PENALTIES FOR POSSESSION AND USE OF MARIJUANA
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”
Martin Luther King
Drug law reformers / pro drug activists believe that the problems of enforcing existing laws prohibiting drug use are too great.
However removing legal sanctions will not reduce the drug using population and will have unexpected and even more damaging consequences
A) The main danger of alcohol use is from drinking to the point of intoxication and because illegal drugs are always used for intoxication users are at greater risks of death from accidents, suicides and criminal behaviour.
The chief reason that the death rate from illegal drugs is lower than that caused by alcohol abuse is because they are illegal. Our present system of prohibition actually saves lives and millions of dollars in economic resources.
B) Legal availability for adults will make marijuana easier for young people to purchase and if attempts are made to limit the percentage of THC in marijuana - a higher-grade product will be produced by drug traffickers and thus the ‘old’ problem will persist.
C) Alcohol, a legal drug for adults is used extensively by young people: therefore, it is reasonable to assume this is because it is freely available and socially acceptable. It is also reasonable to assume that while we have yet to determine how to prevent the majority of our teenagers drinking alcohol it is unrealistic to believe we could stop them experimenting with the newly classified ‘legal’ drugs solely through educational efforts.
There is evidence that laws deter people from using drugs. Fear of getting into trouble with the law constituted a major reason not to use drug.
The history and the experience of other nations demonstrate that drug education and prevention are most effective, when backed by strong laws and law enforcement.
D) Some people believe that the problems of enforcing existing laws are too great. However, those who accept this point of view acknowledge the difficulties of enforcing existing laws, but refuse to acknowledge the harmful effects of the street drugs themselves.
This reasoning would not be applied to other criminal concerns such as larceny or violent assault
E) Some even claim that a government regulatory system could be put in place to control drug purity and price. However, such proposals do not conform with logic or experience.
The reason we don't have a black market in alcohol products is because consumers can easily obtain a drink with the taste, potency and cost of their choice. In the Soviet Union, where the government controlled alcohol quality and quantity, illegal production and the consumption of dangerous substances was rampant.
F) Experience has shown that as well as increasing cost on the social welfare system, there would be an increase in the level of violence and property crime. The impact street drugs in particular the use of marijuana has on the behaviour of people is tragically underestimated.
By removing legal sanctions and lowering drug costs a broader and more frequent demand for drugs will result in a surge in incidence of random violent and higher crime rates.
G) There is more than enough scientific data to uphold the hypothesis of gateway drugs, and also the fact that drug users can progress from experimental use to addiction. Furthermore, it is from that group that approximately half of those who are addicted progress to other more toxic substances.
It is astonishing for anyone to assert that for simple possession and use of cannabis drug users are persecuted and victimised, or as some farcically claim demonised and stigmatised as criminals
Pro drug activists shed copious crocodile tears about ‘criminalising’ young marijuana users. But in Australia young people don’t receive a criminal record for simple possession and use of marijuana. Recently I posted this fact on Twitter and I was challenged to support my claim. Fortunately I was able to document a paragraph from my book ‘The Cruel Hoax’ that was written in 1994.
“Clearly a much discussed harm reduction strategy is the case of young people being jailed for simple position and use of marijuana. This would indeed be a concern if in reality it were happening in Australia. Fortunately, this is not the case, but the propaganda is fairly typical of the manipulation of facts that appears to be an inherent part of any discussion about this issue.
When the federal president of the AMA announced in 1994 that there were over one thousand young people languishing in Australian jails for simple possession and use of marijuana, headlines blazed across the nation and many people were outraged. I was also very concerned and this prompted me to contact our State Departments’ Bureau of Statistics. The people I spoke to informed me that they had been inundated with phone calls from irate magistrates demanding to know who was imposing jail terms on first offenders. Eventually I was able to track down the correct statistics from the Department of Criminology. The number of young first offenders to be given jail terms was two hundred and nineteen. However, these people were not jailed for simple possession and use of marijuana, but for possession of a smorgasbord of other streets drugs including heroin, cocaine. Amphetamines, etc. I have been reliably informed by a number of magistrates, that it is exceedingly rare that the charge of simple possession and use of marijuana is the primary offence in these cases, it is usually added to the charges of theft, shoplifting and other similar crimes."
In fact, it is contrary to the requirements of the United Nations International Treaty for first offenders and young people caught with small amounts of marijuana to be jailed or given a criminal record. As far as marijuana is concerned an evaluation of the requirements of the most recent International Convention clearly demonstrates a move from punitive to remedial measures to deal with personal position and use.”
No one wishes to unfairly penalise young drug users, however a court appearance can often play an important role in preventing further involvement in drugs.
The intention of the 1988 United Nations Convention (Article 3(6)) that requires the possession and use of marijuana to remain a criminal offence is in order to help and protect young offenders.
“The reason for insisting they be bought into the judicial system is to enable magistrates to use the power of the courts to direct them to remedial measures.”
Most of the parents of a chronic drug user that I know wish that their family member had been prevented from continuing their use of marijuana by a court appearance at an early age. There is no doubt that for young people having to explain themselves in court is quite daunting, but the fact that pro drug activists claim that they are being 'demonised and stigmatised' is farcical.
Let me reiterate that magistrates do not record convictions for simple possession and use of drugs, but use their authority to direct users to drug education and rehabilitation. On the other hand if going to court can deter teenagers from continuing on a course of self-destructive behaviour that may result in ill health, their inability to work and ultimately ending up on sickness benefits and disability pensions, I think that should be considered a good outcome. And surely an appearance in court is far better than a lifetime of drug addiction and all the associated problems.
It is impossible to make a comparison between the serious effects of marijuana, ecstasy and other designer drugs that are predominately used by adolescents with an adult who is addicted to heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. Each circumstance is entirely different with a range of variables.
However ultimately we have to decide whether our obligation is to protect the young or allow adults to have carte blanche. You can’t have it both ways. I instinctively move towards the protection of children.
It is curious that the ‘elite’ perpetuate the myth that because people don’t support the removal of sanctions on street drugs, that somehow this automatically means that they support criminalising people because they have an ‘addiction’. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe in a balanced policy based on demand reduction, harm prevention and the rehabilitation of drug addicts to drug free state.
Penalties for the personal possession and use of all drugs including marijuana should involve substantial fines, non-paid community work and compulsory drug education. Also insistence that drug free adolescence is a desirable and possible goal provides the most consistent and potentially effective framework on which the focus prevention intervention and treatment efforts.