End The War On Cannabis, Select Committee Told
Last night Libertarianz Deputy Richard McGrath told a parliamentary select committe exactly why his party supports an immediate end to the War on Drugs.
Watched by an enthusuastic group of Libertarianz supporters - and a notably less enthusuastic group of MPs - McGrath told the committee "If this parliament is serious about reducing the morbidity of drug-related activity, the crucial step it must take is to legalise the use of cannabis and all other drugs, eliminate government involvement in the health industry where it has no rightful business, and shut down the health ministry before it does further damage.
"...Suffice to say that the War on Drugs consumes vast and inappropriate amounts of taxpayer money; it allows criminals to profit from manufacturing and selling overpriced, poor quality merchandise; and it provides incentive for corruption within the law enforcement sector.
"...As someone who does not use marijuana for recreational purposes, I am not looking for an overhaul of cannabis laws to legitimise or justify my own behaviour.
"The problem I do have with anti-drug laws is the threat they represent to the liberty of those peace-loving people who wish to use drugs for their own pleasure and relaxation."
Full Text follows:
LIBERTARIANZ SUBMISSION TO HEALTH SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO CANNABIS, Presented by Dr Richard McGrath, Libertarianz Deputy Leader, and Spokesman for Health Deregulation
I will begin tonight by summarising the basic points around which I have determined the most desirable legal status of the cannabis industry, and the most appropriate context in which strategies for harm minimisation from cannabis use might be implemented.
Firstly – I believe each person should be considered the owner-operator of his mind and body, a sovereign individual, not a franchise holder; free to seek happiness in his own way, constrained only by an obligation not to use aggressive force against others; with his rights to life, liberty and ownership of private property protected by the government.
Secondly – the state should not try to broker or finance health care for its citizens. Its proper role is to uphold and defend the rights of those seeking health care, those providing health care, and other interested parties such as insurers.
Thirdly, and following on from my second point - theft from strangers is not a morally acceptable means of raising the necessary funds with which to purchase health care.
As you know, I am a general practitioner, contracted police medical officer, methadone clinic staff member and part time medical officer for the Wairarapa District Health Board. Outside of this I function as health spokesman and deputy leader of the Libertarianz political party and it is on their behalf that I present this submission.
In addressing the terms of reference for this inquiry, I have applied what some call the non-aggression or consent principle to the particular issues of the trade in cannabis and the management of health problems related to its use.
The principle to which I refer holds that it is wrong for individuals, groups and the state to initiate the use of physical force against other individuals or to delegate to other people the authority to use such force.
My party maintains that the only civilised form of human interaction is where the equal rights of all are respected by all, politicians and state servants included.
Application of the non-aggression principle to the political system would result in limited constitutional government, the protection of individual rights, respect for privacy and the practice of free market economics - the hallmarks of a civilised society.
Such ideals are incompatible with draconian anti-drug laws and a taxpayer-funded state-run health care system. Not only do substance prohibition and socialised medicine not work, but - as I will argue - they violate our Bill of Rights and should therefore be dismantled.
It should be noted that any comments I make to this committee in relation to cannabis should be taken to apply equally to other recreational drugs, including those taken intravenously. To ascribe virtue or depravity to recreational drugs is absurd and irrational. It is a person’s moral code that makes his actions either good or evil, and the objective effect these actions have on other people that should determine their legality.
The effect of mind-altering drugs, taken willingly, should never be used to excuse or mitigate an individual’s actions, or used in an attempt to evade personal responsibility. Drug use, however, must be seen as separate from violent antisocial behaviour. They are not equivalent – that is to say: one is not a necessary precondition for the other nor an inevitable outcome of the other.
The Libertarianz submission is not a blueprint for bureaucrats and officials to implement as a solution to any perceived drug-related problems. New Zealanders need less, not more, regulation over their private affairs.
Any solution to the problems faced by drug users should remain solely the concern of those seeking advice and treatment, and those whom they contract to provide that treatment. There is a place for drug prohibition, but that is in the much narrower context of individuals (such as parents) and institutions (such as schools) exercising private property rights.
If this parliament is serious about reducing the morbidity of drug-related activity, the crucial step it must take is to legalise the use of cannabis and all other drugs, eliminate government involvement in the health industry where it has no rightful business, and shut down the health ministry before it does further damage.
The central planning of people’s lives has only compounded the social problems associated with the chronic use of cannabis and other drugs. As with so much that is wrong in our country at the present time, government is the problem, not the solution.
It is not my intention to address in detail the issue of cannabis use from an economic perspective. I am certain that other speakers have covered or will cover this ground, and I will not attempt to duplicate the fiscal arguments that support decriminalisation of cannabis use.
Suffice to say that the War on Drugs consumes vast and inappropriate amounts of taxpayer money; it allows criminals to profit from manufacturing and selling overpriced, poor quality merchandise; and it provides incentive for corruption within the law enforcement sector.
As a doctor, I would never recommend or endorse the general use of marijuana, although there is anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness in the symptomatic treatment of many debilitating or terminal illnesses.
As someone who does not use marijuana for recreational purposes, I am not looking for an overhaul of cannabis laws to legitimise or justify my own behaviour.
The problem I do have with anti-drug laws is the threat they represent to the liberty of those peace-loving people who wish to use drugs for their own pleasure and relaxation.
Libertarianz believes that laws should protect people from the aggressive actions of criminals and from the tyranny of unchecked government intervention. Anti-drug laws do not protect people from criminals or politicians. They punish a vice, by which people might do themselves harm, rather than a crime which – by definition – would infringe the rights of others.
My submission raises three points which I will briefly reiterate:
Firstly, an individual -- being sovereign over his own body – deserves the ultimate sanction or veto over what is put into it, while at the same time retaining responsibility for the consequences of his actions.
Thus he may eat cholesterol-laden dairy products, he may ride a motorcycle on a public road, he may drink alcohol in a public bar, he may sleep with multiple sexual partners. He may indulge in risky activities, but that is his choice. It only becomes the business of others if they involuntarily suffer objective harm as a direct result.
Drug use, of itself, confers no direct benefit or disadvantage to anyone but the user, who partakes of his own free will. Viewed in isolation – which is perfectly reasonable, if there are to be laws specifically banning it – the use of marijuana is a victimless activity, and as such cannot logically be said to constitute a crime.
My party does not condone the use of drugs such as cannabis by children. Parental responsibility includes taking reasonable precautions to ensure that children are not poisoned by prescription and over the counter medicines, and equally to avoid the intoxicating effects of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs. Parents have a duty to prevent those in their care being exposed to [I probably should have said 'harmed by'] such agents. Parents that neglect their children, on the other hand, are unlikely to be transformed into model caregivers by anti-drug laws.
The second point I wish to make is that anti-cannabis laws are incompatible with at least four articles in the Bill of Rights Act 1990 which, by implication, should exist to uphold and defend, in part, the individual rights of New Zealanders.
Article 10 affords protection to every New Zealander from non-consensual medical experimentation. Yet what is the war on those who use cannabis and other drugs but a form of medical experimentation, with hypothetical benefits unproven in similar experiments conducted by the governments of other countries.
Article 11 of the Bill of Rights states that individuals have a right to refuse medical treatment – which must include the right to disregard government advice to withhold self-administered medication.
The current bans on cannabis and other drugs stand in clear violation of article 14 in the Bill of Rights that upholds freedom of expression, and for some individuals article 15 that allows for the manifestation of religion and belief.
Thirdly, I suggest that the most effective strategy to manage cannabis-related health problems would be for the government to permit those people requiring treatment the freedom to seek it by way of voluntary contract with a practitioner of their choosing.
The legacy of state intervention in the health industry has been the zero-sum economics whereby one person’s use of the system depletes the resources available to others, and hence the rationing of health care.
The Libertarianz party is opposed to state involvement in the treatment of people with cannabis related illness, while supporting provision of such a service in a free deregulated business environment. The critical difference between state-provided and private health care rests in the nature of their respective funding.
In the private setting, there is a voluntary exchange of values between an individual and the person they consult for advice and treatment. In the public setting, there is a patient and a therapist, but a third party – the taxpayer is called upon, shall we say, by a fourth party (the government) to cover all costs incurred.
By "called upon", of course, I mean coerced, upon pain of financial penalty and imprisonment, into surrendering large portions of personal wealth for redistribution. Not honouring some mythical social contract, but bargaining for their life and liberty with a gun at their head.
[Select committee members become restless at this point, with much paper shuffling and shifting around in seats, I am directed to summarise my argument and so skip ahead to the last paragraph]
My message should be clear by now: legalise the trade in cannabis, and in all other drugs. Furthermore, allow people the freedom to obtain treatment for any related health problems, in their own time, of their own volition, and with their own money.