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Maxim principles fail 'War on Drugs' acid test

Maxim principles fail 'War on Drugs' acid test

NZ’s conservative think-tank, the Maxim Institute, needs to rethink its advocacy against cannabis law reform, “or invite less politically incorrect guest speakers”, say the Mild Greens.

Cracks showed in the Maxim Institute's prohibitionist stance in Christchurch last Thursday evening, as visiting US policy guru and humanitarian Larry Reed replied to a question on how well his “seven principles of sound public policy” were served by the War on Drugs.

Reed, President of the Mackinac (research and educational) Centre in Michigan made a fine speech advocating principled free market doctrine - and his mantra that “Liberty makes all the difference in the world – its what makes just about everything else work” was acclaimed by the Maxim invitees. However, in keeping with general standards of Political Correctness, there was no mentioning of the massive global black market drug trade - estimated by the UN in 1996 as $400 billion annually, and 8% of global GDP - until question time.

It was then that Maxim’s values came up looking fundamentally compromised as Mild Greens advocate Blair Anderson asked how the “guiding principles”, grounded in liberty, free-trade, property rights, self reliance and minimal government, were served by current prohibitionist drug policing?

Larry Reed answered that prohibition fails and breaches all standards of civility in the global economic context “squandering other peoples money on other peoples problems” – and had particular disdain for the forfeiture laws used against drug offenders.

Maxim, and its chief executive Bruce Logan, have argued persistently that drugs like marijuana have detrimental effect on the civil society (particularly youth) and thus should remain off the menu. Unfortunately that orthodoxy ignores the black market economic and social reality of prohibition (one sixth of the surveyed population “current users”), and fails to count the cost and inequity of stealing away adults’ freedom to be individually responsible (and to utilise hemp for all things good…).

Blair Anderson reports that he sensed Bruce Logan’s discomfort when Maxim’s “family values-based” prohibitionist stance was implicitly panned by its guest speaker.

“Short term policy solutions are usually the worst ones”, said Reed – philosophy applicable to the fact that orthodox drug policy is perhaps worthy in its aims, but without being at all accountable in terms of what it has actually achieved.

Documents sourced from www.Mackinac.org carry the institute's call for new strategies on drugs amidst scathing analysis of the huge investment in “supply-side” enforcement.

Interestingly RAND Corporation's analysis condemning the 7:1 cost-ineffectiveness of enforcement is a core reference in an article by Reed’s deputy, Joseph G. Lehman, as it was in the Pennington (Premier’s Drugs Advisory Council, Vict. Aust.) recommendations of 1996 – The PDAC recommended partial legalisation, a policy adopted first by NZ’s Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, and currently represented in Parliament via the Green party's conservative “5 Plant home-grow” policy.

Maxim’s integrity as a research and educational institute could benefit from deeper scrutiny of the international literature assessing appropriate methods of drug control, say the Mild Greens, “as could our own Government's”.

Cannabis laws come under scrutiny this week before Parliament's Health Select Committee, which may be finally getting around to discussing the Inquiry into Cannabis related health strategies carried over from the previous Parliament. A 1998 inquiry found the double standards surrounding cannabis (alcohol and tobacco) impaired the credibility of drug education.

Meanwhile actual legislative moves are afoot globally in Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Western Australia and Canada – following Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy and of course Holland. The war on cannabis is collapsing because legislatures are recognizing the truth that the plant's prohibition IS an unsustainable failure and unjustifiable intrusion on basic freedom. Against this background of liberality and harm reduction, a United Nations Ministerial conference in Vienna in April will also be assessing progress on its 10 year plan to create a drug free world by 2008.

“The case of cannabis is the most telling one” says Ray Kendall, Honorary Secretary General of INTERPOL, who has made a recent powerful call to the EU presidency for effective drug policy beyond prohibition. "The real problem is the legal framework –in other words the CONVENTIONS”.

For years now Governments in New Zealand and elsewhere have overridden their principles when it comes to drug policy, sustaining the existing harm maximisation policy, licensed by and giving licence to, institutionalised self-interest and public prejudice.

“Instead of the Labour Party’s army of social workers and drug/crime preventionists mopping up their Matrix of Dysfunction – a bit of principled FREEDOM might be worth trying for a change”, say the Mild Greens. In the words of last year's Canadian Senate report on Cannabis – “our current policies have failed because they are poor policies”.

The Mild Greens say that even if prohibition worked, it would not justify the injustice.

Maxim – take heed of the Mild Green maxim: “Marijuana is the issue against which we measure our progress as a civilised society.”

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