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Let’s hope Americans make the right choice tomorrow – by legalising cannabis

Tomorrow voters in three US states have the chance to help end failed war on drugs

By on Monday, 5 November 2012

Cannabis sativa, marihuana, hemp, plant

Something very important happens on Tuesday when America comes to vote – but the epoch-making decision isn’t Obama versus Romney. Rather it is happening in three states where people will get a chance to vote in a referendum to legalise marijuana. The states are Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

The Observer yesterday reported: 

If the measures are passed, adults over 21 would be able to possess, distribute and use small amounts. Cannabis for authorised medical use is already permitted and regulated by each state, even though it is against federal law.

Support is particularly strong in Washington and Colorado, but a “yes” vote in any of the states would be interpreted by the Department of Justice as an act of defiance against the federal government’s war on drugs – the national law enforcement programme that spends $44bn a year struggling to stem the tide of illegal drugs in the US.

In June 2011, however, the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that the war on drugs had failed.

As a British subject resident over here, I do not get a vote, but if I did live in any of these states, my vote would certainly be for liberalisation. I have written on this before now, so it should not come as a suprise to anyone. (See here and here  and here)

I note from the report that several retired cops are in favour of legalisation, and the pros and antis do not divide along expected party lines. Like all reasonable people, I want to see drug use decline; I think that in the long term there is a fair chance of this happening if drugs are legalised. I am sure that there is no chance of this happening if the present situation is allowed to continue. As things stand at present, the drug suppliers, who are criminals, have a vested interest in encouraging drug use, and no qualms about doing so. In addition, illegality gives drugs an added undeserved glamour. Legalisation means taking the production, distribution and sale of these dangerous substances away from criminals, and placing them in responsible hands.

But what is absolutely certain is that the war on drugs, that has cost millions of dollars and millions of lives, and which has led to several countries teetering on the brink of failed statedom, has been a resounding failure. We might once have wished to prevent people who wanted drugs being able to obtain them, but we have failed to do so, resoundingly so. All we have done is created a vast and powerful international drugs industry, an industry that would, with legalisation, be put out of business.

The measures up for the vote on Tuesday are modest ones, but they represent a small but impornat step towards sanity.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    Dr Giannasio is in a tiny minority and way out of step with the evidence.

  • Sour Alien
  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘But drugs aside, lets talk about cannabis. Humans have been using it for over 10,000 years. Telling the people ‘its illegal’ will not make a damn difference unfortunately.’

    People have been using opium for just as long. And cocaine.  So why not legalise these drugs too?  Your arguments against prohibition, which I agree with by the way, are one thing.  But your claims that Cannabis is some benign, medicinal drug are just wrong.  Cannabis is a powerful, mood altering substance that is addictive to a sizeable percentage of users.  Why not admit this, since more and more evidence is stacking up against to demonstrate this.

    Legalise Cannabis by all means, but legalise the others too, and don’t pretend that Cannabis is harmless.

  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘Cannabis is not the gateway to harder drugs, the dealers are.’

    Sorry, but the dealers are not the gateway to harder drugs, the users are.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    You certainly are awkward and you’re also wrong. Show me an expert ( a real expert mind you, not some hicksville small town doc) who supports your wild nonsense?

    “Cannabis is an insidious, soul destroying drug for a significant number of users.”????? I’m afraid your intemperate and vastly overstated claims reveal the truth about your opinion.

    Evidence is the path to truth, not prejudice, hysteria and exaggeration

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    You have produced no evidence at all, merely anger, prejudice and bile.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    The scientific evidence about “cannabis addiction” is that the prevalence, rate (about 9% among users) and withdrawal symptoms associated with cannabis dependency are similar to or less serious than for caffeine dependence. (Hall et al 2001, Coffey et al 2002, Copeland et al 2004, DSM-IV)

  • Gerald

    And you’re a lobbyist for the drugs-trade who wrote a piece on his blog defending the actions of a high-school teacher now facing a criminal court case over charges of child abduction. What was it you said? O yes:

    “It’s not that long ago that girls younger than Megan would already be married and that is still the case in many countries.  I’m not suggesting that is a good thing but the hysterical overreaction to this young couple’s romantic adventure disgusts me.”

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/hysterical-pc-nonsense-about-a-young-couple-in-love/Peter, you have your priorities and morality all wrong.Just out of interest, are you an habitual user of cannabis yourself?

  • Sour Alien

    That makes no sense, if cannabis was a gate way to harder stuff, why does Holland have the lowest hard drug use in Europe? Because its not controlled by street dealers, its sold in licensed outlets. Its the dealers who are the gateway, dont defend them. 

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    I’m not a lobbyist for the drugs trade.  I’m the leader of a political party.  And I didn’t write a piece defending the actions of the teacher at all.  I was very clear that what he had done was wrong.

    What sort of individual are you that tries to smear someone with false and misleading rubbish like this that is completely irrelevant to the subject in hand?

    Is this the way you usually conduct yourself?  I won’t make any moral judgements on you. I think you’ve just demonstrated very clearly the sort of individual you are.

  • Sour Alien

    ”People have been using opium for just as long. And cocaine.  So why not legalise these drugs too? ” 
    That is an discussion for another time, but the difference between cannabis and said hard drugs… Cannabis is not toxic in any possible quantity i.e. is incapable itself of inducing fatality in a human. Unlike the hard drugs you mention, also, hard drugs are  toxic, addictive substances. Cannabis is non toxic, and its less addictive than caffeine.

    ”But your claims that Cannabis is some benign, medicinal drug are just wrong.”

    please show me where i said it was benign, but you must be misinformed to think its not medicinal. With its anti anxiety, anti epileptic, anti psychotic anti carcinogenic properties and MUCH more, how could it not be regarded as medicine? In fact, it has been known as medicine a lot longer than a street drug. You need to read up.

    ”Cannabis is a powerful, mood altering substance that is addictive to a sizeable percentage of users.  Why not admit this, since more and more evidence is stacking up against to demonstrate this.”

    Cannabis is powerful? The effects are weaker than alcohol. Mood altering, in a positive way yes. Addictive? You dont know the meaning. Speak to alcoholics and Heroine addicts and they will tell you the meaning of addiction. More evidence? Funded by who? Think for yourself.

    ” and don’t pretend that Cannabis is harmless.”

    I dont know whos comment you where reading, but i didnt say it was harmless. Scientifically, its the safest recreational drug on Earth. Thank science and evidence for that information. 

  • awkwardcustomer

    Didn’t take you long to turn nasty, did it?

  • awkwardcustomer

    More insults. 

    What do you know about the basis for my opinions? 

  • awkwardcustomer

    When did I use religion?

  • Sour Alien

    Well if you replying to me? I haven’t turned nasty, you dont know the meaning of that word either if you think what i said could be perceived as nasty. I think using blind prejudice and bad science to prove your point is nasty. But i wont use that against you.

  • Sour Alien

    Insults? Are you serious? You must be easily offended. 

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    I don’t know who you’re addressing that remark to but it’s very clear by looking at your comments, even your rather silly pseudonym, that you are predisposed to be difficult, aggressive and unpleasant.

    You are deliberately awkward and therefore a waste of time.  However,I have faith that others will take a more measured approach and will properly consider the scientific evidence presented here and overlook the hyperbole and empty rhetoric which characterises your contributions.

    I certainly shan’t be wasting any more time on you.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Here’s the latest (April 30, 2012) from the American Psychiatric Association on Cannabis withdrawal.A. Cessation of cannabis use that has been heavy and prolonged (i.e., usually daily or almost daily use over a period of at least a few months; however withdrawal symptoms have been observed among those with less frequent, but chronic use patterns)B. Three (or more) of the following develop typically within a week after Criterion A:1. irritability, anger, or aggression2. nervousness or anxiety3. sleep difficulty (e.g., insomnia, disturbing dreams) 4. decreased appetite or weight loss5. restlessness6. depressed mood 7. at least one of the following physical symptoms causing significant discomfort: stomach pain, shakiness/tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headacheC. The symptoms in Criterion B cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.D. The symptoms are not associated with another medical condition and are not better accounted for by another psychiatric disorder.http://www.dsm5.org/ProposedRevisions/Pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=430

  • awkwardcustomer

    What a viscious response.

  • Sour Alien

    Still safer than alcohol, aspirin and coffee then.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    You’re entirely wrong about cannabis and lung cancer.  The largest ever case control study of its type by Dr Donald Tashkin of UCLA in 2006 showed that cannabis provides a protective effect against the carcinogens in tobacco and that those who smoke neat cannabis develop fewer cancers than those who smoke nothing at all.  Cannabis is known to induce apoptosis in cancer cells which causes them to die.  This was confirmed by a 20 year study published in the Journal of the Amercian Medical Association in January of this year.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    And look at the symptoms for cessation of caffeine use.  They’re identical.

  • Kevin

    the war on drugs…has been a resounding failure

    The war on sin has not proceeded too well either. Maybe we should legalise that.

  • Sour Alien

    Maybe we should legalize freedom? 

  • NewMeena

    Hardly a logical, sensible or reasonable …….etc etc suggestion, is that Kev?

  • Sour Alien

    ”For a start, it’s 20 times more cancinogenic than tobacco.”
    Its spelt carcinogenic, and no, its not 20 times more than tobacco, in fact, its not carcinogenic. Pulmonary researcher Tashkin who conducted The largest study of its kind proved cannabis smoke is in no way associated with head/neck/lung cancer. He was anti cannabis by the way. 
    Cannabinoids have anti cancer properties, which protect smokers from the dangers of…smoking. Cigarettes have no cannabinoids, just carcinogens. 

    If you do not suffer from cognitive dissonance, then this short vid will help you to understand how wrong you are.

  • Steve

    I would just like to know whether the good Father partakes, as this seems to be a central concern of his writings…

  • NewMeena

    On this logic we should perhaps seek to outlaw all activities which cause symptoms such as these:
    Marriage and cohabitation (when partner or spouse dies).Keeping pets of any kind (they die too)
    Loving anybody (in an emotional sense) – they can leave us even without dying.
    (And, as Peter, below, says: even loving your cuppa).

  • NewMeena

    If you read above you will see that Peter Reynolds has provided MASSES of evidence.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    Whether Father Alexander does I don’t know but it is almost certain that Jesus Christ did. After all, it was central part of Palestinian culture, not just as part of annointing oil but as a relaxant and a spiritual sacrament.  Wine, which we know he enjoyed, was probably less popular at the time.

  • JFJ

     Mr. Reynolds, Thank you for your reply.  I have in the past considered arguments such as that made by William F. Buckley Jr. when he was alive, which, if I remember it correctly (and that may not be the case) was that classified drugs (and I think he was mostly aiming this at heroin, cocaine and like, though I think he included cannabis) should be taken up by the government and sold exclusively in government run and regulated establishments, not unlike what happens in the U.S. in some states with the sale of spirits.  Anyone could buy these drugs for the price set and thus would not have to go to an illegal dealer.  The trade off for Buckley was that anyone caught selling regulated drugs would automatically face the death penalty.  There was some appeal in that, but actually, I find Hitchen’s argument, especially his case on the moral side,that to become involved in taking illegal drugs in the first place is an immoral act and may be deterred with stiff penalties that are enforced to be much more persuasive. I may not be doing him justice and hope that I have not oversimplified his argument. While not a perfect argument, it is not propaganda and I do not think that he is a propagandist.  He is a Burkean conservative stating an opinion.  And, I disagree that he is a denier of science.  He is not a scientist, but someone who attempts to find proper evidence, including scientific evidence for his opinions.  While I don’t agree with all of his arguments, I do this one.  However, I understand that you do not and am glad that you have weighed in here, since your opinion is one that needs to be part of this particular corner of the marketplace of ideas.  At least you have helped us to remain on the subject which Father has raised so well, which doesn’t always happen.

  • GratefulCatholic

    Father Alexander, you have lost me here. A very silly position for a priest to take. Best to concentrate on saving poor souls than dabbling in squalid drug politics, is my advice to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.blair2 Paul Blair

    It’s a war on people involved with drugs.  to declare a war on a thing, is absurd. The earlier evidence (in modern times and in the west)  was the failed war on people who used alcohol, not too long ago.

    War on drugs = cognitive dissonance. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.blair2 Paul Blair

    When one’s father does stupid and destructive things, because his thinking is clouded, a good son does what he can to help him avoid the negative consequence that is bound to result.

    A good son becomes a good man.

  • Lysander

    unexpected sensibility. Vices are not crimes.

  • Sour Alien

    I think it was very very brave for him to take this position, responsible, far from silly. By supporting an end to prohibition, he is saving poor souls. 

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    I couldn’t agree more.  It is brave men like Father Alexander who offer the church hope for a modern and intelligent view of the world.

  • Diffal

    Trying to make the problem disappear in the manner you describe is equally as foolhardy and morally irresponsible. These substances have the same very detrimental effect whether legal or not. To legalise it is to make a dangerous substance socially acceptable and to widen its scope for damage. And it would not destroy the black market trade as you suggest, I mean cigarettes, alcohol and petrol/diesel are all legal yet make up a large part of the black market trade in western Europe.

  • Sour Alien

    Portugal decriminalized and a 10 years later we see a 50% drop in drug use.

    Holland tolerates cannabis sold to adults only, they have the lowest hard drug use in Europe. They have less people using cannabis in Holland than in the UK, and age of first use is much higher. 


  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    But wine, a far, far more dangerous,.harmful and addictive substance is celebrated and institutionalised in Catholic culture.  Your position is based on prejudice, not any sort of rational comparison or judgment.

  • http://twitter.com/TransformDrugs TransformDrugPolicy

    Fr Alexander Lucie-Smithis far from alone amongst religious leaders in calling for such a change. Transform Drug Policy has collected an archive of similar comments from relgious leaders across the world here: http://www.tdpf.org.uk/MediaNews_Reform_supporters_Religious_leaders.htm

  • Silver Messenger

     Here’s a report on aspirin withdrawal:
    A. Cessation of aspirin use that has been heavy and prolonged (i.e.,
    usually daily or almost daily use over a period of at least a few
    months; however withdrawal symptoms have been observed among those with
    less frequent, but chronic use patterns)B. Three (or more) of the
    following develop typically within a week after cessation: 1: Muscular pain 2: Fever. 3. Increased risk of heart problems 4. Migraine 5: Random pain anywhere 6: Sweating

    So obviously we should ban aspirin as it causes all these terrible things.
    Or does it? Maybe people take it because it relieves those symptoms they already have?

  • Sour Alien

    Good point

    “Aspirin is ‘safe’, although it claims between 1,000-2,000 people per year. With cannabis, it’s been around for thousands of years. There has never been a death – never been a death. Is there any other substance in the pharmacoepia about which you can make that claim? I’m not sure there is.” ~ Dr. Grinspoon

  • Tom Drummond

    Father, You are not a British subject!.  You are a citizen of the UK,  There have been no Brit Subjects for ages.  See canabis interfeers with memory

  • Matthew Hazell

    Just because, Father, you have the opinion that the “war on drugs” has failed (and I think we agree on that), that doesn’t mean legalisation is the necessary or only possible course of action. Or the most beneficial or moral course, for that matter: utilitarianism is rarely consonant with Christian morality. 

    Sadly it doesn’t appear to be freely available on the internet, but for Catholics it would perhaps be worth reading the PCHCW’s aforementioned document. It would also be worth considering that legalisation of drugs is not consistent with CCC 2291.

    To avoid giving scandal, Father, it would be better if you stuck to teaching the Catechism. God knows that the faithful need that more than the stumbling-blocks of utilitarian politics (cf. Matt. 18:7). 

  • Matthew Hazell

    “Individual living souls should be able to live freely and responsibly, without any let or hindrance.”

    Antinomianism is not true freedom. In fact, it is your suggested attitude that enslaved men and women to sin in the first place (Gen. 2:4–3:24).

  • flux5000

    You are right in that there is no war on drugs, Nixon did call it a “War on Drugs”, however, it is in fact a war on people, certain people that use certain drugs.

    I would respectfully point you towards Genesis 1:29

  • kentgeordie

    When supporters of decriminalisation argue that Our Lord used cannabis, we can be fairly sure that they are talking tripe, and that we can safely disregard their less implausible arguments.

  • kentgeordie

     Amen to that.

  • kentgeordie

    Cannabis has certainly caused plenty of misery in its many and various manifestations.