drugs - just say 'know'
info from the Green Party Drugs Group
In the times of Elizabeth I if you farmed more than 70 acres of land it was an offence not to grow at least one acre of cannabis hemp. England needed hemp, it clothed us, it provided the rope and sails for an expanding navy, paper, oil, food and 101 other uses. It has been called the basis of the British Hempire.
Now just one Elizabeth later, you can get your door smashed down, your bank account monitored, your phone tapped, stopped, searched, tested and arrested and slung in jail for growing just one plant let alone an acre. You can also be let off with a caution depending on where you live and whether the Police like you or not. Times have changed.
The Problems of Prohibition - Green Drug Policy and amendments.
Civil Liberties. We should remember that the war on drugs is in reality a war on drug users. The main guiding force for any law and in particular the laws on drugs should be that you are free to do what you want so long as you don't effect other people's freedoms, or live and let live. In the 1990's the 'catch all' of the war on drugs allows the Police and State increased powers over our civil liberties, from stop and search on suspicion of drugs, testing, criminal records for millions of people, interception of fax, phone & email(1).
Jack (last) Straw, our stay at Home Minister has recently announced if people look wealthy with no visible means of support then property and funds may be seized. Any bank movement of more than $10,000 is monitored by the US government under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. (2) All part of the war on drug users.
Tobacco and alcohol can be dangerous killers, (est 160,000 deaths /yr uk)(3) cannabis, for example, is not. We should be allowed to choose what drug we use, especially if that drug does no harm to us or anyone else. Coming up to the millennium around half of the population has tried some sort of illegal drug, so either half the country is to be classified criminal or we change the law. This is a ridiculous situation to be in. The 1997 UN World Drug Report estimates in 1996 that 141 million people smoked cannabis, about 3% of world's population.
Prohibiting something simply creates an illegal market. The lesson was learnt in the US in the 30's with alcohol prohibition and it's being relearnt again now. Drugs is big money, the same UN Drug report estimates the drug trade to be the third largest in the world, after oil and arms. At 8% of world trade, £250 billion pa, it's bigger than the motor industry.
What is our government doing about it? - saying keep it criminal. This massive amount of illegal money is corrupting the banking system, - BCCI, Nugen Hand, to name a couple, it corrupts Police, Customs and Governments. In particular the collusion of groups in the US government (CIA, FBI, DEA) to help the Nicaraguan Contras and allow the explosion of crack cocaine in the inner cities of America.(4). The oil, plastic, lumber and pharmaceutical trans national Corporations have all benefitted from the prohibition of cannabis hemp in particular.
Around 30-50% of crime is related to dependent drug use, e.g. crack cocaine and heroin.(5) It's quite possible to work in a well paid job and afford a heroin habit, but low paid or no paid and people can end up stealing, - car crime, housebreaking and muggings are obvious choices. If you have been mugged or broken into you don't feel the same, it shakes you up, you don't feel such a trust for strangers, this affects community for the worse. It also breaks down communities, the Police use of drug informants is well known and creates massive distrust in the community where informants are seen as untouchable and free to do as they like.(6)
Shape of Things to Come?
You may be forgiven for assuming that prohibition has failed, but no, Pino Arlacchi, the head of the UN International Drugs Control Programme, has concluded the 'war on drugs has just started', he has called for more crop eradication, (in South America, the budget of which is already more than the aid budget!) He wants a genetically modified fungi to wipe out the coca and cannabis plant, destruction of chemical production facilities and aims to reduce demand through education and harsher penalties. In other words, more of the same.
Our very own Tony Blair wants to 'breathe new life into the war on drugs', we have Special Branch & MI5 trying to avoid the P45 by deciding that drug users will be the 'New Russians' to justify their jobs and their spying on us.
If our drugs policy continues along the same lines we can look to the USA for the shape of things to come. Zero Tolerance, 3 drug offences and you get 7 years as cheap incarcerated labour in a private prison. There are around 1.7million people in US prisons of which around 500,000 are in for drugs. That's around 1/3 of the total prison populations in for drugs. Around 5.5 million Americans are either in prison, on parole or probation for drugs related offences. Most of these people are African Americans from poor communities with no dole, for whom drugs offer one of the few means of making money. Recently 60% of new prisoners are in for drugs offences.(7). This is not the example Greens would like the UK to follow, but with the retreat of the welfare state and increasing prohibition this seems to be the route we are being taken.
We want a drugs policy that:
The Political Outlook.
The only positive move on the Government's part is allowing trials on medical marijuana, but in pill form. Through this it may give way on medical marijuana but not recreational stress relieving smoking. On general drug use it's more of the same with added testing at work and on the road, recently new Labour has floated the idea of mandatory testing of all public sector employees. Note cannabis traces stay in the body for around 30 days, heroin only 2-3 days. As well as making making drug testing irrelevant, (a joint smoked three weeks ago is not going to impair your crane driving abilities), it also causes chaos in the prisons. The Tories are saying the same thing, the Lib Dems called a Royal Commission to look into cannabis before getting slapped down by Ashdown. The old Liberal Party calls for legalisation.
There are millions of people who take or have taken illegal drugs, people who realise the system of prohibition is unfair and counter productive but are scared to speak out. The May Day Cannabis and Probition March - May 1st 1999 in London and linking in with similar events around the world will give people a chance to come out of the closet or club over drug use. It will also be a week before the Local Elections and 5 weeks before the Euro Elections (with PR?). This will give people a chance to vote for a progressive drug policy. When Labour sees votes lost to the Greens they will be more open to change.
In the USA nine states have voted to allow medical cannabis. The Greens in Germany have negotiated big changes in drug policy. Addicted drug users will be treated with care not punishment, with therapy, substitute and original drugs available instead of prison. A similar scheme in Zurich is currently cutting crime by 60% amongst addicts, a recent referendum voted to continue the policy. Virtually every state in Europe has a more liberal drug policy. If it's happening elsewhere why can't it happen here?
Shane Collins firstname.lastname@example.org 0181 671 5936 May Day - May 1st 1999 Cannabis & Prohibition Rally, London & Global. see http://www.schmoo.co.uk/mayday.htm
Disclaimer: all opinions stated are those of the Green Party Drugs Group. and are not necessarily endorsed by urban75
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