Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jan 1999
Source: Hobart Mercury (Australia)
Page: 18
Copyright: News Limited 1999
Author: Wayne Crawford


IN a sense, Tasmanian Police have been looking back to more enlightened
times in their efforts to cope with some of the banes of the 90s - juvenile
crime and drugs.

There are those who preferred the old-fashioned days when the beat
Bobby on his bike would give delinquent kids a clip under the ear and
supervise them while they righted whatever wrong they had committed
against the community.

There is also something to be said for taking a lesson from the days
when cannabis - rather than being demonised as the great evil of our
time - was merely a useful drug. Indeed, for centuries it was the
basis for the most commonly-used medicines in the world for treating
the majority of mankind's illnesses - from asthma to arthritis - with
even Queen Victoria using cannabis resins for her menstrual cramps.

Supporters of the summary justice approach to policing should approve
of the direction taken by Tasmanian Police Commissioner Richard
McCreadie - with legislative backing - of trying to keep kids out of
the courts and jails by allowing for less serious and non-recalcitrant
offences to be dealt with by warning. counselling or confronting their

Although The Mercury's poll this week showed a strong public
preference for tougher penalties for juvenile crime, the conclusion
could not be drawn from the responses to the question asked that the
public disapproved of McCreadie's counselling and cautioning approach.
It seems more a case that there is a strong belief that where police
do decide to take matters to court, the magistrates and judges should
more stringently apply the available penalties that courts have been
letting wrongdoers off too lightly.

On marijuana use, latest developments in policing are a long way from
a return to the days of marijuana as medication but -as with juvenile
crime - it is enlightened policing that first-time dope-smokers are
let off with a warning rather than have their jecord sullied with a
criminal offence for something which should not be a crime.

It is downright, absurd that, while the Tasmanian economy benefits by
millions of dollars from production of that most potent of narcotic
drugs, opium, it is illegal to even possess an equally useful and
potentially beneficial drug, cannabis.

It's not often that I applaud Prince Charles, but it was a sign of his
sensitivity and thoughtfulness that he recently hinted strongly at his
approval of the use of marijuana to relieve pain.

In a visit to a daycare-centre he asked a multiple sclerosis sufferer
if she had experimented with alternative remedies such as cannabis
which he had heard was useful for pain control, under strict medical

Charles is right, of course, that some MS sufferers do find dope
useful for pain, cramps and spasms. It has also been useful for
treatment of other diseases including cancer and glaucoma.

But it cannot be used under medical supervision because it is illegal.
That forces anyone who wants to try it to look to illegal suppliers
for their drugs, and to take their chances with the strength and quality.

I talk from experience as someone who has had MS for 30 years.   A
doctor once advised me to try marijuana for pain and cramps.  He said
he didn't know if it would help, but it wouldn't do me any harm -
except that I would have to find an illegal dope-pusher to supply me.

That, as it transpired, was not difficult. So I gave it a try but -
far from being a credit to my generation of drugs and free-love
hippies - passed out, evidently because I smoked too much in one
sitting. To that ixtent it was a help with pain control - I wasn't
feeling a thing - but ever since, I have been nervous about trying it
again, wishing I could get medical advice on the dosage and strength.

The other point is that it is illegal. In the unlikely event that I
was caught, at least under Commissioner McCreadie's enlightened
policing policy I would be merely cautioned.

But even that is not good enough. I should not have to turn to crime
and risk-taking in the legitimate search for pain relief. Politicians
have been derelict in failing to change the law to deal with this
glaring anomaly.

Prohibition has been a failure and counter-productive. But even if
politicians are not prepared to generally decriminalise use of
cannabis they should at least provide for it to be available for
supervised medical use - in the same way as the more potent morphine.
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MAP posted-by: Patrick Henry