THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 27th January 2012

I’ve been reading ‘Drug Legalisation: An Evaluation of the Impacts on Global Society’. It describes itself as a ‘Position Statement’ and appears on The International Task Force on Strategic Drug Policy (ITFSDP) website. It is not, however, the sole work of the ITFSDP. At the end of the statement it says it is ‘issued’ by nine groups (I won’t list them all here). The ITFSDP is best known for its mouthpiece, David Raynes, who latest pronouncement came in a letter to the Telegraph, following Richard Branson’s appearance before the HASC, in which he seems to blame the rise in drug use on those who have dared to discuss drug policy.

The challenge with evaluating a document like this is the need to avoid making a personal attack on the author. In this case, that is easy to do since the statement gives no indication of who has authored it. That does, however, mean that one cannot assess the qualifications of the author and, given that no references are given, it is impossible to determine the value of the ‘evidence’ behind the statement. It would be wrong to assume that David Raynes had a role in its drafting though its many flaws do match his usual style.

On 6th January, I wrote about the paper from Caitlin Hughes & Alex Stevens showing that arguments made from the extreme edges of an issue can lead to distortion of the truth and this ‘Position Statement’ is very much at the extreme edge of the prohibition case. I want to try and examine it from the centre.

I’m glad not to know, for certain, the name of the author because it is necessary to say that the writing is extremely poor. It uses various tricks to try and influence the reader’s reaction but they are so transparent as to be laughable.

*The idea that drug policy reformers are using their wealth to make their case received a most bizarre outing on Thursday evening’s BBC1 programme ‘Question Time’. In response to a question about Sir Richard Branson’s evidence to the HASC inquiry into drug policy, Melanie Phillips claimed that there had been a trillion dollar campaign arguing for reform.

The programme is available from the BBC iPlayer for the next twelve months and it is worth seeing for yourself. The question is asked at 31 minutes in and Melanie Phillips starts her tirade at 39:45. In addition to the obviously stupid claim about the funds spent by reformers, Ms Phillips says much else that is laughable. I won’t go into it here but I’ve checked the definition of ‘fair dealing’ under copyright law and I hope the BBC will accept that I’m using this copyright image for the purpose of ‘criticism or review’ of what Ms Phillips had to say.

Mark Steel shows bemusement at Melanie Phillips bizarre opinions.

Mark Steel shows despair at Melanie Phillips' bizarre opinions.

Under the sub-heading ‘The flawed proposition of drug legalisation’, the statement begins ‘Various well funded pressure groups*’. The reader is expected to take two things from this phrase. First, that those who are seeking changes to the control regime are able to use their money to get their point of view across. And, second, that by comparison the groups behind the statement are just simple folk who are doing their best to get their message out with the resources to do so in a highly polished way. The message is ‘please forgive our unprofessional approach, we’re simple ordinary people’.

This is very quickly followed by the first of a great many distorted arguments setting out positions said to be held by the reform campaigners and then knocking them down. The idea that the acceptance that drugs are not going to go away and must, therefore, be dealt with so as to reduce their adverse effects is made to sound as though all reformers want everyone to be using drugs as a ‘legal right’.

There is then a section that amounts to saying ‘drugs are illegal because they are’. Lengthy quotes are given from UN conventions and the role of various UN agencies is described to try and suggest that nothing can be done to change the laws on drugs because they are essential to the UN. Obviously, since the nations forming the UN passed the conventions in the first place, they can decide to amend them. ‘Drugs are illegal so shut up’ is not a very convincing argument. 

The statement is full of argument presented as fact, a common tool for those who can’t produce evidence to support their position. Thus ‘It is frequently and falsely asserted that the so-called “War on Drugs” is inappropriate’ makes no attempt to explain why such an assertion is false. Note, also the quotation marks around ‘War on Drugs’ intended to convey that there is no such war.

Actually, not all of the writing is poor. There’s a very interesting sandwich point. The best known example of sandwich points was when staff working for former UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, needed to give him bad news and wanted to avoid one of his famous angry outbursts. They would give him a piece of good news, followed by the bad news, followed by another piece of good news. The hypothesis, which someone should do their PhD on if no-one has already, is that the second point of a three point statement is least remembered. The sandwich argument here is that;

'The groups supporting legalisation are: people who use drugs, those who believe that the present system of control does more harm than good, and those who are keen to make significant profits from marketing newly authorised addictive substances.'

So, you’re either a drug user or a would-be drug dealer and, hopefully, no-one will think too much about that second group. Because believing that something is doing more harm than good is the concept that is central to any reform campaign from the anti-apartheid movement to a group of villagers wanting a lower speed limit.

If not all the writing is poor, some of it is truly awful. After the skewed definition of would be reformers we are told that ‘[t]hey foster the erroneous belief that drugs are harmless’. Since a great deal of reform campaigning is based on ‘harm reduction’ it is clear than only the very lunatic fringe believes that all drugs are harmless.

Then comes the suggestion that reformers hope their ‘pseudo-persuasive arguments’ will be accepted by people who are too busy to research them for themselves and will accept them at face value. Have these people never heard of irony: criticising people for trying to dupe others with unevidenced assertions in a statement full of unevidenced assertions.

One such assertion is that reformers believe that changes to the current regime will ‘solve the drug problem completely’. How did we get from the opening paragraph’s ‘These groups claim that society should accept the fact of drugs as a problem that will remain’ to those same groups saying reform is a complete solution?

We’re only on page 2 of a 6 page document but I want to go through every ridiculous statement because most of them are so stupid that it seems important to point them out. To do that task justice without making this entry too long for most readers, I’ve decided to split this over two days.

There must be sensible arguments in favour of prohibition but it seems that none of them appear in this ‘Position Statement’.

Click here for the second part.

 

Full Entries

2016

Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016

2015

Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013
 

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog



IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.