National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

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10 Dec 2010

Submission by Macciza

Introduction and Mission

This submission will deal primarily with the plant Cannabis, its current illegality and the consequences of it's cultivation and consumption by adults. In this context it proposes a total harm minimisation approach whereby all criminal penalties are removed. It applauds the efforts being taken to reduce the many associated harms from alcohol use and abuse.

If I were to be blunt I would have to say that with regards to Cannabis, the National Drug Strategy has failed in both it's stated aims and in its operational implementation. It has rejected numerous substantiative recommendations for change of legislation to allow Cannabis use by adults and instead continued a policy of prohibition which by definition creates the very 'problems' which we now seek to solve.

It fails in its stated aim of minimising harm for personal cannabis cultivation by continuing to pursue an overall policy of prohibition thereby criminalising behaviour which is simultaneously defined as a health issue. In fact it has increased the penalties for the preferred method of home cultivation in a number of States, allowing organised syndicates to charge more for their commodity and imposing greater penalties on continuing personal cultivators.

It fails in its implementation of harm minimising because it does nothing to reduce the major harm associated with Cannabis; apprehension, criminal prosecution, possible conviction and penalties including incarceration. It also fails to recognise and allow the medicinal use of Cannabis, as a herbal alternative to current licit prescription drugs, nor as a prescribed prepared commercial product such as Sativex. Our endogenous Cannabinoid system is an area of promising research in the treatment of numerous diverse ailments and yet the use of therapeutic Cannabis is compromised by an archaic social control law.

It fails in its operational aims because the principle of prohibition of popular activities is fundamentally flawed. As with the case of Alcohol prohibition, continued Cannabis prohibition creates a marginally restricted 'black' market; and as with Alcohol prohibition, the only solution is to legalise, regulate and tax the product in a legitimate m

The Pillars: Supply Reduction

The Supply Reduction policies and objectives are not particularly appropriate to the decriminalised cultivation and consumption of Cannabis by adults. Rather than prohibiting and placing Cannabis in an uncontrolled market, Cannabis cultivation should be encouraged in a regulated market ensuring strain purity and quality.

Many of the arguments presented in this section are questionable once one accepts that Prohibition itself is the major problem. They are often based on moralistic, illogical 'a priori' assumptions that fail basic analysis ie- all 'illegal' drug consumption is 'misuse'. Additionally the arguments you use for legal drugs apply equally to personal Cannabis consumption by adults. For example, rephrased from the National Draft Strategy:

For personal Cannabis consumption by adults , both government and non-government authorities need to collaborate in regulating access to these drugs based on community norms and standards, and the health and other harms arising from inappropriate access. For cannabis, this means that cannabis licensing, planning authorities, licensed venues and retailers need to be involved – as do parents in reducing the supply of cannabis to minors. Additionally, the involvement of retailers is essential. For pharmaceutical cannabis, doctors and pharmacists need to be consulted and involved in supply improvement strategies to increase pharmaceutical use.

Objective two demonstrates further failures of logical insight:

Supply reduction for alcohol, tobacco, pharmaceutical and other legal drugs involves activities targeted toward the regulation of legitimate supply and the detection and interruption of illegal markets.

Obviously it is far easier to exercise true 'regulation' upon a legitimate market. We can only seek to 'detect and interrupt' illegal markets; by definition is there is no effective control of product purity, quality or quantity in a 'Black Market', and age restrictions etc simply are not applied.

Supply reduction policies have no place in the decision of an adult to grow Cannabis for personal consumption. Adults should be encouraged to cultivate Cannabis for personal consumption as an alternative to purchasing i

The Pillars: Demand Reduction

Demand reduction has no place in the informed decision of an adult to cultivate and consume Cannabis in moderation.

Again from your own publication, "The demand for drugs can also be affected by their availability and affordability; which can, depending on the drug, be influenced through supply control, regulation and taxation." The best method of supply control is through regulation and taxation of a legitimate market. Prohibition policies have negligible effect on demand and legalisation does not lead to an increase in demand.

Whilst we are talking about demand reduction, we are not aspiring to drug use elimination; drug use is an accepted part of our society - we are an intoxicated society. Inherent in this argument is a certain allowance of legitimate drug use, as opposed to the all too often used term of drug misuse with regards to any Cannabis consumption. Just as many people enjoy a relaxing alcoholic beverage in the evening, there are many people who simply choose to consume Cannabis instead.

Criminalisation of Cannabis users marginalises them from society and disconnects them from the broader community, the very opposite of the stated aims of inclusivity and connection. The continued criminality of cannabis is a policy of social exclusion. It discriminates against socially disadvantaged groups who are over-represented in the statistics and is not based upon any principal of harm minimisation.

The objectives of this section are either reduced, reversed or irrelevant if Cannabis consumption by adults is legally permissible, in line with the numerous official recommendations and overwhelming community opinion supporting such change. Cannabis cultivators and consumers come from all walks of life across every echelon of society. They are productive members of our society who are indistinguishable from the general populace by any criterion other than their choice to consume Cannabis. Their criminalisation is as selective as discrimination based on race, culture or sexual orientation.

The Pillars: Harm reduction

Again I will be succinct - with regards to personal Cannabis cultivation and consumption by adults - you have failed and your efforts in this and related ares are counter-productive and cause greater social harm than any policy of legalisation. By criminalising an essentially victimless crime you create its victims, and the associated social harms.

The policy of prohibition creates greater adverse health, social and economic consequences than personal consumption of Cannabis. It is generally agreed that the harms associated with the criminalisation of personal Cannabis consumption far outweigh any possible adverse health effects of its use in moderate amounts. The social and economic consequence of Cannabis's illegality far out weigh any possible direct consequence of personal Cannabis cultivation and use by adults.

The use of medicinal Cannabis medications should be allowed immediately. Cannabinoids have a remarkable safety record, particularly when compared to other therapeutically active substances.  Most significantly, the consumption of marijuana – regardless of quantity or potency -- cannot induce a fatal overdose. There are no recorded cases of overdose fatalities attributed to cannabis, and the estimated lethal dose for humans is so high that it cannot be achieved by users.

The most required 'Harm Reduction' with regards to moderate Cannabis cultivation and consumption by adults is the removal of criminal sanctions and the harms associated with criminal detection, prosecution and penalties. Any policy that ignores these factors is a contributing factor to ongoing harm production.

The National Drug Strategy should enforce its policy of harm reduction and recommend the removal of criminal penalties for the cultivation and consumption of Cannabis by adults.

Workforce

The development of a qualified workforce requires governance. The workforce in most need of education, support and development is our Political workforce. Our politicians need to be educated with regards to treating personal Cannabis consumption as a health problem rather than a legal issue. The National Drug Strategy needs to support calls for reform of drug laws from within its own ranks and from affiliated industries and professional sectors; a majority of the issues they have to deal with on the 'Frontline' are products of prohibition.

The Drug Law Enforcement workforce needs to be given clear direction to not pursue minor cases of personal Cannabis consumption. The various recommendations for reform of Cannabis laws from within law enforcement, and criminology's, own ranks need to be given far greater respect rather than rejection; these recommendations are from people who are on the 'Frontline' of the 'War on Drugs' and have experienced its failure first hand.

The National Drug Strategy should accept the recommendations from within its own workforce for Cannabis to be treated as a health issue, and adopt a policy in support of removing criminal penalties for the personal cultivation and consumption of Cannabis by adults.

Evidence base and Performance measures

If we are to use approaches that have been proven to be effective, then surely prohibition, as was experienced with alcohol, is a proven failure and alternatives should be sought. Would we have 'won the war' against alcohol by now, if it had remained illegal? If tobacco were criminalised to the point that Cannabis is, would that reduce attendant harms or create even greater problems socially? Considering you have not 'won' much against organised drug crime in more than 50 years of prohibition, let alone as a result of the renewed efforts over this past 25 years; can anyone serious believe that wewill achieve much in the next 25 years following the same path of prohibition and 'guns and robbers'.

There already exist a huge body of generated evidence on Cannabis - particularly regarding reform of laws against its personal cultivation and consumption. The real question is 'why are these recommendations for legal acceptable use are always ignored' ? The complete rejection or subsequent 'de novo' re-evaluation of any recommendations to reform laws to allow personal adult cultivation and consumption of Cannabis is an unfortunate indictment of the corruption of the political process. Law is not an absolute, particularly in a rapidly changing society. Law reform should be seen as a process rather than a destination, and should also overcome party politics and personal prejudices.

The National Drug Strategy has continued to perpetuate myth and hysteria regarding Cannabis cultivation and use, and directly supports powerful criminal syndicates through continued criminalisation of a popular recreational activity. Its selective rejection of any recommendations for liberalisation of current laws reinforces an already too powerful black market.

Performance measure may be analysed in many different ways to support many different viewpoints. It is time the National Drug Strategy realises and reflects the fact that increasing Cannabis arrest and increasing Cannabis seizures are a sign of policies failings and not of laws succeeding.

The Performance Measures to date reveal an approach which is unworkable, unachievable, unsustainable and unaffordable. Arrests and seizures repr

Governance

Governance is certainly needed - the Government at all levels needs to take the lead is making Cannabis a non-criminal offence in line with the numerous recommendations for change that it has requested and received in past. The political community needs to engage in productive debate to immediately enact legislation enabling the medical use of marijuana and to remove criminal penalties for the personal cultivation and consumption of Cannabis by adults.

The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse had a policy of 'uniform drug legislation' across the various States and Territories back in 1985. The Federal government needs to take the lead in setting an agenda of reform to bring all States and Territories to remove criminal penalties for personal Cannabis cultivation and consumption by adults.

The Intergovernmental Committee in Drugs should immediately review all the evidence in support of Cannabis law reform and the recommendations therein for legal reform and provide policy advice to the relevant Ministers in line with such recommendations of reform to remove criminal penalties for the personal cultivation and consumption of Cannabis by adults.

The continued support for prohibition by many levels of government is an endorsement of organised crime as it potentiates the very criminal syndicates whose very existence relies on the continuation of prohibition. This is not only an historically proven fact, but is also currently a major reason behind law reforms in many countries that have enacted reforms.

Governance is needed to take the lead and set an agenda of reform - any other course of action is complicity criminal.

Other comments

Although this is my submission, I feel it is also a submission made on behave of numerous others as well.

It is a submission reflecting the views of millions of ordinary Australians who support Cannabis Law Reform. It also presents views shared by their political organisations such as HEMP, Help End Marijuana Prohibition, and representative organisations such as NORML, National Organisation to Reform Marijuana Laws.

Recommendations.

Cannabis 'misuse' should be dealt with as a medical issue without attendant criminal penalties. We are an 'Intoxicated Society"; drugs are used acceptably in many social contexts within our society. We also use drugs to medicate; although almost every commonly available prescription drug has a far greater potential for harm, including lethality, the use of Cannabis as medicine is criminalised.

Medicinal use of Cannabis should be approved immediately. This would apply to proprietary medicines such as Sativex and to cultivation of the plant for personal medicinal use. Licensed growers should be allowed to grow certified medical-grade Cannabis for those unable to self-cultivate.

Cannabis 'use' should not be subject to criminal sanction. At the barest minimum personal cultivation and use of Cannabis by adults should not be a criminal offence. I believe its private cultivation should be encouraged as an alternative to 'illegal' supplies of unknown quality or purity. As we are a consumer society that often prefers the protection and certification of purchased goods it follows that a legitimate supply of known quality and purity is required to give the consumer the necessary protection and information when making an informed decision to consume Cannabis. Similar to the ability for people to brew there own beers, or purchase it as a known product, adult individuals should always retain the right to cultivate there own Cannabis, regardless of any possible means of legitimate purchase.

In closing, I was an activist for Cannabis Law Reform during the 1980's and I can only hope that my actions contribute to ensuring that my grandchildren are not exposed to the horrors of a continuing 'War On Drugs' in another 25 years.

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