Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Latest victim in the 'war on drugs', synthetic cannabis

I have so much to say on this topic I don’t even know where to start and my head’s about to explode!

The chemical JWH-018 is sprayed onto plant
matter to then be able to be smoked
So the latest target on the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has hit the news headlines: synthetic cannabis, more commonly known and marketed as Kronic, Spice or K2. As it stands very little is known about the effects and side-effects of synthetic chemical known as JWH-018, and therefore the Government’s first reaction is unequivocally… …*drum roll please*… "BAN IT"!

A bit of background...

The substance, JWH-018, has been on the market here in Australia for around 4 years, and has subsequently been banned by Western Australia, South Australia and now New South Whales, with the rest soon to follow no doubt. It appears that the drug first hit the radar in Australia when miners were using it while on the job over in WA. Random drug tests found that an average of 10% of miners tested positive for it, with some sites having a hit rate as high as 30%. 

It’s a synthetic drug with psychoactive (mind altering) properties, apparently reported to be similar to cannabis, but more intense. It was designed by organic chemist John W. Huffman from Clemson University to mimic the properties of THC for alleviating pain.

In an interview with Michael Edwards, a JWH-018 proponent Ray Thorpe, and director of Happy High Herb chain, said that;
"It is a chemical. It is a synthetic product. However it does copy nature so in a way it's nature identical, not a manmade sort of substance. It is a copy of a natural substance in the way it works in the brain."
However, it might be noted that Ray Thorpe refuses to distribute the synthetic cannabis product 'Kronic' as it supposedly has 10 times the 'safe' dose of JWH-018. He likens a low dose of JWH-018 to a light beer, with Kronic being more like "homemade brew with 50 per cent alcohol."

However, leading expert on drug addiction Dr Andrew Byrne contested;
"We really need to know; is it an organic chemical? Has it been around for years like cannabis or is it something new that therefore may have new and unknown dangers? Has it been around for years like cannabis or is it something new that therefore may have new and unknown dangers?" 
I'm glad too that Dr Byrne isn't sure banning it will really help at all, saying;
"Well it immediately draws attention to it of course and puts it on the forbidden list and so even people who wouldn't normally have been interested in it or, like you and me would never have heard of it, suddenly know about it. 

And perhaps you think this could be a form of the drug that's safe or this could be a form of the drug that's better or stronger or cheaper. And so it immediately travels around town like mad."
OK, so I'm sure a few of you will be asking yourselves why I'm opposed to Government legislation criminalizing this drug? I might just add that I've never used this drug, nor plan to, however I think that all drugs should be legalised and regulated. Note the word 'regulated'. This by no means suggests that drugs should be handed out in front of primary schools or even shelved at supermarkets. It means that I want the Government to step up to the plate and take some control of and responsibility for drugs and their use in our society. 

The first knee-jerk reaction is always ‘BAN IT’! And I for one am over this naïve and irresponsible approach when it comes to drug legislation.

The whole “We don’t know enough about the drug, therefore the Government needs to ban it" approach is a joke. It's the most ignorant, ironic and hypocritical rationale used when it comes to drug legislation. What sort of confusing message are we sending to children and adults alike? We know the dangers of tobacco and alcohol, killing many millions of people world wide every year, yet they remain legal. However, drugs that have unknown effects are banned outright? Why? Just in case they’re as dangerous as the ones that are legal? WHERE’S THE LOGIC?!

You don't send someone to prison because you don't know enough and because he might possibly be a bad guy. Last time I checked the legal system revolved around an 'innocent until proven guilty' canon. Why isn't this in place with things such as drugs? Since when did not knowing enough about someone or something mean you had enough information to decide on guilt or potential for harm? Yes, we don't know enough about JWH-018, but banning it isn't going to help us learn more about it. 

The US have made it a schedule 1 drug and we're following suit. This makes researching the substance incredibly difficult, and thus scientists are less likely to bother. Even if they do jump through all the hoops to research it, they have to prove it has medical value among other things for it to even be dropped to a lower schedule, let alone re-legalised if it is so deserving. Cannabis is a perfect example, it has unquantifiable uses in the medical realm alone, yet it remains illegal in almost all countries around the world. Scientific literature backs this up 10 fold, google scholar it for yourselves if you don't believe me. Find a single death, find anything more than "may be related to the induction of psychosis in those who are pre-disposed to the disease, and whom use it excessively for a long period of time". However, we can directly attribute millions upon millions of deaths globally to 'good' licit drugs such as alcohol and tobacco as stated above.

So JWH-018 will be thrown onto the same playing field as cocaine, heroin and cannabis. It’ll be placed high up on an imaginary shelf far from the legitimacy of real science to reach and nut out what’s really going on beneath the surface. Perhaps ‘not knowing enough’ should lead one towards wanting to know more before making a decision when it comes to ANYTHING in question. How can we learn anything if our first reaction is to ban something…?

Prohibition and the fallacious war on drugs are a total sham and failure that has no one’s best interests at heart. They have never worked in the slightest. Rates of use, addiction and death haven’t changed when it comes to drugs such as cocaine or heroin, remaining the same during prohibition as they were before it was invoked.

As soon as you prohibit a drug, demand doesn’t change, we saw that with alcohol in the early 1900s and cannabis too. Almost immediately following prohibition the drug is pushed underground into the black market and into the hands of organized criminals. The quantity produced rises and the quality greatly falls, making it less safe to use. On top of that, children are more at risk as drug dealers don’t tend to ask for ID, whether your 5 or 50 years old, if you have the money you’ll get the drugs. Crimes, including theft and murder also increase as a result. So if anything prohibition makes drugs more prevalent and removes all control and responsibility of it from the Government and the public. How is that a desirable scenario? People clearly just don’t want to be held responsible for their own actions or those of others. At the end of the day you can't argue with demand. If people want to use a product, they’re going to find a way to get it. Denying this and declaring a war on drugs has proved to do nothing more than generate a super-massive black hole for tax payers’ dollars.

In sum, people will always want to use drugs. We need to accept that and stop this futile fight for a drug-free world, it's not going to happen. Therefore it’s time our Governments and the public took some responsibility for themselves instead of trying to wash their hands of it. Clearly a sizeable proportion of those being governed wish to use this product or I wouldn't be ranting on this blog about it. Prohibiting will do next to nothing to quash demand for JWH-018, it will increase it if anything. So maybe we should be more concerned with studying it and discover all possible dangers and the benefits. Let’s get the facts for facts’ sake! So then those people who wish to use this drug responsibly can do so legally and in a much more safer way. While also being equipped with better knowledge of its effects, and all the positives and negatives associated with the substance and its use. It's time to take back control.

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