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Pound's Digest: Drug Policies Are Bad, Hmmmm 'Kay

Simon Pound's News Digest
Drug Policies are Bad, hmmmm 'kay
This first goes out on 95bfm on a Friday Morning - around 8 10am

Remember Nandor? You know that alternative guy with the dreadlocks and the hemp suit. The one who blazed into parliament on publicity overload. Who fearlessly fought for dope decriminalisation?

Well he is back in the public eye. But those long years of select committees and bank bench sitting have taken their toll on the radical of old.

Because now Nandor, who, I reckon, is a thoroughly good bloke and a very intelligent advocate who, incidentally, is embarrassed at being seen as a voice for youth seeing that these days he is closer to fifty then twenty, anyhow, now Nandor has come out co-fronting the new Green Party drug policy. And what once would have been pretty sexy news has been a fizzer. Because where once Nandor would be saying free the weed, man, he is now saying lets build an integrated framework where harm management and risk assessment allow us to monitor more effectively the consumption of psychoactive substances.

Well, not such good copy is it. And it'll harm the Greens too. Because there are a number of things in this policy that will ensure that it never gets made law, even by dressing it up in such boring Jim Anderton speak.

In real English, the kind the Green Party supporters would have liked to have heard, the major change this approach seeks is to bring all the things you take to get wasted, well, those that aren't currently B Class or higher, and sticks them under one umbrella, law-wise. And instead of always locking people up for possessing, using or abusing these things we get them medical help if they need it, don't let kids get hold of the stash and pretty much let everyone else alone, to have at it.

But they couldn't put it this way because they are trying to appear responsible, serious and reasonable. And it probably has a bit to do with the fact that he is co-fronting it with relentless busy-body and I-Know-what-is-best-for-you type Sue Kedgley. But, anyway, even if they did manage to sneak cannabis in under the radar by hiding it in such a dull sounding proposition, this thing would still fail.

Because they picked the wrong fight. They want to make booze one of these harm-monitored psychoactive substances.

There is, of course, a mountain of irrefutable proof that alcohol is the most dangerous drug to our society. And it would be better for all of us if we treated it with more care, thought of it as a drug, like.

But alcohol, which is so much worse for people than things like pot, is also resolutely ingrained in the culture. We just love drinking too much and we don't want to see it regulated any more heavily than it is now. And we certainly don't want to be chucked in rehab if we get caught with more beer on us than can be explained away as for our own personal use.

Picking a fight with the national pastime is bad politicking. Not to mention that you are also picking a fight with some of the largest and most well entrenched lobby groups to boot.

There is a lot to this law that is timely, clever and necessary. An actual attempt to acknowledge something that isn't going away by criminalizing it. A real effort to remove gang strangleholds on cannabis supply. An approach that treats substance abuse as a health problem. A lot of stuff that will probably never see the light of day. Because the Greens are coming at this with good intentions, with, unfortunately, the normal destination that implies.

So, cruelly really, this policy will disappoint everyone. Not radical enough for the pro-liberalisation crowd, of which I am one, and too radical for all the rugby clubs in the country who might otherwise have had a bit of sympathy for a little ease-up on the illegality of the old wacky-backy.

And, by stripping new ideas about drugs of excitement they are getting pretty grim coverage relating to their efforts. Normally Nandor talking about ganga makes good news - seeing that TV and radio and newspapers love setting the conservative types alight by having this out-there looking dude talk drugs – but no-one is being set alight when it is a polite earnest guy in dreadlocks who jumps up and says lets build an integrated framework where harm management and risk assessment allow us to monitor more effectively the consumption of psychoactive substances. They don't even follow.

But, just maybe, this is the plan. Say they purposefully made it sound tedious and worthy, which, to be fair, is exactly what good 'well-being-minded' law must be, say they purposefully did this in order to lull the public into thinking it is a reasonable idea at heart. Then they wave a big red flag that says booze to distract everyone's attention. Then, again just maybe, they might magnamaniously offer to remove booze from the ambit of the act and then see if it will wash. Aye? Aye? That would be a cunning plan, probably still wouldn't work but it is heartening to think that this isn't the best they've got. Looks like we'd better not hold our breath for more realistic drug laws any time soon.

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