So the Greens have announced a new cannabis policy, which they believe will have a realistic chance of being passed. I highly doubt that. In other news, some famous New Zealand (I won't name them, but lets say they're on TV a lot) sporting heros were caught dealing and buying. Below is an opinion piece I wrote a few days ago in response to an argument/discussion I had. Note: It is not specifically addressed to our drug policy but drug prohibition in general.
As the coming election looms I am once again witness to the spectacle of drug warriors hurling a barrage of falsehoods, inaccuracies, blatant exaggerations, and the typical sophism you would expect, at those who highlight the problems inherent in our drug policy. The status quo has been responsible for the spread of drugs into schools, over 20,000 marijuana offences resulting in over 13,000 convictions, 250,000 precious police hours, and worst of all: the creation of a black market that fosters crime and erodes our civil liberties. The recent suicide of an American man, Steve McWilliams, who was facing years in prison after the seizure of medical marijuana (which alleviated his chronic pain), is yet another testament to our futile policy. But none of this has ever concerned the drug warriors. They’re determination to continue down the same road as before increases, as if success awaits them after decades of failure. As some wise authors noted a while ago, there is something very special about illicit drugs. If they don't always make the drug user behave irrationally, they certainly cause many non-users to behave that way.
The law of unintended consequences is most apparent to those who can look past the benevolent intentions of simple-minded do-gooders. Drug prohibition has promoted crime by creating an illicit drug industry that relies upon never ending demand. This demand, which is the true source of problem, has created a $320US billion world wide industry. Forced by law to be criminals, drug peddlers often sell such poor quality drugs that even a would-be $2 shop of drugs wouldn’t go near them. These exuberantly priced drugs are what some men rob, even murder, for. The profit entices the gangsters and the corrupt police. All of this is compared unfavorably with a situation where drugs are cheap & safe and out of the hands of those who are most dangerous.
In hysteria, drug warriors retort that under legalization, use would spiral and we would find ourselves in a much worse situation. They ignored facts like the UK having higher rates of cannabis abuse than the Netherlands, home to Amsterdam, the city of legal cannabis. That America has the highest use of marijuana in the world with the most punitive drug laws should tell you something about the failure of deterrence. The evidence that the impact of prohibition on society far outweighs the costs resulting from drug abuse is too obvious to ignore. The American experiment in alcohol prohibition demonstrated that as murder rates rose throughout prohibition and subsequently decreased for 11 consecutive years following the abolition of prohibition. What greater cost exists than the lives of citizens?
Support for drug legalization is far wider than the public would believe. Studies and publications like the moderate Drug War Heresies often conclude criminal drug prohibition does more harm than good. Instapundit, a law professor and owner of the world’s most popular blog, noted recently that “Compared to the damage done by a few befuddled potheads, the Drug War with its militarization of law enforcement, bloated and corrupt bureaucracy, and gradual erosion of constitutional protections against search and seizure, and even speech, has been a national disaster. The benefits, if any, have been tiny”. Other well-known political writers like Christopher Hitchens , Andrew Sullivan have spoken in favour of drug legalization as have multiple Nobel prize winners (among them peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, author Gabriel García Márquez, economist Milton Friedman). Recently in New Zealand there was the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Tour which featured a former US judge, a former undercover narcotics cop and the former head of Scotland Yard's drug squad. Together with others who have seen the horror of the drug war they have brought attention to the damage done by the war on drugs.
Perhaps the greatest clue that drug prohibition is wrong is expressed through the everyday lives of citizens worldwide. Politicians like Helen Clark get it wrong when they define mainstream kiwis (or “ordinary blokes”) as “all decent, law-abiding, hardworking Kiwis”. They forget most Kiwi’s break the law (they must go along with the libertarian dictum – if that is the law, then the law is an ass) whether it be speeding or drug use. 43% of males aged 18 to 24 years have used marijuana in the preceding 12 months. This makes a large amount of New Zealand males non-mainstream. What is more absurd about this situation is how ordinary New Zealanders tolerate the infringement on their liberties like a timed scared boy running away from the school bullies. New Zealanders continue to vote for the parties that support criminalization of an act that they themselves have engaged in. This means ordinary New Zealanders are either hypocritical individuals who practice one form of morality for themselves and demand others follow another standard or they hold an indifference towards morality and assume guilt for doing something that they are told is wrong. Either way, ordinary citizens risk punishment because they chose it. This election year New Zealanders can end this insane situation where they’re private behavior contradicts their personal beliefs.
When Clem Simich, National’s Minister of Police in 1998, began making moves towards decriminalization of marijuana he was widely opposed by politicians. They did so because they knew – rightly – that ordinary New Zealanders were behind them. This year let them know otherwise.