“Fundamentally dishonest” drug laws
New Zealand’s “fundamentally dishonest” drug laws will be represented at a Special Ministerial Session on global drug policy being held in Vienna over the next week.
Associate Minister of Health Jim Anderton is attending as NZ’s delegate to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (UNCND). Officially, the Minister “will be outlining that one of the goals of the Government's National Drug Policy (NDP) is to support international efforts to control the supply of, and reduce the demand for, both legal and illegal drugs”.
However the Mild Greens claim Anderton represents a facile implementation of drug-related “harm minimisation” – and a self-serving administration which is failing miserably to restrict supply of, and demand for, drugs – “be they legal or illegal”.
According to the Economist (UK), the UN gathering “will hear that it is no closer to its goals than it was 5 years ago. But instead of asking such questions as whether the whole project may be misguided, the meeting will almost certainly decide to redouble international efforts to achieve the unachievable”.
Cynics may well suspect the conference subtext will be “how do we sustain the international prohibition framework, despite mounting evidence against the War on (some) Drugs as ineffective, unjust, hypocritical, costly and corrupt?”
The Mild Greens suggest Jim Anderton may have some valuable tips for the assembly, if domestic scuttling of marijuana law reform is anything to go by…
Five years ago NZ’s associate health minister Tuariki Delemare told the UN special session that it was hypocritical for users of alcohol and tobacco to turn around and condemn young people for use of cannabis. Parliament’s health committee studying the mental health effects of cannabis that year highlighted credibility issues with the very same “double standards”, and recommended that the appropriateness of existing controls be reviewed, and the legal status reconsidered.
This would be all very well, except that the review of cannabis laws instigated by the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy in mid-2000, has been left glaringly unresolved for some 18 months now (public hearings were completed at the end of 2001), as if there never was an critical issue with “double standards” and “ineffective policy” at the core of its health promotion brief.
Yet, according to Mr Anderton (in a key-note speech at an addiction-disease seminar in Wellington on Wednesday), “The Ministerial Committee overseeing the National Drug Policy emphasizes the need for effective law enforcement, credible, effective messages about drug-related harm and effective health, treatment and support services.” (???)
The fact that criminal records disproportionately hurt people without deterring use of illegal drugs – as the Health Committee heard time and time again in 2001 - appears to be an integral part of harm minimisation quantification which Mr Anderton and fellow Ministers are simply contriving to ignore.
The fact that prohibition represses cognitive liberty, generates lucrative black markets, impedes credible ‘anti-drug’ education, alienates users from health services, and degrades rule of law are other “harm production” consequences apparently also being left out of Government’s picture, contrary to any credible standard of due process, analysis and good governance.
Mr Anderton’s departmental “best practice” must too have somehow missed NZ government’s initial analysis of sector interest in harm minimisation, which uncovered “decriminalisation/legalisation as the most recommended “harm minimisation” intervention (“Summary of submission on the issues paper – towards a national drug policy”, Nov 1995 Mental health services, Ministry of Health).
Moreover the ongoing smoke-screening of an official “cost-effectiveness investigation into procedures and penalties for those caught with cannabis” (and deletion of policy analysis listing “NZ’s large number of cannabis arrests representing considerable harm”) is more damning evidence that successive National and Labour-led governments really have something to hide at the core of their “harm minimisation” programme – AND PERHAPS A BILLION DOLLAR ‘CRIME PREVENTION’ INDUSTRY TO PROTECT?
In a recent attempt to defend continued criminalisation mentality, Jim Anderton has inadvertently highlighted the insecurity of his tough-on-drugs position - revealing what the Mild Greens call “the unhealthy tension between prohibition and harm minimisation”: In his policy update [www.ndp.govt.nz/pubs/DPUMar03.pdf], Anderton claims the harm minimisation philosophy “is incorrectly seen as generally condoning or facilitating drug use, and preventing prohibitionist, abstinence approaches”.
Mild Greens say however, that there is irrefutable common-ground between genuine harm minimisation and restraining of “runaway” prohibition - and that Anderton is attempting to pull the wool over the public’s eyes:
Mr Anderton claimed on Wednesday that “Our balanced approach to drug policy is in line with similar approaches that have been developed in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and a number of other nations.” [http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0304/S00168.htm> http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0304/S00168.htm]
But the Mild Greens suggest Anderton might actually be thinking along the lines of Thailand’s policy approaches, where over 2100 people suspected of being involved with the illicit drugs trade have been executed without trial since Feb 1st.
“Australian States have been experimenting with decriminalisation for decades, the Canadian Senate report on cannabis is absolutely scathing of prohibition – and the British Home Office Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Bob Ainsworth recently scolded the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), telling them in no uncertain terms that UK drugs policy is now based on evidence of what works". [http://www.hnnsweden.com/external/o3mar22-002.htm> http://www.hnnsweden.com/external/o3mar22-002.htm]
(The INCB had accused Britain of ignoring the science by moving to reclassify cannabis as a relatively innocuous drug. The new British policy distinguishes moderate use from misuse in managing cannabis related harms, and has qualified its reform with "detailed scrutiny of all the available scientific research material".)
“So if Mr Anderton’s policy program is in line with those other Commonwealth jurisdictions, one has to wonder what planet is he on?”
“And the only ‘balance’ evident in the National Drug Policy, is as much policy fraud, misappropriation, and ‘slight of hand’ going on, as there is criminalisation, injustice and moral posturing (- NZ boasts the highest arrest rate for marijuana in the world):
Curiously, early interventionists in the “Maori/Youth/Drugs-a-priority” Labour-led government continue to turn blind eyes to the near 30-year precedent for decriminalisation, deglamorisation, and reduced use/crime/suicide/dysfunction in the Netherlands…
Drug courts, rehab programmes, police, ‘drug educators’, customs specialists and prison builders are all lining up for their prohibition dividends, but at the further expense of the wellbeing of the young people of NZ, and to the ongoing detriment of mutual community respect.
“Where is the reasoned scientific base for public policy in NZ - and globally, if the administrators left right and centre are covering up the transparent policy evidence that criminalisation/black marketing is illogical, discriminatory, inequitable and counterproductive?” ask the Mild Greens.
Fundamental deceit (and unaccounted expenditure) at the core of the National Drug Policy holds NZ’s Misuse of Drugs Act and its administration up to no small degree of ridicule.
The Mild Greens say that sabotage of Health Select Committee due process and sustaining of prohibition may yet be the Labour-led government’s undoing (it has already destroyed its credibility amongst astute observers) “– if there really is any justice in this world.”
“Prime Minister Helen Clark is like the headmaster who watches bullying in the playground, but says nothing”, say the Mild Greens.
The Prime Minister knows the system is wrong and has argued for “decriminalisation” from time to time - but went ahead and negotiated support of her Government last year on the basis that it would not be introducing any legislation to change the legal status of cannabis.
Meanwhile, principal youth court judge, Andrew Beecroft is bemoaning the absence of well-funded and coordinated “drug rehabilitation” - with justice, social workers, police youth aid and rehabilitation agencies desperate “to effect a reduction in re-offending”. (RadioNZ interview with Linda Clark, 9 April 03). In an almost plausible plea for “concerted early intervention”, Beecroft has fingered early onset cannabis use as a recurring factor in the troubled 14 and 15 year olds he sees from the youth court bench.
“But thanks to prohibition double standards, many young New Zealanders are understandably skeptical about their anti-drug education, and can easily obtain black market cannabis”, say the Mild Greens, “whilst learning the culture of concealment and contempt for the phony rule of law purporting to control this and other substances”.
Justice Beecroft also highlighted what is now becoming the prohibition industry ‘mutual-delusion’, that “there’s no one solution” to the youth criminality problem which is overloading his courts. Likewise, the UNCND gravy train will claim coordinated international effort is the key to stamping out the scourge of global drug trafficking and abuse… The Mild Greens beg to differ:
“There is one very simple, obvious, and easy way out of the injustice system/health promotion quagmire – enforcing AN AGE OF CONSENT FOR MARIJUANA, consistent with alcohol and tobacco”.
Mild Greens say until this highly indicated move is made, Justice Beecroft’s “concerted early intervention” is as hollow and pathetic as UN delegate Anderton’s debasement of harm minimisation.
The question thus remains: Does New Zealand’s Health Select Committee – due to release its report on effective health strategies relating to cannabis (and consequently the most appropriate legal status) - have the integrity and courage to do the right thing??? “Fat chance”, say the MILD GREENS
NZ’s insular consciousness at the nether reaches of the Globe means Middle New Zealand has little idea of how seriously beguiled it may be.