Change In The Wind On Drug Laws

Change In The Wind On Drug Laws
Posted by FoM on July 13, 2001 at 16:16:24 PT
By Gwynne Dyer 
Source: Star-Ledger 
The dam burst last weekend. There had been cracks in the concrete of consensus and growing trickles of dissent for some time, but suddenly the issue of legalizing the use of marijuana is on the table in a major country and an English speaking one, at that. In Spain, Italy, Portugal and Switzerland, it is already practically impossible to get arrested for buying or using "soft drugs." In the Netherlands, users may buy up to 5 grams of marijuana or hashish for private use at 1,500 licensed "coffee shops," and they are opening two drive-through outlets in the border town of Venlo to cater to German purchasers. 
Even in Canada, Conservative leader and former Prime Minister Joe Clark is openly calling for the decriminalization of pot. But that is still far short of what Sir David Ramsbotham, the outgoing chief inspector of prisons, suggested in Britain. "The more I look at what's happening, the more I can see the logic of legalizing drugs because the misery that is caused by the people who are making criminal profit is so appalling and the sums are so great that are being made illegally. I think there is merit in legalizing and prescribing so people don't have to go and find an illegal way of doing it," he said. You will note that he said "drugs," not just marijuana, and that he talked of "legalizing and prescribing," not just "decriminalizing." Most British politicians are afraid to go that far in public yet, but over the past week former Home Secretaries Lord Jenkins and Lord Baker and outgoing British "drugs czar" Keith Hellawell have all called for a debate on decriminalizing so-called "soft drugs." And the new home secretary, David Blunkett, has given his support to an experiment in the south London district of Brixton, where police will simply caution people found with pot. Others, like Mo Mowlam, until recently responsible for the Labor government's drug policy, and Peter Lilley, former social security minister and Conservative deputy leader, go further. "It strikes me as totally irrational to decriminalize cannabis without looking at the sale of it," said Mowlam. "It would be an absurdity to have criminals controlling the market of a substance people can use legally." Lilley began by quoting a recent study in the respected medical journal the Lancet which concluded that "moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill effect on health, and decisions to ban or to legalize cannabis should be based on other considerations." For Lilley, banning marijuana is indefensible and unenforceable in a country where far more harmful drugs like alcohol and tobacco are legal. Magistrates should issue licenses to shops for the sale of limited amounts of pot to people over 18, Lilley said. Like tobacco, it would be taxed and carry a health warning and the tax yield on an estimated annual British consumption of 1,500 tons of cannabis a year has been calculated at about $23 billion if the pot were produced and marketed the same way as tobacco, enough to cut the standard rate of British taxes by 5 percent. That is a pipe dream, of course. Many people would grow their own, and given the pre-existing black market, too high a rate of taxation would simply push consumers back into the hands of the private dealers. Most experts think that would yield a mere $7 billion or $8 billion a year in extra tax revenue. But it would also cut law enforcement costs and it would keep ordinary marijuana users out of contact with "hard drug" dealers. As Lilley pointed out, "By making cannabis illegal, it is only available through illegal sources, which are the same channels that handle hard drugs. So we are forcing cannabis users into the arms of hard drugs pushers." When senior Conservative politicians start talking like that, you know the wind has changed, and British polls support it. Opposition to legalizing cannabis has dropped from 66 percent to only 51 percent in the past five years, and naysayers are overwhelmingly in the older groups. It is a welcome outbreak of sanity, and even mere decriminalization in a major English-speaking country would have a profound effect on the debate in the United States, the heart and soul of the prohibitionist movement. But legalization of marijuana in Britain is unlikely because the U.S. government strong-armed all its allies into signing three international conventions in the 1970s and 1980s that define cannabis as a dangerous drug. To break out of those treaties would involve a larger effort of political will than any government with many other items on its agenda (like persuading the United States to ratify the Kyoto accord on climate change and to honor the ABM treaty) would be willing to undertake. So millions of Britons may benefit from the decriminalization of marijuana, but the potentially large social and tax benefits of outright legalization are likely to be lost. Source: Star-Ledger (NJ)Author: Gwynne Dyer Published: July 12, 2001Copyright: 2001 Newark Morning Ledger Co.Contact: eletters starledger.comWebsite: Articles - Legalization
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Comment #11 posted by ksp on July 15, 2001 at 19:44:55 PT
i agree dan -
the freedom of cannabis consumers requires a multi-pronged aproach where we gain a strong voice with as many organized politically sympathetic groups as possible...The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation and DRCNet are excellent hubs...providing scietifically founded guidance...and with the internet, perhaps we can get some real organization of the powerful, yet widely diversified non-violent grass root orgs.excellent comments...i'm excited with all the developments...the solution is not going to be one savior effort from a singular source, but a combination of many voices harmonizing our need for true freedom.ksp -
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Comment #10 posted by willy on July 14, 2001 at 18:05:20 PT
doesn't work.......
The link I posted comes up: page not found.Try: click- Legalization- then click-TA-DA!!!Thanks
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Comment #9 posted by Willy on July 14, 2001 at 17:21:04 PT
Re organizations.......
Take a moment to look at this discussion at cheaptalk: little idealistic, but, who knows??Thanks
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Comment #8 posted by mayan on July 14, 2001 at 16:25:29 PT
Libertarian Till Death!!!
Dan B is so enlightened. The powers that be fear the libertarian party more than any other organization. People have been brainwashed into believing that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote. Actually, the only time a vote is wasted is when one fails to vote their conscience. When the Commission on Presidential Debates(run by both the former heads of the Democratic & Republican National Committes) refused to allow Harry Browne into the "96" & "00" debates, I became a libertarian for life. Harry was on the ballot in all fifty states in "96". I will never vote for a republicrat again. Vote your conscience!
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Comment #7 posted by Doug on July 14, 2001 at 10:38:52 PT
No one has mentioned...
another group that is high profile and very well established, that has a strong anti-war-on-dugs policy. The head of this organization has even been heavily involved with the Lindesmith Center-DPF. This organization is the" American Civil Liberties Union. Another group is the" Institute for Policy Studies.  Both these groups have a somewhat different polictical orientation than the NRA!
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Comment #6 posted by michael on July 14, 2001 at 08:15:25 PT:
Thats why Congressman
  Congressman, you are as uninformed and as locked in blind thinking about the NRA as the POT antis. You point out why we should not connect with the NRA, the ignorence about who and what the NRA is about would kill us, ha ha, a joke. Alright I'm out of here. 
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Comment #5 posted by Dan B on July 13, 2001 at 23:33:03 PT:
Not to Rain on Anyone's Parade . . . 
. . . but there is an organization in America that believes in both drug policy reform (including legalization of cannabis) and the 2nd Amendment: the Libertarian Party. They have hundreds of thousands of members (not just 500, as some have claimed would be the total required to seriously effect change), yet they haven't made a dent with regard to actually changing policy (okay, maybe a slight scratch), and they've been around since 1971.  Of course, there is a reason why the LP hasn't made much more than a dent: too many cannabis users and sympathizers either vote Republican, vote Democrat, or don't vote at all. There is another reason: they are extremely right-wing in their fiscal policies (as right-wing as Greens are left-wing, which is why that party also has not made much more than a dent). Finally, (and perhaps most importantly) the Libertarian Party is all but unacknowledged by the mainstream media, and it is a sad fact that the bulk of America's voters get all of their information from the mainstream media (even online, the biggest media outlets are still owned by corporate America: Iwon is owned by CBS, Lycos made a deal last year to be a front for the ONDCP, then there are,,, etc.).Still, the Libertarian Party gains votes and respect each year they are on the ballots. Last year they were on more ballots than any other third party (the Greens were far behind, yet their candidate for president got almost all of the third party coverage, so he got the votes). No, we need more than support from groups like the NRA (many of whose members also belong to the LP). What we need is a voice beyond our own earshot. The NRA is a one-issue organization that, by definition, cannot risk losing support from its constituents by officially supporting other controversial causes. And we do have supporters in the NRA, just as we have support among environmentalists (if you ask me, those are the people who should be directly involved; the drug war issue is, at its core, an environmental issue), fiscal conservatives, fiscal liberals, economists, psychiatrists, medical doctors, abortion rights advocates, right-to-lifers, death penalty protesters, prison reformers, and people from every conceivable occupation. There are over 350 different drug policy reform groups across this country, and you can bet that many focus on specific issues within the larger drug policy reform issue. But the fact that there are so many points up the truth that we have a heck of a lot more supporters than we realize. Perhaps what we should do is find a way to draw all of these groups together. I believe that groups like The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation and DRCNet are attempting to do just that (check out the DRCNet website at to see what I mean). I think that the Internet is the key to drawing all of these groups together, and sites like Cannabis News, with its list of links to other sites (and those sites have links to other sites, and so on . . .) is an excellent example of how this drawing-together is done. That's why it is so important to me that we do not cause division among ourselves. It is important to have as many people on board as possible. That is why it is important for everyone to feel free to express his or her opinions, and that while we can have disagreements, we should not let those disagreements divide us. Civility among the ranks is one good way to insure that our numbers will continue to grow. I am thankful to have a place like Cannabis News where such civility is both maintained and appreciated (with only a few exceptions every once in a while, and even then we tend to rally around one another).Wow. This is a long post (I know, not unusual for me). I hope it holds together and makes sense.Dan B
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Comment #4 posted by lookinside on July 13, 2001 at 22:13:43 PT:
man has hunted since he found out animals were edible...iquit hunting in my teen years because i realized thatchicken tastes better than pheasant and beef beats the heckoutta venison...i don't like killing...but i do eat meatbecause i enjoy it...i don't keep guns because my wife isafraid of them...i will defend TO THE DEATH the right of every american tokeep's the only thing that keeps the guvmintin WARshington from enslaving us...we have ALOT in commonwith the NRA...we are natural allies...fighting the samebattle...some of us are squeemish about guns...some of them aresqueemish about drugs...but we all agree that ourconstitution is being raped by powerful interests that wouldremove our rights as americans and human beings...we MUSTwin this war, for ourselves and our grandchildren..accept friends where you find them...
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Comment #3 posted by CongressmanSuet on July 13, 2001 at 21:30:07 PT
 We are supposed to...
    join up with the NRA? I think you are totally on target here, Kap. We need to identify our cause with a REAL political power. NORML isnt cutting it.Find a politically favorable, yet prominent place in which to advance our personal freedom cause. WHERE?[I work with animals so Im kinda against any NRA stuff] Is got to be big...
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Comment #2 posted by ksp on July 13, 2001 at 19:38:24 PT
alternative viewpoints required
thanks for all the warm welcomes, dddd and lehder...i've read your comments for months - and i truly admire the dialogue and viewpoints...all the posts on this website are very admirable...what a great forum.that's the big question on our minds - where do we go from here/now ?i've bounced this issue around for quite some time while observing all the recent developments from around the world - belgium, canada, UK...real developments from the europeans...i've lived in europe - if any culture can rise above the war on drugs, it seems the euros are mature and aware enough to pull ahead...and it's happening...but the US...that's a toughy...alot of our population is stuck in some 1950s/60s pop TV/squeaky clean anyway, i've come to the conclusion we have to attach our fight to a sympathetic REAL political group that has a voice that is large enough to influence the masses, and cannot be ignored by the very powerful groups controlling our laws...take your pick...the NRA is just one...sure, hempfests are fine, but they don't have an agenda beyond that event...NORML is fine, but not mainstream enough yet...we should continue the dialogue and move forward...i know i'm's time to strike while the iron is the way, this really is my second post...hee hee.ksp 
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Comment #1 posted by lookinside on July 13, 2001 at 18:06:34 PT:
1500 tons producing $23,000,000,000 in taxes is $479.17 PER OZ.1500 tons producing $8,000,000,000 is $166.67 per oz...if they insisted on the higher figure,(and kept cultivationillegal) the pot on the street would be cheaper and moreplentiful than in the drug stores...the lower figure might be considered reasonable if the totalprice per oz. were kept below $300...anything above thatwould make the black market much more attractive...
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