The obvious marijuana question

Malcolm Turnbull’s easy confession on Q&A last night that he smoked marijuana when be was younger raises the obvious question – does he, and the other Australian politicians who also admit to having dabbled in this drug, think that he should have been arrested for doing so? If not, then what distinguishes him from others who have been subject to legal sanction for youthfully experimenting with marijuana?

Certainly, Australia’s marijuana laws are not as draconian as those in the United States – many first time offenders receive cautions if caught in possession of small amounts – but surely something that politicians seem to treat as a rite of passage should not also involve the risk of a career-crippling criminal record?

Crossposted at

18 thoughts on “The obvious marijuana question

  1. Of course it should be decriminalised – why such a fuss is made about a plant is beyond me. Yes it might be bad for you long term, but so is eating poison ivy, smoking or drinking for that matter.

    It’s be hard to imagine these thugs that supposedly make King Street on Satuday night a war zone being as belligerent if they were stoned, as opposed to whatever else it is they are on.

  2. Legal restrictions have continually increased in South Australia due to the MP Ann Bressington.
    The once relatively free state (in regard to drug laws) is now one of the strictest with all sales of drug paraphernalia banned.

    In our statist loving society, it wouldn’t surprise me if restrictions on recreational drugs kept increasing.

    Freedom is currently being erroded on almost all levels in this country. And I don’t see why drugs would be an exception.

  3. Actually, our marijuana laws have caused misery. The book, ‘Cannabis and Cancer’, details the experience of some Victorian senior citizens. He had a condition which was only lessened by eating marijuana in cookies. She had to procure the ingredients from various shady characters. The dog became a cookie addict. Fear of the law was present all the time.
    What we need are good role-models. The show ‘Weeds’ is a good example, but we need more! We don’t just need police who break the rules to catch criminals, we need ‘neighbours’ who revolt against the rising tide of rules and regulations (cutting down rule-protected trees on their own properties and blaming hooligans).
    If you put principled law-breaking on TV, people will be prepared to live by it. Have characters who regularly smoke marijuana, to spite interfering bureaucrats, whilst saying, “So what if it is stupid? Prohibition is stupider!”

  4. Turnbull’s confession raises an interesting question.

    When he smoked marijuana, he broke the law. There is no limitation on criminal liability, so he could be prosecuted today if there was supporting evidence. (A confession on TV is not sufficient to convict.)

    At the time he smoked it, marijuana was regarded as pretty innocuous. Prohibition was nonetheless enforced fairly vigorously.

    If Turnbull smoked marijuana now, it would be in the knowledge that it is potentially quite harmful. There is, I understand, a well-established relationship between heavy use and psychosis (which explains a lot about a few people I know).

    Nonetheless, prohibition is enforced much less rigidly now. It’s quite likely Turnbull wouldn’t be charged or, if he was, no conviction would be recorded for simple possession.

    So if the nanny state is there to protect us from our own poor choices, you would expect the law to deal more severely with marijuana now than it did in the past.

    The nanny state can’t even be consistent, let alone right.

  5. I’m impressed with Julia Gillard coming out and making it a non issue. The puritans will be having heart attacks if this keeps up.

  6. a well-established relationship between heavy use and psychosis
    I don;t think it’s ‘well-established’ I haven’t looked at it for a while. But there’s some evidence that links it to psychosis. People with a disposition to schizophrenia might be help set it off by smoking dope. And people who smoke when young as well.
    There’s also ‘hydro’ and ‘skunk’. The illegality of dope means that people grow it indoors. The hydro is grown using chemical fertilizers and a lot of the growers are unethical; they don’t flush the chemicals out of the plants before harvesting them. Add this to genetically enhanced skunkweed which has boosted levels of THC and you have a lot of people smoking a much more powerful drug that’s also a chemical cocktail to boot.
    Studies into the harmful effects of dope found pretty much nada until the 90s.
    But all the dope is evil people are absurd when alcohol is legal. Alcohol does the most damage to self and others. No-one smokes a joint and starts a fight unless they’re already batshit.

  7. There was I recall an old northern NSW hippie dude whop was campaigning against hydro. He’s an old pot smoker but, like me, won’t touch hydro. And he was worried about its effect on kids. The Bikies physically intimidated him into stopping.
    Thing is being illegal makes it more difficult to spread information about responsible use. Meantime Gangsta Rap says things like “Smoke Weed Every Day” (Rule #1 of responsible use is: Don’t smoke weed every day). Who wins? G’ment ads or Snoop Dogg?
    Breaking rules is cool when you’re 15. And you’ve got a few kids smoking before and during school even What’s the point of going to school if you’re stoned jeez. I remember meeting a dude who boasted that he smoked before class every day. The best job he ever had was working at KFC. Go figure.

  8. Smoking marijuana is bad, thus the law does not need to punish people who chose to smoke marijuana because the natural consquences of smoking it are bad enough. Prohibition allows criminals to raise money and the consequnces of that are bad for everyone, even people who don’t smoke marijuana.


    The simple answer to Crhis initial question is that Malcolm wasn’t caught. Unpacking this issue a bit more, Chris appears to presuppose that it is appropriate – or that the powers that be think it appropriate – that every breach of a law be prosecuted. This is not the case. Drug laws can have a deterent effect with only a small proportion of those breaching the law being prosecuted. Just as it is unnecessary for every instance of speeding to be prosecuted for speeding laws to be effective in reducing speeding, so with drug laws.

    Regarding AH’s assertion above that the law does not need to punish people because of the natural consequences of smoking pot are bad, this makes the common mistake among libertarians of assuming that people have sufficient information and cognitive processing powers to make reasonble decisions. In fact, an absence of externalities does not mean that there are not internalities that are policy relevant.


  10. Shorter Clever one… Externalities are everything I may want banned and only the government can make really big decisions for me.

    Why do you presuppose the government has better information at its finger tips able to make decisions effecting out lives?

  11. Richard, if people don’t respond to the incentive of drugs being bad, they why should we expect that they respond to the incentive of drugs being illegal?

    Libertarians do not believe that people have sufficient information. It is a common mistake among non-libertarians to not understand libertarianism before they criticise it.

    It is understood that laws create a dissincentive without prosecuting every infringement. However, you cannot have a law that says “every second person will be prosecuted”. The drug laws effectively make everybody a criminal, and that is a good reason to think that they are bad laws.

  12. Libertarians are also against state “educating”.

    Education and health services are not a right.

    In addition, restrictions on freedoms (eg/ drug prohibition) are violations of ideal rights.

    An arguments “simplicity” is irrelevant to its accuracy.

    Everyone is quite aware that drug laws can never catch all drug users. But Chris does not use this as a reason to legalise drugs. Not all murderers are caught, should we then legalise murder? Of course not. Do you really think libertarians are this stupid? Perhaps you’re used to stupidity?

    Chris’s short post does not imply that all breaches of the law can or should be prosecuted.
    Perhaps Chris like me, does not think it is the rightful role of the state to deter people from experimenting with drugs, no matter how stupid or dangerous.

    Incidentlaly, I actually do think that ideally, breaches of the law should be prosecuted where possible. And this view is definitely not restricted to libertarians.

    Making drugs illegal encourages their sale and importation by inflating the price and therefore dramtically increasing profit margins.
    And of course there are the increased crime rates associated with a black market, increased police corruption and other negative consequences.
    So if Richard thinks that drug prohibition simply provides a deterrent with no negative consequences then he is being overly SIMPLISTIC or more accurately, naive.

  13. Dear Illiterate Moron (Richard Smart, The Clever One, Joeseph Jones),

    Please read this:

    “The economic effects of drug use are subject to the same analysis. Since the economic cost of prohibition is $80 billion and the economic cost of drug use per se is about $5 billion, legalization of drugs could have a negative economic impact only if it led to a 1,500 percent increase in drug use.”

    The point is not about deterrence. Basically drug prohibition costs fifteen to sixteen times the benefits. Richard has the gall to call us simple.

    Using Richard’s slow witted mind, we could conclude that even if 74% of murders are solved within 30 days in Australia (which they are), we could slash funding of criminal investigations and prosecutions and the deterrence effect on crime would remain the same.

    What a dangerous and deranged idiot.

  14. Recreational drug use should be about informed freedom of choice, not about being a criminal or mentally ill. It’s sad that the Australian government is limiting aussie citizens freedoms during a time when our soldiers are fighting to expand the freedoms of other nations and peoples. Australia has lead the world on many social issues, why dont we choose to lead the world on this issue and permit people to make informed choices about the substances they put into their bodies. Please Australia, recognise it is my body and should by my choice.

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