A close look at the rejection of evidence and application of religious belief as guiding principles for members of the Negative team, in debating if drugs should be legalised. Jade Lewis, Greg Pike and Paul Sheehan.
Last post we looked at the debate All drugs should be legalised held by Intelligence Squared. One of the greatest moral, social and human rights based questions today is: Should illicit drugs be legalised?
We ask this question because the harm caused at the community and personal level by prohibition is irrefutable. To this we can add the devastating effects of The War On Drugs – crafted initially by Nixon on the back of the Vietnam war. Few realise the first head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration had his office in Saigon. Returning veterans had to produce clean urine to show they were not using heroin.
Once begun, this foreign policy bonanza worked much like Dr. Whoʼs “psychic paper” pass. Flash it at a sentry and they read whatever convinces them of ones legitimacy. But more so was the USAʼs powerful control over the UNODCP and hence, UN drug policy. Most in the Western world have knowledge of Harm Reduction. The acceptance that punitive measures for drug users ultimately inflicts personal, monetary and social cost on the wider community, and accepting use whilst minimising harm reaps benefits for all.
For this reason nations who focus on evidence and the international right to health provide clean needles through NSPʼs – needle and syringe programmeʼs. Safe injecting facilities are provided increasingly in Europe and elsewhere. Australia has over 1,000 NSPʼs and one Medically Supervised Injecting Facility – MSIC – in Kings Cross, Sydney.
These programmeʼs and facilities serve to manage high risk behaviour, control the spread of blood borne viruses, motivate/provide for users to seek treatment, and they meet community discontent arising from obvious illicit drug use. Most users can return to work, pay taxes, raise a family and remain healthy. But what of intractable addiction? More recently several heroin on prescription schemes in Europe have shown dramatic results in reducing crime, death/illness, uptake of heroin use and length of heroin addiction. Portugal has full decriminalisation and demonstrates a resounding success to date.
Once world leaders in harm reduction, Australia was ready to be the first nation since the War On Drugs began to introduce a heroin on prescription trial in 1997. Despite State government sanction of 6-3, John Howard personally intervened to stop this, and weʼve been backsliding ever since. The rise of Christian Evangelical lobbyists has caused bemusement, angst and disgust.
Australiaʼs full policy is Harm Minimisation – HM. Supply reduction, demand reduction and harm reduction. Zero Tolerance has only ever been rhetoric. Harm reduction is the least funded, with the struggle to repel supply and the education and (usually failed) advertisements thrust at young Australianʼs taking the two highest shares respectively.
Those who resist drug legalisation seek to distort the argument by misrepresenting the success of harm minimisation. Indeed despite overall reduction in drug use they fraudulently and falsely argue that HM encourages, condones, increases or has no positive effect on use. Attacks on successful initiatives with peacock terminology and weasel worded opinion pieces are common. Published as “research” these are brought up time and again.
You may wonder why, if supply and demand reduction are funded more than harm reduction, that such groups attack harm reduction – HR. My psychological profiling days may be behind me, but this is clear. HR already attracts right wing condemnation and is easy to misrepresent. The evil druggie and his/her filthy lifestyle is a false pop culture phenomenon. However, conservative Christians cast HR in pop culture format usually in the context of blaming HM. Enter the suggestion of why we need demand reduction. Young Aussies take drugs. Kids from all walks of life. From all faith backgrounds.
For the religiously conservative mind this is an affront. An insult to parenting skills, the instillation of Christian values and indeed, Godʼs work. God “cures” addiction. He does not leave vacuums of vulnerability, in the mind of the fundamentalist. Thus HM in totality is an affront to conservative Christians. Overlaying this is the fear of the success of HR education. An analogue of sex education and condom availability, no proper child would fail to just say no to sex and drugs – or rock n roll for that matter. With two down, supply reduction must be increased along with punitive measures for users. And DFA are adamant they speak for “all Australians”, promoting behaviour control: Harm Prevention.
Another speaker and DFA identity – whose intentions I kind of understand – Jade Lewis wants a drug free Australia, [surprise!] through application of biblical values and the never ending sale of her “story” on DVD. Not your story, or the story of drug policy, or evidence based material – her amazing religious conversion. Jade is ruthlessly exploited by DFA. The excessively priced, only-seen-if-you-buy-it DVD, “Golden Haze” earned Jade the title “The goose that laid the golden haze” – (more on Jade later).
Greg is co-author of the Case for Closure and a crusader against humane or progressive policy and free choice. His “bioethics institute” gig is a misleading peacock in some of today’s most pressing health issues. Abortion to him is of course, murder and at one time he claimed – as a research outcome – most women do not want choice. His argument against euthanasia once included the appalling claim that a patient travelled to Switzerland – with others – to die with dignity, as “… a case of someone wanting to pursue death under activist like circumstances.” [ABC 7:30 Report Feb. 2007].
The right to die for the terminally ill is supported by as many as 85% of Aussies according to some polls. The reluctance of politicians shows the grip of the Australian Christian Lobby on vote wary parties. Prior to the above debacle, Pike wrote “Once the killing starts, there’s no stopping it” in January 2007. It included;