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Users and Abusers
Posted by FoM on October 21, 2001 at 07:24:36 PT
Book Review
Source: Sunday Times
In the middle of the second world war, with the United States fighting for its life against Japan, the American government still found time to remind the world that it was against recreational drugs. It told the government of Holland that, unless it promised to abandon the legal sale of opium in the Dutch East Indies after the war, it could expect no help in getting rid of the Japanese occupation. The fact that the American anti-drug lobby's obsession with the total prohibition of recreational drugs was allowed to influence policy in the Pacific war is just one of the amazing revelations in this seminal book. 
Many others make it the most important study on this subject in years, perhaps ever. It strips away the propaganda, prejudice, rumour, rhetoric and misinformation that has sullied the drugs debate until now. Here at last is a scholarly, historical study of drugs and their role in society, an examination of "how licit medicines became the commodity of the world's greatest illicit business". Make no mistake about that. The international illicit drug business generates $400 billion in trade annually, according to recent UN estimates. That represents 8% of all international trade and is about the same percentage as tourism and the oil industry. Although Richard Davenport-Hines maintains a historian's detached air, he leaves us in no doubt where his researches into centuries of recreational drug use have led him. "The war on drugs launched by Nixon in 1969 has turned into the Thirty Years' war. With its aim of unconditional surrender, it is a war that cannot be won. Drugs remain dangerous, but they can also be rewarding to both suppliers and users: accordingly they remain ineradicable." He contrasts the Dutch approach (coffee shops licensed to sell cannabis and, as a result of separating the cannabis and the heroin suppliers, lower heroin use than most other countries) with the British one as set out by Tory MP Michael Forsyth, former secretary of state for Scotland: "The drugs epidemic is a scourge as terrible as any medieval plague . . . let us make a New Year resolution that 1996 is the year in which we will turn back the tide of drug abuse which is engulfing our young people and threatening our civilisation." The author comments: "No acknowledgment here that drugs may be fun. No sense that their attraction is increased by such portentous yet trite slogans. No acceptance that the illicit drugs market is sustained by an economic reward system only made possible by prohibition." It was not always like this. Intoxication is not unnatural or deviant, and for thousands of years human beings have taken substances to change their physical and emotional state. The taking of drugs has crossed all social and class barriers: monarchs, prime ministers, great writers and composers, wounded soldiers, oppressed housewives, exhausted labourers, high- powered businessmen, pop stars, defiant schoolchildren, and happy young people on a spree. Supplying all these people has always been big business. There is an illustration, a drawing done in 1850, that gives an idea, better than any statistic, of just how big the drug business was then. It shows the stacking room at the East India Company's opium factory in Patna. In a warehouse with a ceiling about 75ft high, Indian labourers are piling up thousands of bales of opium for sale to China and the East. Drug taking was no big deal in Victorian Britain, and various opium preparations were often freely prescribed to tackle what were considered much greater evils, such as masturbation and sexual fantasies. In 1914, the supply of drugs was regulated under the Pharmacy Acts but these were interpreted very loosely. Drug use was so common that in the first world war women sending parcels to loved ones in Flanders often included a half grain of morphine along with the socks and books, and department-store catalogues still listed morphine and heroin pastilles. But on the other side of the Atlantic, American racist attitudes to the Chinese, aided by missionary societies worried that the heathen Orientals were threatening Christian values, led to the single most influential development in the history of drugs - prohibition. In San Francisco, respectable white American youths had taken to visiting opium shops set up for Chinese labourers. Under pressure from their parents, the city council prohibited opium. Other cities and states in the western USA passed similar legislation from 1876 to 1890. The point about this legislation was that for the first time it criminalised drug-users (the people operating or using the opium dens) rather than controlling the supply of the drug. Disaster followed. The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 began diverting drug users away from the more innocuous opium smoking to the more dangerous intravenous use of heroin, while the US Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 provided the model for drug prohibition legislation throughout the western world. By persuasion and blatant coercion, successive American administrations have brought most other countries into line. The goal is unconditional surrender from everyone connected with drugs, including the occasional recreational user. Even the fact that by the end of the century it was costing America $8.6 billion a year to imprison drug-law violators has not convinced the anti-drug lobby that unconditional surrender has failed. Everyone with any influence on government policy should read this book and wake up before it is too late. The author makes the choice starkly clear - regulation or prohibition. "Depending on their choice, they will then confront either a minor chronic pest or an unbeatable and destructive adversary." Available at the Sunday Times Books Direct price of 16 plus 1.95 p&p on 0870 165 8585 The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics 1500-2000 - Richard Davenport-Hines - Weidenfeld 20 pp466 Source: Sunday Times (UK)Published: October 21, 2001Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.Contact: editor sunday-times.co.ukWebsite: http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/Related Articles:It's Time to Give Up the War on Drugs http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread10882.shtmlIt's Time We Admit Drug War a Failure http://cannabisnews.com/news/thread10632.shtml
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Comment #3 posted by papercutpete on October 21, 2001 at 11:21:33 PT
I'm not you
"threatening our civilisation." OUR? Not mines mate."Your all individuals!" - Graham Chapman - Life of Brian
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Comment #2 posted by Lehder on October 21, 2001 at 09:23:55 PT
the effects of marijuana smoking
He contrasts the Dutch approach...with the British one as set out by Tory MP Michael Forsyth, former secretary of
state for Scotland: "The drugs epidemic is a scourge as terrible as any medieval plague . . . let us make a New Year resolution that 1996 is the year in which we will turn back the tide of drug abuse which is engulfing our young people and threatening our civilisation." The author comments: "No acknowledgment here that drugs may be fun. This is a good article. But it should tell a little more of the truth and admit that a great many people - millions - find marijuana beneficial and that it offers those who use it with maturity great personal benefits without any destructive side effects at all. This sort of marijuana use is not an escape from reality, nor is it merely recreational for it offers far more than "fun". Read these sixty-six reports by good people whose lives are improved by smoking marijuana:http://www.marijuana-uses.com/examples/default.htm
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Comment #1 posted by observer on October 21, 2001 at 09:19:10 PT
Deconstructing Forsyth
This looks to be a fine book, and I liked this review. I want this book! Tory MP Michael Forsyth, former secretary of state for Scotland: "The drugs epidemic is a scourge as terrible as any medieval plague . . . let us make a New Year resolution that 1996 is the year in which we will turn back the tide of drug abuse which is engulfing our young people and threatening our civilisation." The author comments: "No acknowledgment here that drugs may be fun. No sense that their attraction is increased by such portentous yet trite slogans. No acceptance that the illicit drugs market is sustained by an economic reward system only made possible by prohibition."Yes! Also, I can't resist categorizing the sloganeering that escaped the lips (or pen) of MP Forsyth quoted there. We see these known prohibitionist propaganda themes packed into his short statement."The drugs epidemic is a scourge as terrible as any medieval plague . . . let us make a New Year resolution that 1996 is the year in which we will turn back the tide of drug abuse which is engulfing our young people and threatening our civilisation."a) "The drugs epidemic is a scourge as terrible as any medieval plague," "the tide," "engulfing"Drug usage is characterized as "contagious;" its increase (real or imagined) is characterized as an "epidemic."
http://drugwarpropaganda.selfhost.com/t.cgi?6b) "the tide of drug abuse"this strategy equates the use and abuse of drugs and implies that it is impossible to use the particular drug or drugs in question without physical, mental, and moral deterioration.
http://drugwarpropaganda.selfhost.com/t.cgi?4c) "engulfing our young people"The Drug Is Associated with the Moral Corruption of the Young
http://drugwarpropaganda.selfhost.com/t.cgi?5d) "threatening our civilisation."Survival of the Culture is Pictured as Dependent on Prohibition or Continued Prohibition of the Drug
http://drugwarpropaganda.selfhost.com/t.cgi?3The fact that the American anti-drug lobby's obsession with the total prohibition of recreational drugs . . .So true. Prohibitionist propagandists love to present a stark false dilemma: either you agree with whatever new punishments are proposed for pot smokers, or you must be for 'total legalization of drugs (for children)', etc. --Policy Options are Presented as Total Prohibition or Total Access . . . It was not that other methods of controlling use did not exist or would not work; it was the idea that all usage was sinful and must be stopped. 
http://drugwarpropaganda.selfhost.com/t.cgi?7 
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