Perigo: Reefer Madness
Broadcast Stratos TV, Sky 89, Thursday March 31,
2011, 7.30 pm:
Good evening and welcome to Perigo!
Did you know that the greatest danger of marijuana is that it induces unnatural and perverted sex acts? When I heard that my immediate reaction was, but I've never touched the stuff!
In fact, this claim, made by the Salvation Army in 1970, is among the silliest that have been made over the last 150 years, when cannabis has gone from being a widely used and acclaimed medicine to a widely used but illegal substance, to stamp out which some 50 people are arrested each day and 6000 are prosecuted each year.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 it's a criminal offence to possess, use, produce or sell cannabis in New Zealand. It's been that way in fact since 1927 when the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed. That was against a backdrop typified by a Christchurch Press story about dope-smoking in South Africa, where, it was claimed, the habit threw its practitioners into “states of wild excitement, nervousness, insomnia, hysteria and eventual insanity.”
The government spends at least $120m a year enforcing the present law; some 400,000 Kiwis admit to being in breach of it, so one can only imagine the number of horses being frightened by all that unnatural and perverted sex. Enforcement leads to cases such as that of Peter John Frances Davy who awaits sentencing in the Timaru District Court. He has cancer and uses marijuana medicinally. He faces jail because of that. And they say it's a free country!
It's times like that one is reminded that New Zealand remains in many respects a pathetic little authoritarian backwater: PLAB for short. This law is an ass, the dope law is dopey, and it's time to dump it.
In fact, it's time to dump the War on Drugs altogether. The unsavoury President Nixon instigated it in 1971. As with the equally misbegotten alcohol prohibition of 1919-1933, the only actual winner of that war has been organized crime. The big loser has been the founding tenet of America: freedom. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness means ownership of your own body. That means, if you're an adult, you may put anything into it you damn well please, as long as you wear the consequences. Currently in the United States, 775,000 people languish in jail for a cannabis offence. That's more than the total in jail for all types of violent crime—real crime—combined.
In California, where medicinal cannabis is already legal, there's a strong push to legalise it entirely, if for no other reason than all the tax revenue such a move would bring to the bankrupt state. Here, in PLABland, the effort to legalise meets obdurate resistance from ignorant and cowardly politicians, notwithstanding public opinion that is more enlightened than they: a current poll on stuff.co.nz has 64% in favour of decriminalisation.
Last year's discussion document from the Law Commission recommended legalising the medicinal use of marijuana and decriminalising possession for personal use. In virtually all other respects, however, it recommended the continuation of idiotic, totalitarian Prohibitionism. Its final report is due this month.
Perigo! advocates zero tolerance toward and severe punishment of, those who commit real crimes: crimes with victims. Perigo! also says, however, that what you put in your body is your business, not the law's—and for that reason, at minimum the current prohibition of cannabis should be overturned. Perigo stands for reason, freedom and excellence. This law is unreasonable, unlibertarian … and bad.
That's the Peritorial. When I come back, my guest will be Stephen McIntyre, President of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.