year-old mostly indigenous male offenders from mid-2012.  

I doubt Serco would be voicing any objections to Barnett’s cannabis laws which result in an increase in their clientele base.  Now I’m not saying that Serco exerted any influence in the process, but the end result certainly didn’t harm their business prospects either.

Oh, did I mention that Serco was the sole bidder during the tender process for the youth prison?    When it was announced they had won the contract, no information was provided regarding the length, price or details of the deal.  Further, in any tender process, estimates are required for what the proposed project would cost if the public sector were to undertake it for comparison.  In this case, KPMG, the WA Government’s independent body of choice provided the estimate.  The problem is that KPMG has significant state, national and international links with Serco through a number of contracts they worked together in the past.  It is also possible that consultants were advising both the State government and Serco at the same time.   A parliamentary hearing is underway.  KPMG also performed the internal audit of Acacia prison, a Serco run private prison.  

Conflict of interest, you could say, but for the Barnett government who have never  been strong proponents of objectivity or impartial assessment, it’s just business as usual.

Serco holds all of West Australian justice contracts, including those catering to vulnerable populations.   Yet just this week, the British High Court found that Serco had used unlawful and illegal force and restraint against children and young people in juvenile detention facilities for over a decade, causing immense harm, even death.  A community group, Serco Watch, claims that “there is a constant pattern of excessive use of force and disregard for the wellbeing of people in Serco’s care. They are essentially a law unto themselves. As they care for more and more vulnerable people, the worry grows.”

And yet, despite criticisms for their management of Sydney’s Villawood detention centre and the facility on Christmas Island, both of which have experienced violent protests, Serco was recently awarded a $4.2 billion government contract to provide key services at the new Fiona Stanley Hospital.

When you also consider that Barnett  handed over the private information of over 10,000 WA residents to Wilson Parking for collection of unpaid fines, it’s a disturbing example of what happens to personal privacy and human rights when essential services are outsourced to multinational companies.   

A service provided by a private company isn’t open to scrutiny as it would be if the service was provided by the government. There is no accountability, no freedom of information access and no government control or regulation.     Serco, a multinational corporation, with no loyalty to any country or government, has unprecedented access to the personal information of all citizens involved in the WA justice system, which will now include anyone charged under Mr Barnett’s new cannabis laws.   

This is the state of WA.  Where otherwise law abiding citizens who use cannabis become a source of profit for multinational companies and where gas and oil mining companies are allowed to drill for gas only kilometres from the pristine World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef.  And without any demand from the government for a full environmental impact estimate of the proposal.

I’m starting to think that the only reason Barnett criminalised cannabis was to distract us from noticing the wholesale sell off of our essential services, natural resources and human rights.

I need a wash…

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And now, back to the usual rhetoric!

The Minister for Mental Health finally (non) responded to my questions as to why her government adopted proven ineffective, costly and harmful cannabis laws which criminalise cannabis users.   Here is her rather poor, yet predictable attempt to justify the irrational.

Thank you for your further e-mail of 17 November 2011 regarding cannabis law reform.

I wish to reiterate that the Government’s position remains unchanged and that it considers decriminalising cannabis use would undermine efforts to reduce illicit drug use and the harm it causes.

Western Australia’s approach to cannabis is not significantly different to other Australian jurisdictions. It is aligned with the National Drug Strategy and the Drug and Alcohol Interagency Framework for Western Australia and is a combination of reducing demand, supply and harm.

The Cannabis Law Reform Act 2010 is aimed at protecting the safety and health of individuals and the community, whilst still providing treatment and support options for those who experience problems associated with cannabis use, and their families.

Under the legislation, police may issue a Cannabis Intervention Requirement notice to a person aged 14 years or over, found using, or in the possession of, not more than 10 grams of cannabis, and/or found in possession of a smoking implement containing detectable traces of cannabis.

The legislation diverts minor cannabis offenders to engage with treatment services via a Cannabis Intervention Session with a trained counsellor. If the person books and completes a Cannabis Intervention Session within 28 days, the person will not be required to appear in court. The intention is to encourage and increase access to treatment and support services for those who need it, rather than imprisonment.

The Government also recognises the significant impacts that alcohol, tobacco and other drugs have on our community and is implementing a range of measures. These include strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm and antisocial behaviour through strengthening policing, controlling the trading hours of night venues and improving amenity and safety for patrons.

I have noted your views and thank you for taking the time to write.

Yours sincerely
HON HELEN MORTON MLC
MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

10th Floor, Dumas House, 2 Havelock Street, West Perth Western Australia 6005
Telephone: +61 8 9213 7250 Facsimile: +61 8 9213 7255 Email: minister.morton@dpc.wa.gov.au

And my response.

Dear Ms Morton,

 Thank you for your response.  As you failed to include the local, state, national and international organisations and individuals that were originally cc’d into my correspondence, I have included them in this response.

 It is disappointing that you did not take the opportunity to address my concerns regarding the effects of criminalising cannabis users.   I also note that you have failed to address the specific questions raised in my previous correspondence.  Specifically:

  1. Why did your government ignore the key recommendation of the review of the Cannabis Control Act, 2003 which was to continue the existing legislation which had been associated with decreased cannabis use?
  2. Why did your government enact legislation which ignored the Global Commission on Drug Policy Report recommendations that all UN member countries should work to end the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others? 
  3. Why does your government continue to support criminalising cannabis users despite such legislation being shown for the last 40 years to be ineffective, expensive and to have no effect on decreasing cannabis use?
  4. Why is your government not taking immediate action to prevent 97% of drug-related deaths and prohibit alcohol and tobacco?   If such steps are not being considered, please provide specific reasons as to why the exemptions you apply to alcohol and tobacco do not equally apply to cannabis.

As stated in my original correspondence, as an elected representative you are accountable to the public for your actions and those of your government. Especially when those actions involve enacting legislation known to be ineffective, expensive and to cause more harm than they purport to prevent. 

 Please indicate an appropriate time frame within which I may expect a detailed response addressing the specific questions I have raised.

 Sincerely,

I won’t be holding my breath for any reasoned response…

Posted in Cannabis, Drug Policy | Tagged | 3 Comments

Making change

Effective poltical action isn’t just writing letters to government ministers, it’s also about generating enough debate to cause public embarrassment to the Government.    

And with the WA Government, that involves publicly confronting them on the sheer laziness and arrogance they use to write government policy and impose laws. For example, a statutory Review of the Cannabis Control Act, 2003 done in 2007 was supposed to evaluate the success of the decriminalisation laws. An expert advisory panel was formed, there was much chatter about ‘working with a wide range of experts’, yada yada, but in the end, despite objections from the panel, the Review recommended the repeal of the act and recriminalising cannabis.  One of the members of that panel, Prof Lenton has been researching the effects of cannabis decriminalisation for years. He is quite vocal that one of the greatest harms associated with cannabis is a criminal record.  I wouldn’t mind betting that he would have gone to great lengths to inform the government on that fact. They weren’t listening, and from what I can tell, they still aren’t.

It’s not hard to work out what happened from there.  The dodgy review concluded the act had to be repealed (despite objections from the panel and evidence directly proving that decriminalisation had decreased use, etc), old (failed) laws are re-instated;  Barnett then thumps his chest with his ‘tough on drugs’ approach to divert attention from his inability to control the proliferation of (exploding)  methamphetamine labs;  huge amounts of money are spent on a government misinformation (aka propaganda) campaign claiming cannabis ‘messes with your mind’  and police are granted yet more reasons to detain and search members of the public. That’s the story as I see it.

Writing letters is one step, but the government is more than aware that their ‘Reefer Madness’ mantra is based on distortion.  I believe that one of their prime motivators to keep cannabis illegal is basic maths.  If cannabis were removed from the prohibited list, 70% or more (probably much more) of  drug arrests disappear. And with that dramatic drop in  arrests and seizures, it’s almost impossible to justify maintaining the same level of funding.   

Barnett’s ‘law and order’ platform, with his eagerness to expand and strengthen police powers, is heavily reliant on the illegality of cannabis to ‘pad out’ law enforcement statistics.  Without cannabis being illegal,  how could he justify the millions allocated to law enforcement, courts and government contracts with private prisons and security transport companies?  His government is more dependent on cannabis than anyone who uses it.

That’s my somewhat jaded reading of the whole farce known as the 2010 WA Cannabis Control Act.   Effective action is to consistently highlight, in as many (nonviolent) ways as possible, that Barnett’s Government approach to drug policy, is not based on evidence or discussion with the electorate, but rather the result of  political posturing and the appeasement of party alliances and financial donors.

And of course, the most effective political action that can be taken is to vote them out of office at the next election and elect individuals who will base drug policy on evidence and what works, rather than regurgitate (failed) “war on drugs” rhetoric.  I’m not that interested in influencing people on how they should vote, and I will say though that Giz Watson, MLC,  of the Greens responded to my letter to the Minister with clarity, an understanding of the complexity of issues associated with drug policy and as a proponent of drug law based on evidence and best practice.  Certainly, she provided a much more intelligent and thoughtful response than the predictable ‘drug warrior’ silliness of Ms Morton.

Election day:  9th March, 2013.  Mark it on your calender…

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Happy New Year

To all those whose drug of choice labels them a criminal, to all those whose drug dependency means they are vulnerable to death, disease and discrimination, and to the families and friends and the workers who experience every day the consequences of discriminatory and ineffective drug laws, let’s hope 2012 brings a saner, kinder and a more compassionate approach to drug policy.

Namaste

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Letter to the Minister of Mental Health, Western Australia regarding the criminalisation of Cannabis

Dear Ms Morton

My apologies for the lateness of my reply to your correspondence.  I had waited for the Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Office (DAO), to confirm the accuracy of information they provided to your government, and to the general public, about cannabis related harm.

DAO unfortunately chose not to respond to concerns and instead referred me to a four (4) year old statutory Review of the Cannabis Control Act, 2003 whose primary recommendation was that the decriminalisation of cannabis was successful and should continue.  Your government chose to ignore this recommendation and repealed the Act resulting in the criminalisation of approx. 200,000–700,000 Western Australian citizens who have used, or currently use cannabis.  Given that DAO chose not to discuss concerns about the accuracy of information provided to you, I would like to discuss several key points you raised in your first correspondence which I found to be contradictory or factually inaccurate.

Reducing demand and supply

In your correspondence you emphasised that your government was “committed to addressing the demand and supply of illicit drugs.”  However, the Review mentioned above indicated that cannabis use had declined after the introduction of the decriminalisation laws.  This finding is echoed by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University, which found that the proportion of Western Australian citizens using cannabis fell from 19% to 12% during the period of decriminalisation in Western Australia. These findings were replicated in the 2004 and 2007 NDSHS State & Territory supplementary reports (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) which found recent use of cannabis amongst WA residents over 14 years of age had fallen from 14% to 11%.  I find it difficult to reconcile your claim of being “committed to addressing the demand and supply of illicit drugs” when the legislation your government revoked was associated with a decrease in cannabis use, and had demonstrably proven not to have increased cannabis use, despite conservative insistence that this would be the result.  It is even more astonishing that you then replaced it with punitive legislation proven to increase the amount of illicit drugs available, increase their purity and to decrease their price.  As recently as June this year,  prior to your legislation, the Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded that the ‘war on drugs’ and repressive legislation like that introduced by your Government, have been an ‘abysmal failure’ and proven to be ineffective, expensive and cause more harm than the drug use they purport to prevent.

It is also of concern that you seem to believe that criminalising drug use equates with a decrease in use.  If this was the case, one would expect that after 40 years of criminalising its use, the number of people using cannabis would be negligible.  This is obviously not the case.  Contrary to your claim, DAO provided me with references which concludedthat criminalization has clearly failed to reduce consumption and has shown there to be no link between prevalence and cannabis policy – be it liberal or draconian. Cannabis has become widely used among the population and prohibition policies have only proven to be extremely expensive, intrusive on personal privacy, and socially divisive.”  Did DAO not tell the Minister of these findings?

Was the Minister informed that in Holland, where cannabis is available to any adult over the age of 18, that cannabis use is almost half that of the US, where cannabis has been prohibited for over 40 years?  Similarly, the Global Commission on Drug Policy estimated that drug policies like those enacted by your government have increased the global use of cannabis by 8.5% from 1998 and 2008.  These, and other reports, plus 40 years of experience with prohibition and even DAO’s own references clearly show that your legislation will not achieve its stated aims and will probably increase the supply and demand of cannabis.

Cannabis and Health

You stated that “(e)vidence is increasing of the long-term adverse effects of cannabis use, including the increased risk of respiratory diseases and impaired memory, concentration and learning abilities” and referred me to the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre for further information.  On examination of the site, there was a notable under-sampling of the substantial body of peer reviewed articles which show positive consequences and outcomes of cannabis use.  For your information, I have included the findings of a number of such studies below.

  • Dr Tashkin, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory of the University of California, Los Angeles conducted the largest case-control study ever conducted of heavy cannabis smokers to decide whether the use led to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or increased risk of lung cancer and concluded that there ” was no association and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”
  • The American Medical Association concluded that “smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”   
  • The California Medical Association earlier this year developed guidelines for physicians in prescribing the medical use of cannabis for the treatment of pain, nausea, anorexia, and other conditions.
  • The United States Federal Government, through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, provide cannabis in a ‘Compassionate Investigational New Drug’ program to a limited number of patients for the treatment of glaucoma, AIDS wasting, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
  • The US Department of Health and Human Services hold patent number 6630507 on cannabinoids, the active ingredients of cannabis, claiming they “have particular application as neuroprotectants, such as in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
  • There is a significant body of peer-reviewed research indicating that cannabinoids represent a new class of anti-cancer drugs that retard cancer growth, inhibit angiogenesis (formation of new blood cells that feed tumour growth) and reduce the metastatic spread of cancer cells.
  • The journal of the British Association of Psychopharmacology does agree that cannabis inhalation, particularly heavy long term use, may contribute to some potential adverse health effects, however, these harms pale in comparison to the health hazards of hundreds of legal substances like tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, fatty foods, over the counter medicines, etc. In a direct comparison of alcohol and cannabis the Journal stated that “alcohol was considered to be more than twice as harmful as cannabis to [individual] users, and five times more harmful as cannabis to others (society).”    
  • A 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal estimated that “(i)n terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.”

Given these findings, will you acknowledge that there are positive and beneficial aspects to cannabis use and further, the risks of cannabis are far less, and of far less consequence than those posed by currently legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco?

Mental health

You stated in your correspondence that “there is also growing concern over the link between cannabis and mental health problems and the risk of dependence.”   Through the auspices of DAO, you conducted a mass media campaign entitled ‘cannabis messes with your mind’ stating that 1:7 cannabis users report having mental health issues.   After repeated requests, DAO provided several references used to support this claim which amounted to little more than noting that some people with mental health issues tend to use cannabis, or that some people who use cannabis also have mental health issues.  No references were provided which proved cannabis causes mental health issues.  Based on the references provided to me, it would seem that the “growing concern over the link between cannabis and mental health problems’ is generated by DAO confusing cause with effect.  Further, ‘Beyond Blue’, a national organisation working to address issues associated with depression, anxiety and related disorders in Australia states that approx. 1:5 Australians will experience some sort of mental health issue in any 12 month period.[7]   By comparison, if your claim that 1:7 cannabis users report having mental health issues is correct, then it would infer that cannabis users are less likely to experience mental health issues and that cannabis provides a protective effect.

DAO made, and continue to make public statements claiming that ‘(u)sing even a small amount of cannabis can increase your risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and schizophrenia.”  It is difficult to correlate these somewhat sensationalised claims with a 2007 survey of California physicians working with medical cannabis who reported that many of their patients were able to decrease their use of psychiatric medication, like antidepressants, antianxiety and sleeping medications with the use of cannabis.[9]   Given that physicians with direct, clinical experience of cannabis use with mental health patients state that “there is no better drug for the treatment of anxiety disorders, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,”will you acknowledge that DAO’s continued claims that ‘(u)sing even a small amount of cannabis can increase your risk of mental health problems” are misleading and sensationalised?

As for risk of dependence with cannabis, the US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has determined that the lifetime dependence rate on alcohol has a 15% rate of abuse, tobacco is 32% whilst caffeine and cannabis have a rate of 9%.

Earlier this year, your government hastily enacted legislation to ban ‘Kronic’, a synthetic cannabinoid, with limited scientific evidence and with little more than anecdotal evidence from Dr David Mountain, President of the WA branch of the Australian Medical Association, that it caused harm.    Surely, to retain credibility, if you claim that cannabis and synthetic forms of cannabis should be banned based solely on the harms they may cause, then you must rush legislation through parliament, as you did with ‘Kronic’, to immediately ban alcohol and tobacco for the harms they do cause?  (Please note, I do not advocate the prohibition of alcohol or tobacco because, because as was clearly demonstrated by the US experiment in the 1930s, prohibition of alcohol is ineffective and clearly counter-productive.)

Sending the wrong message

In your correspondence you stated that “legalising cannabis use would send the wrong message to the community and undermine efforts to reduce illicit drug use and the harm it causes, particularly among young people.”   Firstly, I respectfully remind the Minister that the legislation you repealed concerned the decriminalising of cannabis, not legalising.  Secondly, I find it difficult to reconcile your statement with comments you made when launching the ‘Cannabis Messes with your Mind’ campaign quoting studies which showed that “most people believed occasional or regular cannabis use was acceptable, finding that one in three Western Australians believes that cannabis can be used without any negative effects.”    Surely when ‘most people’ believe that occasional or regular cannabis use is acceptable, then ‘sending the right message’ as an elected representative, would entail respecting that ‘most people’ in the community did not perceive cannabis use to be a problem.  Perhaps ‘sending the right message’ might have been better achieved by focusing resources on addressing widespread concerns about the proliferation of clandestine (and exploding) methamphetamine labs throughout suburban Perth, or curtailing drug related violence between ‘biker gangs’  rather than a month long media blitz threatening otherwise law abiding WA citizens who use cannabis with mandatory treatment, arrest or prison.

If you are concerned for young people, why then have you enacted legislation that ensures young people will get their drug from a criminal black market?   Research indicates that 55% of 17 year old Australians who smoke cannabis will more than likely have access to methamphetamine, heroin and other synthetic drugs through the same peer contacts through which they obtained their cannabis.  In the USA, and I would suspect Australia is similar, the majority of year 12 students said that cannabis was easier to get than beer.  The reason being, that unlike bottle shops and tobacconists, illicit drug vendors do not ask for proof of identification from their customers.  Far from protecting youth from the potential harms of cannabis, your legislation ensures that not only will they have unregulated access to dangerous drugs and exposure to the criminal black market, the fear of being caught will most likely be a strong deterrent to young people talking to their parents or non-using friends about their cannabis use

For many cannabis users, the single most significant harm most likely to occur to them is to be arrested and gain a criminal record.  As the Minister responsible for enacting these laws, I trust you are acutely aware of the consequences a criminal record, let alone imprisonment will have on otherwise law abiding citizens.  I trust you are aware that a person’s professional career could be ruined for preferring to smoke cannabis rather than using a dangerous (legal) drug such as alcohol; that international travel will be limited as a result of a cannabis conviction; that your government would prefer cannabis users to buy cannabis from criminal drug markets and in doing so, sustain a global illicit drug industry estimated to be worth over $USD 322 billion a year, second only to oil and weapons.   Is that the ‘right message’ you wish to send, Minister?

Tough on Drugs

Your government has proudly stated that they are ‘tough on drugs’ and have enacted costly, ineffective policies which criminalise 10-30% of Western Australian citizens.   Yet, as Dr Wodak, OBE and President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has said:  “What some politicians refer to as ‘tough on drugs’ is actually tough on the victims of drug use, tough on their families, and tough on law enforcement and health budgets.”   There is overwhelming evidence that your regressive legislation is ineffective, expensive and a significant cause of corruption among law enforcement and elected officials.   Royal Commissions, including the Costigan (1985), Fitzgerald (1989), Wood (1997) and Kennedy (2004) and the WA Police Royal Commission 2004, repeatedly illustrate the link between police corruption and drug law enforcement.  Likewise, the time and money spent on prosecuting cannabis offenders are resources that are not available for prosecuting rapists, murderers and perpetrators of other violent crime.

Approaches to drug use similar to your legislation have been soundly condemned internationally.  Even nationally, the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nick Cowdery QC has said that the current approach to illicit drugs is “ineffective, wasteful and inconsiderate of the human rights of those concerned”.   Your drug policies are a continuation of 40 years of prohibition which are unable to even keep drugs out of maximum security prisons. Policies like yours have failed:

  • To reduce the harm associated with problematic drug use
  • To minimise the violence and social nuisance related to drug use
  • To minimise the criminal activity associated with the supply and production of drugs
  • To minimise the harm of drug use to vulnerable groups, young people and families

The great majority of people who use cannabis do so without causing harms to themselves or others.  An estimated 2 million Australians use cannabis on a regular basis, 200,000 – 300,000 of those are Western Australian citizens.  And regardless of what laws you enact, they will continue to use it.  How many WA citizens will you incarcerate before you acknowledge your policies do not and will not work?  How many WA families will you separate before you stop imprisoning parents and/or siblings for no other ‘crime’ than freely choosing to use cannabis?  It’s a simple fact:  Alcohol prohibition did not work early last century.  Cannabis prohibition has not worked for the least 40 years and it will not work in the 21st century, no matter how much you may wish it to be otherwise.

I write to you as a concerned citizen requesting that any cannabis laws you enact on my behalf be based on evidence and international best practice.  They should also be fair, cost-effective, respect the human rights of those who choose to use cannabis, protect law enforcement from corruption and prevent young people from being exposed to the criminal drug market.  There is ample evidence to show that your government’s legislation fails in achieving any of these criteria.

I ask that you reconsider the wide body of evidence based policies based on peer-reviewed research which strongly show that decriminalisation and regulation of the cannabis market is an effective way to minimise much of the harm associated with its use so that:

  • Problematic users are not stigmatised and are more readily able to access services. 
  • The cannabis market is kept separate to that of other currently illicit drugs, such as heroin or amphetamine and as such young people are not able to get access to these drugs as readily.
  • Law enforcement can focus on large scale drug production or trafficking and violence related to criminal black markets.
  • The money now spent on arresting and imprisoning cannabis users, could address many of the budgetary short comings experienced by nearly all government and community programs providing services to problematic drug users.
  • Revenues from the regulation of the cannabis market can be allocated to social welfare, education and housing programs to address some of the causes for problematic cannabis use.

Ms Morton, as an elected representative, you are accountable to the citizens of Western Australia.  As such, I request specific answers to the following questions:

  • Why did your government ignore the key recommendation of the review of the Cannabis Control Act, 2003 which was to continue the existing legislation which had been associated with decreased cannabis use?
  • Why did your government enact legislation which ignored the Global Commission on Drug Policy Report recommendations that all UN member countries should work to end the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others?
  • Why does your government continue to support criminalising cannabis users despite such legislation being shown for the last 40 years to be ineffective, expensive and to have no effect on decreasing cannabis use?
  • Why is your government not taking immediate action to prevent 97% of drug-related deaths and prohibit alcohol and tobacco?   If such steps are not being considered, please give specific reasons about why the exemptions you apply to alcohol and tobacco do not equally apply to cannabis.

I look forward to your considered response.

Yours Faithfully

 

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Cannabis policy: what’s next? — Drugs, Internet, Society

Cannabis policy: what’s next? — Drugs, Internet, Society.

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Pardon me, your bias is showing

Drive

Drug Aware, the drug propaganda arm of the WA Government released their new ‘drug driving‘ campaign today which encourages people to think about the range of factors involved with the drug experience and potential harms that may result.

“The way a person experiences drugs depends on many things. It depends on the drug (type, amount, purity and method of use), the person (their mood, body size, personality, expectations, sex, health, experience and if other drugs have been taken) and the setting (people around, surroundings, place and occasion).”

Whilst I have no problem with the campaign, it struck me as odd that the tone of this campaign was so much different to that of their recent  ‘Reefer Madness’ like Cannabis messes with your mind‘ campaign.   In their anti-cannabis diatribe they claimed that:

 “using even a small amount of Cannabis can cause serious side effects that can affect your physical and mental health, and well-being.”

Even stranger, the drink driving campaign gives a long list of  harm reduction information on how to stay safe, such as:

  1. Plan ahead
  2. Think about your travel arrangements before going out
  3. If it is not safe to drive, stay the night
  4. Make sure you always have money to catch a taxi/bus/train home
  5. Keep a phone card on you at all times just in case you get stuck without any money and need to be picked up.

Given the emphasis on keeping safe, you’d think with the cannabis campaign they would have includedbasic harm reduction like:

  • When smoking cannabis, avoid mixing it with tobacco as it increases the potential health risks of  ingesting tar and other harmful carcinogens. 
  • Smoke cannabis using unfiltered joints
  • Avoid using bongs as the water in a bong absorbs a great deal of the THC in the smoke, thus increasing the amount of tar the smoker must ingest to get the desired amount of THC.  Also avoid using bongs  made from plastic.  
  • Take small, shallow puffs and not deep breaths and holding it in the lungs.  95% of the THC in cannabis smoke is absorbed in the first few seconds of inhaling, so holding in the smoke any longer just allows more tar and other noxious chemicals to be absorbed by the lungs.  (Adapted from QuIHN)

But what does Drug Aware say for harm reduction on cannabis?  

Cannabis is not the ‘safe’, harmless drug people may think it is. There are significant risks for people who use cannabis especially young people. It is safer not to use cannabis at all. However, if someone does, remember:

  • Some people have panic attacks when they get ‘stoned’. If this happens, call for help immediately and reassure them it will pass. Because of this, users should not be left alone as they can often find themselves in dangerous situations.
  • Cannabis, like alcohol, slows reflexes, affecting reaction time and ability to carry out normal functions such as driving, swimming, and operating machinery.

The Drug-driving campaign shows that  Drug Aware can present unbiased and useful information on drug use, driving and how to stay safe.  And they should be acknowledged for that.  However, when that same government department take such an obviously biased and narrow view on cannabis in a very public, government run anti-cannabis campaign, which also happens to coincide with significant changes to cannabis legislation that criminalise cannabis users and mandates treatment, it’s fairly clear why.  

Pardon me, your bias is showing…

 


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Explain again why cannabis is illegal?

A documentary on the cancer killing qualities of cannabis states:

Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti…  professor of pathology and microbiology for the University of South Carolina…  tested synthetic cannabis drugs on cancer cells and developed a formula that was able to completely eradicate cancer cells in a test tube.   A follow-up on mice afflicted with cancer found that up to 30 percent in the test group completely rejected their disease, while others had their tumors significantly reduced. The same drug is now being tested on humans with Leukemia.

 

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Another article describes a house built  from hemp.   Even as early as 1934, Popular Mechanics waxed lyrically about hemp being the ‘billion dollar crop’.

Given that there is already a clear plan for how cannabis can be effectively regulated, these articles, and many others, raise the  question, (and perhaps answer it as well) why is there such vehement opposition to regulating this plant?

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Who do you think should control the drug market?

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Everyone has an opinion for and against on whether illicit drugs, particularly cannabis, should be illegal.

Regardless of legality, the majority of  cannabis users, if they don’t grow it themselves,  will  buy their cannabis from somewhere.

So, next time someone is arguing that cannabis should be illegal, just ask them a very simple question:  If cannabis is going to be sold one way or another, would you rather it be drug cartels or regulated businesses?

Posted in Cannabis, Drug Policy, International | Tagged | 2 Comments

International Overdose Awareness Day

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Every year, thousands of people die from accidental opiate overdose, that can easily be prevented with sane drug laws, especially providing users with Naloxone.

Several harm reduction partners including theEurasian Harm Reduction Network, the Harm Reduction Coalition (USA), the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) and Harm Reduction International  call upon WHO, UNODC, UNAIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS to mobilize their efforts and play a leading role in a coordinated response to drug overdose mortality on the global level.

To view the letter in full please click here. (PDF, 206 KB)

For further overdose reading….

Harm Reduction International has recently revamped its ‘50 Best Collections‘ and the collection on overdose is now available under the publications section of Harm Reduction International site. This collection brings together documents that provide the best information on overdose and overdose prevention.

Harm reduction partners call on the United Nations to mobilize an international response to overdose mortality | Harm Reduction International.

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