By James Moylan
In Queensland the political class is currently planning to double down on Richard Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’. The Queensland State Parliament has decided to change the penalties attaching to the use of cannabis to make them the same as the penalties that apply to the use of heroin and other illegal narcotics. So while all around the world most politicians are doing their best to try and repair some of the damage caused by seventy years of drug war madness – in Queensland they are opting for more madness.
It makes you wonder if Queensland politicians can forever remain impervious to facts and common-sense? Don’t these politicians understand that they are simply doubling down on a lie? Can’t they see that their actions make them look like sad relics from the past? Don’t they understand that they are simply perpetuating lies that were originally promulgated by some of the most evil individuals of the 20th century?
Twenty-two years ago a reporter tracked down John Erlichman, Richard Nixon’s Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, to ask him about the ‘Drug War’. He was asked what it was that had prompted President Nixon to launch his all-out crusade against cannabis and other drugs. Was it because the President was convinced that these drugs were dangerous? Erlichman’s honesty was refreshing.
Having been convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges resulting from the Watergate scandal, Erlichman had served eighteen months of a four year sentence before settling back into well deserved obscurity. So by the time he was finally tracked down by (Harpers Magazine) journalist Dan Baum, in 1994, he no longer had any reason to lie. There was no legacy to defend and there were no political cronies left to protect. So for the first time one of the architects of the ‘war on drugs’ was happy to tell the truth about their motivations.
‘The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that’ Erlichman explained, ‘had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did’.
These shocking admissions should have led to the dismantling of the whole drug war edifice immediately. But Erlichman and his cronies had created a monster. By the time these admissions were made the ‘war on drugs’ had already become a worldwide self-perpetuating militaristic phenomena. By this stage a host of right wing and populist politicians across the world had so embraced the drug war they were utterly committed to its survival; regardless of any nasty ‘facts’.
And still now, some twenty-two years after Erlichman’s admissions, the right wing continue to clutch the ‘big lie’ that cannabis is a dangerous drug tightly to their chest. It has become a right-wing article of faith. So unlike virtually every other public issue, when it comes to cannabis law reform, science or medicine simply does not matter. Our drug laws were originally (and continue to be) based on moral rather than on medical considerations, so medical and scientific proof is entirely beside the point. When it comes to cannabis; facts do not matter.
This has always been the case. Ever since the birth of the ‘drug war’ and up to the present facts and evidence have been beside the point. After all, any moderately well-informed doctor will happily inform anyone that asks that it is simply impossible to die from using cannabis. Or even injure yourself in any lasting manner. They will also likely point out that in clinical terms aspirin, sugar, paracetamol, and water are all far more dangerous than cannabis. But this also has always been the case. The facts haven’t changed. This is just a demonstration that the case for the ‘drug war’ is not based on facts. It never has been.
The longer you consider the phenomena that is the ‘drug war’, the more it becomes apparent that Erlichman was simply telling the unvarnished truth. His admission explains why it just does not seem to matter what science, medicine, or reality might have to say about cannabis: the bottom line argument for the anti-cannabis campaign, and our politicians, has always been that cannabis has to remain illegal because it is ‘evil’. The medical, scientific, and social facts regarding cannabis therefore have no bearing on any decision to make it illegal or to keep it illegal. Cannabis has to remain illegal, according to the drug war warriors, because the people who use it are ‘bad’ people. It is illegal because we have to stop ‘badness’ from spreading.
These same drug war warriors will also likely tell you that even if it is demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that cannabis is totally harmless, it still has to remain illegal because making it legal will send the ‘wrong message’ to society.’ Also, blah, morality, blah, think of the kiddies, blah, evil drugs, blah, God, blah, Church, blah, blah, blah.
This decision by the Queensland Parliament to further criminalise cannabis simply demonstrates how detached from reality the politicians in Queensland are. It is apparent that they simply do not think that ‘facts’ matter. That there are no derelict cannabis users living in shelters in our capital cities or filling our hospitals does not mater. That people are not dying or being hurt by cannabis does not matter. That cannabis users are not holding up service stations or beating up their partners, or going blind, or committing crimes to support their habit, does not matter. That the most dangerous thing about cannabis is the chance that you might get arrested, does not matter.
Once again the politicians of Queensland demonstrate that they are not fit to run a chook raffle. So after doubling down on the drug war what’s next? How about reintroducing witch-trials to protect us from sorcerers? Or laws to protect us from alien abductions? Or why not declare a holiday from gravity once a fortnight? After all every one of these propositions makes at least as much sense as outlawing cannabis so as to protect the health of the citizenry.
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