Sometimes you wonder if you inhabit the same planet as everyone else, what seems like common sense to you, seems unthinkable to others. I’m the kind of guy who thinks evidence should decide the course of action. If I am doing something and it’s not working, I naturally assume I should do something else, not do the same thing again and again. I don’t think, If I do this harder or do more of it, it should work. I tend to step back and admit defeat and try another approach.
Our government, on the other hand, think, bigger, better, more of what failed so far is the best policy. The New National Drug Strategy is a perfect example of this. The old national drug strategy hardly made a dent in the problem so building on a failed policy is in their opinion the best way forward.
They are currently running a consultation process on this and asking for submissions to help form the national drug strategy.
It’s an online questionnaire available here.Drugs Strategy
Now I have made clear my opinion that most of the harm from drug use is caused by the official response to drug use. Some will say “but Tom, harm reduction is specifically mentioned as one of the key areas, they must be trying to reduce the harm, why do you say they are the cause of harm”. OK, they do pay lip service to harm reduction but only in as much as the harms threaten themselves, infectious disease or littering. As far as any other harms are concerned, there is no sign of reducing any of them. In fact, it’s official policy to increase these harms.
Let us look at the framing of the questions on the questionnaire. All harm increasing options, hardly a mention of education other than the “drugs are bad, you will be punished just say no” mantra that has failed to dissuade anyone in the past. Needle exchange hasn’t gotten past half the areas designated in the original program and their’s no mention of safe injecting rooms, pill testing facilities or decriminalization of so-called soft drugs. It’s entirely a token gesture. The fact that drug consumption rooms are going ahead is in spite of the drug strategy, not because of it.
If we look at the evidence, decriminalization is the most effective drug use reduction stratagem. It’s worked in Portugal, all drugs have been decriminalised and Portugal’s drug situation has improved significantly in several key areas.
This is apparent anywhere it’s been implemented. But our crowd tell us;
The Steering Group considered the legislative framework governing illicit substances. Most were not in favor of legalising, decriminalising or changing/redefining the legal status of certain illicit drugs (cannabis was the focus of most discussion in this context).
This despite the fact, which they acknowledge;
The issue of the legislative framework governing illicit substances was raised on a number of occasions, with some requesting a review of that framework. Some people were of the opinion that consideration should be given to potentially legalising, decriminalising or changing/redefining the legal status of certain illicit drugs (particularly cannabis) and the associated penalties for possession.
In other words, we have a plan, don’t bother suggesting anything else, just tell us how you think we should implement our plan.
Consultation is not what I call this, signaling is what I call it. This is the first stage of implementation of a plan which has been decided before any consultation. It’s theater! Its purpose is to pretend support for what is already decided. The main thrust of which is that the approach and rationale outlined in the current Strategy continue to be relevant and appropriate.
Yeah, it’s all about staying relevant and appropriate. If you continue with policies that fail you will always be relevant and in a job!
Go on fill out the questionnaire, it’s linked in the Drug Strategy page, do it because if enough people make a noise about harm reduction measures and decriminalisation, they will have to mention it. This is your opportunity to put your oar in, don’t miss it. Closing date for submissions is 5 pm, Oct 18.
Yeah sorry, I’m late letting you know but I didn’t come across it myself until this week.
If you want to read more thoughts on harm and harm reduction, Iv blogged about it here;