Cannabis, dope, ganja, weed. It’s Australia’s most commonly used illicit drug. Some people have a bad reaction to being stoned – it can make them lethargic, confused. They may be prone to doing nothing when they should be doing something. They can get paranoid, distanced from reality, unmotivated.
When it comes to drugs policy, the government is acting as though it is stoned. It finds it easier to sit on the couch with the TV tuned to the same old station than it would be to take a breath of fresh air and face the real world. The world where their drugs policy is failing; has failed.
They have some reason to be paranoid; the fear mongers are out in force when it comes to drugs. They paint any relaxation in the laws as a step on the road to ruin, the beginning of an unstoppable slide into a dystopia where heroin is on supermarket shelves and the youth are sucked into storms of drug-induced psychosis. They’ve been watching too many Cheech and Chong films.
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Pot causes a bit of rot in your brain, new research has found.
Don’t forget where you put that bong, potheads.
What’s on your mind this Friday, folks?
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The United Nations World Drug Report 2012 has found that Australian and New Zealanders consume more marijuana per capita than any other country.
The findings of this report are unsurprising.The proliferation of cannabis among underage Australians is shocking. Marijuana is easier for a 16 year old to acquire than any other illegal substance.
In Australia it is illegal for a person under 18 years to buy alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana unlike alcohol and cigarettes is not regulated, making it more accessible for underage persons. It’s not uncommon to hear of people as young as 14 smoking marijuana.
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It would take a brave government to decriminalise drugs – even if it was just marijuana, which is generally less harmful than alcohol. I doubt, somehow, that we’ll see it happen anytime soon, despite the mounting evidence that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed, and was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
It’s too radical and counter-intuitive for governments that are locked in a death spiral of talking tough - tough on borders, tough on crime, tough on drugs.
So this latest report, to be released today by Australia21, will fall on deaf ears despite Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s endorsement, and the involvement of Australia’s top minds on drugs and addiction and policy.
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Australia has a long standing love affair with cannabis. More than half of us have tried it, 10 to 15 per cent smoke it at least once a day and five per cent of us love it so much, we find it hard to do anything else.
Our biggest problem is that we’re passing the habit on. Sixty per cent of young people use it. And they’re starting young; more Australian 12 year olds have tried it than cigarettes.
In other words, dope is getting to kids so quick and none of the people supplying it to them are identifying the considerable risks.
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On the dirty, sweaty streets of South East Asia, you will be offered rickshaw rides and marijuana, ecstasy, or heroin; sex and sunglasses; young boys, young girls, and crappy jewellery; novelty lighters and nudie pics, and a range of other stuff you may or may not want.
In Asia, you are rich. The rupiah, dong, and baht overflow from your wallet, and you wade through districts of poverty, where the amount you’ve just spent on a night in a villa with a candelit pool is more than someone’s monthly wage. You are rich, and you can buy almost anything imaginable.
Even as a 14-year-old, in Bali for the first time – overseas for the first time - I was rich, and the locals knew it; they wanted to bargain, to barter, to plait my hair. Wanted to overcharge me for water, to shortchange me on fake cassette tapes (Google them, kiddies), and to sell me drugs.
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It’s not quite as convincing as Azaria’s jacket being found near a known ‘dingo lair’, but news reports that a Brisbane baggage handler was spotted stashing his stash in a bag at the airport will give Schapelle Corby’s supporters hope.
Channel Nine news tonight brought us ‘Sue’, who says back in 2004 she was dating a baggage handler. He told her a fellow worker was surprised by a supervisor while lugging around a massive bag of weed, and he quickly hid it inside a passenger’s bag.
Queenslander Corby is still in Indonesia’s Kerobokan Prison – depressed and pleading for clemency - after police discovered more than 4kg of marijuana inside her boogie board cover on her arrival in Bali in 2004.
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It can make you paranoid and irrational, prone to making stupid decisions with bad consequences, and can ultimately cause serious harm. Yes, it’s the moral panic over drugs. The latest burning issue is synthetic dope.
Kronic (or Puff, or Voodoo, or Kaos) was happily crossing the counter of many a hippie herbal high store until the mining industry realised its employees were using it to rort their drug testing systems. Often sold as incense, it’s made from herbs sprayed with chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana.
WA quickly moved to ban Kronic, so people in possession now face fines of up to $100,000 or 25 years in jail. Victoria is planning to follow suit. Then South Australian pollies, with a burst of speed so surprising it makes one suspect performance enhancement, managed to prohibit the drug the very day after The Advertiser published doctors’ calls to make it illegal.
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Stoners Australia-wide may have got excited by the idea that the Government is considering legalising dope cookies, but most people realised they were not going to get a Home Brand high.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand is looking at whether ‘hemp foods’ should become part of the national diet. They’d have negligible amounts of THC, but plenty of other good stuff. Like boring old protein, Omega 3s and dietary fibre.
But Andrew Southcott, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Parliamentary Healthcare, immediately touched base with his inner wowser.
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If Australian cities could be defined by an aroma, you might pick jasmine for Sydney, tropical rain for Brisbane, coffee for Melbourne. While Adelaide would probably stump for an earthy shiraz or a fragrant bunch of Ross roses, the sad reality is that for many Adelaide households the defining aroma is the sickly stench of bong water.
The do-nothing culture of Adelaide’s sizeable unemployed underclass has been defined in large part by one of Australia’s greatest public policy failures – the liberalised cannabis laws which normalised the daily use of marijuana. Equally, the explosion in the size and reach of biker gangs in the City of Churches was fuelled by those laws, which for a long time enabled a virtual franchising of backyard dope production through hydroponics.
Even today, now that the laws have been tightened, there are more hydroponic shops in Adelaide per capita than any other city in the land. One website says there are more shops here per capita than any other city in the world, including Vancouver, where cannabis is decriminalised. According to one pro-cannabis website I read this week, there’s about 40 of these stores in the metropolitan area alone.
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