Stay off the Pipe | The Jackal

21 Jun 2011

Stay off the Pipe

Last week, Chris Cornell sat down in Los Angeles with David Farrier for an interview. Chris was the front man of the hugely successful band Soundgarden. He then embarked on other endeavours such as Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and his solo career.

The seminal statement in the interview was “stay off the pipe.” Although Chris delivered this with humour, it’s a serious topic that needs further investigation.

Chris was referring to smoking drugs through a pipe, which is the preferred method to imbibe various mind altering substances from Marijuana to crack cocaine. His advice came a little late for Rock legend Rick Bryant, who was just jailed for possessing 400g of cannabis, a small amount of cannabis oil, ecstasy and some cocaine.

Defence lawyer Paul Wicks said there was no evidence his client had dealt to anyone other than friends and that Rick was a long-term cannabis user who used the drug to manage chronic pain. Wicks said the cocaine and ecstasy were used infrequently and had been in his house for a long time and that Rick's problem was with cannabis and he would undertake counseling if he was given home detention.

Justice Lang ignored this and sentenced Rick to three years, one month in prison. However with discounts for his early guilty plea, his charitable work and moves toward drug rehabilitation, Justice Lang ordered a final sentence of two years in prison. Rick will have no access to proper drug rehabilitation services while incarcerated, which is at a cost of around $100,000 per year.

Like the Government, our Justice system largely ignores advice from reputable researches such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Their recent paper (PDF) on Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration in the United States probably hasn't even been looked at by any National MP's. The extensive paper reviewed the deplorable plight of drug addicted and mentally ill inmates in America's prisons and concluded:
“Locking up millions of people for drug­ related crimes has failed as a public­ safety strategy and has harmed public health in the communities to which these men and women return. A new evidence ­based approach is desperately needed. We believe that in addition to capitalizing on the public health opportunities that incarceration presents, the medical community and policymakers must advocate for alternatives to imprisonment, drug­ policy reform, and increased public awareness of this crisis in order to reduce mass incarceration and its collateral consequence.”

I mention this because National is hell bent on following an American system, which has completely failed to curb drug use in that country. By following America's example and continuing the costly war on drugs, National undermines the ability of addicts to properly rehabilitate. There's also a huge cost in human misery from such archaic policies.

Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in New Zealand after alcohol and tobacco, both of which cause untold harm and carnage in our society. Unlike many other recreational drugs, Marijuana is not attributed to any deaths.

In the 90’s a Ministry of Health report found that 43% of males and 27% of females aged 18 to 24 years used marijuana in any given 12 month period. 70% of prosecutions for offences involving cannabis resulted in a conviction. Around 5% of the population used Opium or its derivatives, with around 13% trying hallucinogens at some time.

Chris was in all probability refering to P, also known as speed, burns and meth. It’s a commonly manufactured drug in New Zealand with the amount of Clandestine Drug Laboratories (Clan Labs) growing throughout the country as more people become addicted.

Methamphetamine is now the world’s most widely used drug, with New Zealand excelling in this negative trend.

Still the powers that be prefer to promote a punishment instead of rehabilitation program. The negative effects of which make gangs millions of dollars, creates more crime and keeps people addicted for longer. This is because a lot of crime is undertaken to pay for peoples drug habits, which are not reduced to any significant degree by incarceration.

An extensive report (PDF) by the New Zealand National Health Committee found that:
 A lack of alcohol and other drug assessments and treatment for prisoners undermines community safety. An estimated 2,000 prisoners with substance abuse problems are released from prison each year without an alcohol and other drug assessment.
They made a number of recommendations:
  • consider the case for transferring responsibility for prisoner primary health care from the Department of Corrections to the health sector
  • adhere to six principles for health and disability planning and delivery to prisoners
  • improve planning
  • strengthen relationships among responsible agencies
  • improve the quality of primary health care in prisons
  • strengthen identification, assessment and treatment of health conditions and disabilities, with a focus on mental health, alcohol and other drug dependence, and oral health
  • ensure seamless continuity of care
  • support maintenance of family relationships and responsibilities for prisoners
  • assist organisations that provide support to released prisoners and their families and whānau.
All of which will be ignored by a National Government. There is one thing that I disagree with the authors about though, the reason for New Zealand's high drug use is pretty obvious;  when the economy worsens, people turn to drugs because their lives are not working. Societies worsening conditions increases drug dependency.
What is the Government’s answer to this major problem? So far it’s been to remove funding for rehab units that can help addicts kick the habit and continue to spend millions of dollars on more Police and new jails in anticipation of more disaffected people finding little option but to commit crime. Sadly, drugs are often the only answer to the reality of peoples lives. Meanwhile, National continues to preach a tough on crime ethos that has totally failed to fix the problem.

The Government has totally failed to even comprehend the negative dynamic their policies are causing. Poor communities have been hardest hit with police unable to contend with the tide of drug use to any degree as to decrease its negative effects. So now that the war on drugs is lost, what is the answer? I'm asking you because there's no point in asking the Government.