Ill-informed du Fresne attack on Drug Foundation’s Bell over cannabis referendum

Karl du Fresne (Stuff) has taken a swipe at Ross bell of the NZ Drug Foundation, claiming “Ross Bell is not worried about decriminalisation of cannabis but by the thought of the drugs trade being contaminated by the profit motive”: If corporates are best-placed to deliver a safe cannabis market, is that so wrong?

Oh, dear. Ross Bell of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, after years of agitating for relaxation of the drug laws, is fretting that liberalisation might open the way to corporate domination of the cannabis trade.

Hmmm. Perhaps he should heed the old saying about being careful what you wish for.

Bell has long advocated a permissive approach to so-called recreational drugs.

His argument is that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than criminalised. So you’d expect him to be thrilled that the Government has promised a binding referendum on decriminalisation of cannabis.

You can take it as read that the activists’ ultimate goal is decriminalisation of the drug altogether, and perhaps other drugs too. That’s how advocates of “progressive” social change advance their agenda: incrementally.

That’s a big step from the cannabis referendum, and a major ‘assumption’ based on nothing.

It’s a strategy that relies on a gradual softening-up process. No single step along the way, taken in isolation, is radical enough to alarm the public. Change is often justified on grounds of common sense or compassion, as the legalisation of medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people can be.

But each victory serves as a platform for the next. Once change has bedded in and the public has accepted it as the new normal, the activists advance to the next stage. The full agenda is never laid out, because that might frighten the horses.

That sounds like nothing more than general scare mongering based on nothing.

Now, back to Bell’s misgivings about where the cannabis referendum might lead.

It’s not decriminalisation that worries him. Why would it, when for years he’s been using his taxpayer-subsidised job to lobby for exactly that outcome?

No, what upsets him is the thought of the drugs trade being contaminated by the profit motive. A liberal drugs regime is all very well, just as long as the trade doesn’t fall into the hands of wicked corporate capitalists.

A stupid way to put things. there are legitimate and I think fairly widely held concerns over the commercialisation of cannabis. Alcohol is a good example of how an intoxicating substance can be legally pushed for profit.

Bell’s vision, obviously, is of something much purer and more noble, although it’s not entirely clear what model he has in mind. A People’s Collective, perhaps.

Another baseless assertion.

The parallels with alcohol are obvious. Both can cause great harm to a minority of users, although activists like to play down the adverse consequences of drugs other than alcohol. We don’t hear much, for example, about the devastating effects cannabis can have on the young or the mentally unstable.

I’ve seen and heard quite a lot about that. It’s a primary reason for suggestions that there be an R18 on cannabis – similar to alcohol age restrictions, where even 18 has been controversial.

But if we’re going to have an honest national debate about cannabis, the important thing, surely, is that it should focus on social wellbeing rather than being distorted by covert ideological agendas.

No evidence of ‘covert ideological agendas’, just an assertion targeting someone who has been quite responsible in promoting drug law reform.

Stephen Franks responds:

Russell Brown, one of the best informed advocates of drug law reform in the media joins in.

Going by this (and other ill informed people with their own agendas like Bob McCoskrie (Families First), I think we can expect a fairly knarly debate on the cannabis referendum.

We should welcome robust arguments against too much liberalisation of drug laws, but I hope we get a lot better attempts than this by du Fresne.

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47 Comments

  1. Duker

     /  11th January 2019

    Ah Wellington has its Mad Karl to compete with Aucklands Mad Mike.
    The opinion leaders who work on a non fact basis

    Reply
  2. artcroft

     /  11th January 2019

    I agree a lot with KdF. The drug foundation really idolises the romantic ideal of puffing on pipe full of weed under the stars while watching the galaxy turn. This weed of course was grown by hobbits in the Shire and bartered for basket full of delicious veges. Man and hobbit at peace with his world.

    All about to be ruined by Sauron and his corporate minions.

    Reply
  3. Griff.

     /  11th January 2019

    Decimalization
    Not a crime to use but still leaves the supply in the hands of a black market controlled by the criminal world. We already have Decimalization by default as the police have come to the realization that prosecuting users does nothing except waste their time.

    Legalization.
    Fully legal regulated market .

    How we regulate the market is important.
    Large cooperation seek to expand their market by increasing the over all size of the market. The product is treated as a commodity.
    Small boutique produces are more focused on differentiating their product from others to gain market share. The product is sold on quality.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  11th January 2019

      Both large corporations and small boutique producers have a vested interest in preventing home grow.

      That’s what worries me about the “legalization” model I am increasingly hearing about.

      Will the “fully legal regulated market” still criminalize home growers, in which case many people will be no better off.

      Reply
      • Griff.

         /  11th January 2019

        As far as I know a home grown allowance will be included in the proposed regulations. Small numbers of home grown plants is allowed in just about every jurisdiction where cannabis is legal so far.
        Once you can buy clones it is easy as to grow plants.
        Eight week cycle under lights @ 500grammes yield you only need it legal to grow a couple of plants for personal use.
        I dont smoke enough nowadays to make growing and curing my own worth the hassle. I am more interested in being able to legally purchase small quantities of a range of strains of consistent quality for a reasonable price.

        Reply
        • PartisanZ

           /  11th January 2019

          Cool … and I just want to pop it in the garden among the Kale, Carrots, Tomatoes, Spuds, Onions and Salad Greens …

          Presently I suspect enormous anti-home-grow pressure is being applied to government … I hope I’m wrong.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  11th January 2019

            Home grown veges ? What planet are you on, I would guess 90% of city dwellers couldnt plant a radish/tomato

            Reply
            • PartisanZ

               /  11th January 2019

              Well, that’s unlikely actually Duker … because city dwellers used to have vege gardens in the not too distant past … I grew up with them all around me in Mt Eden …

              I would put it differently: The indoctriculturation of neoliberalism over 34 years has left 90% of city dwellers with neither the time nor inclination to grow their own veges …

              Why would you when Nadia Limm or some other ‘My Food Bag’ can deliver them to your heavily security-system guarded door behind the high fence past the menacing-breed attack dog?

  4. artcroft

     /  11th January 2019

    “They’re seeing the development of a commercial model that mirrors the sale of other harmful, but legal, products like alcohol and tobacco. Bell is particularly worried about the comparison with alcohol and its 80/20 rule, acknowledged in studies by the World Health Organisation and others.”

    Sorry Mr Bell but try finding a business – even a mom and pop business that doesn’t rely on a 80/20 rule.
    You also need to start acknowledging that weed is the problem not just the manner in which it is purveyed. Having said that I’m not against liberalisation. I just can’t abide the simplistic ‘jeans and t-shirt; good. Suit and tie; bad’.

    Reply
  5. Im guessing that many of the long term activist groups are just waiting for law reform.. so they can become ‘Canna-Entrepreneurs’, before the big corporates jump on to it !? :/

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  11th January 2019

      You describe the best case scenario Zedd …

      Worst case scenario is that the big corporations have it all tied up in the Legislation itself, including the prevention of – hence continued criminalization of – home grown …

      Reply
      • one thing I dont want to see; is ‘big corporates’ running it & using chemical fertilisers etc. to grow ‘bigger better’ crops.. just taking it over, from Black-market

        I would prefer legal, organic homegrown 🙂

        Reply
        • PartisanZ

           /  11th January 2019

          Hopefully all sorts will be available … Corporate – who I believe are certain to agri-industrialize it – and boutique and home-grown … but you and I are not the government Zedd …

          We don’t have Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Merck & Co’s or Bayer/Monsanto and Balance’s money greasing our palms or their guns pointed at our heads …

          Very worst case scenario might be corporates using chemical additives to make THC ‘stronger’ and/or to achieve better ‘addiction’ rates … as Tobacco corporations did and still do …

          Best case scenario will be Drug Law Reform coinciding with Chloe Swarbrick becoming PM or Deputy PM …?

          Reply
  6. david in aus

     /  11th January 2019

    Karl Du Fresne’s piece cannot be wrong as it is an opinion and his facts are correct. You may disagree with his opinion and inferences. He makes a logical argument based on past actions of activism in initiating social change.

    I suspect people are pushing back against Karl, as he lays out the considered steps the activists are pushing for all to see. Their methods are more effective if people cannot see through them.

    Reply
    • PartisanZ

       /  11th January 2019

      Told ya! See below …

      Reply
    • Griff.

       /  11th January 2019

      slippery slope
      You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.

      The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.

      Example: Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we’ll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.
      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/slippery-slope

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  11th January 2019

        Fabulous fallacy finding Griff … You should apply this to your comments about Maori …

        Reply
      • david in aus

         /  11th January 2019

        Medicinal cannabis, next decriminalisation. Referendum coming up.

        Seems to me that Karl de Fresne is accurately describing the current cannabis situation.

        Can someone tell me where he is ill-informed on this issue?

        Some fact-checking, please.

        Reply
      • david in aus

         /  11th January 2019

        A more accurate analogy is:
        legalize homosexual acts…. then legalize homosexual marriage, then legalize adoption by homosexual couples…… IVF for homosexuals etc….oh wait. Perhaps equal time on TV for homosexual characters? Who knows?

        Not that I have problems with homosexuality, live-let-live, I say.

        But your inference that it will lead to people marrying their parents from legalizing homosexual marriage.. is a logical leap too far. You can stick to the history of homosexuality for your examples.

        Reply
        • david in aus

           /  11th January 2019

          I think marriage should be left to same-sex couples anyway, they seem to the only group valuing it. The legal institution of marriage is not worth the paper it is written on. Yes, there has been an incremental degradation from the 1970s. It is more of social institution now. Live together for two years, bang, you cannot differentiate defacto from legally married.

          Polygamous relationships? who need a piece of paper. Bigamy should be struck as a legal offence if we are to be consistent.

          Thin-end of the wedge, they say.

          Reply
          • david in aus

             /  11th January 2019

            The social constructionist’s long-term campaign for the degradation of marriage has been successful. 40% of children born outside of marriage.

            Those children are more likely to live in poverty, poor educational outcomes,
            abused……

            And we talk about child poverty as an isolated issue. Then devised policies to further the social constructionist’s agenda. The most successful social change activists in history.

            Reply
            • phantom snowflake

               /  11th January 2019

              Such a beautiful sound, the death rattle of the social conservative!

            • High Flying Duck

               /  11th January 2019

              And bugger the kids PS?

            • phantom snowflake

               /  11th January 2019

              @HFD: You’ve really bought this? That poverty and child abuse are caused by a decline in marriage rates?? Fuxake!!

            • High Flying Duck

               /  12th January 2019

              The stats are pretty damming around single parent households.
              Kids, in general, need 2 parents and fare significantly better if they grow up in a stable family environment. Not sure if marriage is an essential factor or not, but I think statistically it may be. I believe same sex marriages are not faring badly in outcomes for children.
              Do you disagree with the stats?

            • phantom snowflake

               /  12th January 2019

              @HFD: It’s your interpretation of the statistics that is the problem. How easily you trip and fall into the correlation = causation chasm!

            • phantom snowflake

               /  12th January 2019

              [cum hoc ergo propter hoc.]

  7. PartisanZ

     /  11th January 2019

    @Du Fresne – “But each victory serves as a platform for the next. Once change has bedded in and the public has accepted it as the new normal, the activists advance to the next stage. The full agenda is never laid out, because that might frighten the horses.”

    This is pure, unadulterated ‘Charge of the Right Brigade’ rhetoric if ever I heard it …

    The paranoid, delusional “full agenda” clearly does frighten the horses! And their riders!

    And sure enough, there he is among the favoured “bloggers” at KiwiFrontLine, along with such illustrious names as John Ansell, Don Brash and Bob Jones.

    To demean “activists” – or any ‘change agent’ for that matter – because they continue to attempt to refine and improve laws they’ve changed is the mark of a complete idiot IMHO … or something much worse …

    Reply
    • artcroft

       /  11th January 2019

      I agree. Change can be either incremental or massive and sudden. There is nothing inherently immoral about either. But it’s always best to acknowledge your ultimate agenda at the start.

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  11th January 2019

        You may not know what your (so-called) “ultimate agenda” is Arty? What’s yours?

        Acknowledging your ultimate agenda is a “meaning of life” sort of question.

        Yous ‘Righties’ always claim to know the “ultimate agenda” of what you deride as “socialism”.

        So, what’s the ultimate agenda of Von Hayek’s & Friedman’s ‘neoliberalism’?

        Somewhere, from someone – perhaps his name was Roger – I got the impression it was all about ‘personal, individual freedom’ and ‘a level playing field’?

        In reality, what Du Fresne calls “the activists’ advance” is far more likely to result in ‘freedom’ – with responsibility – and a much more level playing field – complete with essential goal and touch markings …

        Reply
    • david in aus

       /  11th January 2019

      “The paranoid, delusional “full agenda” clearly does frighten the horses! And their riders!”

      I don’t think it is at all paranoid or delusional. If I was planning on social changes like this, I would do the same. It is logical.

      I do not have any problems with the methods used and future planning. But don’t insult people’s intelligence by denying the methods and eventual goals.

      Reply
      • PartisanZ

         /  11th January 2019

        Okay … fine … Have a go … ‘Logically’ plan some satisfactory laws around alcohol then …

        See if you can get its relative combined harm – to self and others – down from 72% to cannabis’s 20% …

        Reply
        • david in aus

           /  11th January 2019

          What is your point: Make alcohol as restrictive as cannabis or make cannabis as available as alcohol?

          Reply
          • Griff.

             /  11th January 2019

            Make alcohol More restrictive than cannabis or make cannabis more available than alcohol.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  11th January 2019

              Cannabis and Tobacco should be together on this facts table.

            • MaureenW

               /  11th January 2019

              That’s an insightful table – a few surprises there for me

            • Griff.

               /  11th January 2019

              Corky
              At a guess because you think they both are smoking something.
              You dont smoke as much cannabis as a tobacco uses smokes..Twenty joints a day would give you total couch lock and a headache which limits that higher use as it is just not pleasurable.
              In legal markets the trend is away from smoking to vaping or edibles.
              Cannabis is far less addictive than nicotine.

            • Griff.

               /  11th January 2019

              You might find this more nuanced version interesting Maureen

            • david in aus

               /  11th January 2019

              I remember seeing this graph, it is from the UK.
              Much of the peaks are soft-judgment calls.

              Is the message:

              -the availability of drugs is proportional to its destructive power?

              -Other drugs should have the same destructive power on society as alcohol?

              – Or should we reduce alcohol’s availability?

              -Is more drugs the answer?

            • Griff.

               /  11th January 2019

              I suggest a day in the weekend at the local police station followed by a day at A&E to find out what drugs are more destructive
              You will see zero stoners arrested for antisocial behavior or brought in to be patched up.
              You will see mostly drunks arrested for violence and crime followed by over half of admissions piss heads who have hurt both themselves and others.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  11th January 2019

              That graph just shows that legalisation has negative consequences.
              You could look at that and argue alcohol should be more restricted. You couldn’t say anything should be liberalised based on it.

            • david in aus

               /  11th January 2019

              @Griff. Stoners are well-functioning members of society, huh?

              We should not want drunks or stoners. How about that.

            • Griff.

               /  12th January 2019

              Stoners are not well functioning.
              However not every one who smokes is a stoner .
              Just as not every one who drinks is a derelict alky down the city mission.
              Few who smoke destroy their life’s because of their drug use.
              Many who drink do so they also destroy the lives of those around them and cost us the taxpayer an incredible amount of money cleaning up the mess.
              Relative harm.. .We should base our treatment of drugs on careful evaluation of the harm they cause
              Not on the present approach based on Conservative “feels”.

            • Blazer

               /  12th January 2019

              the LSD can’t be much good these days!

          • Corky

             /  12th January 2019

            It died with Timothy Leary. Should be way up the list if the wrecks I saw were anything to go by.

            Reply

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