[THS] UK: Cannabis: It's Time to Stop the Lies and Start a
vignes at wanadoo.fr
Fri Nov 6 15:29:32 CET 2009
Pubdate: Thu, 5 Nov 2009
Source: Belfast Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2009 Belfast Telegraph Newspapers Ltd.
Contact: editor at belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Author: Eamonn McCain
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition http://www.leap.cc/
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?207 (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
CANNABIS: IT'S TIME TO STOP THE LIES AND START A RATIONAL DEBATE
It doesn't require a Leap of faith to support the growing calls for a
radical rethink of policy on drugs and in particular on the
decriminalisation of cannabis.
Leap doesn't base its case on faith but on solid experience, hard
facts and proven science.
Leap -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition -- is a non-profit
educational organisation in the US, its membership drawn from former
and serving police officers and other law enforcement agents as well
as lawyers, including a number of retired judges.
Founded seven years ago by five retired drugs officers, it now claims
10,000 members in a total of 38 states.
It runs a bureau supplying speakers to advocate the decriminalisation
of drugs at conferences, rotary clubs, community groups, high school
and college debates and so forth. Its director, Jack Cole, served 26
years in the New Jersey state police, including 14 in the narcotics bureau.
These are not left-over hippies or natural libertarians but former
frontline combatants in the war on drugs who have learnt that the war
is unwinnable and doing more harm than good.
Leap defines its mission: "To reduce the multitude of harms resulting
from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the rates of death,
disease, crime and addiction by ultimately ending drug prohibition."
The emergence of Leap has been a factor in shifting the axis of
argument over drugs policy in the US.
Facilities licensed to supply cannabis for medical reasons are
increasingly and openly broadening their customer base to encompass
an ever-widening range of ailments.
Additional evidence of changing attitudes came last month when the
Denver Westword -- a weekly with a 100,000-plus circulation --
advertised for a critic to write a column, 'Mile Highs and Lows',
checking out Colorado's hundreds of legalised cannabis dispensaries.
"The reviewer will be expected to rate the service, and ambience in
the outlets, and help readers negotiate the often bewildering variety
of marijuana products on sale," explained editor Joe Tone.
Things to do in Denver if you're dead lucky: get the job as pub-spy
Meanwhile, evidence on this side of the Atlantic mounts -- if
evidence for a proposition which has already been conclusively proven
can be said to mount -- of the deadly dangers of alcohol,
particularly to young people, compared to the relative safety of cannabis.
Last month Professor Chris Hawkey, president of the British Society
of Gastroenterology, introduced new research suggesting that the next
decade will see 90,000 people dying prematurely in Britain as a
result of alcohol.
There seem to be no comparable specific figures for Ireland north or
south, but we can reasonably assume a similar situation.
He added: "A third of patients on (gastroenterology) wards are
alcoholics -- and these days many are in their 20s and 30s."
In contrast, the number of deaths attributed to marijuana in these
islands last year was nil. Same as the year before. Same as this year
will turn out.
A society seriously trying to get to grips with its drugs problem,
especially as it affects the young, would be trumpeting this
distinction between a safe and a killer drug.
Instead, day in and day out, teenagers and others are urged to
believe that marijuana poses a grave danger, while alcohol, used
'responsibly', will make life fuller and more enjoyable.
People are being lied to. It is my experience that many here,
including elected representatives, who publicly assert implacable
opposition to the decriminalisation of marijuana, will concede in
private that the ban makes no sense.
But, they go on to say that to call openly for decriminalisation is
to 'send the wrong message'. But it's the fact that marijuana is
banned which sends the wrong message.
When young people realise, as they will, that they are being lied to
about marijuana, they are likely to believe that they are being
misled about heroin, too. 'Irresponsibility' scarcely covers it.
There are powerful forces with vested interests in maintaining skewed
attitudes to drugs, most obviously the alcohol industry. If a
substance cheaper, less harmful and more enjoyable than alcohol were
easily available, the profits of the booze business would be at risk.
In Northern Ireland, in this specific matter, paramilitary
organisations, too, have a compelling interest in stifling debate.
For as long as communities can be spooked into believing that puffing
a joint will lead to personal catastrophe, for so long will hysteria
about drugs persist and punishment shooters-and-beaters have a role.
Would the Derry-based outfit styling itself Republican Action Against
Drugs be able to get away with dragging a man from his distraught
family at Bluebellhill Gardens and maiming him with bullets in the
public street if there was a rational debate under way about how to
assess and to deal with the problem of drugs abuse?
The possibility of rational debate was hardly enhanced by the
ignorant belligerence of Home Secretary Alan Johnston last week in
sacking Professor David Nutt as chairman of the Advisory Council on
the Misuse of Drugs, not for expressing an opinion contrary to the
Government's but for voicing facts which the Government -- and the
main opposition parties -- would rather not acknowledge.
Neither the Home Secretary nor anyone who has supported the sacking
has challenged the accuracy of the professor's statistics or the
logic of the case which he has argued from the statistics. Who among
our local politicians will be first to show respect for the people
and speak the truth?
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