Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2000
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2000
Author: Duncan Eddy


Columnist Ian Munro ( ODT , 14.10.00 and 21.10.00) reminds us that the 
freedom of the individual to indulge his or her wants must take second 
place when these desires conflict with the best interests of children. 
Responsible adults intrinsically understand this. If I believed that an 
overhaul of the outdated cannabis laws would increase the already 
widespread problems of drug abuse among our youth, I'd withdraw my support 
for cannabis law reform. The Life Education Trust claims that in 1997, 
150,000 school children had serious drug problems. Cannabis prohibition 
hasn't prevented this tragedy.

Mr Munro opposes law reform because drug education will always be an uphill 
battle. I advocate law reform on the ground it will make this uphill battle 
easier. The Netherlands decriminalised in 1976, and by 1995, 5.4% of Dutch 
high school students were smoking cannabis monthly, compared with about 29% 
of high school students in the United States. One in six federal prison 
inmates in the United States are cannabis "offenders", and in 1995, over 
500,000 United States citizens were convicted for possession of personal 
amounts of cannabis. Clearly, America's harshly punitive stance hasn't 
prevented widespread cannabis use and abuse.

Aotearoa isn't the Netherlands, or the United States. We won't make huge 
progress on combating drug abuse overnight. But as long as expensive 
ineffective policies are implemented that serve only to keep the problem 
"underground" and widen the gaps between at-risk youth and the structures 
that should be supporting them, we will make very little progress at all. 
Drug education will always be an uphill battle.

No doubt the under-funded, under-resourced, desperately struggling drug 
educators could do so much better with some of the $138 million allocated 
to drug law enforcement for 1999-2000.

Duncan Eddy