Cannabis At The Post Office

The general principal is that it’s not sustainable that we continue to give criminals and corrupt police a monopoly to sell cannabis. I don’t want to see that [industry] fall into the hands of tobacco companies or rapacious businessmen. I’d like to see it fall into the hands of the failed business people Australia seems so good at producing or the Australia Post that seems so successful in driving away customers.”

Great quote from the director of the alcohol and drug service at St Vincent’s Hospital, Alex Wodak.

Miranda Devine and Harry Clarke are not impressed. Whilst Andrew Bolt hasn’t commented specifically on Wodak’s postal plan, he never makes any secret of his strong feelings against decriminalising drug-using. Which is odd for a man who last week wrote this insightful little piece about the pernicious effects of Rudd’s state bossy-boots ordering us around like naughty schoolchildren (Nanny’s a ninny).

It’s also odd that Miranda Devine couldn’t care less about the 1 in 5 sixteen year-olds who admit to binge drinking every week but is terrified that 1 in 7 high school students have used cannabis ‘at some time in the past 12 months’!  When was the last time you saw a spliffed up dope-head violently assaulting a innocent passer-by?

Harry’s a nanny-stater through and through but MIranda and Bolty aren’t.  Guys – where’s the consistency in your arguments?

So as a reminder, here’s the anti-nanny state, pro-choice, treat-an-adult-like-an-adult argument.  

Binge drinking, smoking Marlboro 20-a-day, never exercising, eating junk food all day and regularly smoking joints are all dumb things to do. Really dumb. The government’s job is to educate us as to just how dumb this is. It can incentivise us to give up these dumb habits by taxing them. It can run adverts on TV with actors dressed up as ghouls warning us of the horrors of the mid-morning ciggie break. However, their job is not to ban stuff or order us around. That’s what they do in Cuba.

Smoking the odd joint is not going to kill you. But that’s not the point. By legalising drugs you ensure quality control (the biggest threat to a sensible, adult drug user), you collect a small fortune in taxes which you can recycle back into education and treatment clinics, you release half the (non-violent) prison population, you free up 80% of police time to pursue violent criminals, you put organised crime out of business and you stop infantilising adults. What’s not to like.

By the way – check out the comments section from Harry’s article.  They rip him to shreds as a jurassic old fogey.

Update I – Mark points to this Cato article which reveals the costs of policing the drugs war to be 16 times the benefits.

Sukrit makes the excellent point that if we can’t even keep drugs out of securely guarded prisons, what hope do the streets have?

37 thoughts on “Cannabis At The Post Office

  1. Keep in mind Miranda Devine recommended Australia try Thai style drug laws a couple of years back. These people are conservatives: They are anti-nanny as far as it can take it to stick it up the socialists.

  2. Also I think everything Wodak said apart from decriminalization was a colossal bummer. tobacco companies or rapacious businessmen.? Do me a favour. I like the fact that a D&A head has come out against prohibition but frankly his warped ideas about how legal distribution will be handled are unwelcome.

  3. Ben

    ‘these people are conservatives’

    Devine more than Bolt.

    i liked the ‘rapaciousness businessmen’ quote but i thought he was being ironic 😉

    I agree that his arguments are poor – that useage will fall (it wont) and that it’s not a harmful drug (it is).

  4. you support a bs tax on drugs/alcohol? no way man… no way. if you let the government put a tax on your alcohol because its ‘for our own good’ then imagine in 10-15 years how high that tax is going to go after all the moral crusaders keep pressuring the government… get rid of the taxes please, its our choice what we put in our body.

  5. Gee Pommygranate I thought you were a mate of mine. “Jurassic old fogey”, ‘nanny stater through and through’, eh?

    I my article I linked smoking joints to lung cancer and documented that fact, to high levels of dependence (10% of users become dependent), to psychosis issues, to problems of brain maturation in adolescents etc. I provided published links to the claims.

    I have in fact been researching cannabis for the last 4 years.

    I also linked to researcher Jan Copeland a specialist on cannabis who pointed to issues of cannabis use creating holes in the lungs of young people and creating respiratory diseases at younger ages than did smoking. She was emphatic that cannabis is a highly dangerous drug.

    I also pointed out that current anti-cannabis laws are working effectively to reduce its consumption – particularly among young people. The latest National Drug Survey confirms this has been a continuous trend since 1998.

    I also put the argument that offering a new source of legal supply was unlikely to reduce use because the illegal sources could still potentially operate.

    You can deal with my arguments with abuse and stupid agist insults but that does nothing to dispell them. What don’t you try to grow the fuck up. The only counter-argument you have come up is the feeble libertarian plea that people should be able to do what they like. Very boring.

    The argument might be true but it leaves discussion of the drugs issue in a setting that appeals to about 0.005% of the population. There is a broader policy debate that you have left yourself out of.

    Can’t you do better than an adolescent whine and a few insults that snipe at my age?

  6. pommygranate said, ” and that it’s not a harmful drug (it is).”

    How so? It’s negatively correlated with mouth, throat, and lung cancers, and unlike tobacco, doesn’t cause emphysema* or increase the risk of stroke.

    *It will though, exacerbate a pre-existing case of emphysema or bronchitis.

    And while it is correlated with an increase incidence of schizophrenia and other psychosis disorders, it’s been proven not to cause them. (Rather, those with schizophrenia are more likely to use and enjoy pot.)

    It isn’t, in fact, harmful. Modern science over the past 40 years has debunked that over and over again.

  7. hc,

    4 years you say? Have you in all this time figured out why the authorities are unable to keep drugs out of prison? I mean, I think that’s pretty relevant don’t you?

    If guards can’t keep prisoners from using drugs in an environment where they are kept in cells and monitored practically 24 hours a day, what makes you think it is enforcement of the laws that has led to the drop in usage rates for cannabis?

    Just wondering… since you’ve been studying it for 4 years…

  8. Drugs are sometimes bad for you (and sometimes good). Prohibition is bad for all of us. It raises the cost of government, it increases property crime and if you happen to be a user it gives the police discretionary power to haul you off the street and put you in a cage. The only significant benefit from prohibition is that it makes you feel a little better if you are suffering from and irrational fear of society.

    Miranda is a conservative. Like most conservatives she is big on personal responsibility except in certain instances where it would entail personal responsibility. Doh!

    Sukrit – a very good question? Why indeed is a section of society that is government controlled in every detail 24×7 still riddled with drug users?

  9. hc

    i like reading your blog and Miranda’s columns but you both are nanny-staters 🙂
    ‘jurassic old fogey’ is most certainly not my description of you, but of the commenters at the ABC site. i was surprised at the level of support for legalising cannabis.

    i most certainly wasn’t intending to be abusive or insulting. if it reads that way, then i apologise. however read my post again. my argument is this –

    i don’t disagree with you that smoking a joint is harmful. (brandon’s comments above are nonsense). it certainly aint doing your lungs any good though the effect on the brain is debatable as it’s something of a chicken and egg issue.

    But that’s not why i want to see its use legalised. Cannabis is a relaxant not a stimulant (like alcohol). People don’t commit violence when high on hash. Hence the only harm is to the user. Hence it is illiberal and plain wrong for the govt to ban it.

    If you are in favour of banning hash, then by definition you must be in favour of a total ban on alcohol and cigarettes otherwise there is no consistency in your argument. Worse still, heavy alcohol users not only destroy their own bodies but those of others too,

    Oh – and the reason that cannabis useage is decreasing amongst the young, is because they have moved on from this boring drug – they’re now high on stimulants such as crystal meth, ecstasy, ephedrine, ritalin, on hallucinogenics such as angel dust and special K, and on depressants such as chloral hydrate, Robo and GHB. Cannabis looks a little dated these days.

  10. Sukrit – that is a good question and one that i can answer as i have read Jeffrey Archer’s book about life in prison.

    British prisoners are paid about $20 / week to keep out of trouble and perform menial tasks. smuggling in a bag of smack can net you upwards of $500. the dealer is paid by relatives of the user outside prison. sometimes its even a direct debit. increasingly ingenious methods are used to smuggle in the drugs (ie anal storage) and because the money is so large, all dealers have at least one prison guard on their payroll to turn a blind eye.

    net – if it cant be banned in prison, it cant be banned anywhere. the banners have to get real.

  11. Actually pommy, my guess is that the main reason young people are smoking less is in large part because more of them are employed (at least in Australia).

    HC: You should give up on the psychosis issue. Its basically an anti-science argument because it either doesn’t exist or the effect is so small it is basically irrelevant compared to the mental health problems caused, for example, by the increase in strokes etc. due to ill health caused by long term drug use.

  12. It’s remarkable how some intelligent people(eg Harry Clark, Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt) are incapable of joining the dots on liberty.

    They rail against government interference in one area (eg labour markets), but advocate increased interference somewhere else (eg drugs). Harry even thinks letting people do what they want is “feeble” and “boring”.

    What’s so hard about making everyone responsible for their own choices? Smoke dope and scramble your brain? Dumb, but your choice. Drink a bottle of vodka a day and scramble your liver? Dumb, but your choice. With no socialised medicine, nobody else gets hurt. But if they do hurt someone, they are held responsible for that too.

  13. Actually,

    its probably worth pointing out there are 3 arguments, and most people don’t care about the first two which are used here.

    1) People have the right to self-harm
    2) Its logically inconsistent due to other harmful drugs being legal. The argument against this is that it doesn’t make sense to introduce new pathogens into the envirnoment.

    Libertarians may as well talk to themselves on these 2.

    3) You save money by stopping people harm themselves.
    The trade-off arguments for this conservatives that think use is:

    3.1) Increasing prices reduces demand (+ve)
    3.2) Increasing penalities reduces demand (+ve)
    3.3) both 3.1 and 3.2 cost money (-ve)
    3.4) you save money via less harm (+ve)

    This trade-offs with
    4.1) penalties such as jail have large costs (including long term mental health problems)
    4.2) Its very expensive to enforce
    4.3) Cannabis is one of the less harmful drugs so you should win in any game of substitution
    4.4) Less harmful forms of cannabis would be more popular if it was easily available (pure THC, for example, actually reduces blood pressure in the short term — although the long term affects in terms of blood-presure are essentially unknown)
    4.5) Marijuana is already is so cheap (and easy to grow yourself is hard to imagine how you would actually increase the price enough via enforcement without piles of money.

    So winning argument 3 happens on purely monetary grounds if widespread substitution to non-smoked forms happens (we don’t know whether that would be true) or whether the price of enforcement to change the price enough would be astronomical (which it surely is). You probably win a bit on substitution grounds (4.3) in some small groups also.

  14. I’m a big supporter of drug legalization. Reduce crime, increase society’s self responsibility, stop wasting police resources, take away profit margins for dealers etc etc.

    I wanted to add, I don’t think it’s the government’s job to “educate” the public about drugs. I think’s education generally is people’s own repsonsibility and should be in the private domain.

    Also, what do people generally think about drugs being illegal for minors such as alcohol is at the moment?

  15. i know David. i like all 3 commenters but on the drugs issue their brains are more mashed than a smackhead’s.

  16. Tim

    I believe in limited govt (there is no such thing as no govt). One of this limited govt’s roles is to educate people about certain hazards and dangers as new science emerges. ie ‘here’s some of the facts guys, here’s where to find out more information, now go and make your own mind up.’

    Unlike #4, i also believe that tax is a legitimate tool for the govt to to use. For example in a welfare state where health care is free, smokers use up a disproportionate amount of healthcare. This can be balanced by charging them directly on a packet of cigarettes.

  17. Pommy,

    the long term effects of even quite heavy cannabis on cognitive performance are almost zero (surpising but true given the short term effects). There now numerous studies looking at this in uses who have smoked thousands of joints (if people don’t believe this, feel free to look it up on google scholar or the like).
    This of course compares to the long term health complications — increase in strokes, heart disease and so (major problems, just not considered sexy to report) which are the ones that should be considered as they’re the ones causing the most damage. If I remember correctly, there is also an additive effect on some types of cancers (i.e., you get a higher incidence if you smoke tobacco and pot than tobacco alone), although its relatively small.

  18. Why are we even having these debates?

    The anti drug proponents are like Malthusian dinosaurs and industrial sabotuers. They have much in common with the S11 rent a crowd – they don’t want to listen to the facts. They want to have ruinous policies and push their dumb morality on everyone else.

    FACT: 1. The high tobacco excise in Australia and the US does not discourage smoking and increases the murder rate, and organised crime makes a motzah in chop chop.

    FACT: 2. The CATO Institute (Jim Ostrowski) pointed out that drug laws cost sixteen times any potential benefit they have.

    So Harry, are you going to insure a new Ford Falcon every year for a premium of $400 000 a year? Or are you too clever to support such a dumb idea?

  19. But Pommy, ideally health care would be privatised. So any cigarette related public expense is a result of enforced medicare system. Also, do cigarette smoker’s really cost more money anyway. They die earlier don’t they? And lung cancer is a quick death compared to other cancers.

    I agree with you tax comment. I’m in favour of sales taxes over income taxes – however I don’t see why they should be disproportionally larger for some products over others – this implies extra bureacracy and non-market based judgement.
    I can live with a small tax on cigarettes or beers, but I disagree with the stupid and expensive ads on TV because I think education is a private responsibility. But for all you pragmatists – only a moron wouldn’t know that drinking a heap of alcohol is bad for you.
    I’m not convinced that government is responsible for educating us on anything. And I definitely disagree that government should educate us on possible substances that might be bad for us if we choose to use them.

    HC, I think you are making the mistake of assuming that prohibition will result in lower useage rates. Also, it seems you refuse to weigh up the extreme negatives of prohibition, such as expense, police corruption, massively increased organised crime and danger to general public etc.
    In addition your focus on the “think of the children” argument (which has previously been directly addressed to you on this blog on another post) is largely irrelevant. Children are not adults. And this argument skirts the issue.
    In terms of any substance abuse, government should have no involvement. Taking the point to its extreme logical conclusion, I think suicide should be legal and not in the realm of government. This is what freedom means to libertarians. Freedom also means capitalism. And you are pro-capitalist. I think the inconsistencies in your ideology will have a negative effect on your pro-capitalist cause. IMO potential capitalists will not be persuaded by people such as yourself. IMO I think the pro-capitalist cause may be better off without people like yourself. In Australia, government intervention in just about everything has massive popular support at the moment (both the Liberal party and Labour party are testament to this), and this is not conducive to a capitalist society.

  20. My apologies, HC, I got it wrong, you’re not actually pro-capitalist.
    My comments should be addressed to people such as Andrew Bolt.

  21. Tim

    Don’t be silly – Harry fundamentally sees the world from a free market viewpoint. His last two blog posts are i) in support of Keating and Iemma against the unions in NSW and ii) the inflationary impact of repealing WorkChoices. etc etc. He. like many of my capitalist friends, unfortunately has a blind spot on drugs.

  22. Prohibition on marijuana must remain in force because it has resulted in marijuana being one of the if not the most intensively engineered crop. Yields are through the roof, quality is usually premium, and prices have remained at 1990 levels. Go find me a market performing better than that.

    The GST component alone on M sales could build many hospitals. Legalise it, there is more risk in many pharmaceutical drugs, workplaces, and food than there is in marijuana.

  23. John, if we applied your logic to everything, we could, for instance, guarantee winning every event in the Olympics, by banning athletes from training beforehand. The illegal training they would do would be better than the govt-sponsored one, so Australia would win all the medals!
    I vote we try this method, and see if John is onto something, or just smoking something!

  24. It is a nice historical lesson Mark. Where I live at night I can see the helicopters shining their searchlights over the forest, looking for crops. Happens a lot so everyone went indoors and once you make that step a whole new host of technologies are required but these technologies allow all manner of experimentation. So enforcement activities drove technology. It can happen, albeit occasionally.

    So when prohibitionists complain about the new high potency strains they have only themselves to blame. If left to many people they would grow their weed and be happy with that. If legalised the market might actually shrink. If legalised and commercialised the pace of change would have been much quicker. Pity about that because cannabinoids have some remarkable potential in treatment regimes.

  25. Yet we hear this “super skunk” development as just another long line of new excuses by prohibtionists to attack freedom and wage their costly and bloody social engineering.

  26. Harry Clarke claims that research has “linked smoking joints to lung cancer”.

    That is complete bullshit, Harry. You are talking out of your arse. You clearly have not done your research properly, or with an open mind.

    Despite intensive efforts to prove otherwise, properly controlled studies have failed to establish any significant link between smoking cannabis (only) and lung or upper respiratory tract cancers. None. Nil. Zero. One recent major epidemiological study on exactly this question even found that there is a slight negative corelation between cannabis smoking and these cancers. (See ‘Marijuana use and the risk of lung and upper aerodigestive tract cancers: results of a population-based case-control study’; Hashibe M, et al, 2006).

    Compare and contrast to the massive and unarguable link between tobacco smoking and those types of cancers, and a whole bunch of other serious diseases, especially cardiovascular.

    If the foaming-at-the-mouth, howling-at-the-moon, anti-drug zealots were genuine about reducing the damage from recreational drug use, they would direct all their energy against truly appalling trainwreck caused by alcohol and tobacco, which account for the VAST majority of injury and death arising from recreational drug use. Hands down winners. No argument about that.

    I ain’t holding my breath.

  27. England wants to reclassify marijuana back up to class B, against the recommendations of its own experts. The money quote about psychosis:

    “You’d need to prevent 5,000 young males from taking cannabis to stop one case of schizophrenia. And for women, it would be 20,000 to stop one case.”
    -Michael Rawlins, Drugs Misuse Advisory Council

    Pot is bad for you – bad for your lungs and air passages, bad for your concentration and memory, bad for your emotional state if you’re vulnerable. But so what? The role of government is not to prevent all possible harm, because that’s impossible.

    And the evidence about reduction in drug use typically shows the greatest effect comes from education, not punitive laws.

  28. Nicholas – how about we go the other way and start an olympics where anything goes as far as drugs are concerned. I wonder which would be more popular to watch.

    We could do the same with genetic engineering. No doubt some will consider engineering a cubic chunk of flesh to block the goal in soccer as going too far… wowsers!

  29. Harry Clark asked in his article “Where is the evidence that cannabis smoking is unlinked to lung cancer, emphesima (sic) etc?. Now at post 5 HC raises this issue again. HC you must have misssed my reply.

    “In February 124,000 doctors from the American College of Physicians, the second largest group of doctors in the US released a statement informing the world “Mainstream Medicine Endorses Medical Marijuana.”

    The ACP position paper demolishes several myths, starting with the notion still proclaimed by some politicians that marijuana is unsafe for medical use. The College notes that the most serious objection to medical marijuana — potential harm to the lungs from smoking — has largely been solved by a technology called vaporization, already proven in scientific studies.

    The ACP position paper also explains that there is no reason to believe that protecting medical marijuana patients leads to increased drug abuse. “Marijuana has not been proven to be the cause or even the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse,” the doctors write. “Opiates are highly addictive, yet medically effective … There is no evidence to suggest that medical use of opiates has increased perception that their illicit use is safe or acceptable.”

    Quoted from PR.Canna Zine website for full article.

    Harry please check your facts!

  30. Fleeced,

    If they did actually stop all drug abuse by athletes the Olympics would die. Performancing enhancing drugs simply make that much difference.

    So role on the Free for All Olympics, it actually represents the future of medicine and possibly not that far away. Specific medicating tailored to individual metabolisms. Very promising. The druggie Olympians can provide very valuable data on *humans* about the drugs, the Olympics will improve, and we will open up a new avenue for improving our understanding of human biology. There are no losers here dude.

  31. I reckon performance enhancers make a difference to “pure” athletics, but not to sports.

    Nandralone won’t make you bend it like Becks.

  32. If you are in favour of your children being able to obtain drugs then by all means be in favour of drug prohibition. When I was 14 I was able to buy pot (and any other prohibited narcotic I wanted) but I was not able to buy booze. This is because outlawed drugs do not go away, they just go underground to be sold by people who do not care about things like quality or the fact that their punter is underaged.

  33. An amusing thought just came to me, and it might make a good story. We should get the government to heavily promote any and all drugs, so that kids will hate taking them, and believe that the way to rebel is to take nothing, and ignore the government’s campaigns! Problem solved! You’ll always get the neurotic conformers who will take drugs, because the government says so, but we’ll all benefit when they take all those substances, and remove themselves from the gene pool!

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