Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Drugs damage cultures not just individuals? So does drug prohibition law.

Since the enforcement of cannabis prohibition is aimed at destroying cannabis cultures, that ought to be considered too.

Cannabis culture - the belief and practice that cannabis is beneficial, has been around at least since the times of the Ancient Chinese and Egyptians, and in the UK it has been used for centuries: medicinally and as a  natural resource for products from its hurd, fibre, seeds and resins.

There was little problem with cannabis use for smoking until the introduction of the prohibition in 1928, and then the commercial  cultivation and supply was put firmly into the hands of criminals: it became far more profitable to import cannabis for UK users and then came the 1960's and the so-called drug-using hippies, and profits soured.  In 1971, cannabis medicine was banned under the new Misuse of Drugs Act: seemingly unenforceable and costly prohibition of cannabis, thrown in with other drugs, enabled far larger profits to be made, enabled dealers to take people though the gateway to other drugs, enabled the more recent increase ins all scale commercial cultivation of super-strong hybrids ( strong in THC but not in CBD creating unbalanced product).

In fact in 1928, the UK abstained from the vote at the Geneva Convention, saying we had no problems.  Moreover, it appears that the banning of cannabis was largely to with demands from Egypt and Turkey, about to lose their opium-profits, in an attempt top eradicate the form of cannabis called hemp, to boost their own trade in cotton.  They would replace cannabis fibre with cotton fibre, replace opium profit with cotton profit.

There are now millions of cannabis smokers in the UK, both those that claim medicinal benefits or simply use it to relax.  There are massive numbers of people using other drugs, millions using alcohol and smoking tobacco - that is the way our society has gone.

Whether drug use is good or bad for an individual or society, we must consider people's Rights for that too is now law.

Could we justify banning the possession, production or supply of alcohol?  Could we then justify the punishment of drinkers that do no harm because of those drinkers that do harm?

Can we justify invading a person's house and their Private Life, interfering with their lifestyle or stop them using medicinally beneficial plants - because of what others do?

Surely it ought to be a question of whether a drug user or drinker harms or puts at risk, others or their property of their Rights - just as it is demanded in the Human rights laws before any justification exists for the authorities to interfere?

Whether one thinks drugs (cannabis / alcohol) use is damaging to culture is a question for the individual; even where such damage exists there is no justification for punishing people that use drugs in their private lives and do no damage.

Whether it is right or wrong, sensible or daft, to drink, smoke tobacco or take drugs is not an issue for Government, police, judges or lawyers.

The issue is whether the person has done harm - are there victims?  If there is no victim, then there is no crime.

On the other hand, the harm done by unjustifiable laws that exists only n the interests of multi-national petrochemical, pharmaceutical and criminal justice industries, is non-debatable.

Drugs damage cultures not just individuals
Conservative Home Blogs: The Deep End, October 31 2012

When people claim that cannabis doesn’t kill anyone, what they seem to be suggesting is that people don’t die from overdosing on the drug. In this limited sense, they may be right. But, make no mistake, cannabis is a killer.

For a start, smoking pot is a really good way of delivering a variety of toxic substances directly into your lungs. Then there’s the well-documented impact on mental health – especially among the young – triggering psychotic episodes, some of which result in suicide or violence to others. To these tragedies you can add various lower-level impacts on mental and physical functioning and the consequent toll of accidental deaths.

Determining the extent of cannabis-related deaths is difficult – it took decades of research to establish the facts for alcohol and tobacco. But the fact that conclusive studies exist for one set of substances and not another says nothing about their relative harm.

In any case, the comparison of harm done to individuals is not the only issue – one also has to consider the harm that different drugs do to entire cultures. Writing for the Telegraph blogs, Colin Freeman thinks through the impact of decriminalisation on British society:
“The working assumption for the authorities would have to be that there could be a big increase in use, as people who were previously deterred by illegality began indulging. How much punchier would market towns be after midnight on a Saturday, for example, if the average male reveller had had half a gram of coke as well as six pints of Stella?”

The mind boggles, but there’s a serious point here. Criminalisation rarely succeeds in eliminating a drug altogether, but it does limit its availability and therefore contains its use. Freeman explains why this external constraint is important:
“…the few nations where drugs, rather than booze, are the intoxicant of choice, do not make particularly encouraging examples. Alcohol is at least an honest poison: anyone who over-indulges will suffer a hangover the next day, which acts as a built-in limiter on consumption… Other substances, such as opium, marijuana, and khat, the amphetamine-filled leaf popular in Somalia and Yemen, exact no such immediate penalties on the constitution. Instead, they act in a much more insidious fashion, which can allow their use to become far more widespread.”

Mr Freeman knows Somalia well – not only as a foreign correspondent, but also as a former hostage of Somali pirates – he has therefore seen what happens when drugs take hold of an entire culture:
“…the fact that khat has no immediately debilitating side-effects – save for aching jaws for novices like me – means that Yemenis and Somalis are prone to overindulging, to the point where it has seriously cramped their work ethic. Trying to get anything done after 2pm is all but impossible, as most menfolk, rich and poor, are busy chewing…
“Yes, of course, somewhere like Yemen is very different to the UK. But if anyone wants to know what a society where drugs are an accepted part of life looks like, this is a glimpse. It may not be the end of civilisation as we know it, but it isn't exactly the pinnacle either.”

Yemen is indeed a very different place to Britain, but imagine what would happen to our culture if alcohol could be consumed in, say, pill form – and without causing hangovers. Do you think that, in such circumstances – and in the absence of legal prohibition – there’d be less drunkenness or a great deal more?

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