In the olden days, they said the sun never set on the British Empire.
Nowadays, reports a cannabis advocate from the UK, the empire is gone, the sun has long ago set, and most citizens of the emerald isles have lost all faith in their government.
Last week’s London bombings are the latest karmic blow to a country that finds itself governed by leaders who seem incapable of telling the truth.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bombings in London have nothing to do with his country bombing people in Iraq. Seven out of ten British citizens disagree.
Tony asserts there’s absolutely nothing his “intelligence” services, anti-terrorist forces, or police could have done to stop the shock bombings that took at least 52 lives and injured 700 others.
He refuses to approve an inquiry into failures in government policies and apparatus that allowed the bombings to occur, despite calls for an inquiry by all corners of the political spectrum.
Blair’s credibility rating is in the tank. His policies on the Iraq war, and on cannabis, indicate why. In the last four years, he and his government officials have made back-and-forth statements about marijuana: Cannabis is definitely not as harmful as alcohol and tobacco. Cannabis could be as harmful as alcohol and tobacco. Cannabis should be decriminalized. Cannabis should be recriminalized. Authoritative studies show that cannabis does not cause mental illness or dependence. Authoritative studies show that cannabis does cause mental illness and dependence. Cannabis laws will be strengthened. Cannabis laws will be left alone. Cannabis laws will be made more severe.
Am I the only one confused here?
During this time, the government had in its possession an official report, given to Blair in June 2003, showing that the country’s war on drugs is an utterly expensive, unwinnable failure.
The government refused to tell its citizens about the report. When it was leaked to the press, Tony and his subordinates denied it existed at first. Then they stonewalled and delayed. Finally, they released less than half of the report to the media on the night before the Live 8 concert, and officially rejected calls for the whole report to be released, claiming it contained top-secret information.
In the past three years, government employees have risked their jobs and lives providing the press with secret official documents and information showing that the war on Iraq is a fraud. One of those employees, a scientist named David Kelly, ended up dead in a park near his home shortly after he talked to journalists about the government’s Iraq lies. His wrists had been so deeply sliced that investigators said it would be impossible to call it a suicide.
An official inquest into the death revealed troubling facts about Blair’s role in the events leading up to the man’s demise. Some suspect the scientist was killed by government agents because he embarrassed the powers-that-be.
Earlier this year, a leaker provided the media with the now-famous Downing Street memos, which show that the British government knew that US president George W. Bush and his henchman had pre-emptively decided to wage an illegal war on Iraq long before the United Nations and the world were told about the decision. The memos revealed that Bush and his band of CIA spooks were “fixing” the intelligence data to support the war.
A few weeks ago, somebody leaked the Drug War report to the media. It is the most damning indictment of the drug war yet seen. Its basic conclusion is that the war on drugs is unwinnable.
It says the UK imports at least $7 billion worth of illegal drugs per year, and that the tens of millions of dollars spent to stop such importation does little to interrupt the inward flow. The government is allegedly catching 20% of the illegal hard drugs that importers are seeking to bring in to England, and would have to catch 60% of them to make drug importation enough of a liability for those who engage in it.
This increase in seizures is unlikely, given that the report notes how drug money has bought off and otherwise corrupted border agencies and police tasked to stop importation.
The report says prohibition and consumer demand has made heroin and cocaine smugglers richer than any other mainstream capitalists, with astronomical profit margins for their products. As drug war technology and funding has increased, capitalists in the illegal drug industry have spiffed up their techniques, using sophisticated concealment, communications, encryption, and product disguising to outwit interdiction officers.
The study says that there is little provable benefit to be gained by increased interdiction, however. “Despite [increased seizures of heroin and cocaine]and interventions at every point in the supply chain, cocaine and heroin consumption has been rising, prices falling and drugs have continued to reach users,” the report says.
Ironically, the study concludes that even if the government reduces availability of hard drugs, heroin and cocaine users would keep on being addicted, and would commit more crimes to fund the purchase of drugs that have increased in price due to amplified interdiction.
Illegal drug profits are made at the dire expense of casual users, addicts and the general public, apparently. Cokeheads are alleged to spend nearly $8000 yearly per person on their habit. The nearly 300,000 coke and heroin users in the UK allegedly commit more than half of all crimes in the UK, costing British society close to $30 billion a year in overall costs; but only 20% of these criminals ever get arrested, receive drug rehab, or are incarcerated. The costs of industrial losses, health care, crime and other monies associated with all illegal drug use in British society is near $40 billion per year, the report says.
The report claims that 1.1 million people are “dependent” on cannabis, and that nearly 700 cannabis users and 3480 heroin users went to hospitals seeking help for mental illness during the study year.
How odd that the report says nobody went to the hospital seeking help for mental problems caused by Ecstasy or methamphetamines, even though government anti-drug information always asserts that E causes depression and suicide, and that methamphetamines cause brain burn-out and violence.
Not even one person died from using cannabis, the report says, contradicting previous claims by anti-drug activists and coroners that super-strong “skunk” cannabis was causing an epidemic of deaths in England. Heroin kills an average of 750 people per year.
Tobacco causes 100,000 deaths per year, and alcohol causes 6,000 deaths. Both remain totally legal and widely available, even to youngsters, and are an integral part of British society.
Opposition parties in Parliament condemned Blair for refusing to be honest about the UK’s drug war. Liberal Democrats spokesman Mark Oaten said the report proves that “the government is too paranoid to admit that the war on drugs is a disaster. We need an evidence-led debate about the way forward, but if they withhold the evidence we can’t have the debate.”
The debate about illegal drugs, like the debate about terrorism and the illegal Iraq war, has become so surreal as to be almost meaningless.
For example, when the UK government “decriminalized” cannabis at the beginning of 2004, it actually increased penalties and harsh police procedures for youths under 18 caught with cannabis.
The new cannabis laws allow police to let adults caught with cannabis go free without official intervention, but newly requires them to bust kids and haul them in. This requirement has of course led to an increase in the number of kids listed under cannabis arrest and user statistics.
When dummies in the media and the anti-drug community get hold of such statistics, they invariably misinterpret them.
In Dundee, Scotland, for example, drug warrior FiFi Bryson of the Peer Education Project says that the downgrading of cannabis from Class B to Class C has given kids the impression that cannabis is ok to use.
Bryson’s organization teaches older kids how to be like DARE officers, “counseling” younger kids about drugs and alcohol. She cited figures from local police showing that the number of under-18’s cited for cannabis offenses had increased significantly since 2002 as evidence that more kids are using cannabis. The more obviously correct conclusion would be that police are following the new law, and are busting more kids for using cannabis.
But that’s not how it’s being reported in the British press, which is claiming that the country’s “softening” of cannabis laws has led way more young people to try cannabis.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke meanwhile is indicating he wants to reclassify cannabis into the more strict Class B category. Publicly, Clarke says he is waiting for yet another report on cannabis by the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), due out in December, before he makes up his mind.
Leakers have told the press, however, that Blair and Clarke are determined to put cannabis back into a hard drugs category regardless of what the ACMD finds.
“The Home Secretary’s decision will not just be based on the ACMD response but also on any indications that there has been an increase in cannabis use,” a Clarke spokesperson admits.
While many enlightened souls in the UK are seeking open-ended, honest debates about the government’s many wars, the UK media is muddying the waters by running hysterical reports about cannabis causing severe mental illness.
Among the most ludicrous of these is the story of Terry Hammond and his 27-year-old son Steve.
The elder Hammond has made a media star of himself by blaming marijuana for his son’s “insanity,” which he says started in 1999.
In a tale reminiscent of the cannabis scapegoating engaged in by American anti-cannabis campaigner and grieving dad Steven Steiner, who started a nark organization called DAMMADD after his son Stevie died mysteriously several years ago, Hammond details how his own son (also named Stevie) got into tobacco, booze, and cannabis at an early age, engaging in binge drinking and in marathon bouts of heavy cannabis use.
Around age 20, the young Steve, who Dad admits was always a bit of a “nervous” child, began showing signs of psychosis, which his father of course blames on cannabis.
It’s certainly heart-rending and sad to hear of the boy’s descent into paranoia and madness, hearing disembodied voices, afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of monsters there ? but the connection between his son’s “schizophrenia” and cannabis is unproven.
Dad made the mistake of sending his son to psychiatrists, who are known to be drug pushers, and who engage in mind control via “cognitive reprogramming” and the use of powerful pharmaceutical drugs which more often than not cause rather than cure mental illness.
However, these facts have not prevented Dad from touting his cannabis-insanity theory in public, and receiving nationwide affirmative media attention for doing so, even though what he says about cannabis makes little sense when analyzed factually and logically.
“I personally believe, and Steve himself has got no doubt, that cannabis was the trigger, because he was smoking cannabis, he was beginning to binge on it and he actually talks about this period of time when he took it and collapsed, and when he woke up after collapsing from eating a small piece of resin, he had the voices in his head thereafter,” Dad asserts. “I am totally convinced he would not have developed schizophrenia, which fundamentally has ruined his life, that’s the bottom line. The cannabis has now caused brain damage, that’s the reality of it, it has destroyed some of the neurons in his brain; it has destroyed some of the communication system in his brain and he has now got brain damage as a result of cannabis. I have no doubt about it, and I think there are tens of thousands of kids out there who are damaging their brains. I think it’s a public health time bomb. I have lived with him for 27 years now and I just know. Steve was an anxious kid, and so I think there was a tendency that he was like a vulnerable personality, but it was the cannabis, it was when he started smoking the cannabis and binging on it that he nose- dived, and it was over a very short period and so, you don’t need to be Einstein to work it out. Cannabis didn’t cause it but it triggered it and I think that it exacerbated any potential problems Steve may have had.”
This kind of subjective gibberish spouted by grieving parents, presented and promoted not as anecdotal minutiae but as scientific fact by government officials and the drug war media, has muddied the debate about cannabis in the UK as surely as the suppression of the “we’ve lost the unwinnable drug war” report has clouded the debate about winning the drug war.
Meanwhile back in London, while Blair and his minions are encouraging Brits to stoically go back to the subways and busses so that the “terrorists do not change our way of life,” cannabis advocates like my friend Trevor report that more and more people are using and growing marijuana.
He claims that indoor and outdoor marijuana growing is increasingly popular. “Our economy is the shites because Blair busted unions and privatized our state industries, and he is pissing away millions of pounds on these stupid wars, so more and more people are getting into the weed business to make money. When people realize they can get blown up tomorrow, they want to just trip out from it, so we get high. It’s better than getting drunk. They ought to legalize the whole bloody lot of it and let the people sort out for themselves who will be healthy with or without drugs, and who will use them or not. Right now, it’s just war, defeats, bollocks Blair, more corpses, more war.”