Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tobacco regulation: saving lives vs personal freedom

The UK’s Department of Health (DoH) has announced an ambitious new strategy for reducing smoking in the population from 21% currently, to 10% by 2020.

In 2007 the Government brought in a ban on smoking in virtually all enclosed public and work places. This move added to earlier regulatory controls including the restrictions on displaying tobacco products, prominent graphic health warnings on packaging, raising the age access limit, and progressive increases in tax. These came on top of bans on all forms of tobacco advertising, and historic increases in investment in public education of smoking health risks. Combined, these measures are widely seen as having contributed to a substantial reduction in smoking across the population since the 1970s.

Transform has supported these policies, including the ban on smoking in enclosed public places, that have demonstrably delivered positive health outcomes without the need to resort to criminalisation of users or abdication of market control to criminal profiteers, quite the opposite in fact. For more discussion see our recent submission to the DoH 2009 consultation on tobacco policy.

Along with a raft of new public health measures (such as extending tobacco cessation treatment provision) The DoH is now considering extending tobacco regulation further. Policies that are being consulted upon include:
  • Plain packaging - removal of all logos/branding
  • Ending the sale of tobacco from vending machines (a significant source of tobacco for young people)
  • Promoting smoke-free homes and cars
  • Reviewing whether to extend legislation from enclosed public places and workplaces to areas like entrances to buildings
Plain packaging in particular seems like a good idea, and one with a strong evidence base that can hardly be seen as restricting user freedoms. One suspects that it wont happen in the short term at least, with a tokenistic ban on smoking around entrances, that wont serve any real purpose being the move that is actually enacted. Some countries are already going further. Finland, which outlawed tobacco advertising as far back 1976, aims to make smoking in a car carrying anyone under the age of 18 illegal by this summer.

Other countries, such as the US, are lagging behind in many of these moves, at least at Federal level (some states such as California have introduced very restrictive controls on smoking in public places). Last year Barack Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This legislation, which was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 307 to 97 and the Senate 79 to 17, granted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extensive new authority to regulate tobacco products. It means that the FDA would regulate the content of tobacco products, prohibits the use of the terms “light,” “mild,” and “low” on packaging and in advertising and mandate dramatic changes in the nature and strength of cigarette warnings, which by 2012 would have to cover the top 50% of both front and rear panels of cigarette packages. And it also stipulates that the FDA must reissue its 1996 regulations, which, among other things, would prohibit outdoor advertising of tobacco products within 1000 ft (305 m) of a school or playground, limit advertising in publications with a “significant youth readership” and ban brand-name sponsorship of sporting and cultural events.

To most Europeans, none of this seems new or radical. However in America such stipulations are frequently seen as a threat to the First Amendment of the Constitution – in other words they contradict commercial freedom of speech. Opposition to these policies comes not only from the tobacco manufacturers but also the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU sent a letter to senators arguing that,
‘… regulating commercial speech for lawful products only because those products are widely disliked — even for cause — sets us on the path of regulating such speech for other products that may only be disfavored by a select few in a position to impose their personal preferences.’
This idea that tobacco advertising controls are an unacceptable infringement on freedom of speech seems mistaken, when it has been recognised the world over that tobacco, specifically smoked tobacco, is not a 'normal' commercial product in that it causes direct and serious measurable health harms (around 50% of smokers will die prematurely as a result of their use) even when used as directed. This sets it aside from even alcohol.

The WHO has estimated that, at current global rates, there will be 1 billion tobacco related deaths during this century. Even the ACLU accepts there are must be some limits on freedom of speech. If the prospect of a billion deaths is not enough not justify some restrictions (not on use remember, just marketing) you have to wonder what would.

What is of more interest to Transform, however, is the policy disconnect that exists between tobacco policy and drug policy more generally. Most governments have acknowledged that using tobacco is hugely damaging to health and that stricter regulations are proven to reduce levels of use relative to prevalence patterns that emerged during the unregulated commercial tobacco promotion of earlier in the last century.

In the developed world, tobacco has been falling since the 70's, As a result of improved regulation, the reigning in of commercial marketing and increased public health education. This is in stark contrast to use of most illicit drugs.

If increased regulation and public health education has been proved to successfully contribute to a reduction in tobacco use and health harms, it is follows that these same policies might also be successful in reducing the harms associated with other – currently illegal – drugs. Unfortunately, we cannot even begin to explore the options for better market regulation whilst drugs are subject to rigid blanket prohibitions that mean no such market interventions are possible, default control falling to criminal profiteers and the economic dynamics of a completely unregulated illegal market.

For more information about proposed models of regulation for tobacco, alcohol and currently illegal drugs, see our Transform's new book – ‘After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation’.


SmokyFrog said...

"If the prospect of a billion deaths is not enough not justify some restrictions..."

I think it should be welcomed in an already overpopulated world. Why do people place such a high price on lives given away needlessly by choice when there are people in the world who don't even have the basics of food and shelter?

Let people choose to live or die but at least give them the choice!

Steve Rolles said...

the 'choice' being discussed here with tobacco isn't about whether or not consenting adults can us it (which isn't being questioned), it's whether commercial operators should be able to market it without restrictions.

strayan said...

IMHO tobacco control is the single greatest weapon against prohibitionist logic.

I often ask prohibitionists why they think cigarette consumption is falling despite the widespread availability of tobacco (think every corner store and supermarket).

I then ask why they think illicit drug use as risen over the last 50 years and suggest that perhaps it's because the government has no control over the illicit drug market.

This is the part where they typically say "well, yeah, but legalisation will never happen"

Sunshine Band said...

If you say illegal drugs I have sworn a solemn oath to bore you to death until you stop.


This will come as a surprise to some - but we should all CHANGE language and get onside to create the policy shift we all want.

Read this and please check out the Facebook Group - above all, adopt this language rules, ruthlessly, do not let yourself stray, do not let others stray from this path - it will be worth it, it will change the whole discourse.

It has to be said - current legalisation campaigns are a waste of time because we have been fooled into adopting the wrong language.

Every time someone says 'legalise cannabis', 'illegal drugs' etc they create an equal and opposite reaction to their expressed wish. The key is in the language, we are fooled - really truly and it is NOW time to change language. When you think about it you will slowly realise that cannabis or any controlled drug is an object - objects are NEVER legal or illegal. What is legal or illegal are human actions concerning that property - a handgun in a licensed club is legally held, in a criminal's hands it is illegally held - it's not that guns are illegal.

Drugs are controlled under law, so that human actions concerning them are criminalised such as the actions / states of being such as production, cultivation, importation, supply and possession - these are property offences. It is not the property which is illegal, it is what you do with it. Nobody could legalise cannabis because it doesn't have a status - sure we all know what you mean - but the meme you create is one of legality / illegality. In fact the law does not describe drugs in this way, they are 'controlled'. Controlled implies a breadth of measures, proportionate to achieve a purpose - the purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act is to ameliorate the social harm caused by drugs. If this is to be done by sensible regulation, then that is diametrically opposed to the notion of illegality. The MDA gives the Government the tools for such regulation, but it does not do so because it believes that controlled drugs are illegal drugs. They are not illegal in law, it isn't illegal in proper English and it isn't illegal conceptually. So, do something, change it, becuase it is more than pedantics, it is the essence of communication which has been compromised by this widely accepted oversight. It MUST be changed.

Facebook -!/group.php?gid=457158190466&ref=mf

Steve Rolles said...

I get what you are saying but theres no way i can run through that rather convoluted logic everytime I'm trying to make the distinction between alcohol/tobacco and cannabis/ecstasy etc.

I think our message regards the need for appropriate regulation and control of all drugs - Blueprint covers alcohol and tobacco aswell - is very clear and i don't think the legal/illegal language is a barrier, whether we are talking about common understanding of the products or related activities.

Sunshine Band said...

You don't need to run through the argument everytime, drugs are either controlled under the MDA, or they are drugs that the government choose not to control under the MDA. If you want to say legalise or regulate drugs - don't! Say legalise or regulate drug users activities. It's as simple as that, saying illegal drugs is wrong and ill-suits an expert body.

It is a massive barrier - when you publish 'Illegal Drugs - The problem is Prohibition - the solution is control and regulation' that is about as poignant example as you could get of counter-productive language. The expression 'illegal drugs' actually lends credability to the position you seek to oppose. No drug is illegal in law, no drug is illegal at all.

Prohibition is the position which you seek to oppose, and is based upon the misnomer they use, and the one you choose to use, ie the notion of illegality of drugs. If you have conceptual problems with prohibition, but talk of illegal drugs as being the problem, then you just don't get it. You want to change illegal drugs into legal drugs through regulation, it is impossible. We are talking about laws affecting the legal subject in respect of an object. The only example I could think of where this discourse would make sense is that of an illegal immigrant - here object and subject are one (poor sod).

Of course by talking about objects we lose the whole personal thrust of the fact that we are experiencing people being oppressed in relation to drug interests, as opposed to your unwitting meme that we are talking about drugs being treated unfairly and how their legal status affects people.

Next, you are throwing away the gem that is in the law, namely the description of drugs as 'controlled' - clearly this word equates to proportionate measures aimed at realising an objective, wheras 'illegal' just means that nothing is possible without total revolution of the law. Using the controlled word we open up the whole issue of the powers given to the government to administer the law proportionately and to distinguish between use and misuse of a drug. So far, they cannot do that, because, like you, they think that drugs are illegal, and thus they can avoid any imperative to do anything about the discriminatory and disproprortioante intereference with liberty that we endure.

I know this seems pedantic at first, but I am insisting that it is vital. Not only can you open a whole new discussion by stopping the government in official documents perpetually cheating us by referring to illegal drugs, and the drug law being unsuitable for legal drugs - but also you will impact upon people in an entirely different way. You see, when you say regulate illegal drugs, you are have the wind in your face - you and I understand your idea, but you seem totally unaware of the way language directly and indirectly impacts upon the mind and how we respond. It's not exactly Derren Brown stuff, because it is more than subliminal in this case, it is direct misinformation you are in the habit of using. I don't know how to explain it any further, it is like you have taken a liking to a chain around your neck and are fighting not to have it cut off. It has been there a long time, but don't feel obliged to glue yourself to the floor.

My message is don't say illegal drug, don't say legal drug, don't say legalise drugs. We are talking about USERS. Always make that clear, I mean it's not as if I am in any way wrong is it?

SmokyFrog said...

I tend to think of the freedom of recreational drug users in the same way that homosexuals are now free from persecution by law. Alan Turing eventually got his apology but when will we?
However, those entrenched positions take a long time to dig out and getting lost in pedantry is likely to be rewarded not by progress but by getting your house stoned by Sun readers...

Steve Rolles said...

respect to the pedantry ill think about it but im sorry, Im a long way from convinced on the PR front.

Anonymous said...

from Paul C
Following Sunshine Band’s remarks, I have noticed over the years that a big problem appears to be that people have become too familiar with the rhetoric of prohibition. By that, I mean that propaganda is often very dependant on smearing the original meanings of words so that any logical fallacy they introduce to support their argument seems more plausible. Eventually, every time some people hear a ‘prohibitionists key word’ it triggers the recall of a prohibitionist rhetorical sound bite. A meaningful conversation on this topic then becomes impossible because all the key words now mean different things to different people. Therefore, I think it would be very helpful to have a list of terms with clear definitions and a list of terms to be avoided (with the reason why); then encourage everybody to stick to the preferred terms. Then, if someone should use the term (say) ‘illegal drugs’ one can (and should) ask them what they understand that term to mean – then ask them if it would not be better to use the more appropriate term. Should they refuse – bid them good day.

Anonymous said...

Superb comment from Sunshine band. I get it and I fully agree with it. The concept of the media having to grasp the notion and the use of language in this manner gives me hope. Illegal and Legal give you different sides to the same coin. It makes no sense. Drugs are controlled. That's it! There's no other side to the coin on that score.
Nik Morris
You could tone it down a bit though. Not every one's as bright. lol

landsker said...

The semantics between "control" and "illegality", might be a pointer... relevant to the effort exercised by the government, the judicial system, and the stock market.
After objective consideration, it has to be "control", after all, cannabis or tobacco, or poppies...a plant is a plant,... the law can regulate the circumstances of human behaviour, but surely not the existence of plants.
The proportionate responses to the levels of harm caused by different recreational drugs is completely out of balance, and given the harms caused by tobacco, there seems to be sound logic in aiming to curb advertising and sale of tobacco.
Constantly classing some drugs as "illegal" is maybe part of the problem...
Pedantic, but given that both cannabis and poppies are now cultivated, refined, and sold "legally" here in the UK, shouldn`t the terminology of criminal prosecution now be amended to "possession of an unlicensed or untaxed substance"...
After all, selling "untaxed tobacco" is "illegal".., whilst the tobacco itself is not.
Would there not be some sense, given the health-care costs to the nation, in taxing the producers to oblivion, and at the same time, using the reality of severe prison terms for those who breach the rules of distribution and sale...

Danny Kushlick said...

Sunshine Band,
You're not wrong. Apart from your capitalised USERS. This is about producers/growers and suppliers too.
Ultimately the test is, will it serve our campaign better to articulate the position in this way?
I'll be thinking about this stuff again. You are right to keep nagging away if you believe it to be the better position. Our campaign is not set in stone. We are not called Transform for nothing...
It took two years of nagging from a former colleague for Transform to take on the international dimension of drug control...
I can't promise anything more than a repeat visit to your thesis, but visit it again I will.
Thank you for taking the time to post Sunshine.

Danny K said...

One other thing you are wrong about. Our campaign is not a waste of time.
You may have some disagreements with our conceptual framework, but we have made a singularly useful contribution to ending the war on drug users, suppliers and producers.
By all means bore us with your ideas, but you'll spread more sunshine if you nuance your statements.
: )

Sunshine Band said...

OK, so you are not called 'Transform' for nothing you say. Transformation (as i discovered on a personal development course) is something which ideally is perpetual.

I'd do a product recall if I were you for 'Illegal Drugs - The problem is Prohibition - the solution is control and regulation'. Faulty word system - don't cling on to 'achievements', forget about them: we are now, and we are nowhere - trust me, I went outside and looked.

Danny K said...

OK Sunshine,
In a spirit of robust science, let's explore faulty product.
I just visited the Drug Equality Alliance website. What exactly is a 'controlled drug'? You have fallen into the very same trap that you say Transform has. 'Controlled drug' makes no more sense than illegal or legal drug, either intellectually or in reality.
Rather than laying it on thick from your 'holier than thou' pedastal, why not engage in some mutually respectful and truly transformational debate.
The irony here is that I have said that I am willing to give this some thought, and you choose now to go onto the offensive. Not smart Sunshine. Peace, Danny

Sunshine Band said...

I am not sure what your problem is (with the debate) exactly. I don't like the term 'controlled drug' either, we didn't choose it, it is the legal term. It is better than 'illegal drug'-'Drugs with criminalised users' is better still if a bit unweildly (IMO when talking of users' rights, that also embraces the need for trade). When we say 'controlled drug' it is as if we are lending credence to the patently false notion that drugs controlled by law are in actual fact controlled in society (using the common parlance of the word). Is this what you mean? It's true, put like that there are two oxymorons or paradoxes - that the so-called controlled drugs are subject to no actual controls other than criminal sanction which in effect means they are sold without any consumer protection to anyone (albeit illegally), there is also the problem that so-called 'legal highs' are sold with no sanction or protection whatsoever, and then the non-controlled drugs (in law, but only excluded by government - the Act does include them) such as alcohol and tobacco actually have loads of controls on them for consumers (albeit from outside the schedules to the Act thanks to government's errors of law).

So what is a controlled drug legally speaking (let's not worry about the paradox of the word for now - as we are using the legal term, whatever it's effect on the ground)? Well, simply it is a drug which for the time being is scheduled under the law. What scheduling does, is make a drug liable to be subjected to limitations on what activities people can engage in with it. I'm only starting from the drug end of the argument and not the user end for expediency - we should always remind ourselves that it is people, not drugs that are being controlled. I see that this word also depersonalises the issue like 'illegal drug' does, but not to the same extent as a legally controlled object' implies human regulation directly linguistically - illegal object implies something inherrently evil within the object - ultimately we know it translates to human activity, but it is a way that really entrenches the prohibition status by bestowing a taboo quality to the object, instead of actually saying the reality which is that normal people cannot have this drug or you will be punished. At least with 'controlled' drugs the controlling manifests as a series of restrictions of activities (counting possession as an activity), we can see the law is all about property offences, (business) actions involving drugs such as producing, supplying, importation etc. Now the true law insists that controls are set-up to achieve a purpose (the amelioration of social harm), and that government must make regulations to achieve that. Government insist that drugs are illegal, so no regulation between peaceful use and misuse need be made. This is why controlled drugs in the accepted mindset equate directly to prohibited drugs and then it is a short jump to illegal drugs. Controlled drugs means that Government must administer them to achieve control, illegal drugs means that there is no debate.

We should focus on the errors of law that government make with their administration of the law.

1. The secretary of state for the home dept ("SSHD") believes that the Act permanently proscribes the enumerated activities re a controlled drug, bar medical and scientific purposes, i.e. “our policy of prohibition [is] reflected in the terms of the [Act]”.

2) The SSHD claims a power, the SSHD does not possess, to “exempt individuals or classes of individuals from the operation of the law” by excluding de facto the “dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs” alcohol and tobacco from the Act’s control.

3) The SSHD believes in the “illegality of certain drugs”, i.e. that some drugs or “substances” are “legal” whilst the Act makes other drugs or substances “illegal”.


HR2 said...

Sunshine band is not wrong, but
this is no great revelation. There's no benefit in stating the obvious.

As I type I'm sitting in a meeting about access to opioids for pain relief and opiate dependence treatment, and about systems for redressing the regulatory imbalance that leads to reduced access/availability. These drugs for medical purposes are controlled. Every one knows that this is not about the objects but about licensing and import/export, prescription, trade, sales etc. no-one needs to set this out. It's more than understood.

Sunshine Band said...

Oh HR2 - YES it is so obvious, yet government and leading academics all get it wrong. I cannot understand why everyone cannot agree to use the right language, then we could move on to the next phase. You say it brings nothing, well it brings the discussion about regulation of drugs up from a policy suggestion seeking to transform prohibtion (a concept rooted in the misconceived notion of an illegal drug), to a recognition that controls over people to achieve a purpose are what we are entitled to.

Steve Rolles said...

,but if you look at blueprint for example there are lots of controls over licensed vendors and purchasers in various forms, but also controls over packaging, products, venues, advertising, etc. I don't think its confusing to talk about controls over people and controls over products/venues.

do you apply the same logic to, say, guns? ie guns aren't illegal - just people using them illegaly? Again - Im not sure why thats useful/better, even if technically correct.

I think your point is useful in certain arguments - but it may also be less useful at other times, even confusing when other simple points are being made. Its important not to see a perspective you are currently most interested in as inevitably the best in all scenarios. We have this issue in Transform more generally when we fixate on a single conceptualization sometimes.

I think the contrasting approaches with controls over drugs of similar harm is important. I still don't see why legal/illegal is a bad way to highlight that inconsistency. Even if it the related activity not the product.

I follow the logic but don't understand why this part of it is so important rhetorically.

That is your failure to explain it I'm afraid - and you are talking to some very open-minded and receptive policy nerds here. What hope the general public?

Sunshine Band said...

I am not holding myself out as the holy messiah of drug law reform; I am only an agent of transformation.


You complain that I am being unclear - yet my post was very clear earlier where I actually used the example of guns, yet it seems you didn't note it. Of course guns are not illegal. If you have a gun without a firearms certificate then it is an illegaly HELD firearm, YOU are in possession of it illegally.

Next, you are confusing the issue talking about your control of packaging and objects. This control is only possible where you create the space (by your use of the notion of control, ie variables) to have separate values such as acceptable packaging and unacceptable packaging.

Every law and regulation must apply to human activities in different contexts. We usually with criminal offences describe it in terms of an act - so motorring offences concerning cars are not done by cars, but are human verbs eg driving without an MOT, being in control of a motor vehicle without a license etc. We shortcut the expressions for expediency - so, what you see as 'packaging controls' for example which seek to regulate packaging of cigarette drugs are actually controls over businesses (ie people) and what they can do - we might shorten it to cigarette packaging regulations - but of course we mean people making them regs.

With the misnmoer 'illegal drugs' we do the same process, but the outcome is quite different - you see there is no correlation between the desired and legally necessary regulation of drug related activities and the absolutist meaning of 'illegal drug'.

There is nothing wrong with contrasting the harms of alcohol and tobacco with controlled drugs - in fact I insist that we do. I'm saying, and I do feel like I am repeating myself now, that you are letting the government off the hook by describing drugs in that way. You appear to be saying - look it's ridiculous to maintain a situation where legal drugs are equally as harmful as some illegal ones, and why don't you do something about it? That is to miss something huge - the artificial divide you want to transform by reasonned debate only exists as a quirk of ignorrance, an illegal error. No drug is illegal or could ever have so many regulations imposed upon it that it could be, even if we ignorred the flipping of subject and object in law, totally illegal. Even that most despised substance would still become legal in some contexts. The MDA includes all drugs - as soon as you complain about legal drugs you let go of the complaint you want to make - the government believe they do not need to make alcohol and tobacco controlled drugs, as they are legal - you unwittingly agree with them and ask for a new law. No need, they are breaking the law now. So, are you then insisting that alcohol and tobacco be banned too (not v popular idea)? No - you then go to the next stage where you remember that drugs which are controlled are not illegal, they are subject to regulations, and there you can bring in your book.

I know it's inconvenient when you want to have lots of different conversations and I am throwing wet sponges at you. I do it not because I am a one trick pony - but this is the ABC of how to dismantle the barriers to everyone understanding the illegality of the current regime. Perhaps that is a leap of faith, but as I keep saying, am I wrong about this - Illegal Drugs Do Not Exist!?

Anonymous said...

OK This is getting silly. Why not break your arguments down to a simple form and just say what's right or wrong.
I see your arguments like this...A bird shits in your garden and a plant appears. The plant is just a plant until it is picked by someone, anyone in view of the law(police). Cannabis is that plant. Just one singular plant and it's villified. We can not hold it in our hands. We can not pick a plant. We are told it's wrong. So lets base an argument not on illegal or illegal. Controlled or Not. Your told not to pick or grow a plant. WTF is wrong with people for this to have happened. If it's on the planet it OK. Unless your a government minister or a religious zellot. OK so maybe I didn't make a point but your all going round in circles to. Nik Morris

Steve Rolles said...

Nik _ i dont think just because something is a plant makes it ok - as a drug it just makes it harder to regulate than for pharmaceutical or processed products.

re sunshines argument - I get it intellectually, and I can see its a useful line of argument in certain arenas (ie highlighting the flaws in the MDA for example).

I'm just far from convinced it is useful in the broader political domain, or that it is vital or a central pillar the reform cause. We have always called for drugs to be regulated and controlled and highlighted how the concept of 'prohibited' as 'controlled' is ridiculous.

So just to repeat: I GET IT.
Ive not ignored your work - I take it seriously and have discussed it widely. I just don't think, as a line of argument/attack, it has the political or rhetorical punch you seem to ascribe to it.

daniel campos said...

What a pleasure to read Sunshine Band comments! Well done! Many people in Spain is has also notice the necessity of such a language shift (Antonio Escohotado among others). I don't know right now how to improve Sunshine explanation, but I will try as soon as I have some free time. This language shift is not just "important"; it is vital. We can't transform drug policy without transforming first the language.

To read Sunshine Band feels like a fresh breeze entering an stale room to me.

Sunshine Band said...

Steve, you say it's useful for highlighting the flaws with the MDA - it is frustrating to have to say that this shows more misunderstanding - we are not trying to criticise in any way the MDA. The MDA is fine, this is about administration.

I cannot understand the objection to using the right words, even if it only had marginal effect. Given that the error goes to the heart of the problem of prohibition finding comfort in the language of 'illegal drugs I would expect a useful response to the declaration that Illegal Drugs Do Not Exist, certainly creates a discussion which could be channelled to highlight your agenda.

Steve Rolles said...

it may be helpful in some scenarios but it may be unhelpful in others.

Anonymous said...

Why regulate a cannabis plant? The more plants, the less stigma associated with them. When we have a country full of them, would it not be possible that people would just turn a blind eye to its uses. On the other hand...the more plants the greater chance "Hemp" will be accepted as a natural resource to. It's a plant with uses. Only difference between cannabis and Sativex for example is cannabis is bought in its "raw" form and smoked whilst Sativex is THC and CBD with a different administration system. It reminds me of brewing beer. Only difference is you can buy from a brewery or brew your own. That won't be possible if GW Pharma has its way. No plant is illegal. No plant is controlled. You want it, you grow it. Having possession of it...well that's a different story. Let's level the playing field a bit here. If GW can have it then so should we. FREE!!! Nik

Steve Rolles said...

its hard if not impossible to regulate a plant. But you can regulate its commercial production and sale.

SmokyFrog said...

When you say "The MDA is fine, this is about administration." - I can't understand how any act only concerned with misuse can be fine, in any meaningful way, for society. After all it starts from the principle that the only use to be considered is misuse, which is the same as "drugs're bad m'kay".

The big problem, as I see it, relates to entrenched positions, especially amongst politicians who are currently so afraid for their jobs they aren't likely to want to fight for the freedoms of any "wrongdoers". We've seen that no amount of science or reason appears able to make a dent in that because science and reason are not primary factors in believing use = wrongness. Drug use is somehow successfully portrayed as being part of moral decline. Imagine, oh I don't know, motor racing being portrayed only in terms of crashes?!! If nobody were allowed to talk about the highs, the good bits, motor racing could be demonised too. Anything involving risk could (which, let's face it, is anything all) and that's where we have been for a long, long time. Fighting for freedom as other minorities have in the past. Recreational drug users are a Large Minority though.

One of the more helpful campaigns lately attempted to put across the message that "drug users are nice people too". We have to undermine the constant sniping in the media somehow and that seemed a good start. Last year's Massive Attack tour used the platform to show drug-related facts to the audience - facts the public is normally shielded from (so that ignorance can continue). There need to be more challenges of this type. Not pro drugs, but pro freedom. We could also do with a Home Secretary with some backbone - the days of Roy Jenkins pushing through unpopular freedoms because they are 'right' are long gone...

Sorry, didn't mean to go on so. But we seem to be essentially agreeing here yet wallowing in complexities of language that are easily dismissed by those morons in the press (and therefore not even scrutinised by others with entrenched positions). Maybe we need a new campaign "I use drugs and my biggest problem in life is the law. Something's not quite right." OK, I'm no slogan creator... :)

Sunshine Band said...

SmokyFrog - why would we have a law on peaceful drug use, surely it is a good thing the law focuses on misuse and seeks not to restrict other use? The MISUSE of Drugs Act suggests that peaceful use is possible IMO by it's title alone - it then goes on to give all the powers I described to government to administer it according to that principle. In fact it does not prohibit use of any drug other than opium directly. The problem starts with the lie of 'illegal drugs' which allows the government to continue the abuse. Nobody should become complicit in perpetuating this lie.

Daniel - muchas gracias

Steve - so in what circumstances is it appropriate to use the expression 'illegal drugs'?

SmokyFrog said...

I think there are quite a few laws relating to activities deemed to carry risk. To quote last night's QI: when we started driving cars it was appalling how hundreds of people started dying at once. Yet we didn't, for a moment, consider stopping. We learned to manage the risk. So yes a speed limit could be considered a "misuse of cars act" (I can stretch a point like a good un, me) but it wasn't because everyone accepts that this is a risk we're going to allow in society even though we know many deaths will occur.
All I really want (actually similar to what Professor Nutt stated) is the same freedom to take a particular kind of risk without it being frowned upon as evidence of my moral decay. For some reason recreational drugs that give you an erection are fine and can be rushed to market but recreational drugs that make you smile and embrace your fellow man (or, heaven forbid even ease pain) are signs you are a bad person. That's really what I was, in my basic way, trying to get across.
If the law is only interested in me as a "misuser", that feels, I dunno (searches for another wild analogy), like as if being gay could once have come under the "misuse of bottoms act". OK, I'm struggling... maybe all I'm looking for is a simpler argument, one that can be presented to the great unwashed as just down to fairness and respect for others' vices. After all, vices aren't crimes and that's all we're really talking about.

I'll shut up now. :)

Sunshine Band said...

SmokyFrog: Erection drugs may be fine, but the use of was an aggravating feature for offences under the Misuse of Bottoms Act (aka Sod's Law).

Actually your example is very appropriate - it shows how anti-discrimination must evolve if it is to have any importance at all. What was an illegal act (Misuse of Bottoms Act now repealed) has now turned 180 degrees to form new offences of harassment and discrimination law violations for vilifying the hitherto supposedly vile and criminal practice.

Anonymous said...

On 1st February the MHRA announced a consultation which proposes to close the nicotine market and medicalise nicotine so it can only be sold in tobacco products and as medicine.

Nicotine is used recreationally by many thousands of people and not always by smoking or NRT. Electronic cigarettes are a very promising smoke alternative but they will be banned under these proposals until pharm companies decide to produce something that works for a change, if they ever do.

The consultation lies also by saying that nicotine is currently unregulated.

It appears that nicotine users are also to become casualties of the smoke wars.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine, Very Good Point.
Why call a Cabbage a Carrot! Hey. We hear you loud and clear. However
for the great masses who vote labour or torrie, the Great unwashed as someone called them rely on soundbites. They have as you rightly point out become use to Propaganda , sadly such works and when that does'nt the system usual shouts in all manner of ways ,ie arresting us etc etc or by sending the odd Grainne Kenny too shout us down, look the lady up yet another Ban everything person, here in Ireland every country has a Blind fool off the point sorry. I agree and understand sunshine totaly, however we really do need to get the mindset changed. Im 34 ive smoked cannabis for a decade, i ant got tits and i have two kids the nads still work fine plus i can still form a conversation better than i can type, im partly washed but very much open to change sadly the minority or the ignorant have a very loud voice which wins votees at election time, my two cents.
I use Cannabis and im Proud..
Im my home there will never be any laws regarding cannabis...

SmokyFrog said...

There was a BBC program last night about unhealthy eating in which the government's position was "it's a valid consumer choice to be able to eat something that is bad for you".

You see - it's all about sending the right message...