Senior criminology lecturer says ‘free the weed’


Dr Fiona Hutton, a senior lecturer in criminology, talks some sense on drug-law reform😕Quote:

QuoI started 2018 with an unmistakable sense of optimism ? after years of procrastinating and avoiding the evidence, a government was going to hold a referendum on legalising cannabis by 2020.

Could this be the beginning of an exciting new era of drug policy and drug law reform? Where policy was evidence based, where the harms from drug use could be effectively addressed, and where the damage from criminalisation could be stopped?

[…]My biggest fear is that the whole thing will end up being a rushed, misinformed, ill-thought-through debacle, and we will have missed a really important chance to make a difference; to respond to drug use and drug users differently and more effectively; to stop the harms related to underground markets and criminalisation. Prohibition of drugs has not stopped people using or having problems with them.

[…]I hope the powers that be will take action very soon to provide a balanced, well-produced, well-thought-out information campaign, to ensure New Zealanders are fully aware of what they are voting for.End of quote.

What will happen is that those for reform will provide reasoned, evidence-based arguments while those opposed will engage in lies, misinformation and emotion. This is because those opposed to reform have got nothing. Quote.

Quote:For example, how many New Zealanders know that since the “war on drugs” started in the 1970s drug use has steadily risen? Or that drugs are now more available, more accessible, cheaper and purer than even before?End of quote.

Prohibition has also increased the potency of drugs. In the Netherlands there are health warnings as dealers cram dangerous levels of MDMA into ecstasy tablets. Today’s cannabis strains are up to five times or more stronger than in Bob Marley’s day. So, if you’re a pothead who likes your THC you can thank prohibition! Quote:

Quote:How many of us are aware that the majority of drug-using episodes cause no harm to users or communities (just like the majority of alcohol-using episodes).End of quote.

By far the majority of drug users are responsible users. Those who misuse get all the attention because they’re far more visible and more likely to hog the health system. Quote.

Quote:How many New Zealanders know that “getting tough” and increasing penalties has no impact on supply? Or that youth drug use in Portugal after decriminalisation has not risen and young people in Amsterdam (where drug policy is liberalised) start experimenting with drugs at a later age than in other countries?End of quote.

The legal status of a drug makes no difference to use. In fact, in Colorado, youth use of cannabis has plummeted as sellers choose to sell to a legal adult market rather than risk selling to an illegal youth market. Quote.

Quote:[…]More importantly, how many New Zealanders are aware the “war on drugs” has not effectively addressed the harms related to the use of illegal drugs, and that in many cases it has actually created or increased these harms?End of quote.

Not only does prohibition increase the potency of drugs but users can never be certain what they bought is what they think it is. For example, a large percentage of ecstasy sold contains no MDMA at all and in some contains a far more dangerous drug like PMA. Quote.

Quote:The need for an informed debate free of stigmatising myths about drugs and drug users is urgently needed. We can no longer ignore the harms our approach to drug use is causing. The majority of drug offences in New Zealand that are prosecuted are for cannabis possession ? are we really going to carry on wasting our time?End of quote.

Remember, that’s our taxes hard at work: not preventing cannabis misuse, but prosecuting folks who just happen to be caught carrying a spliff.?Quote:

[…] Globally, it is estimated one in 20 adults, or a quarter of a billion people between the ages of 15 and 64, used at least one drug in 2014. That’s roughly the equivalent of the combined populations of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. It is a myth that illegal drugs are not available in our society

Quote:And finally I hope that if New Zealanders vote in favour of cannabis legalisation it gives the Government the backbone to embark on a radical and wide-reaching reform of our current drug laws, which are outdated, not evidence based, cause a great deal of damage and suffering, and are no longer fit for purpose. This is what the evidence tells us, and it is imperative we act on it. End of quote.

In the US, where cannabis has been first decriminalised and then legalised the vote in favour of legalisation has been higher than the vote to decriminalise.

Here’s the thing though. Opponents of drug reform aren’t interested in facts. To them, it’s a war for society itself and so any means justify the ends. They will march out fathers whose daughters died of drug abuse. You will hear MPs say how cannabis has “devastated” their community. You will be told that legalising cannabis will crash the economy and that it will be employers who will pay.

Unless proponents of drug reform are willing to get dirty, the opponents will win. This is because when it comes down to it, people respond more to arguments based on emotion than on facts.

However it plays out, we know one thing for sure: it is going to be a war.