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We All Have Our Vices

Written By: - Date published: 11:13 am, June 30th, 2011 - 31 comments
Categories: crime, drugs, law and "order" - Tags:

We all have our vices: some of us enjoy the occasional cigarette; others prefer a nice beer after a hard week at work. These vices have developed as a way of dealing with the realities of life, allowing us to escape our often stressful and challenging daily challenges.

We often look at our vices and excuse ourselves from the negativity that comes from it; we allow our moment of sin. Yet we often forget that by allowing ourselves this vice we contribute to a negative factor within our community and the wider society. We find comfort that by purchasing our vice from a legal vendor and contributing in a positive way we help balance the negative consequences that may arise from the said vice. In the case of alcohol we pay significant tax, and most of us understand that this is for good reason.

Alcohol causes hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to our health every year, it causes serious harm within family environments and much crime within our society stems from the overindulgence of this vice. Yet the tax we pay from purchasing our alcohol goes toward an attempt to create equilibrium with this harm, because of course none of us would be able to live without our vice, right?

We also live within a society where we believe in freedom of speech, freedom of expression, of liberty and progression. We see the harm caused by our vice as acceptable because we feel that as individuals we should be allowed to make decisions that affect our own health. We also don’t appreciate being told that we can’t smoke inside; but we appreciate that because other people have the right to avoid second hand smoke, we inevitably go outside.

Yesterday, Dakta Green was jailed for eight months on drugs charges. The judge held that the law must be followed, and I agree. That is what makes this situation so much more tragic. Our laws should represent our belief structures, they should recognise that as a democratic society, we should be entitled to our individual vices if they can be controlled and the harm minimised. Yet today we have failed ourselves; we have failed because we’ve created laws to imprison a 61 year old man for enjoying his vice that arguably causes little harm to those around him while we continue to see no issue with the uncontrollable harm that our own vices cause.

Isn’t there an ingrained hypocrisy that we have laws forbidding people like Mr Green from enjoying their vice, while the majority of us have no problem with allowing our own vice to cause serious damage?

What is wrong with debating this issue like any other in our society? Is it because the ignorant reply is always that ‘you’re just a stoner’ when a person raises the point? As if everyone out there with a reasonable view on progressive drug reform must be a crazed user like an out of control drunk demanding everyone see their idiocy as just them joking around the next day? Are most people simply too afraid to challenge this view?

I wrote this article because after hearing of Mr Green’s sentence I spoke with a friend in her 50’s who enjoys a glass of wine every evening; I asked her what defines her position on the issue. Her reply was that ‘marijuana is illegal’ and managed to back this up with a comment that she had seen some ‘spaced out’ people high. Is that really the only argument those supporting reform have to fight against; and doesn’t that go against her own position that alcohol is acceptable?

I wrote recently about Kronic and the disturbing consequences of it on our society, and I feel now that we must start some rational debate on the issue of broader drug policies. The focus needs to move from being removal to control, from having a legal objective to one centred on health. How much money could be made from taxing Mr Green’s café? Could that tax be then used to reduce harm caused by marijuana and educate our children to avoid it? It seems that a tax would be more appropriate than spending thousands of dollars keeping this harmless man in prison in any case. States in America and other countries around the world are beginning to have a progressive approach to drug laws, what is stopping us?

Rijab

31 comments on “We All Have Our Vices”

  1. I think we should tax the rich to compensate for the damage capitalism does to us all. Better still let’s expropriate them so they can’t do more damage. As for Dakta Green, let’s give him a knighthood for his services to the community. No that would make him no better than the booze barons. Let’s make him the patron saint of freedom of expression.

    • ZeeBop 1.1

      The rich aren’t the problem. Rich people (the good kind) know their wealth is earned, not won by corruption, not won by speculatively excesses, and they will only remain rich if they stay competitive. Just as in any social situation you have cheaters and short-cutters, who seek economic and social recognition at the expense of their own ethics and morals. Wannabes rich, who want to have hundreds of millions in the bank and be PM, but actually have no social platform and so are tools for those who want to cheat to get rich. The wealthy and poor alike know that true prosperity comes of tangible generous spirit. Now National have none, and Labour had little for 9 years, their goal seems to play along. The question for me is where is the social justice debate, why is the political wealth and history denied us? Why? Because Labour introduced the Human Rights Act partially, and created an organisation too close to government (they actively advise government departments!) so the immediacy of their relationship, snotty better than everyone attitude having every branch of government potentially available to their decisions, becomes yet another barrier to Human Rights. As human rights are essentially breach by governments. So yes, we should be compensated for poor government, the poor and the rich, the rich also stand to lose massively from the neo-liberal paradigm when oil, climate crisis, resource wars and food spikes perpetually. So I ask where is the social justice debate on our MSM, where are the independent Human Rights lawyers the hounders of the oppressed? Gone because the Human Rights Commission serves its own and its paymaster role, to hide human rights abuses, loss of political depth, loss of economic rights, loss of social integrity. I am astonished how poor our laws are, that a person can say have a truck hub land next door to them and they have no real recourse! Articulated trucks are horrendously noisy, in any first world economy they are placed well away from homes since the throbbing of them warming up causes heart murmurs and worse. So to hear that a council just dropped a truck hauler next to a home without any noise abatement breaches the human rights of the surrounding property owners. And all the hauler needs to have done is put up some massively large walls and sound protections. Has NZ forgotten how to build substantial walls of breeze blocks, its a half a day process for the price of a roof!
      (this story was on TV last night). There was adequate room in the program for a social justice debate about how residential areas have exclusions against such trucks parking over night.

      Hey, this is the 21st century and we still get this crap happening, those poor folks who were forced to risk being hauled away themselves by police when they blocked the entrance.

      So where are the social justice, and why are they so put down by the likes of Holmes or Henry, if they do show up. Moustache! I think the blind worship of God, Communism, or Profit at the expense of anything else is dangerous and we need to rain them in. The Profit God must be brought back down to size and fast, like the religious and commies in the past.

  2. SHG 2

    What’s the marketing budget of the alcohol and tobacco industries again?

  3. Rusty Shackleford 3

    All forms of coercion must be destroyed if we wish to pretend to live in a liberal society. Throwing a non-violent person in prison is the lowest of the low.

  4. zug zug 4

    Bomber Bradbury: Overnight former world leaders have called for a decriminilization of marijuana pointing out that the war on drugs has failed with devestating consequences. Isn’t it time we stopped arresting people for pot and tax the industry Mr Goff? In tough economic times couldn’t Obama’s the audacity of hope become the audacity of dope?

    Phil Goff:(laugh) Look for the person who is a user few should be locked up for smoking but I don’t want to encourage it either. I don’t want to make criminals out of smokers. Labour won’t legalize dope, but you also won’t see a movement to criminalize people for being users.

    With old fogies like Goff, Dunne and Anderton around spouting hypocritical garbage like the above we will never get progressive drug reform and will always be treated as a ‘third rail’ issue.

    “I don’t want to make criminals out of smokers.” – Then how can you support the status quo?

    “Labour won’t legalize dope” – but you won’t have an adult discussion with us on the issue and will completely ignore the findings of the latest drug law reform report, pathetic…

    “but you also won’t see a movement to criminalize people for being users” – There doesn’t need to be a movement towards this because it’s already the case, NZ has one of the highest cannabis incarceration rates in the world

    How the fuck could Bomber let him get away with such a piss weak answer?

    • The Voice of Reason 4.1

      Ummm, I would have thought we have bugger all dope smokers in prison. Plenty of dope growers and sellers, though. The police appear to have adopted the line that as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home, they won’t do anything about it. That’s pretty much the same as in Amsterdam, last time I heard.

      • Rusty Shackleford 4.1.1

        Even growing and supply is still a non-violent act. Who exactly are they hurting? I’m sure the buyer said “Thanks” when the dealer handed him his weed.

        • The Voice of Reason 4.1.1.1

          The point I was making is that most dope arrests are for commercial activity, not smoking. For mine, I’d legalise collyweed and tax it as we do for tobacco. By the way, if you don’t think anyone should be imprisoned for non-violent offences, would you mind giving me your address and a list of the times you’ll be away from home? I need a new telly and laptop.

          • Rusty Shackleford 4.1.1.1.1

            Actually, I don’t think you should be imprisoned for burglarizing my house. You should have to pay me restitution. If I come upon you and ask you to stop and you don’t, then violence may ensue. For which you should have no recourse and for which you should be imprisoned if you cause violence to me.

  5. higherstandard 5

    Pointless waste of time and money, haven’t the courts and jails got better things to do with their resources.

  6. Rusty Shackleford 6

    Actually, I don’t think you should be imprisoned for burglarizing my house. You should have to pay me restitution. If I come upon you and ask you to stop and you don’t, then violence may ensue. For which you should have no recourse and for which you should be imprisoned if you cause violence to me.

  7. Bored 7

    WTF, what a day….I find myself in agreement with HS and Rusty….

    • Rusty Shackleford 7.1

      I’m liberal on most issues. There is bound to be some overlap between hard core lefties and liberals.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    I agree that the current laws with respect to weed aren’t working.

    However, legalising seems to be even worse, judging by the huge social costs that alcohol and tobacco have on society.

    • The Baron 8.1

      But I don’t know whether this paternalistic “harm minimisation” goal is the most sensible; or the most rational reason for not allowing legalisation.
      You can lament the human condition as much as you like, but the original poster is correct – we all have our vices. Yes, they shorten our lives; but they also make our lives a little bit more enjoyable too.
      Maybe you don’t like them – but the harm I do to myself if I drink and smoke is not really any business of yours, is it? So who are you, the PM, parliament, ALAC etc to tell me that I may not indulge? I see marijuana as fitting in exactly the same category.
      There are however two vital caveats to this:
      1. The only real harm I can see is in the costs to society of the secondary effects of these substances – I.e. Repairing busted lungs; treating busted livers etc. You can easily argue that this is a “harm” that indulgers are passing onto everyone else. But the solution is simple – tax these products at a level that recovers the costs that they create ( and not a cent more, mind – that’s paternalism again). This is why we have excise taxes, and how they should be used.
      2. Ensure that customers are fully informed about the risks of the substances that they take. Cigarette packet labelling is a good case in point – factual statements that allow rational adults to make informed decisions.
      Weed can be regulated on the same basis as this – particularly since I’ve also just solved your problem with booze and smokes. Simply pit, you, and a whole pile of our politicians and others, need to stop telling me what I can and can’t do with my body, and start allowing us to act and behave safely with these substances.

  9. tsmithfield 9

    Your argument would be correct if the only harm was only to the individual partaking in the substance. However, in the case of alcohol, tobacco, and probably weed as well, there is harm not only to the user, but also to other innocents.

    I am not arguing for prohibition or anything. Just saying that the way that alcohol and tobacco is legalised doesn’t lead to a Nirvana of moderate use and zero consequences. Rather, very often, there is considerable harm to the individual and others. Thus, if you are trying to argue for legalising weed in the same way, then don’t expect anything different than alcohol and tobacco.

    • The Baron 9.1

      Oh, so because drunk driving and second hand smoke exists, we should ban another wholly different substance?
      We have laws against both of those last time I looked, and proactive strategies that have worked to reduce the harm of these secondary impacts. You can do the same with marijuana by including the cost of these secondary harm minimisations in excise tax calculations too – just like cigarette taxes help pay for secondary lung cancers, and alcohol taxes help pay for the police costs that they create.
      Now that’s not to say that I deny there will be secondary harm from marijuana – there will inevitably be some. But firstly, every piece of research I have seen estimates that secondary harm as significantly less than that caused by booze and smokes; and secondly, legalization would allow taxation mechanisms to fund and proactively reduce the risk of those secondary harms.
      A final thought too TS – you can’t pretend that marijuana consumption isn’t occurring anyway. All of your concern about harm isn’t going to be realized by legalization – in fact, when over half the population has used marijuana ( I think that’s right?) then surely all of these horrible negatives that youre relying on to justify prohibition are occurring NOW regardless. In fact, because prohibition effectively pushes the trade underground, unregulated, un-quality controlled, untaxed, un-policed and in the hands of criminal gangs, then surely that’s way more bloody harmful than being able to buy it on regulated terms.
      I’m sorry TS, but your “harm-minimization” platform just doesn’t make sense at all.

      • The Baron 9.1.1

        Double post is a fuck up. On a device that doesn’t allow comment deletion (that I can work out, anyway). If a mod feels kindly, can you ditch the second of these?

        [lprent: Ditching the first (you replied to the second). Mobile devices don’t have the deletion for real estate reasons. If you have a larger form factor mobile device like an iPad, then you can set it to standard mode – which does. But the mobile theme is really for phones and smaller android screens. ]

    • bbfloyd 9.2

      one impoertant point to remember is that 100% of tobacco smokers are addicted to the nicotine in the tobacco, and that of all drinkers, there is a guaranteed level of addiction amongst the total numbers.

      if there is anyone around who has a physical addiction to thc then i havn’t met them, or heard about them. cannabis users can, and at least till they learn what their limits are, do, get emotionally and psychologically reliant on it.

      the process of learning self control, or accepting that cannabis may be something you shouldn’t use, doesn’t have the level of difficulty and pitfalls that alcohol and nicotine addicts have to negotiate.

      i might hazard a guess that cannabis would start to drop off the radar as a social and moral issue the first three to five years after the profit motive has been removed from the dealers who were selling to your kids. the changed paradigm would force a shift in approach helping to remove cannabis as a “tool” of rebellion.

      in a similar vein, banning advertising of alcoholic beverages would be a sensible start to creating a more sensible approach to how our kids learn to deal with their own vices as they grow into adulthood…

  10. prism 10

    I’m surprised at so many usual RWNJ commenters having an objective opinion about this. I thought the number of comments indicated there was some intelligent discussion going on and there is. Though a few of the usual bunch of suspects are parading their prejudices and crowing their opinions. I thought it would be the opposite, so sucks I was wrong. What a pleasant situation.

    If we changed our cannabis policy to control and quality instead of simple illegality, charged tax on it and got some of the growers to go into hemp, using the knowledge of the crop they already have, we could make money to keep DOC people continue doing their useful work that has a positive outcome. Not like the police who are doing not much good for a great lot of money. A complete change would cost less and this pointless quixotean quest would stop and should stop because it is NOT WORKING. It also breeds criminals on both the people and policing side – the police by corrupting them or corrupting the way that they go for convictions, and on the people side we have become accustomed to all sorts of drugs, and many accept marijuana as just another one.

    M doesn’t have the social standing that alcohol has, but could have. If we ever got some thoughtful politicians who explained themselves to those in the nation who still have a brain that hasn’t seized up from drug overuse, or frozen from years of underuse.

  11. MrSmith 11

    legalize the lot please.
     
    Unfortunately the greatest drug in my humble opinion “Ecstasy” (not that I have taken it of-course that’s illegal) is now hard to come by in NZ, as the fun Police have cracked down on it. Now we have a P epidemic, Fucken morons, people were dancing all night, and having great sex!. But we can’t have that now can we, instead now we have a lot of people getting paranoid and psychotic smoking something that is highly toxic and killing people, not to mention giving them thoughts of killing themselves and others.

  12. millsy 12

    The way I see it, is that if a couple of guys (or gals) want to have a few cones or whatever they are at home on a Saturday night (and as long as they are over 21 and dont have work involving heavy machinery next morning), then I dont really think rhat the cops should be breaking down doors and hauling people into custody.

    Likewise people who want to grow a few plants at home for personal use and for sharing with their mates.

    Not too sure about ecstasy or LSD though. But mainly because they are made from industrial/phamaceutical chemicals and the effects are unpredictable. Too many people wind up in emergency rooms and worse after taking that stuff.

    It doesn’t help that both red and blue teams took it upon themselves to close treatment centres (such as Queen Mary hospital), as well as our mental hospitals, and then wonder why the number of people on the sickness benefit skyrocket.

  13. jackal 13

    New Zealand would be a far better country if they legalized the herb and taxed booze and tobacco more to pay for drug education. We would save a shit load of money, being that the Police spend a lot of time chasing small time dope dealers and it costs nearly $100,000 per year to keep a person in jail. Not to mention the reduction in harm caused by a proper education process.

    I can’t recall ever seeing any Government produced literature informing people of the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. Although I am aware of the harmful effects of the gangs who in the main control the drug trade.

    The information the Government is basing its decision to not legalize the herb on is questionable… Being that many people have a predisposition to such things as schizophrenia, the taking of a physically harmless drug is not proven to be symptomatic of the advent of the condition. The effect of calming people down that Marijuana has is an advantageous thing, especially when you compare it to the negative effects of methamphetamine based drugs.

    The Government really need to refocus the effort to reduce our excessive drinking culture, prioritize the war on drugs that are proven to cause harm and reduce punitive measures that are shown to not work in reducing drug dependency. The current dynamic is clearly not working, so it’s time to adopt a new approach. Somehow I don’t think National are listening though.

  14. felix 14

    TS – you can’t pretend that marijuana consumption isn’t occurring anyway. All of your concern about harm isn’t going to be realized by legalization – in fact, when over half the population has used marijuana ( I think that’s right?) then surely all of these horrible negatives that youre relying on to justify prohibition are occurring NOW regardless.

    ^ This, TS.

  15. Lord Zealand 15

    Top of my reasons not to vote labour:
    Labour = Actively prohibiting cannabis everytime they have got into government, regardless of what they say before hand, they will make another “agreement” with United future which will, as the past shows, allow this gross violation of human rights to continue in this country.

    Dunne is done, Phil better sort out his shit pretty quick before he really starts to alienates the rest of the voting public under 45. (and yes this is a policy which could turn the election for a Labour win, IMHO and I can’t think of a single issue apart from cannabis regulation that could!)

    So Phil, stop being a prohibitionist, listen to the youth speak their mind about this, these attitudes you carry are the reason no one will stand behind you with a vote! I would pefer an open and honest government, one not afraid, but proud of it’s freedom, one that wont fuck around writing “aspriational” policy but actually make the lives of New Zealands better, not just for NOW but for the generations coming!

  16. randal 16

    my commiseratons to dakta green. the herb needs legalising asap but the tight underpants brigade not only dont whnt you to know anything they dont want you to have any fun either.

  17. Tim 17

    The daktory was the most peaceful place I have ever been to in Auckland. The vibe in the place was delightfully tolerant and patient, multi-cultural and all ages,it was a great market place and then they lock Dakta up, for delivering a peaceful , intelligent hall in west auckland. It’s just plain wrong peolpe. Free Dakta Green, you got the wrong man.

  18. Craig 18

    Cannabis reform will only happen when the pot decriminalisation lobby ditch the ALCP, forge a proper strategic alliance with mainstream scientists and medical practitioners and convince the general public that pot is nowhere near as toxic as P/crystal meth. Much the same will have to happen with the associated greater debate about drug policy liberalisation. That’s what happened in the Netherlands and Switzerland and the same has to happen here in order for there to be progress on this particular issue.

    I feel a bit sorry for poor old Dak but the problem is that his movement needs to get its ducks in the proper row before change can finally happen.

    • Lord Zealand 18.1

      @Craig – Sorry Mate, but you don’t know what you are talking about –
      NO mainstream scientist/doctor in this country will still be on the up and up if they were to speak out about cannabis, they would be assasinated in their sleep.
      There is no pot decriminalisation lobby in NZ – you are making stuff up! NORML wants cannabis to be legal in a regulated market so alcohol stops killing our kids – decrim is seen widely as a ‘cop-out quick fix answer’, as it only make the countries drug problems worse, it doesn’t tackel the issues of supply.
      The general public (or the 52% of Kiwi’s who admit the’ve charffed a fattie) are well aware that Pot is a harmless and non toxic recreation when compaired to everything else avalible.
      Only the over 45’s stand in the way, but “WE” are quite happy to wait them out – they’re too busy chasing whoever it was that didn’t pay for their retirements anyway.
      We live like its legal – for us the law and what is legal are two different things and until they join up, I will follow the law and leave what is legal for the dead.
      Fear not for Dakta, he is v.very busy proving that the harder you push prohibition the more and more drugs become avalible – kinda like Peter Dunne is proving on the outside wif Kronic- but more like a “Here Dakta, this is for you in thanks!”.

  19. Craig 19

    And yet, it is a fact of political life that social movements succeed when they rope in medical or scientific expertise to corroborate their case. Look at the medicinal cannabis derivative case in the United States for example. If the pot lobby were more scientifically rigorous and strategically oriented, smoking weed would no longer be a criminal offence if one were over the age of eighteen.

    I support *decriminalisation* of pot because legalisation would be too risky. Legalisation tends to mean that a few big corporates monopolise the marketplace and get in the way of issues like harm minimisation and risk reduction (ie the tobacco industry and breweries). I think the Dutch route is probably the way that we’ll eventually go.

    Incidentally, I’m 45+ and I support reform!

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