Your Awful Pro-Drug War Editorial of the Day (From Australia!)

Whenever this whole rethinking the drug war thing starts to look like it's moving in the right direction, it helps to read a prohibitionist screed as a sort of refresher course on how many minds need to change before these policies really end; this screed comes from Australia. 

In today's Daily Telegraph, Tim Priest, a former Australian police sergeant who was a ringleader in fighting the heroin trade in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta back in the early aughts, explains how drug legalisation is a terrible idea. Regardless of whether Cabramatta was a haven for scary, organized crimes which police were ignoring, Priest still has the mind of a thuggish prohibitionist. Here are some choice highlights of his argument:

I read an interesting analogy on speeding as it relates to policing on drugs. We all know that speeding drivers are responsible for a large majority of serious vehicle crashes. Police issue hundreds of thousands of speeding tickets - does that indicate that the "war" on speeding drivers has failed? Or do we look to an ever continuing road toll reduction and say enforcement is working?

In much the same way, the police should be actively enforcing the drug laws, no matter how watered-down they have become, particularly in NSW, and they should be coercing those offenders into treatment programs, not merely writing out meaningless court attendance notices.

There has to be a deterrent effect towards drug use, along with education - but when these fail, simply hooking up addicts to addictive medicines and supporting them for the rest of their lives is hardly a solution.

Basically, Priest is saying we didn't fight hard or mean enough. This is British writer Peter Hitchens' argument as well, (splashed with moralizing mumbojumbo). But of course, decades of this miserable policy proves that plenty of folks in the United States agree (and usually set the "civilized" jackboot trends in countries there they at least don't kill you for drug smuggling). This logic of fight harder, the misery and death means we're almost there, has lead to imprisoned millions the world over (mostly right here in the U.S.) It is DEA head Michele Leonhart's attitude about the 40,000 dead in Mexico the last five years being a sign that we are "winning."

How much human misery will it take to win? Nobody who advocates this policies seems to know. Drugs available in prison? Fight harder. Criminal elements? Fight harder. Humans been changing their consciousness for thousands of years? Fight harder. 

About a third of adults in Australia have tried marijuana, according to 2005 figures. 72 percent of drug arrest in that year were also over marijuana. 1 in 10 prisoners in Australia were there for drug offenses, mostly dealing or trafficking. The country's current policies, in place since 1985, initially was gentler than in many places, but then there was a backlash:

The first pillar, known as "supply reduction", aims to reduce the availability of drugs through legislation and law enforcement.

The second pillar, called "demand reduction", involves efforts to reduce the demand for drugs through prevention and treatment services.

The third element of the national strategy aims to directly reduce the harm done by drugs to people who continue using them – "harm reduction", for short.

In the 1990s, Australia was among the countries at the leading edge of international harm reduction.

In 1997, the Howard government drew back from harm reduction and placed renewed emphasis on supply and demand reduction. The government had come under strong pressure from international agencies committed to prohibition and then prime minister John Howard said the latest development in harm reduction strategies – making heroin medically available to some selected heroin dependent people – “sent the wrong message”.

However, in recent years notable voices in Australia have joined the global chorus of people saying hang on, this isn't working. A roundtable debate, Australia21, in April included the Australian Health Minister's summary "The key message is we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs and it has failed.”

This reason for optimism for anti-prohibitionists means that people like Priest have to get desperate. And so he does, summing up his article with lazy, Reefer Madness logic:

As Justice Hulme of the NSW Supreme Court said last Monday in the sentencing of a chronic cannabis user and schizophrenic for the double murder of his father and an innocent 16-year-old girl: "I do not recollect schizophrenia, and the resulting horrendous consequences such as occurred in this case, being addressed in the recent advocacy of decriminalisation."

More awful prohibitionist arguments can be found here, or all over the place.

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  • Alice Bowie||

    DON't BE FOOLED by fellow NEW YORKERS...


    If you are charged with 221.05 (unlawful possession), it will still show up in NCIC database regardless of the fact that it is a violation and not a crime.

    The truth is that changing STATUTE 221.10 or 221.05 in NY STATE won't make a difference.
    Even if an individual is charged with a so-called violation (not a crime), this record ends up in the FBI Crimes database; as all Drug, alcohol, sex offenses, and terrorist acts do.


    It doesn't matter that the offense is minor or a so-called violation.


    The individual will EFFECTIVELY STILL HAVE A CRIMINAL RECORD as employers will see it in the NCIC database. You won't be allowed into Canada.

    The FARCE movement is a political move. The Governor/Mayor know the facts stated above. They are acting in BAD FAITH.

    Just LEGALIZE IT already.

  • SIV||

    ^An excellent and informative comment^

    Nice work

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Thanks for the info, Alice, but Obama is one of those pro-drug war types, so HE needs to read it.

  • ||

    Only a third of Australians have tried pot? Seems low. I'm not sure I've met anyone who hasn't smoked some pot at one point or another, except the very old and geezerish amongst us. So I checked. Turns out 42% of Americans have tried it.

  • 0x90||

    It might be interesting to find the intersections of people who have and have not smoked, and are for and against prohibition. Personally, I have not, unless secondhand counts. And I'm 37 -- I'm not old.

  • R||

    Australians smoke less pot because they don't want to give the local wildlife any further opportunities to murder them.

  • SIV||

    Salties on bath salts is a bad combination.

  • Dovahkiin||

    I am 24 and have never smoked pot, but am against prohibition.

    I would probably try it if it were legal, but it is not worth the risk of having some jackass cop shoot my dog and beat me to get a little high.

  • The Hammer||

    Do you really think not smoking pot means that they won't shoot your dog and beat you?

  • Mensan||

    ""I do not recollect schizophrenia, and the resulting horrendous consequences such as occurred in this case, being addressed in the recent advocacy of decriminalisation.""

    Did I read that correctly? Is that fuckwit actually trying to claim that marijuana use causes schizophrenia? Un. Fucking. Believable.

  • ||

    it's pretty common. i do believe there are some rational, fact based, pro drug war people out there.

    i think they are WRONG, as a matter of political philosophy, as well as practical harm reduction (at least vis a vis MJ because it is so relatively benign compared to many drugs and definitely safer than alcohol) but as soon as a drug proponent starts in on the schizophrenia shit they are getting to truther level idiocy. or jen mccarthy vaccine idiocy.

    without the nice rack too. usually

  • Pi Guy||

    So.... MJ's mild (meaning it passes thru the Dunphy Filter) but how about herion? You say there's rational arguments supporting the hypothesis that MJ causes schizophhrenia (linky plz but be forewarned: Google "marijuana schizophrenia" and the first four pages of results only show evidence of the non-link b/w them; I believe it likely that this is the case for ALL drugs...) even though your experience, I assume, leads you to believe otherwise but, apparently, you already know that herion does?

    Oh, that's right - you tutored physics back in the day. You'd definitely know...

  • ||

    no, i didn't . try some fucking reading comprehension

    i said there are rational fact based pro drug war people out there

    i did NOT say there were rational arguements vis a vis the connection between mj and schizophrenia

    i said the exact opppsite.

    emphatically

    what is so amazing about the kneejerk anticop bigotry is it so often infect people's basic abilities to REASON and to, y'know, read a fucking paragraph and comprehend it

    many of you guys really do devolve into slobbering fools out of this kneejerk bigotry

    the entire point of my post is that the schizophrenia shit is

    "truther level idiocy. or jen mccarthy vaccine idiocy"

    those were my exact words

    so FUCKING GET SOME READING COMPREHENSION SKILLZ and get back to me

    for fuck's sake

  • Roque Nuevo||

    Drug laws were supposed to fix a problem of violence and crime in society supposedly tied to drugs. Therefore it just doesn't matter how many people are addicted or whatever. Laws were not passed to stop addiction but to stop the social effects of addiction, like the violence and crime. If you keep this in mind then it's obvious that drug laws have failed. Violence and crime are way up, just because of the drug laws. Therefore drug laws have failed. It was a noble experiment of social engineering, or whatever you call it, but it failed. This failure mandates a return to the situation before the drug laws were passed, or to the situation that existed in the prior 35 thousand years of human history, where drugs were the solution to many problems, like pain, fatigue, hunger, and not a problem at all in themselves. If people in the 35 thousand years before drug laws were passed could somehow use drugs responsibly, that is, without destroying their own lives or those of others with their drug use, then people today should be capable of it too.

  • ||

    um, i am 100% against the drug war, but get your fucking facts straight.

    violent crime is near 4 decade LOWS.

    i don't think that's because the drug war is "working", but you say VIOLENCE is way up, which is utter horseshit and simply wrong on the facts

    it's way DOWN

  • Underpants Gnome||

    Headless Mexican corpses disagree. And personally I would consider imprisoning millions for nonviolent drug crimes as violent action by the state. But yeah, violent crime statistics in the US are down. Hooray.

  • Pi Guy||

    It would seem that the violence tends to be clustered near or around the drug trade.

  • R C Dean||

    As one would expect with a black market. During Prohibition, you could say that violence was clustered near the alcohol trade. Miraculously, though, liquor distributors and brewers don't seem to be shooting it out over territory since repeal.

  • ||

    his speeding analogy is ridiculous. setting aside the obvious differences (speeding is an activity that affects OTHERS, at least in terms of placing them at greater risk, and if you have the time/money you can speed all you want on your own private property (in most locales) or pay to use a local race track. pacific raceways offers such opportunities

    but whatever we are doing with traffic safety, and imo more science based, more effective DUI enforcement, detection, etc. has made a huge PART of the difference, i can point to traffic fatalities and see that we are currently at roughly 1/5 the fatality rate from our peak

    that is AN ASTOUNDING statistic. think about it. for every person who dies in a vehicle collision, a few decades ago there would have FOUR more for the one we have now (again, per capita bla bla)

    vehicle technology has made a difference, better trauma medicine, ems, defibs, and ALL sorts of stuff, but clearly imo speeding enforcement, like DUI enforcement WORKS

    the drug war HASN'T worked, and furthermore, it has caused immense harm to many people simply for choosing a nonviolent activity that endangers nobody else (and often not even themselves if done responsibly)

    it's an obscenely stupid comparison on so many levels

  • ||

    and speeding enforcement primarily works, fwiw because of general deterrence factors. there are a fuckload of people who if they KNEW or were at least 99% certain they could drive 90 on the freeway and not get caught - who would do so.

    criminologists, defense attorneys, prosecutors, etc. almost universally agree that when it comes to deterrence of ANY activity, the most important factor is the subject PERCEPTION of the likelihood he will get caught.

    other factors matter too, but that is by far the most important one

  • ||

    It's the perception of getting caught, combined with the possible penalty.

    If there's a 100% chance that I'll be caught, but I'll only have to pay $1, I'll probably speed (especially if they'll mail me the bill and not pull me over).

    If the penalty is death, even if I'm VERY VERY VERY unlikely to be caught, there is no fucking way I'm intentionally speeding.

  • Pi Guy||

    And there you have it: if every crimes' punishment was the death penalty, we'd have no more crime! And, by this logic, we only need to hang a few every once in a while to, you know, keep up the morale of the whole society.

    Brilliant!!!!!

  • Kwanzaa Cake||

    I think speeding is a great example because the "war" on it is almost as pointless as the drug war and as big a failure.

    You're going to have to show me some support for the idea that speeding enforcement is a significant factor in a decline in fatailities when airbags, major advancements in crashworthiness, not to mention better handling and braking cars, would seem to be the obvious explanations for a decline in the fatality rate.

    I don't think speeding enforcement does anything because everyone speeds. Everyone. Go out on an interstate right now. Virtually no one will be doing the speed limit. Speed limits are probably the most routinely ignored laws ever passed.

    Speeding enforcement is revenue raising, pure and simple, with the exception of the cops pulling over the truly dangerous crazies doing 90 mph+. Those are rare. More common is the family of 4 in a sedan getting a $200 ticket for doing 82 in a 65 mph zone, which is a waste of everyone's time and has nothing to do with safety.

    I don't think you are right that many people would do 90 or 100 without speeding enforcement. I've read that people will tend to drive a comfortable speed and doing 100 is not comfortable for 99/100 people. Going that fast would scare the shit out of most people. I once did 120 on a deserted road for about a mile and knew I was at the limit of my driving skills. Never did it again.

  • aelhues||

    There is plenty of recent research leading towards the conclusion that speeding tickets are not a significant factor in the reduction of traffic fatalities. As you said, speeding tickets are almost exclusively for revenue, not safety.

    So I agree completely that on both ends, the speeding analogy is ridiculous.

  • Pi Guy||

    DUI enforcement preents DUIs? Perhaps. But you're all about the stats so you also obviously know that drivers who've had an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) - which is nothing more than a Scarlet Letter - installed in their car, while prevents revidicism, actually increases the accidents caused by these same sober drivers by 184%? There's actually a law suit in CA where the driver passed out because he had to keep blowing because the IID had failed. They fail all the fucking time.

    And since the vast majority of those charged with DUI are not involved in accidents, it would appear that, much as with the War on Flowers (WoF™), IIDs only make the alcohol stats look good. But safer roads? Uh, apparently not.

    My personal opinion on this (I've had one) is that the people who abuse drugs and alcohol to the point of messing up the lives of themselves and those that they love, is that these people - people like me - have other issues that humiliation and financial ruin do not make for better society but, in fact, further create the isolation and self-loathing that increases the likelihood of more abuse, ergo (I love typing ergo!) leads directly to more of the problems that are trying to be prevented. The WoF is exactly the same.

    Look: Drinking and driving is bad but, if the IIDs are intended to make the roads safer for others - and they don't - then it's time to reconsider that approach. We're in thhe same boat with the WoF.

  • Malcolm Kyle||

    But as far as the right to alter one's consciousness, or addiction, is concerned, not even the death penalty works:

    The Singapore CNB (Central Narcotic Bureau) announced in September 2011 that the the 5% drop per year, which they often proudly proclaimed as proof of the effectiveness of their tough drug stance, was totally inaccurate. Arrests it seems have actually increased since 2008 contradicting Singapore’s assertion that being tough on drugs (even with mandatory death sentences) has ever been effective.

    From January to June 2011 there was a 20% increase in arrests compared to the previous year. This not only indicates that drugs are entering Singapore but also that the amount of people in Singapore using drugs is steadily and surely increasing.

    This isn’t just a problem Singapore can claim is due to chronic drug users, as a large percentage of those being arrested are first time users -- 41% in 2008, 45% in 2009 and 46% in 2010. This clearly shows that threats of caning, harsh prison sentences and even death does nothing to deter either 'chronic users' or 'first time users'.

    http://www.todayonline.com/Sin.....n-the-rise

    The original article from the above link has recently been removed. Kindly google: Central Narcotics Bureau blames under-reporting of statistics on migration to new computer system in 2008

  • aelhues||

    I have never tried pot, or any other kind of smoking, or drug outside of alcohol, and don't drink enough to even get buzzed in nearly every case. Despite my opposition to using drugs, I am also opposed to it being a criminal offense.

    Feeding off of the ridiculous analogy to speeding, I don't think speeding should be criminalized either. If I am operating my vehicle in an unsafe manor, and crash into something, the risks that I chose to take should be taken into account in my punishment. People drive all the time above the speed limit, and do so safely. People also talk on their cell phones, yell at their kids, fiddle with their gps, and more, all without crashing. Just because those things are a contributing factor to increasing the chances of an accident, doesn't mean that they should be criminal behavior. If penalties for crashing, destroying property, and harming others were more severe, scaling with the risks taken, coupled with education about those risks, people would make decisions to be more safe.

    Do we really need to penalize and lock up people for risky behavior? I certainly don't think so.

  • ||

    The real problem is that here in Australia legalisation is only ever defended on grounds of that timid and tepid concept of "harm minimisation". It is socially acceptable to say that addicts should be provided with legal drugs to keep them from crime and overdosing but no one ever suggests that adult recreational drug use should be legal. I once made a dreadful social faux pas by suggesting that drugs should be legal because adults have the right to do what they want with their own bodies, and whether prohibition works or not is not the fundamental issue. I was treated as someone quite outside the bounds of sanity. Honestly, I know of no forum here where that argument is expressed.

    The problem is that if you argue purely on grounds of 'harm minimisation' you not only end up with a bizarre law which declares you a criminal when you first use drugs but legally entitled to them if you keep taking them until you become an addict, you invite the argument that drug laws should be simply made tougher for those selling drugs - while declaring that addicts are victims who need coddling by social workers who hold their hands while they inject the needle. No joke, that is precisely what most "progessive" people here advocate!

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