Dutch Could Teach Us A Lot About Marijuana Laws

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Dec 14, 2002.

  1. By Dan Gardner
    Source: Victoria Times-Colonist

    While doing some research in the Netherlands recently, I was told a curious story by an Amsterdam city councillor. This councillor is also the owner of a "coffee shop" - a pub that sells marijuana - and so he often plays host to the foreign officials who constantly tour Holland and marvel at how the country's liberal justice policies have somehow managed to fail to spawn depravity, misery and chaos of biblical proportions.
    One day, he told me, he showed a foreign politician around his pleasant little shop. He pointed to the second floor and told the visitor he had another room upstairs. "That's where they inject hashish," he said with a straight face.

    The politician nodded his head solemnly. Ah yes, junkies injecting hashish. Awful stuff, these drugs.

    I laughed. And I'm sure most of you got the gag, too. But for the innocent, let me explain that injecting hashish makes as much sense as injecting your granddad's pipe tobacco. Obviously, this politician knew absolutely nothing about drugs.

    Unfortunately, he's not unique in that. Public debate about drugs is rife with nonsense, even - or especially - when the politicians who draft laws are talking. Recall Liberal MP Paul Szabo's warning to Parliament in 1995 that modern marijuana is "as potent as cocaine was 10 years ago."

    Not only is this gibberish (it's like saying a shot of vodka is as potent as a pack of Marlboros). It was gibberish uttered by the chairman of the Commons committee that had reviewed the drug laws.

    Drug policies have been much in the news this year.

    First, there was Justice Minister Martin Cauchon's support for decriminalizing marijuana possession ( which would make it punishable by a fine, not criminal conviction ).

    In September, there was the mammoth report by a Senate committee calling for full marijuana legalization. This week, two reports by a Commons committee, including one to be released today, are recommending decriminalization of pot and harm-reduction measures for other drugs, while Cauchon confirmed that the government will go ahead with decriminalization.

    These events spurred an enormous amount of coverage and debate - almost all of it falling somewhere between superficial and half-baked.

    Just look at the hubbub following the release of the Senate report. Reporters giggled and made juvenile jokes, like the senior TV correspondent whose sole question at the press conference was "what have you been smoking?"

    Coverage was often glib and occasionally misleading. As for the extensive evidence cited in the Senate committee's comprehensive 650-page report, scarcely a word of it appeared in the media because - let's be brutally honest - many reporters read only the press release.

    And it wasn't just the reporters. Newspapers and airwaves were stuffed with opinionated commentators whose statements demonstrated they had never even glanced at the report. In a typically revealing editorial, the Toronto Star opined that "it's hard to imagine how legalizing marijuana would do anything but increase" use. But they didn't have to imagine. They could have turned to page 581 and read the chapter in which the senators reviewed the evidence on that very issue.

    Of course, not all will agree with the senators' conclusion that the law has little or no effect on usage rates ( although I do ). But surely, critics had an obligation to at least look at senators' evidence and present some of their own. They didn't. Over and over, commentators mocked, belittled, denounced and dismissed the senators while ignoring their evidence. It was a shameful performance.

    And it continues in the wake of Cauchon's latest announcement. Decriminalization is a serious issue that raises many concerns. But all we hear is lazy blather.

    Here's a simple example. As any criminology student knows, you have to be careful when you reduce, but don't eliminate, the punishment for an act. Reduced punishments often prompt the justice system to apply the law in cases where it would not have before. This is called "net-widening" and it's an obvious risk of decriminalization.

    Experience confirms it. In 1987, South Australia decriminalized marijuana, with the wrinkle that failure to pay the ticket would result in a criminal conviction. The new system had no effect on rates of marijuana use. But over the next six years, tickets exploded from 6,000 a year to 17,000. And since half the tickets went unpaid, more people were slapped with criminal convictions after decriminalization than before.

    Of course, pot jokes are fun and it's a lot easier to repeat claims of know-nothing politicians than to do original research. But wouldn't it be nice if we could talk about things like net-widening before we pass new laws and suffer the consequences?

    The Dutch have a word for these informed discussions. They call it democracy.

    Newshawk: The GCW
    Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
    Author: Dan Gardner
    Published: December 12, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Times Colonist
    Contact: letters@times-colonist.com
    Website: http://www.canada.com/victoria/timescolonist/

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  2. Yea man! The fuckin Dutch fuckin rulae all man! You know why? Cuz smokin the sweet holy reefer is allowed there. It is evident to all of us here that it sharpens the wit, as well as the mind in whole. So, having been legal for about a third of a lifetime, enough of the populus as well as legislators have had their minds expanded. Shit, I wouldn't even be writing something like this or typing so fast if I hadn't smoked recently..... Man, I remember last year when I smoked all the time and I could type so very fast. Fuck yes. I love the increased human functions when you smoke this holy herb.

    Glory be to God, the maker of all that is seen and unseen. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.

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