Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ho, and also Hum

So. That good old standby moral panic and folk-devil cannabis is being rolled out again for a ritual, election-time kick around the pitch.

Do not be conned for one moment into believing that this is about public health. A moment's reflection can turn up any number of socially accepted substances and behavours which pose a far greater threat to both physical and mental health. The medical data upon which the current hoo-haa is hung is not a scientific study. It is an observed correlation between disclosed cannabis use and diagnosed schizophrenia. Anyone with an O-Level in Statistics can tell you that causality cannot be inferred from correlation. Thats without even going into the relationship between ethnicity and both cannabis use and the epidemiology of schizophrenia.

It is worth observing, though, that virtually all the cannabis users that your average Psychiatrist will ever knowingly meet will be in his consulting room. Drug use will almost certainly be a component of their presenting condition, though whether as a cause or a symptom is a matter of opinion.

It is also worth remembering that virtually every bit of 'scientific' evidence that the American or British governments have ever cited as a rational reason for persecuting pot-heads has turned out to be a lie.

At the end of the day, to the tokers themselves, the whole episode is just another in a long line of big yawns. When weed was Class B, everyone took all reasonable measures to avoid getting arrested for possession and left dealing to wide-boys and gangsters. When it was downgraded to Class C, everyone took the same measures to avoid getting their stash confiscated and
left dealing to wide-boys and gangsters.

How many people does anyone seriously believe want to use cannabis but do not because it is illegal?

The only change Quixotematic noticed at all was the smell of (some quite good quality) gear on the platform of London Bridge station at around 6 o'clock each evening. There has been no significant change in either supply or demand and even the Government admits that this is true.

Hopefully, the present nonsense is just a pre-election maneuver, designed to keep socially conservative and ill-informed (though disproportionately opinionated) swing voters from bolting to the right field and will quietly subside to the comfortably ambiguous status quo when Labour are returned to government.

Quixotematic is not a drug evangelist.

Cannabis may well be as carcinogenic as car exhaust, tobacco smoke, acrylamide or a thousand other environmental toxins.

Cannabis should no more be used by children, who's nervous systems are incompletely formed, than should nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or Playboy magazine.

Adults, though, should be
allowed to make informed decisions regarding cannabis as well as these.

More sanity from JD over at British BullBlog. (
High time for common sensi, Sat March 19)

Friday, March 11, 2005

Tony's Terrible Terror Bill

Many are shocked and concerned by today's 'anti'-terror bill. People can't quite believe what they're hearing and are wondering why this is being done. A few suspect that this is not about Al Qaida at all. The new legislation applies not only to Islamic extremists but to anyone whom the government chooses to define as a 'terrorist'.

It is easy to see how a bomb-throwing-Islamic-fundamentalist and a bomb-throwing anti-vivisectionist-fundamentalist might legitimately be tarred with this brush but what about a tyre-slashing anti-vivisectionist-fundamentalist? How soon before non-bomb-throwing anti-globalisation-activists are smeared by it also? Before long, anyone who once subscribed to The Aberdeen Anarchist or joined a Reclaim the Streets march will be sporting a radio tag.

Even if you have faith in this government, what about the next one? The one after that?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Penal Dysfunction

The government of Tony Blair, who aparently rejects ideology, certainly embraces dogma with a passion. Despite the fundamental flaws of logic inherent in the business model, they are still determined to privatise the construction and administration of our prison system.

Some still fondly believe that the role of prison incarceration is to punish and to reform. Others believe that the funds required to achieve rehabilitation would be better spent on the more deserving and only the function of deterrent punishment should be aspired to, as it must surely reduce crime and recidivism.

Under the public model, either of these is at least possible.

A privately provided service requires other outcomes.

A private prison relies for its profitability on a steady stream of inmates, in as high a volume and concentration as is sustainable. Businesses rely on repeat custom, so recidivism is actually in the interests of the private penal industry. Privatisation will inevitably lead to the very minimum standards and conditions as inmates are merely warehoused. A bare minimum will be spent on any educative or rehabilitative facilities and staff. The fiduciary duty of the Directors to the Shareholders will guarantee this. The more tax money spent on a public system, the greater the quality of service and calibre of staff. The more tax money paid to private providers, the greater the share dividend.

The only way to ensure a different outcome would be to pay providers only for the inmates who do not reoffend upon their release.

red pepper on outsourcing public services.