Pubdate: Mon, 19 Feb 2001
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: Allied Press Limited, 2001
Contact:  P.O. Box 181, 52-66 Lower Stuart Street, Dunedin, New Zealand
Author: Jason Baker-Sherman
Note: Headline supplied by newshawk


YOUR EDITORIAL, "Setting the standard" ( ODT , 26.1.01) lowers the 
calibre of debate emerging from the cannabis prohibitionists even 
further. Your call for the removal of Laila Harre as Minister of 
Youth Affairs was a knee-jerk over-reaction. Rather than 
condemnation, she deserves praise for seeing that prohibition is 
actually the problem. Instead, you employ paradoxical arguments and 
misuse statistics in an attempt to support your "dead duck" 
prohibition. Worst of all, however, you distort a lesson from history 
that, ironically, proves Ms Harre right.

China did have a problem with opium, as a result of British exports 
from India. International pressure eventually forced Britain to 
curtail this trade. The opium lobby protested that if opium was to be 
controlled then so should the more dangerous drug, cannabis. 
Consequently the British Government established the Indian Hemp Drugs 
Commission in 1893 to investigate the problem. Testimony was heard 
from 1193 witnesses including magistrates, doctors, civil servants 
and, no doubt, newspaper editors and school principals. The consensus 
was that hemp drugs caused addiction, laziness, crime and insanity. 
One group, however, was reluctant to testify as they claimed no 
knowledge of the problem: the missionaries. This intrigued the 
commissioners because the missionaries lived closely with Indian 
society, and had also been in the vanguard against opium use.

Upon closer examination of the "problem" the commission discovered 
that the use of hemp drugs was a widespread and integral part of 
Indian society. Upon careful examination of public records it was 
found that hemp drugs were not addictive, and caused neither crime 
nor insanity. In its report, the commission expressed astonishment at 
the "defective and misleading" recollections of many of its "expert" 
witnesses. The commission's conclusion was that cannabis prohibition 
was not necessary, would be too injurious to Indian society, and 
might increase the use of more troublesome drugs like alcohol and 

Jason Baker-Sherman, Dalmore
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