The only document I have seen relating to a strategy on how to change the law i.e. drug reform was written by a former ACT Health Minister Michael Moore. I was particularly interested in his recommendations because it was the first time that I realised that pro drug activists were well organised as far back as the 1980's.They controlled the information and were forwarding their agenda in schools, university courses and through the media in a most effective way.
Q: It is said that the War on Drugs is lost.
Anyone who says that there is a 'War on Drugs' in Australia obviously doesn’t know much about our drug policies. There is no ‘War on Drugs’ never has been a ‘War on Drugs’ and never likely to be a ‘War on Drugs.’It is a meaningless cliché just like 'soft drug' 'recreational use' and 'prohibition doesn’t work.’ ‘You can’t arrest people out of drug use’ is the latest banality - Who has ever suggested that you can?
Q: What do you mean?
The slogan a ‘War on Drugs’ was used during the election campaign of U.S. President Nixon who saw the increasing popularity of street drugs as a political issue. It has absolutely nothing to do with Australian drug policies. Australia’s official drug policy is ‘Harm Minimisation’.
Q: But I constantly hear the expression ‘war on drugs’ used by experts.
Those who promote this particular cliché use it to divert attention from failed drug policies. They also believe that it is an easy one for the general public to remember. People who are seriously involved in the field of drugs talk about ‘policy’ not about a ‘war’.
Referring to a ‘war on drugs’ aims to give the impression that drug users are unfairly prosecuted and that the Australian National Drug Policy is based solely on prohibition and law enforcement.
The agenda of those who foster this euphemism is to bring about changes to drug laws and drug policy. As Michael Moore former Minister of Health for the ACT and an enthusiastic pro-drug advocate stated in his manifesto to other drug reform activists:
“I blatantly colour the language to assist in building the picture of the failure of prohibition.”
Q: Why let a few clichés bother you?
In the conversation about street drugs, language is consistently used as a deceptive and pacifying technique. For example it is applied to the use of ‘soft drug’, ‘recreational use’, ‘safe injecting room’ and the term ‘medical marijuana’.
Unfortunately many people have picked up this drug culture language. They are unaware of the when and the where and the why it began.
One needs to question how marijuana that can create disturbed awareness of self, apathy, confusion, and short term memory loss - regardless of any underlying psychological difficulty - is regarded as 'soft'. Not only that it is also associated with psychosis, schizophrenia, suicide and many drug related problems.
Secondly, how can the use of mind altering, stupefying substances such as heroin, cocaine and ice be considered ‘recreational’, similar to playing football or reading a good book?
Referring to ‘mull’ as ‘medical marijuana’ is another example of using language to mislead and confuse people.REFER - MEDICINAL CANNABIS Particularly for children who assume that marijuana must be beneficial. It is a travesty to refer to the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre as ‘safe’. It is also false to claim that they save lives. Refer - Safe Injecting Rooms
Such claims are not supported by the evidence . And what is 'safe' about people shooting up a toxic substance? - it is cynical and cruel to exploit the suffering of drug dependent people.The vast majority of heroin addicts are polydrug users and most fatalities occur after using a combination of drugs, particularly heroin mixed with alcohol and prescription pills.
These are all typical examples of ‘colouring the language’ that Mr Moore recommended. The words ‘soft’, ‘safe’, ‘recreational’ and ‘medical marijuana’ are chosen to conjure up positive images. Even the word ‘exchange’ used in Needle Exchange Programmes is misleading. Thirty to forty per cent of intravenous drug users don’t bother to return their needles and either reuse them or discard them. Words are very powerful and a clever way of influencing peoples perception and shaping attitudes and opinions.
Q: Why is there so much disagreement about the drug issue?
It is the influence of a coterie of lawyers academics and some bureaucrats within the drug and alcohol system itself that have been responsible for the issue of illegal drugs becoming a never-ending saga of confusion and controversy.
I can appreciate the fact that there are opposite views to mine. What I object to is the way a campaign has been conducted to create an impression that ‘A War on Drugs’ has been taking place in Australia and failed, whereas in fact ‘Harm Minimisation’ has been the policy since 1986. It is this policy that has failed.
Q: Have you other concerns?
I also object strongly to the campaign to discredit people who believe the priority of drug education should be prevention. Furthermore the fact that we believe in fostering the ‘ideal’ of being drug free for young people and favour abstinence based rehabilitation seems to be an anathema to self-proclaimed ‘experts’ and those who want to change the existing laws e.g. The Drug Law Reform Foundation, Australia 21 and NORML. These organisations give the impression of being on the side of reform when in fact they are actually promoting legalisation. However it’s not only manipulation of language, but we are also subjected to a constant barrage of insults.
Q: What do you mean?
Michael Moore in his ‘Manual for Drug Policy Activists’ urges his associates not only to blatantly colour the language to assist in the picture of the failure of the so called policy of ‘prohibition’. He also wants to discredit those who wish to uphold the law to be commonly referred to as ‘prohibitionist’.
As he wrote in his ‘Manual for the Drug Policy Activists’:
“An intolerant approach, a punitive approach is now not only socially unacceptable – but it would only be supported by an ‘idiot’.”
Furthermore people like me are accused of:
“Racism, and encouraging corruption in the criminal justice system, eroding civil liberties, damaging community health, increasing the burden on the taxpayer”, and believe it or not “assisting organised crime and drug traffickers.” Refer be ALERT and ALARMED
Q: Who else supports his point of view?
Mr. Moore is not alone in making extraordinary claims. Professor David Pennington former vice chancellor of Melbourne University and a prominent advocate for legalisation made reference to those with an opposing view to his own as:-
“…Those people identifying themselves with the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan passing by the other side. The drug user is seen as a reject from society no longer deserving of help or compassion.’’
In my experience the people who devote themselves to caring for drug and alcohol dependents and their families are exceedingly caring and compassionate people. They also believe in upholding the law and support the idea of abstinence-based programmes.
In 2012 when commenting in The Age newspaper on the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s rejection of Australia 21 drug law reform proposals Professor Pennington made another curious comment:
“That is why she has taken the position she’s taken on gay marriage and all those sort of things, because she is appealing to the uneducated, conservative, emotional reactions to all sorts of things.”
Considering that a majority of Australians wish to maintain legal sanctions on all illegal drugs does that mean according to David Pennington - we are a nation of “uneducated, conservative and emotional people” and according to Michael Moore those who wish to uphold the law are not only idiots but also “encouraging corruption, eroding civil liberties and assisting organised crime and drug traffickers”?
I am also reminded of a book written by the journalist David Marr in which he gives the impression that those who don’t share his views are involved in some kind of Christian conspiracy.
Q: What is your greatest concern about pro-drug activists?
Far too many of them are masters of hyperbole* and while all their meaningless rhetoric is tossed about and the debate about legalisation of street drugs is going on little thought seems to be given to young people who view this conflict of opinion as an indication that if ‘experts’ regard illegal drug use as a legitimate social activity, then it is the law their parents and society in general who are out of touch.
The problem is further exacerbated because many people do not really want to know the facts and thereby justify their continued use of illegal drugs. If these people happen to be in positions of authority, such as in government departments, the medical or teaching professions, their opinions pass right down to the youngest and most impressionable people in the organisation.
*Exaggerated statements or claims not to be taken literally but designed to derail a proposal that has a logical foundation. The hyperbole avoids an analysis of the proposal by either extending its scope to an untenable conclusion or by distorting the actual proposal.
The following is an extract from my latest book:-
If anyone intended to undermine an existing system or structure and introduce their own ideology they would create a blueprint and issue an agenda.
For example, if their ultimate aim was to legalise drugs they would never state the real objective up front, but introduce their ideas incrementally and strategically over a lengthy period of time.
DESIGNING A BLUEPRINT AND ESTABLISHING THE AGENDA:
In an effort to pacify people’s natural apprehension about illegal drugs:-
Manipulate the drug language and use words such as safe injecting facilities, recreational use, soft drug and medical marijuana.
Organise support from those who run systems of government i.e. bureaucrats.
Introduce the concept of legalisation through propaganda and distribution of public communications i.e. government literature and the media.
Build up a ‘support base’ in schools - use biased and ambiguous information in drug education classes to promote my agenda. Fail to make a distinction between legal and illegal drugs.Teach that drugs, both legal and illegal are an inevitable part of society. Educate school children to believe that certain street drugs can be used ‘responsibly’.
Promote the myth, particularly to social workers and drug counsellors, that only people with social or psychological problems become drug addicts although in fact most people become addicted to drugs not necessarily because of their socio economic status or a disturbed mental state but because they have been caught up in the experience of drug taking at an early age.
Persuade parents that ‘experimenting’ with drugs is quite normal for teenagers. Never mention the link between experimentation, occasional use, moderate use, habitual use and addiction.
Make every effort to have marijuana ‘decriminalised’ with the aim of eventually having it legalised.
Withhold the fact that evidence about the potential health risks associated with marijuana has been available since the early 1980s.
Suppress or ignore that information and the results of international research for as long as possible.
Consistently understate the effects of marijuana or the fact that it is particularly dangerous if used by adolescents
Persuade people that medical marijuana (the correct term is medicinal cannabis) is a compassionate and caring response to people in pain. However, neglect to explain the fact that ‘mull’ (as used in joints and bongs) is completely different to the ‘extracts and compounds’ of the cannabis sativa plant i.e. sprays and tablets.
Better still introduce ‘medical marijuana centres’. These would provide a haven for anyone who wants to use marijuana. This would increase my support base for law reform.
Disempower police. One way would be to prohibit them from being in areas close to Medically Supervised Injecting Facilities and Needle Exchange Centres despite the fact that criminals are dealing drugs. I would also insist that the police who give drug education lessons in schools follow the curriculum based on ‘harm minimisation.’
Once these strategies have succeeded I would put all my effort into persuading politicians that legalising street drugs would be a source of revenue by way of government taxes.
1 Walters Elaine be Alert and Alarmed 2015 pages 271-280 Michael Moore, Minister for Health. ACT, ‘Manual for the Drug Policy Activists’.
2 David Pennington. The War on Drugs. Time for a Truce or Rethink. Melbourne: Alfred Deakin Lecture Trust, 1999.
3 David Pennington, The Age. Wed. 23, 2012.
4 David Marr, The High Price of Heaven, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2000.
SAFE INJECTING ROOMS: BY DOCTOR LUCY SULLIVAN.
“The overwhelming conclusion to be drawn from the four official Reports on the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC), which together cover its operation from its opening in May 2001 to April 2007 (six years), is that the unavailability of heroin is of far greater significance in preventing drug overdose deaths than the availability of a “safe” injecting facility – in fact the latter shows no measurable effect at all.
This outcome should be of considerable importance to the future of the Centre, and for any plans for replication elsewhere, in that preventing heroin deaths was a dominant political argument for its establishment, and the one that held most sway with the public. It is now clear that the Sydney MSIC was established on false premises.
“The MSIC opened just when the drought was at its most extreme. It briefly eliminated deaths in the Kings Cross area entirely, where the rate had hitherto varied between 9 and 1 per month, and in the rest of New South Wales, they plunged to a low of 6 in May 2001 after varying between approximately 45 and 15 over the previous three years. In the pre-MSIC period deaths in the Kings Cross area averaged 4 per month, and this fell to 1 per month in the post-MSIC period.
The equivalent figures in the rest of New South Wales were 27 and 8, respectively. The falls in average monthly deaths were statistically significant in both cases, being by about 70%, and did not differ significantly in the two locations. This means that, on the basis of these statistics, the presence of the MSIC in Kings Cross cannot be credited with any preventative effect on overdose deaths subsequent to its establishment there.
The fall was due to the heroin drought.
At the time of the opening of the MSIC, a significant factor for ID users welfare came into play, namely, the extreme fall in availability of heroin at the end of 2000, and an only partial recovery thereafter. As a result, it has become absolutely clear that overdose deaths fall when there is a fall in heroin use, not as a result of the occasional use of safe injecting centres – and it seems that the voluntary use of such centres will only ever be occasional. This outcome effectively disproves the much vaunted claim of the drug legalisation lobby that making the illegal drugs freely available would dissipate their harmfulness.
Given the belief that withdrawal of a heroin habit is a dangerous and difficult process, on the face of it, it is surprising that it was apparently achieved so readily by so many when heroin became unavailable; and the rebound, with a return of supplies, was to much less than the former level. The so-called trial of the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre supports the common sense view that restriction of access to drugs, in which illegality plays a major role, is crucial to the prevention of drug overdose deaths.
The simple truth is, heroin is illegal because it is dangerous. Heroin is banned because it can kill people. It needs to stay banned. We do not need injecting rooms in Australia. We need a policy of harm prevention. Drug-free people do not die from overdoses. We need to get people off dangerous drugs. Addicts need treatment and rehabilitation, not a life sentence to an early grave.